700 feet Elevation on top of Bacton Hill
Ham Radio Operators Talk to the World on Short Wave Radio
Ham Radio Operators are Available for Disaster Communications such as
Earthquakes, Floods, and other natural disasters.
Ham Radio Operators have developed much of the communications spectrum used today as well as other technological advances.
Gene Mitchell was first licensed in 1958 as KN3DSM. His interest in electronics and radio started from cub scouts and the cub scout manual, building a crystal set and then a short wave radio. He also built an aircraft and police receiver from a kit. It was a classmate in 8 th grade, W3DNS John Ferebee, that showed him ham radio that triggered his want of a ham license. Gene learned morse code the hard way, passing notes to John in class, written in morse code. A member of the Frankford Radio Club, Frank, W3IXN in Narberth, gave him his Novice test. He built his first 80/40 meter cw transmitter from one of the ARRL manuals. He also used a loaned Gonset Communicator and even had a 2 meter transceiver made by Springfield Enterprises, early on. After a year, he obtained his General Class License and it was on to HF. His favorite band was 10 meters, around 29.15.He also enjoyed 20 SSB. He is a life member of the ARRL, AMSAT, and PARA. He is also a member of the Roosters #601 on 3990. Early on, he was also a member of Philmont Mobile Radio Club.
In 1957, Gene had taken a trip “Around the World” with his parents, missing the first 8 weeks of 9th grade school. He did assignments while on travel and made it though the year at Bala Cynwyd Jr High. The following year at Lower Merion Sr High, Gene found school tough. His parents attributed his lower than usual grades to his Ham Radio activities. They decided to send him off to private prep school to get him away from Ham Radio. He spent the next 3 years at St Peters School in Peekskill, New York. It didn’t take Gene long to meet local hams there on the school day out, Monday afternoons. He first found WA2FTO, a local vet across the street from the school. He began hamming on Monday afternoons. He soon found a local group of high school hams including WA2AKK, Barry. After a promise to learn pi to 75 places as a requirement of joining their little group, they built a 75 meter voice transmitter in a coffee can and gave it to Gene. It really worked. Gene was now on the air right from the school. Gene, by the way, made the honor roll numerous times while at St Peters, even with his ham radio.
It was in 1962 that he earned his 2nd class radiotelephone license, before graduating from high school. He thought at that point that he might go into broadcasting or commercial 2 way radio. Many of the other hams in the local area, the Main Line Phila area, also were getting commercial licenses and Gene wasn’t going to be left out.
He spent 11 summers in New Hampshire at a private boy’s camp, Camp DeWitt, taking short wave and then ham radio with him. He always wanted to go to an “overnight camp”. He formed a radio club, setting up his ham station, and was responsible for licensing at least 6 others, including the director of the camp K1IQO Fred Allen and his son, Ted. He also used a portable to communicate from Mt Major back to the camp, clear across Lake Winnespaukee on one occasion. Gene kept in touch with many of his suburban Phila ham friends over 75, 40, and 20 meters from camp when conditions were right. Gene was part of a group that carried a sailboat up Mt Washington and sailed it on the “Lake of the Clouds”. He has hiked to the top of Mt Washington, by the way, about 4 times. He has also climbed 20-25 other mountains in New Hampshire.
Gene went to Hartwick College in Onietta, New York in the fall of 1962. It was time to buckel down. No radio equipment untill thanksgiving vacation. Although there was one active ham student, (and with a car and 2 million antennas) Gene had little time to even try to spell ham radio. This was the Viet Nam war time and everyone was going to college to avoid the draft. Students were told that half of them wouldn't be there next semester. There was a weeding out process and only the better students would survive. Gene met a student (Dave) from Valpo Tech doing graduate work at Hartwick one night in the cafeteria lounge. He decided that since he didn't like Hartwick and also felt he wasn't doing well, decided to change. He called for a catalog and more information. At the end of January, Gene was off the Valparaiso.
While at Valparaiso, Indiana, Gene felt quite at home. There were many hams as students. There was also a ham club and station at the school (W9SAL). This area ( the Chicago suburbs) was the birthplace of 2 meter FM. Motorola had an outlet store only miles from the school. Gene quickly obtained equipment and he became active on both 6 and 2 meter FM. One of his favorite activities, while there, was fox hunting on 146.52, which took place every Friday night. Everyone had built their own homebuilt DF loops. Gene used the school ham station on HF to keep in touch with his many ham friends at home. He remembers talking to Freddie, W3PHL many times from W9SAL. The school station was very active on 2 meter FM as well. He also built an auto-patch as one of his school projects, operating between 146.94 and 52.525 MHZ with Motorola 30D stacked units. The autopatch used dual pulsing tones to dial, since touchtone and its equipment were not available. While there, in his second year, he also became a part-time Special Deputy Sheriff for Porter County, starting as a radio dispatcher and later attending evening police school. He also found time for roller skating, which became a regular Friday night activity. He was also chief transmitter engineer as well as a DJ. for WVTI, the school carrier current radio station. Gene graduated from Valparaiso Technical Institute in Indiana in 1965. He has an Associate Degree in Electronic Engineering.
One of the first (of 3 known) 2 meter repeaters in the Phila area, not including Gene’s 6 to 2 meter repeater, and the birth of the PARA system, was a split system between his parents house in Merion and K3JPB in Newtown Square in 1966. The receiver was in Newtown Square and the transmitter was at Gene’s. It was at an ARRL Convention and Expo in North Jersey that the first duplexer for PARA was found and purchased. The duplexer was a turning point in PARA's technology. Gene was instrumental in merging 2 radio groups, the Main Line VHF Association and the Las Voyagers to form PARA, the Phila Area Repeater Association. Gene was also responsible for obtaining a site for an early repeater of PARA’s (146.94mhz) at the Berwyn Roller Rink in 1969.
After graduation from Valpo Tech (VTI), Gene went on to work for A T & T Long Lines for 6 years. He worked in the 4A long distance switching, the 4 wire 5 crossbar switching for the government's Auto-Von system, the Auto-Von test board, and the microwave radio room. Gene was able to get Bell to donate a rack cabinet and many touch tone receivers for PARA and other clubs in the area through various channels when AT & T discarded them. He also went on to improve his auto-patch by switching to 449 mhz when he moved to Devon, one of the highest locations on the Main Line. It was a clash between his 449 mhz auto-patch and his job with the Bell System that changed his career for awhile. You may recall that, a few years ago, Ma Bell did not like anything connected to her phone lines. As a Bell System employee, Gene was treading on slippery ground. Normally, anyone else connected what ever they wanted, even though it was forbidden. Gene obtained and paid a monthly charge for a voice coupler to minimize his potential problems with Bell. He even demonstrated his "auto-patch" system to the group of hams at the GE Space Center, King of Prussia in 1969. In Sept 1971, Ma Bell, not understanding Gene’s auto-patch, labeled Gene’s Motorola 450HT, with a standard Stromgberg Carlson touchtone dial attached to the back of it , as a “blue box” and all hell broke loose. It was the accidental association with another person that created circumstances that MABell leaped before fully investigating that caused this hell. It took till 1980 before a settlement was reached. A link to the story is at the bottom of this article. Today, anyone can connect any telephone device as long as it is type accepted. Hams all across the country have been using "auto-patches" ever since this incident. These "Auto-patches", especially Gene's hand held unit, were the for-runner of cellular phones.
Gene was involved with Lower Merion Civil Defense for many years and became RACES Radio Officer in 1967. The township had purchased about a dozen Motorola 2 meter pack sets and handie talkies that Gene made operational on 2 meter FM. He is also presently a member of the Chester County ARES RACES group.
Gene was the first ham frequency coordinator for the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware area starting about 1966. His information was fed to a database maintained by Gordon Pugh, W2NH, (formerly W1JTB and W2GHR), also a Bell employee and engineer in New York.
Gene had ideas of one day building a roller rink. He liked skating and traveled to rinks all over. He even designed a set of plans. Initially, he had ideas of owning a rink and still working for AT & T, since a rink was primarily an evening and weekend business. After the incident with the Bell System, that dream actually became reality. An attempt was made to purchase land in Tredyffrin Township, but the zoning board turned it down. In May of 1972, he found and purchased land that was zoned properly, and in June, he started building the roller skating rink in Kimberton, Pa, which he designed himself. He hired an engineer from Schlosser Steel to finalize the plans. It was a 23,000 square foot building on 4.5 acres along PA Rt 113 with a plastic coated hard wood maple skating surface. The main skating area was 180 by 80 foot. The sound system was one of the best of any roller rink. Skaters and other rink owners came from all surrounding states to see and hear the sound system. It opened Nov 29th. A Grand Opening on December 1, drew almost 900 skaters. His rink was modern, very well equipped, and very electronic and computerized. He was one of the first to have a large electronic changable sign in a rink.
By early spring of 1973, he set up a commercial repeater at his house in Devon, 640 feet elevation (one of the highest spots in Chester County), with an "auto-patch". In 1977, he purchased two Apple II computers. One was used for payroll and accounting while the second was used for controlling the heat, lights, air conditioners, and fans. Gene also connected to the “Source”, the for-runner of AOL and CompuServe. He also had his ham station at the rink. He even hosted PARA board meetings there.
He married Maria in 1973 and they had a boy and girl, now both grown up. Mike is N3QLZ, also a PARA and ARRL member. Mike likes APRS and his portable Kenwood D7. Mike first worked for a company in Downingtown using Autocadd and scanning blueprints into it. After a year, he moved on to Web Access in Newtown Square where he was one of 3 employees doing web pages and maintaining web servers for the pages. Web Access was bought up by US Interactive (originally in Great Valley Parkway) in Gulph Mills, either doing web pages or maintaining their web page servers on the Internet all day. USI grew to almost 800 employees locally (they also had offices around the world) before the eweb business colapsed. Although he could have stayed to the end, he left and went with Esavio in Berwyn, a consulting company providing network services to big companies. Mike obtained most all of the top Microsoft certifications for Windows/NT and networking on his own. Anne first worked at Spring Mill Veterinary Hospital, starting part time right when it opened, and doing everything from office and accounting to medical and surgical assisting. She was lured away to be a supervisor on a private farm caring for everything from alpacos to almost zebras. The farm also runs a foundation to care for homeless cats, and most recently a new vineyard.
Gene built a house in 1977 on top of Bacton Hill (Malvern-Chester Springs), 700 feet elevation. It included a 70 foot Tri-ex tower with an additional 20 foot mast. The location had been carefully selected for his ham activities. The tower collapsed within itself September 1998 from cable failure that raises it. PARA had a 16 repeater input on this at the time.
Gene has been in Rotary Club since 1975. He was in the Phoenixville Club till 1993 when he switched to the Exton Frazer Rotary Club. He has served on both Boards and was President of the Exton Frazer Rotary in 1996-97. He was recently re-elected to hold the office of President again in the year 2002-03. He believes strongly in participating in community service. His dad was in Ardmore and Pompano Beach Rotary Clubs and his Uncle is in Garberville, California Rotary. Gene grew up knowing exchange students from other countries.
Gene is also responsible for starting the web page not only for the Exton Frazer Rotary Club, but for the Rotary District 7450 web site as well in 1996. He is now part of the District Technical committee. In April, 2000, he received a Governor's Citation and in June, a Presidential Citation for his work on the Rotary District and Club Web Site.
Gene has served on the board of directors for PARA for many terms back in the mid-80's and again recently in 1999. He was elected president for the 2000-2001 term. He also started a web page for PARA back in 1994.
Gene started a computer bulletin board back in about 1982 called The Fifth Dimension using an Atari ST 520 computer. His son Mike later took it over until the Internet made BBS activity dwindle. Gene then revived it as a computer modem testing device which he still uses. He also started a ham radio packet bulleting board on 145.07 mhz back in the mid-80's. He ran that until it became "un-fun", as he put it, after some "crazies" made mis-using it a habit. He shut down just weeks before the FCC got involved in citations to offenders who were posting illegal notices on the packet systems.
Gene's ham station operates on all amateur bands from 160 meters thru 23cm using voice, data, and television. He also uses several handheld radios on various bands as well as his car station. Most of his home station as well as his mobile equipment is made by ICOM, a leader is ham equipment. Gene also has commercial service equipment from when he maintained his own commercial 2 way radio system.
He also teaches for "Adult Night School for Chester County", which he has been doing for 10 years. His courses include “Building Your Own Computer” and “Backing Up Your Computer”. He has also demonstrated computer technology to groups including the Exton PC Council, based at the Exton Chester County Library. It was at one of these demonstrations that the Adult School program of the Main Line found him. After a year with the Main Line Adult program, The Adult Night for Chester County enticed him over there. He also gives talks to Rotary Clubs and other organizations on ham radio and computer technology.
Gene started RV camping in 1984 with a unit inside the back of his pickup truck. He then purchased a 24 ft Sunline 5th wheel camper. When his sister unloaded their '86 30 feet Pace Arrow Class A unit after only a few months and 6000 miles of use, he jumped on the opportunity. In 1997, he downsized to a Class B camper van, realizing the kids grew up and were no longer interested. After selling the van, he began missing camping. Time will tell.
In 1987, after 15 years, he sold his roller rink because of the "insurance crisis".Liability insurance was not available at any price for rinks and his bank required it. He operated the rink from 1985 to 1987 without liability insurance, a very uneasy situation.
In 1988, he opened his present business in Frazer, building, repairing, and upgrading computers. His little store, Gene's Computer Outlet on Rt 30, is a one man operation. As always, he is right on top of the technology. Most of Gene's business, about 90 percent, is now upgrading and repairing computers. He finds it hard to compete with the name brand junk on the market. He doesn't want to get involved with "the junk".
Gene feels there should be a closer tie between the computer industry and the ham community, since most hams and potential hams are into their computers. Ham activity has suffered with the arrival of the world wide web and computers. He believes that the computer industry is oversaturated and that electronic engineers and RF engineers may dwindle to an alarming number. Computer wireless is becoming popular at present. He wants to share ham radio with schools and other organizations and also bring amateur radio more to the public's attention. The wants hams to remember to monitor the repeaters while they are surfing.on the Internet. Although Gene enjoys surfing on the Internet, he also enjoys amateur radio even more, including APRS with his portable Toshiba Libretto Pentium, He also enjoys surfing satellite TV and his public service scanner and short wave radio. In the summer, he also enjoys canoeing and camping with his wife. He usually takes ham radio where ever he goes. You can find Gene on the ham radio at 146.94 or 76, 147.195, or 443.9 most of the time.
Updated Information on status of K3DSM
The long wire antenna has suffered storm damage and should be repaired in the near future. The TA33 beam has one element tilted and should be repaired this spring. The 70 foot tower has been nested at 26 feet since the cables (used to raise-lower it) snapped in 1998. Tri-ex claims not to have the necessary components to repair the tower. Feb 12, 2001: K3DSM is on PSK31 on 14.070 mhz. using the TA33 in its present condition. His base station has been recently redone on his big desk rather than the custom bench he used for years.
Equipment presently set up: IC-751, IC 271H, IC-71A, IC-7000, Drake MN2700 Antenna Tuner, Kenwood 2550A, Kenwood 220mhz
Equipment still in storage: IC-471H, IC-551, Icom HF Amp, IC-1271, ATV
Attached Computer Equipment: ProStar PII 400 mhz notebook, HP Laser, Epson Color Inkjet, Poloroid picture printer
1971, Gene goes head to head with Ma Bell in misunderstanding over what an autopatch was
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