Posts Tagged ‘Nostalgia’

Blast from the past!

circa 1979

My best friend since High School days plastered this on my Facebook page.  This was taken about a year or so after I was licensed.  Back in the days when I sported a beard and mustache, and professional photography was my trade.
OK fellow bloggers!  The challenge has been issued!  Care to post unflattering pictures of yourself from “the Olden Days”? Can’t be any worse than the above!
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

Happy Anniversary !!!

I took the test for my Novice license in November of 1978.  I received my ticket in the mail at the very end of December 1978.  I remember that I was sitting, taking a break from my job at the camera store where I was working.  We were having a post-Christmas sale and it had been a frantic day. My Mom had called to tell me that I had received the vaunted envelope from the FCC and that my call was KA2DOH. Between that time and my very first QSO, I was occupied with putting my station together.

For some reason, in my mind, I always remember my first QSO as having taken place on January 29th, 1979.  But a look in Logbook Number One reveals the date as January 28th, 1979 – so the 34th anniversary of my very first QSO was yesterday!

As I recall, that was a Sunday afternoon and it was 2110 UTC, so that would have been 4:10 PM local time – yep, that’s just about right.  And my victim ……. er, QSO partner was Adam KA9CIH.
As far as I can tell, Adam is no longer active or even licensed. KA9CIH doesn’t come up at, nor does it come up at N4MC’s Vanity Headquarters. A search on his name returns nothing, either.
From my log, I can see that was the only contact I made that day.  I guess I was so petrified from that initial 20 minute QSO, that I didn’t go near the radio for the rest of the day!
The station in my bedroom at my parent’s house consisted of a Drake 2NT transmitter attached to a Globe VFO (by 1978, Novices were no longer constricted to being crystal controlled.)  This used VFO had a cable coming out of it that had a crystal base soldered to it.  So not knowing any better, I just plugged that into the 2NT’s crystal socket.  I didn’t blow myself up and it worked!  The Drake 2NT was my parent’s Christmas gift to me that year.  They purchased it (under my direction, as a result of several well placed hints) from the used equipment list from Burghardt Amateur Supply.
My receiver was a Heathkit HR-1680, which I had bought and built myself. My camera store salary was allowing me to make “OK” money at the time.  I wasn’t getting rich; but I was able to afford a few hobby items here and there. (Still ain’t rich to this day!) The purchase and construction of the HR-1680 was the reason for the month’s delay between receiving my ticket and actually getting on the air.
My antenna was a wire that stretched from my bedroom window to our unattached garage, ran through an insulator there, bent at a sharp angle and was anchored at another second story window on a different side of the house (imagine a slightly sloping horizontal “V”).  I soldered a piece of coax to the end of the wire – center conductor to the “long wire” and the shield I connected to the cast iron radiator in my room.  The radio end of the coax went to an MFJ tuner.  I switched between the transmitter and receiver using a double throw knife switch.  That this “Rube Goldberg” mash up worked was a miracle; and the fact that I made contacts at all was an even bigger miracle.
I worked all the Novice subbands available to me on 80, 40, 15 and 10 Meters.  There were times that the old MFJ tuner would spark and hiss at me on 80; but I had a ball, anyway.  To this day, I have the feeling that if I went back in time and saw that set up, knowing what I know now, I would probably shake my head and tell my younger self how crazy I was.
I look at my log and see how I logged EVERYTHING – unanswered CQs and all.  But that was good because looking at it now brings back so many vivid memories.  I upgraded from the 2NT a few months later to a Kenwood T599D after my Globe VFO crapped out.  I had the Heathkit and Kenwood setup until I ordered and built my Heathkit SB-104A. I distinctly remember soldering SB-104A boards while watching the 1980 Winter Olympics on TV.
I upgraded to General on June 2nd of 1979.  I’ll never forget THAT day.  Somehow, the Morristown, NJ Club had gotten the FCC to come to their hamfest to give exams.  I wasn’t about to miss the grand opportunity of taking my General test without having to travel to Manhattan, even though I was sick as a dog that day with about a 102 fever.  And it was sweltering outside that day to boot, and to make matters worse, the hamfest and exams took place in the UN-air conditioned Morristown Armory. I was in no condition to drive; and somehow I wangled my sister into driving me, waiting for me and driving me back home.  But in a strange way, I think being sick was a help, as I was feeling so lousy that I didn’t have the normal pre-test “jitters”. They graded the tests right then and there, and I was told I passed and was given the AG designator so that I could use my new privileges immediately.
I don’t have a copy of my Novice license; but I still have my General license.
Looking further at my log, I see that I made very few A3 QSOs after upgrading.  I discovered the hard way, by the ire of my family, that SSB screwed up the TV – royally!  I pretty much stayed with CW with only occasional “very late hours” phone QSOs.  And I couldn’t stay up too late as I was a working man – so the overwhelming majority of my QSOs (roughly 95 -97%) have been CW since that original one back on January 28th, 1979.
Ahh ….. the sweet, sweet memories!
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

Waxing nostalgaic

I posted the other day about the Novice sub bands and how a lot of us got our feet wet there and paid our dues there.  There is a really great Website about the history of the Novice license. You can find it at the Novice Historical Society.

The Novice Class license was issued for a period of almost 50 years, from 1951 until 2000. There are a lot of good stories and photographs in there, and I’m sure if you entered the ranks as a Novice, you will enjoy what you see there. It will bring back a lot of memories, perhaps summed up the best by the following line (not sure right now which Ham said it):

“We didn’t know any better and we were having the time of our lives!”

A lot of names and calls of some prominent QRPers show up in the list there.

If you didn’t become a Ham as a Novice, you should go take a look see and read some really good stories to get a feel of what it was like.

On the other hand, if you WERE a Novice and you haven’t posted your Novice story – please consider doing so!  The stories make for great reading and this truly was an era of Amateur Radio which will never be duplicated.  It deserves to be preserved for posterity.

Oh, and while I’m talking about nostalgia, I got a link through K6MM’s Website – television commercials from the 1950s and 1960s.  Take a look and see how many you can remember – I was able to recall quite a few!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

Learning things

I have heard it said that everyone learns differently.  That is most likely true; but I am living proof that even one single person can learn things in different ways – namely the easy way and the hard way.

The weather today in NJ has been really cold.  When I woke up this morning, it was 15F (-9C) outside.  As I returned home from work tonight, it was 16F (-8C).  It’s a very clear night with the Moon and Jupiter shining brightly in the sky. I will not be surprised if we get down into the single digits tonight.

Why do I bring this up?  Because of a lesson learned the hard way.

When I was a kid, I spent my summers at the grocery store that my Dad and my uncle owned.  It was a small, family owned “Mom and Pop” kind of place.  The entire width of our store probably wouldn’t amount to more than three aisles in a supermarket of today.

We sold groceries and meats.  My Dad and my uncles were butchers as well as grocers.  From the age of 7 and up, I worked most of my summer vacation time at our store, stocking shelves.  When I got to be a teenager, I wanted to graduate from shelf stocking to butchering.  My Dad was reluctant and was never thrilled with the idea; but I bugged him until he taught me.  My last several summers of working at the store involved stocking shelves; but I also got to cut cold cuts, make chopped meat, bone out cuts of beef, pork and veal for kielbasa stuffing, among other things.  But perhaps the toughest job of all was when chickens came in.  We were a dealer for Perdue chickens – fresh chickens that were packed in ice – never frozen.  When the whole chickens came in, I was given the delightful job of removing the livers and necks.  They came packed in wax paper inside the chickens, exactly the same way that giblets and necks come delivered inside your Thanksgiving turkey.  But imagine if you will, removing the livers and necks from many dozens of ice cold chickens, all in one sitting. After a while, I couldn’t even feel my hands as they were numbed by the ice cold chicken flesh.  And of course, it had to be done this way, because you couldn’t let the chickens warm up.

My point?  I had to learn the hard way, what my Dad tried to tell me.  Stick your hands in cold meat for a long enough time and you’re going to develop arthritis in your hands.  By the time my Dad retired, his hands were pretty disfigured.  He never removed his wedding band, but even if had wanted to, his knuckles were so permanently swollen and his fingers were so crooked, that it would have been an impossibility.  And now, when it get this cold, MY hands feel like two giant toothaches, even with Thinsulate gloves on.  I didn’t butcher meat for anywhere near as long as he did; but those 5 – 7 summers were enough. Now I will suffer with “mildly” arthritic hands for the rest of my life – a lesson learned the hard way.

But, I’m not hopeless!  I can learn things the easy way, too.  And I was reminded of that when I read Jim W1PID’s post on this afternoon – “Around The World for Morning Tea” and I was transported back to my youth.  It was stories similar to this that reinforced my desire to become an Amateur Radio operator as a kid.

Travelling the world from a room (in my case, my bedroom) had an appeal that did not fade with time.  A seed was planted that grew to fruition in my very early 20s, when I earned my Novice ticket back in 1978.

I am very glad for that Novice ticket, because it turned out to be learning “the easy way” (relatively speaking).  My intention from “the get-go” was to get on the HF bands.  The Technician class existed back then, too; but held no appeal to me.  For me, Amateur Radio meant getting on the air with the possibility of communicating anywhere around the world.  Whether what actually occurred was communicating down the street or around the state didn’t matter, as long as that possibility also included talking to far away places on the globe remained.  The Novice ticket filled the bill, and thanks to good Elmers who taught me, I was able to procure my license with the least amount of frustration.

I am very grateful for the Novice sub bands that existed at the time.  There were very small slices of 80, 40, 15 and 10 Meters where we were allowed to prowl.  Of course, it was CW only but that and the frequency limitations were our only limitations!  There was plenty of DX to be had and I got my share.

I worked Hams of just about every license class that visited our Novice sections in those days. But of course the majority of other stations worked were other Novices.  We “grew up” together, we learned together, we made the same mistakes together, we honed our skills together.  For most of us, upgrading was our reason for being. And, most importantly, when we upgraded and discovered that VHF/UHF wasn’t the end all and be all of Amateur Radio, we had our HF skills to fall back on.  We were literally eased in to the operating habits and skills required by the higher class licencees.

I often wonder how the loss of that introductory Novice class has affected Amateur Radio in the United States.  I suppose I could research trends and numbers that have occurred since.  But in my heart, I think the impact has not beneficial.  Thankfully, we have a lot of good Elmers out there who are willing to pass on what they have learned, whether by teaching classes, or producing learning materials and software, it is still possible to learn how to be a Ham “the easy way” – not stumbling around by yourself in the dark.

But I still wonder if having the Novice ticket and the Novice sub bands (or something like it) might be an effective tool to avoid the problem of new Hams who find themselves in that “VHF/UHF rut”, and get tired and disenchanted, only to never bother to further explore the varied possibilities of this wonderful hobby.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

To quote John Lennon

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”.

Yes.  The original plan today was for self indulgence – to spend all afternoon playing in the QRP ARCI Fall QSO Party.  Needless to say, it didn’t happen.  Not by a long shot.

There was grocery shopping to get done, lawn mowing and leaf clean up to get done, baking to be done for the Sacred Heart Music Ministry bake sale tomorrow.  All things that had to get done, which left me not much time on the radio.

After dinner, I have gotten on the air and have made some contacts on 20 and 80 Meters.  40 Meters would be nice but the RTTY’ers are once again swallowing up the band all the way from 7.040 to 7.100 MHz.  Wow, I remember in my RTTY contesting days in the 90’s we didn’t dare come below 7.060 MHz.  Times have changed.

I will go back down to the shack in a bit; but wanted to share something I found in the basement while calling “CQ QRP’ looking for contacts.

I found some old licenses. These three each have one of the call signs that I have held.

The top one is a KA2DOH one, and this is the license I received after upgrading to General in the Summer of 1979.  The N2ELW one is from when I applied for a General Class call in 1983.  Got this one in August of 1983 and shortly thereafter upgraded to Advanced on October 18th, 1983.  The reason I remember that date so well is that’s the date of my parent’s Wedding Anniversary.  If they were both alive, they’d be celebrating their 60th this year.  Both of these licenses were from back in the days when the license term was only five years.

The W2LJ one is the license that I carried before I renewed two years ago.  I found the CSCE’s (for you non-US Hams, those are Certificates of Successful Completion of Exams) from when I upgraded to Extra all the way back on March 1st, 1993.  Next year will be 20 years as an Extra and this year will mark my 34th as a Ham – sure doesn’t feel that long!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!


In my links section, I have a link to W6AQ, Dave Bell’s e-book, “Worlds Best Hobby”.  I’ve mentioned the book on the blog here, before. I’d like to make a couple of points about it.

The first is that it is a WIP – a work in progress.  If you haven’t visited the site in a while, you might find that Dave has added a few more chapters since you last aimed your browser his way.
That happened to me. As I read the last two “new” chapters, I became intrigued with Dave’s first ARRL Film, “The Ham’s Wide World”. Produced in the ’60s, this would have been EXACTLY the kind of film that would have started me on the journey towards my ticket. 
I’m so sorry that I never saw this film when it first came out, when I was 11 years old.  If I had, I am sure that I would now be closer towards my 45th anniversary as a Ham instead of closing in on my 35th, as I am now.
I found the movie on YouTube and am posting it here.  Event though the equipment is old and outdated, I still gleaned an eternal and timeless spark of enthusiasm and excitement while watching it.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope you will enjoy the nostalgia also.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

Today was a very good day

Amateur Radio-wise, that is!

At the VE session this morning, we were able to welcome three new Hams into the fold. Well, make that two and one revert.  One of the candidates was a Ham years ago; but let his license lapse. So maybe it would be more accurate to say that we welcomed three potentially active Hams into the fold.

I guess I am from another era; as I get frustrated (a bit) when the first question out of a new Ham’s mouth is something to the effect of, “So where can I get a good price on a dual band handheld?”  Man, when I was studying for my Novice ticket, the LAST thing I wanted was an HT. All I had my sights on was HF and working the bands.  In fact, I didn’t get my first VHF radio until nearly a year after I was licensed.

I got my ticket in December of 1978.  Spent November and December and part of January assembling my station, which was a “pre-owned” Drake 2-NT transmitter (which was my Christmas gift from my parents that year) and a Heathkit HR-1680 receiver which I saved up for and built all by myself. That receiver was the very first of many Heathkits that I was to build.  Between buying, building and making an antenna, I had my first QSO on January 29th, 1979.  And it was an HF QSO.  I still have that QSL card, framed in my basement.  Can’t recall the entire call of the poor victim that I plied my nasty fist on, but I do remember his name was Adam and he was KA9something.

My first VHF radio was a Tempo1 handheld, the very first to have a synthesized VFO, not relying on crystal control.  I bought it a year later, after I had upgraded to General, specifically to assist in the 1980 Winter Olympics Torch Run.  Those were the Lake Placid “Do you believe in miracles?” Olympics and the torch run  traveled right through Central NJ on its way to Lake Placid.  I was with a local club providing communications in an ARRL led effort.  I still have the Public Service Commendation hanging on the shack wall that commemorated that event.

But for me, VHF and UHF were never a Number One favorite. Don’t get me wrong, I have spent A LOT of time on UHF and VHF repeaters – making friends, doing public service and all kinds of stuff.  But in W2LJ’s mind, when Ham Radio pops up in a little thought balloon, it’s always a picture of an HF radio, making worlwide contacts.  Just me, I guess.

I had another treat this afternoon, working my good friend, Bob W3BBO, who also took the plunge and just very recently got a K3.  He finished building his this past week and this was our very first K3 to K3 QSO.

It wasn’t a long rag chew, just enough of a QSO to see how we each sounded to one another. Good signals both ways.  It was a hoot!
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

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