Amateur Radio W9BRD Then and Now

W9BRD 1941 QSL card from ARRL QSO Party
W9BRD 1941 QSL card from ARRL QSO Party
W9BRD 1949 QSL card from 1517 Fargo Avenue
W9BRD How's DX? QSL card to AK7M
W9BRD Short Wave Radio Montclair NJ QSL

The amateur radio call sign W9BRD has been assigned to—held by, as ham radio operators like to put it—at least four people (see "A Brief Early History of the W9BRD Call Sign," below), of whom I am the fourth. My father, Rod Newkirk (1922–2012 CE) was the third, and since June 24, 2014 CE—when I began operating W9BRD IV—I have been enjoying my amateur radio in celebration of him and what I reverently refer to as The Rogers Park Triangle of Radio Friends: Rod Newkirk, W9BRD; Phil Simmons, W9VES; and George ["Bud"] Nibbe, W9NUF. By mid-2014 CE, when this page was first created, the expanding sphere of Effect created by the first W9BRD III transmission spanned a diameter of nearly 154 light-years.

W9BRD Then and Now

The first transmitter used by my father as W9BRD II was a 6L6 oscillator and two crystals. By 1940–1941, transmitting at W9BRD was handled by a kit-built Utah UAT-1 (Figure 1).

Photograph of amateur radio station W9BRD, 1940-1941.
Figure 1—Amateur radio station W9BRD of 1940–1941. The transmitter (black box at left, with three identical dials in a row) was a Utah UAT-1; the receiver was a multiband Sears Silvertone broadcast receiver repackaged and modified to include a beat-frequency oscillator (BFO) for Morse code reception. This photograph was published in J. A. Moskey, W1JMY, "Eleventh ARRL Sweepstakes Results," QST, June 1941, pages 49–54 and even-numbered pages from 82-90 and 94-104, inclusive. In that November 1940 operating contest, W9BRD won in Illinois for radiotelegraph with 586 contacts in 61 ARRL sections. A table detailing the equipment and frequency bands used by section winners described the W9BRD plant as follows: transmitter lineup, 24A-6L6-HY6L6GXes; type of oscillator, e.c.o (electron-coupled oscillator, a synonym for variable-frequency oscillator [VFO]); receiver, 7-tube superheterodyne; bands used, 3.5, 7, and 14 Mc. The UAT-1 would have operated with an RF power output on the order of 50 to 60 watts. The antenna was a 40-meter Zepp—a 66-foot-ish wire end-fed with 33ish feet of open-wire transmission line.

The first transmitter I used at W9BRD III was the W9VES-W9BRD Changeover Transmitter (a single-tube tuned-plate, crystal-grid oscillator using a 47 [in W9VES mode] or metal 6L6 [W9BRD]). Since that initial W9BRD III operating period, the transmitter used may also be one of the following:

•  Homemade single-tube crystal oscillator (3.5 MHz [80 meters] or 7 MHz [40 meters]) based on the W6NJV schematic shown in the page at Configured with multiple tube sockets to make it capable of using xAQ5, 5763/6417, and 6CL6/6197/6677/7551/7558 tubes.
•  Transmitter portion of homemade Summer40Winter80 transmitter-receiver consisting of a 6BN11 (pentode oscillator, pentode driver)–6JB5 beam power tube neutralized final power amplifier); LC oscillator (homemade, solid-state, in BC-459 Command transmitter hulk) or quartz-crystal frequency control (inboard or by means of direct-crystal-oscillator or subharmonic-frequency-locked-LC-oscillator operation of the outboard Crystalizer), output 5 or 8 W at 3.5 MHz and 5 or 7 W at 7 MHz.
•  Modified Hallicrafters HT-40 (6CL6 passive-grid [100-ohm grid load] driver, neutralized 6DQ5 beam power tube final power amplifier); LC oscillator (homemade, solid-state, in BC-459 Command transmitter hulk) or quartz-crystal frequency control (by means of direct-crystal-oscillator or subharmonic-frequency-locked-LC-oscillator operation of the outboard Crystalizer), output 18 W (internal final plate power supply) or 25–30 W (external final plate supply).
•  Homemade Untuned-Tuned 40 (UT-40) transmitter, which, driven by the 200-mW signal of the Crystalizer, produces 11 W of 7-MHz RF output from a two-tube (16GK6 and 17JN6) untuned-driver/tuned-power-amplifier lineup.
•  Homemade Novice Rig Roundup Boosted Pierce transmitter, which produces 7 W of RF output at 7 MHz from a 6AB4 Pierce crystal oscillator driving a 6JQ6 beam-power-tube amplifier, the functions of both of which can also be performed (with slightly compromised keying quality as a result of greater amplifier-back-to-oscillator coupling) by a 6JZ8.
•  Homemade 4-25 transmitter, which, driven by its own 7054 crystal oscillator or by the 200-mW signal from the Crystalizer or the 6JG5 doubler/6JG5 predriver box, produces 25 to 29 W of RF output from a 7054 pentode and four paralleled 12AQ5 beam power tubes driver/neutralized-power-amplifier lineup.
•  Homemade Morning 40 transmitter (Figure 2), which, driven by its own 2N2222 Pierce crystal oscillator or by the 200-mW signal from the Crystalizer or the 6JG5 doubler/6JG5 predriver box, produces 8 to 10 W of RF output from a 6AG7 pentode driver and a 12L6GT, 12W6GT or two-paralleled-12A6s neutralized beam-power-tube power amplifier.
•  Homemade QRP Boosted Pierce transmitter, which produces up to 6.6 W of RF output from a 6AB4 Pierce crystal oscillator and 8156 beam-power-tube power amplifier.
•  Refurbished Drake 2-NT transmitter, usually operated at an output of 25 W.
•  Homemade 9DX transmitter, which produces 10 W of 7-MHz RF output from a 9DX-based triode-pentode tube (currently a 10LY8, with the triode operating as a Miller crystal oscillator and the video-amplifier pentode operating as driver) and 12JQ6 (current) or 8156 neutralized beam-power-tube power amplifier. The 9DX culminates my search for a "two tube" transmitter that produces a modern-quality signal (requirements for which include running the oscillator continuously during transmit and keying the driver and final to avoid emitting a discernible backwave) without resorting to a Compactron as oscillator-driver or driver-final amplifier.

The W9BRD receiver is one of the following:

•  Homemade SA602AN-based direct-conversion receiver, with active peak audio filtering and active and passive audio low-pass filtering (antenna direct to detector on 80 meters; through SA602AN crystal-controlled converter at 30 and 40 meters) (receiver portion of Summer40Winter80 transmitter-receiver).
•  Homemade BG-5 band-imaging superheterodyne receiver with homemade doubly balanced diode-ring mixer, 5-MHz-ish local oscillator, and 12A6 Hartley regenerative detector (1.75 MHz) with switchable passive audio low-pass filtering.
•  Homemade WR/6AK6s 7-MHz regenerative receiver based on a triode-connected-6AK6s cascoded-triodes synthetic-tetrode detector (Figure 2 of Receivers for Watching 7120 kHz).
•  Homemade discrete-devices-based Gilbert-Cell direct-conversion 7-MHz receiver based on Wes Hayward's "Direct Conversion Receiver Using a Discrete Component Product Detector" on page 1.13 of Experimental Methods in RF Design.
•  Homemade 3.5-MHz regenerative receiver based on a 5686 beam-power-tube Hartley detector, also capable of receiving at 30 and 40 meters (10.1 and 7 MHz) with the SA602AN-based crystal-controlled converter mentioned above.
•  Allied A-2516 receiver rebuilt to operate as a tuner that implements the set's original frequency conversion scheme with largely different tubes (6AS6W mixers instead of the original design's 6BL8 pentode and 6BE6; 12SG7 IF amplifiers instead of 6BA6s; 6GX6 product detector and 2N3904 Pierce crystal BFO instead of 6AQ8), with the addition of the smooth 12AV6-based AGC system from the 13-tube variant of Drake's classic R-4A receiver.
•  Yaesu FR-101S receiver rescued from scrap.
•  Drake R-4A receiver treated as a tuner and audio-amplified/filtered by my 7060/switchable passive filters/12A6|7701 utility amplifier/filter box.
•  Homemade BGCD (Byron Goodman-Clinton DeSoto) Regenerodyne-class superheterodyne receiver (Figure 2) with 12A6–2N7000 regenerative cascode mixer, 12J5 IF buffer, 12A6 Hartley regenerative detector at 3.023 MHz ±10 kHz, and 12J5 AF preamplifier, further audio-amplified/filtered by my 7060/switchable passive filters/12A6|7701|8106 utility amplifier/filter box (also in Figure 2).
•  Homemade BRD-160 1.7-to-2.0-MHz regenerative receiver (12AH7GT grounded-grid RF amplifier; 12A6 Hartley regenerative detector; 12A6 AF voltage amplifier) used in conjuction with an outboard frequency converter (6AS6–2N7000 regenerative cascode mixer; 2N3904 Pierce crystal oscillator; triode-connected-6AS6 output cathode follower) and audio-amplified/filtered by my 7060/switchable passive filters/12A6|7701|8106 utility amplifier/filter box.
•  Homemade PS-40 40-meter regenerative receiver (triode-connected-6AK6 grounded-grid RF amplifier; cascoded-triode-connected-6AK6s synthetic-tetrode Hartley regenerative detector; 6SH7 pentode AF voltage amplifier) audio-amplified/filtered by my 7060/switchable passive filters/12A6|7701|8106 utility amplifier/filter box. The PS-40, so named because it's built into the cabinet of a deceased Heathkit PS-4 regulated power supply, is a variation on the WR/6AK6s Receiver (Figure 2 of Receivers for Watching 7120 kHz), constructed much more solidly mechnically and augmented by a 2N7000-based variable shunt RF input attenuator and 2N7000–STP3NK90ZFP AF-output muter (solid-state substitute for the reed relays I have until now used to mute my regenerative receivers in transmit).
•  Radio Shack DX-150A receiver modified for two-way-communication-quality muting, fixed-level AF output (for use with the W9BRD AF amplifier/filter box) and LM386-based inboard AF power amplification.

Favorite band: 40 meters; favorite operating frequency: 7.12 MHz and vicinity, secondarily 7.05 MHz and vicinity. Antenna: 40-meter half-wave dipole, 25ish feet up, fed with window line via a homemade balanced tuner or a Johnson Matchbox. Straight key: Mesco, or straight-key portion of Brown Brothers CTL-B keyer paddle/straight key combination. Keyer: Homemade version of dot-memory design by James H. Fox, WA9BLK, in "An Integrated Keyer/TR Switch," QST, January 1975 CE, pages 15–20 and 52.

Photograph of the utility AF amplifier/filter box, BGCD Regenerodyne receiver,and Morning 40 transmitter at amateur radio station W9BRD in 2016.
Figure 2—The utility AF amplifier/filter box, BGCD Regenerodyne receiver, and Morning 40 transmitter on line at W9BRD-2016.

A Year with the W9BRD-1937 40-Meter Zepp

On returning home from vacation in 2015, I discovered that the halyard of my 100-foot-long, window-line-fed doublet had broken. The particular maple bough I'd used to support the center of the antenna since its inception in 2007 was obscured by late-summer leafiness, disallowing my launching a new leader over to raise the antenna again. What to do? Commemmorate W9BRD's first few formative years on the air by replacing the doublet with a classic 40-meter Zepp!

The Zepp is a Hertz antenna—a half-wavelength dipole element—end-fed with a quarter-wavelength open-wire or window-line feeder, with one feeder wire end electrically connected to nothing and floating. W9BRD of 1937–1941, and his stepdad, strung up his Zepp between two chimneys atop their Fargo Avenue apartment building in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood; at W9BRD in 2015, I supported my Zepp with two trees—one off the far element end and another to hoist and hold the feedline end high—and (for tensioning the antenna end-to-end) the disused power-feeder insulator/hook mounted between two second-floor windows of the BRD-2015 1922 side-hall Colonial.

Of course it worked. Not for nothing, we have not only Gooch's Paradox ("RF gotta go somewhere"), but also Newkirk's Rejoinder ("No matter what you think you need, you can always have fun with less"). My first contact from northern New Jersey with the new-old antenna and 25 watts output was with a W7 in Nordland, Washington, southeast of Seattle. Through Straight Key Night; through my first SKCC Week End Sprint; through the Novice Rig Roundup (complete with a 7-watt 6AB4–6JQ6 Boosted Pierce transmitter built just for the occasion); and through such weeknight and weekend QSOs as time and other projects allowed, I re-proved that one can indeed get out with a Zepp.

Compared to its 100-foot-long-doublet predecessor, however, the Zepp somewhat underperformed in two key ways. For one thing, a distinct null toward southern headings was evident; I could barely be heard in Florida even at 25 W and wasn't much stronger in Georgia and Alabama. (This was expectable, given the antenna's north-south orientation; but the 100-foot doublet [in effect, a G5RV with window-line feed only and no matching-section-to-coax finagling] had been positioned almost identically and yet was distinctly better to the south.)

Another aspect of the Zepp that figured strongly for me was that its electrical unbalancedness resulted in significantly reduced cancellation of common-mode local noise and signal sources in its feedline. With the balanced doublet, the signal from my Crystalizer exciter's SPOT function was barely audible above the 40-meter band noise unless I kept my hand near its crystal. With the Zepp, the Crystalizer signal was uncomfortably strong even with my hands far removed from the exciter's front panel. Computer and switching-supply noises local to the feedline were also much better rejected with the doublet system.

So it was that after just over a year and a month of operation with the Zepp, I replaced it with a new doublet: a center-fed, half-wave 40-meter dipole, 66 feet long—and one year after that, I enlarged the dipole to a total doublet length of 104 feet, closely approximating my original G5RVish installation, albeit not as high in the trees.

Would I use a Zepp again? Sure, because fun is fun and it wasn't that much of a slog. At W9BRD, however, a fully balanced antenna fed with low-loss balanced feedline via a true balanced transmatch—balun neither required nor appropriate—has proven to be the better choice for multiple reasons.

Psst: A fully balanced doublet is also a better choice for multiband operation than a Zepp. See you on 80, 40, and more!

A Brief Early History of the W9BRD Call Sign

Thanks to research by Paul Christensen, W9AC, I know that the first known holder of 9BRD (from at least 1924 to 1928 CE) was L. E. Hauck of Newton, Kansas. (Amateur radio call signs in the United States and its territories and possessions did not include W and K prefixes until revised US radio regulations went into effect in October 1928 CE.) W9BRD was next held (from 1928 to 1932 CE or so) by J. C. Meacham of Decatur, Illinois. Record of my father's tenure as W9BRD first makes print in the Fall 1938 CE edition of Radio Amateur Call Book Magazine.

Revised August 27, 2017 CE. Copyright © © 1998, 2007, 2017 by David Newkirk ( All rights reserved.