CQ DE WAØTTN

I've been an amateur radio enthusiast since my mid-teens. I earned my Novice license (WNØTTN) in 1968 and my General a year later when I was president of the Boulder High School Amateur Radio Club as a BHS senior. I don't remember exactly, but I seem to recall that I only held the General briefly before passing the Advanced theory exam, the code requirement still being the same 13 WPM as the General.

I wasn't able to afford any commercial equipment until I was a little older, but thanks to my elmer Steve Barnes (KØYKJ/SK) I was able to get on the air. He lent me a home-brew 6146B xtal tranmitter with the formidable output of 75 watts (boosted to ~90 watts, but don't tell Uncle Charlie). Along with the NBS-1 receiver I was lent from the high school radio club, I came about 3 states short of WAS before graduating from Novice to General and eventually to Advanced.

After college I became employed and after a few years was able to afford to buy my dream tranceiver, a Heathkit HW-101. I assembled this with meticulous care, being an electronics technician at Ball Aerospace Systems Division in Boulder, Colorado. I used this xcvr for several years as I moved from around from apartments to a mobile home to a house. But then I bought a condo and couldn't operate any longer, so I had to pack the old 'Hot-Water' away.

In 1990, I found the urge to get back on the air irresisible. By this time I was finally making decent money and so I decided it was time to treat myself to a first class set of radio gear for the first time in my ham career. I went to Jun's Electronics in LA and they loaded me up with a Kenwood TS-440S-AT transceiver, an MC-60 MIC, an Astron AS-35M power supply, an AEA PK-232 TNC, and an AEA LC-1 iso-loop antenna. I mounted the antenna on a TV antenna mast on a tripod used for roof-mounting that I found at Radio Shack and stuck it out on the balcony of my condo at night when nobody could see it. Using this, I was able to work a lot of DX on 20, 15, and 10 meters, but the RFI drove my neighbors nuts! I couldn't ground very well because I was on the second floor of the condo complex and so the RF bled into the whole building really badly.

I moved to Seattle in 1993 to a relatively spacious chunk of corner property. I had, you guessed it, almost completely lost interest in ham radio now that I had the means to persue it. With all the room I had to lay wire, I used the LC-1 loop that I used to hang outside my condo balcony for a while. It could be tuned to a perfect SWR and, oddly enough, seemed to get out as well or better than any long-wire antenna I've ever used. Go figure... But alas, time took its toll and the stepper motor that drove the tuning capacitor eventually died. So this fine piece of hardware has been relegated to the junk box.

Well, as luck would have it, in early 2001 I found a new interest in the hobby. Being a software developer, I was wondering if I could hook the old rig into my personal computer. After a few inquries, I stumbled across the, at the time, emerging PSK31 mode. With PSK31, even my pip-squeak equipment landed me plenty of QSOs! Just like the old days of CW, but without the mind-numbing concentration and tedium. I hooked up with Moe Wheatley, AE4JY, and incorporated his PSK31 "engine" into an ActiveX control. I've also developed some other ActiveX controls, in the hopes of enabling ham radio enthusiasts to "homebrew" their own PSK31 software applications, which you are welcome to peruse on my PSK31 Development page.

Not too long after that I happened to run into Carter, W7IAG, at the recycle center. I had my mobile antenna on the car and he asked me what it was for. I told him it was a "ham radio" antenna, not a CB antenna, having no idea he was a ham too. It was a fateful encounter because Carter is one of the original members of the Mercer Island Radio Operators (MIRO) organization, and he recruited me on the spot. I've been a member ever since, and am very pleased be part of the Mercer Island Emergency Preparedness organization. Not only that, but as of February 2009, I'm now the chairman of MIRO.

All this time I had been operating on an assortment of dipole or inverted vee antennas, strung up haphazardly in the trees wherever I could get a hoisting line up. But then on Labor Day, 2003 I achieved the dream of a lifetime with the raising of a modest tower and 3 element tribander beam. To back this up on the other bands I now have a 75 meter inverted vee, a random loop fed with ladderline that works very well on 80 through 6 meters (with an MFJ-986 tuner), and a GP-6 for the 144/440 bands. Check out the photos of the shack and my mobile setup on the Photos of my QTH page.

On March 12, 2005, I finally upgraded to Extra class. I had made Advanced many years ago and had never felt any incentive to make the final effort for Extra just for the privilege of a few extra Kc of "extra" band space. But after all these years my shame finally got the best of me and I managed to pass the technical exam with 88% on the first try. I've never been able to break my 18 WPM code barrier, and I wonder if I could have passed the original 20 WPM Extra code test if I had to. The VE's didn't ask me to take the 5 WPM test, which was still in effect at the time, but it would have been fun to blow through because I can still do 18 WPM just fine.

So that's the story. If you're interested in amateur radio, I'd be really happy to hear from you. I bid you very best 73.

Dave, de WAØTTN ar


Send e-mail to Dave:

Go to the WAØTTN Web page.

Go to the Dave Cook Consulting Web page.