I became a ham radio operator in 1969. I began as a Novice Class operator with the call WNØVNJ. As a novice, I probably made no more than six CW contacts. I used a Drake 2B and an Eico 720 transmitter. While limited, it was a beginning. With the help of ARRL’s CW broadcast, I finally achieved the magical 13 wpm required.
A year later I became a General Class Amateur with the call WBØFFE. My first radio was a Heathkit SB 102.
I drove from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Benton Harbor Michigan, the home of the Heathkit factory, to pick up the kit. I remember the excitement, not just of building the kit, but of putting it on the air the first time I made many contacts with that rig.
Later, I added the SB-220 to add power to the SB 102. I used a TH7dx on an HDX 55 crank up tower.
My antennas included a TH7dx on an HDX 55 crank up tower along with a Cush Craft Vertical.
I finally upgraded my license to the Advanced Class. My call became a 2X2. I received the call KEØPV. I used that call for many years. In St. Louis I operated with the SB 102 and SB 220 with the TH7DXX mounted at 35 feet as required by the HOA.
I purchased two acres of land in Dewitt Iowa about 14 miles from our home. It was a nice subdivision out in the country. Our lot that we purchased was not part of the existing subdivision but had been set up as its own subdivision. For some reason, it had been split from the rest. It was great! I could write my own HOA’s!
One afternoon, when we arrived at the site to begin the process to build, the neighbor came over. I assumed he had heard what I was going to do. I was prepared for the onslaught of “NO ANTENNAS.” He came over, shook my hand and said, “We are so happy you bought this land.” I asked, “Do you know what I am going to do here.” He quickly answered, “Yes, you are going to put up antennas.” I was surprised at this response. “These are going to be big antennas on tall towers,” I said. “I know and the whole neighborhood is very grateful.” Puzzled I said, “I am surprised that you are okay with antennas.” He said, “Oh, you probably don’t know who else was trying to buy the land.” I answered, “no.” He replied, “a pig farmer!” Well, at least we know what ham antennas are better than! There is a new thought for those who have covenants. See if the land is zoned agricultural! Anyway, we had a great relationship with all the people there. They watched the place for me and would call if they saw anything unusual. area, I built a garage on the land and converted it into a ham shack.
We had a great relationship with all the people in the surrounding subdivisions. They watched the place for me and would call if they saw anything unusual, I built a garage on the land and converted it into a ham shack.
I began operating Satellite. In those days with the high orbit satellites, it was really fun. The picture to the right shows my set up.
In 1999, we moved to Roswell Ga. I went for several years without ham radio in my life. We moved back to Davenport in 2003. Again we had a home where antennas were impossible, Later, I found what I thought was my perfect retirement home – The Lake.
The Lake – Extra Class
In 2005, I purchased a home in Illinois with 2 acres of land perfect for antennas. It was on Little Swan Lake in Avon, Illinois The picture from my ham room window is shown to the left.
I thought this would be the place I would retire so I added an addition on the home just for my ham radio and put up a number of antennas. I passed my Extra Class License while there and my call became K9OQ. I still hold that call today.
This is a view from the lake, looking up toward the house. The first one is before the addition, the second one shows the addition. You may notice that the corner on the room is at an angle. As you can see, the tower came before the addition. The only way to let the tower down by the winch was to have the corner cut like it was. Anything for ham radio right!
This is a view from the air taken by a friend of mine whose hobby is flying and taking pictures! This is before the addition was added that went from the left side of the house to the tower. That addition became a double garage (ok to have) and the ham room below (absolutely necessary!)
The picture to the right is the inside of the shack. There was almost any radio you would want and they all worked. The inventory included an FT 9000d with VL 1000 amp as my main station. I had a Collins KWM2 with 30L1 amplifier. I used a TS 480 remote as well as a Flex 5000 remote, of course using a toothpick on the power switch.
This Heathkit Mohawk, Mohican, and Warrior set up worked great. The Warrior was added after this picture. I had always wanted one of these sets ups as a kid but they were just too much money. The entire operation worked great. The set was restored to full operational capability and each piece was sterling in appearance. I sold this set up to a ham in Austrailia. The packing and shipping cost more than I charged for the radios.
I also had an SS 9000 Heath with speaker that worked great. I also used a Collins KMW2 and 30L1 amplifier combination in fully restored condition. I used several amplifiers including the VL 1000, FL 7000 and the Alpha 374. Later I added an alpha floor model and a Henry floor standing unit. Some of these came and went, but it was a fun time in Ham Radio for me!
I also built a remote switching matrix antenna switch. I wrote the software to control modules I bought from a company in St. Louis. At that time I could not find anything to do the job so I built this system. The switching system looked like a mess but it worked. I could sit in my house in Davenport or on the train to Chicago (which I did once) and operate the station complete with antenna switching and rotor control.
The device control is shown to the right. Below is the screen of the software I wrote to control the matrix of antenna switches. If you can read it, on one side it has the FT 9000, FT 1000d, Flex 5000 and the 847 as possible sources. Later the 847 became the TS 480 because of its remote operation capability. You can see that the antenna selection was the TH 11 DX, Hy Tower Vertical, a Dipole, a Dummy Load and the release button to shut everything to grounded position. It worked great. Above you can see the electronic control systems that controlled the relays. It was a great system. Fun to build and even more fun to use!
On April 3, 2010, I suffered a heart attack. I was one of the lucky ones who survived but was told by my cardiologist that living three hours from the nearest cardiac hospital was probably not wise. We sold our dream home by the lake and moved back to Davenport. We found a home with an acre of land inside the city! I put up my TH11Dx and a SteppIR Big IR vertical.
Moving to Atlanta
In 2012, after going through several Iowa winters, we decided to move back to the Atlanta area. We had lived there from 1999 to 2003 and found the area very attractive both from the location and especially from the milder climate. We moved to Cumming Georgia in October of 2005.
I have limited space in the yard for antennas but did achieve installing my Steppir Big IR vertical. I then acquired a 55-foot crank up tower as well as a Steppir 4 element with 40 and six-meters.
Having just acquired a Flex 6300, my operating equipment includes a Contest FT 9000D and VL 1000 linear along with the Flex 6300. I operate on D-Star with my Icon IC-92 AD
Just out of sight to right, is the Flex 6300. Of course, it is just a black box with some jacks and a green light! On the very right of the picture is the VL 1000 amplifier that I use with the FT 9000 contest that sits nex to it. As I mentioned, I use the IC 92 AD for D-Star. I have the SP 9000 speaker for the FT 9000 as well as a Heil headset. You can also see the boom mic with an EV RE20 microphone. I use a separate Heil headset with the Flex.
The two Steppir control boxes, one for the vertical and one for the beam are above the left of the FT 9000. These both track automatically with the 9000. The first monitor to the left is the DMU output of the 9000. The next monitor is a touch screen used with the flex or as the first logging screen if the flex is not in use. The next two monitors are for logging screens and rotor or data control. If course, when the band is down, I can always surf the web as I listen!
The large map in the center of the picture is a special print my son gave me when he was working for a print company. It is a map that is printed on paper but, when viewed, looks like a 3-D relief map. Most people who look at it think the frame has to be thicker!
To the left is a shelf with a nixie clock. My children gave that to me for Christmas. When I was in high school, I made a digital readout device using nixie tubes from an old Burroughs or Univac computer. I bought those devices from Olson Warehouse some of you may remember. We often referred to it as Olson Junk house. You could find almost any electronic device in their monthly catalog. If you were willing you could scan the catalog, find the secret code that was somewhere in the print, and receive a “big” discount. I always found it.
Here is a picture of my tower on the ground being ready to crank up. The package I bought from Ted in Alabama included the tower, crank up, tilt plate and the beam. The problem with towers these days is not the tower but that large square of concrete! I won’t even talk about how much that cost to dig and pour! But it is done, waiting for the next homeowner to ask, “what in the world do you suppose this was for?”
You cannot imagine the amount of measuring I did to make sure I could get this in our back yard with all the trees. It worked out that with the septic system, there was only one place to put the base. That place was the only place that would allow the beam to lay on the ground and be up in a way that it did not get into the surrounding trees!
I will still use HRD software to link everything together and do the logging. It is great to see the antennas track and the rotor turn through device control!
My Other Fun
In case you might be interested, I have written three novels which can be found by clicking here . Take a look especially if you like sci-fi! You will also find other books I have written and online courses I have developed. The main site is www.wlisolutions.com.
I was originally licensed in 1967! Next year, I will celebrate 50 years of ham radio! During those 50 years, I have met many wonderful people both on the air and in person!
Larry G. Patten