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GOING FULL CIRCLE
With the guidance and encouragement of my high school electronics teacher, my friend Jim Lundy and I, became new hams. We took our tests and a few weeks later we received our Novice “tickets”. We were very excited to be part of the new world of Amateur Radio. Things were a bit different back in 1972 from what they are today. Novices were only granted CW privileges, NO PHONE ! We were also “rockbound” and could only use crystal control to tune the frequency of our transmitters. NO VFO’s . Top that off with being only 16 years old and continually “broke” , you’ll see why innovation and scrounging were the order of the day. Lacking the financial resources to buy the latest commercial gear, kits and kit building seemed a logical alternative.Back in the 60’s and 70’s there were many kits to choose from. EICO, Lafayette, Allied, Knight-Kit, Heathkit, and Ameco, to name but a few. I finally saved up enough money to get a Knight-Kit receiver and an Ameco transmitter. Once I started building I spent virtually every waking moment down in the basement shack with a soldering iron until the units were completed ! The receiver worked first time on the “Smoke Test”, but the transmitter had some problems. A little rewire job, ( helps to follow directions) and I was in business! 15 watts into a dipole strung out in the back yard. I finally got up the nerve to make my first QSO. Shaky hands and sweaty palms, I was glad that the ham on the other end had patience! After signing our 73’s I was elated! It was TOO COOL! I was off and running in HAM RADIO ! I put him down in the log and ran upstairs to tell my parents,but they couldn’t even begin to know the joy that I felt.
Back then operating was quite interesting with crystal control. You would transmit a CQ , and then slowly scan the entire novice band segment for someone answering.Crude and simple , but it worked. As I gained experience I wanted better equipment and soon saved up enough money working at the root beer stand to buy the “Cadillac” of novice rigs, the Heath HW-16. Back down to the shack and warm up the soldering iron. Soon I was “king of the airwaves” with a new transceiver! That Ol’ Heathkit put some great QSO’s in the log. 75 Watts of power , good DX conditions, and working the world on a rig that you’ve built yourself was VERY COOL at 16. (or at 86 for that matter) Time went on and new interests in girls, cars , and new jobs. Life sorta grabbed me by the horns, and in 1979 I was married and settling down in the Detroit area.With a new job and more income, I found I wanted the new commercial radios with all of the “bells and whistles”. The 80’s and 90’s found me upgrading my license and my equipment too. I purchased several new “full blown” radios to use. With a shack full of new gear and a tri-bander in the sky I was doing very well working DX. Soon after I was smitten by the QRP bug, but all the new gear and gismos were making it easy to have a QSO. TOO EASY. Something was missing. I was’nt building!
I decided to get back into building my own radios again. But alas, all of the old kit companies were out of business. Fortunatly there are some new companies out there today offering some very nice kit radios. I sent away for a few of these kits and was pleasantly surprised to find that although the size of the package and parts has shrunk, the fun of kit building was even greater than before. I had found what was missing in radio for me. Building, experimenting, tinkering. These things were the true fun and joy in radio, and making a QSO on a rig you’ve built with your own hands is a feeling none can compare! Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time building a rig from scratch. ( 40meter qrp using only 2n2222 transistors) While melting solder it occurred to me that I was enjoying the things that got me into Ham Radio more than 30 years ago. I had gone full circle.
73 Gregg Mulder WB8LZG
Dedicated to James Gilhouse, Teacher , Instructor, and Educator extrordinair. East Lansing High School. East Lansing, Michigan