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Design, build, hack....zap and repeat!

My Radio Story

My Radio Story

My path to ham radio began in the mid-60’s with a crystal radio and a long piece of copper wire. I got my Novice license in the late 60’s (WN8EGB) and upgraded to General in 1970 (WB8EGB). Back then you had to know Morse code and you had to go to the closest FCC field office to take the tests! I did a lot of hamming in the 70’s, but many things started to get in the way of the hobby. . . . mostly wife, kids and career. In 1985 I let my license lapse. Back then you had to do it every 5 years.

In 2012 I was cleaning out some old books and boxes and found a stack of QSL cards and my last logbook from the 80’s. Kaboom! The bug hit me again! I bought a 2m handheld to listen. I studied for 3 weeks to get my Tech license. I went to a local club for the test and passed. Since I was there, and for no extra cost, I tried the General test as well . . . . .and passed. I kept going with the Extra exam but failed . . not too bad. . . .I got 22 out of 50, but it is a bit more involved than either the Tech or General! Every once in a while for the next several months I would stop by HamTestOnline to try an Extra exam…sometimes passing, other times not. But while strolling through a local hamfest, I saw they were doing testing, so I stopped, paid my $15, and tried….and passed! Extra Class Amateur Radio Operator, W8AJV.

I got a rig off eBay, a Kenwood TS-930S, which I fed into an elevated (about 12 ft) HyGain 12AVQ tri-band vertical and tuned radials, 4 each for 10m and 15m and 3 for 20m. I may add more, but I’ve had QSOs on all three bands. Europe and South America are easy reaches, but Asia and Australia I haven’t hit yet.

I added a PIEXX microprocessor upgrade board to the 930S that added memory, performance and most important, a computer interface, so I was able to use any one of the many logging programs and rig control programs out there. I’ve chosen DXLab and so far it’s great! And exploring the N1MM interface for contesting.

I also interfaced a SignaLink USB to try some of those digital modes. First try was PSK-31 . . . .and I love it! I got more DX in 2 days then I did for 3 months on SSB phone.

After a year or so, I decided to put my modified TS-930s back on eBay, sold it, and am now learning how to program an Icom IC-9100. It’s really a “shack-in-a-box” rig which receives the entire radio band and transmits on all HF bands plus 6m, 2m, 70cm, and 23cm bands plus D-star. Now I’m on the lookout for a tri-band 6m/2m/70cm vertical.

Ok, now some trivia. . . .The term “ham radio” started as a derogatory term, mocking amateur radio operators with a 19th century term for being bad at something, like “ham-handed” or “ham actor”. It had already been used for bad wired telegraph operators, who (like a ham-fisted boxer) presumably was seen as having hands as clumsy as if they were hams. Subsequently, it was co-opted by the community itself, which adopted it as a welcome moniker. I think there are other, more entertaining explanations storied throughout the years, but that’s just one of the things that makes this a great hobby.

Ham radio is a hobby with many many facets that attracts practitioners with a wide range of interests. Many amateurs begin with a fascination of radio communication and then combine other personal interests to make pursuit of the hobby rewarding. I particularly like combining radio communications with my computer knowledge, and then my mad scientists personality likes experimentation, electronics and more computer interfacing. And yes, I also like contesting, DXing, public service, hamfests, and the camaraderie of hams.

Thanks for stopping by and you can keep up with my radio exploits on the blog, on Google+ and on Twitter. And please say “hello” on the radio or on the computer! 73, W8AJV   -aj-