Amateur Radio

I have been an Amateur Radio operator since the age of 8 years old.  I put out a magazine which I called “FB” or translated in Ham Radio jargon “Fine Business.”  Amateur or Ham radio is best defined as a hobby of furthering the understanding of radio communications science and public service to our communities during time of emergencies and non-emergencies to further the public good.  During all the big hurricanes and twisters Amateur Radio has been there providing emergency communications to places that have all power knocked out.  We have run phone patches (prior to the internet) to soldiers overseas to speak to their loved ones.  We were also part of a big (FREE) traffic network to send radiograms all over the world.  Our sole reason for existence is to serve the public.

The cool thing of Amateur Radio is that this hobby transcends race, color, creed, nationality, etc.  There are Ham Radio operators in all countries.  I spoken to fellow Amateur Radio operators from all continents including Asia (spoke to a person in outer Mongolia); Russia; Africa (South Africa; Madagascar (which is close to the anti-pole to where I lived in the Mid West – antipole refers to if you were to drill straight down from your home where you would end up on the other side if you could theoretically drill that far)); Latin America (Ecuador; Brazil; Argentina; Columbia; Chili; etc.); North America (I have spoken to hams in all 50 states; all provinces of Canada); Iceland; Australia; Europe (Great Britain, France, Germany; Spain; Portugal; Italy; Greece; and Poland) and the Middle East (Israel; Jordan; Egypt).

How do I have proof of this?  Through the use of QSL cards.  QSL is an International “Q” signal that is understood by everyone in the whole world.  QSL means “acknowledge receipt.”  Back in the pre-internet days talking to people around the world was only really possible for free through Ham Radio.

My Elmer (mentor in Ham Radio jargon) was Marge Doucette (WA1KMP) who is now deceased.  She lived in Connecticut.  Her equipment was state of the art back when I was 8 years old (The Collins S-Line) and she had a kilowatt of power (upper limit that Amateur radio operators are allowed to use).  She actually spoke to someone in every county (know as “worked all counties”).  She gave me the love of Ham Radio.  She was an expert at CW (a.k.a. continuous wave – use of a single carrier frequency that is interrupted by dots and dashes otherwise known as morse code) and was able to communicate up to 25 WPM (words per minute).

My second Elmer was Dr. Townsend who chairman of pathology and was an incredible friend.  He was three times my age but treated me as an equal.  He helped me put up my first Yagi Antenna and then an “Inverted Vee.”  He was always very patient with me and spent his personal valuable time to help me.  He was a role model in some many other ways too in my later career.  He was known in Ham Radio parlance as a “DXer.”  He had certification of WAC (worked all continents); and WAO (worked all Oblasts (equivalent of States in the old USSR)).  I still remember how he was very skillful at climbing antenna towers.  Watching him climb my anternna tower to put the antenna at the top of the tower conjured images of a grizzly bear climbing a tree to get at the honey in a bumble bee hive (yes he resembled a bear in habitus).

I built my first transmitter when I was about 9 years old.  It was an old Heathkit DX-60B.  It was a crystal (and later VFO (variable frequency oscillator).  I remember my dad helped me to build it although I did most of the soldering myself.  It took me awhile to make my first contact as I had such a weak signal.  But when I did it was ecstasy.  MY first contact was someone in Illinois.  I have so much to share about this rich hobby.  I will post images and reminiscences of my life in Amateur Radio throughout the years as I continue to grow the webpage.  For now I just wanted to say hello to the World.  I am a life member of the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) which is one of the greatest organizations any hobby can have.

The thing you need to remember about Amateur Radio operators we are required to take a certification test that is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission.  I started out as a Novice Radio operator which (back when I was 8) required we use a Crystal Controlled Transmitter, and then became a General Class amateur radio operator, and eventually reached the level of Advanced Class (although that category is now defunct).  I never got my Extra Class which is the Cadillac or crème de la crème of Amateur radio.  But one day aspire to reach that lofty height.

Moreover, Amateur Radio operators police themselves to make sure we are ALL compliant with FCC regulations and are behaving with a decorum commensurate with the privilege to operate on the airways.  Before Twitter, Instantgram, Facebook, etc. we were the ambassadors to the world.  I had friends all over the world.  It was in Amateur radio that I realized that people are just people.  The Russians (who during the cold war were the enemies to the free world) I found that the private citizens were just like anyone else (usually with a family, kids, a job, and a life to live) and really didn’t care about the politics of the world but just happy to get along in their life.  I had the honor to converse with luminaries such as King Hussein (Yes he is an Amateur Radio operator); the late Barry Goldwater (US Senator and former presidential candidate for the USA); and many others of less fame but no less important to me.

Please do not mistake us for Citizen Band (CB) operators.  Anyone can get a CB license and their blithe disregard of the law shocks us Amateur Radio operators.

In the future I will add some pictures of myself erecting my antenna, operating my rig, etc..  Stay tuned…  In the meantime enjoy these links to learn more about this great hobby.

American Radio Relay League