AK6GP Ham Radio

Formerly W6DEJ

My Introduction to Ham Radio

My name is Don. I was licensed in 1976, probably about 10 years too late. My initial interest was kindled more than a decade earlier in high school during a conversation with a classmate. I was invited to stop by his house after school in Philadelphia. What I saw has stayed with me all my life.

His station was set up in the corner of the dining room of a very small two story row house. On the table were various boxes with lights and dials and a microphone. He explained what each one did, but it was like a foreign language to me. But it made such an impression on me that from that moment I was determined to understand as much as I could about this hobby called Ham Radio.

He reached under the table with his foot and pushed on a pedal. Relays clicked and he spoke into the microphone. I think he was speaking English, but I didn’t understand a word. He removed his foot from the pedal and a voice spoke to him using his callsign, which I still remember today. It started with “K3”, which I now understand means his station is in the area of Pennsylvania or Delaware or Maryland. He explained that stations in different parts of the country were assigned a number with a prefix and suffix, all of which helps to identify them. Anyway, the voice that was answering him was a girl! She was in New Jersey and they obviously knew each other. He explained to me later that there was an after school net that met on a certain frequency. As he enlightened me, several other people joined the conversation. It was all very organized and formal, but the friendly teen kidding and joking went on as well. Each station took a turn and they hardly ever talked over each other.

Looking back after becoming more familiar with amateur radio equipment, I realized that he was operating a Heathkit AM station, probably on 2-meters, or possibly 6-meters AM. There weren’t many repeaters in those days. I’m pretty certain that his receiver was an HR-10, his transmitter a DX-60 and his newest acquisition, an HG-10 outboard VFO which added 2-meters and 6-meters to his station and eliminated the need for crystals.

While I was with him, I would hear a short “beep-beep” sound while one of the other kids was talking. He explained that it meant someone wanted to join the conversation. When the current station quit transmitting, someone would say. “Go ahead, breaker”. He showed me how to make the beep-beep sound by tapping his footswitch twice.

When his father arrived home from work, he told his son that he was available to help with the antenna. We went to the roof and I remember some wires and a vertical pole or two. I guess the exercise was to raise the antenna a bit higher. He said that would make it work better. The sun was getting low in the sky so I knew I would be late for supper. I called home, then tried to figure out how I would get there. I didn’t really know where I was other than the general area. I was used to riding the train and subway to school from the suburbs. I found a bus stop that had a map, so I set off walking in the general direction of home. I came across a street with a familiar name and knew it would lead me in the right direction. I caught a bus that got me within a few blocks of home. The whole time I was walking and riding my head was filled with thoughts of my first exposure to ham radio. I’m not sure I had ever heard the term before, but I’ve made up for it since then. I’ve tried a few times to find my old friend, mainly just to drop him a line and thank him for introducing me to the wonderful world of radio and electronics in general. His callsign is no longer in the FCC database and he is not listed in the Philadelphia area directories. I even figured out where his house was by memory using Google maps. He doesn’t live there. I guess I will never know what became of him. I hope he continued the hobby into adulthood and got as much out of it as I have. On the rest of this site you will find stories and photos of mostly ham radio related things. This hobby is a great one for a retired person. It only requires occasional manual labor (antennas) and you get to sit around and yack with people with similar interests about nothing important. Sometimes you meet people who are really interesting. Those contacts tend to balance out the ones that were not. You may find that my writing tends to be a little non-technical. I write this way on purpose in case someone like the 16-year old me wanders by. Who knows, they may be inspired to find out more about the hobby we old guys enjoy so much.