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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Ham Radio - Getting the license - getting on the air - Part One

Back in the mid 60’s, I would listen to my cousin W7ZQR transmitting and receiving on his ham radio every time that we would visit, which was frequently. I was fascinated by him talking across town, across the state or across the world to another ham operator. “W7ZQR, W7 Zebra, Queen, Roses transmitting in the City of Roses.” The knobs and dials and switches were amazing, how would anyone know what to do. I decided then that I wanted to be a ham radio operator. 
But, in the 60’s you had to know Morse code. There was the problem. Cousin W7ZQR provided us with a straight key with a battery and light bulb so that I, along with my brothers could learn. He also taught us how to build a simple wire antenna, using wood insulators, made out of wood from a fruit crate, and connecting it to a crystal radio. The antenna was strung between a tall cedar tree and a large oak tree. It was probably 20 feet off the ground and close to 100 feet long. The feed line was just another piece of insulated (if I remember correctly) wire that went from the cedar tree (which was the closest) to our bedroom. I came through the window and connected to the crystal receiver. The receiver was the basic crystal set with the “pick” that you “probed” the crystal with and the enameled coil wound on what looked like a toilet paper roll, that you moved the copper contact across to change frequencies. With a set of headphones, we tried to tune in the world. I honestly can’t remember if we (or I) ever heard anybody or not.

Fast forward to the early 1970’s and the Citizen Band Radio was becoming the thing to have. By that time we were in Boy Scouts, then Explorer Scouts and eventually a Search and Rescue group. I remembered that we have an uncle who lives in Texas (we lived in the Pacific Northwest) that was into radio stuff. My brother and I wrote him a letter and asked if he had a radio. Imagine our surprise when a wooden box came with a single channel Hallicrafters (think it was) with the “magic eye” tube on the front that when you transmitted came down from the top in a “C” shape and full modulation would give you a full green circle. We began to “build antennas” for this. Course not knowing anything about antennas or antenna theory, we probably blew up the radio and never knew it.
We then got a “mobile” CB radio from someone that we knew. It had a Cinch Jones six pin power plug on the back. We apparently gave our friend the wrong information, so when we put the radio in the car (1963 Corvair), it was wired backwards and we ended up melting a large portion of the wiring harness in the dash of the car.
There were various other radios that came and went, most were not worth much when we got them and certainly not worth anything when they left us.

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