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This site uses some antiquated test for Javascript and cookies being enabled
which fails with Firefox under OpenBSD.  I don't have problems with other
sites but if I have to borrow a Windows box to update my page here I won't
be updating it very often.  Microsoft doesn't rule the internet yet.
2/12/2011

A bio, hmmm, where to begin.  I'm a little mike shy, but nobody could accuse
me of being keyboard shy, which sometimes gets me into a little trouble.

I'm from Heath, Massachusetts, a little town about 20 miles west of
Greenfield and about 5 miles south of Vermont.  In high school a buddy of
mine and I used to have sort of a ham radio club, but we didn't know any
actual hams.  I was born in 1954 and started working at the local TV/radio
shop at the age of 14.  My father wanted me to get a job and I knew what I
wanted to do.  Now, at the age of 56, I've never had a job that wasn't in
either the electronics or computer fields.  So I worked at that first job
for 5 years, earned a Master Technician license (Mass board of registration
of Radio and TV technicians), moved on to a Radio Shack store, and got
married.  We moved to Foxboro, Mass to live with her mother so I found
myself without a job.  I thought it would be nice to work for one of the
Boston TV stations, so I studied for and got my FCC First Class
Radiotelephone license and as a reward I indulged in getting a technician
class ham license and became WA1ZTA in 1976.

No sooner had I got my licenses than my wife decided she wanted to move back
to Western Mass, where there aren't many broadcasting jobs.  I ended up
working in a 2-way radio shop owned by Walt Fairbrother W1GNF (silent key).
After a few years there I got recruited by a guy that ran a local CB shop
offering better money, then a couple years later he went bankrupt.  So there's
the first 10 years of my working life in one form or another of consumer
electronics.

I answered an ad in the local newspaper for an electronics technician job
for the Chemistry department at Amherst College, and got it in 1980.  I
stayed there 10 years working on their instrumentation and playing around in
the physics department machine shop downstairs.  I never liked chemistry
much but physics was a different story.  The library there was interesting
too, with a copy of the set of electronics books that came out of MIT as a
result of WWII and a bunch of astronomy and telescope making books.

When I left there I decided to go back to Greefield Community College to
finish an Associate's degree I had started in 1972.  Within a week I was
offered a job there, and stayed there 7 years as a tutor of astronomy and
most of their computer science courses after I took them.

My first exposure to computers was in 1968 when I was in high school, and I
learned Basic programming then and wanted to go on but everyone told me I
would have to move to a city to find a job in computers.  Wrong.  At GCC I
had a part-time minimum wage job in the computer labs as long as I took at
least 1 course per semester, so I stayed.  One of the courses I took was an
independent/directed study in C++ (which I don't like) and my instructor was
a math department member up for tenure.  She didn't get tenure and moved on
to the University of Massachusetts.  She called me up one day and said they
had a job I should apply for, so I did.

It was at the Registrar's Office as a "generalist" in computers, running
their network for 30 or so users, mail server, web server, file server,
firewall, buying and setting up new computers, doing a little programming
and answering computer questions.  I was there just over 9 years before the
budget cuts eliminated my job at age 55 in 2009.  Not a good time to look for
a job with the economy at the time, but I had 2 years salary in the bank
because I never really trusted my good fortune.  I'd also been paying into
the state retirement board, and I managed to roll that over into an IRA
which should last until I'm old enough for social security in 2016 then my
retirement from Amherst College should kick in about 2019.  I was no more
into Registrar's office business than Chemistry.

In computers my first experience was with the DEC PDP-8 via a leased-line
teletype hookup to Dartmouth then Northfield Mount Hermon (my father was a
math teacher, which probably helped).  Then came Apple IIs and DEC VMS on a
Vax at Amherst College, where there were finally some IBM ATs running DOS
before I left.  At GCC were Macs, Windows, and Unix.  My first exposure to
Linux was when someone in the powers that be (also a ham, by the way) at GCC
helped me start downloading Slackware onto floppies and I got it running on
my old 386SX.  Installing it and getting it working (with every minor
version change) was about as far as I got.  At the time ftp.cdrom.com and
Hotmail were both running FreeBSD which impressed me so I loaded that up on
a laptop and sat around reading man pages between classes.  When I started
at UMass I inherited a Linux box which was supposed to sit under my desk and
be a minor server, but it got infected and had to be replaced.  I said to my
boss "OpenBSD has a good security reputation..." and she said "Do it." So I
learned to install OpenBSD which is more different from FreeBSD than I
expected, but I liked it.  I'm typing this under it on my laptop, which
hasn't been rebooted in 45 days.  When I became a ham again in December 2008
I was interested in the digital modes, but there aren't many ham
applications for OpenBSD because it has such a small user base.  FreeBSD has
more, and I've still got a FreeBSD box stashed away under a bed.  The real
winner though was Debian Linux, mostly because Ian of Debian is a ham, and I
liked their program packaging system.  I live in the boonies, with only
dialup available for an internet connection.  When I was at UMass, I
downloaded a 5-DVD set of Debian which has something like 30000 programs,
transferred them all to my hard drive, and now I can install a program from
that set by clicking on it.  I don't really like Linux because it deviates
more than I like from the traditional BSDs but all Linuxes have the AX.25
protocol which is handy for packet radio.  So I've been Microsoft-free for
over a year at this point.

My programming history is Basic in High School, RPG in the early years at
GCC, Pascal at Amherst College, C, C++, Visual Basic and Fortran at GCC.
Delphi, Java and VBScript at UMass, along with SQL.  HTML isn't really a
programming language, but I've been doing it since the mid-1990s.  Oh, and I
taught myself 80x86 assembly language one summer after learning C at GCC.  I
have this theory that the more programming languages you know, the easier it
is to learn more because you can see the similarities.

My hobbies besides radio include photography (digital these days), 19th
century literature, alternative energy, and movie collecting.  That last is
a strange one which started when digital TV became finalized and I scanned
for channels and found a movie channel.  I grew up watching snowy TV and
never saw many movies, so this was a treat.  I've got 3 DVD recorders with
hard drives now, so I record off air, edit out the commercials, and burn
them 2 per disk.  Costs me 25 cents to store 2 movies.  I've got about 1200
now, and downloaded the internet movie database and wrote programs that make
HTML pages of my movie collection with buttons that pop up pages with IMDB
data for more details.  I also collect some old TV series like Outer Limits
(the original from the 50s), Star Trek Next Generation, Sea Hunt (50s B&W),
Mister Ed, the Stargate series (all 3), etc.  For a while when I had an
internet connection at UMass I used to spend a lot of time reading the
forumns on www.otherpower.com and I've built a few small windmills most of
which destroyed themselves in high winds but there's one survivor.  All of
them use old electric motors I converted to generators by turning down the
rotors on my lathe and epoxying on magnets.  I've also got about 85 watts
worth of solar panels outside that charge a marine/RV deep cycle battery I
run radios on.

I got divorced in 1984, had a few girlfriends since, but I've been alone
since 2002.  I live with my mother, who's 80 and runs the television about
constantly.  I stay mostly down cellar, where it gets down to about 42 in the
winter and no hotter than 73 in the summer, without expending any energy.  I
don't drive much anymore, so I don't have a very big carbon footprint.

Boatanchors?  I've only got my SP-600 left.  I've moved 10-11 times since I
was first licensed in 1976 and had to leave most of them behind.  I had an
ART-13, 2 ARC-5s, a DX-100, a Johnson Ranger and a Harvey Wells Bandmaster,
many of the rigs I hear people running on AM today.  When I passed my
license test this time I treated myself to a new Icom IC-7000 and I've since
bought/built a Retro75.

I listen a lot, mostly to AM on 80 and 160 meters, and have since the 1990s.
I like the digital modes but just listening to a ragchew while working on
something else (like editing commercials out of movies or building
something) is hard to beat.  I don't listen to SSB except occasionally in
the daytime on 17 or 20 meters if I hear someone talking with an accent
(DX).  I'm not the least bit competetive and have no patience for contesting
or sports.  I like technical discussions.

I like fiddling with antennas and with 2 feet of snow on the ground right
now (2/9/2011) I'm playing around with a shielded loop from about a 1978
ARRL antenna book, scaled down from 160 to 80 meters, and a preamp that was
in QST August 1988 with an MPF102 in grounded gate driving an MC1350.  The
MC1350's oscillating (I built it on cheap vectorboard-type stuff without a
groundplane) so I need to change the layout.  Maybe I'll have to etch a
board.

I can't decide what to build next for a transmitter.  I like the efficiency
of the class E stuff, but the idea of using several hundred watts to talk a
few hundred miles doesn't seem very efficient.  Then there's being limited
to 40 meters and below when there's another sunspot cycle coming up.  I have
a hankering to build a single 813 amp powered by some microwave oven
transformers I've scrounged.

Why did I get an extra?  My original tech had been expired for 20 years or
so, and I happened to look at the requirements to see if anything had changed
before I started studying code again.  The CW requirement had gone a few years
before and frankly 13 wpm for a general seemed like something I'd never
manage, but if I could download a program for practicing maybe I could do
it eventually.  With the CW requirement gone I decided to go for the extra
and with renewals being free and not requiring logs anymore I vowed I wasn't
going to give it up again.  I found the next local VE session was 1 1/2
months away so I ordered the extra class book from the ARRL and started
studying what I could find online.  I studied the book for a month and took
lots of online practice tests.  If you had a techician license prior to 1980
something and you could prove that, it was good for credit so you didn't
have to take the general again (in 1976 the only difference between
technician and general was code speed).  So I wrote to the FCC and got a
letter back saying I had been licensed in 1976 and took that to the VE exam.
I walked in with nothing, took the technician and extra exams, and passed
both.  One of the examiners jokingly said "uh-oh, you got one wrong" but my
license became effective 12/1/2008 as AB1JX anyway.  I have the extra call
because I didn't have an old one in effect to keep and I wasn't going to pay
to get it back as a vanity call.  Never had any decent phonetics for it
anyway.

At times I've fancied myself a writer but I have no knack for developing
realistic characters.

An out-of-work bum who's retired without ever having decided what I wanted
to do when I grew up.

189930 Last modified: 2011-02-13 15:02:25, 14075 bytes

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