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home QRZCQ - The database for radio hams 
2019-03-19 15:58:33 UTC









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Thomas Niedermeyer

6020 Innsbruck
Austria, Tirol

image of oe7ant

Call data

Last update:2018-01-31 14:02:19
QTH:Dr.Ing. Riehl Str. 4A
Main prefix:OE
Federal state:Tirol
DXCC Zone:206
ITU Zone:28
CQ Zone:15

QSL data

Last update:2017-11-29 12:58:03
Bureau QSL:no
Direct QSL:no


I got my first ham radio license in 1966, in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, WA3GIG. I upgraded to Extra Class in 1978 in California and became NK6E, which is still my active US call. After returning to my native Innsbruck, Austria, in 2010, I received this current OE7ANT call in 2017. I enjoy QRP CW operation almost exclusively and am an avid electronics tinkerer and builder. Here is a more detailed version I wrote recently:

Confessions of a Ham Radio Addict

My fascination with radio and electronics started early. I think the first spark struck my imagination one evening in our apartment living room in Innsbruck, Austria, sometime in the mid 1950’s when I was still a young boy. We had a big Grundig table top radio in our living room on which my father used to listen to the news, and on Sundays, the live broadcasts of classical concerts from Vienna. There were numerous buttons and a scale printed with the names of exotic and distant cities of the world, and a “magic eye” that glowed green and changed its shape and intensity when tuning for stations.
One evening I was alone and unsupervised long enough to allow me to peek into the back of the unit which was covered by a flat partially perforated rear panel. The holes were just large enough to give me a view of a most intriguing sight. Among the many unusual objects obscured mostly by darkness, there were numerous small glass enclosures that gave off a warm orange glow, reminding me of a small city in miniature at night seen from a distance, accompanied by a slightly sour smell. The magic of how the voices and music made it into our home from afar was contained in this device, and I was more than intrigued. I felt I had to find out how it worked.
That opportunity came shortly after our family moved to the USA in 1960. My father’s new boss, John Knott, W0USP, who had offered him the position and the invitation for our family to make this move, was a ham radio operator, as was the head of the department of the University Hospital in Iowa City under which they worked. He took some interest in my fascination, and not only gave me a tour of the ham “shack” in his basement, but also gave me a very simple and primitive crystal radio. When connected to some headphones, a ground connection, and some wire for an antenna, it allowed me to listen to the two AM radio stations in town, KXIC and WSUI. The Fahnestock clips allowed for easy electrical connections.
In 1962 we moved from our rented and fully furnished home to a nearby house that my father purchased unfurnished. I managed to lay claim to an unfinished corner of the basement that I shared with the duct “octopus” of the central heating system, and began to set up my own electronics “lab”.
I should point out that my father never supported my budding interest in electronics in the least. In fact it soon became clear to me that the less attention I attracted, the less likely my parents would be to interfere with this growing passion. My father’s primary concern was with the grades that I brought home from school, which were rarely excellent, though usually passing. He saw my extra-curricular interests as a waste of time and a distraction. I earned some money at the time from a daily paper route, and though he made me put most of my earnings into savings “for college,” I found some ingenious ways to surreptitiously embezzle my own money to fulfill what were for me more pressing desires.
On my explorations around Iowa City, I found that there were treasures to be had for the taking. Several TV repair shops routinely threw out old TV’s, probably trade-ins or older units that were perhaps no longer worth repairing, usually sitting in a pile outside the back of the shop. I dragged my treasures home strapped to my bike or occasionally with the help of my mother who would drive me when I managed to catch her in a particularly favorable mood. I salvaged what components I could use and returned the stripped carcass to where I had found it. Another source of goodies was the dumpsters of the university’s physics building, where a variety of discarded assemblies could occasionally be found.
My high school library subscribed to two wonderful magazines that I inhaled with great gusto: Popular Electronics and Electronics Illustrated. They came out monthly and I savored them cover to cover.

Since I rarely had the components that the “home-brew” projects called for, and even more rarely the money or opportunity to buy them, I became, by necessity, very innovative in adapting and re-designing items from my motley collection of mostly recycled parts.
My electronics interests at that time were broad and diverse. I was excluded from ham radio because I was not yet an American citizen, which was a requirement for getting a license. The family moved to Baltimore in late 1965, almost exactly five years after leaving Austria as immigrants, making us eligible for naturalization. Our new home in Towson, MD, also offered me an unfinished basement room for my tinkering in addition to an attic room, also unfinished, directly adjoining my upstairs bed room, which turned out to be an ideal “ham shack”. When some neighbors threw out a good sized dining table that had a damaged surface, I found a new purpose for it for my budding radio hobby.
By the time I was officially sworn in as an American citizen in early 1966, I was already prepared to get a license and get “on the air”. A colleague of my father, a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital, had discovered my technical talent and hired me to do some interesting electronics projects related to his work, which paid several times the hourly rate that my school buddies were getting for “flipping burgers”. He also had been involved in ham radio earlier and had built a set of Heathkit “Twins”, Cheyenne and Comanche, matching receiver and transmitter units. He offered them to me in payment for some of my work, since he no longer had time for them. I strung up some dipole antennas on the roof of the house, and was “in business.” My best friend at the time, Jan Garmany, had recently gotten his license, WA3DCF, and inspired me to do the same by coming over and operating my setup.
When I went to take the exam, I thought that I was ready to pass the General class test, skipping Novice class altogether. The written part was a breeze for me, but I was nervous and flunked the 13 wpm Morse code test. In retrospect, I should have settled for a Novice license, but instead got a Technician, which combined the Novice code requirement with the General class written exam, and also did not expire after one year. Unfortunately, I now had no privileges below 50 MHz. I returned to take the code test about half a year later and was upgraded to General. My call, WA3GIG, did not change. In the interim I decided to acquaint myself first with the 6 meter band (50 – 54 MHz), and later with 2 meters (144 – 148 MHz). I had an old WW2 vintage aircraft receiver, BC-455, that covered AM reception in the 6 to 9 MHz range. I built an external frequency converter for it to give me reception on 6 meters.

The antenna I used was a commercially built “Halo” that was omni-directional and quite popular at the time.
I constructed a crystal controlled AM transmitter that used a 2E26 surplus military output tube rated for 15 to 20 watts, with a Heising modulator, all from scrounged and salvaged components. It worked quite well, and I got to know a number of the local hams through the Maryland VHF Society. By the time I got my General license, I had become quite aware of the shortcomings of the Heathkit “Twins.” Designed for AM voice mode, they were nearly useless for CW (Morse code) or SSB (single side band). Fortunately, I managed to talk Don Z., a ham living nearby whom I met through the VHF society, into trading them along with a bit of cash for a Hallicrafters SR-160 tri-band transceiver. Don was a “horse-trader” and “wheeler dealer,” but I had helped him out with some technical things, which allowed me to get the better part of the trade. The new rig was limited to 80, 40, and 20 meters, but was quite sensitive and stable, even for CW operation. The sun spot cycle was near a trough at the time, so the higher frequency bands (15 and 10 meters) were seldom useful for DX (long distance) contacts. Jan got himself a similar rig, a National NCX-3, also a tri-bander, and we spent many hours in pursuit of new contacts. He was also a dedicated CW enthusiast, possibly even more so than I.
We joined forces for Field Day, when hams across the world set up portable sites for operation. The site we selected was ideal, close to both our homes, on top of a wooded hill with trees so we could string up antennas. In addition it was set back from a nearby road and far away from houses so we could avoid either causing disturbance or being disturbed ourselves. We rented a generator for power and invited another ham friend, Alex, WA3EQR, to participate for the day and night event. Someone must have heard or seen us late at night and called the local police, but after the bewilderment of the officers subsided, they left and came back a while later with a bag of donuts and coffee.
I continued some activity on VHF, and when a 6 meter buddy bought himself a fancy new Swan 250 SSB transceiver for 6 meters, I built a transverter, a device that converted the 20 meter operation of my transceiver to 6 meters, both for receiving and transmitting. It worked well, and I was one of very few stations that had SSB capability on 6 meters, to the dismay of most of the active hams there for whom SSB was garbled noise on their AM receivers. He and I were also involved in MARS, the Military Auxiliary Radio System, which operated just outside the ham bands. Through it we received, relayed, and delivered many messages of greetings from American soldiers in Viet Nam and Germany, primarily via a relay station in Antarctica.
After graduating from high school in 1967 my ham radio activities faded quickly. For one, I discovered the joys of female companionship and intimacy. Also, my summers became busy with earning money, and I sold the heart of my station, the SR-160, back to Don towards the $300 I needed to buy my first car, a beat up old MGA. But that is another story…

About ten years later the urge struck again. Married, living in Southern California, working as an electronics design engineer, more or less settled after years of fun and exciting world travel that took me back to Europe, mainly Switzerland, and from there to projects in Nepal, India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Senegal, Gambia, and numerous other countries. My wife Susie got her license, N6GSC, and we bought a couple of Yaesu 2 meter FT-207 handy talkies that were useful, especially while traveling. I upgraded my license to Extra Class, and was given NK6E as my personal call sign.
So much had changed in those 10 years! All my earlier equipment used vacuum tubes exclusively, but by this time they were only still found in the high power output stages of transmitters, and even there being replaced by transistors and other semi-conductors more and more. 2 meter repeaters were ubiquitous, especially in urban areas, greatly extending the range of hand held and mobile stations. In the early 1980s we moved back to Iowa, where Susie also grew up, and made our home in Fairfield, a small city of 10,000, where we lived for the next 30 years. I got to know most of the locals that were active on the Fairfield 2 meter repeater, and some of the hams in the nearby towns of Ottumwa and Mt. Pleasant, that had their own repeaters but were reachable from Fairfield. Before long I had the desire to get back on the lower frequency bands for extended range communication. I got a great deal on a new all band Yaesu FT-107 transceiver, mainly because its unusual off-white appearance was not “in” at the time. It used transistors throughout, eliminating the “tuning up” procedure necessary with vacuum tube output stages. It served me well for several years; until I had the opportunity to trade it up for a used Kenwood 940S, considered to be among the premium transceivers at the time. It was a significant step, with features such as QSK, allowing CW transmission while still receiving between the dits and dahs, general coverage reception of all HF frequencies, and an automatic antenna tuner.
Only when Yaesu introduced its new flagship, the FT-1000D, were its features surpassed. I was offered the opportunity to trade up for one by a Des Moines, Iowa, ham who felt overwhelmed by the myriad of features it offered and was happy to take my Kenwood and some cash for it. To this day it is considered by many to be the ultimate all-analog (non-digital) transceiver. I added some additional filtering for narrow band CW reception and replaced some 20 band switching diodes with PIN diodes for even better signal handling performance.
By this time we had moved into a new home in the country, about 5 miles from Fairfield, on a few acres surrounded by farm land. It gave me the room to experiment with a number of different antenna designs, such as long wire loops, verticals, and directional Yagis. Not satisfied with being an “appliance operator”, one who uses only commercial equipment, I built a plethora of related equipment. One very useful device was an auto patch for my 2 meter station, allowing me to make and receive telephone calls on my hand held radios over a 10 to 20 mile radius. Before the advent of cellular telephones this was quite unusual and practical.
I built some high power amplifiers for the lower bands, though I never lost my attraction to low power (QRP) operation, where skill, rather than brute power, prevails. If nothing else, they kept my upstairs “shack” warm during the cold Iowa winter evenings.
When a group of hams in the Tucson, AZ, area first developed a ham frequency network of digital data routing nodes, called packet radio, it caught my attention. I set up one of the first nodes in my area, which was allowed to operate in an unattended mode to add to the functionality and integrity of the network. It was slow in forwarding text messages compared to our modern internet, but is recognized now to have been a precursor to it.
One afternoon I made radio contact with one of the cosmonauts on board the MIR space station who was also a ham as their orbit was overhead. I received a confirmation (QSL) card by mail shortly afterwards.

A divorce, a fire, and an eventual return to my native Austria marked the end of an active and productive era in my Amateur Radio history. The only related items that survived this transition are a 2 meter FT-411 walkie talkie and my Heathkit HW-9 QRP CW transceiver that I modified with many advanced features, making it nearly unrecognizable.

I recently applied for and received my Austrian ham license, OE7ANT. With nearly invisible dipole antennas for 40 and 20 meters strung from my third floor balcony, I am once again enjoying what I have always liked the most in ham radio, low power Morse code operation (QRP CW). With the output power of a strong flashlight (3 to 5 watts), I am routinely contacting stations across the globe.


I am using a highly modified Heathkit HW-9 QRP transceiver with 3 to 5 watts output to 40 (+15) and 20 meter dipoles at about 8 meters above ground. The HW-9 has a DDS VFO upgrade, switchable 8 pole crystal IF filters (1.9 kHz and 250 Hz), built in Curtis keyer, SWR indicator, speaker and a few other bells and whistles. I use a home made cw paddle or a Vibroplex "bug".

Other images

second pic
OE7ANT / Pic 2

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