History

Newsflash

Westside repeaters offline

As of 11/10/18, ALL westside systems and repeaters are offline.  This includes 146.880, 224.900, and west input for 146.760.

11/27/18 update: the 224.900 repeater operation has been restored.

GROWTH OF VHF-FM IN NORTHEAST OHIO
and the formation of The Lake Erie Amateur Radio Association (LEARA)
by Bill Hess, K8SGX

While some of the neighboring paragraphs in this history may seem to jump back and forth or describe unrelated happenings, the best format seemed to be keeping the history in chronological order as much as possible.  All the content of this history is believed to be correct, but there are no guarantees.  The text which follows may be reproduced provided it is not altered in any way and credit is given to the author as the source.  If any person reading it has either additional information or corrections to make, please forward them to the author.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank the following people for making contributions to this project; either as suppliers of additional information or as proof readers: Marv W8AZO, Charlie WA8WUU, Fritz K8WLF, Al K8EUR, Dave WB8APD, Gary W3DTN, Al W8HYG and Tom WA8BTN.

Many of the dates of importance were verified with packing lists from International Crystal for crystals purchased either for the equipment to make a new system operational or for the radios I acquired to use it.  The earliest of these packing lists are from 1960 when I first received my ham license.

In the Northeast Ohio area, communications for Cuyahoga County Civil Defense (CD) was probably the start of two-meter VHF-FM activity.  Around 1957 the U.S. Government purchased crystal-controlled General Electric commercial two-way FM equipment operating on 145.26 MHz for Cuyahoga County CD. This included:
1. two specially-outfitted school busses for use as mobile command posts
2. thirty to forty tube-type vibrator-powered GE mobiles
3. about a dozen tube-type dry battery-powered packsets or "portables" (hardly handhelds, as they weighed about 15 pounds and had about ½ cubic foot volume which consisted of about half electronics and half batteries inside a steel case) and
4. about ten base-station radios on that.
Each CD bus and the land-based command sites were also equipped with an Onan generator for ac power.  This equipment was used for drills, weather disasters and other emergencies as well as general hamming and fortunately never for communications in case of the big bomb.  Involvement with CD was the main thing that gave an introduction to many of us who were to be involved with VHF-FM.  While the fixed-station sites did not require much work on equipment, there was always something to be done with the CD bus equipment - - at least for those of us who wanted to find an excuse to go to "the bus".  Monday nights were "bus nights".  We added new (to us) equipment, changed wiring, maintained what was there (since it was full of tubes) or simply swept and dusted.  The most fun thing we did was to take the bus to a parade and we went as far as downtown Cleveland from North Randall, where the East Side bus was garaged.  We also participated in hospital emergency preparedness exercises and just like today, sometimes went to a site and passed no traffic.  The people running the exercise said they found our presence useful but it surely was (and still is) difficult to understand how.

There was also activity on six-meters FM - - even in the mid-fifties.  Because technician class amateurs were only permitted to operate on 52.5-54 MHz and most of us experimenting with six-meters were technicians, the very first FM activity in the Cleveland area was on 52.5 MHz using equipment with wide band (15 kHz) deviation.  Actually there was no transmitter deviation limiting circuitry and these radios were probably 25 kHz wide but it didn't matter.  No one else was on another nearby frequency to be bothered.  52.5 MHz was the lowest and therefore easiest frequency an old piece of commercial equipment could be converted to.  A group of amateurs in the Shaker Heights area (Marv W8AZO, Pat W8GRG [SK], Ned W8GKS [SK], Jim K8QOT, Ron W8BBB [SK], John, K8IYM, John, K8QNE [SK], Rich W8GNI and finally Bill K8SGX [after receiving my license in Jan 1960]) converted their own equipment.  These were most of the core membership of Heights Area Mobile (HAM), a group active on six-meters FM in the late-fifties.  Later they realized that all of their lower transmitter sidebands were outside the band edge (52.5) but almost coincidentally the rest of the country was getting started on 52.525.  The first pieces of equipment were obsolete police radios donated by the Shaker Heights Police Department (their technician was also a ham).  Most of the old 2-case GE, Motorola or Link equipment being used was so agile that the crystals in use could be moved up 25 kHz to the new frequency.  The really old army surplus FT243 crystals that some radios could use were in openable holders and could be lapped down (to raise the frequency) by scrubbing them on a glass plate with a small amount of household cleanser and water.  Many old low-band radios did not have a padding capacitor to adjust the crystal frequency simply because it wasn't necessary.

A source of equipment for hams to purchase to get on FM was another problem.  One of the earliest hamfests where equipment was available was at the Angola (Indiana) Hamfest.  This 'fest was the work of the amateurs of the Tri-C College radio club, W9BF.  Northwest Electronics from Chesterton Indiana (near Chicago) brought a truck full of old mostly-Motorola equipment for sale.  For you old equipment buffs, it was 30Ds and 50Ds (receiver in one box and transmitter in another) with an occasional 80 or 140D thrown in.  In case any of you think you don't have enough space for your mobile now, the trunk mount part of a 60 watt 140D measured 6x16x21" and weighed in at about 50 pounds.  Power consumption of this type radio was about 3-5 amps when receiving and 25-30 amps when transmitting and that doesn't include the 250 amp inrush when you key the mike and the dynamotor is getting up to speed.  Believe me, it dims the headlights and you don't do this a lot of even receiving with the engine off if you want to start the car later.  Then you had to run the power and control cables under the floor mats and seats and mount the control head and speaker and drill through the firewall to connect the 2-gauge "A" cable through its 50 amp fuse to the battery.  Don't forget also that many of the old radios were 6 volt so you had to rewire the tube filaments to series/parallel and replace the vibrator power supply power transformer and the dynamotor (this motor-generator puts out the 400-600 volts for the transmitter PA tube(s).  If you were getting onto six-meters as many of us did and your radio was 30-36, or 36-42 MHz split, you also had to cut all the air-wound coils and change the loading caps on all the other tuned circuits.  This was frequently a cut-and-try procedure and when you were all done, the radio might have some oscillation or low drive in the transmitter or poor sensitivity or "birdies" in the receiver. Now what do you do?  While the equipment for sale there was old enough to have loktal tubes in it, at the time, it was only about ten years old and for those of us fortunate to get something moved to the amateur band and tuned up correctly, we had a lot of fun even without repeaters.  It was only low- and high-band.  (Commercial low-band is considered 25-50, high-band is 136-174 and UHF is 420-512 MHz). There was nothing old enough on UHF to be available surplus in fact UHF wasn't even in use for land mobile communications at the time.  This was one of the main sources of FM radios for those of us in Northeastern Ohio in the early 60's.  The equipment sold there is now so old (all tubes) and wide-band it doesn't even show up at today's hamfests.

This type of radio and its power consumption is one of the main things that made the Leece Neville Company well known in the fifties and sixties.  Among other products, they manufactured quite large automotive alternators (rectifier and regulator external to the machine) which would keep your battery up while using this type of radio in public-safety service, as well as for those of us who had more than one radio in our trunk tuned to some amateur channel.  It was a real prize, for those of us who had them, to find a used Leece Neville alternator.

To give some perspective to band usage and crowding, in public-safety, for example, Cleveland Police (CPD) radio dispatch used a repeater with the input on 37.34 and the output on 37.18 for the entire city -- one frequency pair.  Although the repeating function wasn't supposed to be used unless there was an emergency (according to FCC Rules & Regulations), all police calls were considered to be an emergency so the repeater was always functioning.  The input they used was on a tower that still stands, known as the Schaff Rd tower.  You can still see it as you drive along I-480 past the CPD Schaaf Rd radio site - - it is the old tower -- the taller one has the new '800' antennas on it.  Although there was also a receiver on the old Highland View Hospital clock tower, they had better coverage of the city from Schaaf Rd.  The transmitter was at 2221 Payne on one of the two old towers on the CPD headquarters building.  As for logging, you might ask, everything was logged with a Soundscriber®.  It was a unit manufactured for continuous logging purposes.  This audio logging tape recorder used two-inch wide tape similar to that used by the original 1960s transverse-scan broadcast video recorders (RCA VR1000) and, at a m-u-c-h slower rate, swept across the tape to make its single-channel recordings. One tape recorded for 24 hours.  The quality of the reproduction was useable but that was about it.  Using current technology, the preferred method of recording is to convert the audio to a digital format.  This provides the best signal-to-noise ratio and allows the longest recording time on a much narrower tape.

There has always been a general need and desire for better communications.  In 1958 or 1959, the first repeater was in the area constructed and installed by Dick Jedlicka, W8PVQ and friends.  The transmitter which put out about 300 watts (on 145.26) was in the clock tower at Highland View Hospital (same location used by CPD for their east receiver) which was located on top of the Harvard Rd hill ("the hill") in Warrensville Township (now Highland Hills) in eastern Cuyahoga County.  Because the Highland View Hospital site was used by Civil Defense for its main communications control center, the people who worked on the repeater (and were CD members) had access to install equipment at that location.  All the transmitting and receiving equipment was tube-type throughout.  The receiver on 145.68, along with a preamp and a cavity resonator, were sheltered from the weather in a big wood box located on the catwalk of the green water tower on "the hill".  The system operated in the middle of the AM portion of the band and was certainly not appreciated by the amateurs who heard its l-o-u-d signal there.  Most of the two-meter activity was from 145.0 to 145.4 since, again, most equipment in use was converted military surplus and the higher in frequency you went, the harder it was to make the conversion work.

The receiver and transmitter were connected by a run of surplus tar-covered army field-phone wire.  We pulled the wire through a steam tunnel that interconnected the Highland View and Sunny Acres hospital complexes and then connected to unused "house pairs" of their phone systems.  It is also of interest that the repeater output was on the simplex frequency and the input channel was 420 kHz higher.  These frequencies in particular were used because they were assigned RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) channels and the repeater was originally installed for RACES communication.  These were both excellent locations, but the problem of climbing 100 ft or so up the water tower made servicing the tube-type receiver most inconvenient (and it seemed to develop some type of problem 3 or 4 times a year).  Most of the activity was confined to Monday nights around 8:00 when the weekly CD drill was held since this generally was the only time the repeater was on.  This type of activity generally did not draw newcomers to FM.  There was little enough activity and no one else to control the repeater; so when Dick left the area in 1962 to join the service, repeater operation was discontinued.

To comply with the then-stringent FCC regulation regarding keeping a log of all operation of every ham station (and a repeater is considered a station), all repeater usage was tape-recorded.  The FCC relaxed their requirements and this practice was eventually amended to only recording phone patches in the early eighties and finally totally eliminated a few years later.  However, in these days of "dirty" transmitter or sometimes-purposeful interference, the information recorded could be of use toward eliminating the situation.

Some simplex activity on 145.26 MHz continued however since many of the county-owned radios were installed in RACES members' private automobiles.  There was also some CD activity on six-meters on 53.58 MHz with old two-case Link and Motorola equipment.  Other hams had radios on 52.525 MHz, which was and still is the national calling frequency, but did not have any connection to CD.

Since amateurs have always basically been people who would not tend to let a good thing (repeater) be inactive, the transmitting equipment was gathered and reassembled in the CPD Headquarters 5th floor generator balcony and connected to an antenna placed on one of the two old familiar towers on the roof (at 2221 Payne Ave).  This made the equipment accessible to an on-site operator for control and repairs. It also provided a location where a phone line for interconnect was available.  Since many of the CPD radio operators were also hams, in addition to having 1st class radiotelegraph licensees, (Ed Kissel, Al Ondrecek W8LJI, Ralph Folkman W8AF, Charlie Lohner W8RN, John Van Blargan W8VBU, Dave Eisenberger K8KEM [the main force behind getting and keeping the repeater] and Cy Whittingham [I'm not sure if he was a ham but he always seemed to be there when you called on the phone]) (to send and receive 2, 4 and 8 MHz CW traffic before the creation of LEADS), the repeater could be in operation 24 hours a day.  The receiver was moved from the rather inaccessible water tower to a location actually right behind the clock in the Highland View Hospital clock tower.  Many problems with lack of current metering and limiting of the screen supply for the 4CX250 amplifier and a lack of understanding of how important this is, resulted in destroyed final tubes and eventually led to shutting this system down.

Due to lightning strikes and wind, antennas on top of the old clock tower transmitter site also developed problems although when they were working, the coverage pattern and general performance were well worth the repairs necessary following an occasional lightning or wind attack.  After an unsatisfactory change one Saturday, it was decided to drive back to "the hill" late in the same evening and connect the transmitter back to an old antenna.  It proved to be the errand just in time - - the following morning the Palm Sunday April 11, 1965 tornadoes touched down in Pittsfield and the repeater was used for emergency communications pertinent to the disaster.  It is interesting to note that with the mobile equipment in use at the time, Pittsfield was about at the limit of the repeater's coverage in spite of the fact that the signal was considerably better than is currently provided on .76.  At the time, the best sensitivity receiver along with a good preamp was about 6 to 10 dB less than that easily obtained today and for the most part, the tube and vibrator-powered radios only had 25 watt transmitters.  Since there was no surplus UHF equipment for links, there were no remote receive sites.  In fact, a remote receiver was not even a consideration at that time.

During the winter of 1966-67, the old power amp was repaired and the previous GE ET-1 exciter was replaced with a GE Progress Line transmitter (still all tubes).  The system was sophisticated enough that the transmitter on "the hill" was capable of being operated as a repeater or a direct base station with remote control at Cuyahoga County CD Headquarters at 4200 S Marginal Drive.  A "turn off/on box" that counted the number of rings on the phone was built by K8SGX.  When you wanted to turn the repeater on, you would call the phone and let it ring 6 times, hang up, recall the phone and let it ring 8 times and hang up.  To reverse the process, you would call and let the phone ring first 8 times, then 6 times and the repeater would turn off.  Not terribly reliable, but with its dozen-plus relays, it usually worked and control could be accomplished on a phone which was only attended during the day.  The box had local on and off buttons on its front for local use.  The Cuyahoga County Radio Club was formed around this operation with callsign WA8TZQ and trustee Ed Reilly, W8OKE.  Regrettably, the number of volunteers for operating the control diminished from no more than two or three at best to zero so operation again reverted to "Monday Nights" or emergencies.  In the months to follow, the CD office was closed and with it went the most important control station.

Slowly, various stories about repeaters operating in the 146 MHz portion of the band began to be heard.  Much of the activity was centered around the General Electric facility in Lynchburg, Virginia and the hams who worked there.  As early as 1963, there were rumors of several hundred users on a 146.34-.94 repeater in Lynchburg in comparison with our relatively few on 145.26.  The activity in Virginia kept spreading and finally arrived in our area, perhaps in 1963.  The first new simplex was on 146.94 and its popularity quickly spread to Cleveland.  It was a welcome change which would eventually alleviate the continuing interference problems caused by the repeater on 145.26.  In the late 60s, there was almost no activity in the 144-145 or 146-148 MHz portion of the band.

Earliest records of the FM Hybanders Club are from March 1968, about a group interested in a privately-sponsored two-meter repeater in the Cleveland area.  Several of the hams involved with this venture were the previously mentioned Cleveland Police Radio operators at the central station.  This included those who hammed on the low-bands.  The repeater was put on the air under Greg Nasiatka's callsign K8VFL with the input on 146.88 and the output on 146.40.  It had a homebrew all relay logic autopatch.  The autopatch interface which did not actually decode, regenerate or use Touch-Tone® (Bell System's name for Dual-Tone-Multi-Frequency [DTMF]) to perform any functions other than connect or disconnect the patch itself, was located at the receiver site in Seven Hills.  This was one of the first Ohio Bell Telephone areas with operational Touch-Tone® service at the time.  The machine and frequency pair was re-coordinated to 146.28-88 under the callsign of WB8CRV in August 1970.

To give an idea of the difficulty of converting and then using commercial two-way equipment for amateur use, the operators in the '70s on two-meters in Lorain County purchased crystals for their radios for 146.98.  Many of them would not warp onto frequency so the frequency they operated on, since there were no 'channels', was 146.979.  They moved to 146.34-.76 once the repeater was established.

From acquaintances made with these hams on six-meters FM, some of us residing in eastern Cuyahoga County had an increasing interest in moving their repeater equipment from a site in Lorain County that was not as good as Highland View and Sunny Acres Hospital.  Since the equipment would cover Lorain from its new location, it was agreed to move it in early 1969.  Coverage was excellent from "the hill".  Its power output was 400 watts (with antenna gain, it produced about 4000 watts ERP [effective radiated power].  The ERP is now approximately 400 watts.)  At that time, the receiver was located at Sunny Acres Hospital in a corner of one of the elevator penthouses.

In 1969, it was decided to form a club around another new repeater with input on 146.34 and output on 146.76.  To help support and coordinate the repeater, the Lake Erie Amateur Radio Club was formed with charter meeting held on 27 May, 1969 with 10 members present: Howard Baker K8NHR, Ken Bobel WA8YJW, Mike Cross K8JLO, Marv Grossman W8AZO (secretary), Dick Hartwig K8TEC west VP, Fritz Hemrich K8WLF, Bill Hess K8SGX (president), Don Nelsch K8EIW (east VP), Jim Pracker K8QOT (treas), And Chuck Rennolds WA8WUU.  These first meetings as well as the meeting where the club was finally formed were held at many locations with the charter meeting held at the Holiday Steak House (no longer in existence) on old Route 6 and 2 in the Vermillion/Lorain area.  Since many of the original members of the club and the old GE equipment came from Lorain County, this was a natural geographic area for meetings, although a bit far for eastern Cuyahoga county residents.

Al Amster W8HYG filed for a license, WB8CQR, which was dated effective November 19, 1969, permitting the club to get a station (the repeater) into operation.  Again, the transmitter was put in the Highland View Hospital clock tower and the receiver was in one of the elevator penthouses at Sunny Acres Hospital.  There were continuing disadvantages even from the days of 145.26.  We were permitted to have the receiver in the elevator machinery room (with antenna mounted on the roof) but were asked to keep it out of the way so it was located in a corner behind the elevator electrical equipment.  There wasn't enough space to put anything there much less the receiver - - behind the same equipment we coped with in the days of 145.26 - - exposed flyball governors, electrical equipment and all.  The bonus was, of course, a good location for the receive antenna and a nice short transmission line to the receiver.  At the transmitter site directly behind the clock face, there were places where pigeons could get in through broken glass in the clock face.  They would fly around along with their friends the flies - - millions of them - - dormant on their backs all over the place in the winter and buzzing around your head and in the equipment in the summer.

Sometime, in about 1970, there was a fire in the upper dormitory floors of Highland View Hospital under the clock tower and, although there was relatively little structural damage to the building, the power (damaged in the fire) which ran the transmitter was turned off.  This necessitated running a 250 ft extension cord all the way from CD headquarters in the basement to the transmitter which was located behind the clock face.  After the fire, there was no heat or lighting in the upper part of the building so it was brrrrr in the winter and always a flashlight to get through the hallways and up the long metal stairs to the top floors in the day or night.  After the fire, rain leaked in and eventually damaged the upper portion of the building to the point that it was decided to tear it (and our transmitter site) down.  The clock itself was salvaged and repaired and moved to Lakeland Community College (Route 306 @ I-90), where it can still be seen.

First attempts at identifiers were archaic by today's standards.  The first voice IDer used on WB8CQR (.76) was a magnetic recorder/player that used a round plastic disc with a piece of 1/4" magnetic tape glued to the edge of it.  It revolved one revolution per ID (maybe 5 seconds).  It accomplished the required task but inconsistencies in revolution speed, tape-to-head contact changes and temperature variations made it sound lousy.  Finally, in Feb 1970, it was replaced with a solid state CW identifier designed by K8EIW and was connected to an all-discrete-transistor control card designed by K8SGX, which started an ID and provided hang timer and repeater timeout functions.  This new identifier used RTL logic and a 150-germanium-diode matrix (not easy to program or repair).

Through our previous contacts with the hospital during the days of Civil Defense we were given permission to move our equipment into an unused ventilator penthouse on the roof of the Sunny Acres Hospital building.  On the minus side, the 400 pounds of transmitter had to be moved from the now-closed clock tower to its new site - - all by "armstrong".  It was neither small nor light and had to be lowered out of the tower by block and tackle.  It was moved on 27 May 69 and taken to the two-way radio repair shop of Allan Communications on Miles Rd, where it was rebuilt by K8SGX.  During the modification to exchange the obsolete, inefficient and hard-to-find 4-125 finals for 4CX250s, it was determined that the power supply had been hit by lightning.  It destroyed the plate transformer which we replaced with a "pole pig" (almost indestructible).  In 1970, the tube type (Motorola Sensicon® 'A') receiver was finally replaced with a Motorola Motrac® (solid state) receiver that was purchased from K3SVO.  This new receiver had a factory PL® decoder in it so we could start guarding the system when necessary.  Continuously tone-coded squelch system (CTCSS) became a reality.  Now used as a generic term, 'PL'® (Private-Line), a registered trademark of Motorola, Inc., is the name given to equipment originally designed by Motorola incorporating a sub-audible (considered below 300 Hz) tone-coded squelch system.  GE calls it Channel-Guard and RCA called it Quiet-Channel.)

Another persistent problem was the transmitter interfering with the receiver.  The overall result of this was desensitizing the receiver - - worst with a weak signal.  When a weak signal keyed the repeater and the transmitter would come up on the air and desense the receiver to the point where the signal would disappear, the repeater would time out and shut off, but then the signal would reappear - - a cycle known as "pumping".  In the fall of 1970, a couple of 220 MHz military surplus cavity resonators were modified to two-meters and installed between the receiver and its antenna to "suck out" the transmitter signal.  It solved the problem.  This now sounds like relatively a simple problem to fix and it was; but at the time, each one of these difficulties was another obstacle to be overcome that we were not familiar with the proper cure.  It all took time, ingenuity and, in some cases, a monetary outlay.  Frequently, this type of fix required borrowing equipment that wasn't readily available then.

Probably the most significant thing that happened to VHF-FM, at least in the early 1970s, was a large-scale introduction of two-meter equipment, manufactured specifically for amateur use.  Prior to about 1971, the only affordable equipment available was used converted commercial equipment.  That was all there was.  The Inoue Varitronix IC-2F with one transmit power level of ten watts and maximum of six crystal-controlled channel capability, was among the first radios soon to be followed by the IC-20, Regency HR2 and the Standard 826 (crystal controlled).  Dycomm power amplifiers were frequently used since radios typically put out only 10 watts.  The RP synthesizer was about the first of that type of equipment on the market.  It was not a radio just an additional synthesizer which could be connected to an existing radio.  There were no amateur handhelds available at the time and Icom, Kenwood or Yaesu were far from being on the market.  There were only limited amounts of not-very-portable battery operated 'portables' and they were not really within the price range of the average amateur.  Some of these 1970s-vintage portables had tube or hybrid (part tube and part solid state) transmitters to go along with the solid state receiver.  This either meant high voltage batteries or 'T'power to get the high voltage - - more heavy batteries.

The first approach to guard on repeaters was frequently by audible tone-burst rather than sub-audible tone-guard or PL®.  Again, the sub-audible encoders and decoders needed that would stay on frequency and keep working were surplus Motorola equipment.  Many operators without tone encoders tried whistling up the repeater.  This turned out to be only fair, at best.  These early radios did not meet the carrier frequency stability of commercial equipment either and were often off-frequency.  This might not have been a problem if your repeater receiver was of like wide bandwidth but .76 always incorporated a commercial receiver of one type or another.  The problem also changed as the ambient temperature of the vehicle's trunk changed.  Early commercial two-way radio equipment was trunk-mount.  The radios were close enough to frequency to key the repeater when at one temperature, but somewhat off-frequency at another so the audio was distorted at times.  On the .76 repeater, a meter was installed to monitor the frequency of the incoming signal and if it was off more than a preset amount (about 1.75 kHz), the transmitter would not key up.

Since the repeater transmitting equipment in use had come from the Lorain area, an alternate input was installed on the old Infirmary Rd (Lorain County) water tower to give better receiver coverage in that area.  While great in theory, it did not work out very well.  Keep in mind that all the equipment was tube-type and required constant attention even when working the best.  With little test equipment available, it was not only difficult to set the frequencies so the UHF link receiver and transmitter would agree but the transmitter also would not stay up to power with its less than new expensive 6907 tubes in both driver and final.  It was finally turned down in 1972.

In the summer of 1970, hams from the Ashtabula area purchased used GE Progress Line radios at the Rochester Hamfest to build a repeater of their own in the Ashtabula area.  After questioning hams in the Cleveland area, the frequency choice they made was 146.34 input and 148.88 output.  This was OK but remember that 146.88 was the input of the .88/.40 repeater and when .88/40, .34/.88 and .34/.76 were all on the air at the same time, the sound obtained on all three repeaters sounded like the complaint you get when you accidentally step on your cat's tail.  Still not sure, to this day, what was causing what but it surely did not function properly.  The cure was to move Ashtabula to .34/.76.  With directional antennas and pattern shaping, the Cleveland and Ashtabula repeaters were made to not interfere with each other.  The transmitter overlap area was about from Routes 44 to 528 along I-90.  This was perfect for both user groups.

In the winter of 1970, there was a huge nationally-represented meeting in Westchester PA (near Philadelphia) at which the current 600 kHz split plan was explained and adopted.  The meeting was chaired by Gordon Pugh, W1JTB and assisted by Gary Hendrickson, W3DTN.  Implementation of this concept solved many problems and made channelized operation possible; .88/.40 was moved to .28/.88; .34/.76 was moved to .16/.76 and the early Red Cross repeater on 146.46 input and 146.82 output was moved to .22/.82.  There was much discussion among those of us who attended the meeting whether everyone at the local level in the area clubs would go along with the concept and purchase at least one new crystal; but it seemed to work and was universally accepted and implemented.

Practically immediately to follow in the Cleveland area, an area repeater coordination meeting was held at the Hospitality Inn @ Bagley Rd and I-71.  Repeaters represented were WB8CQR 146.34/76 Cleveland, W8IOO 146.34/76 Youngstown which was first operational in 1968, WB8CRV 146.28/88 Cleveland, K8EUR 146.34/76 Ashtabula, and WA8TTO 146.46/82 Cleveland.  At this meeting, different PL® tones were first agreed upon for Youngstown, Cleveland and Ashtabula.  There was discussion of UHF repeater pair assignments.  Two MHz splits were originally agreed upon with the understanding that 5 MHz might be the final choice.  The decision was also made to continue to keep 146.94 open as the simplex channel.  The best records available indicate the Ohio Area Repeater Council (OARC) was not yet formed at this time but meetings of various repeater groups with George Cryder W8LGL who was the trustee of the Central Ohio Radio Club occurred in 1970.  The first OARC meetings were held at the audio-visual facility of Ohio Wesleyan University where George worked.  Among documents substantiating this are questionnaires about the statistics of NE Ohio repeaters.

At this point, there was another Ohio user of 146.76 - - Newcomerstown.  To keep base stations from accessing the wrong repeater, base station inputs were agreed upon and installed on repeaters; in Cleveland (146.37 which was later changed to 146.355), Newcomerstown (146.325) and Ashtabula (146.235).  Nice idea but not spectrum-efficient and when frequencies became scarce (!!!) and 146.34/94 was put on the air, the channels were too close and stations interfered.  It was a good idea in theory; but in practice, it did not work.  Because of off-frequency transmitters accessing the wrong system, the idea was abandoned.

With the purchase of a new Motrac® receiver and good propagation paths between Detroit and Cleveland, particularly when the band gets 'up', the first necessity of having a PL receiver became necessary.  To most of us who were repeater technicians who were not involved with commercial two-way radio, the task of getting PL® to work correctly and not be heard was a real learning experience.  Soon the still in use 110.9 Hz PL® for Cleveland and 100.0 for Detroit was implemented.  To further try to keep Detroit's and Cleveland's hams out of each other's repeaters, an anti-100 circuit was connected to the .16 receiver in Cleveland.  If a signal from Detroit was heard and it had 100Hz PL®, it would purposely not be transmitted.

The next feature to be added to the repeater was a Touch-Tone® access and control circuit designed and installed by Pat Shreve, W8GRG.  By mid-1976, the circuitry was fully operational.  This allowed turning on or off any of the repeater's features from a remote site and access to an autopatch (which was not received with 100% approval in the beginning) and finally the feature of 9-1-1.  At the time however, 9-1-1 was not available in the Cleveland area.  The original 9-1-1 dialed the Beachwood Police dispatcher.  This arrangement was made because, at the time, Beachwood Police dispatched for Warrensville Township (W8AZO was the Township's police chief) and that was where the equipment was (and still is) located.  At first, the autopatch was enabled only at night for emergencies.  This was the very beginning of a 'controller' and although the circuitry was all gate-level logic and had to be rewired to alter the program, it gave us the remote control abilities we desperately needed.

With the advent of more and better equipment, interest increased in UHF and a repeater was constructed in 1971 on 449.95/447.95.  It was one of the first in the Cleveland Area and in spite of a lot of controversy was moved to a standard 5 MHz split in Jan 1981 to comply with the standard band plan.  Around this time, the amateurs involved with Lake County CD erected a repeater with input on 53.70 and output on 53.46.  A later difference of opinion about moving it to a better location and raising the power led to the start of the 'Backbone' privately owned (closed) repeater on 52.92 and 52.68.

In 1972, for the best interest of the club and the members of its board, the club was incorporated under Ohio laws.  In that year, FCC Docket 18803, which governed amateur repeaters and remote base stations came to pass.  All repeaters had to be re-licensed with special regulations and a repeater callsign.  Repeaters like .16-.76 had to reduce power to 400 watts ERP (it had been about 4000).  Topographical surveys were required to justify the amount of ERP and antenna patterns and gains had to be provided for each system.  The days of covering as much area with a given repeater as you could get with a lot of power were at an end.  In the summer of 1973, LEARA completed re-filing and the new callsign of WR8ABC was received.  Many potential repeater operators instead of going through the aggravation of filing either did not ever construct their repeater or those with little following went off the air.  These repeater callsigns were revoked in 1980.

In 1973, after many ideas and proposals, Bill Lightfoot K8ZMF (now silent key) started the first official LEARA publication and it was called the "Repeater ABC'S".  After the merger of .76 and .88 in 1974/5, the name was changed to "Spirit of .76 and .88".  In 1976, an Addressograph offset duplicating machine was purchased and moved to WB8APD's basement, where the newsletter was printed.  Another press was procured in 1980 and was in use until about 1991 when the schedules of the printer and publisher could not be coordinated.  Most of the time, the newsletter is printed by Marv, W8AZO through the courtesy of Allen Telecom with an occasional trip to a commercial duplicating agency when Marv or Allen can't accommodate it.

To further promote the interest in amateur radio and the concept of hamfests, the Cleveland Hamfest had its first swap/sell meet in 1975.

At this point in the development of two-meters FM, examination of an old listing of repeaters in the northeast Ohio area showed all repeaters listed in two columns on one side of one page - - about 55 total.  There was no activity on tertiary channels and there were no assignments in the 144-145 MHz section of the band.  Dues for LEARA were $12 per year.  Top sirloin dinners at the Brown Derby meeting place were $3.65 and an invoice showed a 12AX7 (tube used in the GE exciter) was $1.37.

Continuing problems seemed to plague the .76 transmitter.  With the power output of the 400 watt amplifier turned down to 100 watts and the Motorola Motran exciter able to supply 35 watts (which was about twice too much) to drive the final and no easy way to turn it down, many output transistors were blown at a cost of about $15 each.  (By the way, they didn't replace themselves either.)  This failure mode invariably occurred on the night of the club meeting.  In the winter of 1973, the transmitter was replaced with a Motorola B53MPB IMTS (mobile-telephone) continuous duty base station.  Because of its minimum down-tine, it was the main transmitter until the summer of 1995.

In the winter of '74/75, access to the site of .88 became almost impossible.  In order to keep a system on the channel, a repeater was temporarily set up at the .76 sites.  Representatives of both .76 and .88 had been discussing a merger of the groups and it became a natural thing to do as members common to both groups worked more and more on the same problems.  When the concept was placed before the membership of both groups, it was adopted overwhelmingly at the December 1974 joint meeting.  At about the same time a new high-rise office building was being constructed in Lakewood.  It was a logical place to install .88 so there would be a repeater on the East Side and one on the West.  A new (at least to us) GE Mastr® commercial two-way base station was procured and assembled in the configuration of a repeater for the new site.  Access to the location of the repeater at the new site was 24 hours.

Interest in 220 MHz became increased and in April 1979, the club decided to purchase and install a repeater on that band also at Lakewood Center North.  Getting operational on the band for the individual ham also became easier with the advent of radio availability.  At the beginning, a bulk purchase of ten Clegg radios was made and later another purchase was made of forty Midland radios.  In 1982, the experimental 223.34/224.94 owned by W8GRG was purchased by the club and moved to the .76 transmitter site.

In the fall of 1977, the .76 repeater 9-1-1 circuit was connected to call C-MED (Cuyahoga County's Emergency Medical Dispatch facility) directly.  .88 was arranged similarly by 1982.  This would provide a no-delays direct connection to law-enforcement or medical agencies when needed.

The next step was a natural, too - - being asked to provide communications for the largest public service event in the history of Ohio - - the Swine Flu program in October 1976.  Thousands of people were inoculated against the flu.  Stations were set up at all points involved and communications was provided for the Cleveland Academy of Medicine that administered the program.

Communications was provided for the first Heart-a-Thon by LEARA in the summer of 1977.  It was to provide a link between the Cleveland Police, US Marines, C-MED and the Cleveland Area Hospital Association.

On December 2, 1978, a couple dozen hams were used to assist the Ohio National Guard, as well as various law-enforcement and ambulance personnel to relocate all of the patients from Highland View Hospital to its new location at Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital.  The hospital on "the hill" was then closed permanently; but our repeater equipment remained.

Growth of the organization increased from less than 100 members in 1974 to about 525 in 1979.  In the summer of 1978, the first club-owned PO box was opened to not only facilitate receipt of mail but to provide a place to send/receive mail that was not associated with any particular individual.

A continued increase in weather spotting assistance by hams which began as early as 1976, produced a continuously-increasing necessity of providing some form of communication path between a directed SkyWarn net and the National Weather Service (NWS) in Cleveland.  The concept of what is now known as the "blue box" was developed and installed by Pat Shreve, W8GRG in Feb 1979.  This box enabled the weather service personnel to push one of two buttons on the box when weather was being reported and a ham was not at NWS yet.  It would send either _ _ - - _ _ (?) for I do not understand/please repeat or _ - _ (R) for roger or I copied your transmission.  For his various contributions to weather-related communications, in that same year, Pat was given the NWS award for 'civilian of the year'.

The continuing desire to both modify existing repeater control commands and add new ones was the main driving factor that led to the 1981 purchase of the ACC RC-850 controller to control the 147.76 repeater.  In 1987, the power at the old Highland View Hospital building was disconnected and the location for the .16 receiver lost.  The repeater equipment was all moved to the transmitter site and connected to the antenna through a new duplexer.

The move of Cleveland Hamnet to the basement of WB8APD occurred during 1987.  This was the beginning the continual expansion of the hardware and software of this now well-known BBS (bulletin board system).

The National Weather Service announced in 1987, that NEXRAD was coming and, finally in March 1990, additional communications for severe weather spotting would become necessary. Implementation of the new NEXRAD doppler radar allowed subsequent closing of various NWS locations.  The decision to perform the link function on six-meters to get reports from and to Erie PA, Mansfield, Akron/Canton and Toledo to NWS Cleveland on six-meters was made.  Although all original multi-county-wide nets would continue to function as before, they now needed to report their findings to Cleveland.  This distance in some cases is over one-hundred miles and needs a very wide-coverage repeater.  Although some coverage problems exist between Cleveland and Toledo when there is a storm front between them, the six-meter backbone system works quite well and a simulcast transmitter system is in the works which will hopefully solve the lack of coverage in Toledo.

After several outages and a rebuild of the .88 repeater transmitter by K8SGX still failed to make it reliable, the repeater was upgraded from a GE Mastr to an all-solid-state GE Mastr-II base station in the spring of 1994.  Also, in that year, a solid-state (Motorola Mocom 70®) transmitter was obtained for .76.  A GE EF-5 amplifier with more power can be switched on for better coverage during SKYWARN nets was installed as part of the same transmitter upgrade project.

In the summer of 1996, it was decided to regain use of the WR8ABC callsign for the LEARA repeaters.  The license was applied for and received as part of the FCC program that allowed reissuing old callsigns.

During 1997 the most outstanding changes to LEARA and its repeater equipment were a) the voter on .76 was changed from a Hall to a Motorola Spectratac® and the UHF receivers which feed the voter were changed from GE Mastr-pro to Motorola Micor® and b) the west 220 MHz repeater was replaced after the original unit was declared no longer serviceable.  As part of slimming-down the repeater features that were most 'pranked', some of the emergency autodial numbers were turned off.  Direct dialing of the numbers is still possible.  All the problems associated with the introduction of area codes '330' & '440' required considerable repeater controller program changes.

Probably, the number-one new and hard-to-solve difficulty facing all land-mobile two-way radio in today's busy overcrowded radio communications world, is interference.  It is not economically-advantageous to outfit transmitters with combiners and other equipment that would minimize interference.  Over the last few years, there has been a noticeable increase of transmitters bothering receivers in totally unrelated services and bands.  Much of this interference comes from the new higher-powered 900 MHz paging transmitters, now much more in use.  The relative lack of support by the FCC, resulting from their continually-shrinking staff as well as FCC deregulation further reduces the chances of finding and curing interference.

SK="Silent Key" (deceased)

Rev. 12/17/2003