...The radios we'll always remember


 Posted By: Robert Nickels (W9RAN)
Posted: 02/27/2022

Brass Pounding 0 Comments 02/27/2022 

CBLA

The Color Burst Liberation Army


Those who remember tearing apart old TV sets for parts no doubt remember the real gem buried inside the older color sets:  an 80 meter crystal!   it was tiny and wouldn't take the current a 6L6 power oscillator would put through it, but in a Pierce or solid-state circuit it worked great and crystals were to be treasured back when you only had a handful of them and no VFO!

The color burst frequency of 3.579 MHz was a reference in the NTSC television era - (3.579545 MHz to be precise) for making color TV look good without constantly having to fiddle with the controls (remember that?)   The televisions' color signals ride on a subcarrier that is 3.579545 MHz above the brightness modulated main carrier. Unlike the main channel frequency which could easily be automatically locked in,  the 3.579545 had to be a very precise signal, thus even cheap TV manufacturers were forced to use a crystal.   

And of course it didn't take long for hams to sieze on 3.579 MHz as a working frequency for CW contacts, back when that was how the 80 meter band was allocated.    One group in particular decided the color burst crystals fit perfectly into their plans - homebrewers and QRP operators who often built “glowbug” transmitters out of parts from scavenged electronics anyway.   Although these tiny crystals couldn't handle the current that a 6L6 power oscillator woudl put through them, they worked just fine in a Pierce circuit or solid-state rig.  Before long the color burst frequency was a good spot to look for low-power QSOs.

Around the time internet reflectors became popular, Michael Hopkins AB5L (SK) posted many entertaining tales featuring radio pioneer Frank Jones and his “Five Meter Liberation Army” whose goal it was to take back the old five meter band.    A group of QRP-Homebrewers on the Glowbugs reflector took the idea one step further and created the “Color Burst Liberation Army” to promote their goals.  They came up with a logo and even had QSL cards made up!

So tune slowly around 3.58 MHz - you might still hear a glowbugger banging out a CQ and he might just be a member of the CBLA!

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