Written by... Jack Hum, G5UM
"REPEATER EXPERIMENT LICENCE UNDER CONTROLLED CONDITIONS" said the man from the Ministry.
How long have you held your transmitting licence? Two years, three years, five years? Then the amateur radio repeater service will be a normal part of life to you: it will seem to have been there all the time. You cannot visualize the 2m and 70cm bands without it.
In fact, repeaters in the UK are not yet a decade old-- a thought worth bearing in mind as we move into the penultimate decade of the twentieth century (Another thought: a decade is along time to the young, but to the elderly it is but a moment gone). It was as recently as 1972 that the first British (and very experimental) repeater was commissioned.
Before this significant event occurred a great deal of groundwork had been done by the national society. At the RSGB Council meeting in October of 1971 Geoff Stone, G3FZL, the then chairman of the VHF Committee, reported that the Pye Telecommunications Amateur Radio Group had produced proposals for setting up a repeater station. He and G2B? were deputed to examine these proposals and to report back to the Council.
By the time of the January 1972 meeting of the Council it had been agreed to ask the MPT licensing authority to permit these proposals to be translated into fact by authorizing a six-month repeater experiment in the 2m band. Events moved swiftly and it was not long before the green light was given for the experiment to begin. This green light was flashed by none other than Mr D.E.Baptiste during the course of a speech he made at the Eighteenth Annual VHF/UHF Convention held down on Thames-side at Twickenham Mr Baptiste, head of the MPT's Radio Regulatory Division, was reported in the 'Four Metres and Down': feature in RADCOM (then written by someone living not a hundred miles from Leicester) as saying that "The RSGB request for a repeater experiment to be conducted has won us over, and a licence will shortly be issued for this to be performed under controlled conditions".
No wonder the 220 people at the Convention dinner that night could not forebear to cheer. But there was something else which made them do so: it was their feeling that the Man from the Ministry in giving assent to the amateur movement's request to "have ago" with this new device, a 2m repeater, was quite confident that they would do the job responsibly and well.
And so, in practice, it turned out to be. By the November,1972, issue of RADCOM the vhf columnist was waxing enthusiastic about a demonstration he had been given of GB3PI in action (then operating from a yard behind the Pye works at Cambridge, 145.150 in and 145.750 out). He reported that while he was driven around the district by G3USB, one of the team responsible for engineering this first repeater a pile-up developed of two-meteorites anxious to talk through it.
That was the start of it all in the UK. Its continuance may be seen in the list of repeaters printed in RADCOM for February 1979, over a hundred of them. What of the history in between? More of that later.
AUTHOR'S NOTE.-- Originally contributed to the GB3DY Newsletter, this article may be reproduced in any other repeater group publication if desired. -- JH.