Your Biggest Thrills in Amateur Radio?

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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
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Ken - NM9P, Elmer

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  • nostalgic and future looking at the same!

Posted 4 years ago

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Burt Fisher

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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.
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George Molnar, KF2T, Elmer

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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!)
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John

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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.
(Edited)
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Tom--W4FAS

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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.
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Peter K1PGV, Elmer

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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.

Peter
K1PGV
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Walt - KZ1F

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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.
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Ken - NM9P, Elmer

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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  . .
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David Warnberg

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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...
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Dave - W6OVP

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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
(Edited)
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David Warnberg

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That waterfall for chasing DX is hard to beat isn't it?
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Dave - W6OVP

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It still makes my socks zip up and down!
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Tim - W4TME, Customer Experience Manager

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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".

(Edited)
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Walt - KZ1F

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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.
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Mark - WS7M

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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!
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Burt Fisher

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Doug Hall

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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.
73,
Doug K4DSP
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Jay -- N0FB, Elmer

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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...
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Mark - WS7M

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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...
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Greg

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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.  :)
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Greg

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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.
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W7NGA

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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 ...
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John

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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.
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Walt - KZ1F

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No Code -> guilty (I bet I get an email on that one )
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Greg

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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.
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Walt - KZ1F

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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.
(Edited)
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Jim Best

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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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Doug Hall

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"Sometimes when someone disagrees with a comment they let it go."

Really, Walt? You feel free to denigrate a huge group of people most of whom you don't even know (those who received their licenses without having passed a code test) but you expect anyone who disagrees to keep their mouth shut?

I agree with Greg and Jim. People have been lamenting the demise of ham radio for nearly 100 years. I have a whole shelf of QST going back to the beginning, and every few months someone writes in complaining that ham radio is going to hell in a handbasket. The CW guys blamed the phone guys, the AM guys blamed the SSB guys, everyone blamed incentive licensing, and now they're blaming the no-coders. But nobody ever presents any hard evidence to support their assertion that things are getting worse. And I don't think they are.

And if you disagree with this you can just "let it go" :-)

Doug K4DSP
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Steve W6SDM

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The lack of Morse code led to the demise of amateur radio.

Now, if we follow that logic, then amateurs should also have to pass a physical agility test, speak at least two languages, have a minimum four-year degree with post graduate work needed for complete amateur privileges, play the piano, learn to travel faster than a speeding bullet, leap tall buildings in a single bound...  then the bands would be perfect without any lids.  Actually, the bands would be perpetually quiet.

Removing the Morse requirement actually led to an increase in amateur radio licenses being issued, reversing many years of decline.  The truth is that new hams DO have to work to obtain a license.  And taking the Extra is no small chore at all.

I operate primarily CW, primarily DXing.  I see just as many jerks in the CW pileups as I do in phone.  I know my memory is fading but I don't believe there's a change in the lid-to-good-op ratio since I started operating in the 1960s.
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Burt Fisher

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My daughter got her license when she was eight, yeah that was really a lot of work when an eight year old can pass it.
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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I was licensed in 1958... if anything the Lids were much worse back then... by comparison the new guys are quite polite, most actually listen before they transmit., have clean radios that do not splatter across multiple bands and hardly anyone thinks that they OWN A FREQUENCY today... I think most of the current bitching is a result of Senior Moments - when we think about the "Good Old Days" and forget all the bad stuff that was around back then.

Frankly I am glad that the "Bad Old Days" are mostly dead and buried...
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Rick Hadley - W0FG

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I've been licensed 52 years.  I don't know where I'd start to count the biggest thrills...  Maybe my first Novice contact & QSL from WN9GYF (SK), the huge ragchews we used to have on 3970 as part of the informal Iowa Fertilizer Net in the 60s,  the pileup of JAs I couldn't work from KA7CW, when I was stationed in Japan (we weren't allowed to work JA nationals from a "military" station), my first Collins rig (75A-4 & KWS-1), upgrading to my S-Line, working MIR from my 2m mobile in '89, DXCC, getting the 6500, finally working TX3X....where does it end?
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W7NGA

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My biggest thrill was after inadvertently touching the 600 volts atop the 807 tube in my first home-brewed transmitter in 1964, that I was still breathing when I woke up on the floor! When you are 14 you are immortal ... and I can't say it didn't happen several times afterwards!
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Jim Best

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Congratulations on surviving that!
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Doug Hall

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And all these years later it's still true... too many "807s" and you end up on the floor! :-)
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Steve W6SDM

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My biggest thrill was receiving a QSL card from JE1XEE on February 13, 1967, confirming that my home brew 75-watt, rock bound, transmitter had actually allowed me to talk across the Pacific to Japan.  Until then, I don't think anyone actually believed that the gear I had so meticulously put together was actually capable of trans-oceanic communication.

While I have thousands of JA QSL cards, courtesy of the bureau, that one has a very special place on my wall.  It's the first QSL from outside the North American continent that I received.
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km9r.mike

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1. Novice tix (ka9ikp) and 1st cw qso after getting that tix in the mail.
2. Being an op in a w1aw/x centennial station.
3. Being invited to operate cw from a contest superstation.
4. The performance of my 6300.
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Alex - DH2ID, Elmer

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1. Experiencing the ham spirit and genuine friendship of my fellow hams here
    and all over the world.
    I value this more than all the technical improvements and accomplishments.
2. Getting my licence together with my wife, who acquired it just out of love and
    good fellowship.
3. Sitting at anchor in lee of a small island on the Norwegian coast aboard
    my Colin Archer ketch SKUA and making contacts with my wife and
    friends at home and being able to send them emails over the air using
    PACTOR.  A single-handed sailor sometimes needs company
    (and technical advice).
4. Having a problem with my Peugeot boat's engine in some lonely place in the
    Faroe islands and getting help from a South African ham who had almost
    exactly the same boat's engine.
5. Making my first full duplex RTTY QSO with my two big Siemens RTTY
    machines. They were loud and I loved their "electrical" smell!
6. Making my first QSO with New Zealand over AMSAT-OSCAR 10.
7. Making my first QSO with the ISS.
8. Getting a lot of help here on the forum.
(Edited)