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VHF Communications Magazine

A short history of VHF Communications Magazine by the publisher from 2000 - 2013, Andy Barter, G8ATD

The company UKW Berichte was founded in Germany by Hans Dohlus, DJ3QC in 1960 and the German magazine UKW Berichte was started, it was edited by Terry Bitten, G3JVQ / DJ0BQ and Robert Lenz, DL3WR. The company supplied a wide range of amateur radio equipment and it is still a major supplier in Germany.

VHF Communication Magazine started in 1969 as the English version of the German magazine. The cost of a subscription for the first year was $3.00. There was already a lot of material to be presented to the English speaking readers with agents in 19 countries (three in the USA) ready to distribute the magazine and supply the many kits and products that had already been developed. One of the original agents, Christiane Michele, was the French agent for VHF Communications Magazine for it’s entire life and the original Spanish agent, Julio A. Prieto Alonso only retired as agent in 2012. The UK agent for the first few issues was Microwave Associates then various agents distributed the magazine in the UK including ARBBG, J Beam, VHF Communications, SOTA Communications and Ambit. In 1983 no UK agent was appointed and the magazine was distributed by UKW Berichte in the UK for the next 5 years. There were still 15 worldwide agents.

So many articles had already appeared in the German magazine that Issue 1 of VHF Communications Magazine contained a full index for the 1970 volume and issue 4/1969 had three pages of kits and Printed Circuit Boards available for projects described in the 1969 volume.

In 1984 a tragedy struck, Terry Bitten, one of the main driving forces behind the magazine was killed in a light aircraft accident. Terry’s wife, Corrie Bitten took over as editor and advertising manager of the magazine with English translation by Colin Brock, G3ISB and his XYL. The magazine was produced like that for the next five years.

In 1988 Mike Wooding became the UK agent for the magazine and in 1990 when Corrie was looking for someone to take over the publication of the English magazine Mike took over. Issue 4/1990 was the last magazine produced in Germany. Mike had the German articles translated by a professional translator and the magazine was printed in the UK. He supplied the UK subscribers directly and most of the overseas readers via the established agent network. The cost of a subscription for 1991 was £12.00. During the 1990s the circulation of the magazine peaked at about 2200 copies, Mike set up a web site and acquired all of the back issue stock from Germany. Mike continued publishing the magazine until the end of 1999 when he wanted to retire; the announcement was included as a flyer in issue 3/1999. At that time I was a subscriber, when I saw the flyer I thought that it would be an ideal job for me because I wanted to semi-retire and work from home.

Issue 4/1999 was the last one produced by Mike. I had watched Mike produce issue 4/1999 so in early 2000 I started to produce my first issue of the magazine. The production method was interesting:

In 2000 there were about 1200 subscribers and the subscription price was £20.00. Over the following 14 years that fell to 400 subscribers with a subscription price of £22.80.

When I purchased the publishing rights from Mike I also purchased all of the back issue, they arrived in a Transit van full to the gunnels. I spent some time sorting them out and arranging storage so that I could find any issue that was required. During 2000 and 2001 I sold quite a lot of back issues including complete sets of all the available printed magazines. I then set about filling the gaps by acquiring copies of all the magazines ever printed and scanning them to produce a library of every issue that is now available on DVD. As the magazine transferred to full computerised production the back issues of magazine from 2002 were in digital format rather than scanned images.

As subscriber numbers fell, the magazine production had to be changed to reduce costs. The articles were initially translated by computer producing similar results to the professional translator at a fraction of the cost. The translated text still needed editing to make sense of the technical details and where possible the original authors were invited to proof read the result before publication. The printing process became all electronic with a CD being sent to a different printer and printed magazine produced. The biggest cost increase was postage; finally in 2012 the postage was changed from Royal Mail to a mailing company with a significant drop in postage costs.

During the 14 years that I published the magazine I tried to keep the quality of the content a high as possible. Subscribers told me that the quality of some of the images, especially detailed circuit diagrams, were not very good. In September 2009 one subscriber, Andrew Holme, sent an email making that point but also said he had a solution. True to his word he helped me find a way to use a vector graphic format for the images that dramatically improved the quality.

A continuing problem for a magazine like VHF Communications Magazine is to keep a supply of good articles to publish. In the early days that was not a problem because all of the articles came directly from UKW Berichte. UKW Berichte started to change the format of their magazine with more adverts and more space around the articles. That meant that I had to find articles from elsewhere to fill the pages of the magazine. Some very interesting articles came from the subscribers but slowly that supply has dried up and a competition run in 2013 to try and stimulate more articles failed with only three articles submitted. So I decided to retire as publisher.

I tried to find someone who wanted to take over the magazine and continue publication after 2013 but that search failed. Joe Kraft who published Dubus magazine wanted to publish the English translations of the UKW Berichte articles. With nobody wanting to take over publication of the magazine, sadly I was the person who had to say enough is enough and close the magazine. The magazine had been operating below the break-even point since 2011 with no sign of that situation improving. A survey of subscribers showed that an electronic version of the magazine was not viable so issue 4/2013 was the last issue of VHF Communications Magazine.

The proposal by Joe Kraft to publish the English translation of UKW Berichte articles was initially acceptable to Eberhard Smolka who ran UKW Berichte and produced the German magazine. When I tried to confirm the proposal Eberhard failed to respond to any of my communications (email, telephone and post) but Joe Kraft met Eberhard in November 2013 and agreed a way forward to publish the English translation of UKW Berichte articles in Dubus Magazine.

I will keep the VHF Communications Magazine web site running for as long as there is some demand. It will still contain the full index of the magazine and back issues will be available in printed form if they are available or on DVD/CD.