(formerly WN2UIJ, 1965)
N4TL’s 1965 Novice radio history
Written December 1, 2010
It seems like I always have been interested in radios. When I was a young boy I would watch my dad would fix them. My dad had taken a mail order radio course after WWII. I read through all the lessons before I was 13 or so. I understood most of it. I was not able to understand inductive or capacitive reactance but volts, resistance and current was not a problem. One of my dad's friends was an electrical engineer who worked for GE in Syracuse, NY. He was the instructor in an adult night school class about radio. When I was in the 9th grade I was able to take the class. I rode with my dad's friend to Syracuse and back each week. I had to have a letter from my high school to take it. The book used was “Radio” By Markis and Markis. I still have the book in very good condition. We lived 20 miles west of Syracuse NY. I attended Cato-Meridian Central School from kindergarten to high school. My class had 88 students and there was no radio club.
In 1964 or so when I was at my grandparent's house in Syracuse, NY I found about two years of "Popular Electronics" in the basement. A neighbor had given them to my grandmother. I read all of them and found out about Ham radio and the American Radio Relay League. I joined the ARRL in 1965. I bought a handbook and a book on how to become a novice. I took the novice test in the summer of 1965 from a ham that my step-mother knew. I only met him that one time when I showed up for the test.
In August 1965 I became WN2UIJ. I built a transmitter from instructions in an ARRL handbook. The antenna was a "Gotham" vertical for 40 meters. My dad had bought a Hallicrafters S-107 short wave receiver which I used. I never made any contacts with the homemade transmitter. So I bought an Eico 723, 60 watt CW transmitter. I also purchased a Heathkit Q-Multiplier and SWR meter. Recently, I checked my logs from that period and found I called CQ from time to time with no answers. I answered many CQ with no answers. I finally made four contacts in early 1966 which were the only contacts I made while I was a novice. When it was time to upgrade, I decided a technician’s license was not for me so I worked on getting the general. I rented a paper tape code machine for three months and found it hard to do 13 WPM but I took the test for general anyhow and failed. It was very hard to move from about 10 WPM to the required 13 WPM. I discovered that I could learn the sound of the characters with a tape recorder. I would record a few characters at a time and practice copying them. After I knew the sounds of those characters I would add a few more. I worked my way up to all the letters and numbers at 15 WPM. The second time I took the 13 WPM code test I passed it. The code was and still is hard for me, the theory part is easy. I became a general class amateur in August of 1967. My call became WA2CQW.
I think if I had an Elmer or had there been a club in my school, I could have done a lot better while a novice. I started college in 1966 and did not do too much with ham radio for the next few years. When my wife and I were in our second house I was able to buy a better rig and put up a tower. In 1977 I made over 1000 contacts. I now wonder how much more enjoyable ham radio could have been back when I was a Novice if I had an Elmer or there had been a club to help out. Had I started with a dipole instead of the "Gotham" vertical, I know I would have done much better.
My Dad, his friend from GE and Ham radio got me started in electronics. My high school guidance counselor said I should become an electrical engineer. I did not know what an engineer was at the time but she was right. When I took the early electronics classes in college I was surprised that the other students did not know basic theory. I went on to get a masters degree in electrical engineering from the State University of NY at Buffalo.
73 Tom, N4TL