VK3GR is up for grabs.

I first sat for my amateur radio licence when I was about 13 years old. I was studying on my own for the most part, so I failed the exams at that time.
Never losing my interest, when we moved to Ballarat, I joined the local club and sat for what was called my ‘Limited’ licence.
VK3TOP was chosen by Freddy. Got to admit, it was a pretty cool call-sign.

Totally forget what year it was, but I passed easily. It consisted of the harder radio theory, the same regulations as all the other grades but it had no Morse code part.
The down side to this was that you were not allowed to transmit on any of the lower frequency’s, the ones that allowed you to talk all over the world.
I was not worried at all, as there was a whole world of frequency’s that opened up to me, along with them, new modes that I found very exciting.
The most interesting were SSB or single side band on 2m, 70cm and 1.2Ghz. It was really interesting using those modes on those frequency’s.
The guys were doing ‘bazaar’ things like getting the flight schedule’s for the airlines, waiting till the planes were halfway between Melbourne and Sydney and then pointing their antennas at the plane and bouncing their signals off the plane to talk to other operators over distances that were just impossible any other way. It was very cool.
Moon bounce also was something that got my interest at that time. I could listen to the signals coming back, but never had enough power to send it up.
Digital modes also took up a bit of my time. Hooking computers to the radio and same with GPS units resulted in some pretty cool results.

But the main thing that just blew me away at the time was transmitting TV images.
I have lost count how many different TV transmitters I have made over the years…. Along with the transmitters, you also need amplifiers and I built both tube and solid state amps to push my signal further…. Of course, no amount of power is going to go very far unless you have a very high gain antenna, so many hours were spent building and tuning those as well.
One night stands out more than any other… We were living in Yendon, the house had no mains power, so we were running off solar and batteries. It was a dark and stormy night, but the test was planned and I had people at other places that were ready to listen and look for my signal…. Two problems popped up quickly, first, we were running low on power, so quick negations (the terms of which have been lost from memory) with Freddy resulted in all the lights, TV and anything else being switched off so I could use all the power we had. Second was that the antenna needed changing. The only way to do that was on the roof. It was raining. It was dark…. Not to be putt off, I clearly remember putting on my motorbike crash helmet, and clothing and climbing onto the roof to make said change.
The signal got through and we called it a success.

Through my TV transmissions, I met a member of the club, an older guy called Stan. VK3SE. I could write a very long blog about Stan, but enough to say we became very strong friends and sadly I did not handle my friendship with him and my family all that well and so sadly the last few months before he died were not the best for any of us.
I think back to the many years we spent working on different radio projects and for the most part, they were good times.
Stan always wanted someone to build an amateur TV repeater for Ballarat. The idea was that you could send your TV signal to it, and then it would rebroadcast your signal over a much wider area.
This way, every one could point their antennas at the one central location and pick up any other signals.
I loved the idea so much that I dedicated about 3 years of my technical life to bringing it to life.
That we did. After many tests and setbacks, we finally were given a licence for the repeater, VK3RBT. (Repeater, Ballarat, TV).
Oddly enough, the repeater was located in the roof of a hospital in Ballarat, the highest building in town… I wonder how that came about?? 😉

From time to time our family would take trips around the country, and Stan would always be at me to get my full licence by taking the Morse code test and thus allow me to transmit on those frequency’s that would carry my signal the furthest.
Finally, Stan pushed me by two events. First, a close friend of Stans, a fellow Ham radio operator passed away and Stan took on his call sign, VK3GR. Secondly, Stan bough me a rather nice radio.
He said that if I got my Morse code, I could have both the call and the radio.
Thus begun a pretty intense learning curve for the next 6-7 months…..

Twice a day, 5-6 days a week, Stan would send me Morse code at lunchtime and in the evening for about 20 to 30 minutes.
Morse code was like a second language to Stan. He could be talking to you in his radio shack and some Morse would come over the radio and he could not break from talking or listing to you and pick up what was said. He would often drive his car with a Morse key strapped to his leg carrying on a conversation (or QSO as its known). He loved doing that because talking on a mike while driving was illegal……
Anyway, he was very patient and I slowly came up to speed. 10 words a minute of all those dots and dashes for me was a HUGE effort. Its just not something that came easy to me at all.
I know I drove Freddy mad with it at the time.

The day for the test came, I was more nervous than ever before (and almost since… the interview for our work visa was a little worse).
I passed. It was unusual for one reason. Apparently, according to my testers, no one had every passed 10wpm the first time they sat the test. They all required a re-test a few days latter.

Stan was thrilled and I ended up with a rare two letter call sign and a very nice radio. (Which sadly was stolen from me a few years latter).
We talked over the years Stan and I, using the radio and frequency’s that the new licence opened up. We never used Morse code. I was never a huge fan. I still know most of the letters, but my speed is about zero. Proving once again that if you don’t use it, you lose it.

I bought three small radios with me to the states when we moved. I planed to transfer my Australian licence to an American one at some stage since it had taken so much effort to get it, I wanted to keep it.
Then when I lost the PO box and had to shut down all my bank accounts, I could not pay to renew the Australian one and so it lapsed about 2 weeks ago.
I’m Ok with the decision.

Two letter calls are hard to come by. If you want one, VK3GR is up for grabs.