welcome to my QRZ.com page. Here I'm operating station W6RO
in the radio room aboard the HMS Queen Mary, in Long Beach, CA
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ex WN6YMO 1967-68, ex WB6YMO 1968-77
A1 Operators Club - American Radio Relay League - Central California DX Club - San Joaquin Net - Strand Memorial Amateur Radio Club W6HKV
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DXCC PHONE #20,574
DXCC MIXED #32,484 - HONOR ROLL
DXCC CW #6,205 - HONOR ROLL
5-BAND DXCC #4,466 - ENDORSED 30, 17, 12 METERS
160M DXCC #2,275
DXCC CHALLENGE 2446 / 2418
WORKED ALL ZONES #7,797
ISLANDS ON THE AIR 864 / 839
5-BAND WORKED ALL STATES #2,552
WORKED ANTARCTIC BASES 31 / 31
AMATEUR RADIO LIGHTHOUSE SOCIETY LIGHTHOUSES 92 / 89
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1968 - Kingsburg High School, Harold Strand Memorial Club Station, W6HKV
16-year-old WB6YMO (me) in front, Robert WB6PPT middle, Rick WB6WKR rear
my antenna system, 14 bands, 13 bands rotary, 1.8 - 432 Mhz on one tower
shunt-feeding my tower on 80 and 160, vacuum-variable feed caps, 16 elevated radials
workroom off the side of my Shack where I build stuff and restore vintage gear
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LOCATION - Kingsburg is a small farming community on the banks of the Kings River in California's San Joaquin Valley. Originally named Kings River Switch, it is a railroad town created by the Central Pacific Railroad in 1872 when it built the San Joaquin Valley Line to connect Sacramento with Los Angeles. The famed Tehachapi Loop is part of the Line. Kingsburg enjoys an average 322 days of sunshine a year in a rural environment with low population density and no traffic jams. In 1900 Kingsburg's population was 94% Swedish immigrants, and that heritage is still evident in the blond beauty of the women and cleanliness of the town. The prevailing values are conservative and more like those in midwestern states than the big cities of California. Kingsburg is about 200 miles north of Los Angeles, 200 miles southeast of San Francisco, 96 miles from the Pacific Ocean, and 14 miles from the Sierra Nevada Mountains that include Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, and Kings Canyon National Park. In California it is possible to surf, trout fish and snow ski all in the same day. With three outstanding national parks on our doorstep we enjoy incredible recreational opportunities including camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, boating, water skiing, snow skiing, snowmobiling, golf, and shooting sports. The San Joaquin Valley is 27,000 square miles of the most productive agricultural land in the world, producing 80% of the fresh fruit consumed in America and several billion dollars in annual food exports. Kingsburg is home to Sunmaid Raisins, known worldwide for red boxes with a rising sun and a picture of a girl on the label. Raisins are grapes dried in the California sun. Grapes and raisins are major crops, along with wines, juices, lemons, oranges, apples, cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, almonds, pistachios, and tomatoes. There are also many large dairy farms and companies producing milk, cheese and ice cream. The sale of San Joaquin Valley food products is the strong foundation of California's economy.
EQUIPMENT - I'm active on all bands 1.8-432 Mhz and CW is my favorite mode. I enjoy restoring and operating old vacuum-tube radios, including several that once belonged to my Ham Radio mentors. The old rigs generate a lot of light and heat that cooks transformers and carbon resistors and causes them to produce an odor I call "The Smell of Real Radio." The glow and smell of these rigs is addictive, and modern solid state rigs seem dead in comparison. My everyday rig is the excellent Elecraft K3 Transceiver for HF/6 with DEMI transverters for 144, 220 and 432. The K3 does some things no other rig does, like true diversity receive with identical receivers and digital modes sent from a CW paddle. But more importantly, the K3 has no fatal flaws. The Japanese rigs I've tried had poor CW spotting systems, poor wave shaping on CW and digital modes that caused spurious RF clicks up and down a band, and full-power RF spikes on the output when keyed at low power settings. The K3 has none of these problems and is a great value with one of the best receivers in the world for a low kit price. Mine is the basic rig with no options whatever, yet has been completely satisfactory for heavy-duty dxing. The K3 is firmware-upgradable, computer controllable and remotable. It's simple to operate with relatively few knobs and buttons. It has two excellent CW spotting systems. It has audio equalizers on both transmit and receive that allow me to make it sound any way I want. It's modular so I only have to pay for features I need, yet can be upgraded at any time. It weighs only 8 pounds and travels anywhere. It's ideal for use with transverters since it has lots of transverter I/O and provides direct frequency readout on VHF and UHF bands. Along with newer synthesized transverters the K3 can be locked to an external 10 Mhz precision frequency source for outstanding accuracy and stability up into the microwaves. It can control up to 9 transverters and cover up to 20 bands from one front panel. On the other end of the spectrum the excellent audio peaking filter, digital noise reduction and fully adjustable noise blanker helped me earn 160 meter DXCC using only a shunt-fed tower as both my transmitting and receiving antenna. This is outstanding 160-meter performance from west coast USA without a Beverage or other low-noise receive-only antenna.
ANTENNAS - I live on a small city lot with very limited space, but my antenna farm works effectively on all 14 bands 1.8 - 432 MHz. Antennas for 13 bands are rotary, mounted on the mast atop one 54-foot crankup tower. All radiating elements are contained in a compact 46-foot diameter circle, which is twice the turning radius of my largest antenna. The heart of the setup is a much-modified 7-element Mosley PRO-67C multiband HF Yagi that covers all 9 bands 10-80 meters on one feedline. As modified it's a rotatable dipole on 80, 60 and 30 meters and a 3-element Yagi on 40, 20, 17, 15, 12 and 10 meters. Using the modified PRO-67C I've worked more than 2,400 band-countries in the ARRL DXCC Challenge, and my goal is to confirm 2,500 band-countries from my small city lot. Stacked above the HF Yagi are Yagi arrays for the VHF and UHF bands. On 80 and 160 meters I also shunt-feed the tower as a vertical radiator against 16 elevated radials. The metal yagis on the tower act as a large capacity hat and make the structure an effective low-band radiator.
QSL - I QSL 100% on request and use Logbook of the World.
I've enjoyed Amateur Radio for 46 years. When I became a Ham there were no home computers, no internet, no email, no websites, no DX alerts, no calculators, no cell phones, no handhelds, and almost no solid state gear. Radios were large and heavy, used vacuum tubes operating at high voltages with lots of heat, and often broke down just like our vacuum-tube TV sets. FM repeaters were in their infancy, and FM mobile gear using vacuum tubes took up most of a car's trunk. Many people built Ham gear from magazine articles, Handbook plans, or kits. Most Hams used separate transmitters and receivers that did not transceive, and it took a lot of work to put a station on the air and keep it operating. Only wealthy Hams or those with high-paying jobs could afford commercially-manufactured equipment. My friends and I used old gear, WW2 surplus, or kits from Allied Radio, Heathkit, or Lafayette. There were 5 classes of license: Novice, Technician, General, Advanced, and Amateur Extra. All required proficiency in International Morse Code. All Novice (beginner) operation on HF was limited to CW, 75 watts input (40-45 watts output), and crystal-controlled (no VFO allowed). For any license above Novice, FCC engineers tested you personally at a Federal Building. Knowledge of higher math, components and specific circuits was required. Tests for CW proficiency covered sending and receiving, and copy had to be perfect over a 2-minute period to pass. Failure of either the code or theory test meant you had to take everything over again after a 90-day wait. All this was a huge challenge that attracted me to Amateur Radio, and I felt a great sense of satisfaction when my I passed my General code and theory exams in 1968. There were many boys like me entering Amateur Radio at that time, and youth culture was evident on the air. There were thousands of boys operating CW on the Novice band segments after school. This was probably a result of the Apollo Program and the race to the moon that got me and a lot of other kids interested in science and electronics. To make my point, at least 45 boys in my small high school got Ham licenses in the 60s, and most later went on to work in some type of technical career. In high school I began attending radio club meetings, and I met old timers in the clubs who became Hams in the teens, 1920s and 30s. I cherish the stories they told me about Spark, the first vacuum tubes, the development of CW and voice Radio, and the incredible pace of Radio and RADAR development during WW2. They educated me in the original ways of Ham Radio and invited me into the Ham fraternity. They're all gone now, but I'm privileged to have known them, to have some of their vintage equipment in my shack, and their QSLs on the wall.
I’ve loved Radio since I was a small boy in the 1950s listening to the GE floor console at my grandmother's house. I love what Radio does and how it works. It’s magical to me that something I can assemble out of parts right on my workbench can come to life and bring me code, voices and music from all over the world. Electromagnetic waves fascinate me. When I'm calling CQ on a quiet band late at night I often imagine myself riding on my radio waves as they leave my antenna and traverse the ether, moving silently across vast oceans, passing over high mountains, traveling on into space. God created electromagnetic waves with all other visible and invisible phenomena at the beginning of the universe, but they lay undiscovered through the vast stretch of history and only found use in the recent past. Most people today take electromagnetic waves for granted, but they're a continuing source of wonder to me. The Bible talks about signs, wonders, and miracles. Wonders are phenomena including electromagnetic waves that lie undiscovered until mankind finally develops an ability to detect, understand and use them. It's my opinion there are many wonders yet to be discovered. Every time mankind thinks everything has been discovered, someone comes along and dumps the world on its ear.
My interest in electricity began early. I was a toddler when I stuck a screwdriver into the side of an ac outlet box with no cover plate, and after a bright flash of light and a puff of smoke, I turned what was left of that screwdriver towards my father and yelled, “Hot burnie!” I’ve been fascinated by the invisible force of electricity ever since. My interest in shortwave radio began when I was 9 years old and heard strange sounds coming from our neighbor’s garage. Mr. Long was seated at his workbench turning knobs on a small black box. He was a teacher at my school, and he invited me to sit down and listen to his "shortwave." I now know the black box he was using was a ARC-5 command set originally installed in a WW2 military aircraft. I had such a good time tuning signals on that receiver I got hooked on shortwave radio. Every time i went to see Mr. Long I spent time tuning his shortwave, and I hoped I would one day have one of my own.
When I was 11 years old I set up a telegraph system between the main and guest houses on our family farm. My brother and I tapped out messages back and forth using the code chart in the boy scout handbook. On my 12th Christmas my parents gave me a Knight-Kit Star Roamer Receiver kit, and it changed my life. It led me into electronics and SWL radio, then into Ham Radio, and ultimately into a career as a technician and engineer. The old Star Roamer still occupies an honored position in my Shack. One night I made a discovery at a place on the dial marked “1.8 mc,” and the people I heard talking there called themselves Hams. I went to the library and checked out every book i could find about Hams so I could become one.
It was about this time that my friend Rick got his novice license and the call WN6WKR. He and I always talked Ham Radio on the school bus, and he invited me to his house to see his Ameco transmitter and Lafayette receiver in action. Seeing his station in action caused me to redouble my efforts to become a Ham with my own station and callsign. Rick also introduced me to Charlie Heilman WB6GJG, a local ham that soon became a second father to me.
Charlie taught us about Radio and let us use his tools and huge junk box of parts. He had time to help kids like us, and eventually helped 22 of us become Hams. Charlie had a conditional license and could not administer my novice test, so he introduced me to our small-town mayor, Harold Strand W6HKV. Harold also treated me very kindly and worked with me until I passed the novice code test. Things seemed to be going well, but Harold suffered a brain aneurysm and died a few weeks before my novice written test came in the mail. I was devastated, but Charlie introduced me to Bob Henry, WB6DAZ, who gave me the novice written test, and after waiting 2 months I finally received my license in the mail with my first call, WN6YMO. Charlie bought an old Johnson Viking 1 transmitter (built from a kit) at the Fresno hamfest, showed me how to repair it, and let me mow his lawn all summer to pay for it. He was a fan of Heathkits, so he painted the battered old rig Heathkit green. I later sold it to a student at Cal Poly University. If you ever find a green Viking 1, I would like to buy it back.
In my novice life Ham Radio was all CW. I worked all summer to buy my novice CW station: the old Viking, a couple crystals, a military surplus hand key, and a Knight R100A receiver (built from a kit!). I often stayed up all night rag chewing with Rick and working the occasional state that came by on the 40 meter novice band. My only antenna was a 40 meter dipole. In a few months my first DX was KG6AAY on the island of Guam, and Charlie helped me build a 15 meter beam. I eventually worked another 80 countries on the 15 meter novice band, some of them very rare. The old Viking was made in 1951, the same year I was born, and weighed a little less than I did. I had to adjust 5 knobs just to tune it up. It was crystal-controlled on one frequency in each novice band with 75 watts input power to the 4D32 final. I still have a scar on my wrist from an RF burn I got when I forgot to kill the plate voltage before opening the lid and sticking in my hand, bumping my key in the process. I was a novice when transmitters could kill you. Every time I hit the key, the Viking sagged the line power so much it shrunk the picture on the TV set in my parent's bedroom. My father had to wire a separate circuit from the main panel to my room to supply MORE POWER. The Knight R100A receiver drifted so badly I put it on a timer so it would come on several hours before I got home from school. I later borrowed a National NC-270 receiver that was a much better performer (the first piece of commercially manufactured gear I ever used).
In retrospect, I was fortunate to become a novice Ham when I had to have the help of a local Ham to get a license. It brought me many great mentors and friends. The hams I listened to on 160 before I was licensed were gentlemen and a pleasure to listen to. The mentors who helped me into Ham Radio were WW II veterans who had been to hell and back, but they also behaved as gentlemen. They taught me that real hams are a special fraternity of people that respect each other and follow the Amateur's Code.
The Novice License expired in 12 months, so pressure to upgrade quickly was intense. 10 months after becoming a Novice I passed the General code and theory tests at the FCC office in Fresno and received the callsign WB6YMO. I bought a Heathkit VFO to make the Viking 1 frequency agile, and Charlie helped my build a homebrew kilowatt amplifier with four 811A tubes. I hit 15 CW with 800 watts into my 4-element homebrew beam and worked lots of DX, some of it very rare today. My new Vibroplex Lightning bug was my pride and joy,and my teenage life revolved around Ham Radio, Radio club meetings, and my Radio friends. Rick and I (by now he was WB6WKR, I was WB6YMO) had many car-related misadventures in high school, but Ham Radio tended to keep us out of trouble. Even so, we managed to roll his mother's car onto the side once, and I managed to wreck both my 1950 Chevy and my parent's new 1966 Dodge before I was 17, so my father made sure I spent my junior year on foot. Fortunately Rick had a motorcycle he was willing to share, and I remember I spent a lot of time riding on the back of it my 16th summer.
In my senior year I was elected president of our radio club at Kingsburg High School. Charlie was the station trustee, and we had the backing of our vice-principal, an avid SWL. Our club call was W6HKV, Harold Strand's old call, and the name of the club was the Strand Memorial ARC. Harold's widow had donated all of his equipment including his tower, beam, Galaxy V Transceiver, Gonset GSB100 transmitter, Hammarlund HQ180AC receiver, and his six-foot homebrew kilowatt. This was far more commercial gear than any of us had ever seen, and we had a great time putting it all on the air. Our school offered an excellent six-semester vocational electronics course, so by the time I graduated I had a solid electronics education.
The next year I began college. Another friend, Bob Dahlquist WB6KGF, was working the night shift as a broadcast engineer at KFRE-AM 940, a 50,000 watt station out of Fresno. He would soon be drafted and living "Hello, Vietnam" for real as engineer in charge of an Army broadcast station in Saigon. Bob's duty at the remote transmitter site was lonely, and he invited me to visit him anytime during the night. I often drove out there in the wee hours of the morning while fog blanketed the landscape. The site was near the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The 50,000 watt transmitter fed a 4-tower array in a large pasture, and miles of radial wire lay unburied in the grass. Elevated wooden walkways went out from the transmitter building to tuning houses at each of the towers. Walking the elevated pathways over the radials at night in the fog was a spooky experience. The walkways disappeared into the fog a few feet in front and behind you, and the radials sang with rectified program audio in a high, tinny voice. The big blue GE transmitter was a formidable machine that took up most of the building. Bob kept the 1940's beauty humming and well-polished. The power supply components were 6 feet tall and occupied a room by themselves. Everything was cooled by a huge blower that pressurized tunnels in the floor to deliver air into all sections of the transmitter. The moving air made a beautiful low whistle throughout the building, a sound I will never forget. I used to sit at the main console in front of this transmitter doing my college homework, with that deep whistle in the background and top 40 program audio coming from a speaker high on the wall. It was a great study environment for a young Ham, and I'm still awed by the memory of that transmitter. I didn't know it then, but it was very near the end of the golden age of Radio broadcasting, a time when real engineers attended transmitters in shifts 24/7/365. Sadly, like the great steam railroad locomotives of an earlier age, the time of the vacuum-tube broadcast transmitter had nearly passed. I'm glad I was there to experience both of these marvels before technology made them obsolete. Modern broadcast transmitters look like filing cabinets. Diesel locomotives have no charm compared to steam locomotives, whistles wailing in the night.
In 1972 I married my high school sweetheart, and by 1978 all of our 3 children had been born. Not too much Ham Radio during this period as we were busy establishing our home, family, and careers, but late in 1977 I passed the Amateur Extra 20wpm code and theory tests at the FCC office in Fresno. I was going to school nights and working days as an engineering tech for Sperry, and I taught Ham Radio classes at my workplace. Several coworkers became Hams, and I still enjoy talking to these former students on the air. Later I helped my wife and daughter become licensed. Helping others is something I do to honor the mentors that helped me. After Sperry I worked as an engineer at a startup electronics company, then as a hardware designer at a Silicon Valley computer company, and finally 25 years in Information Technology for several school districts. I semi-retired in 2011 but still do IT on a contract basis.
Today I enjoy working DX and talking with Ham friends around the world. Ham Radio lets me converse directly with people in other countries without governments or news media filtering what I learn. I also enjoy chasing islands, and I like to restore and operate old vacuum-tube gear.
I like to build and drive hotrod cars and trucks. Some of my projects include a Flathead V8 powered 1928 Ford Roadster, a Chrysler Hemi-powered 1931 Ford Highboy Coupe, and a custom 1951 Ford Pickup. I'm certified on most welding processes, and I can use most machine tools.
I've served my community during two terms on my town council, and four terms as president of my Kiwanis Club. I'm also the founder and current president of Friends of the Historic Kingsburg Depot, an educational non-profit corporation with more than 100 members that maintains and operates the 1878 Kingsburg Southern Pacific Railroad Depot as a living museum of California and San Joaquin Valley history.
I accepted Christ as my savior when I was 18 and experienced the thrill of God coming into my life. Since then I've served Him, the past 25 years as an Elder and Bible teacher at the Orchard Bible Fellowship Church in Kingsburg CA.
Best regards, and hope to hear you on the air!
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