"Mr. Screwdriver" W6AAQ, a Silent Key

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by W6ARM, Apr 22, 2010.

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  1. W6ARM

    W6ARM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Don Johnson, W6AAQ, inventor of the screwdriver mobile antenna died Wednesday, April 14th according to his son Don Jr. He had been ill for several months and died in a hospital. I have no further details regarding his illness. Don lived in Esparto, a small community in Northern California west of Sacramento. He will be buried with full military honors at the National Cemetery in Dixon, California. A memorial service will be held in July. When the FCC first authorized HF mobile, a group of us in the SF Bay area decided to go mobile on 75 meters. We chose 3995 Khz (then Mhz) as an operating frequency to reduce the possibility of high power fixed stations interferring. We conducted field tests with our home brewed antennas using a field strength meter to see who had the strongest signal. Don came up with the idea of using a metal tube with a whip on top of a coil that fit inside the tube. By raising and lowering the coil a resonant point could be found. He was searching for a method of tuning the antenna remotely when W6MHP, Denny (sk), suggested using the motor from a cordless screwdriver. Thus the "screwdriver mobile antenna" was born. Don received a patent on the device and built and sold thousands. In his words "Plus thousands that were sold by shamelsss bootleggers". Don was a retured navy radioman and pilot. He once told me that he had spent 30 years in the navy and never served aboard a ship. For a time, while in the navy, he flew three round trips weekly between San Francisco and Honolulu on MARS seaplanes.

    My wife and I attended Don's 91st birthday party last July. You will be greatly missed old friend but may you rest in piece......Al Melcher, W6ARM.
     
  2. N7WR

    N7WR Subscriber QRZ Page

    Al
    I believe your post meant to say 3995 Mhz (then Mega cycles) ?
     
  3. NY7Q

    NY7Q Guest

    Don Johnson, RIP

    Don told me once he served in the Navy as a "brown shoe" airdale.
    I believe he was a aviation electronics technician.
    In any event, I believe he is in heaven. He was a gentleman.
     
  4. K4LJP

    K4LJP Ham Member QRZ Page

    Maybe you meant to say 3995 MC.

    I have an original Big DK 3 ( circa 1992 ) on my van, works great with my Kenwood TS 50. Has a very interesting weather proofing devise; a rubber boot from a motorcycle shock absorber.
    Don Johnson was truly an innovator in amateur radio mobile antenna design, 73, OM, you will be missed.
     
  5. WY3X

    WY3X Ham Member QRZ Page

    He'll be missed

    I had the honor of speaking with Don on the phone several times when I first decided to go HF mobile. He sold me the small parts and instructions to build my own screwdriver mobile antenna, as well as a copy of his book, 40+ years of HF mobileering (sure wish I knew who I loaned that book to so I could get it back!!!). Don sure knew his stuff! The amateur radio community is poorer for not having Don with us any more. -AJ4VM
     
  6. K7JBQ

    K7JBQ Moderator Volunteer Moderator QRZ Page

    "Mr. Screwdriver" is nice, but "Mr. Mobile" would be more accurate. The man really knew his stuff and helped thousands of hams, not just with antennas, but with sound advice.

    73,
    Bill
     
  7. K8OFC

    K8OFC Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have met with AR Don Johnson when I resided in Dixon, CA. in the 1980's
    and I am sorry to note that he had passed. May the Almighty be with him
    in the after-life.
    Don: We will miss your earthly existence. Happy Times and Calm Seas to you
    forever!
     
  8. W5EN

    W5EN Ham Member QRZ Page

    No dis-respect intended but the actual patent on the first screwdriver antenna is held jointly by Horatio "Ray" Hodges, W6AQP (sk) and his partner Fred Schnell W6OZF (sk) who allowed Swan to build and market their early invention. W6OZF was my uncle and always refered to W6AAQ as "Mr. Johnson" as a term of respect. I had the pleasure of working Don once on the air and he had to kindly admonish me to call him Don and not Mr. Johnson. Let us also not forget that there are a number of Atlas radios still on the air.
     
  9. N7WR

    N7WR Subscriber QRZ Page

    I did--that's what happens when I post before having my morning coffee.
     
  10. N7UR

    N7UR Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think you guys are all confused about frequencies. 3995 Kilohertz (then Kilocycles) is allocated in the 75 meter amateur phone band.

    3995 Megahertz (then Megacycles) also 3.995 Gigahertz (then GigaCycles) is allocated to the fixed satellite service.

    In any case, I only met Don one time. We chatted a bit during a short "eyeball QSO" at a hamfest.

    The only screwdriver antenna I ever owned is a Don Johnson. I picked this up at the Orlando Hamcation. It was missing the black boot and is painted battleship gray from stem to stern. Visually it appears to be a 4 ft. hunk of gray metal pipe, capped at the end, with a wire and a connector hanging from the end...just your basic pipe bomb...which I lugged thru post 911 airport security and onto an airplane.
     
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