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I took an active interest in Ham Radio when I was about 12 years old. My mother bought me a crystal radio kit for Christmas one year and I was hooked. I would first listen to the AM broadcast from the only station I could receive. My mother asked her friends for old radios that were no longer used and I quickly acquired a collection. I had one that had markings on the dial for all kinds of foreign stations but it did not work. Other radios worked but did not have those interesting dial markings so I decided to fix the defective radio.
My first effort was to take the back off and look to see if there was a filament light on each tube. I quickly identified one that was dark and then took every other radio apart that I had until I found a tube that had the identical markings on it. After replacing the defective tube I was greeted with sound from the speaker but not much in the way of shortwave.
At this point my father said I needed an outside antenna. He set about putting one up on our roof and running the wire into my bedroom. I could hardly wait to see what would happen. He also said we would need to make a ground connection as well. This turned out to be a short length of pipe with a wire clamped to it.
I was very excited to make the connections on the back of my now working radio and see what I could hear.
When I turned it on the radio sprang to life with so many stations that I could listen to and lots of languages that I could not understand. It was just a marvelous experience that I still remember as the highlight of my young life.
I would spend hours listening to shortwave and then I found the ham bands. Here people from all over the world would just talk to each other about their radios, their country, their families and how to build equipment. Once I understood I could build a device that would let me talk with these men I wanted to do it.
I built my first one transistor radio receiver in seventh grade. It used a 2N107 transistor and a loop-stick for tuning. For me it was a joy to use because with it I could listen to the BBC in England and Radio Moscow. All from right in my bedroom.
My mother arranged for me to attend a local ham radio club meeting and I was on the road to becoming a novice. I learned the Morris code and soon became a ham. My first real receiver was a world war two tank receiver that only tuned 80 meters. My first transmitter used an 807 tube and a borrowed crystal. It was a wonderful time for me to be able to hear my call sign come through a pair of headphones and know that my tiny signal was reaching someplace in the world.
In those days a novice license was only good for six months and then you had to go before the FCC to take a test. I went to Buffalo to take my test for general and then for an advanced license. At that time I could not take my extra because I had to be an advanced for at least a year before you could take the test. Now many years later I just never got around to upgrading to Extra.
During my time in the Navy I was a Radioman and never tired of copying code. I used my own bug on ship and still have it although I now use a keyer for CW. The Navy taught me a great deal about radios systems that allowed me to make a career out of playing with radios.
Eventually I worked for Harris, R.F. Communications. They made and sold radios systems in foreign countries. I was an international salesman and traveled the world selling equipment and systems. For me it was just turning my hobby into a profession. I could not believe my good fortune to have someone pay me to play with radios.
In my travels around the world I have held
two full time call signs. One in Jordan, where
I am still licensed, and one in England where
I let the license expire. When I could, I often
traveled with a much modified HW-8 QRP radio,
home brew battery charger that would run on
110 VAC or 220VAC, home brew antenna
coupler and a random wire that I would hang
out of a hotel window.
Many enjoyable hours were spent with that
combination. I also had a Ten Tech Argonaut
that was really high power (5 watts) but I did
not take it often as it was larger then the
HW-8. In the USA I frequently traveled with
the Ten-Tech and used it on sideband as well as CW.
I have operated from England, Switzerland, Iraq, Jordan, France and Canada. Each opportunity to meet other hams was always delightful as we spoke the same language. On one occasion I was in a meeting with several engineers in Latvia. The meeting was not going well until one man looked closely at my business card. He saw that I too was a ham (I had my call sign in small letters on my card) and the conversation suddenly went from business to ham radio.
We spent an hour discussing radios, what we had, our antennas and only then did we return to business. The flavor of the discussions immediately changed from no interest to one of great interest in the Harris products. I later learned that the engineers felt that Harris was a very serious company if they hired people who had technical licenses and understood radios from an operational point of view.
I later received an invitation to visit their factory and again we talked ham Radio before any business was conducted.
In the 1980’s Iraq was considered an opportunity customer by Harris. No one had ever visited the country and no one knew if there was a market for our products. I was assigned the task of opening the country and went for my first visit. It turned into a long series of successful visits that took me back numerous times.
While I was in country, I had weekends to myself. As I could not travel outside the city of Bagdad I began to wonder if I could meet the ham that ran the station at the University of Bagdad. After a series of questions I finally found out how to get to the University and using my limited Arabic, tracked down the operator, Majeed.
He and I became friends and I would bring in parts to repair their equipment. Much of their equipment was donated from other hams around the world because they had no money to purchase anything. Their situation was the topic of several articles that eventually allowed enough money to be collected to purchase equipment for them. However, when it broke, they had no parts to repair it.
Once I understood the problem I took to acquiring parts for them and in one case used parts from a Harris commercial linear to repair one of their HF linears. That evening was great fun. My friend Walter Hediger (HB9AIU) from Switzerland, did most of the repair work. Using what we had he rebuilt the power supply and repaired the tuned input circuits.
With some trepidation we fired it up into a series of light bulbs. Not much of a dummy load and no real watt meter but we had power and it was an improvement over running barefoot. Iraqi beer followed as we all celebrated the fact that now the station would be on the air using high power.
That evening Walter made contact on sideband with his friend in Switzerland and made the only CW contact from YI1BGD by whistling into the mic to complete the contact. Majeed said that they frequently received QSL card showing a CW contact but the fact was that no one at the station knew the code.
I spent many enjoyable evenings with Majeed and became the only American to ever operate YI1BGD. It was great fun for several hours as the pile ups came blasting trough. For once to be on the other end of a pile up was an interesting experience. The jumble of call signs, each competing for my call was a thrilling event.
I wrote a brief article about my visit for 73 Magazine and will post some of my early pictures once I dig them out of the archives.
Today I operate mostly CW and PSK-31 from my barefoot station in
Dallas. The HF radio is a Icom IC-706, the VHF and UHF radio is a
Yeasu FT 736 and I have gotten lazy with a AT 100 auto-tune antenna coupler from LDG. While I was formally very active on the satellites the Yeasu does not make it up there any more. Today it is used for the local repeaters. The HF antenna is a home brew multi-band dipole and the VHF/UHF antenna is a home brew collinear. I also have a small loop on HF (30 meters to 10 meters) and when time is available, I like to build antennas. The remainder of the station is in storage and includes a home brew Linear using 811’s, a home brew antenna coupler, a home brew phone patch, a station monitor scope, the original QRP radios and a custom watt meter.
The solar project has opened the door for me to convert the station to a completely solar powered DC system. I have a small battery and solar panel waiting to be installed.
This is on the list of projects.
I operated from Jordan using both a private station and the club station. While I was allowed to operate my own QRP radio, it was only two watts so the prospect of using some real power was too much to pass up. I also found that during field demonstrations of Harris radio systems that I could easily move a spare military radio over to the ham bands and spent several enjoyable hours in the desert operating from a mobile.
During one of my visits I briefly met the then King who was also an avid ham. I received a personally signed QSL card for an eye-ball QSO and a photograph from him.
Herb & Barbara our interests and family