Who introduced you to ham radio?

baofeng-uv82I was at a church meeting the other night and I happened to have my HT clipped to my belt, although it was somewhat hidden under my shirt. The bottom of it was showing when I sat down on the couch and a friend of mine asked me, “dude, is that a pager??” A pager. Right. I unclipped the Baofeng UV82-1 and showed it to him, and he asked if it was a ham radio, to which I said yes. Then he proceeds to ask the standard questions (he knew I was into ham radio because of my Facebook posts, so he didn’t guess this on his own)

That small conversation got me to thinking about the fact that most people have heard of ham radio, but they know little more than just the term. The main question I am asked when someone sees my HT is “hey, can that thing talk around the world?” Most people don’t understand the difference between HF/VHF/UHF or at least they aren’t aware that ham operators can use the higher frequencies.

Ham radio isn’t one of those hobbies that is chosen by people who wake up one Saturday morning and say,” hey, I think I want a radio license.” Most people are introduced to it by another ham operator. My exposure came from an older gentleman who has now gone Silent Key, whom I actually met over the CB Radio. (Yes, I worked CB when I was in high school and college) Had I known what ham radio was back then, I would have definitely studied for my license earlier than I did, but as it is now I got my first license at the age of 20.

So this older gentleman, whose name was Nelson, brought up the topic of Ham Radio one day, so I asked him what that was. After he explained it, we decided to study together and take our tests. I got my callsign of KC5HWB in July of 1994, and he got his just a couple of weeks later of KC5JMY. Back then the Denton Club was very active, which I believe it still is, and we worked those machines up in Denton and Lewisville areas. The main repeater I was on during that time was the N5GEJ repeater at the Texas Instruments plant in Lewisville on 145.170MHz.

So how did you hear about Ham Radio? Who do you have to thank for finding this cool hobby for you?

Jason Johnston, KC5HWB, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Texas, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

20 Responses to “Who introduced you to ham radio?”

  • Danny de PD3X:

    My Father. He was no HAM or CB operator, but in some way he was “into” radio and electronics. He tought me once, I must have been seven or so, how to build a three component crystal receiver. Coil, variable condensor and a crystal with tweezer. Plus an earplug (high impedance headphones were too expensive in those days). The curtain rail served as antenna.

    That was when the HAM seed was planted. Later on I started building other electronic components and by coincidence I got familiar with transmitters, illegally that is. After 40 years of piracy I finally went for my license. I should have done that 40 years ago 🙂

  • Dave W. W8EIR:

    I always had a fascination with SWL, and had a friend who’s dad had a Zenith SWL radio. We’d spend hours during the summer listening to VOA, BBC and other bizarre signals. Fast forward 10 years and I picked up a copy of CQ and 73 magazines from a book store and the rest of was history. I got my novice license in 1988, and last year in April I finally upgraded to General and now studying for Extra.

  • Pete K4BKD:

    In 1959, my family moved and I joined a new boy scout troop. At the first meeting I attended, the scoutmasters son and another scout gave a ham radio demo. The scoutmasters son was in the same grade as me so we became good friends. Also the father of the boy who lived across the street from us was an old time ham with a big rig in his basement. I wound up getting my Novice in July, 1959 and have been at it since!! I still speak to the scoutmaster’s son on the air!

  • Bill K3HWG:

    In 1963 I meet this guy (K3MWV)transmitting from his car on 6 meters. I asked him what he was doing and he told me about Ham radio. Well it took my 50 years to get my Tech and General license and 10 months for the Extra and VE credentials. Best year of my life. Should have gotten into the hobby 50 years ago…

  • Joseph Robertson KG7DTF:

    I am now 65 years old. I first learned of Ham Radio in 1962 from a neighbor man who listened to shortwave radio. I was taken by that old Halicrafters of his. Then later in High School another friend got his novice license and I spent many an afternoon with him. Just last year I got my first license this year I will get my general under my belt as well.

  • Fred AE2DX:

    I started as a SWLer back in the 50s used to listen to the hams on my Hallicrafters S-38E receiver, which I bought with paper carrier money earned by me, heard the hams talking mostly on AM back in them days which started me into QSLing, there also was a ham down the street from me with a beam on a telephone pole in his back yard and used interfere with out black and white 14 inch television back then, I got up the courge to go down to his house and he invited me up to the attic to his shack and the bug bit me but didn’t get around to getting my ticket till 1979 I learned the code and all but would have to travel to NYC to take the test which as a 13 year old was out of the question as we Lived out on long island. Finally in 1979 took my novice and passed then general shortly after, then advanced and just about 2 years ago took my Extra and now spreading the word to anyone who will listen about this wonderful hobby am now also a VEC for both ARRL and W5YI giving test about every other month.

  • Fred AE2DX:

    Forgot to add on my previous post, I just acquired a mint condition Hallicrafters S38_E receiver which works great and is added to my shack.

  • Ian VK3LA:

    My Grand Father was a Ham in the early 1920’s, not really interested in Ham Radio but rather what it might be able to do for the Victorian Police force of the day. He was largely responsible for the first 2 way radio equipped mobile police force in the world._ D24. He passed away 5 years before I was born but that is what got me interested in Amateur Radio initially. Several local Hams encouraged me to study for a licence including George Bollas the original holder of my current Call sign. A ham for 86 years, he became a SK a couple of years ago, I proudly continue his call in memory of him. I was VK3XID for 30+ years until then. A CBer for many years before that was my introduction to electronics along with training in Radio and Television servicing, Computer Hardware Engineering also.

  • Ned W8VFM:

    I was in grade school, the 5th grade, my folks got a Zenith console radio/record player. It had the AM, FM and short wave bands on it. I began listening on the short wave and found those small areas on the dial that was marked Amateur Radio. I found it fascinating and began to ask my father about those amateurs. He saw my interest and got me a crystal set for Christmas. One early morning I heard a strange voice on my crystal set and asked my Dad who that was. He told me it was the local radio repairman in our town, Mr. Kelly, who lived over his store. I sure wanted to meet him and see his radio, so one morning, I rode my bicycle up town and knocked on his door. His wife let me in and took me to his radio room and I was forever hooked, from that time on. Kelly, W8ZOO sk, encouraged me with some books. It took me several years, from that time, to get my first ticket; but I have enjoyed this great hobby for 59 years. I am very grateful for the Elmers who encouraged me along the way and for my Dad who saw my interest and took the time to help.

  • Don AE7QL:

    Never really saw a Ham setup till I got my tech in 2007 after a general who used to be my supervisor at work told me you could take the test without knowing code. Because I worked in commercial broadcasting off/on for 20 years…my hearing is shot and is hard for me to hear code.

    Head 30 years in the past living in the Bible Noose of Oklahoma and wanting to watch other VHF TV channels because the local channels wouldn’t carry some of the programming. Would take an old pair of rabbit ears…hang them from the ceiling of my bedroom and be able to pick up TV stations 100 miles away. At night…would listen to some of the Clear Channel AM stations in New Orleans/Chicago/Cincinnati/other places and wonder why radio acted the way it did. Along with others…I was always interested in learning why and seeing cause and effect…so I got an old crystal set from Radio Shack and could hear AM stations without plugging anything into a wall socket. Learned the answers when I studied for all three of my tests.

  • Larry Faehling KL7IBV:

    My father got a Philco floor model AM/Shortwave/Phonograph from from my mother for a wedding present (at least that’s the story). I discovered the shortwave band during a play session with the knobs on the radio, and had to have Dad explain what that was. It covered the 20 meter band which was all AM as far as phone went, and I was hooked. People talking all over the world without telephones from their houses? THIS WAS FABULOUS! It wasn’t until I was in the Air Force in Alaska in 1973 that I got my license (Tech Conditional), but it’s been a mainstay of my existence ever since. 🙂

  • Larry Faehling KL7IBV:

    I have to add something. Just after I got my Tech in Alaska, I was over to KL7CC’s QTH. He had a 125ft tower in the back yard with a humongous tri-bander on top, and various vhf and uhf antennas hanging off of it, most of which I could identify. However, there was a curious looking affair hanging off the side of the tower, having been clamped to it. I inquired what the heck that was. Jim looked at me with a smirk and said, “What’s the matter? Haven’t you ever seen a 40 foot gamma match for 160 meters before?” Still cracks me up after all these years. I think he still had a “6” callsign at that time.

  • Dave Pechey KD2BMU:

    I was introduced to ham radio by a friend who’s been a ham for about 20 years. He and I are both EMT’s, so he approached me with the aspect of ARES. I was interested and did some research on the hobby. I started studying for the Tech test. I failed my first test, but that didn’t stop me. With the holidays fast approaching I decided to wait until the New Year. I did a two week cram session. I took the Tech exam in January 2012 and passed. Took the General exam test in February 2013 and passed that. I’ve been appointed as the PIO for my club. I’ve been enjoying this great hobby and meeting new people. I got my son involved with ham radio, he passed his Tech in November 2012.

  • Larry VE8NX:

    Spent most of my long weekends, winter breaks and summers at my grandparents farm. We had a short-wave receiver with a wire strung out to the grainery. Sat up half the night listening to stations from all over. Quite a thrill back in the early 60’s especially when all the chores were done and it was freezing outside.
    Did not know any Hams but there was one little house on the way to the farm which had a slew of antennas and towers poking up from behind a hedge. Always wanted my parent to stop but we never did.
    Got to my mid teens and a bunch of us discovered CB. Much more civilized back then. We played around with our radioshack TRC-whatevers, learning some things and completely missing others. All our antennas were vertical but I had heard about a ‘dipole’ so got some basics and rigged one up. What a disappointment. Hardly worked as expected. Didn’t find out about polarization until much later.
    Spent some time in the army. Learned that you sure as hell did not want to be the radio op. a-it was heavy, b- the two people you were were trained to shoot first was the one yelling the orders and the one with the radio.
    Finally ended up on fire crews using the old spilsbury SBX11s and Motorolla HTs. Sort of got me interested again but it was’t until twenty some years ago that I joined a search and rescue group. Larry Stanley VE7AMK was on the group and I noticed he carried a HT so asked him about it. He was putting on a course so signed up and got my Basic licence. later Clint Izod VE7ALL and I became friends and he showed me quite a bit. So here I am… and with a brand new TS590 just arrived today 🙂

  • Gery KN5GLA:

    My son came down with brain cancer in 2009 and survived five separate operations — they got it out of his head but it moved to his spine. Ham Radio was going to be his window to the world because the cancer paralyzed him from the waist down. We studied together and I tock the Tech test and the General test for the first time last October – passed the both – he couldn’t get out of bed so he wasn’t able to take the test – but we continued studying together.

    I started buying equipment and setting up a shack that would be wheel chair ready – but things didn’t go well for him and he wasn’t able to keep studying – pain medication sapped him dry.

    On Christmas Eve of 2013 he went on to a far better place and on New Years Eve we had his funeral.

    I’m 70 now and just getting started really – but I’m going to stick with it in honor of my son and the fun I know we would have had together with this wonderful communications medium.

    73’s to all

  • john mann KK4ITN:

    In my fathers cabinet he had a old telegraph key and sounder. Mounted on a fancy hard wood base. I hooked it up to a 6 volt battery. It sounded like the one in the old lone ranger movies. From my boy scout manual me and friend Paul would send ‘secret code’ to one another. Paul got an old tank radio from WW II and we listened for hours to secret code on the ham bands. Finally Paul WB1CDE [now sk] got his novice and I did too about 3 months later. I was so proud of WB1HHW.
    From then to now we never had a microphone. I graduated to a keyer and Vibroplex dual key, but still send ‘secret code’ all over the world and love every minute of it.

  • W3MLK:

    My grandfather and my wife.. . My grandfather was not a ham but he loved to sit at the kitchen table drinking his coffee and listening to the local repeaters on his scanner. I would sit with him and listen too. He could tell who they were and what their call sign was. Years later I found myself doing the same thing. Sitting around with my wife listening to local hams on a scanner. One year we had a terrible ice storm and the repeater got busy with ARES and local hams picking up doctors and nurses in their 4 WD vehicles getting them to the local hospitals.. I heard one of them give the wrong directions to a development to pick someone up.. I was talking to the scanner telling them NO.. Turn Left!! My wife said I need to get my licence so I could help out in these circumstances.. With my knowledge of just about every road in the county.. So I did.. And became a member of ARES.. My grandfather passed away before I got my ticket… But I know he would have been proud to hear me on his scanner..

  • Don, VE3OOM:

    A friend VE8DP (formally a VE7 whom I lost contact) introduced me to ham radio when he was building a Heathkit HF set. This was back in the late 70’s. Over the years, I obtained my Basic licence than my Advanced. With his assistance I built my first and only VHF repeater. But back then to go on HF you needed your code, which I never achieved, so I stuck it out with VHF/UHF.

    After 25+ years as a licensed ham, I finally acquired my first HF rig this Christmas and am not looking back.


    Every day when finish my work day visit my friend David HI8DMM/KC2ECR we used to be friend in citizen band, hi introduce me on ham radio magic world invite me to a meeting on saturday at RADIO CLUB DOMINICANO, i meed to friend we i was on cb and i start in ham redio hobbie

  • Duane M Cook, NL7X:

    When I about 8, I found it fun to try to listen to distant BG stations, mostly hunting for R&Roll music from KAAY in Little Rock and KOMA in Oklahoma City. I lived in Sioux City, Iowa. I had a pretty crummy ‘All American Five’ radio. Then I discovered that people had old Zeniths, etc hidden in their attics. Some worked, some didn’t. I eventually learned how to repair them through library books including the ARRL Handbook. At the same time, I was SWLing. I had a couple friends who were also interested in electronics. We built Tesla cols and Van De Graaff generators etc. My first rig was a Wards Airline receiver and a Globe Scout Tx.

    Due to family problems,I wound up on and off in different institutions and eventually wound up at the Omaha Home for Boys Farm near Omaha. I had gotten my Novice ticket by then and later got my General. I had a chance to do to a Tech High school in Omaha and took Electronics Technology. Another student ham and I used Heath 6 meter ‘lunch boxes’ to talk with each other on 6 meters. I was interrupted after graduation by a vacation to SEAsia. I now have my Extra ticket, for about 35 years. I had help along the way from various kind Hams. I have to give BCL and SWLing and R&Roll credit also. I’ve been fortunate to earn my living as a Technician and Engineer for over 40 years. Ham Radio and Electronics have been VERY Good to me. I’ve been lucky to have Elmered a couple of Hams here in Alaska. Thanks to everyone along the way.
    de NL7X Duane

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