Potential, potential, potential…..

What could be better to prepare for the zombie apocalypse than to have a Fusion repeater in the area where I live? Hmmmmmmmm. That sound you hear are the gears turning in my head!

So, there is a 200 foot tower where I work. Knowing the right people, and knowing the correct order in which to inquire, I eventually got permission to put a repeater antenna at the 100 foot level.  Given the base of the antenna is at 900 feet above sea level (ASL), this would give a pretty impressive footprint into southeast Michigan! Now, all I had to do was apply for a coordinated repeater pair from the Michigan Repeater Council (no mean feat!).

Fortunately (VERY fortunately), I made the on-air acquaintance of one N8ZCC. Bob is an old-hand at repeaters, having gotten several on the air throughout his Amateur career. Bob did all the computer modeling and began preparing the application to the Michigan Repeater Council. As well has everything has turned out as of the date of this posting, I can safely say none of this would have happened but for his efforts and expertise.

Michigan is jam-packed with paper repeaters. Some have been on the air, then vanished. Some never shot even one electron into free space. The chances of getting a 2-meter pair were just not in the cards. However, there was some hope for 440. The revolution of digital voice in Amateur Radio, I think, fueled the council’s de-coordination efforts as interest in DMR and Fusion brought a deluge of frequency requests, I’m sure. Within several weeks, I received a green light from the repeater council, placing me on 443.825 MHz!

Also in the mix throughout the process, I met some other great people who were willing to help with getting the repeater on the air. One of them was Rick, WC8D. He, too, is a wealth of knowledge and is loaded with test equipment most of us will never have. Rick very generously donated a duplexer and evaluated the Stationmaster repeater antenna I purchased at Dayton (for the staggering sum of $20).

I contacted Yaesu and applied for the DR1-X program through which I could purchase a Fusion repeater for the ridiculously low price of $600.  I think this was a brilliant move on Yaesu’s part, one that definitely would have helped ICOM push D-Star.  Within a few weeks, a large white FedEx truck dropped off a big cardboard box from Yaesu!

 

Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse begins…

The origins of the AA8GK Michigan Zombie Repeater…

Having been a ham since 1979, and licensed when I was 14, I’ve been amazed at the changes in technology in general and ham radio specifically. But, nothing has so intrigued me, however, as much as Yaesu’s System Fusion has.

Digital voice is nothing new in Amateur Radio. Certainly, hams have been experimenting with digital voice for some time. P25 (a public safety standard for decades) and DMR became popular as surplus equipment from police, fire, and commercial users hit the flea markets. Then, ICOM came out with their D-Star equipment. To be sure, ICOM didn’t invent D-Star, the brilliant Japanese hams did that. However, ICOM saw the enormous potential in Amateur digital voice, picked up the football, then ran with it. D-Star is wildly popular across the planet, connecting hams from all corners of the globe with crystal clear communications.

I also tried D-Star, purchasing an ICOM 880 and 2820. Sadly, the D-Star infrastructure never really built out in the Detroit, Michigan, area. As a result, I quickly lost interest.  I absolutely have no dig on D-Star; it’s a fine system and it continues to grow, as it should. Further, I am NOT one of those detractors who pontificate there should be only ONE digital voice standard in Amateur Radio. How asinine! After all, look at the dozens of digital modes hams have to communicate with! None of them are compatible with each other, after all. BUT, digital voice modes CAN be made to work together! Those ‘one standard’ proponents are the modern day equivalents of the spark-gap operators complaining when that newfangled CW contraption came along. Whipper snappers!

A great friend of mine, W8SOX, got into Yaesu’s System Fusion around a year, or so, ago. He had an FTM-400 mounted in his car and showed it to me one day after we’d imbibed a couple of beers at Buffalo Wild Wings. I was very taken with its beautiful design  and capabilities. About a month later, I had my own, and it was all downhill from there. SOX then introduced me to Yaesu’s Wires-X VOIP system. He set up his Wires-X node at home, parking its frequency on that of a local Fusion repeater here in Detroit (with the repeater owner’s blessing, of course!). Through this repeater and node, global communications were possible just driving around town. Sure, it’s not DX in the purest sense of the term, but who gives a rip? It’s just plain fun! So, here I am. About 3 months into my Fusion odyssey I now own an FTM-400, FT1D, and a dedicated FTM-100 and Wires-X node! But, it gets worse…

More to follow.