Spring 2009 Issue

The Story Behind the Book
Six Meters, A Guide to the Magic Band

The first edition of Six Meters, A Guide to the Magic Band was published nearly 15 years ago and was the first book dedicated to 6 meters. This article covers the story of its inception and subsequent editions.

By Ken Neubeck,* WB2AMU

Six Meters,

A Guide to the Magic Band

April 2009 will mark the 15th anniversary of the first edition of Six Meters, A Guide to the Magic Band, published by WorldRadio and the first book dedicated to 6 meters. Recently, the book underwent a fourth revision, its most complete version. This article covers the story of its beginnings and the various circumstances that led to the book.

Discovery of 6 Meters, The “Magic Band”

I became a ham in 1971, and I had always had a curiosity about the 6-meter band, but since most of the radios that were available were HF packages, I did not attempt it at that time. Also, I had heard that this band had particularly bad issues with TV interference, more so than the HF bands. I also remember finding the logs my father had from the 1960s that showed a contact he made with a VE5 station in Saskatchewan on 6 meters, and I wondered how he made a contact like that on a band that was supposedly used for local purposes such as Civil Defense work. Little did I know that I would eventually find out the answer some years later.

During August 1990, I was at a local flea market on Long Island, New York, when I came across a vintage Swan 250 6-meter transceiver. I took the plunge and was able to get the radio for $90. The deal included the radio, a microphone, and the operating manual, which included schematics. I was able to rig up a temporary antenna for the 6-meter band, but found little activity. Eventually, I found some local hams in the lower part of the band and they gave me a general primer as to where the activity was located. I set up a portable station in my back yard for the ARRL’s September 1990 VHF contest and worked a couple of dozen stations via line-of-sight throughout the first day of the contest. However, I had to stop when a neighbor mentioned the next day that I was getting into his TV set.

Periodically I listened on that Swan 250 during the next few winter months, but found no activity on the band. There was not a lot of information about 6 meters from conventional sources, but it just a general overview about a propagation mode known as sporadic-E. I rigged up a vertical antenna for the January 1991 VHF contest and worked some line-of-sight stations, but it was not until the June 1991 VHF contest that I discovered the joys of the “Magic Band” and the mysterious propagation mode, sporadic-E.

During the first two hours of this contest on Saturday, the 6-meter band came alive with very loud signals and I worked a few dozen stations via sporadic-E from my home on Long Island into the deep south of the U.S. I could not believe the difference between the quiet band from which I had only heard line-of-sight stations and now was working many stations via skip! Then the band faded out after two hours and I thought that I wanted more. The next day, Sunday, the band was quiet until late evening, when Midwest stations from Minnesota came in, until I had to shut down because of TVI complaints from my XYL in our house.

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