I had an interest in ham radio from a young age. I used to hang around Radio Shack and I would get the Heathkit catalogs. I would build some of the smaller electronics kits available but I could not even fathom how I would ever be able to afford an actual full transceiver. Another hobby at the time, one that I could afford, was model rocketry. I built, launched and lost more rockets than I can count. Fast forward nearly thirty years. Now I have kids of my own and I figure that they might like to fly rockets. I started slowly with the smaller kits and engines. The kids seemed to like to watch me fly them but not so much the building or chasing them down after the launch. Before long, I was hooked on rocketry again, whether the kids participated or not. The hobby had changed a great deal in the intervening thirty years. The local rocketry club catered to adults and adults flew very large rockets. So I started building very large rockets. Losing these rockets became an expensive proposition so some folks were building APRS tracker to install in their rockets. This seemed simple enough to me. The first hurdle in building and using a tracker was to get a Amateur Radio Technician license. I studied for the license test online and come the next first Saturday of the month I reported to the elementary school where the test was administered. After I was done, the VE scored my exam and reported that I had done well and asked if I would like to attempt the General exam even though I had not studied for it. This was it. This was the moment that I became hooked on Ham Radio. I took the exam and failed, not by much, but failed. However, the gauntlet had been thrown. This could not stand. I vowed to be back the next month to take the General exam again. The next day I began to study for the exam. Within a week I was bored. I had worked through all the questions in the exam pool and had them all memorized. So, what the heck, I started studing the Extra Class exam. Then I figured, what good would it do to study for these exams without learning Morse Code too? I still had three weeks to go, I might as well give it a shot. Fast forward three weeks and I sit down to take all three exams. I passed. I never did finish that model rocket tracker. In fact, I haven't launched a rocket in years.
One of my first activites in this hobby was APRS. I maintained an APRS weather station at my QTH for many years. I also maintained a Packet station. I had APRS trackers in my vehicles as well. Over the past few years, the fixed and mobile stations have fallen by the wayside. As soon as I was able to obtain an HF tranceiver and put up a modest dipole my interest turned to HF. I started out CW only and slowly progressed to Phone and Digital modes. Although I still very much enjoy CW, I must admit that I spend an awful lot of time with the Digital modes these days.
I like contesting. Just about any kind of contesting will do, CW, Phone, RTTY. I like them all. I like the rapid fire nature of contesting. Nothing beats pounding out dozens of RTTY contacts per minute.
Another favorite aspect of this hobby is QSLing. I like the online QSLs from e-qsl.cc and LoTW but I also really enjoy sending and receiving real paper cards. I have shoeboxes full of them now, all carefully filed by call area and suffix. The post office is doing it's best to make QSLing more and more expensive but I will continue to do it as long as possible.
I really enjoy making contacts via the LEO satellites. Rather, I enjoy the idea of making contacts via the LEO satellites. My ground station consists of a TH-D7 and Arrow Antenna so making contacts is a bit of a challenge, especially those evening passes over the east coast. I have had some success and will continue to try. I also intend to build a full-fledged sat tracking, high power, all-mode ground station one of these days.
Clubs and Awards
One of the first clubs I ever joined was the 3905 Century Club. I had googled 'cw nets' and their website was one of the first to come up. I started joining the nets to improve my CW skill and it seemed to work well for me. I have since collected many of the 3905CC awards on several different bands and modes. I haven't been very active lately but hope to put the 'TX CAP' back on the nets soon.
My interest in CW also lead me to the FISTS club. I really enjoy finding new FISTS friends to exchange club number with and earning new awards.
About this time I had learned about digital modes and the first digital club the I joined was the PODXS 070 club. I'm still very active with this mode and club. Most of the software I have written for ham activities pertains to scrubbing my log for PSK contacts to qualify for the various 070 awards.
After hearing many, many FB straight key ops out there I decided I had to get me one and along with it I joined the SKCC. I was hot and heavy with it for awhile and earned some SKCC awards. I still have the SK on my desktop and intend to use it when I hear someone calling 'CQ SKCC'.
I've recently rediscovered the TARA Awards program. I had been aware of this program through their fun and exciting contests but had not thought that I would ever have enough contacts to qualify for any of them. Fast forward a few years and I learn of a fantastic on-line awards progress checker by David Westbrook, KJ4IZW that will inform you of TARA awards that you may qualify for. I ran my now 8,000 QSO log through it and, low and behold, I qualified for dozens of awards and bars. Sweet!