Ham Radio History: K3DSM, Roller rinks, and the Autopatch.

I found this website many years ago by accident when I was doing some research about the old AT&T Long Lines microwave system (My friend owns an old Long Lines concrete tower in Valparaiso, Indiana).  This is the story of Gene Mitchell K3DSM and the trouble he got into with the autopatch on his amateur repeater back in the 1960s.  It’s a good story that unfortunately ends with the loss of his job from AT&T Long Lines because of his “illicit” mobile telephone connection.

Hybrid phone patches were readily available because of this, so this was used to connect the repeater to the phone line. A mechanical phone lift was used to take the phone on and off hook. Soon after the project was working, I found some touchtone equipment at Greybar Electronics and changed over to a touchtone system.

From my house in Merion, I used the tone pulse system while refining the repeater system. The radio range was not great in Merion, but I was able to develop the system and refine it. I moved to Devon in 1967 where I had an excellent high location and converted to UHF (446 & 449 Mhz)

I had a range of 30 to 40 miles and sometimes more from there and the system was impressive. I even bought a used Motorola handie talkie and mounted a touchtone dial to the back of it. This made a very portable wireless system that worked 10 to 20 miles from my house. I could make and answer calls from almost anywhere I went.

I even demonstrated the system to over 300 ham radio operators at a meeting at the GE Space Center in 1970 where 2 ham radio groups (Las Voyagers and Main Line VHF Association) merged to form a larger group (the Philadelphia Area Repeater Association) to build their own autopatch system for all to use on the 2 meter ham band.

What I didn’t mention so far, is that in 1965, I started working for AT&T Long Lines after I graduated from Valpo Tech. Mention of the system at work drew lots of questions and skepticism. The system was simply not understood. Remember now, that connecting anything to your phone line during this period of time was considered taboo. I even went so far as to pay for what was called a coupler from Bell Telephone to try to stay on the up and up.

Everything was great for years until one day, my mobile phone rang while I was waiting for a roller rink to open. As I answered the call, the guy in the car next to me became curious and started asking questions. I explained what I had and how it worked. He then told me what he had. He said he had a device that could call anywhere in the world and that the calls would be free of charge. I listened carefully. The next day, I told my supervisor at work. I also told a ham friend who worked in the district office at AT&T. Both told me it was not possible for him to have such a device or he would be caught.

(Gene Mitchell, K3DSM, http://www.g-c-o.com/k3dsm/repeater.htm)


(published from DFW, Texas)

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