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My very own radio! 2014

GT-3 Baofeng HT ham radio Since I got my license in 2012, I've been fortunate to be able to operate several different radios borrowed from the Salt Spring Island Amateur Radio club. It's been an excellent opportunity to find out what I find useful, what sort of operating I enjoy, what features I might like to have in a radio of my own. I finally took the plunge late in 2014 and purchased a Baofeng GT-3 handheld dual band radio. Far more buttons than the TAD, but a bit more user friendly for a computer nerd, since it comes with a cable I can connect to a computer via a nice familiar usb connector. So far I actually haven't had much success getting my radio and computer to acknowledge each other, but I have figured out how to program the radio by hand.

baofeng GT-3 handheld ham radio

My first HAM radio! 2012

The Salt Spring Amateur Radio Club has been kind enough to loan me a 2 meter mobile radio, a TAD M8-1540, which I gather dates from the early to mid-1980's. I think it's an excellent radio to start on the air with, basic operation seems simple, and there are some user programmable features I can experiment with when I've read a bit more about it.

front view of TAD M8
TAD M8 Radio makes a great 'beginner rig' for a new ham - a few simple controls make operation much less intimidating for a newbie to get on the air.

12 volt battery power source
The first thing I had to work out was a power source. Since I'm interested in emergency communications, a battery based power source seemed like my best choice, but I didn't want to be hauling a 130lb. marine battery around, so I found smaller options. This is my BIG battery!

back view of TAD M8
This side of the radio presented me with a few more complications. The antenna part was easy, but the original electrical connectors had to be modified to connect with my 12 volt battery power source, and the connectors I found weren't a good fit with the battery terminals. Thanks to VE7SJW and VE7DVB for helping me solve my connector challenges!

2 meter antenna My first antenna! VE7SJW built this antenna for my radio, and it works great; thanks Wilf!

It does faintly resemble a coat hanger impersonating a star-fish, but the fact that I can send and receive radio with it makes it simply amazing.

While it's not exactly hand-held-portable, my entire rig can be easily relocated - the radio, battery, spare battery, battery charger, all their assorted cables and connectors fit in a box I can lug under one arm while I brandish my antenna in my free hand... would you call that semi-mobile? (ungainly-but-portable?).

TAD M8 all set up, battery, spare, charger, the works The whole station, radio, battery and spare battery, charger - even my log book and frequency/channel cheat sheet. I don't normally keep the battery on top of the radio, I just moved it there to squish it all into the photo, and to give some scale on the small battery (isn't it cute?). I haven't yet figured out how much operating time I can get out of the little battery, but I can run off it for a week of daily/occasional use.

I realize it's not a very elegant set up yet, but it works great, and eventually I'll build it a shelf, or case, or box... depending on how much I end up moving it around, a box of some sort might make it more mobile.

Eventually I'll know more about what I want in a radio, get my own; then the club can pass this one on to the next graduating class of new hams. Getting on the air can seem like a big (and confusing) investment for a new HAM, and I really appreciate the opportunity to learn a bit more about radio first - thanks SSIARC!

MORE TAD M8-1540 Information

Operating Instructions

TAD-M8 User Programming SHORT Instructions 1 Page PDF File (66 kb)

TAD-M8 User Programming DETAILED Instructions 4 Page PDF File (41 kb)

Service Manual

Link to download the AWA (Amalgamated Wireless Australia) Service Manual for the TAD M8-1540 (from the '80's)

Company Website

TAD Radio Canada

More Equipment!

Oscillator - My first 'home brew'

home brew oscillator for morse code keying practice

Starting with a handfull of interesting little bits, a few transistors and a selection of resistors, some wire scraps all scrounged from my friends in the SSIARC and a beautiful block of wood my Dad cut and sanded for me, I've assembled something that makes sound! While it bears no resemblace to what I picture when I think of 'electronics', I've come to think of it's appearance as a sort of Cro-Magnon ancestor-of-electronics kind of a look.

Circuit diagram for morse code practice oscillator

This is the circuit diagram for the oscillator, which I used as a guide to drill holes for the screws. I believe the plans suggested affixing the circuit diagram directly on the face of the oscillator, but with such a beautiful piece of wood to work with I didn't want to cover it up. Once I had the screws in place it was easy to tape the diagram to the side of the block and refer to it when placing components between the connector points.

morse code keyer and practice oscillator connected and working!

You can probably see, in the first photo, where I sheared off one of the screws while tightening it down over the two wires to make the connection solid. I was surprised I managed to generate that much torque, but brass is soft I guess. I managed to fit everything in with a second connector point nearby. I got my resistors mixed up the first time, but it worked anyway, just very quietly. With some help from Wilf VE7SJW and David VE7DVB I got it all straightened out with the right resistors in the right place. Now it sounds great! If only my dots didn't sound so much like my dashes. More practice is certainly needed.

Interested in trying this project?

You can find the ARRL's instructional PDF file here:

My first Morse Code Keyer!

OK, it's not really a radio, and I'm still working on building an oscillator for it, but isn't this a thing of beauty? (not the photo, but the key itself...)

morse code sending key I'm still working hard to master morse code, and I've nearly mastered the alphabet at 5 words per minute. I'm finding the process fascinating - I am definately not an auditory learner, and I'm having to be very patient with my brain.

I read somewhere that it took Samuel Morse 8 years to reach a speed of 10 WPM, and that's made it easier to be patient with my learning process; I can give myself 7 more years to work on it.


The Antenna at the EOC on Salt Spring Island
Photo by Michael Powell VE7GMI

A beautiful photo of the antenna array used by the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) on Salt Spring Island, where we run a weekly emergency operations net every Wednesday at 19:00 local time.

Are you a nearby Ham? You can connect with this net on 146.460, 147.320 (SSI Repeater), or 446.1. We also run a net on FRS and GMRS, around 19:30, for the local emergency 'pod' program.

Thanks for visiting... hope to meet you on the air! 73
~ Andrea VA7ALG


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