Santa Clara Valley Repeater Society, WB6OQS


The Santa Clara Valley Repeater Society was formed in 1965. It was started to support an A.M. repeater which was then installed on Mt. Chual in the Santa Cruz mountains. At the time, there was no 'band plan' as we know it today, and the input and output frequencies were chosen to avoid conflicts with the various A.M. activities that were prevalent on the band at that time.

There were only a small number of repeaters then. One was K6GWE (the Great White Elephant) in San Francisco and another was WA6YCZ on Mt. Umunhum in San Jose (BAYCOM). The original repeater was put together from military surplus radio equipment and an old controller from the K6GWE group. An F.M. input on 440 Mhz was used for primary control.

Organizationally, membership was tightly controlled. A new ham had to be invited to join by a current member, and members at a general meeting had to vote to allow the new person to join. A single 'no' vote would bar membership.

In the late 60's, a 'new' repeater was built, using tube-type equipment, mostly Motorola, with a Faranon 150W F.M. transmitter. This provided a new 2 meter F.M. system, along with 440 Mhz F.M. intertied with 2 meters, for users. The F.M. radios were on the new coordinated frequencies that we use today. The old A.M. input receiver was relocated to the home of charter member Oscar Allen, WA6VXF, where it repeated its signal into the 440 Mhz F.M. input. This permitted those members who were still using A.M. radios to continue to use the system.

The 'user control' system was a single tone generator that was pulsed by a rotary telephone dial. These tone pulses were decoded at the repeater and moved a stepping relay and other timer relays to decode multiple digits. The system was put together primarily by a member who worked for the telephone company.

The repeater was not on the air at all times. Whenever a member wished to use the repeater, they would key their tone box, dial the proper digits, and the repeater would turn on. When the member QRT'd, he would turn it 'off'. Timing in the controller was accomplished with time delay relays (short times) or motorized timers (longer times).

The system also had an Autopatch. This was one of the few 'legal' ham radio/telephone interconnections that was arranged through the proper telephone interfaces with the local phone company. One has to remember that this was 'before Carterphone' and the phone company split-up that freed customers to connect their own equipment. The member who arranged for the connection also convinced the telephone company that we should be charged residential rates, since we were, by FCC rules, non commercial.

In the early 70's, the FCC implemented new, and restrictive, repeater regulations that, among other things, prohibited cross-band operation. A small controller (more relays and motors) was added to allow the 440 Mhz repeater to operate independently from the 2 meter system. These regulations also required that repeaters have their own distinctive callsign. We applied for, and received, the cailsign WR6ADE. Since the identifier was a motorized wheel with a microswitch on the side, the wheel was ground down and new notches cut out. The slightly imperfect notching provided us with a repeater with a 'bronx accent' (the wheel notcher was originally from New York City).

During 1972 and 1973, another 'new' repeater system was built. This was a 'solid state' system utilizing commercial (mostly Motorola) radios and TTL logic. DTMF control for users was provided. This system also included 2 meters and 440 Mhz repeater systems, with the UHF primary control receiver replaced by dial-up landline primary control. The same 'member must be present' philosophy was retained in the new design, along with the 'no cross-band linking' FCC requirement. That system was installed on Mt. Chual in March of 1974.

Membership restrictions were liberalized during the 70's to permit anyone to obtain membership.

Later in the 70's, the restrictive FCC repeater regulations were, for the most part, lifted. The WR6ADE cailsign expired and we returned to the use of WB6OQS/R. The 'member must be present' requirement was dropped and the repeater went to full 24-hour operation.

Also during that time, many improvements were made in the system components, allowing us to reduce the number of logic cards in the system and to replace the DTMF decoders with more reliable ones. When we changed the callsign, a new identifier circuit imbedded the callsign into an EEPROM instead of the hard-wired diode array of the original design. This saved space, power, and allowed us to provide some limited telemetry with the identifier.

In August of 1977, a 220 Mhz receiver and transmitter were hard wired to the 2 meter repeater, providing another input and output for novice operators to use. This also provided some much needed activity on the 220 band at a time when it was being attacked by commercial interests.

All was not rosy, however. Management at the commercial repeater site on Mt. Chual had been turned over to Motorola and our discounted rental rate was revoked. We were asked to pay $350 per month in site rent. We managed to get a donation to cover one year's rent, but we needed to move the system. We managed to obtain a reasonable rate on Loma Prieta, and moved the system there on February 22, 1986.

Loma Prieta presented its own set of problems, mostly related to the number of transmitters on the mountain top. We worked closely with the 146.64 group to ensure that we didn't create any problems for them. Interrnodulation problems continued to plague us.

Many years were spent in the design and building of another new repeater system. It was to be a computer controlled system capable of handling multiple independent and/or linked systems. Due to the small number of members working on it, progress had been very slow. The existing system on the hill was upgraded as time passed as well with some of the radios acquired for the new system installed on the old hard wired controller, and even that controller repackaged in a new form to make room for the newer radios.

During 1998 amd 1999, some members chipped in to purchase a commercial repeater controller from Link Communications, the RLC-3. Later in the year, a donation from a public-service organization provided the funds to purchase new Vertex VHF and UHF radios. Several club members put these together with an interface unit and the new system was installed on Loma Prieta on Sunday, December 26, 1999. This is a software driven system allowing greater flexibility and remote control. Programming remote control is provided by an on-site computer system. The 2-meter and UHF systems also generate PL on their outputs for quiet user monitoring.

Last Modified 01/17/2000