Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Reality comes crashing down

In the months that preceded my upgrade to General, I scrimped and saved my money for a new rig. The Drake 2-NT and Heathkit receiver were good; but General class Hams use SSB ..... right? Once I had upgraded to General, I was headed for the Promised Land, the land of milk and honey ..... 20 Meter phone!

As much as I liked CW, I still had the visions of Ham Radio in my head that I had since I was a kid. Being a General meant sitting at the desk with my feet up and chair tipped back. There would be a microphone in my hand and I would be talking to all the rarest places on planet Earth! I would become close friends with people around the globe. A bit naive, yes, but old visions die hard.

I managed to save up some cash and bought myself a used set of Kenwood T-599 and R-599 Twins. I bought them from John Kakstys W2FNT who was for years an icon in the used Amateur Radio equipment market in New Jersey. A trip to John's basement was like Christmas, the 4th of July and Disneyland all rolled up into one - especially for a newer Ham!

After the license upgrade, the Kenwood Twins were installed into the place of honor on the operating desk. An Astatic D-104 all bright, and shiny chrome was to be the method of sending my voice into the aether. I turned them on, tuned everything up and proceeded to cautiously call CQ on the 20 Meter phone band. And that is precisely when all hell broke loose!

Unbeknownst to me, my family was downstairs trying to watch TV when I undertook my SSB maiden voyage. Much to their dismay, as well as mine, my voice made 5X9 into the TV! Walter Cronkite sounded like a weird Frankenstein Donald Duck thanks to yours truly! The picture took on a herringbone pattern unlike anything I had ever seen before! This had all NEVER happened in all those months of pounding brass! TVI had never raised its ugly head until that day.

Still being a relatively new Ham, with no Elmer (mentor) to speak of, I was blissfully unaware of the proper RF grounding techniques that would be needed to successfully carry on a SSB career. Some further delving into the ARRL Handbook as well as other ARRL publications gave me quite the education. However, working out of a second story shack made things all that much more difficult in obtaining the proper RF ground. Counterpoises of the proper length helped; but did not solve the problem completely. I was gloomily staring at self imposed quiet hours as there was no way the family was going to let my hobby interfere with their TV viewing. That's when it struck me! All I had to do was hook up the key and I could operate anytime I pleased! The plan was formed ...... CW during Prime Time and SSB during the off hours.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Hamfest. I took a liking to CW even more than I had before!. I ended up using it all the time after a bit of experimentation revealed that I was getting much more of a "bang for the buck" using CW. I quickly got disenchanted with SSB as my meager antenna set up wouldn't allow me to get out much. It became quite plain to me that CW was getting me scads of DX that I was never able to get with SSB. And CW was keeping my family from turning into a lynch mob out to get ME!

So it was quite by accident that I became the avid CW op that I am today. But it was a happy accident; and I'm glad that it happened. I've had the best time I could ever hope to have using Morse Code, simple wire antennas and QRP. I wouldn't change it for anything.

73 de Larry W2LJ

2 comments:

bob h. said...

Thank you for these stories. I find them inspiring as a I study for my Technician license.

Larry W2LJ said...

Good luck on getting your ticket! I'm glad that you're getting some enjoyment out of these posts.
73 de Larry W2LJ