Bill Byrnes, AB9BD
(Formerly WN9AOF, 1968)
I was first licensed in November 1968 as WN9AOF. Although I took my exam, along with my buddy Sam Trobaugh, WN9AOG, from W9KYO, Don Williams, I suppose my Elmer would have to be my Dad, Tom Byrnes, later WN9HSM. He had been licensed in the early 60s, as a Novice, and had kept up the interest. When I got to the age when young boys sometimes get into trouble, my Dad talked me into practicing Morse Code in my spare time, mainly weekends in Chicago Area winters, where there is little motivation to go outside for any reason. I started, haphazardly, until the summer of 1968, when we were on vacation and ran into Mr. Williams who was also camping at Devil's Lake Wisconsin. He told us about the time his company had sent him to the island of Tonga, and he had convinced them that Ham Radio was the best way to make daily reports. The company agreed, and bought two stations, a Collins KWM-1 and the S-Line, the transceiver to be taken to Tonga and the S-line to remain at home, where they kept daily schedules.
Now to a 13 year old kid, talking by radio to an island in the South Pacific can be a pretty exciting prospect. So, since he also mentioned that he was advisor to a Special Interest Explorer post whose interest was Ham Radio, I got more interested. I was allowed to attend a meeting before my birthday, though I couldn't join until I turned 14, but I started studying the license manual, reading QST and CQ and not just listening to the code practice tapes, but listening in to the Code Practice on W1AW, on my Dad's Hammarlund HQ-129X. By the time I started attending meetings of Post 339 (Batavia Illinois) I was copying 5 WPM pretty well. My buddy Sam, who I hadn't known before this, said his reaction was "who was this kid?" (he was a year older) and he said it motivated him to work a little harder. Before long we were both ready for the exam, and we both passed the same night. As you can see from our Calls, AOF and AOG, they chose them in alphabetical order, Byrnes before Trobaugh.
I waited patiently, not too patiently, but I didn't jump the gun either, and my ticket finally arrived. My Dad had found a good deal on a Heath DX-60A, with no manual, by the way, but loading instructions and a schematic, a Hammarlund HQ-110C (the C meant it had a clock) and some other gear, including a huge 6 Meter AM and CW transmitter homebrewed into a file cabinet. The guy he got it from lived in Aurora, no farther from Chicago and WBBM (channel 2) than we were. How or when he ever got that rig on the air, we never could figure out, with the Channel 2 carrier at 54 Mc. (yeah, Mc was still in use, though we were shifting over to MHz). My Dad had a 15 watt transmitter, crystal controlled of course, that he had used when he was a novice. Well, after my ticket came, we promptly blew out the final on the DX-60, which was very disappointing, but with that little 6L6, I managed to get a guy come back to me one cold January night, from the huge DX of 3 miles from his house in Geneva. Wow, that was incredible, it was only three miles, but he was my first contact, so he was also my best DX.
Do any of you guys remember the V-80 vertical antenna, with the loading coil at the bottom that you connected to the center conductor on your coax with an alligator clip? Well, that, along with an inverted Vee for East West on 40 and 15 and another dipole for north and south on 40 and 15, was our antenna farm. In the spring we got a 3 element 15 meter beam that we put together and mounted on the roof. We had to use a heavier mast, for the rotator and the beam, than had been used for our TV antenna. So we were introduced to gin poles, and a rented block and tackle that was hitched to the back of the car, to provide a stable support to keep the whole set up from crashing down on the roof.
In the summer, Sam and I took the train to Chicago and took the General code exam at 13 WPM three times before we passed, but on the third try, we both passed, and I passed the General element theory and he passed both General and Advanced theory. He's become an engineer, and I became a librarian.
I look forward to retirement in the fall, and hope to be able to emulate the retirees I remember as a Novice, who could be on the air any time of the day, even during the school year.
AB9BD (was WN9AOF, WB9AOF (1968-74) and WD9GVD (novice and General (1977-2001)