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Your Biggest Thrills in Amateur Radio?



  • John
    John Member
    edited June 2018
    when I started aged 10, making and using a pair of tin cans and string stretched between my friend next door and myself, probably was the start of my fun. I later met an oldtimer sitting outside in the sunshine working on his 160m all valve equipment, which also caught my eye. I eventually built my first tx on topband which had a ecc82 and a 6v6 or 6l6 final. The only part I got wrong was wiring an on/off switch for the 240v  ac line, which resulted in 2 bangs and blindning flashes and lights tripping out. My father had to rewire the ceramic plug in fuse every time. Expecting the worst, the 3rd attempt, I used a wooden broom pole to throw the switch with a deafening silence following and upon opening my eyes, I saw the red glow of the tubes .
  • Steve Gw0gei
    Steve Gw0gei Member ✭✭
    edited January 2015
    Working kg6dx on Guam on cw whilst living in North Scotland as GM0GEI; then VK6PA at 20 over 9 on ssb - both on my favourite band of 6m. Working as far south as France and Isle of Jersey for hours during the big aurora of 13th march 1989, again from Scotland. Winning the team ssb first place in the uk rsgb affiliated society 80m contest last winter after competing for over 25years in it. Lots more recent successes in Hf and VHF contests, repaying efforts in improving antennas and station efficiency. 73 Steve gw0gei
  • Jay Nation
    Jay Nation Member ✭✭
    edited May 2019
    Beside the Blueberry Tower. My biggest thrill in amateur radio was...

    The VE test session, I was given the Technician exam first while another group was getting their code test, I passed that and was sent to the Code table next and was given the code test next, I failed it. I was 2 characters short of a passing score. Since there was a cross town drive involved, I asked if I could go ahead and take the General portion and get that out of the way. They said I could take any element I wished to take but that retests on the code element would require returning and paying again. So I took the General and handed that in and went back and sat down, the VE scored it, got up and walk over to the other VE who was assisting a blind ham with his test. he then walked back to the code table and spoke to the VE giving the code element to another group. He then walked back over to me, and said. Do you have time for the Extra element, I nodded yes, and he slid it in front of me. I finished that and turned it back in, and sat down,  I looked like they had finished scoring it, when the VE who had been scoring it handed it to the other VE's and grabbed a piece of paper off the table and walked over to me. Handed it to me and said what happened here? your copying pretty good then you just stop. then you start over and copy pretty good again. why did you start a new paragraph down there on the page. I told him I froze for a few seconds trying to decide on the character I'd heard, then realized they weren't going to wait for me to decide, so i moved lower on the paper wrote down my best guess skipped a space and on the same line began copying the code again. He smiled laughed and said to the Code VE, Tom where did you learn to count? You missed a couple characters, the last character on this line is correct the first character on this line is correct if you put it up here at the end of this word, those 2 characters are correct you have to score them that way. Doesn't matter if he copies Left to Right or Top to Bottom as long as he gets all the characters in sequence that he can. He got the Technician element correct, got the General element correct, missed one question on the Extra element, got enough characters correct on the code element to pass, And you want me to tell him to come back next month. Maybe, he should come back, he'll be an Extra and can help out more with the other elements than you can Tom. Did you want to stay home next month, Tom or do you want to correct the count?   

    I was grinning the whole drive home.

    So I'm a SlowCode Extra.
    33 years in the making.

    Only took 2 test sessions and 2 tries 33 years apart on the code element. 
    Now days it's easy to pass the Tecnician test.
    45 years ago it was hard to pass the Novice test, I never did hold a novice license.
    Never been anything but an Extra.

    Did I miss anything besides a couple solar cycles?
    Do I mind?

    That was my thrill.
    Oh yeah my shack is kinda kewl too.

  • Burt Fisher
    Burt Fisher Member ✭✭
    edited August 2016
    K1NNA and I as teens took his 6 meter mobile outside an apartment building on Halloween and told people to turn off their TVs (channel 2 was big in Conn.) and flash their lights, it worked.
  • George KF2T
    George KF2T Member ✭✭✭
    edited February 2019
    First time I heard my signal come back from space (1980 or so).
    Working HF packet while /MM around the world with my buddies back in Colorado (on 2m).
    Staring into the dial of an HQ-129X (late at night in my teenage bedroom). 
    That first homebrew three tube receiver that worked.
    144 days as VQ9TC.
    Climbing the 100 foot tower on Diego Garcia.
    Working meteor-scatter on 6m.
    Meeting KY6LA.
    That time I almost busted the pileup for K1OIK.

    (Okay, the last two aren't true.... but they could be!)
  • John
    John Member
    edited June 2018
    Passing the RAE exam in South Africa in record time and working via oscar7 for the first time.
    Working 2m ssb long distance from east london to cape town and to durban.
    Latest for me is owning a Flex transceiver 1500 and now a f3k.
    Building a rtty decoder using 4x 741 op amps and using a creed 7b in my room which kept my parents awake at night.
    Sending cw to my cousin at night across the highway using torches ( N7BHC )
    Building my first tin can phone neighbour to neighbour throughour bedroom windows. Building my 1st ecc82 and 5v5 tx which blew the house fuses a few times.
  • Tom--W4FAS
    Tom--W4FAS Member ✭✭
    edited March 2017
    I retired in May 1991 and wanted to get back into ham radio. My first purchase was an old Drake crystal controlled 2M FM rig. My son had just started his business(TDT.COM) and I was driving to Gainesville, Fl. To help him stuff and solder some circuit boards. It was about 2:00 AM and suddenly out of this old radio comes a crystal clear discussion between some engineers about some problems with an experiment they were conducting. I quickly realized what I was hearing was two astronauts in space talking with Houston Control. They wanted Houston to get the " idiots" on the radio who had designed the experiment. It was an amusing discussion. The rest of this story is that my son who I was driving to see and help solder some circuit boards in 1991, gave me a Flex 6500 as a Christmas gift in 2013. It was actually delivered about 10:30 PM Christmas Eve. What a surprise.
  • Peter K1PGV
    Peter K1PGV Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Wow.  You guys have some pretty terrific stories.  I have two very simple thrills in my ham radio experience:

    I came to ham radio late in life -- In fact, I just renewed my license for the first time this week.

    My first big thrill was passing my 5 WPM test for General:  After unsuccessfully trying to learn the code with cassette tapes and the like back in the day (put me off from getting my license), I tried again 20+ years later using the computer for practice and aced the code.  CW was something I thought I would never learn, but I did it.  I passed the General with zero wrong. I was so proud... I don't get to take many tests as an adult, and it was a great feeling to score so well.

    The second was getting DXCC with my SDR-1000 and an off-center fed dipole hung in some trees in my back yard.  The OCF dipole is still my only antenna, but the 1000 has succumbed to a 6500.

  • Walt - KZ1F
    Walt - KZ1F Member ✭✭
    edited November 2016
    Peter, that deserves a shout out! There is a special esteem I have for those that tough out the learning Morse hurtle. I think the hobby lost a lot when the FCC caved to the manufacturers and removed the code requirement. I had a similar experience. As a teen I had theory and regs down solid but couldn't get 5 wpm for love nor money. It took 15 yrs to get 5 wpm for novice/tech and another 2 to achieve 23 wpm for extra.
  • Ken - NM9P
    Ken - NM9P Member ✭✭
    edited December 2016
    I forgot to mention that thrill, too.  I had learned the code in the early 1970's as a 6th grader from my spelling book -- (so I learned it wrong, counting dots and dashes.)

    When I became interested in Ham Radio shortly thereafter I tried to find someone who would help me get my ticket, (back in the day when you needed to have a General Class Amateur give you the CW test and only then send away to the FCC for the Novice theory test.)

    I couldn't find anyone who would help. I actually had one ham in town tell me not to call him any more because he didn't want to be troubled by a young kid with questions.

    So for two years I played with CB radio in 7th & 8th grades while I read everything I could find about ham radio.  I practically lived in the 1968 ARRL Radio Amateur's Handbook that was in my Junior High library, as well as devouring copies of "How to Become a Radio Amateur" and "the Radio Amateurs Operators Manual."  

    Finally someone steered me to Lou Stafford - WA9TPZ.  Lou was legally blind, living on disability, and operated CW 40 WPM with an old railroad semi-automatic bug.  He could copy in his head at 40 wpm while carrying on a conversation with someone else in the shack at the same time.  He invited me over for some code practice and to talk about ham radio.  I loved visiting with Lou, his wife, Cindy, and his dogs - AD, DC, & Diode.  

    His dimly lit shack was a true old-timer ham-shack.  It was in the back of the house in what used to be back porch, now filled in as a spare room.  He had shelf after shelf of old electronics stuff against the walls, all covered by curtains made from old sheets.  His main station on the desk consisted of an old Swan 270, a single-band Heathkit HW-12 for 75 Meters, and a homebrew single-band amplifier with four 811A tubes.   The separate power supply sat on the floor beside the bench.  He always turned the power supply on with the tip of his foot while he cautiously leaned away from it.  (Occasionally dust, mouse hair, or other debris would cause the high voltage to arc when initially turned on, sounding like an M80 firecracker set off in the hamshack.  Then all was well.)

    On my second visit he said, "Let me see how you are doing.  See if you can copy this..."  And he send me some stuff and asked me to read it back.  "Not bad," he said.  I asked "So when do I take the test?"  He said, "You just did. Congratulations!  You knew the code, you just didn't KNOW that you knew it!"  

    THAT was a great day for a Freshman in High School.

    He sent for the test that afternoon. In about three weeks the theory test arrived. When I handed it back in, he quickly looked it over, just to see how I did, (which was technically against the rules.)  He told me that I aced it, so relax and wait for the ticket in the mail.  

    About 6 weeks later, late February, 1974, my novice ticket arrived. I was now WN9OAG.

    Almost 42 years and three upgrades later, I am still having fun.   But it never would have happened were it not for an "Elmer" who took his time to help a snot-nosed, nerdy kid get his ticket.

    Some of my greatest pleasure had been mentoring others, whether it is teaching an occasional licensing class, organizing a new Ham Radio club, or helping others brave the new world of ham radio, try out new modes, or learn new kinds of radios. Currently my biggest thrill is learning all I can about SDR's, Flex Radio in particular, and helping others take the plunge.

    I still get on 40 & 75 with some of the remaining members of Lou's old rag-chew bunch.  Occasionally I will identify "This is radio-free Washington, Indiana -- NM9P"  as a tribute to Lou.  He would often clown around with the gang at ID time -- in his unique high pitched, pinched-off Hoosier twang..."This is radio-free Greenfield, WA9-Ten-Pound-Zipper."

    Lou has been a Silent Key for a few years, and I was thinking of him this morning.  I hope I can continue his legacy as I "Elmer" others in the hobby.  

    73 LOU ES CUL
    SK WA9TPZ DE NM9P  AR  . .

  • dlwarnberg
    dlwarnberg Member ✭✭
    edited May 2019
    I'm what one would call a new HAM... what hooked me, just got my tech class license and had decided to get my general but was in no hurry... bought my first HF rig before getting my general (TS-590) and was playing, mostly listening on that little slice of 10 meters tech's can play in.. next thing I know someone from Australia calls CQ on 28.465 just as plain as day, yes I even remember the frequency.. I made that contact and I was hooked... less then 30 days later I had my general in hand...
  • Dave - W6OVP
    Dave - W6OVP Member ✭✭
    edited May 2019
    A little add-on---: Following that very first QSO with an AT-1, the 2 most "earth shaking" or defining moments in my 60 yrs on the air were:

    1) Visiting a ham on a cold snowy night in 1958 in a small town in NW Iowa and observing SSB in action via Central Electronics. I knew a corner had been turned and ham radio was changed forever. My 'new" used DX-35 and NC-57 were already obsolete!

    2) After being QRT a long time, seeing a PSK-31 waterfall and an SDR display from a Peaberry V2. Another corner had been turned, my equipment was again obsolete, so I immediately began selling off old iron and climbing FLEX hill to the current 6300.

    Dave  W6OVP
  • dlwarnberg
    dlwarnberg Member ✭✭
    edited October 2015
    That waterfall for chasing DX is hard to beat isn't it?
  • Dave - W6OVP
    Dave - W6OVP Member ✭✭
    edited December 2016
    It still makes my socks zip up and down!
  • Tim - W4TME
    Tim - W4TME Administrator, FlexRadio Employee admin
    edited March 2017
    Here are a few of mine.
    1. Passing my Novice exam and getting my ticket in the mail from the FCC
    2. Passing each one of my subsequent license exams
    3. First QSO as a 15 year old on CW with a 50W rock bound transmitter built from a 1950s ARRL hand book.  Nervous and sweating on the key.
    4. Discovering first hand that capacitors store a charge (and a big one at that)
    5. Building my first antenna and it worked!
    6. The smell of rosin core solder.
    7. My first phone QSO as a General (still nervous and sweating on the mic)
    8. The first digital mode QSO (RTTY)
    9. Hearing myself on a LEO down-link.
    10. Getting WAC and DXCC
    11. Every time I get a real QSL card in the mail.
    12. Winning my first digital mode contest (TARA Grid Dip 2003)
    13. Becoming a VE and watching new hams get their first license.
    14. Watching the sunrise after the first all-nighter at Field Day.
    15. All of the great friendships I have made as a result of ham radio
    16. Every time I get a note from a Flexer that reads something like "holy &$%#, this is the greatest radio I have ever used"  or "I have not had this much fun in my XX years of hamming".
  • Burt Fisher
    Burt Fisher Member ✭✭
    edited August 2016
  • Walt - KZ1F
    Walt - KZ1F Member ✭✭
    edited November 2016
    Nothing like the smell of rosin core solder in the morning...Smells like....smells like Heathkit. Actually, I built my first stereo amp point to point, so it predates Heathkits. That was about 15 as my Dad had to pick up the parts.

    I had a guy come out to set up a remote AO-40 station in our side yard...That was the most unnerving thing hearing yourself on a 2-3 sec delay loop while you were still talking. I understand AMSAT DL has a high earth orbit bird waiting for a launch. I'd cut down the trees blocking the sky if that went operational.
  • Doug Hall
    Doug Hall Member ✭✭
    edited February 2017
    I've enjoyed many facets of ham radio through the years, but the biggest thrills were probably:
    1. Running phone patches back in the 1970s for the guys in Antarctica into the wee hours while doing my high school math homework.
    2. Running a phone patch for a missionary in Ecuador to his friend in my town who just happened to be my high school principal. He called me to the office at school the next day and we talked ham radio for a long time.
    3. Helping my high school principal get his ham license and being his first QSO.
    4. Working aeronautical mobile solo from a Cessna 172 on 2 meter simplex and chatting with my high school ham buddies.
    5. Seeing my mom and dad pass their code and General written exams years after I was grown and married.
    6. Having my son surprise me one Saturday afternoon when he was in high school by telling me he had just passed his Technician class exam. He'd been studying and never told me because he wanted it to be a surprise. And the VE who administered his exam was an old college friend of mine.
    7. Hearing my mom and dad run DX pileups on 15 and 20 meter SSB while they were doing missionary and humanitarian work in a third world country.
    8. Being my son's (KI4TWX) best man at his wedding while my dad (W4LDH) performed the ceremony.
    9. Talking to my dad W4LDH on 40m SSB as I drove to work every morning. Dad died this past March and his QSL card is hanging on my wall. Fond memories.
    Doug K4DSP

  • Jay -- N0FB
    Jay -- N0FB Member ✭✭
    edited December 2019
    My greatest thrill was coming in 1st place in the ARRL Rookie Round-Up for the 0 (Zero) district in 2011.  http://www.arrl.org/files/file/ContestResults/2011/2011-04-RookieRoundup-V2.pdf  My call sign was W0AVE at that point in time.  This was achieved using a Flex 3000 and GAP Titan Vertical.

    I came in 2nd place the previous year.  http://www.arrl.org/files/file/ContestResults/2010/Rookie%20Roundup%20Results%20-%202010%20-%20Augus...
  • Mark_WS7M
    Mark_WS7M Member ✭✭✭
    edited October 2015
    For me it was passing my novice and waiting anxiously for whatever call I would get.  You had to wait for postal mail in those days.  I'll never forget seeing the envelope and opening it:  WN6TNM.

    Next was finishing my transmitter I'd built.  20 watts, tubes, crystal controlled 40 meters.  I was ready to go on the air!  I had my ticket, my transmitter, a vertical.  I plugged in my used Drake receiver and smoke poured out of the top.  Guess I could transmit but no receive.  I was bummed.

    I decided to build an Rx but it was taking weeks of after school time and it wasn't going real well.  First time trying!  I was kind of bummed about how difficult things where and my Dad showed up one night with a Kenwood R599 receiver.  I could not believe it and to my ears that was and always has been one of the best receivers ever.

    A week later I worked France.  I called CQ on one of my 4 crystals I owned and very faintly heard F9RM come back.  25W, vertical!  It looks like he went SK in 2011.

    Then it was the several trips to LA to take my general.  The code I had down but I kept blowing the test.  2nd time was a charm and got it:  WB6TNM.

    With my meager station: Kenwood receiver, vertical, 25W crystal CW transmitter it was the day I managed to buy a Kenwood T599 transmitter.  Now I had the matched set.  Still a small station but it was fun.  During this time I'd meet new hams and be floored by their gear.

    I saw a tower going up about 5 miles from my house.  Knocked on the door.  An older, rich gent answered and gladly showed me his station.  Collins S line everything.  BIG tower. GIGANTIC beam. He was hoping to pass his novice soon.  Sigh... oh to have had money!  But when he finally went on the air I pretty much had to turn off my receiver.  50W on a beam at 5 miles usually pointed right at me took my poor receiver to its knees and he usually picked my favorite freqs.

    In the 80's, forwarding HF emergency packet traffic after the big northern CA earthquake.

    And now finally, SDR...

  • Mark_WS7M
    Mark_WS7M Member ✭✭✭
    edited October 2015
    Well here is another:  Holy &$%#, this is the greatest radio I've ever used!  This for my little Flex1500.  I'll have another for you when I get my 6300 setup!  Thanks Tim and Flex!
  • Greg
    Greg Member ✭✭
    edited January 2019
    Taking a break from all the lids, frequency cops, intentional QRM, fights, cussing......It's actually been refreshing not to deal with all that just about everytime I used the rig.

  • W7NGA
    W7NGA Member ✭✭✭
    edited December 2016
    I have to agree. I've been a ham since 1964 and cannot remember anything like the poor operating and contention that I hear presently. Sad ...
  • John
    John Member
    edited December 2016
    We here in the UK have the european zoo, to deal with. Its really a shame that people are resorting to splattering, multiple carriers, and all the rest of it. With no real policing system in Europe, its becoming a free for all. Signs of the times.
  • Walt - KZ1F
    Walt - KZ1F Member ✭✭
    edited November 2016
    No Code -> guilty (I bet I get an email on that one )
  • Greg
    Greg Member ✭✭
    edited October 2015
    Don't know why you would bring that up except to elicit a response...but NO.  It's not how you got here, rather what you do on the air.
  • Greg
    Greg Member ✭✭
    edited October 2015
    That's funny....  My first rig was a National NCX-3.  Once my Dad saw my interest he brought home the Kenwood Twins T599D/R599D from Harrison's Electronics on Long Island.  :)
  • Walt - KZ1F
    Walt - KZ1F Member ✭✭
    edited November 2016
    I just finished having that same conversation with another member. My contention is/was when people had to work to get the license with higher equating to working harder, people seemed to respect the privilege more when all one has to do is 'study' a few practice exams, that's not working for it and when you didn't earn it you don't respect it. So, yes, I consider that a major contributor to the decorum breakdown on the bands. Sometimes when someone disagrees with a comment they let it go.
  • Jim Best
    Jim Best Member
    edited December 2016
    I was first licensed in 1965. There were lids then, there are lids now and when they shovel dirt on us they will still be around. Why not move on to constructive comments. My biggest thrill was learning I had passed the Extra exam.  73 all from an old guy.

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