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During the summer of 1958 I often went to the local library to read the magazines.  In an issue of Sports Illustrated there was an article about a ham radio dx contest.  I guess this was considered a "sport".   The article had a sidebar which explained how to get a ham license.  I realized how attainable a ham license could be.  I didn't know any hams to administer a Novice license test so I decided to prepare for the General license.  I didn't want a Novice license anyway because it had a one-year term and I didn't want to buy a transmitter that would become unusable if I didn't get the General license within a year.  I started to borrow and read library books on Electronics.

A friend of mine had constructed a Heathkit AR3 receiver.  He said it was lousy but I thought a Heathkit should be a usable receiver.  I bought if for $25 and found it was totally dead so I set about repairing it.  I knew very little about electronics and had no test equipment.  I inspected each solder joint and saw something amiss.  When the shield pigtail on one of the audio wires was heated for soldering it melted the insulation and shorted the signal wire to ground.  I pulled the shield lead out of the way and the receiver came to life.  Now I was able to listen to ham CW transmissions and practice my code reception.

When the summer was over, I left home for Corvallis, Oregon to attend Oregon State.  There I met a lot of hams and one of them agreed to administer the Conditional test for me.  The Conditional license was available to anyone who lived more than a certain number of miles from the nearest FCC office.  The distance between my residence in Corvallis and the Portland FCC office was greater than that limit so I applied for the paperwork.  However the FCC informed me that they used airline miles and the airport-to-airport distance fell within the limit.  Therefore the Conditional license was out and I had to appear at the FCC office to take the General exam.

I played hooky one day and traveled by Greyhound bus to the Portland FCC office.  When I took the CW receiving test I sensed a problem.  To enhance my code copying ability I had practiced receiving code at speeds of 20 to 25 WPM so the 13 WPM test speed seemed extremely slow.  I started inserting extra spaces so my copy loo ked li ke thi s.  I thought I flunked the test but the examiner ignored the extra spaces and drew a circle around each word until there were 13 words in a row without any mistakes so I passed!

I took the test in November and it usually took six weeks for the license to arrive.  Shortly before Christmas the school went on holiday break.  The dormitory I was living in remained open but its mail room was closed during the break.  After Christmas I knew my license was in the mail room but I couldn't get it.  I had access to the school club station but couldn't transmit without the license.  That was frustrating!  After New Year's the mail room opened and mail started to trickle out.  One of the first pieces of mail was a catalog from World Radio Labs.  My call letters were on the mailing label!  I knew my call letters before I received the FCC ticket.

Around the end of March 1965 I heard some hams talking about incentive licensing.  Some hams said it was an April Fool joke but I realized I would have to get the Extra Class license if I wanted to operate on all available phone frequencies.  I started to practice my code at 25 to 35 WPM so I could handle the 20 WPM test.  Two weeks later I went to the Los Angeles FCC office.  There was a school holiday that day so about 30 youngsters had shown up to take the General exam.  The only other adult was a YL.  When the examiner entered the room the secretary told him there was one applicant for the Extra exam.  He said "Let's get him out of the way first".  I had to take the code test while 30 people watched.  Practicing at 35 WPM did cause one problem.  After I performed the sending test the examiner complained I had sent too fast!

In the summer of 1960 I went to the Honolulu FCC office to take the Commercial Radiotelephone First Class test.  The walls were thin so while I took the written exam I could hear the FCC Engineer talking to a woman on the telephone.  I gathered she was complaining about TVI.  The Engineer asked her to write down any call letters she heard and phone him back.  The Engineer then turned on his receiver and started to listen around the ham bands.  He found one AM QSO where a local ham was in contact with a mainland ham.  As soon as the local ham stated his call, the woman phoned back and reported those same call letters.  The Engineer looked up the phone number of the local ham and called him to report that he was causing TVI.  Finally we heard the ham hastily sign off on the air.  That humorous incident was the only thing I ever got from acquiring the Radiotelephone First license.  

 

 

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