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Old 11-14-2016, 5:21 PM
jim202 jim202 is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: New Orleans region
Posts: 2,428
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I am not really sure what has caused the drop in 6 meter activity. But I can attest to the issue of digital noise caused by all the new computers and network devices has caused problems for 6 meter FM operations. Plus the cable companies are not doing as they should and limiting their cable leakage along their cable lines.

I have a 6 meter FM radio in my truck and it opens up the squelch frequently as I drive the rural roads in the region where I live. We use to have a 6 meter repeater at a tower out behind a hospital. But as time went on, the noise floor at that site went up so high that it was no longer feasible to use it as a 6 meter repeater site.

I am sure the same thing has taken place around the country at many of the tower locations where there use to be a 6 meter repeater. Problem is no one talks about it.

I use to be able to cross over Lake Pontchartrain coming home from work about 15 years ago. It was common to work Canadian 6 meter repeaters like they were local almost every day during the summer. They came in like a local station. Also heard many repeaters from PA and NY. Today, once in a while I hear a strong repeater from Eastern New York area. It too seems to be having a receive issue. Strong transmitter, but hard to get into.

The 6 meter band is a place where if you can hear the distant repeater, you normally will have no problem getting back into it. But I think those days are history. Plus all the talent that works on these repeaters is slowly leaving us.

The other problem is all the good Micor and Mastr II radios are getting on in age that they are slowly dying from lack of parts to keep them working. They were the work horses of the day. The newer radios don't seem to have the robust construction and good shielded front ends needed for a good repeater on 6 meters. Today the big design is for wide front ends to cover many frequencies in the band. Where the older radios only covered a very narrow segment. So progress into new radios is actually killing the low band repeaters.

There are however some fine old equipment that was designed years ago. You can still find them now and then. For mobile operation, I would pick a Motorola Syntor X9000. That radio will go from around 28 MHz. all the way up to 54 MHz. But you also had to get the ham software to program them. Just flip flop antennas going from 6 to 10 meters. They would do a cool 100 watts again with no tuning. The MastrII is a fine radio, but you need crystals to use it. Today it's hard to even find a company that will still make a crystal for you. Then they are costing almost $50 each. so you can't afford to use one of these radios as a mobile.

I did use some of the GE Delta S radios with a little modification to get them on 6 meters. They worked well and had a couple of good scan heads you could use. Problem was programming them. I managed to obtain one of the GE suitcase programmers. But after many years, the Panasonic computer and the interface in the suitcase didn't like to play together anymore. So now I have several of the radios and no way to program the scan head or radios.

You can take a low band high split GE MLS radio and get them on 6 meters. Takes a little of effort, but they can go there and work well. Plus some of the low band, high split Maxtrac radios will work. the Kenwood TK-690 low band, high split can be put on 6 meters with some work and software hex editing. Done that also. Those are good radios also.

But the real issue is probably the fact that most of the hams today, can't be bothered with getting inside a radio and making changes. You also need some test equipment to align the radios once you have modded the radios. So tell me just how many hams have a signal generator, watt meter and hopefully a spectrum analyzer to check the TX output for purity. You just don't find someone easily that has the skill and the test equipment available.

Don't forget the skill to use a soldering iron and not destroy the circuit board you need to change. Unfortunately there are too few skilled hams out there today. Most of them have become a plug and play operator. The days of being able to sit at a bench and do component repair on surface mount circuit boards today has killed the available pool of bench techs today. This is a dying skill that is killing the ham community's ability to work on most of the radios out there these days.

I try to be a mentor to anyone that comes by and ask for help. I stop by the local computer repair shops and scoop anything they are throwing out. Have been able to repair and get working some fine computers. But I guess I am not the normal, average bench technician these days. Just look at how many two way radio shops are shutting their doors. The work is just not there where you can make a living at it any more.

So unless someone has any other ideas, this is my version of why we don't have much 6 meter FM activity around the country these days. My radios are on, but I don't hear much coming out of them. The closest 6 meter repeater to me is the 53.060 repeater in Mobile, AL. But even that repeater has very little activity and it's carrier squelch to trip it off.
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