Being a ham for 50 years could mean as little as remembering to renew a never-used license every 10 years (5 years in the early days), or as much as sitting at the top of the DX Honor Roll, being ARRL President, or winning DX contests with a huge multi-multi station.
Most of us who make it to 50 will be somewhere in between. A modest station, a few HT’s, maybe being a club officer for a few years. There’s a good chance that ham radio helped our career, and a fair chance that it established that career. We’ve had a lot of contacts, made some friends, and had fun. Our interest may have waxed and waned here and there. Maybe we specialized in one mode or activity, and maybe that shifted over the years. We may share the hobby with family, or we may be the odd duck. There’s a lot of room for variety.
I made it to 50 last Sunday, January 11. I count the time from my first log book entry as a Novice: January 11, 1965, on 40 meter cw as WN9NSO. I lost (misplaced, not “FCC-lost”) my original Novice license long ago, but I kept the logs. Those first few contacts were pretty rough. I don’t remember them specifically, but the logs bring back an image of a very nervous 15-year-old, trying to put all the practice to the test, and falling well short of perfection. But I got better.
I could write more about it, but these days I make TV shows about ham radio, so of course, on Sunday, I pushed record and talked about it. I had a guest – Rich Casey N5CSU – but I knew Rich as WA9LRI, and actually WN9LRI, the first time I talked to him. We followed each other thru ham interests in the Chicago area in the 60’s and 70’s, but were pretty much out of touch until a year or three ago. Rich posted some stuff on the ARRL PR Committee mailing list about the interest he’s had in ham radio on social media. We swapped email about doing a show on that, but it never hit the top of the list. Then, as I was preparing for my “Big 50” show, I was looking over those old logs. Up near the top was WN9LRI.
I figured I’d stone two birds with one show, and we’d talk nostalgia for maybe a half hour, then switch to social media. I’m not anti-Facebook, Twitter and the others (though I did spend some time being trendy about considering them a big waste of time). I have accounts on some of them, mostly to let people know when a new show has been uploaded to YouTube. But I don’t navigate them very well, and figured we could all stand to learn a little more about how to get something useful out of them.
The first hour passed, and we were still deep in history. So much for bookending this show with the old and the new. Rich was itching to see the Dallas/Green Bay playoff game, which started early in the second hour of our Skype chat (Rich moved to Dallas back in ’78, so he’s a Texan now…). I took pity on him (and you, the audience) at the end of the second hour, and stopped the music, with a promise to come back soon for another show on the social stuff.
The show’s been on-line for a few days now, and I’ve gotten some kind comments from viewers who’ve enjoyed our talk. Even if you really like it, you don’t have to watch it all at once. That’s what the pause button is for.