• If you like antique engines, vintage tractors or old iron machinery, register and join us. When you register on Smokstak, please give complete answers and fill in the blanks. - IF YOU ARE ON WIRELESS OR SATELLITE, ENTER YOUR CITY AND STATE! NO ZIPCODES! All registrations are manually approved.

Why having "legal" and properly set up radios is very important (a CB/Ham cautionary tale - and it's true) - what can happen if you run 'illegal'.

len k

Subscriber
Last Subscription Date
12/12/2018
In the 80''s I drove. ~2.5hours to get to parents home freuently, used a LEGAL CB radio just to get. Warning of cop radar traps.

friend at engineering school WPI was a EE and a ham, let me use his handheld for a few days, meant to get licensed ,but never got around to it, and didn't get into ham
 

dkamp

eMail NOT Working
Most people have some sort of hobby... and with it, they have their own reasons. HAM Radio is no different... but it could be building model ships in bottles, or golfing, flying kites or RC airplanes, building street rods, long distance bicycling... casting tin soldiers for a giant layout model railroad track of some Civil-War Era battlefield... or bass-fishing, bowling, woodworking, expoloring abandoned mines in the Great Basin. EVERYTHING that one could classify as a 'hobby' has something to offer those who choose it, and they participate to the level THEY deem most appropriate for their circumstances.

There's no shame in having 'not gotten into' any given hobby, but I think it is important for a person to find their path through life in such a way that they can live without regrets... specifically... wishing they'd had the first-hand experience of something that they may have had just a fleeting interest in.

HAM Radio was one of those things for me, when I was 8 years old. During a cold winter night, I was sitting in my dad's workshop (primarily woodworking and Model A Ford restoring tools), with a GE solid-state AM radio that my Grandmother had given me. I had only a vague idea of what I was doing, but I DID recognize that once the power got past the transformer, it was all low-voltage, so I was poking around. I didn't know at the time, but I'd stumbled upon a section of the RF stage that, with the dial at 1400khz, I heard guys having a casual conversation... NOT the average 'AM Broadcast' type stuff. I fiddled with adjustments until it was loudest, and I found a spot on the ferriteto clip a wire... I promptly took it up to my room, threaded a piece of thicker copperthrough my bedroom window, all the way across the yard, and threw it into a walnut tree as high as I could, and went back in to listen. For the next week-or-so, I heard all sorts of voices, and noises, and I realized that there was so much more going on in the airwaves, than just Spike O'Dell at KSTT , Flappin' His Lips, and Playin' the Hits, with his sidekick Fran Riley [rip] on News, Weather, and Sports...

A few weeks later, I started tearing apart old radios, TV sets, 8-track players... anything electronic that was dead. I started learning what all those parts did... kinda... and at that time, WISHED I could've gotten on the 'internet', and found some guys that'd coach me through things like resistance, capacitance, diodes, and RF. Didn't happen, I had to 'check out' books at the Library (anyone remember those???)

Suffice to say, my local library didn't have SQUAT for 'real' books on 'electronics'. I found mostly magazines on 'hi-fi', and books on switches, light bulbs, and fuseboxes.

I DID manage to reverse-engineer the audio circuits of the stuff I'd disemboweled, and when I was 13, I wanted an electric guitar REALLY BAD. I'd been playing acoustic guitar since I was 4... but mowing lawns didn't make enough for that stuff. I made a microphone pickup for my acoustic.... glued it directly UNDER the bridge. I used a portable cassette player's playback head circuit as the preamp stage, to drive a pair of TV sweep tubes through a 'wrong' transformer, with WRONG plate voltage, very poor bias control, and a lousy homemade speaker. It didn't sound great, and it didn't run very long (sweep tubes are PICKY)... but while it was alive, it was LOUD. Oh... and it didn't have fuse. It made it's own fuse, though.

Over the next 13 years, I learned a whole lot more. Somewhere around my 15th birthday, I was delivering an exercise bicycle (I worked for a Schwinn Dealer... remember when Schwinn was a 'real' company??) and the gentleman was a Ham Radio Operator. I had seen a few magazines, and a catalog, and had no idea what it was, but he gave me a book... I believe it was 'getting started'. I read it front-to-back a dozen times, but I never got any farther, because I didn't know anyone that could help mentor ('Elmer') me forward. By the time I'd read that... the gentleman had either passed on, or moved away... the house I'd been to, had been vacant... the tower and antennas gone. Around this time, I found myself in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and on a challenge from the flotilla commander, I acquired a VHF radiotelephone license, and installed one in my dad's boat. Kinda like HAM Radio... but different, right?

It took another 10 years before the opportunity re-appeared. A college roommate was cleaning out a sailboat from an estate, and in it, was a Standard C500E... the battery would charge, but it didn't 'want' to operate... couldn't change frequencies, etc., so I called around to the local 2-way shops, and got brushed off 'till someone passed me to one of their shop guys... he told me to 'cmon over'... so I showed up in their parking lot during his lunch break. He figured it out right off the bat (it was in 'lock' mode). He handed me a list of local frequencies, he programmed in the 5 nearest repeaters, and told me 'Don't transmit, just listen..."... then gave me his phone number, and said "Call me tonight, then come here same time tomorrow.".

I did, and when I arrived, he handed me a study book and a piece of paper with list of test dates, local callsigns and names, and said "Study this. A week from this Saturday... be at XXX at 8:15am. Bring eight bucks".

I did, and I walked out of that place at 9:30am with a CSCE. Two weeks later, he called me on the phone with congratulations, and told me what my new callsign was. Three months later, I managed to squeak by 5wpm in a 'beginners' code test, so I was a 'tech-plus'.
 

dkamp

eMail NOT Working
Took me about two years of learning my way, before I took the next written exams. I passed the General and Advanced on same day, but didn't reattempt CW test 'till about six months later. I went in for both the Extra written AND another code test, nervous as ever. They started the 'warmup' period by handing out blank paper and pencils, started playing code, and told us 'just warm up- start copying code... it'll start fast, then slow down, so be patient, get what you can... They started out at what seemed like 40wpm. I caught a few letters here and there, it slowed down gradually, and I started getting more. About four minutes in, one guy walks up, taps me on the shoulder, takes my paper and pen, and signals me to get up and follow. I walked back towards the table, he handed it to a guy who looked at it, gave me a stern scowl, stapled it to another piece of paper, scratched his name on a piece of paper, tore off part, handed it to me, and pointed me out the door.

What I didn't realize, is that really wasn't a 'warm up'... it was a 'condition-altered' test circumstance. They started at high speed, and as they slowed down, they found the point where proficiency was high enough, then they pulled people out. They pulled me out at 35wpm. I thought I'd missed like... 3/4'ths of the characters, in actuality, I had not- they were random characters and signs, I bagged over 90 percent. I was expecting 5wpm (to get me into HF, and then hoped to test high enough to get General, instead, I went from 'Tech-Plus' to Extra in one shot.

Some guys see all the testing as an impassible wall, something they couldn't do, and as a result, they don't... and I think many of them kick themselves in regret over it. I've NEVER forgotten the guys that helped me along.... the first guy to talk to me on the radio... the guys who offered to volley a little CW, or sat me down alongside during a contest, just to listen to the crossfire of exchanges... or invited me along for an antenna installation, or a tower removal. There's many ways that I was 'born to be in to' radio and electronics, but those abilities would never have been realized without those who were already well-experienced in it, and helped me find that next rung on the ladder.

Two weeks, I checked into a local 2m net. Nothing really going on, a few comments about local weather spotting protocol, and the COVID stuff. After the net was over, everybody signed out and left, my radio was still on. I chatted for a few minutes with another local guy. After he signed out, I heard a kinda hesitant voice call out my callsign, so I quick wrote it down and answered. Had a nice chat, it was clear he was nervous, and admitted being 'new'... well, there's a special grace that comes from being the 'first contact' for a new ham... it's their first time, and I was lucky enough to be the guy to welcome them through the electromagnetic door into the future.

When this happens, I go back to my very first contact, and how I felt... and what that other guy (Kim N0RWS) did... he kept me on the air, calmly chatting about things. I did exactly the same for this new guy... for about five minutes, and he was already getting more comfortable... but he got a call and had to sign out.

And then I got another call... and again, it was a 'new' ham. He'd been licensed for over a year, but NOT had the chance to get on the air... he didn't have a radio, or the time... until very recently. I was 'first contact' for TWO guys on the SAME night.

And they're both great guys... both running lousy Chinese HTs, and both of them NOW have 'real' antennas, one of them has a brand new dual-band mobile in his basement, alongside a pretty nice HF rig. They both have lots to learn, but this hobby is a 'learning hobby'...
 

Power

Registered
A lot of what you said applies to me. I was always interested in mechanical stuff and electronics. We got our first TV around 1948. It had around about a 5 inch screen and around 40 tubes inside (really). I watched the repairman run a tube tester and play tube substitution, as I did the oil burner repairman, etc. But that is another story.

The TV repairman was expensive, so set might sit broken for a while. When I was older, I told my dad there was a picture on inside of wood cover showing where all the tubes go. I thought if I took them out and he took me to Lafayette radio to test them, I might be able to find out which tube was bad. I became the TV repairman. I took some radio theory books out of library, and learned what did what inside TVs and radios. I learned to stay away from energized IB3 tubes and to discharge second anode before going into that section. Sometimes I did not have to take tube out to test it. If the tube was cold, It was probably bad. The TV seemed to go a lot longer between repairs when I replaced the tubes, probably because the repairman may have used pulls.

Well, the grandparents heard about it, and some cousins, aunts... Soon I was fixing relative's TV's.
When the old TV was retired, I got it. I found that if I messed with the tuner, I could receive some aircraft and the county police.
I got a cheap key, made a battery powered beep, and started to learn code, because back then, you had to know code to get license. Football girls, college and life sidetracked that.
2009, I am in OEM, which has it's own station. The licensed operator was moving on, and there was no one to assign the station license to. They were upset, because it would be canceled.

I heard code was no longer required, and thought maybe I could pass the test. I googled it and found sample questions, and that there was a test nearby in 2 weeks. Most of the questions were on tubes and their functions, which I knew cold. Sample questions showed me I had to learn the band plan and understand some formulas. Every night I took some practice tests. The ones I got wrong, I looked up and figured out how it works so I would get the right answer no matter how they varied the question. The real test is multiple choice, so if you forget, you know one of the answers is correct, and you can work back. I was getting all the Tech questions, so tried General. When I got most of them, I tried Extra questions.

When you take the test, there is one fee, and if you pass, you can take the next one. On February of 2009, I took and passed all 3. Thhere was some surprise, and a lot of congratulations because I finished all 3 before many finished the first one. A few weeks later, my license came in the mail.

I became the station license holder, and the guy who was leaving said I must have cheated! He has been on the air over 20 years and just got his General.

I joined an amateur radio club, got a 2 meter transceiver, set up an antenna, did several field days, fully participated in everything, including talking to the space station, and teaching people who wanted to advance their license. Decided I do not enjoy talking on the air. Sold 2 meter equipment and left ham club. Keep license active so I can legally operate OEM and CERT equipment when called out.

I got my license at just the right time. Shortly after, they phased out tube questions and introduced solid state questions.
 

Archaeometrist

Registered
Boy, these stories bring back memories.

I remember a cb handheld (one of those ultra-cheap no squelch 50mw max models for kids) that I found. The case on it was broken, and the antenna missing. I rigged up a wire, made some adjustments, and found all sorts in interesting signals - some really creeped me out... sounded like waves crashing on the beach with a bunch of fast popping sounds every now and then. I learned many years later that I had been listening to a signal that Jupiter generates! It was really strong on that radio for the time it worked. I also started messing with TVs and radios... fixed an old B+W tube set (small one) and had my own TV. I also found a messed-up Heathkit ignition oscilloscope and got it running (could make some really neat lissajous patterns). Never did get a decent stereo working, however - until years later.

I was really interested in electronics, but not that much into radio - interested in computers and scientific stuff - digital stuff. I did get involved with CB (as I've related) - we lived on the Chesapeake Bay and I chatted with others on the radio - sometimes 20 to 30 miles away - clear shot across the water (mid to late 70s)! Unlike what came later, it was all friendly and useful - chatting with people in boats about the catch and weather, talking with people on the roads (about road conditions), plus general 'chit-chat' - I had several microphone friends. Then I made the mistake of my life and moved with my folks to central Florida (I should have known better - back then when we started getting interference and so on, it was always motormouths running power from central Florida - this county, in fact!). That's where I got involved in React, then Amateur Radio. You know the rest.

I got my Tech in 79, my general radiotelephone ticket in 80, my general a couple of years later, then went for my advanced, tried the Extra code test and made it to Extra in one day (as I remember...).
 
Top