Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Sixty Years In Amateur Radio

 I just realized that it was 60 years ago this month that I received my first Amateur Radio License.

I'd always been given old electrical things by my neighbors, and was given a few "Old Radios" that would be worth a nice chunk of change these days. Some of them had "other" frequency bands on them labeled as "Short Wave", and by connecting a long piece of wire to the antenna terminal, I was able to hear stations from all over the world. I was hooked!

A grade school friend who I still keep in touch with helped me build my first "Real Radio", a Knight-Kit "Star Roamer" shortwave receiver.

In the Summer of 1964, he and I attended the Novice Class License classes that the local radio club put on, and we both passed our code and theory tests, and were duly licensed by the Federal Communications Commission. In those days, it could take 8~10 weeks to receive your license, and after about six weeks, watching the mailbox became an obsession. My Dad was so proud that he drove me up to Allied Radio Corporation on 100 S. Western Ave in Chicago to get my first Amateur Radio receiver.

It was a Hallicrafters SX-146, and was a 'dream receiver' to a 13 year old kid.


My first transmitter was a "Home Brew" affair built from salvaged radios and TV sets. It had a 6L6 power amplifier, driven by a 6AG7 crystal oscillator, and put about 10 Watts output to the antenna. It was very similar to this circuit, but I was running more voltage to the tubes.


8~10 Watts isn't much power, and my Dad got tired of my whining about it, so he made me a deal. He'd match what I had saved, and when it was enough, we'd go to the Heathkit store and buy a DX-60 transmitter.


My antenna was a simple 40 Meter "Inverted Vee" antenna, one of the many flavors of the ever popular dipole antenna.

At that time, the Novice Class license was good for ONE year, and it was NON renewable. You either upgraded your license, or got out of the hobby. Upgrading to General Class was a Big Deal, as you had to demonstrate your proficiency with Morse Code at 13 words-per-minute and take a comprehensive written test covering the FCC rules, Operating Procedures, and a very Technical section.

But that's a story for another day.


Have a good week, and keep your head on a swivel!


14 comments:

  1. I just passed my 66th anniversary in the hobby. My story was similar to yours, but I got sidetracked into the Tech License for too many years before upgrading to Extra and that has been almost 50 years ago.

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    1. My Dad had some friends who told him that if I failed the to NOT let me take the written part for the Technician license. When I failed the code the first time, my Mom grabbed my hand and said we were going home! Went back two months later when I could copy 25wpm solid and passed the 13wpm, and the written, and made General!

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  2. Congrats on making it to 60 years!

    I had my 48th anniversary back in February, although I had wanted to get my ticket for 10 years before that. I was 22 when I got the Novice ticket in '76.

    To borrow the phrase, our histories don't match but they rhyme. Instead of the Knight kit, my first SW kit was a Heathkit GR-64. I got interested in shortwave when I was about 8 when a cousin visiting Miami had a shortwave portable and showed it off to me.

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    1. Thanks, SiG. After I passed my General Class, my Dad popped for a set of Heathkit SB series. SB-301/SB-401, a speaker, station console, and keyer. Kept me busy all winter building them!

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  3. Certainly no problem qualifying for membership in QCWA. Congratulations!

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    1. Thanks, FF! I was in the local chapter of the QCWA when I lived in SoCal.

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  4. I never got hooked. As you know, my Uncle Joe White was a prominent "Ham". At some time in the dim past I held a 3rd Class Radio Communications License. Can't remember why; probably job related.

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    1. Yes, I remember you telling me. The 3rd class license was more of a "permit", and was required for people who used radios in their activities. If you had a Pilot's License, you were required to get one. Radio Disc Jockeys were also required to have them.

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  5. Pilot's license. That is why I had one.

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    1. Yep, so did I. Had to have the permit to use the aircraft radio.

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  6. I had a Third Class Radiotelephone Operator's License with Broadcast Endorsement myself. Got it on Easter break my senior year in high school. I was a member of a radio station sponsored Explorer Scouts post. Got my first disc jockey job a few months after graduating, beginning 24 a year stretch in radio and television.

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    1. I had a 1st Class Radiotelephone License back in the 1970's. My supervisor at work refused to sign it for renewal, which is one of the reasons I left that job. On my exit interview, my supervisor's boss told me he was a Ham, and would have gladly signed it. Now they're good for life, so I studied and took the test again, and also got my Ship Radar Endorsement.

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  7. Been away and also had my laptop computer die (external power input). I can't comment from my tablet and hate doing it on a smart phone.

    I got my Novice ticket in May 1970 though it was dated April 4th 1970. My Dad was my Elmer. My first station was my Dad's Hammarlund HQ129X and Heathkit DX-100 (early model with 11 meters). I still have my logbook from back then. I let my Novice expire after 2 years because I was at University and too involved with school, partying and girls.

    I went to the FCC offices in Dallas TX in the fall of 1977 and took the general. I failed the code so I got my Technician license. This was just before I went to Rhine-Main AB, West Germany. While there I got a German reciprocal license for Technician.

    When the code was dropped to 5 WPM I retested and got my General and then Extra. I tried to increase my code speed but learned it all wrong (visually) and just could not get it out of my head.

    Been doing the Ham thing off and on for 54 years and continuously licensed for 46 years.

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    1. I learned code at a young enough age that I not only "Just Did It", but it also stuck. I can copy ~10wpm no trouble, but I'm out of practice enough that I have trouble going much higher.

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