Keith Darwin, N1AS
(Formerly WD8DEE, 1977 ; KB6DDH, 1983)
Well, my memories of my novice years are a bit foggy. I have nothing left except two old books. One is a log of QSOs (which doesn't have the year logged!) and the other is my purchase log where I wrote down items I bought. I have to piece things together from those logs.
While in Junior High School, I met a kid named Scott McGreggor. Scott was all excited about ham radio and got me interested. For Christmas 1974, I got a Lafayette HA-600A shortwave receiver and spent a LOT of time listening to SSB on 40 and 80 meters. In March 1975 I bought a Heathkit HD-1416 code oscillator and began the process of teaching myself CW. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, I got side tracked with CB as my records show me buying a CB radio in June of 1976.
Ham radio came back into my life at some time, but I'm not sure when. I show myself having purchased a Gonset G77A 80-10 transmitter (a real piece of junk) in Nov. of 1976. I don't think I had a license yet but was keenly interested. The SWR bridge purchase happened in March of 1977.
I recall taking my Novice test. It was in early summer but I don't remember the year. Piecing things together now, I believe it was 1977. I taught myself CW by sending on the oscillator and recording my own practice tapes. I passed the test with no problems and was issued WD8DEE.
My first QSO was terrible. I called CQ and someone answered me. I froze. He sent a bunch of CW and I copied nothing. I panicked and shut the rig off. I returned 20 minutes later and found the frequency clear, so I called CQ again LOL!
That Gonset transmitter was in bad shape. It had a rough AC tone and the band switch knob required a pair of pliers to turn it. It drifted as well and the VFO calibration was off. My receiver was a general coverage shortwave receiver. I'm surprised I didn't get a QSL card from the FCC.
In the fall of 1977, I bought a used Drake 2B. Ah, much better. Later that spring, 1978, I bought a used TR-3. I ran the 2B and TR-3 as separate TX and RX for a while. I used a knife switch to go from TX to RX and had no break in. My key was the cheap plastic thing that came with my code oscillator. Overall it was not much fun.
By 1979, I had lost interest and let the ticket lapse. I was tired of being only on 40 meters. I was tired of the clunky setup I had. I was tired of only ever working guys in NY. I was consumed with photography by then so ham radio became a distant memory ... until 1983.
This was my 2nd time as a Novice. The first time, during the late 1970's fizzled out. As a teen with no mentor it was too easy to do things wrong and to not have much fun.
I graduated from college in 1983 and moved to CA to live by myself. I got bored and my interest in ham radio came back to life. I bought a used HW-101 with a CW filter and began copying W1AW. My code was back to 10 wpm in about a week so I found a ham at work to give me the test. I passed it and was issued KB6DDH - er, at least I think that was my call. I have no records from that time. Nothing!!!
I remember working a lot of JA stations from CA running 100 watts to a dipole inside my 2nd story apartment. I purchased the Heathkit iambic keyer and learned squeeze keying. I tossed out my straight key.
In the fall I upgraded to General and tried SSB. It was boring and harder to make contacts so I went back to CW where I had more fun.
I've been in & out of the hobby over the years but most recently it has stuck with me the most. I've returned to using a straight key and have rediscovered the joy of manual morse.
Keith Darwin, N1AS