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Your Biggest Thrills in Amateur Radio?

Ken - NM9P
Ken - NM9P Member ✭✭
edited June 2020 in SmartSDR for Windows
Now that the ARRL Centennial QSO Party is over, and while we wait for new software releases, please indulge me for a thread just for fun.  I hope it will not be objectionable.

Reflecting upon the FLEX ad/picture depicting the thrill of discovery in amateur radio, my question is.... What have been some of your greatest thrills in amateur radio?

I will begin with some from my own list...

1) Building my own Knight Kit Star Roamer II shortwave receiver kit as an 8th grader before I got my license.  Listening to the Voice of America's "Breakfast Show" at night was a thrill that lit the fire of my interest in Ham Radio.

2) Discovering how to use the BFO and bandspread to listen to some local hams on 75 Meters.

3) Running home from school 1/2 a mile each day during lunch hour to check the mail after taking my novice exam.  After 6 weeks finally getting the letter with my new call - WN9OAG - age 14, freshman in High School.

4) My first contact... 80 Meter CW in the afternoon after school.  I still remember the name - Ettie Wells (Same last name as mine, no relation)  Hattiesburg, MS.  I was using a borrowed ARC-5 Transmitter and my new Allied A2516 Superhet receiver ($99 at Allied Radio in Indianapolis)  My used Globe Scout 65 that I bought while studying for my ticket had a bad resistor in the 6L6 oscillator circuit.  I fixed it myself with guidance from my "elmer" over the phone.  

5) Busting a pileup with a C6H on 6 Meter SSB as a sophomore using a 4 element beam I had made myself out of electrical conduit.

6) Doing code practice in my college dorm on a military surplus R-392.  Guys in the dorm thought it was cool, if not a bit weird.

7) Finally passing my General as a Freshman at Indiana Central University and making my first contact on HF (10 Meters was HOT in 1978) using a used Hallicrafters SR 150 and homebrew two band 10/15 dipole.

8) setting up my new hamshack in a spare bedroom as a newlywed, working the world on a Kenwood TS-120S and a Mosely TA-33JR beam on a chimney mount just above the roofline.  (I got the beam for $50 from a ham who was going through a divorce needing to liquidate his stuff).  I only used it for 6 months and had to sell the antenna due to a move.  Nothing but wires & verticals for the next 30 years after that.

9) My first experiments with solid state, building a 250 milliwat single 2N2222 transmitter.  Trying to squeeze out a little more power and blowing the plastic cased transistor up, leaving nothing but three wires sticking out of my solderless breadboard!  It only cost a nickel, and helped me lose my fear of dealing with solid state.

10) Hearing Owen Garriot from the Space shuttle on my IC-2AT handi talkie.  I was driving on I-37 between Corpus Christi and San Antonio and had the HT in a cup holder by the window.  I pulled over and jumped out of the car, waving the HT around to get a better signal.  I didn't get a QSO, but got my first Satellite/Shuttle reception.

11) My first homebrew QRP QSO using a two transistor 1.5 watt transmitter, still in the breadboard, keying it by tapping the wires together because I couldn't find a jack for my key.  Indiana to Florida on 40 CW.

12) Playing with Packet Radio in 1985 from Vincennes, Indiana, linking all over the state via the packet network, downloading messages and for-sale swap ads.  --  long before the internet got to be popular.

13) Helping start the Orange County ARC in Paoli, Indiana and building their first Amateur repeater, designing a record & playback IDer/Message board using a chip from Radio Shack.

14) Getting my first "Quality" or "competition level" rig - a Kenwood TS-850SAT - and doing some more serious contesting on SSB and CW.    I kept it for 20 years 1993 - 2013 until I got my FLEX-6500.

14) Being on the receiving end of a pileup on 6 Meters from a rare grid square in a campground in Yellowstone National Park.  Using a homebrew full wave loop quickly cobbled together when I found the band open.

15) Getting my first FLEX radio, a 1500, for Christmas two years ago.  It opened the world to a whole new experience in amateur radio.  I hadn't had as much fun in a number of years, in spite of all the other thrills I have shared.

16) Three weeks later, ordering my new FLEX-6500 and receiving it the following August (It was a tough wait) WOW!  and I got a new update every quarter for a year and a half, even getting to help beta test a SMALL piece of the CW improvements...

17) Using the new 6500 to earn DXCC, WAS (4 bands so far, and three more almost finished) and score very high in the Indiana state ranking of both the W1AW/p and ARRL Centennial QSO Points Challenge using SSB, CW and RTTY, and busting several major DXpedition pileups that I wouldn't have even tried with my other rig and the moderate antennas I currently have.

18) I hope.... this spring to get my T-11 Log Periodic up at 58 Ft. which will be my first major beam antenna at an effective height.

The new rig has put a lot of joy into an already joyful hobby for me. Thanks FRS.
Sorry this post ran on longer than I planned, but the memories just kept coming.

Now  What are some of your favorite thrills in Amateur radio?

Ken - NM9P


  • John
    John Member
    edited June 2020
    Mine was as a 10 year old listening to a top band qso on my parents old pye grammaphone hi set using a small portable sw radio to beat them together to resolve the donald duck sound. Funnily enough, working dx never appealed to me much and still does'nt. I care even less about DXCC et al.
  • K9DUR
    K9DUR Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020


    I see you were in Vincennes in 1985.  So was I (actually Monroe City).  What was your call back then?

    73, Ray, K9DUR

  • KY6LA_Howard
    KY6LA_Howard Member ✭✭✭
    edited January 2017
    Too many to Count Meeting JY1, being his guest and operating from JY1 Passing life saving traffic and being a net control during Katrina Saving in-laws from on rushing Fires Firestorm 2007 Net Control during San Diego Firestorm 2007 Firenet Chasing **** driver and vectoring police to stop him via 2M auto patch. Passing traffic to British Navy to help vector them to yacht under attack in South Atlantic First computer to computer QSO in 1958 and winning college scholarships and early entrance to college Operating from more than 60 countries. Making good friends all over the world. 2M SSB QSO from Portugal mountain top to UK in 1970 Reuniting an average of 50 lost children each year at Miramar Air Show Running my first VE session Beating the City of San Diego in Court and at Planning Commission over antennas Winning monetary judgements against NIMBY neighbors and City Attending Hamfests all over the world. Winning contests Passing final CW exam, screwing key to Lead Brick from nuclear reactor and throwing it into Lake Ontario Being the first one to break any pileup Creating Doppler shift detector and tracking down jammers Owning Serial #1 of SteppIR MonstIR, Alpha374 and Signal One I could go on and on but I have to drive to LAX now
  • Ted  WA3AER
    Ted WA3AER Member
    edited July 2015
    I'll limit my response to 2 pivotal moments in my Amateur Radio career: 1. Getting my Tech License in 1963 and operating the homebrew 6M transmitter I built from scratch; and 2. Getting re-licensed in 2009 after a 40 year hiatus and operating a Flex 3000. It was the affordable Flex 3000 SDR that catalyzed my decision to become re-licensed, this time as an Extra Class licensee.
    Thankfully my original call had not been claimed, so I am rejoined with my alter ego, WA3AER. Anything else would be like changing my name.

    Ted   WA3AER
  • Bill -VA3WTB
    Bill -VA3WTB Member ✭✭✭
    edited February 2018
    Ken, I would have to say my thrills have been each time I bought a new radio, and it didn't need to be new. All 15 of them. I won't list them.The one that's been the most fun has been the Flex 3000. I suppose if we were to think of what our next big thrill will be? it would be when I bring my Flex 6500 home and say to my wife, look dear what I bought home for the family!!.........not.

    Bill va3wtb
  • Ken - NM9P
    Ken - NM9P Member ✭✭
    edited December 2016
    I was WB9OAG back then, from 1975 - 1986.  I used to talk to you and Dave Crockett, WA9ZCE, some back then.  Also with WA9SZL and the Marion County ARES/CD storm spotter's net in Indianapolis on .16/.76 repeater before that when I was in college and as a newlywed living in Greenfield.

    I upgraded to Extra in 1986 and received the NM9P call.  It took about three weeks to learn how to say it without stumbling all over myself.  But it does sound nice on CW!
  • Ken - NM9P
    Ken - NM9P Member ✭✭
    edited December 2016
    That reminds me of, as a 7th grader, **** sticking my transistor radio until I could receive some short wave broadcasts on it, probably on a harmonic of the oscillator.  That was a magical feeling.

    I should have also added to my list the magical experience of hearing stations for the first time on my first home-built receiver.  Home-brew is cool!
  • Neil K2NF
    Neil K2NF Member ✭✭
    edited March 2015
    At age 15 in 1965 , I was WA3GAD living  in Patuxent River MD. I used to regularly stay up all night running phone patches to wives and families on the East coast for the US Navy guys ( KC4USN ) stationed at the South Pole. I will never forget how excited those family folks got when they answered the phone and heard me say - "Hello, I am an amateur radio operator and I have ( name ) on the line for you. " Still is the biggest thrill I have ever had in 50 years of hamming.
  • Dave - W6OVP
    Dave - W6OVP Member ✭✭
    edited June 2017
    In 1954, using my Heathkit AT-1 feeding a too short and mistuned end fed wire up 15', calling CQ 80 for many days with the only xtal I had, I heard my call coming back on that little Philco bedside radio with a loopstick detuned for 80 Meters. There was no BFO of course, but my call WN0ZSR thumping out of the speaker was unmistakeable. It was my first contact; 140 miles and into the next state. Ham Radio doesn't get any better than this!

    That flame burned hot for 40 years producing all the thrills that go with it. Then last year, after a 20 year hiatus, I tossed a random wire out the window and dug out the old TS-530S to try and receive some PSK-31 whatever that was. WOW! Look at that waterfall on the screen! Things must have changed in the past 20 years. The flame was lit again!

    That flame demanded a rebuild of the old broken G5RV in the barn to try and send some PSK-31. A Peaberry V2 SDR soon appeared, then a long overdue Extra Class License. Then a FLEX 1500, and a FLEX 3000, and now a FLEX 6300.

    It looks like the old Quad in the barn is about to be reassembled and that old 10' roof tripod rebuilt and repainted to hold it. The thrill is back!
  • James T. Whitehead
    James T. Whitehead Member ✭✭
    edited January 2015
    Thank you Ken for the wonderful history tour - well done and interesting!! I have only been a Ham for 3 years - loving learning from a Veteran!! In my short history I have tried quite a few radios and then sold them - bought 2 6500's and I know these are keepers. All the best and 73 Jim KK4JTW
  • Ken - NM9P
    Ken - NM9P Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Another memory... Back in the day it was required to log every transmission or QSO.  SO if you called CQ and didn't get an answer or called another station and were not successful,you still were required to log it.

    As a newly licensed Novice, I filled out three pages of log book before I ever made a QSO!  Then I discovered that my Globe Scout 65 had a bad bias resister in the oscillator.  It was transmitting with 75 Watts SOMEWHERE, but apparently on a parasitic frequency, not on the frequency of my crystal.  After repairing it, l lived three months in fear of getting the dreaded "pink slip" from the FCC.  I was sure that I had jammed some important military frequency.

    It could have been worse...I met a ham in Corpus Christi who got three pink slips before he got his first QSL card!

    Ken - NM9P
  • KY6LA_Howard
    KY6LA_Howard Member ✭✭✭
    edited January 2017
    Before I was a ham, building a crystal radio and actually hearing Hockey Night in Canada without my parents knowing I had a radio in my room.
  • N7CXI
    N7CXI Member ✭✭
    edited August 2018
    I'm with Howard. Building a crystal set and getting to listen to late night radio without my parents knowing.

  • Mike NN9DD
    Mike NN9DD Member ✭✭
    edited October 2019
    I would say my first contact when I was licensed in 1982, which was KC4AAA south pole station. Not a bad first QSO and I have enjoyed most every moment since. I only wish I had the radio I have now (6500) when I had the 4 acres and the antennas in AZ in the mid 90s. It's a great hobby and with this radio I log on everyday looking for the next great moment. Mike N9DFD
  • John
    John Member
    edited June 2018
    Back in ZS land when I was young I used to hide a small portable radio under my pillow and listen to the then infamous springbok radio.
  • Jay Nation
    Jay Nation Member ✭✭
    edited May 2019
    It was that tower on BlueBerry Hill.

    But all of those vows we made
    Were never to be
    Though we're apart, you're part of me still
    For you were my thrill on Blueberry Hill

    I Swear I never knew that the hill was Deed Restricted!

    Some of you are humming something right now.
    Or will be before long.
  • Mike_WB8CXO
    Mike_WB8CXO Member ✭✭
    edited February 2017
    Good grief... I feel like a ham radio dud. Or did I just forget all the highlights. But... in recent times it is anytime a box from flex is delivered by UPS!
  • DV
    DV Member ✭✭
    edited January 2015
    Licensed in 1958, I've had many of the thrills listed above and a few others.  One of the biggest  was when the FCC examiner counted the characters I nervously copied at 20 WPM until he got 60 correct in row. I was now an Extra Class.  I had no idea what call sign I wanted until he looked at the list and said "Why not use your initials?" From then on my station's call sign was K0DV. After that, it took me 40 more years to get my first Flex 6700.
  • Jay -- N0FB
    Jay -- N0FB Member ✭✭
    edited December 2019
    Coming in 1st Place in the ARRL Rookie Round-Up (SSB) for the Tenth District in 2011.  Followed by coming in 2nd Place for the ARRL Rookie Round-Up (SSB) for the Tenth District in 2010.
  • Dave - W6OVP
    Dave - W6OVP Member ✭✭
    edited December 2016
    I used to listen to Radio South Africa and lots of other short wave stations in the 1940-50's from Iowa on a large tabletop RCA cathedral style radio. Will never forget the nice theme song with the chirping birds...
  • John
    John Member
    edited December 2016
    That was known as the english service. Springbok radio was a family radio station and the SABC archives service has restored thousands of tapes and can be heard at this streaming link http://www.springbokradio.com/AudioStream.html
    I also listened to LM radio and radio 4. Those were the days

  • Dave - W6OVP
    Dave - W6OVP Member ✭✭
    edited December 2016
    Site seems to be down now.  Do you know the name of that radio theme song with the birds? (Carousel?) Can't seem to find it on the net...
  • K2CM
    K2CM Member ✭✭
    edited September 2019
    I remember my first contact  across-the-pond with my little 6AG7, home brew transmitter running 5 watts input!  My call back then was W3ZIG.  I was crystal controlled (had 3-4 crystals for 80, 40, 20).  Back then if you called CQ, you would tune the band up and down to see if you were being called on a different frequency.  I guess that was split operation at its finest,
  • Tim - W4TME
    Tim - W4TME Administrator, FlexRadio Employee admin
    edited December 2016
    My Novice RX was so wide that I didn't have to tune to find the station responding ;-)
  • Rick Hadley - W0FG
    edited January 2018
    After 52 years, there are too many to count, but there are a few worth remembering:

    Building a crystal set with my dad and listening to it with the headphone under my pillow late at night.

    Building my first SW receiver, a Knight-Kit Spanmaster in freshman shop class and the thrill of hearing real shortwave signals when I finally got it hooked up to a real antenna outside of the shop basement.

    SWL QSLs from Radio Moscow, Radio Peking, Radio Americas on Swan Island and many others.

    Building my Knight Star Roamer & T-60 and my first Novice contact with WN9GYF.  I was WN0FYG at the time.

    Installing a supplemental 12v electric system in my first car, a '59 VW, so I could run a HW12, the summer following my freshman year in college.

    Acting as NCS for EastCars with an RME6900 & a Viking Pacemaker from our apartment in Forestville, MD while I was stationed at USNSGA Cheltenham.

    Operating as KA7CW from Hakata, Japan while stationed there.

    The Collins rigs; 75A-4 & KWS-1, the S-Line, and the KWM-1 I bought for $100 at a garage sale.
    The shack full of Model 28 TTY gear

    Getting my Extra and finally officially earining  DXCC in 1990.

    QSOs with Father Moran, 9N1MM and Tom Christian, VR6TC on Pitcairn Island.

    Applying for, and getting, W0FG at 12:01 AM, March 24 1995, the moment that the vanity call program went into effect.

    Receiving my 6500 12/12/2013!
  • Chuck
    Chuck Member
    edited June 2020
    So many neat stories here, a joy to read and see the many parallels of experiences.
    One of my biggest thrills in my  60 years of ham radio experiences? Wife just grabbed me by the ear and said: You pick up that phone right now and order that Flex 6500!!
    So I did, today, another experience added. Old kid in new candy store.

    First rig, used Heathkit AT-1 Homebrew plate modulator with carbon mic and two - 6L6's.
     Now a 6500, whew!

    King of Jordan QSO JY1 and K7UGA (Barry Goldwater), contact with Mongolia.


  • Ken - NM9P
    Ken - NM9P Member ✭✭
    edited December 2016
    You're not pulling our ear...er....leg are you? hi hi.
    Seriously... I remember the thrill when my wife said "Go ahead and order the 6500!" three weeks after getting my 1500 and seeing how much fun I was having with it.
    What a woman!
  • Steve W6SDM
    Steve W6SDM Member ✭✭
    edited January 2015
    As a newly licensed novice who got his license earlier in the year, getting a Heathkit DX-60 and HR-10 receiver for Christmas.  I could finally put my S-38 out to pasture - something that should have been done long, long before.  And I could take my old, chirpy home brew transmitter and pay if forward to the next guy at our school who passed his novice.

    I remember getting out the egg cartons and carefully separating out what seemed to be thousands of components.  Each day after school I pretended to finish my homework and then went diligently to work soldering and assembling.  All the while I listened to threats from my mother that if there were any soldering iron burns on the dining room table, I would regret it.

    The real thrill was loading into a 150-watt light bulb and seeing it glow as I dipped the plate on my 6146. Then, after correcting some power supply mistakes on the receiver, hearing CW on the low end of 40 meters.

  • John
    John Member
    edited December 2016
    Good woman are hard to get especially now days. Mine is also a darling who puts up with the shack in the lounge (small houses in the UK) and antennas outside. She says it keep me off the streets and out of the pub ! and she is right.

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