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QSL: LOTW, eQSL, Direct; no BURO

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I grew up in metropolitan northeastern New Jersey, just a few miles west of mid-town New York City. Although I have been an SWL and electronic hobbyist since I was in grade school in the 1950s, I didn't receive my first amateur radio license until 1969, while attending graduate school at the University of Arizona. In those days before instant gratification, I had to wait several weeks for that license to arrive in the mail, but when it did, I found myself in possession of novice callsign WN7MHY--good at the time for a 2-year, non-renewable term. However, due to more pressing realities, such as completing an advanced university degree, and surviving on a student's meager income, I could afford neither the equipment, nor the time to get on the air, and thus let the license expire without upgrading. Over the next few years, several career moves eventually led me to Youngstown, Ohio, where I found employment in my field, and where I resumed my interest in ham radio.  In 1974 I acquired another novice license--WN8VOZ--and this time immediately went on the air with a brand new Hallicrafters FPM-300 transceiver, a Vibroplex Champion bug, and a vertical antenna. A few months later I drove to the FCC field office at Varick and Houston Streets in New York City and, as was required at that time, sat before an FCC examiner to upgrade my ticket.  I successfully completed the required 13 wpm code test, and both the General and the Advanced class written exams on that date, and my callsign was changed to WB8VOZ.   I subsequently changed that call to K8FAC when I sought and received a vanity callsign based upon my initials. And finally, after license restructuring eliminated the Advanced class, I upgraded to my current Extra class ticket.

Before my retirement, I was a professor at Youngstown State University, serving for 41 years as both a faculty member and as Chairman of the Theater and Dance Department. My credentials are in the theater discipline, and include a B.A. degree in English Literature and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Theater, plus nearly five decades of producing and directing live stage productions.  I taught courses in theater history, film history, dramatic theory, text analysis, dramatic literature and theater criticism.  

As for ham radio, I am primarily a QRP CW operator, but in the service of full disclosure, I must admit to owning a small amplifier and microphone, and to using them occasionaly during my infrequent forays into SSB (the mic, of course, because it's necessary, and the amp because the efficiency of SSB is lower and the QRM greater.) 

My interest in QRP CW actually began in 1976, when the latest issue of QST arrived in the mail, and it contained an article by ARRL staff writer Doug DeMaw describing a little flea-power transmitter that could be built in an empty tuna can. Intrigued, I went to my local Radio Shack store, purchased the necessary components, and after a day or two of tinkering and soldering and the consumption of a couple of tuna sandwiches, ended up with my own working example of the venerable Tuna-Tin 2. This little powerhouse generated a whopping 250 milliwatt signal, and I used it to make contacts in several surrounding states. It was great fun, and was the beginning of my hobby-long fascination with low-power ham radio. The epiphany, of course, came with a realization known by every QRP enthusiast-- that less really can be more!

During my time in the hobby, I have owned and operated many QRP and simple homebrew CW rigs, but I am certainly not averse to modern, commercial technology, or to operating in different modes, as the spirit moves me. While my antennas are very modest, the principal radios in my shack are a Yaesu FTDX-3000, which I use for fixed and QRO operations, and an Elecraft KX3, which I use for portable and QRP operations. At the 2016 Dayton Hamvention, I also acquired an LNR MTR5B Mountain Topper. Not much bigger than a deck of cards, this amazing little transceiver will send 3 to 5 watts of CW energy to any of 5 amateur bands, and run for several days from a small mo-ped battery. On any given morning, you might find me taking this radio, or the KX3 to a park, or some other remote location, and enjoying a little CW in the great outdoors, or I just might stay at home, making contacts with the hope of meeting some interesting people, if not kindred spirits.  I'm a casual DXer, who employs the "search and pounce" method of making contacts, but I'm not compulsive about it. As I see it, there are enough pressures in life without adding them to my hobbies. And speaking of pressures, if you enjoy contesting, that's fine--I wish you well, but personally I get absolutely no enjoyment from the maniacally frantic and mind-numbingly repetitive exchange of 10-second, fake signal reports, and thus studiously avoid this facet of the hobby. In summary, whether I'm operating commercial or homebrew gear, QRP or QRO, CW or SSB, analog or digital, I've found that the key to keeping the enjoyment in ham radio, for me, is to employ the "KIS" approach.  Keep It Simple, avoid a "bigger-is-better" mindset, minimize needless stress, and just get on the air using whatever equipment is at hand.  It's all fun! Here's an image of my principal QRP rig, my VIZ vertical bug and a homebrew cootie key.

My QRP radio and homebrew cootie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I consider my Yaesu and Elecraft radios, and all similar modern transceivers, to be technical wonders that make ham operations a pleasure, I also have a liking (some might say a masochistic one) for "boat anchors"-- ham-speak for classic vacuum tube equipment from the 1950s and 60s-- and I often go on the air with one of the entry-level, antique transmitters/receivers in my modest collection. Currently I have a Heathkit DX-20, a Knight T-50, and a Drake 2B receiver and I partner these with a manual key and a simple dipole to create a typical novice station from times long-gone. Making contacts with a 60+ year-old, rockbound antique transmitter, and a comparatively unembellished receiver can be a challenge, but it can also be fun. Technical shortcomings notwithstanding, this old equipment still works, and it's a nostalgic trip back in time for me to assemble the station that I wish I'd had, but couldn't afford, when I was a high school student in the late 1950s. No semi-conductors or printed circuits spoken here--just lots of colorful separate components, shiny soldered point-to-point connections, hot glowing tubes, jumping analog meters, hefty Bakelite knobs, brick-heavy transformers, lethal voltages and clunky steel cabinets.  Don't get me wrong, I would never give up the ease-of-operation, reliability and versatility provided by my modern equipment, but still, if only for the sake of knowing how far we've come, it's unfortunate that few new hams will ever have the experience of tuning a tank circuit, or operating rockbound on a single frequency, or getting a pink "love note" from the FCC for spurious emissions, or using a key with 400 volts across the exposed contacts, or chasing a drifting station on a simple SWL receiver, or heating the entire shack (and perhaps toasting a finger) from a dozen or more glowing tubes.  Yes, it did take more effort to make a contact with a boatanchor, but I think there was a correspondingly greater sense of acheivement that came with success. Those old rigs may demand our full attention, but they also connect us with the history of ham radio, and the romance and folklore of wireless communication in general. Too, there is something almost tactile in the way that they give the operator a "feeling" for the emitted signal, and a deeper understanding of what is happening from key to antenna. Here's a picture of my fully-functional, all CW, vintage station. Typically running between 25 and 35 watts of output power to a dipole antenna, this station can, and still does, work the world.

In addition to my aforementioned Hustler 5BTV vertical, I use a G5RV dipole, hung as an inverted-V with the feedpoint at 35 feet. I have used electronic keyers, but much prefer to make CW the old-fashioned way--by manually closing the gap between two mechanical contacts.  To be more specific, I am fascinated by the mechanical ingenuity of bugs, and from the earliest days of my nearly half century in ham radio I have favored the semi-automatic key ("bug") for daily operations. I use a Vibroplex Blue Racer and a VIZkey Vertical bug for my contemporary station, and a Vibroplex Original bug for my vintage station.  My other keys include a classic U.S. Army Signal Corps J-38 straight key, an LTA straight key from Spain, a VIZ camelback straight key and a couple of home made sideswippers (cootie keys). Despite a bias for CW, I don't consider myself to be an expert brass pounder.  While I admire the skill of the high-speed operators, I never fully mastered the art of copying code in my head, so most of my CW QSOs are capped at an upper working speed of 20 - 22 wpm, with 18 preferred.  As a minimalist, I believe in leaving a small footprint on the planet, and it gives me great satisfaction to complete a solid CW contact with another station on the opposite side of the world, knowing that I've used less power than has been consumed by the night-light in my bedroom. I'm a member of SKCC (2506s), QRP-ARCI (9511), NAQCC (1509),  and FISTS (12887) -- all clubs committed to keeping radiotelegraphy, the defining art of the legacy amateur radio operator, both alive and well on the ham bands.  A few final biographical notes: During the Vietnam War years, I served a six-year commitment to the U.S. Navy (USNR, to be exact), and spent 2 years of active duty patrolling the North Atlantic aboard an aircraft carrier (c. 1966-67), followed by 4-years of monthly reserve meetings. I'm an ARRL-VE, a certified SCUBA diver, and a licensed private pilot.  I love vintage airplanes, and for 15 years I owned and flew a 1944 Aeronca Defender, a classic tailwheel airplane from the WWII era (below). (Caveat: since selling that airplane, I only do a limited amount of flying, mostly in rental aircraft; and being in my rickety mid-seventies, I'm no longer up to the rigors of diving.). Among my other loves and interests are my long-suffering wife, assorted kids/grandkids, sailing, watercolor painting, playing clawhammer banjo (and other musical instuments), reading, and dabbling in model railroading (both O and HO scales).

Don't "grow up," have fun, and 73(2),

Frank

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8630615 Last modified: 2018-02-06 05:43:08, 13028 bytes

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