I began in 1951, went to Omaha Nebraska for the Novice Test. Don't remember how long it took to get my license, but the first contact was after I got home from High School, using my father's rig. It had a pair of 1625's modulated by another pair of 1625's, but I turned it down to 75 Watts and disabled the modulator. It took over an hour to get the other fellow's name, QTH, etc. By the time the QSO was finished dinner had already started. I came out - mother was worried because I was "white as a sheet" - father said I'd get over it.
My first personal rig was a pair of command sets - a BC-457 transmitter (nominally covered 4 to 5.3 MHz, so I padded it down to cover 3.5 to 4 MHz just tweaked the capacitors in the thing). I converted the VFO to a crystal oscillator (got $15 for a writeup in CQ in 1952, a big sum for a HS student.) The receiver was a BC-454, wide as a barn door, but both were cheep - one of them was donated by a ham friend of my father. the only thing in the power supply which had to be purchased outright was a 24 volt transformer to power the filament supply. The power transformer came from a defunct receiver, produced about 350 volts, which gave about 50 watts input. No one measured power output in those daze....
First antenna was a random wire about 130' long, between two outbuildings, one which I converted to a hamshack. I "tuned" with the roller inductor inside the command transmitter and a neon bulb with a loop next to the antenna. I tuned for maximum brilliance with the neon bulb. Later I scrounged up a surplus RF ammeter, and tuned for max RF current in the antenna.
I worked 40+ states on 80 meters with that rig while a novice - WN0FVD. One of the weirdest things of that era was a fellow ham who was erroneously issued WN0SOS and then W0SOS, which he used for over a year before the FCC caught their error and issued him another call!
72/73 de n8xx Hg