I have been a ham since about 1967. Original Novice call was WN6YIR, and when I upgraded to the Advanced class this became WB6YIR. I had to take my ham test up in San Francisco on Battery Street. Code tests had to be passed first and then the written tests were given after passing the code.
After college at UC Davis, I upgraded to Extra class and obtained my current call sign AA6RE. It is short call but that last "dit" sometimes gets lost in the noise.
I work CW almost exclusively because I have a poor antenna system and operate low power, 100 W. In the past (up till summer 2012) the antenna was an old AEA ISO-Loop antenna mounted at ground level. I recently (September 2012) upgraded from an ICOM-735 to a Kenwood TS-590. The ICOM had been used for 30 years along with its matching tuner and power supply. The TS-590 has much better interference rejection and the low noise is amzing compared to the 735. I now use a buddipole dipole in the backyard at about 12-15 feet. It seems to work better than my old ISO-Loop ground mounted antenna but at 15 feet directionality is not very good. I have made QRP contacts with it and the new TS-590.
On ten meters and often 15 meters, five watts works very well with the right number of sun spots! QRP work can be a challenge, but I now have 49 states confirmed on QRP and only need Rhode Island for all 50.
I visited a JT-65 at a session at Pacificon. It was very informative on the technology and its capability.
QSLing and contacting DX stations are great fun. I prefer paper QSLs, but I am an avid user of LOTW too. Even with a modest antenna, I have about 225 DXCC countries confirmed and over a 100 each on 10, 15, and 20 meters. I need another 60 countries for 100 countries on 40 meters. I doubt I have more than six countries on 80 meters and just one on 160 meters. It will probably take a new QTH to have success on DXCC on 80 meters! For 17 and 12 meters I need about anther 20 confirmed QSOs each.
IOTA totals are now 218. For me that was harder than 200 DXCC contacts, and the island QSL cards are often very nice!
CW is my main operating mode and I use a straight key. I have a keyer but have never felt comfortable sending code with the iambic paddle action. I am looking for a smooth straight key. Now I use an old key with a big Navy knob. I would like to get a Begali key a try sometime, but unless they show up at Pacificon I would have to buy one without trying it out.
Below is my old antenna. As you can see, the AEA Iso-Loop was ground mounted and required remote tuning as it had a very narrow bandwidth. I could operate 10 meters to 30 meters with it though. It is about 3 feet in diameter.
I also operated with a Butternut vertical and was pleased with it but had to remove it from my lot.
Here is my operating station plus the cat.
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