The first rig was a Hallicrafters S38D and a homebrew 6146 transmitter. I used a Straight key initially - can't remember what it was but most likely a J-38 but I quickly moved on to a Johnson Speed-X 514 bug. (As an aside the Speed X was a right handed Bug and I'm left handed but I didn't realize that left handed bugs were available so I learned to send with the one I had with the wrong hand. Later I changed to a keyer and continued to use the contacts the on the same sides as the bug. Finally in 1967 while working in the Seychelles Islands for RCA and operating as VQ9AR I decided to learn to send with my right hand so that I could write with my left hand and increase my QSO rate in contests. When I switched to my right hand for sending I reversed the keyer contacts!! I can today send with both hands equally as well but the keyer connections are reversed and anyone who wants to use my key to send with has a problem! ;-))
Band conditions, as luck would have it, were fabulous in 1957/58, the highest sunspot numbers ever and 15 meters was open to Europe and all other parts of the world everyday and sometimes all night long. I was able to find a Collins 75A-2 receiver for a very cheap price and my father helped me put up a 30' tower so that I cold get on 15 with a homebrew 2 element beam as described in an issue of CQ Magazine.
It was made from 2X4's and bamboo poles wrapped in tinfoil and taped so it wouldn't come off. I didn't have any coax so I fed the beam with TV Twin Lead cable. The transmitter had a SO239 connector for the antenna so I just stuck one side of the twin lead into the center connection and attached the other side to the ground side of the SO239. Gosh knows how high the VSWR was but I had no tuner or meter to check and frankly didn't know about that stuff. I really had no Elmer so it was all learn from experience. In any case with that setup I worked 65 countries as a Novice from the Black Hole of Eastern New Mexico!!! I would hook up with Bill W4ZV- then KN4RID, KN0LFY Tony, and another well known ham Scott KN0DQI, now K0DQ who went on to an illustrious career in the U.S. Navy and as most recently as the Director of National Counterterrorism for President Bush, on 15 and we would chat about DX. Of course Bill became the first Novice to work and confirm DXCC. I was always crystal controlled but made my own "VFO' by drilling a hole in the top of the FT243 and threaded a screw through that hole to increase or decrease the pressure on the galena crystal inside the case and move frequency a bit one way or the other! It was fun to hear a DX station calling CQ on, lets say, 21050, call him on 21105 or so and have him come back to me! I can't imagine why those DX stations tuned 50 KHZ or so off frequency but they often did!
I passed my General Class Exam in July of 1958 and became K5LMJ and the rest is History but it's been a great ride and a wonderful hobby!
Amateur Radio W4OI - W4AMR - HK1AR
LICENSED FOR OVER 51 YEARS
EX-N7BG, K5LMJ, K4KES, WA6BOU,
W6JPC W7HZF, F7BK, VP5AR, VQ9AR,
OJ0/N7BG, CN2BG, 5V7BG, TY5AR
9G5AR, TU/N7BG, ZC4BG, HK3KAV
HK0/HK1AR, and others.....
I've been to 103 DXCC Countries