K8OIO Biography

Submitted By Dave Holdeman K8OIO
(January, 2001)
Here is a short autobiography.

I was born and raised in Muskegon, MI and was nuts about airplanes until I found some old radio parts and some old "Radio News" magazines in my Dad's attic. I was about 12 or 13 and we were already at war with Germany and Japan.

From one of the articles, I built a regenerative receiver using 2 type 30 triodes, wound my own plug in coils on old tube bases and soldered D cells together to make filament and plate batteries. I picked up stations KWID and KGO on the short wave bands and was hooked on radio. I knew about hams, but they were off the air until 1945 because of the war effort. After 1945, war surplus radio gear became available and I converted a BC348 receiver to AC operation.

I graduated from Muskegon High School in 1947, worked in a radio shop for a little while and joined the Army Signal Corps. I attended signal school in Ansbach, Germany and met my (future) wife in Berlin while on temporary duty there. In the service I worked on BC610s, BC342's the ANTRAC series of VHF/UHF radios and various other radio and cable carrier systems.

After discharge in 1952, I worked at the Brunswick Plant in Muskegon for a couple of years making radomes for the B47 bomber and scraped enough money together to attend a 2 year technical school in Cleveland whose specialty was Broadcast Engineering. I got my first class radio telephone license in 1955 and joined the staff of WONW-AM in Defiance, OH as a Broadcast Engineer where my duties included everything from transmitter maintenance to cutting the grass and taking out the trash.

I had taken entrance tests with Philco and the FAA for technician jobs, but hadn't heard anything for a year. After I closed on a house in Ohio, I got a telegram from Philco to report to Philadelphia for training and from the FAA to report to Kansas City. Since I had just moved and closed on my first house, I decided reluctantly to stay with WONW. (such is fate) It was good experience, but the FCC made a decision in late 1956 to no longer require stations to have a licensed man on duty at a transmitter site during air time, but have one available on call only. After this decision, several of "us engineers" became surplus.

About 30 miles north of Defiance, OH, I happened to notice what looked like an oil derrick sprouting from the ground and decided to check it out. It happened to be an emerging microwave tower and was being built by Blaw-Knox of Pittsburgh for AT&T.

I nosed around and was able to take their entrance exam for technician and aced it. I was waiting for AT&T to hire me and was on pins and needles because I knew my days at WONW were numbered. I also felt that I had a good chance to be hired since I already had my commercial phone license. Sure enough I became a "Communications Craftsman" at AT&T's West Unity, Ohio microwave complex in February of 1957. I had a great career with them which spanned over 30 years. The breakup of AT&T in 1984 was pretty traumatic, but that came later. At any rate, I had been studying to be a ham and got my Novice Ticket (KN8OIO) in 1958 and my General (K8OIO) 1n 1959 after my third try (after successfully suppressing my "morse code nerves").

While in Ohio I did acceptance testing on new microwave radio installations at various tower sites, and worked the microwave test bench. I also worked on various older cable carrier systems. That work didn't seem as romantic as microwave at first, (which was a new field) but I learned to appreciate the design effort and ingenuity that was put into the older systems. I taught several microwave schools and was assigned on loan for a year with Bell Laboratories in Andover, MA writing BSPs (Bell System Practices) on a new 6 Ghz microwave system. I got so deeply involved, that I had all the logic levels memorized. When I came back from the Labs I taught some terrific schools on that system.

While still in Ohio, I converted an ART-13 to ham use in ways which looking back, I think were quite innovative. I converted an old rack mounted cable carrier power supply from 130 to 28 volts for my filament supply. The secondary of the power transformer was center tapped so I removed all the laminations from the core and unwound a turn at a time from the secondary until I reached the center tap counting the number of turns as I unwound. That way I could determine the number of turns per volt for one half of the secondary. I needed about 35 volts AC coming off the secondary and unwound some more wire (figuring how many turns per volt I was taking off as I went) until I took off what I thought was enough. I replaced all the laminations which were spread all over the floor, added a selenium rectifier bridge off the new 35 volt winding and came up with a 28 volts DC supply for the filaments and autotune mechanism. I replaced the WECO thyratrons with 866,s for my 1000 volt plate supply. The supply with its huge power transformers and chokes was so heavy after I reassembled it, that I could not lift it. I made some runners of strap iron that looked like skis, bolted it to the bottom of the assembly and slid the whole thing under my operating desk (after spray painting the thing gray).

Within the ART13, I used a bank of mercury relays to key the side tone oscillator and grid block circuit. That was a great rig and served me for many years. CQ Magazine came out with a scheme to extend the range of an ART13 to the 15 meter band by pruning various coils and changing the multiplier chain. I tried that conversion and to my regret went from no TVI to lots and lots that I couldn't overcome so I finally gave it away. At any rate the mercury relays were fast and would follow a bug. Even though this is a solid state era, I still like those relays and have used them in keying circuits and drivers that interface between my DOS computer and ICOM Transceiver.

In 1963 I was promoted to AT&T Chicago Engineering and received the call W9HJL. I planned radio relay and cable carrier additions and did radio relay route design. From 1969 to 1971 I was supervisor of microwave radio maintenance at Wyanet, IL. During that time, I was able to talk a technician at another maintenance center through a trouble on the microwave system that I wrote maintenance practices on while with the Bell Labs in 1962. I got it down to the component level on a particular logic card. He couldn't believe that any supervisor could be that knowledgeable about a system. I had those details so etched in my brain that I thought I would never forget them. The system is now long since obsolete and is no longer in service and I have forgotten those details after all. The Wyanet Maintenance Center has been razed and there is no on site physical evidence that that it ever existed.

I finished out my AT&T career back in Chicago in 1987 when I took a buy out at the age of 57. Judge Greene's consent decree of 1984 forced AT&T to accept a lot of good and bad technicians and engineers from the Bell Operating Companies and good microwave people were crawling out of the woodwork. The company was converting to fiber optics and most of my expertise was on vacuum tube microwave equipment with RTL logic. The last three years of my career involved traveling around the country determining what equipment should be junked, converted to solid state, moved or sold to a Bell Company. I moved to Michigan after I took the buy out and got the call KE8NM, but moved back to Streamwood, Illinois in 1988 and received the call KE9KT. (All the kids were in the Chicago area and were starting to sprout grand kids at that time so we moved back). In 1996 or 7 the FCC allowed hams to be reassigned a previously held call. This was called the "Vanity Option". Under the vanity option I could have had W9HJL reassigned to me (a call I held for 24 years), but decided to go for my first call (K8OIO) since I had a fondness for it and it is a nice CW call.

After coming back to Illinois, I worked for an outfit called Decibel Products for 18 months until they were bought out by the same conglomerate that bought out Andrews Antennas. I then worked for Motorola for 2 years until social security set in.

My wife and I lived in Streamwood from 1988 'til the fall of 1999. In the fall of 1999, we decided to get out of our 2 story house and look for a ranch with everything on one floor. My daughter and her husband had just built a home in Plainfield, so we looked in the Plainfield-Oswego area. We liked the ranch models in the Heritage Subdivision in Oswego and contracted to have one built. We moved in just before Thanksgiving Day, 1999.

I was nationwide coordinator for AT&T for many years for the CQ-WE (Bell System) contest, but passed the duties over to a younger ham prior to the move to Oswego. I am still the coordinator for Telephone Pioneer chapter 128 for the CQ-TP contest. I like repairing old radios and restoring old computers, but my hands are a little shaky and I create a lot of of solder bridges when working with fine line PC boards. My youngest daughter is in AT&T marketing and is a real whiz kid, but She has no idea how good the AT&T used to be before divestiture.

I enjoy getting together with old AT&T colleagues (the first monday of the month at 11:15AM at the Sand Piper restaurant, Route 59 and Washington Streets in West Chicago) where we lambaste the new CEO for the way he has screwed up the Company.

I visited my old office at West Unity, OH last year (where I started my AT&T career). It had been a 5 way microwave junction with cable carrier, voice repeaters et al. It was a real beehive of a place as it used to be a major SAGE junction when SAGE HQ was in Fort Custer, MI near Battle Creek. Both the old building and the microwave building are completely empty now and even the MDF is gone. I recently heard that the complex has been sold. West Unity was an office with good supervision, and craftsmen who did a fine job, worked hard, got promoted and didn't get into moral difficulties. I look at the country now and am not happy with what I see.

Like most large companies, AT&T did a good job of creating and recruiting good technicians. The good people got promoted into management where they had to deal with people problems and consequently slowly lost their technical smarts because union contracts forbade management personnel from doing craft work. I found that to be a real handicap when looking for part-time technical work after retirement. That is a policy that should be changed.

Anyway, enough rambling about the past. I am looking forward to the new millenium and new ham friendships. 73.

Dave Holdeman K8OIO