A year ago today, I received my General Class license at the same place I just volunteered for my first VEC duties! But I want to go even further back to when I was first licensed as a technician, not knowing much about the hobby, I picked up a Yaesu FT-60R from Austin Amateur Radio Supply (sad that this store had to close!) and a Diamond whip antenna to go with it. I even picked up the programming cable & software from RT Systems! But nevertheless, I didn’t know much about repeaters, so pretty much left it on simplex all the time, and as you can imagine, I netted 0 contacts in several months of using it. Frustrated, I threw the HT in my dresser, and gave up on the hobby! I was done with ham radio… or so I thought. I had no clue about websites like eHam, QRZ, Reddit, RadioReference, and all these other huge repositories of information for people that might be interested in ‘Amateur Radio.’ Access to information has definitely gotten easier over the years as the age of the internet has progressed.
I’m a big user of Reddit though, and one day I stumbled across their Amateur Radio group full of guys/gals just like me! A younger crowd as I might call it, a bit more interested in the computer integration/SDR/digital side of things than just simply sparking up a conversation on the radio (nothing wrong with that either!). It immediately sparked an interest in ham radio again, they were talking about things in the group that I had no idea about! Like the HSMM-MESH network which started here in Austin, TX! Oh and how about FlexRadio systems, this up and coming SDR company that was right up the street from me! I just knew I had to get back into the hobby, so I asked a few questions, and a few folks told me that the ‘magic’ really lies in HF. HF? What is this mockery you speak of? High Frequency radio waves! I was told that I can talk to folks on the other side of the world with less power than it takes to charge my cell phone. Wha??? I’m hooked. Where do I sign up? 🙂 So $15, and about a week of cramming later, I was now legally authorized to use the HF airwaves!
It’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve netted contacts that I never thought were possible, on nothing more than 100 watts & a wire (or vertical if you want to get technical!) 80% of my contacts have been digital, 20% have been on SSB. I just surpassed the 500 qso mark on LOTW yesterday, and I’m up to 44 states for WAS & I’m now at 36 countries for DXCC! Considering the amount of actual time spent behind the radio, I think I’ve done pretty darn good for my first year! I can’t imagine the amount of contacts that guys that have serious setups can make! I’m still what I like to call a ‘casual’ operator, lol.
As soon as I made my first contact on HF, I was completely hooked. I was no longer bound by the inherent limitations of VHF & UHF. With HF, you never know where or how far your signal is going to be heard, this is what appealed to me and why I opted to go for my General. When there is more mystery in the contact it creates a greater sense of accomplishment IMHO!
I mean seriously… look at this…
Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! Talk about DX! WSPR may not be a real QSO, but as I tell every ham interested in the hobby, go for what your passionate about! If CW is your thing, then dit dah your way to paradise! Digital? You can probably find me on the airwaves! Ragchew? Plenty of bandwidth on 40 & 80 to go around! I’ve only began to scratch the surface of amateur radio. There are so many different niches within the hobby, it’s almost impossible to get bored!
Thank you to each and every amateur radio operator around the world for making this such a wonderful hobby to be a part of. I feel truly blessed to make contacts with people all over the world. In such a big place (and a crazy one at times), it really does make the world feel a little bit smaller (and more familiar). Here’s to many more years on the airwaves.
It is my hope & desire to one day make contact with YOU!
May propagation be ever in your favor!