Bernie Keiser was born on 14 November, 1928, and grew up in Webster Groves, MO. His early experience with radio started in about 1937 when his Uncle John gave him a receiver he had built in 1929 as he was recovering from a motorcycle accident. This receiver was battery operated and consisted of a TRF detector, followed by two stages of audio amplification. Each of the three tubes was on a separate board, and had its own bakelite front panel to support its controls. Headphones were used. Uncle John explained the operation, and drew a schematic diagram on the back of a bread wrapper. Bernie soon committed that diagram to memory. At about the same time, the family acquired a Philco broadcast and short wave receiver with coverage to 22 MHz, but with a gap from 1700 to 2300 kHz. Soon sounds from all over the world were coming into the living room.
Bernie always was interested in what was beyond the end of the receiver's tuning range. Soon he rigged up additional capacitance in parallel with the variable tuning capacitor, and was able to listen to some of the spectrum below 540 kHz. Later Allied Radio in Chicago offered a two tube kit called the Hurricane receiver. It used a 6J7 detector and a 6F6 audio amplifier, and operated from a 6 volt battery. Somehow, the tuning coil when wound didn't have quite enough turns on it, and the tuning range turned out to be about 650 kHz to about 1800 kHz. The result was the reception of the 160 meter ham band. Hams were doing some interesting things, like playing chess over the air.
In 1941, the Philco was replaced by a Hallicrafters SX-24, with continuous coverage to about 44 MHz. This allowed reception of some of the experimental FM stations that were transmitting above 42 MHz. One in particular was W2XMN on 42.8 MHz, the station of Major Armstrong in Alpine, NJ. A letter to him brought a personally signed reply verifying reception. Unfortunately, in the process of several moves, that letter was lost. Incidentally, how did wideband FM sound on an AM receiver? Awful, but there was enough voice intelligibility to allow one to understand what was being said.
The year 1946 brought the end of World War II, and Bernie's senior year in high school. He and a friend, Randy Koenig had a common interest in radio, and studied together for their ham tickets. Shortly after Bernie graduated 2nd in his class of 213, he also passed the Class B test, including code at 13 wpm, and became licensed as W0CUP. Randy became licensed three months later as W0RCX. Meanwhile, Bernie's first rig never went on the air, because he had rebuilt it by the time his license arrived. The new rig had more power output, and could work with a VFO rather than being rock bound. That fall, Bernie entered Washington University on a Full Tuition Honor Scholarship as an Electrical Engineering major.
His first on air transmission was on September 6, 1946, with CW on 3893 kHz. It was heard one mile away by Randy. The first contact was on September 9, 1946 with W9JSB in Collinsville, IL, on 7210 kHz, about 20 miles away. In May, 1947 the home made rig was replaced with a Supreme AF-100 AM/CW rig running 140 W input. The antenna continued to be a wire dipole. Some HF DX contacts were started then.
In August , 1947, a 2 meter transceiver was built from an Allied Radio kit. This transceiver used super-regenerative detection for reception, and a modulated oscillator in the transmit mode. The result was probably AM with some FM. Others on the band at that time used the same type of rig. Most of them had been converted from the 112-116 MHz rigs used during the war.
By December 1947 Bernie had passed the Class A exam, and started operating 20 meter phone as well. That license later became the Advanced class. July 1948 saw the attainment of WAS, which required all of the 48 states at that time. In the summer of 1948, the SX-24 was replaced by a Collins 75A-1 receiver. A four element beam for 10 meters was installed.
In June 1950, Bernie graduated with his BSEE. This marked the start of graduate school at Washington University, and a reduction in his ham activity. In May 1951 he received an RCA Fellowship in Electronics to continue his graduate studies toward the doctorate, which was awarded in 1953. At that time some ham activities resumed.
In January 1955 Bernie married Florence Evelyn Koenig, and the couple bought a house in University City, MO. Their first of five children was born in June 1956. About this time some ham activity resumed, with the 10 meter beam plus beams for 6 and 2 meters going up there in January 1958 along with the acquisition of a Viking 6N2 rig.
In January 1959 Bernie accepted an employment offer from RCA Laboratories, Princeton, NJ. Here he was the Task Leader of the ELF program for the US Navy. His call changed to WA2IXJ. While at RCA, he designed what was, at the time, the world's longest antenna, extending about 170 km from Algoma, VA to Catawba, NC. The transmitting frequency was primarily 78 Hertz. This system was used successfully in sending signals to a submarine submerged 100 meters in the Atlantic. During this program, Bernie met Dr. Harold Beverage, who had been helpful in encouraging the implementation of the antenna. Later the Navy installed operational antennas in northern WI and the upper MI peninsula and operated them for many years.
From the spring of 1964 until the spring of 1967, Bernie worked at Cape Canaveral on the Apollo program for RCA. At this location outdoor antennas were discouraged, and the demands of work and family were significant, so there was no ham activity. In September, 1967, the family returned to NJ, and Bernie made a few contacts on 2 meters and HF to allow his license to be renewed.
In August 1969, Bernie and his family moved to his present location in Vienna, VA. He had become VP of Systems Engineering at Page Communications, and subsequently held positions at Atlantic Research and Fairchild Space and Electronics (ATS-6 spacecraft). He resumed some on air activity in August 1973, when his call changed to WA4BNC. In 1975 he began consulting and the teaching of continuing engineering education courses on subjects such as satellite systems, microwave engineering, and broadband communications. From July 1980 to June 1981, he was Chairman of the Northern Virginia Section of the IEEE. He became a Fellow of the IEEE in 1980, and a Fellow of the Radio Club of America in 1982. In connection with his courses, he wrote the books EMI Control in Aerospace Systems (White), Principles of Electromagnetic Compatibility (Artech), Digital Telephony and Network Integration (Van Nostrand, with E. Strange), and Broadband Coding, Modulation and Transmission Engineering (Prentice-Hall). He became a QCWA member in 1982.
In March 1983, Bernie upgraded to Extra and became WD4O (W4SW since 1996). Soon after he borrowed a KWM-1 from Carl, K4ME, a friend from church, and got on SSB on HF. Meanwhile, using a DX-300 receiver from Radio Shack, he was able to receive long wave stations from Europe, and even the Navy and Loran stations on VLF. The lowest frequency signals were those of the Omega navigation system at 10.8 kHz and above.
In December 1983, Bernie acquired an Icom IC-02AT, and became a regular on some of the FM repeaters during his local commutes. He also took this rig on trips abroad, where he obtained several foreign permits. The calls were ON9KB, EI4VDI, EI4VJR, OK8ATT, VK2IBG, and G0PAA. The last one was obtained with the help of a friend in London who was also an RSGB examiner. It was really a reciprocal license based on the fact that the US Extra class license had been obtained at a time when it required passing both a sending and a receiving test. In addition, Bernie had developed a friendship with Bob, G4XDD in London, and on several occasions (as a VE) helped him give US license exams at Bob's apartment in London.
In December 1984, Bernie became active in ATV. This started with 10 watts to a 440 MHz beam. In June 1985, the power was increased to 80 watts, and the beam was placed up 80' on a tower. Some of the hams in London also were into ATV, and on one occasion Bernie gave their club an impromptu talk on ATV in the US. Some of the ATV members in the Washington area also were active on 10 GHz, and soon Bernie was participating in the 10 GHz Contest, something he has done every year since then. His personal DX record on 10 GHz reached 717 km in the summer of 2005 with a contact from Reddish Knob, VA to Block Island, RI.
In April 1987, Bernie acquired a Yaesu 767 providing operation on all bands through 450 MHz with the exception of 220 MHz. With a semi-log beam for HF and a log periodic beam for VHF and UHF, this allowed lots of DX operation on SSB, CW and even SSTV. Soon WAZ was achieved, along with DXCC, both Phone and CW, and later RTTY. With the addition of a linear, 5BDXCC was soon achieved, and DXCC Honor Roll was achieved in July, 2003. On VHF, VUCC was achieved on 50 MHz. Meanwhile, additional hand held FM radios allowed operation through repeaters on 222, 440, and 1270 MHz.
In July 1989, Bernie acquired a Yaesu FT-736R, allowing satellite operation, as well as SSB and CW on 222 and 1296 MHz. Now, with the addition of a 903 MHz transverter, operation an all bands up to 1300 MHz was possible. Satellite reception on 2400 MHz was achieved by the use of a downconverter and 2400 MHz beam on the satellite tower.
Operation above 1300 MHz requires a good line of sight path, something not easily achievable in suburban settings, so many microwave operators assemble portable stations for this purpose. Bernie's 10 GHz Contest activity formed the basis for a portable station, but the earliest 10 GHz activity used only wideband FM from Gunn diodes. When the time came to move to SSB/CW, a Yaesu FT-290 144 MHz multimode transceiver served as an IF rig, with separate transverters and beams or dishes for each of the bands: 2.3, 3.4, 5.7, 10, 24 and 47 GHz. On November 14, 2001, Bernie and Bill, W3IY (SK), worked each other on 47 GHz over a 174 km path to establish what was then the North American distance record on that band. Bernie was at Hogback Mountain on the Skyline Drive, and Bill was in the Tuscarora mountains of PA./P>
In January 2003, Bernie went on the air on 2 meter EME, using a 1.5 kW linear and an array of four 10 element cross-polarized Yagis. The first contacts were on CW. Starting in 2004, operation became more common using a digital mode called JT65B. This is part of the WSJT (Weak Signal by K1JT) suite of programs, which also includes high speed meteor scatter, a mode that is popular on both 50 and 144 MHz. The use of JT65B has led to VUCC on 144 MHz, as well as WAC on 144 MHz. The initials total is over 150 contacts in 49 countries (entities) and 28 states. As a bonus, a contact was achieved on 432 MHz with HB9Q (10 meter dish there), using only 100 watts to the pair of 432 MHz beams used for ATV.
The accompanying photos, taken about the year 2000, show: upper photo - part of the shack, and lower photo - satellite antennas in foreground and HF beam in background. Above the HF beam are the VHF/UHF log periodic, a 910 MHz beam for ATV reception, and a pair of 432 MHz beams.
Bernie has added goodies as resources have permitted, and is thankful to the Lord for such a wonderful hobby, and the physics that allow it all to work. He says, "Most important of all, however, is worshipping my Lord Jesus Christ every Sunday in the company of my fellow believers at Grace Lutheran Church, Falls Church, VA".
October 8, 2005