The AA7BQ Shack - HRD 6.0 with a Flex 5000A radio running on Windows 7 x64, and a Mac Pro 2008 main system.
Back in 1992 I was part of an Internet news group called rec.radio.amateur where I learned a great deal from reading messages posted by other hams around the world. At the time, there was no World Wide Web and the Internet was mostly just email, news groups, and FTP downloads. A group of guys mentioned that one could buy the USA callsign database from the government for about $700, but it was a price that few were willing to pay. This got me to thinking, "what if someone bought a copy and then split it with enough people to recover the cost?". Well, I did exactly that and before I knew it I was making copies on digital tape and sending them out all over the country. We made about 100 copies on tapes that the buyers would send me along with $20 and an SASE.
With my own copy of the database, I started a dial-up bulletin board featuring a searchable callbook in the Phoenix, AZ area. Each week I would spread the word with local hams on the weekly 2-meter swap net. Soon, I had about 100 regular users on the text-only dial-up system which was then called "The AA7BQ Callsign Database Server".
Six months later, it was time to get a refreshed copy of the data however I wasn't interested in doing any more of the hand copying. At the time, CDROM's were just coming out and it sounded like the perfect medium to distribute the data. I contacted a shareware company called Walnut Creek CDROM and asked them if they had a spare 60mb of space on one of their existing shareware titles and was surprised when they suggested that we go ahead and create a Ham Radio CD. They agreed to pay for the replication and pay me a sales royalty. Having never authored a commercial software product before, I enlisted the help of John, NJ7E, who designed the CDROM data format that would eventually become a legacy in the ham radio world. The software was written in C, and ran under DOS as well as UNIX.
Having the software out of the way, I started looking for a suitable name for the project. While driving home from work one evening, it occurred to me that the Q-signal QRZ sounded good since it seemed to answer the question, "Who is calling me?". We called the first CDROM "QRZ!" and thus began of one of the most interesting and rewarding chapters of my life.
The new CD sold very well with the first 1000 copies disappearing almost overnight. Six months later, another FCC update was available and so started the six month cycle of QRZ CDROM updates that lasted for 16 years.
In 1993 I made friends with a local dial-up ISP and they agreed to let me move my landline BBS into their server room and get on their internet backbone. I wrote an email to internic.net and was granted the domain name QRZ.COM in October of that year. At the time there were fewer than 25,000 registered hosts on the entire internet. I immediately began learning HTML and using Mosaic, the worlds first web browser, and designed a web lookup for the database.
The rest is history. We stopped making CDROM's in 2009 after selling more than 150,000 copies. Today, the same CDROM data is still updated (now each day) and is available for instant download from the site.
My dad was a helicopter mechanic in the US Army, and over the years we lived in Florida, New Jersey, Georgia, Illinois, Alabama, Germany, Kansas, Arizona and probably a few other places that I can't remember. I became a technology buff at an early age. By age 17 I was working during the summer with my uncle John, KC5UNF, who ran a small TV repair shop in the Phoenix area. From that point onward I was hooked on technology and eventually made my way into the computer industry where I've been gainfully employed for more than 30 years.
From 1988 through 2006 I was employed at Sun Microsystems, Inc., as a UNIX systems architect. Sun was a fun place to work in the 80's, an exciting place to work in the 90's, and a miserable place after that. I blame it on the big company syndrome, as eventually it became a maddening bureaucracy. I would have stayed longer but I was finally let go in a mass layoff after having made it through 5 previous layoff cycles. Such is the world of big business today. I don't regret working there, however, because what I learned in those 18 years turned out to be more valuable than I could ever have imagined. It was time to go, I suppose, because less than 3 years later, Sun is no more, having been bought out by Oracle. Oh well, it was a great ride.
In addition to ham radio, my main hobbies include flying airplanes, playing the guitar, programming, electronic swapmeets and a lot of other stuff that I can't afford. It's a good thing that Arizona doesn't have a seashore otherwise I'd have to buy a boat. It's amazing how many people here in Phoenix have boats, especially since we're many hundreds of miles from the coast, but I digress.
Given a choice, between boats and flying however,I'd probably rather own an airplane. So far, it hasn't happened, however, and instead I count myself lucky to be able to rent one every once in a while now. I got my private pilot's license at age 30 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in an airplane that was too small (a Piper Tomahawk) at an airfield that was too high (6000 feet msl). Today, I hold a CFII rating and a single and multiengine commercial license. I really enjoy instructing however it's not an occupation that that I could ever afford at this age. I'm a lurking member of the EAA (Local Chapter 1217), the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and the AOPA. Despite my fancy ratings, I have only accumulated about 600 hours of flying over the years.
I first got interested in radio back in the early 70's when there was a lot of cheap used (tube type) CB gear to be had. I got my CB license held the callsign KEU2408. I got bored with CB very quickly and within a year I was off the air for good. I did have an interest in ham radio at the time but could not get interested enough to sit down and learn the Morse code.
In 1975 I earned my second and first class radiotelephone operator's permit (now GROL) through self study. Then, I briefly worked for a small AM radio station, WRXB, in St. Petersburg Beach, Florida. I was a 23 year old chief engineer with no formal education in electronics. It was great fun while it lasted but my lust for adventure soon took me in other directions.
My life as as a computer geek started in the early to mid 80's with single board computers and early operating systems like CP/M. I became an Apple and IBM certified repairman and was in San Francisco for the launch of the first Macintosh. I also attended IBM repairman school for the IBM PC and XT around the same time. Working in Colorado Springs, CO, I managed to hold down two jobs at the same time, one in the local computer shop and the other at TRW, Inc., where I worked as an electronics technician. Eventually, I got involved in optical disk drives (with a whopping 100MB of storage) and that led me to Rhode Island and a year later to Silicon Valley where I ended up joining Sun Microsystems in January of 1988
In 1989 I'd had enough of being denied the pleasure of operating a ham radio and so I simply sat down and forced myself to learn Morse code. I took my first test on January 7, 1989 in Cupertino, CA. On that day I passed the 5 WPM code (with hands shaking), and the Novice(2),Technician (3A) and General (3B) written exams. My Technician license, N6UFT, was issued on January 31, 1989. When it arrived a few days later, I made my first QSO on 40 meter CW (by then, CW was a personal goal) and went on the air with a 220 MHZ mobile rig as well. There were lots of fine 220 Mhz repeaters in the Bay Area at the time.
Three weeks later on the 21st of January, I upgraded to Advanced Class when I passed the 13 WPM code and written exams. I asked for a new callsign and was granted KJ6RK which luckily sounded good on CW. In April of that year, while attending the monthly Foothills College hamfest, I took the Extra Class exams on a dare. I passed the written but missed the code test by one character. Then, after brushing up some more on the code, I passed the 20 WPM test and earned my Extra class license on the 13th of May. It was a busy spring season for me and I was having a blast! I kept the KJ6RK callsign until I moved to Arizona later that year and was systematically issued AA7BQ.
I started QRZ in 1992 as a dialup bulletin board system. I've written more about that story at http://www.qrz.com/i/about.html .
Over the past couple of years my main hobby has been QRZ. There's just not time for much else and there is always something interesting to do. My current rig is a Flex 5000A that seems to fit me well. My antenna is a remotely tuned longwire that works well despite the circumstances. Every year I hope to get it on for field day, and sometimes I actually make it!
2011 - I was genuinely surprised to win the Special Achievement award from the Dayton Amateur Radio Assocation. It was a great honor and one which I will cherish for all time.
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