Amateur Radio

Although I have been active with shortwave listening since 1977, it took me a bit longer to get into Amateur Radio.

I saw some hams on TV back in 1977, perhaps doing some emergency communications. Since I was already into shortwave radio, it seemed like the natural next step was to get an amateur license. (I had played around with CB radio as well, when someone brought a CB to school. But CB never quite had the attraction that ham radio did...

Old Harold

Harold W6QET lived about a block away from us. He was kind of reclusive, and people say he drank too much. But he often stopped to talk to us, and encourage me to get a ham license.

I was invited over to his house on August 25, 1978. I listened to him make a few calls, and we made plans for him to help me get my license. But, they never materialized. So I studied on my own for awhile, using books and code records from the local library...

In late 1979 we moved to another town. There were a few houses with ham towers around, and I occasionally saw a few hams in places like the flea market, the electronics stores, or even at church, but I never got to know any of them. (Once in a while, we would drive through the "old neighborhood" for one reason or another, and I remember seeing Harold's antennas until at least 1984 or so. I'm not exactly sure when he became a "Silent Key", but the W6QET call has been reassigned to the Los Angeles Amateur Radio Club as of November 1996.

In any event, other interests (computers, shortwave, music, etc) and the usual high school travails kept me away from pursuing the ham radio license back then.


I was at UCSB between 1983 and 1987, but didn't know about their Amateur Radio club until mid-87, just as I was about to graduate. So I wasn't all that involved with that club, but I did go to a few meetings and learned a little Morse Code.


While at UCLA (1987-1990), I would occasionally visit the UCLA Amateur Radio Club. They had a nice station in a "penthouse" on top of one of the Engineering/Math Science buildings, and plenty of late-model equipment.

At W6YRA, I was able to communicate long distances due to the excellent antenna system. I got out as far as Alaska, Argentina, and I even heard a station in India, but the band conditions were deteriorating, so I don't think he heard me...

My own license

In early 1990, I decided to get my own license. So, I studied, and was able to get a Tech Plus license. The license came in April 1990 (e-mail me for my call!). I continued to study and was able to pass the General and Advanced written segments...but not the 13-wpm code. So I stayed a Tech Plus until late 1998, as job changes, and other interests distracted me.

In 1998, I used my train commute time to study for the General test and code. By December, I was able to pass both General written and 13-wpm code (boy did my arm hurt). A few months later, I passed the Advanced and Extra written sections (due to restructuring, I didn't have to pass the 20-wpm code!)


Most ham radio equipment (both new and good used stuff) is rather expensive, so I looked around for ways to get on the air cheap. Swap meets such as the TRW Amateur Radio Club Swap Meet were a reasonable source of equipment--as well as a lot of junk. But I did buy an old Wilson crystal-controlled hand-held radio. About a year later, I was able to get a MFJ "packet modem" (TNC)

At that time, my real interest was packet radio, since it combined computers and ham radio in such a neat manner. Using the HT and TNC, I was able to access a few bulletin boards and other local packet users, mostly on 145.01 mHz. There was even a way to access European packet users, through what was called a "wormhole". But I was limited to indoor antennas and low power, so broken connections, and the occasional inability to connect at all, were constant frustrations. In late 1995, I moved far enough away that I could not reliably connect to the bulletin boards at all.

In late 1998 I bought an Alinco 2-meter hand-held and started getting active on the local repeaters. In mid-2000, I finally made the "big splurge" ICOM IC706MKIIG, along with an antenna tuner and a power supply. I'm still limited to an indoor dipole for HF, but so far I've contacted stations in New York and Florida (from Southern California) Now I've heard stations from as far away as the Scandinavian Arctic, but I've yet to contact them. Maybe real soon now...


I took a couple of tests with the San Fernando Valley Amateur Radio Club back in 1990. But it wasn't until late 1994 when I joined. Even then, I wasn't horribly active until late 1997, when I went to my first contest (the club had access to a former Nike Missile site north of the San Fernando Valley, until 1999). After that, I got more involved with club events (Picnic, Field Day, other contests, etc). Between 2000 and 2005, I became the editor of the SFVARC's newsletter, The Carrier.
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