Last Update: January 8, 2010
I have been licensed as an amateur radio operator since about 1978. My original call sign was KA5DUU until I obtained my extra class license in about 1990. I became interested in radio electronics when I was about 12 years old and this interest persist to this day. I can never seem to get enough of "radio" in general and this is very hard for many non-amateur radio operators to understand. But once the bug is bitten, you are usually "infected" for life. Even though we all use radio in one way or another in our daily lives it never ceases to amaze me how I can tickle an antenna with a small amount of energy from equipment that I have built and be easily heard on the other side of the world. Just the thought of what is really happening is amazing. Sure, we can all pick up our pocket cell phone 'miracles' and call just about anywhere on the planet but most folks don't have a clue what is really happening to make that connection. What happens when the cell phone or Internet "infrastructure" is damaged or gone? Amateur radio needs zero infrastructure to communicate anywhere on the planet. There is something special about generating your own RF and having it received directly by someone on another part of the planet. What I do several times in a single evening with homemade equipment with no fanfare was celebrated by ticker tape parades for Marconi just a hundred years ago, and it is still no less miraculous!
Amateur radio brings one closer to magic of radio then in any other means can. This interest is shared with many amateurs all over the world and when a contact is made with a far away station it can often be like calling an old friend being as you both already have something in common to talk about.
My radio amateur hobby and radio interest in general has been the major positive influence throughout my life. As a teenager my radio interest helped keep me focused and kept me off of the streets (well, at least during my skeds with friends in Australia ;-). My parents couldn't ever understand why I wouldn't stop messing with that dang radio stuff and they still don't. I have tried to get them "infected" with the bug but it just never took. My wife, Laura, earned her ticket as KA5SGM in about 1983 before we were even married. I think since she was already a ham has helped her understand my obsession somewhat. She has held the call sign KA5SGM ("Steve's General Manager") since about 1983.
I have three sons and they are all licensed too:
It looks like I managed to get the bug to bite all of them! Many years ago I showed my three sons how to solder and how to build a simple crystal set. My youngest son and I built a regenerative 40m receiver together a number of years ago. He insisted that the receiver be able to receive both phone and CW!
The hobby has opened many doors for me that simply wouldn't have existed otherwise. I obtained a third class radiotelephone license in 1981 and then a General Radiotelephone Operator License while I was a radio operator/technician for the coast station WFE from 1981 to about 1985. While attending college, I maintained HF communication with a fleet of about 40 ships belonging to Western Geophysical that were located all over the world. I had a kilowatt amplifier (8877), a 6.5 MHz monoband Yagi antenna at 150 feet, a quad band Yagi at 150 feet, a vertical, and several other wire antennas. That was a fantastic job but after obtaining my degree in electronics I moved on to explore other opportunities. I have since maintained a career in RF electronics that can all be traced back to ham radio experience at a young age.
The interest I have in amateur radio is varied. Amateur radio is really hundreds of hobbies in one and I have had interest in most of them at one time or another. My main interest is the science of radio and amateur radio has always given me a way for me to pursue this interest on my own without government funding, grant, act of congress, etc. I have explored the spectrum from DC to daylight. I've been active on at one time or another on satellites, microwaves, FM repeaters, HF DXing, shortwave broadcast monitoring, and VLF just to name a few activities. My favorite mode is CW (radio telegraphy). Presently, I spend my radio time building and operating QRP (low power) HF gear and experimenting with antennas. I find that I get the most "bang for the buck" (and time) operating QRP CW gear. A quick DX (long distance) contact on 20M (14 MHz) CW with a couple of watts of power and a piece of wire and I've had my radio fix for the day. I have been known to get on PSK31 and MFSK16. MFSK16 is kind of interesting to me because it only recently became available for amateur use. When I was a kid and long before becoming licensed I was tuning around on my dad's old Spartan shortwave receiver and came upon a very unusual signal that sounded like a piccolo. It was years before I learned what it was. It was a type of MFSK (Multi Frequency Shift Keying) transmission that at that time was used mostly by the British Diplomatic Wireless Service. It's pretty cool to be able to use this once mysterious mode myself! Interestingly, the Piccolo's last transmissions were supposed to have been in 1993 and the hams didn't start using MFSK until around 2001 but in 1999 I recorded this unusual Piccolo type of transmission.
With the lack of sunspots these days you will find me mostly on CW (radio telegraphy) on 20m and longer wavelengths so I hope to meet you there someday. CUL until then.
Alaska QRP Club #135
American Radio Relay League (ARRL) since 1978
Amateur Radio QRP Club International (ARCI) #9101
Antenna Measurement Techniques Association (AMTA)
Internet QRP Club (QRP-L) #1624
North American QRP CW Club #0057
North Texas Microwave Society (NTMS)
Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) #NW-089 Tarrant County
Straight Key Century Club #110
The NORTEX QRP Club