FREE NOVEL For you TO DOWNLOAD
My hobby other than ham radio is writing. I have written four novels. The last one was written during the pandemic and within the story, I used all my old ham calls – WN0VNJ, WB0FFE, and KE0PV. After it was finished, I decided to give it away free just for downloading. If you wish to download the Novel for free Click Here.
I’ve enjoyed the world of amateur radio for over five decades. Throughout this extensive period, I’ve had the pleasure of engaging in a wide array of ham radio activities. This diversity is one of the most remarkable aspects of this hobby. Ham radio can be likened to a multifaceted diamond, offering something special for everyone, and it provides this enjoyment not just for a moment but for a lifetime.
In the early days of my ham radio journey, my focus was on making contact with DX stations, those foreign radio operators. Later on, I delved into contesting and satellite communications. However, as time has passed, I’ve found myself drawn more towards participating in nets and engaging in relaxed, informal conversations, or “rag chewing.”
One of my absolute favorite nets is the Chit Chat net, which convenes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10 am Eastern Time. It’s a wonderful opportunity for participants to come together and simply engage in casual, friendly conversation. Join us for a few minutes, and I’m confident you’ll find it to be a delightful experience.
In case you want to know more about me check out my personal page by Clicking Here.
The Ham Radio Inspiration
The landscape of ham radio during the 1950s was vastly different from its present form. The equipment of that era was imposing, large, and far from the sleek setups we have today. Back then, the term “SSB” had not yet found its way into the ham radio lexicon as an efficient method of transmitting voice. Voice communication was primarily achieved through Amplitude Modulation (AM).
In those days, Morse Code, facilitated through Continuous Wave (CW), remained a cornerstone of communication for many ham radio enthusiasts. It was a time when Mars was not just a planet but also a program that hams could join. This program attracted many enthusiasts because participants had the opportunity to receive surplus military equipment.
One of the delights of that era was working with the BC series of transmitters and receivers. These devices were not only functional but also emitted a distinctive dynamotor hum as they adjusted frequency and voltage.
Dynamotors historically played a crucial role in military equipment, where they generated the high voltage required for signal transmission and converted power from the vehicle’s electrical system to operate radio equipment.
While I wasn’t a ham radio operator at the time, I had a close friend named Ralph Osborn, with the call sign K0GOT. Ralph owned a corner store in uptown Lake City, Iowa, a town of around 800 people. This corner store served as the community’s gathering spot on Saturday nights, with people congregating on the front steps. I used to peer through the store window, captivated by the assortment of electronic equipment inside.
One day, I mustered the courage to enter the store and explore further. That’s when I had the pleasure of meeting Ralph. At the time, I was probably around 14 years old. Ralph gave me a tour and mentioned that he was a Ham Radio Operator. I had no inkling of what ham radio involved and, somewhat amusingly, assumed it had something to do with cooking while listening to the radio.
Ralph explained that ham radio was a means of communicating with people located far away. To those who have never experienced a world without free phone calls and the internet, the prospect of conversing with individuals from distant places was nothing short of enchanting.
He extended an invitation to visit his “shack” at his home. I was eager to see this radio station, picturing it as a building located in his backyard. However, when I entered his house, I discovered that a “shack” in ham radio jargon referred to something entirely different. I was astounded by what I found. While the specific equipment he used has faded from my memory, I do remember that it was substantial. I would sit there, transfixed, as I listened to him engage in conversations with people using AM modulation, spanning vast distances with only a wire strung between two poles outside his house.
As I watched him communicate with fellow enthusiasts through his radio, I became utterly captivated. Regrettably, I was pulled in many directions at the time, including building a phonograph recording business and pursuing a DeVry Electronic Course while still in high school. Nevertheless, the seed had been planted, and years later, ham radio would become a significant part of my life, a passion that continues to this day.
Finally, in 1969, I realized my dream. I obtained my Novice license with the call sign WNØVNJ. At that point, I was already an electronics instructor at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Given that I was teaching a Communications Electronics program, I saw the potential for sharing this exciting new hobby with my students, setting a positive example for them.
As a Novice, my initial equipment consisted of a Drake 2B receiver paired with an Eico 720 transmitter.
My initial contact was with WN2HUD, Sean Quirke from New York. I still have the QSL card from that memorable contact. As I gaze at these QSL cards, it evokes a sense of nostalgia and reminds me of what we may be missing in today’s world of electronic “QSL Cards.” There’s a tangible quality to holding these physical QSL cards in my hands that makes that connection from so many years ago feel vivid and genuine.
Today, I keep electronic logs of my contacts and receive electronic QSLs. To be honest, it’s just not the same as the anticipation of receiving a card in the mail from someone who took the time to fill it out and send it. Each card with its unique design and the personal notes from fellow hams added something truly special to the hobby. Unfortunately, for many, this personal touch seems to be fading into the past. This electronic log, while convenient, doesn’t carry the same impact as the sensation of holding a physical QSL card in my hand.
A year later, I successfully passed both the code and written tests, progressing to the General Class Amateur category with the call sign WBØFFE. My first radio as a General Class operator was a Heathkit SB 102.
I embarked on a journey from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to the Heathkit factory to personally pick up the kit. The tour of the plant left an indelible memory with me.
I vividly recall the excitement that accompanied not just the process of assembling the kit but also the moment I finally put it to use on the airwaves. I established numerous connections with fellow enthusiasts using that very rig.
In due course, I expanded my setup by acquiring an SB-220, complementing the SB102. I also set up a TH7dx antenna atop an HDX 55 crank-up tower, further enhancing my station.
Becoming an Advanced Class
Our move to St. Louis marked a significant milestone in my ham radio journey as I upgraded my license to the Advanced Class, resulting in the call sign KEØPV in the 2X2 format. In St. Louis, my station consisted of the Heathkit SB 102 and SB 220, and I had an antenna positioned at 35 feet which complied with the HOA regulations. I was fortunate to obtain permission to feature a picture of the iconic Gateway Arch on my QSL card, adding a unique touch to my ham radio correspondence.
In 1991, when we relocated to Davenport, Iowa, the house we chose came with strict antenna restrictions. To address this limitation, I decided to purchase two acres of land in Dewitt, Iowa. I had a double garage constructed on the property, which I subsequently transformed into a ham shack.
Interestingly, I had concerns about how my neighbors might react to my antenna setup. To my surprise, they were not only supportive but genuinely enthusiastic about the prospect of having large antennas on tall towers nearby. They offered to keep an eye on the property when I was away and even volunteered to help with lawn maintenance. I couldn’t quite fathom why this group of people was so excited about my antennas.
My curiosity eventually got the better of me, and I inquired with one of the
neighbors about their lack of concern. He revealed the reason, saying, “You must not be aware of who else was bidding on this property.” I admitted that I had no knowledge of any competing bids. He explained, “There was a guy who wanted to use the land for pig farming.” That revelation provided quite a perspective shift. Ham radio antennas were certainly a more welcome sight than a pig farm, though both could be considered “hams” in their own right.
Upon our move to Atlanta in 1999, I sold the Dewitt property, and for several years, I went without a ham radio setup. However, in 2003, an opportunity arose to return to Davenport. While we once again faced antenna restrictions in our chosen home, we were fortunate to discover not only a perfect location for ham radio but also an ideal retirement spot in the beautiful setting of Little Swan Lake in Illinois.
In October of 1994, my wife and I attended a hamfest in Peoria, Illinois. Initially, my wife wasn’t overly enthusiastic about spending her time waiting for me to immerse myself in ham radio activities. Nonetheless, she usually showed great patience and came prepared with reading material to pass the time.
Having observed me for many years and occasionally assisting me in my pursuit of ham radio upgrades, she decided to take a different approach. Rather than enduring the typical waiting game in a hot spot, she made her way inside the one air-conditioned building, where the ham radio exam was being conducted. She mentioned that she might even attempt the exam. I thought she might possibly secure a Technician class license.
To my surprise, she emerged from the exam room with a General Class license! Her unwavering support of my ham radio journey has always been remarkable. Nonetheless, she does admit that she would still rather be at her sewing machine than fiddling with a radio. I must confess, I’m puzzled by the sheer excitement she finds in operating her sewing machine, which has remarkably few knobs. Her sewing skills result in beautiful garments and splendid quilts, while my radio gear… well, let’s just say I’ll leave the comparison at that.
Little Swan Lake
In 2005, we made a significant move by purchasing a home in Illinois with a spacious two-acre lot, perfectly suited for installing ham radio antennas. This residence was situated on the scenic Little Swan Lake in Avon, Illinois, and we believed it would be our retirement haven. In preparation for our future, we even added an extension to the house that was custom-designed to accommodate my ham radio equipment, and I erected several antennas.
During our time at this location, I achieved the Extra Class License, and my call sign was upgraded to K9OQ, a call sign I still hold to this day.
On April 3, 2010, life took an unexpected turn when I experienced a heart attack. Thankfully, I was one of the fortunate survivors. However, my cardiologist expressed concerns about living three hours away from the nearest cardiac hospital. With that in mind, we made the difficult decision to sell our dream home by the lake and relocated to Davenport, Iowa. It was a bitter pill to swallow as this had been our cherished retirement destination, and now it was no longer part of our future.
I had retired from my position as Chancellor of Palmer University in 2009, and since our children had moved on, we opted to downsize. We found a new home within the city limits, offering a more manageable one-acre plot of land. I promptly set up my antenna system, which included a TH11Dx on a brand-new 55-foot crank-up US Tower, along with a SteppIR vertical. The setup was impressive, but the radio room was somewhat cramped, struggling to contain the FT dx 9000mp and VL 1000 equipment I was operating with at the time.
Moving Back to Atlanta
In 2012, after enduring several harsh Iowa winters, we made the decision to return to the Atlanta area, where we had previously resided from 1999 to 2003. The area’s appeal was not only due to its location but also its favorable climate.
After an extensive search, we finally found a new home that allowed us the luxury of installing an antenna. However, there was a considerable challenge to overcome. The property was densely covered with trees, and a septic tank system field extended across most of the backyard. Even though there was no homeowners’ association (HOA) to contend with, I had doubts about whether there would be enough space to establish the antenna’s base.
After taking numerous measurements and conducting thorough assessments, I identified a single suitable location that would work within the constraints of the trees and septic tank system. I proceeded to acquire a 55-foot crank-up tower and a Steppir 4-element antenna, equipped with 40 and six-meter add-ons, as well as a tilt plate. With the help of a professional, we excavated the necessary hole and successfully erected the tower.
While I had a great fondness for my TH 11 antenna, I found the Steppir to outperform any other antenna I had used previously. The addition of the 40-meter element proved invaluable during poor band conditions. I also installed an 80-meter inverted V antenna extending from the tower’s peak, providing excellent performance on both 75 and 80 meters. With the tuner in the FT 5000 and the VL 1000 amplifier, I was able to work seamlessly across the band.
Over time, I had accumulated a variety of new and vintage radios, all of which I held dear. However, at the age of 78, I felt it was time to scale back. In the past year, I have sold nearly all of my equipment and now rely on a simplified setup.
While I love the flex, it simply cannot compete in terms of quality of sound with the Yaesu dx 5000mp. I have owned many radios and none compare to the 5000! Why Yaseu didn’t enhance this radio rather than built the dx101 escapes me.
I have retained my Steppir antenna while adding a Hustler 6btv with 62 radials. For 80 meters, I have a long wire antenna, and another trap dipole serves 40, 80, and 160 meters. Given the SteppIR antennas exceptional performance from 40 to 6 meters, the vertical and dipole antennas are seldom utilized, except for 80 and 160 meters.
I find it immensely rewarding to have the SteppIR antenna, which allows me to achieve resonance on any frequency. As many of you know, being resonant is not merely about SWR; it also significantly affects received signal quality.
In terms of software, I have been using HRD software since Simon initially offered it for free. It’s a remarkable software package. For contesting purposes, I turn to N3FJP’s software, which I find to be the best in the field. Scott, the developer, is incredibly supportive and responsive when it comes to software support.
For over 50 years, I have had the privilege of enjoying this captivating hobby, and its boundless diversity keeps it forever engaging. I’m one of those enthusiasts who relishes trying new things, and conquering modes like FT8 and FT4, along with other digital modes, has been an enjoyable endeavor. However, in my world, nothing surpasses the joy of a stimulating rag chew with what is sure to become a cherished new friend.
I have written seventeen books including three novels which can be found by clicking here. Take a look especially if you like sci-fi! My latest novel 2022 is now available for free download on the same page.
Larry G. Patten