Our 1960s “Intercom”

I’m a ham radio operator (WA6SWR among other calls). I got my licens in,  I think, 1961. While I had HF radios, VHF is what always interested me. While some people got excited about talking to people around the world, I primarily wanted to communicate with people I could also visit. Like so many in Los Angeles at the time, I gravitated toward the two meter band and the K6MYK repeater. It was like a big shared intercom and I met lots of people there.

Next came the FM bug — buying surplus two-way radios and putting them into amateur service. The frequency “everyone important” was on was 146.76MHz. A group of us started hanging out there but there were all too many jerks there. A good example is Ken Sessions who put a high-power remote base station on ‘.76 mostly to prove he was a jerk. Eventually a group of us decided it was time to move to a more private frequency. We discussed this and decided that 146.87MHz was where we would move. The “correct” channel would be 146.88 but there was another repeater on 146.91 and our old wide-band equipment was not going to be happy. So, 146.87 it was and we ordered the crystals for our radios.

We had a tune-up party and vanished from ‘.76 for ‘.87. We were eventually found by some of the ‘.76 people but no one ever invaded our new frequency. That was a good location but we really wanted something more private. Thus, the intercom idea.

There were lots of old radios what were being used in the 440-450MHz frequency range. The commercial two-way band was 450-470MHz and it was relatively easy to move them to the ham frequencies. We got a pair of frequencies but decided (I think it was Norm, K6YPD’s idea) to actually move to the other end of the band — around 420MHz. Our equipment could be moved there fairly easily but some of the more modern equipment could not. So, we were not likely to be noticed.

We put in AC power supplies and tuned up some old radios — I think they were mostly if not all RCA CMU-10 mobile units and we now had our “intercom”. There was only a handful of us on the frequency but we tended to leave the radios on all the time. Thus, if you needed a quick technical answer you could just “ask”. Today we can do that on the Internet but that wasn’t the way you had to do things in the 1960s.

We went on to build fancy repeaters, remote bases and such — that was what everyone was doing. But, “the intercom” is really what made it all possible.