of a Czech radio amateur
Sometime around 1968 when I was thirteen years old, I was recruited into the amateur radio hobbyist scene by what was then the only Czechoslovak amateur radio magazine, Amaterske radio. This ran a series called The School of the HAM Radio by Josef, OK1PD, and Milos, OK1MP, which was a great inspiration to me.
I began to learn the Morse Code aided by a telegraph key made out of a children's building kit, a home-brew multivibrator with Germanium transistors and ancient Blaupunkt earphones from my grandfather's crystal set. In old issues of Amaterske radio I found this fantastic account by OK1CG of "How I hunted WACC Award" and this hooked me for good. At the end of 1972 I discovered the Prague radio club OK1KZD, which arranged courses for radio amateurs. I took a course, in June 1973, I became SWL OK1-19219, and in May 1974, a licensed HAM - OK1DJF. Some members of my family had been HAMs since time out of mind and for a long time we kept a superheterodyne receiver, which my grandfather had built in the thirties, while one distant uncle was OK1XU both before and after the war - and I applied for this call sign as soon as it was possible (1984).
The picture shows the post-war QSL of the "original" OK1XU
Amateur radio was not easy under communism - every amateur was a potential spy and diversionist, and transmission equipment or special components just could not be bought. In Prague, there were problems with TVI, installation of antennas and so forth. Identity documents had to be shown at one time just to buy an X-tal!
At that time, my intensive traffic under my own call sign was rather short - some time in the 1976-1978 period. I put together a five-tube CW transmitter on 3.5 MHz with 6L50 on PA, using a television transformer for the power supply. First I listened on a Czech receiver Lambda 5 and later on a German trophy receiver EZ6 with my own home-brew tube converter. My best DXs at that time were W, VE and PJ8.
On the right you can see what this beauty looked like;
I did not get technically proficient enough for any higher bands, and it was not until the eighties, when I had a lot of fun reconstructing various VHF stations for FM on 2 metres.
In the pictures, QSL cards with my old callsign.
It was a lot easier in the radio club - such hardships were overcome much more easily in a group. My activity gradually moved over to OK1KZD. With colleagues there I entered dozens of contests, notched up dozens of new countries for the club tally, experimented with RTTY, SSTV and so forth. I loved the contests by far the most. To this day, even though any protracted period of concentrated operation tires me out considerably, some sharp contest where there is always something to do, injects a healthy dose of adrenalin into my blood.
People of all ages, interests and professions met at the club and a kind of small-time practical democracy was practised at OK1KZD - it was all the same to us who you were and where you came from, there was a common cause - the radio club. It would be whatever we made it, but we could only make it by taking care of it together; and the more anybody worked on this joint cause, the more right he had to make decisions about it.
One of the club Days of VHF Records in the late seventies.
Not only did we get through a lot of contests and other amateur radio treats but we created a powerful organizational team that was always willing and able to contribute for the benefit of others. In addition to the numerous beginners' courses run over many years, we organized several nationwide and international trophy competitions in telegraphy, repeated representative meetings of Prague radio amateurs with the broad participation of the entire country and much more besides.
In the abnormal conditions of the time, the OK1KZD Club functioned normally, which meant being one of those "little islands of positive deviation". We did not provoke the establishment because there would have been no reasonable sense in doing so, but when we went off with the youngsters to camp in summer, we read books with them by authors who were greatly disliked by the regime of the time, and round the campfire in the evening we spoke about everything possible except the great socialist achievements of the Soviet Union. I remember how we enjoyed making fun of the dumb faces of the members of the communist militia shouting "Long live the Czechoslovak Communist Party!" or the roars of laughter brought on by the imaginings of Mr.Kojzar, the star of the bolshevik journalism. Some of the youngsters from OK1KZD were among those who were beaten up in the November 1989 demonstrations in Prague while others ran about the city during those eventful days with a national tricolour in their coat lapel. Of course this was not the doing of OK1KZD, they already had it in them, but those who did not have it in them did not take to OK1KZD.
The radio club gave a great deal to me on a human level too. I got to know a number of people whom I would otherwise have found it difficult to meet, and I can certainly count many of them as friends for life, even though the ocean came between us today.
From an excursion with the club youth to Silesia in the eighties.
From the latest period of activity at OK1KZD I cannot fail to remember OK1KI (ex OK1FKI), OK1NV (SK), OK1RV (ex OK1FRR), OK1SZ (SK), OK1TO (ex OK1FOP), OK1AJL, OK1DHJ (SK), OK1DID, OK1DJU, OK1DNN, OK1DOP, OK1DPD, OK1DPI, OK1DPO, OK1DRW, OK1DSF, OK1DSK, OK1DSW, OK1DWJ, OK1DWP, OK1FFP, OK1FLR, OK1FMU, OK1FNM, OK1FNV, OK1FOR, OK1JEF (SK), OK2PJD (SK), OK1SGI, OK1UDN (SK), OK1UJV, OK1UMX, OK1UQS, OK1UQY, OK1UTX, OK1UZJ, OK1VAP, OK1VBR, OK1VCB, OK1VSD, OK1VVK, OK1VZJ, OK5TR (ex OK1FUI), OL1VOX, and from earlier times as I was growing into a radio amateur, OK1DN, OK1KN (ex OK1AUT), OK1DAQ, OK1DIT, OK1DIX.
These days I do not have spare time for regular visits to the club but I am happy that it is still busy and so functioning as it should.
For a long time I held courses at the club for beginning operators. Over ten years I have taught several dozen people and many of them are now successful radio amateurs. I progressively tried out and improved on various methods for teaching telegraphy and I later published two books on the subject. At the end of the seventies and the beginning of the eighties I succeeded in compiling a 24-hour tape-recorded course on telegraphy and I promoted it at all the district radio clubs in the Czech Republic.
I devoted a lot of time to telegraphy in its indoor competition form. I travelled around many places in the Czech Republic as a referee, I edited several editions of the competition rules and training methodologies, educated new referees and so forth. I wrote a part of the software for assessing competitions; on the program for telegraphy reception, which took up 16 kB in assembler and in machine code for 8080 through 4 kB, and I am proud of this to this day as I am also just an amateur when it comes to programming. Among those telegraphy enthusiasts I also made many more good friends.
After 1989 I had the opportunity to collaborate in the establishment of new national amateur radio associations - of the Czechoslovak and Czech Radio Club, thereby learning much that was good and not so good - I have detailed notes from this period and any future historian of amateur radio in Bohemia will one day have quite a lot to draw upon from it. In 1992 I left this activity because my new occupation took up a lot of my time. When I then returned to it in 1996 I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the Czech Radio Club was functioning as we had conceived it in early 1990.
On the Czech Radio Club board, I am mostly involved in economic and legislative matters. It is pleasing that we do not have so many worries in raising money but more in how to spend it effectively. We have not as yet taken the opportunity to approach large sponsors to get funding for more challenging projects - there is a lack of any will to coordinate more in order to formulate such projects. On the one hand, some colleagues are unable to conceive of any other method of working than the one they know from the past and they call for "policies" to be drawn up for every little thing. On the other hand there are numerous colleagues who are doing some immensely useful work for a wide range of amateurs but they conceive it as exclusively their own affair which they would not put into a wider context at any price. Then we see appeals for support of some individual node or repeater for hundreds of crowns while you could raise millions of crowns for a broadly based project. Of course, after years of forced conformity and "over - organization", the attempt to place more emphasis on independent activities is completely understandable and thank God for each useful individual initiative.
In addition to the Czech Radio Club I am also a Life Member of ARRL, not because the membership is so exotic but because I wanted to support a strong amateur organization which bears the brunt of most of the IARU agenda and has the lion's share of the merit for all that has successfully been defended or achieved on behalf of radio amateurs.
I have been active again on the bands since 1995. It has only been in the last few years that I have managed to acquire a transceiver and other equipment, so twenty years after I got my licence I can now browse the DX bands and make QSOs under my own call sign that I could only dream of doing before. At home I have more than 280 confirmed DXCC Countries; it is not really so many but because my limited free time and the very poor conditions in Prague only allow me transmit at weekends from my cottage, which I cannot use all the year round, it is not such a bad tally. Besides, the number of confirmed countries is rising continually, though more slowly these days...
The picture of my present equipment and aerials illustrates a rather marked contrast to the situation twenty years ago.
I am to express my cordial thanks to Ota, OK1TO, for ungrudging help with permanent enlargement of my antenna farm.
Kyrill deals in aerials it's own way...
Present QSLs also visible.
I definitely prefer CW even though I could not in all good conscience use the kind of decorative language with all those flowery phrases that are often used for it. I just like it. Anyway those phrases often just cover up an inability to speak foreign languages. Sometimes though I have a browse around all the other technical innovations because even though DXing is really exciting, if one is tracking a DX Cluster with just occasional exchanges of call signs and "599" then one is not going to enjoy HAM Radio again all that much.
About 40 years of my life has been associated with HAM Radio so I really do love it. Nonetheless I would like to make some comments about certain colleagues who make a simple (albeit very specific) hobby into an occult super-secret "for the elect only".
For example it is customary to say that radio amateurism is a noble hobby - and every amateur will use such phrases to lay claim to such a title, but you only need to hear them in actual traffic on the bands to conclusively refute such illusions. Radio amateurs are said to be progressive, creative and of benefit to science. This ceased to be true even before the second world war and the average amateur is usually very conservative. The communist regime gave hamming the then necessary label of "usefulness for the society as a whole". It did not harm the cause to present it to the authorities in that way but a sensible person should not be taken in by his own propaganda. I would stand for sobriety: a radio amateur is not this or that, he is just an ordinary person given a licence by the state authorities. Everything else is secondary and nothing else is implicitly guaranteed.
HAM Radio is a really fine hobby and its great variety gives you a pastime for life. It is an active hobby that is certainly of more value than spending your time drinking beer or watching stupid thrillers on a video, but what you are good at in your spare time is not as important as what you do in your productive time and the most industrious self-conferred "nobility" can do nothing to alter that. After all, it is just an enjoyment, a game, which does not say much about your human qualities.
I do not wish to defend mediocrity but if somebody works his way up to the top of his hobby it usually means that in real life where the stakes are not counters, he has not succeeded. A father whose sole relaxation is to stare at a television screen with a glass of beer in his hand but who can modestly yet reliably feed his family is more successful as a human being than a top DX-man whose wife has left him and whose children hate him because all their life they have seen nothing but his back bent over his transceiver. Feeling yourself to be exalted over others because of your hobbies is a sign of a pathological inferiority complex.
It is a pity to spoil a hobby that provides relaxation, relief and entertainment, in such a stupid way as this.
I am adding some links to a selection of references to various interesting amateur radio pages so that at least something practical might be found on this page.
I will of course be pleased to receive your e-mail to "ok1xu at ok1xu.net".
Last update: August 26th, 2015