Equipment: Yaesu FT-450D @ 100 watts is my primary radio; secondary is Yaesu FT-840. I use a 25 amp Yaesu power supply. Antenna for 40, 30, 20, 17,15, 12, 10, and the mysterious 6 is an off-center dipole, up about 20 feet, 1/3 directly under the metal roof overhang, 2/3 in free space in the back yard. I attribute the superior performance of my dipoles to the conductivity of my metal roof. I'm probably wrong, but it's comforting to theorize. On the other hand, they don't seem to work so well when there's a geomagnetic storm, so they're definitely not magic. Oh, and if they really were magic, I would be able to operate my pellet stove at the same time I'm transmitting. (Not possible due to the confined space in this house, and the necessary placement of the pellet stove, and the necessary placement of the dipoles in a very small yard.)
I have an MFJ 969 antenna tuner, and I absolutely love it. My primary interest is CW, so I have a Bencher straight key, a Bencher keyer, and a Vibroplex Iambic Deluxe. As anyone with multiple keys knows, there is a time and mood for each one. SKCC requires the straight key. Most DX requires the Vibroplex; casual chats suit the Bencher well.
Personal: Born in 1959 in Bay Shore, NY. Moved to Brooklyn when my father's job required it, in 1965. Lived there until 1977, then in New Paltz, NY until 1983. Back in Brooklyn from 1983 - 1990, when I moved to Essex County, NY in the beautiful Adirondacks. Married to Angela Estes; father to two wonderful daughters. Teacher, Grade 2. Fluent in German, Russian. Love reading, reading, and, oh, did I mention reading? And radio. And hiking.
I first got interested in radio back when I was very young. My family had a Grundig radio, and we listened to New York's power station WOR-AM, Every night at 10 my father listened to Jean Shepherd, and sometimes my brothers and I stayed up late to listen to the beginning of it. We wondered what my father found so funny.
Since he loved radio so much, and I loved him, I looked at that thing up on the kitchen shelf. FM - AM - SW, it said. "Gee, Mark (my brother) listens to FM; Dad listens to AM; I'll carve out my own niche and find something on SW, whatever that is!" is more or less what I was thinking. Soon I was listening to Radio Prague, Radio Moscow, and Radio Nederlands and swooning over the international mail I'd get, with program listings and QSLs and all. I knew more about the world than anyone I knew, and this led to a growing awareness of who I was and who I wanted to be. Radio would be the vehicle for my independence and self-realization as a teenager.
For my 12th Christmas, my parents got me a Realistic short wave radio. I thought it was the absolute coolest thing any kid had ever gotten for any Christmas. I read that manual over and over, leaving it propped up on my desk as if it were an award. It had all the short wave bands -- and I had a new way of looking at myself: I was an SWL! My brother was a guitar player, my other brother was on a canoe team: I was somebody! It was through that Realistic radio that I first began to explore the frequencies outside of the 31, 41, and 49 meter bands. I heard Morse Code, which I knew of due to two plastic Morse Code keys linked by a maddeningly short wire. They were my brothers', but I was the only one who payed any attention to them. I remembered asking my father what all that muffled noise was (it was Single Sideband) on the nearby frequencies I'd find. "Oh, Butsy, they're hams!" he told me. Yes, he called me "Butsy" and yes that's the first time I heard the word "hams" used in a context outside a holiday meal. Vaguely, I wondered what pork had to do with radio.
So I got my father to drive me to the Hall of Science in Queens (about a 40 minute drive) every Saturday for I don't know how many weeks. I sat and listened to some guy with grey hair and glasses explain what Novices needed to know. And we learned code. I got my license on the first try, at age 13. Next, my dad bought me a used Yaesu FT-DX 560, a Hy-Gain 5 band vertical, and a Boy Scout morse code key. He hooked it all up and I was totally hooked.
Then high school and teenage worries about girls surpassed my interest in radio. If I had had the equivalent of an SWR meter for my brain then, it'd have been something so high that, if I were a radio, would cause RF burns in the shack.
Fast forward through a significant part of my life to 1990. I reapplied for Novice and got it again. Only I was broke, and knew nothing of antennas, and now was living in a place where there was no Hall of Science; and my father had died in 1983. I couldn't figure it all out on my own. So the license was a source of pride, but little more than that.
Then, in April 2011, I looked up a local club online and emailed the contact person, who told me that there was a review session for those wanting to take the Technician test. I signed up, took the class, passed the test. VHF was never for me, so I spent most of my time using the puny portion of the Technician's HF spectrum. So two months after I got that license, I signed up at HamTestOnline and studied for the General. Fortunately, I got it on the first attempt. Yay for me. All this and a good cup of coffee or a bottle of Gerolsteiner mineral water: what could surpass this?
QSLs: I still write letters to friends by hand. My favorite music is from a time in which I never lived: the 1920s and 30s. I read books, not ebooks. So I like paper QSL cards. I think anyone who doesn't have a few hanging around is a sad-eyed cynic.
I much prefer paper QSLs, but I realize many DX stations have thousands of requests a month, so eQSL is also acceptable. Boy, would I not like to be a ham living in Liechtenstein.
By the way, I reject wholeheartedly the Logbook of the World because it discriminates against Linux users. Not all of us are computer programmers.
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