I have been a member of the amateur radio fraternity for 45 years. In that time I have discovered many fascinating facets to this great hobby.
I started out as a young CW operator in 1965 in a small town in southwestern Nova Scotia. Initially I had only a homebrew one-tube transmitter and an AC/DC communications receiver with no BFO. Therefore I used the local oscillator in my BCB radio to provide the beat signal to allow me to copy Morse Code.
When I moved to Toronto in late 1966, I acquired an early Kenwood communications receiver which had not only a BFO, but an actual RF stage. What a godsend that was. Not only was I able to copy CW as well as SSB, but I was also able to introduce selectivity by modifying the front end of the radio with a newer more selective circuit culled from an issue of QST.
In 1969 I met my future wife, Barbara through the proprietor of one of the myriad electronics parts stores which populated the downtown area of Toronto at the time. She would become my XYL a couple of years later and to this day we are still happily married. She tolerates my hobby, although she cannot understand my joy at pulling out that weak signal at four in the morning.
In the late 1990's I "discovered" voice operations by way of the estate of a dear friend of mine from New Jersey, Ray Brooks, K2LTX who passed away in 1999. In addition my younger brother Gary, VE1AQF, succumbed to cancer after a long and valiant fight. He passed his two meter rig on to me. A year or so later I acquired an FT101E SSB transceiver, and was in ham heaven. All bands, 160 through 10 were available to me without having to restrict myself to a few frequencies dependant upon three crystals, which was all my venerable Heath DX-40 held.
More recently I was to acquire a Kenwood TS120S, which while covering 80 thru 10 meters had a tendency to self-oscillate on any band above 40 meters, so it was restricted to the lower two bands. I have now become the owner of a Kenwood TS520S which gives me the capability of transmitting on all bands from 160 through 10, although admittedly, right now my highest frequency is 20 meters.
Our current domicile is a comfortable bungalow which we built a couple of years ago on a two and a half acre lot north of the town of Napanee. There is plenty of room for the antennas which are so necessary to the hobby, and I currently have four of them in the air.
One very interesting facet of amateur radio is traffic handling. I have become quite involved with the National Traffic System (NTS) in recent years. I am net control on at least one region net, two independent nets and an occasional area net each week. In an average month I will handle around one thousand pieces of traffic, whether originated by this station or simply relayed or liaised by me from one net to another. I regularly create batches of birthdaygrams as well as welcome messages to new hams. I have discovered a new enjoyment doing this.
Many will say that amateur radio has no place in modern electronic society as a means for passing information around the country. Granted we cannot compete with the Internet, cellphones, text messaging and the like, but if these infrastructures are not working, then we can be a definite asset. A good case in point is the current situation in Haiti.
After the earthquake there is no infrastructure in place. The power is out to most areas, there is no Internet and telephone service is virtually non-existent. These sorts of situations are exactly what amateur radio is prepared for. Several frequencies have been set aside for health and welfare traffic in and out of the stricken island nation.
Most modern radio transceivers are equipped to operate on both DC and AC power. In most cases an old automotive battery will power a radio for several hours before it needs charging. I use the battery from my lawn tractor as an emergency power source for my TS120S and it performs almost as well on the battery as it does when connected to the power grid.
As mentioned above I am the Net Control operator on several nets each week. One of these is the Hit and Bounce Slow Net (HBSN). I am also the net manager for this net. We meet each day at 7:30 am on a frequency of 3576 khz. The average speed on the net is about 12 wpm, so it is quite easy to copy. I would like to encourage anyone interested in CW or CW traffic handling to give us a listen if propagation permits. We have regular checkins from coast to coast in the continental USA. The link to the common website of the HBSN and its parent net the Hit and Bounce Net (HBN) is here:
Here is a link to the Ontario Phone Net blog.
At the top of the page is a logo for CWOPS. This is a new club for dedicated CW afficionados. Information on the club may be found at www.cwops.org/.