RAN Technology

 Posted By: Robert Nickels (ranickels)
Posted: 07/27/2023

Friends Remembered 07/27/2023 

Merv Schweigert, K9FD (SK)

Comments from Robert Nickels W9RAN,  July 27, 2023:

There is nothing worse for a ham radio operator than to see a beloved friends callsign with the letters "SK" behind them.   Yet sadly, that's what happened on July 23, 2023, when I learned of the passsing of Merv Schweigert, K9FD.     While many of our ham radio interests were different - Merv was a world-class DX-er and contester and CW man while I tend to spend most of my time listening and tinkering with everything from QRP rigs to broadcast transmitters,  a common interest in vintage "boatanchor" radios brought us together about 25 years ago.

The internet was still a pretty new thing in the mid-late 90s - at least broadband internet that allowed sharing of photos and such - but it was becoming the preferred means of buy/sell/swap of ham gear and for interacting with others to obtain technical advice and ideas.     A mutual friend, Gary Harmon in San Antonio,  spotted some common interests in a handful of his frequent internet friends and started copying all of us on emails, two of whom were Merv and myself.    We quickly found other common interests and kept in touch even when Merv and his wife Mary moved to China (!) and later, to Molokai Hawaii.   After I retired in 2007, having more free time allowed the friendship to grow and I found Merv to be an invaluable sounding-board and source of ideas and inspiration.   His range of knowledge was huge, and his suggestions were always practical and sound.   Having had some experience with Chinese companies and individuals through my job at Honeywell,  I grew to appreciate his perspective from having "been there" and seen firsthand many of the differences and changes that were occurring.    After he moved to Molokai, I spent many an hour scouring this small yet fascinating island on Google Earth and running question after question by Merv, who always told it the way it was, although he had an abiding respect for the Molokai natives and culture.

His ham radio accomplishments speak for themselves - as his long time friend Karl Bretz explains below.   While Merv was never afraid of QRO (high power) he proved the old ham adage that power  is no substitute for skill and technique by working to the top of the DXCC ranks all over again using simple wire antennas.    Granted, being 2 miles from salt water and having an old AM broadcast station ground system didn't hurt!   But those advantages alone would have allowed the typical ham to accomplish only a fraction of what Merv did.   His ability to pick weak signals out of noise and understanding of radio propagation were uncanny and very rare.    He was well known and  higly regarded by DXers from all over the world.   And with good reason!   I am motivated to improve my own CW (Morse code) ability but knowing I'll never come close to his skill level or have his sixth-sense for radio propagation.

Merv became a go-to guy for my homebrew projects, and I enjoyed showing off my newfangled contraptions to him.   A big thrill for me was hearing his 500 kHz wspr beacon, a truly long distance for that band and mode, from here in Illinois.    I knew he enjoyed building electronics and that he had to leave a lot of his "junk box" behind when he moved back to the mainland, so I was excited when I heard that a local ham was helping with an estate and had a large hand-made cabinet full of electronic components.  Merv instantly made a deal to buy it and I will always remember the day in late 2022 when I accompanied him to pick it up in Normal Illinois.   He also bought some test equipment and was looking forward to restoring and using some vintage ham gear on the air.    Knowing that he was self-taught in such a range of skills made it all the more impressive.

I only met Merv in person three times, but feel like I've known him for much longer due to our ongoing email chats.    It will be a long time before I lose the instinct to tell him about my latest project or to ask his opinion about a difficult problem.   I knew he had some health-related issues but his sudden death was a shock and leaves a very big void.  His key may have gone silent but the echoes of our many email conversations will remain with me forever.   Rest in peace,  K9FD.

The following comments were prepared by Merv's daughter Heidi and his son Mark, and are shared with their permission.

Dad loved Jesus, Mom, his kids, Ham Radio, and anything airplane, cooking Chinese (he was an amazing cook).

He enjoyed life.

He was very intelligent and loved learning. Working a difficult ham radio contact, learning how to make a new Chinese dish, learning the details of how something worked, so many things gave him a lot of joy.

Everything was done the best way with the right tool. It seemed like things he fixed were better after he fixed them than when they were made originally. He loved fixing things.

Having a fairly difficult childhood, being raised by his Grandma, added a toughness and shaped him into a very strong man. He had such a strong presence that we always felt more secure around him. It felt like he would find a way to make everything work out right.

He loved our country. He wanted to join the military and go to Vietnam as a young man but could not because of his false eye. In fact, he did join and even faked his way through the eye test by memorizing the letters when he read them first with his right eye. They caught him pretty quickly however and discharged him.

His grandkids always thought he was the funniest and most caring Grandpa of all. He has always had a great sense of humor, and always had everyone around him laughing.

He became fascinated by ham radio as a kid after he traded a neighbor for an old radio.

He was a ham radio operator / electronic guru and fabricator for most of his life, always learning whatever technology was new in his hobbies. He often built a lot of his own equipment.

He made contact with all possible world countries on many different frequencies more than once, and was on many-many ARRL and other award lists.

He was able to travel on a couple of group "DXpeditions" to St. Vincent in the Caribbean (1991, 2003) so others could make special contacts with an area that normally had no ham radio.

Has always been an airplane nut.

He became enthused as a young boy when his Dad had a job delivering Piper Cubs to their new owners. His very first airplane ride as a kid was in an Aeronica Champ. These two specific airplanes always held his imagination.

Until the end he always had dreams of being a pilot. Or at least flying an ultralight plane.

He flew Radio Control airplanes for many-many years wherever he lived.

He joined the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and had recently been helping his grandson Benjamin grow his interest in flight with ride along flights and airshow attendance.

Dad worked as a Mechanic early, and then as a Farm Hand (MO, IL, IN, IN, IL) most of his earlier life.

He started work at Red Bud Industries in the 1981.

There he worked as a Programmer / Electrical Engineer / IT Administrator / Field Service Engineer / or anything else Kenny Voges asked him to do or figure out... (When the two of those geniuses started brainstorming, everybody else just needed to stand back…).

Amazingly he never went to school for any of these things...

He loved to travel and always had desires to travel again. He and Mom loved China, and Hawaii.

Dad travelled to China (as well as other countries) for RBI several times.

Mom accompanied him a few of those times. And they became burdened for the many orphans stuck in children's "homes" in China.

In 2000 they sold everything they had and moved to Hhuizhou (wee·jow), China for a while to work with some of these abandoned children.

After having stopped there on a couple of Service trips, and falling love with the slow paced lifestyle of this non-tourist type island, they eventually retired on Molokai, HI.

Mom passed in Nov 2010. This was incredibly hard on Dad, he was heart-broken. However he always said not to doubt, that when the time comes God provides what we need and He is enough.

There was a constant tug (from Mark and Heidi) after this to get Dad to move back near one of them.

Eventually in God's timing Dad was able to sell the place in Hawaii and move back with Heidi to WI in Dec 2021.

We were allowed to enjoy some close time with him before God called him home.

Attached is the letter that Mom and Dad wrote to people when they first moved to China. It so direct about why they were going and the paragraph at the end where it starts 'The deepest ocean...' would be great to have read at the funeral. This would have been both Mom and Dad's heart for people to know.

The following comments are from one of Merv’s all-time best friends,  Karl Bretz, K9BGL.

Your Father was at the top of the ARRL DX Century Club Honor Roll.  He had worked 340 countries.  The 357 countries total was the number of countries that he had worked that included those countries that were deleted due to political changes.  Also, he had worked at least 100 countries on every High-Frequency amateur band from 160 Meters to 10 Meters, and considerably more than 100 on most bands.   P5 is the prefix for Communist North Korea.  He had worked North Korea, which as you can imagine, is a rare feat.  Your Father was especially good at digging weak signals out of difficult bands like 160 Meters, which exists just above the Standard AM Broadcast band.  He had skill, experience, and patience doing this that was the model for the rest of us.  When you, your Father, and Benjamin were down here, I think he mentioned that he had completed WAZ (Worked All Zones), another difficult award, using FT-8, which is a new modern digital mode.    

Two places that I know from which he operated are New Zealand, and China.  I know he operated from China because I worked him from China - on 80 METERS!  Not a bad accomplishment for either of us!  I remember the contact and the way his signal sounded from there.  I regard that to be the best DX contact I've EVER made considering the distance and the difficult 80 Meter band.  This is the kind of operation at which he was especially good. 

Your Father went on a DXpedition to St. Vincent in the Caribbean, in 1991 and 2003. I received help on this from Dave Patton, a ham operator with whom your Father and I used to go to Hannibal, MO regularly for contests.

I can't overemphasize your Father's dedication to this hobby.  His interests and competence were broad - more broad than mine.  He was willing to tackle and become proficient with new technologies - more willing and proficient than I.  His advice and opinions were sound     

Best Regards, KARL BRETZ 

Mervyn David Schweigert

November 4, 1944 — July 23, 2023

Zenda, WI

Mervyn David Schweigert, 78, of Zenda, WI, died July 23, 2023, in Lake Geneva, WI. He was born November 4, 1944, in Kankakee, IL.

 He is survived by his children Mark (Marla) Schweigert and Heidi (David) Grajek; half siblings Barb (Dale) Hartman, Brenda (Mike) Morgan, Karen (Miles) Morrical, Kevin Schweigert, Keith (Laurie) Schweigert, and Rhonda (David) Luhrson; grandchildren Christopher (Amanda) Schweigert and Samantha Schweigert,and  Benjamin and Jack Grajek;

 He was preceded in death by his wife Mary A. Schweigert nee VanDerAa; father Wayne Schweigert; mother Jean (nee Evans) Greene; step-mother Alma Schweigart; and brother Brent Schweigert;

 Merv was a member of ARRL.



 4 PM to 7 PM Sunday, July 30, 2023 at First Baptist Church in Waterloo, IL

 9 AM until 10 AM Monday at First Baptist Church in Waterloo, IL



 10 AM Monday, July 31, 2023 at First Baptist Church in Waterloo, IL

 Pastor Mat Whitaker officiating

 Interment at Kolmer Memorial Cemetery in Waterloo, IL


Crystal Replacement
Posted: 02/38/2024
Comments: 0
How good can a crummy receiver be?

Hundreds of different simple SDR receivers have been designed around Dan Tayloe's Quadrature Sampling Detector or QSD.   Mine add nothing to the state of the art, and in fact subtract things, as I like minimalist solutions and the QSD is right in that sweet spot.   Following the evolution of Tayloe's design I delete the resistors in series with the sample lines for inst...  READ MORE

Posted: 02/37/2024
Comments: 0
What's in a number (3253)?

The FST3253 dual four-to-one mux/demux IC has long been used as a "Tayloe Detector" or QSD (and QSE) in low-cost SDRs.   They provide incredible performance for such a simple circuit, converting RF to baseband IQ with low loss and the ultimate in simplicity. Unfortunately the original FST3253 part has become obsolete and while substitutes are available, this is where the...  READ MORE

Vintage Ham Radio
Posted: 02/32/2024
Comments: 0
The Stancor 10P Transmitter

There weren't really many commercial transmitters in the 1930s as most hams built their own.   But many of the ones that were offered came from the transformer companies who had two chances to profit.   First, from those who would buy the kit, and two, from those would would see it in the (free) booklets the companies provided to their distributors who would then sell the iron to ham...  READ MORE

Vintage Ham Radio
Posted: 12/355/2023
Comments: 0
The Care and Feeding of the EF Johnson Courier amplifier

The EF Johnson "Courier" is a grid-driven amplifier using two 811A tubes.   Switching is provided for operating in either class C for CW or as a class B linear amplifier for AM or SSB.   Rated power is 500 watts input for CW, 500 watts PEP input for SSB, and 200 watts input for double-sideband AM with carrier.    Since all amateur power levels were meas...  READ MORE

Posted: 11/329/2023
Comments: 0
TV Duplexer

Some things are interesting, even if totally useless nowadays.   Such is the case with the Philco 426-3034 Crossover Kit for UHF TV.   What the heck is that? Well, back in the late 50s,  UHF television stations operating on channels 14-83 started to appear in many areas of the US where viewers had a VHF-only TV antenna, and in many cases an externa UHF converter was...  READ MORE

Crystal Replacement
Posted: 11/327/2023
Comments: 0
Replacing failed crystals

For decades, quartz crystals were used everywhere a stable frequency source was needed, even in some applications that depended on overtone (harmonic) behavior into the VHF range.   These crystals were less stable and more dependent on circuit parameters that fundamental types and thus more problematic.    Such was the case with the 94 MHz crystal in the 2 meter converter ...  READ MORE

Posted: 11/315/2023
Comments: 0
My Own Ham Radio Story by W9RAN

Everyone has a story of how they got involved in ham radio - this is mine.   It started much earlier, including receiving a Knight Kit Span Master shortwave radio for Christmas in about 1963, at age 12.   I'll never forget the night my dad and I finished building it and I wanted to try it out.   It came with a 50 ft. antenna which was still coiled up - but ...  READ MORE

Posted: 09/267/2023
Comments: 0
Hot to simulate vacuum tubes in LTSpice

LTSice is a powerful simulation tool that is provided free by Linear Technology Corp.   It comes with a complete library of passive and common analog solid-state components but if you want to use it to simulate vacuum tubes, it doesen't work as-is.    Even though triode and pentode symbols can be found in the "Misc" folder, they are just schematic symbols and...  READ MORE

Friends Remembered
Posted: 07/208/2023
Comments: 0
Merv Schweigert, K9FD (SK)

Comments from Robert Nickels W9RAN,  July 27, 2023: There is nothing worse for a ham radio operator than to see a beloved friends callsign with the letters "SK" behind them.   Yet sadly, that's what happened on July 23, 2023, when I learned of the passsing of Merv Schweigert, K9FD.     While many of our ham radio interests were different - Me...  READ MORE

Vintage Ham Radio
Posted: 01/19/2023
Comments: 0
"Winter Projects"

I know many of us who enjoy restoring and repairing vintage gear look forward to winter when there is less competition for time and energy, and a chance to really make a dent in our "to be fixed" piles.    A couple of years ago I set time aside for "Heathkit Singlebander Week" and went through every one of them I had, with the result that they're all working ...  READ MORE