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As with most hams, I got the bug by building a "cat whisker" crystal radio with the Quaker Oats coil form. Real grass roots stuff! In 8th grade (1970) our science teacher , my "Elmer" (Chuck Thomas) WA3MWM, taught a course in Morse Code at Jay Neff Middle School in Dormont (Pittsburgh,PA) and several of us went on to obtain our licenses. (Thanks Mr. Thomas!!) At 13 , I received my new name WN3OFR which became engraved, written and stuck onto everything I owned! My first rig was the Heathkit HW16 (Thanks Mom and Dad!) and fond memories of going downtown to Tydings Electronics on Liberty Avenue with my allowance to buy a new TI crystal, I think I owned 5! I can't comprehend working DX that way anymore! I upgraded to General in 1971 , to WA3OFR. I begged my parents for an upgrade and that Christmas got my wish , a HW101 that gave me more fun per dollar than anything else money could buy (Thanks again Mom and Dad :-) . With only the HW101 (100W) and dipoles or verticals (4BTV) and no RIT, I managed to scratch and claw to a DXCC total of 280. Along about 1990 I got the bug to finally upgrade and obtained my Extra class in 1990. The thought of getting a new, shorter call was interesting and tempting , but by now this call was my name. It said so on all the Awards and QSLs! I didn't even bother to change when I moved from Pittsburgh to New England. Finances were doing well, so a new fancy rig (TenTec Omni V) and a real antenna (Cushcraft A3 3el - wow!) were in order. Finally, I could work split and find out what all the fuss was about for long vs. short path! Still no amp though! With the 3D2CI DXPedition in 2002 I finally achieved Honor Roll - all on 100W. Yes it can be done folks!! Just takes patience, timing and good listening!

Thanks Mom and Dad for buying me my first rigs (HW16 ; HW101), letting me decorate the house in a very close-spaced neighborhood (1109 Illinois Ave , Dormont) with multiple dipoles and a vertical strapped to the chimney (which pulled down the chimney once in a strong wind!!) and letting me take over the only spare bedroom in the house for my "shack" and of course thanks to WA3MWM.

UPDATE 2008 After 37 years of operating with 100W or less, I finally caved in and purchased my first modest amplifier in 2007 - a matching TenTec Centaur. Didn't want to get too crazy , so figured 500W would be a good start. I was very proud of getting to within 3 of Top of the Honor Roll with 100W, but the motivation was the impending 2007 BS7H operation. The combination of this being one of the rarest entities and the bottom of the sunspot cycle..and me not getting any younger, I felt it was time to take the plunge! The alternative was to wait for global warming to raise ocean levels and make BS7 a "delete" but who knows how long that might take! I purchased the Centaur used for about $600 and never having had a linear amp, promptly got too heavy handed and popped one of the three 811's! So then, I figured it was time to make the upgrade to the 572's that everyone said was a good move, so I shelled out another $150. Shortly after that, a couple capacitors blew up on the plate circuit board, so I decided to ship it off to the mothership in Sevierville for an overhaul! $250 later and getting dangerously close to BS7's operation date, it was back in the shack, wired up and ready to go. My low cost amp was now a $1K investment, the question was, would it be worth it!? BS7H hit the air, but for the first several days I was away on business travel and could barely concentrate, knowing with each passing day, I was missing another chance for the rarest "new one"! I arrived home to learn that the DXpedition was going to be cut short due to bad weather, so having watched the clusters and spots while away, I knew I would only get two chances at NA East Coast sunrise to work them! The first morning, I set my alarm to get ready, awoke at 0900Z and got the coffee and rig all warmed up and waited. And waited. BS7H was spotted by EU on 20m CW, but nothing heard in MA. But as the sun slowly rose, so did BS7H , coming out of the background noise at 1030Z!! It was D-Day! When he was a good copy, I gave my first call and I almost spilled my coffee- he came back (!!) First with "FR?", then "OFR"? I was shaking!! Then as I copied his "599" and he went to send my call for the last time, the lids pounced and I could not copy if he had my full call correct!! AUGGGG - I was dying!! By then , all the East Coast was on frequency and I was doomed even with 500W (!) I tried for the next hour as he peaked and faded for a solid insurance QSO, but no luck. Was it a good QSO?? I decided to repeat the whole process the next morning, set the alarm, got everything ready, and like clockwork, he rose from the noise again. Again, within 1-2 calls he came back with a partial call, this time I thought I heard the whole call but still lids, QRN and cops prevailed. Was I "0-2" or "2-2"?? As it turned out, both QSOs were good, the most amazing being the first one, where I actually worked him on my first call (!) I've heard people claim "worked 'em on the first call" , but that had never happened for me and would never have expected it for such a rare entity as BS7!!! I credited my extra power for the success and even though the expense was more than I planned, I've dubbed this my "$1000 QSO" and worth every penny!!! A huge THANK-YOU to the entire BS7H team!!!

As of this writing (5/6/08) there are only two new ones left until top of the honor roll. The elusive Fr/G (will that postponed operation ever take place ?) and P5 , which I suspect will be like when the ZA walls came down and within months ZA's abounded. Oh well, we'll see if 500W is good enough for these two and see you all in the pileups!! Good Luck!


OH BOY! - On Sept 20, 2009, I was fortunate and lucky enough to snag FT5GA for an all time new one!! (#346) !!! Had been on pins and needles for several years as this DXpedition was on again, off again so thanks to FT5GA !! This leaves the very last one to work - P5! (Along with the rest of the world!!) Getting closer - can only hope that P5 will follow suit with ZA. Nothing for years, then major activity! Keep our fingers crossed


Really? Four news ones at once? This was a once in a lifetime event- 4 up, 4 down and as 10/10/10 ended, the 4 new ones were in the log for a total of 350! Of course, we in NA were lucky the 4 new ones are resort islands and not BS7 like "entities", so this was like shooting fish in a barrel for NA. Exciting , but inevitable. Now where's that P5??!!!??


Was excited to work another new one to the ham radio world - ST0R in the "new" S.Sudan this year. Trying desparately to stay caught up. Now where's that P5??!!!


Decided to break rank with the all Ten-Tec line and purchased an Elecraft KPA-500. My operating style lately has been more like "drive by DXing", where I see an interesting spot, run to the shack, flip the switch, make QSO, turn everything off. Not particularly kind to a tube based linear. I have been more than pleased with this KPA-500. Easy to assembly, flawless operation, quick to tune up and very, very tolerant for "goofs and mistuning"! That amp allowed me to achieve Diamond DXCC in one month! Great deal, great performance. Still holding on to the Omni-V, but I see a K3 in my future ! Now where's that P5???!!!


Added the KAT500 Tuner to my line up, replacing my Ten Tec 238 Tuner.  This unit is awesome and is a welcome addition to the shack.  Of course, it will all play together as designed once I get that K3 (!) ...Now where's that P5????!!


After 47 years of paper logs, I finally bought a software logging app from Scott Davis N3FJP.  Many hours, days and weeks later, I finally was able to retype in all 47 years worth of paper log entries (!).   Wow - do I now regret not trying harder to QSL many stations back then !!   It was also somewhat depressing to notice how often the bands were open late into the evening , especially 15 and 20 meters (10,11,12pm....) back in the 70's-80's...and how active 10M was!  Sure could use some of that now... our sunspot cycles have not been kind at all these past years.  I'm also excited that my procrastination with getting a K3 has paid off - as there is now a new K3S.. so that's my new target.  This will likely be my retirement gift to myself since retiring in June 2017 after a wonderful 39 year career at Raytheon Co.  :-)     Now.....where'e that P5????!!

Current set up : TenTec Omni V / Elecraft KPA-500 / Elecraft KAT-500

Antennas - Cushcraft A3S / Cushcraft R7 Vertical / 80M Dipole

I feel very lucky to have found such a great hobby that is as exciting at age 61 as it was at 13, and I'm sure will be until my last QSO. Not many hobbies have that kind of staying power.

To whomever reads this, thanks for taking the time. I hope you enjoy the hobby as much as I have. 73 - Mark

8379490 Last modified: 2017-10-09 22:40:59, 9559 bytes

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