Matt Wheaton, W1EMM
(formerly WN1EMM, 1955)
Two of us in our high school (Lebanon, NH) were interested in electronics and such. We got excited about Ham radio and through the help of two local Elmers (One was W1VEG, I can't remember the other.) We both got our novice licenses in 1955. My friend W1END (formerly WN1END) maintained his license until today although he had some time of inactivity. I let my license lapse until 2009 when I got my Amateur Extra license and my old call sign, W1EMM back (formerly WN1EMM).
My novice gear was a Hallicrafters S38. It did not have a BFO so I got plans from somewhere, probably CQ magazine and installed a BFO. I didn't have any heat in my shack, so the S38 got awfully cold when it was off. If you didn't let it warm up enough, it would drift so much you had to keep your hand on the tuning knob to stay with a QSO. Less expensive but more exciting was the Heathkit AT-1 transmitter. The thrill of building it, throwing a wire out the bedroom window, keying it and getting a response was tremendous.
It is amazing what can be done with enough ignorance. A wire out the window to a tall tree in the field, some NE-2 neon bulbs, a lot of minor RF burns to measure the signal strength and the world was out there. I worked many states and Canada in those first few months. QSL cards were everywhere. Mine was printed on the back of a penny postcard in green ink which was the only color my neighbor with a printing press had.
When 15 meters became available to novices, I modified the AT-1. I don't remember what the new output tube was, but it required neutralization. I could not afford a variable trimming capacitor (It probably cost a dollar or more) so I made one by twisting two insulated wires together and snipping them with wire cutters until the proper capacitance was obtained. After a while the RF would turn the plastic insulation into mush and I had to start over again.
I am having fun again at age 70, but there is nothing to match the fun of being 16 and a Ham radio operator.