How Ham VHF FM Channelization Came About - The 1960s History

Including some copies of the publications that got it started 

By the mid-to-late 1950s a few hams were already beginning to convert crystal-controlled commercial FM gear for 6 and 2 Meter operation. By 1960 it was apparent that changes in FCC regulations were going to make much of the FM gear in use by commercial services obsolete. Surplus gear was already showing up with a glut sure to follow. Unfortunately, when picking frequencies for new FM nets localities were choosing frequencies seemingly at random leaving the gear useless when traveling.

In the early 1960s several hams working for GE's Mobile Radio Department in Lynchburg, VA recognized the absurdity of this and set about to bring some standards to the frequency selection process. A national first-frequency of 146.94, with other channels spaced multiples of 60 KHz from it and a minus 600 KHz separation for the corresponding repeater input frequency were promoted for 2 Meters. 146.94 MHz was chosen because it was the highest 60 KHz channel that Technician Class hams could operate on at that time as well as being closest to the original 150+ MHz operating range of the commercial gear. Six Meter operation was already going strong in the mid-west on 52.525 MHz and it was promoted as the first 6 Meter channel to be activated.

The GE hams published mimeographed "FM Nets" and "FM News" to help spread the standards. Warren Middleton (SK), W4DYE (later W8CXD) - George Rose (SK), W4GCE - Seymour Paul, K4FSU and Tom McKee, K4ZAD were the most active in this effort.

In 1963 QST VHF Editor, Sam Harris started including a little box in his columns promoting 52.525 and 146.94. As FM operation spread across the country 2 Meter repeaters appeared on many 60 KHz spaced channels, and soon others got involved in the standardization efforts which evolved into the VHF/UHF band-plans in use today.

Recently some copies of the "FM Nets" and "FM News" were found and scanned. The early issues were composed on a typewriter and the later ones on a Teletype machine using punched tape to make typing-error corrections quick and to easily make the additional mimeograph masters needed for the larger circulation. Reproduction was by a labor intensive mimeograph process using trays of blue gel which would only produce a limited number of readable copies from the master. The blue print on many pages is quite faded and restoration efforts were not always as successful as one might desire, but here they are in PDF format. Depending on your browser and its settings these may appear in a new window or as a download.

FM Nets was the first publication in 1960. The first issue is missing. Beginning with the third issue of FM Nets 52.525 MHz and 146.94 MHz were promoted as first FM frequencies to be activated in new locales. Most of the net data has been omitted from these PDFs:

40F3_Nets_2_PDF     FM_Nets_3_PDF    FM_Nets_4_PDF    FM_Nets_5_PDF 

Publication of FM News followed in 1962. Issue 4 is a superb remote-station and repeater dissertation by Warren, W4DYE-W8CXD.

FM_News_1_PDF    FM_News_2_PDF    FM_News_3_PDF    FM_News_4_PDF    FM_News_5_PDF

In 1961 two informations sheets (PDF) were created for distribution at club meetings and hamfests. One promoted FM, 52.525 MHz, 146.94 MHz, and the other urged FM users to contact ARRL to get the frequencies mentioned monthly in QST. 

Hope you enjoyed this bit of Ham-Radio history.

Tom McKee, K4ZAD
Cary, NC

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