W8AEF riding the airwaves at VU7RG
Paul Playford W8AEF first encountered amateur radio and basic electronics through the Civil Air Patrol as a youngster in Michigan. He was first licensed as WN8AEF (NOVICE class) in 1955. He graduated from Lawton High School in 1956 and went to work as a pen and ink draftsman for a land surveyor.
He met and married his xyl, Jackie, and they had two daughters Pamela and Vickie.
After 6 or 7 years of drafting he found employment at a telephone company, working his way up to plant foreman. With two friends, he formed Videcom Engineering Inc., specializing in industrial closed circuit television, and later joined Harris Video Systems in Santa Clara, CA, in their repair department. From there, he joined RCA Broadcast Systems Division, Camden, NJ, as a field engineer, specializing in television camera repair and maintenance.
When RCA closed its Broadcast Division he transferred to NBC in Burbank, CA, as a project engineer, designing and commissioning editing suites and studios. Paul retired from NBC and moved to Phoenix in 1993 with his family.
“I spent a lot of time on 6-meter AM in the '60s,” recalls Paul. “I built all of my equipment with the exception of the antenna rotor and 300 ohm open line that fed my 6 element Long John yagi. I was able to work a lot of domestic DX on 6 meters. A couple of hams in Paw Paw, MI, decided to operate a VHF contest and invited me to participate. Hooked me on contesting.”
When he went to work for the telephone company, he had what may have been the only legal phone patch in the United States. “I ran a few phone patches for a ham that was living in the Canal Zone to his in-laws that lived in our service area,” Paul remembers. “Turned out the father-in-law was a local county supervisor and my phone patches got him off my bosses back. Boss said ‘DON'T STOP!’"
During this time he was a member of the Blossomland Amateur Radio Association, aka “the hams from Heathkit”, and was introduced to Field Day. He says he has many fond memories of those years. After he installed his tower and antennas, several of the Heathkit engineers that were his neighbors decided that if he could get away with it, so could they and antennas sprouted all over Bridgman, MI. “It was Jim Linke, W8GHN (now W8XX) that made the observation that I have a call with a great rhythm,” says Paul.
Paul earned DXCC before he left Michigan and amateur radio took a back burner for several years until he started working for NBC. Paul had well over 200 countries confirmed before moving to Arizona and with the acceptance of the 7O1YGF operation, he is now #1 DXCC Honor Roll.
“Shortly after we moved to Arizona I discovered I can build antennas that work for me better than the store-bought variety,” states Paul. “So with 2-1/2 acres and no deed restrictions I went to play (work to some). I have monobanders on every band, 160 through 2 meters and on some bands duplicate antennas that allow me to switch directions during a contest.”
Outlaw Paul W8AEF holds the North American record for CQWPX CW, SOSB80(A) LP
“I am a test equipment freak. Some hams collect antique radios, I collect (and use) test equipment. My latest addition is an N2PK Vector Network Analyzer with an S Parameter adapter that makes tweaking antennas and rf filters easy. And a by-product of my test equipment collection is I service and modify my own radios.”
His current radio equipment consists of a Yaesu FT-1000D driving a modified Alpha 76A (a pair of 3CX800's and QSK) for 1.5 KW output, and an IC-756PROII that at the moment is dedicated to 6m operation.
“I spent most of my time on SSB until I came to Arizona and discovered that Morse code is much easier to make contacts with. And I can even talk after a contest,” says Paul. His favorite band is 80m - mostly because he has a very effective antenna for that band, followed by 160 meters “because it ain't easy”.
Paul’s future goals include improving his CW ability. “I seem stuck at about 20 wpm, but with each contest and QSO it gets easier,” says Paul, cheerfully. “Maybe I don't have dyslexic ears after all.”
© Arizona Outlaws Contest Club 2011