I have been thinking recently about how SOTA has changed, and about how my perceptions have changed, over the years. With the 20th anniversary of the launch of SOTA coming up, I have especially been thinking about how I discovered SOTA and the rigs I used.
Aged 21, I embarked on my first solo adventure, driving my little Ford Fiesta (mk 4 Ghia in Tourmallard green, very proud of that car!) to the Isle of Mull for a week’s camping. I’d got my class A radio licence at that point so I thought it would be fun to try some radio on my trip. I saw that the FT817 had just been launched and I bought one from the first batch in early 2001. The radio cost me £799 plus £19.99 for the case! I did get a free ATX Walkabout antenna though, although I think I’ve had all of one QSO using it, that was a QSO to Italy on 6m.
I think I managed one QSO on my camping trip, oh well, at least I tried.
Sometimes I would take my FT817 out in the car and work on 2FM from a high point. In February 2004, I was on 2m FM when I worked a SOTA station on Pen y Ghent G/NP-010. The station was Rod, then M3HLD. Rod explained about SOTA and I thought it sounded like the perfect activity for me, and I already had the FT817! Later I would meet Rod at an amateur radio club and he gave me my Tectronix 465 scope, but that’s another story!
Actually for my first activations, I used an Alinco DJ-5EY hand held dual band FM transceiver. I didn’t really even imagine running a HF transceiver on a hill!
I didn’t start my HF activations seriously until the PP3 challenge put forward by Kjell LA1KHA. I built a home brew RockMite transceiver and got going with my CW at 10 wpm.
I look back at pioneers like Richard @G3CWI who were activating with rigs like the Small Wonder Labs SW+ by Dave Benson @K1SWL, right from the early days of SOTA. I eventually built an SW-20+ kit, just before the kits were phased out around 2012 ish I think. I think it would be fun to have a SOTA event celebrating the old skool SOTA rigs.
I reckon that just as SOTA HF CW was taking off in a big way, the older VFO and VXO rigs were starting to be replaced by the DDS rigs like the KD1JV ATS and MTR kits. I missed my opportunity to activate with the SW+ as I had got my MTR-2B by then.
So what does anyone think? A retro SOTA party using rigs from the 90’s and 00’s?
Surely those Wilderness SSTs, MFJ Cubs, NC40’s, SW+'s, Elecraft K1’s, Norcal 20’s, FT290’s, 690’s, 790’s can be dug out of the cupboard and put to use?