Steve Melachrinos, W3HF
(Formerly WN2FKS, 1976; WA2FKS, W3KI)
I learned about ham radio from my dad. He wasn't ever (and still isn't) a ham, but he had a ham friend back in the 1950s, and had bought a Hallicrafters S-40B back then. The radio still worked in the late 60s and early 70s as I was growing up, and I used it for SWLing from about 1970 to 1975. My dad also had an old (1954-ish) ARRL license manual that I used to read--that's how I learned about the license structure and the Novice license. But I didn't know any hams, at least not too well. I met one or two along the way, but they never offered to "elmer" me. Some of my high school friends were also into radio and electronics, and we'd talk about some day getting our licenses, but nothing ever happened before we graduated from high school. It never occurred to me then to look for a local radio club. Maybe if I had, my story would have been different.
My real opportunity came when I went to college, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy NY, in the fall of 1975. RPI had an active ham radio club (W2SZ). I started going to the meetings, but didn't formally join the club until they offered license classes, which was spring of 1976. A number of others came out to the class, but I think I was the only one who took the test. Our club's advisor (Fred Norvik, W2GH, who became an SK only last year) gave me the test, as most of the class instructors were also students and didn't meet the age requirement (21) to administer the FCC test. I don't remember too many things about the CW test, but I know I was nervous. Before I knew it, Prof. Norvik said I had passed the receiving test, and pushed the key over to me to send. That was quick too—probably just enough to know that I had some rudimentary capability. I guess
it was a few weeks later that he called me to say the written test had arrived, and we made an appointment for me to come take it. I don't remember the details of that either, but the Novice license came a few months after that, dated 28 May 1976: I was WN2FKS. I remember looking up the callsign in a callbook and determining that I would become WA2FKS when I upgraded.
I never got on the air as a Novice. I didn't really have a workable station at home, to use during that summer, and I didn't have an elmer. Back at RPI in the fall, I was too busy with classwork. And the W2SZ membership had elected me Vice President of the club, which took up more time. (I didn't realize it at first, but no one ever wanted that job, as the main responsibility was to publish the monthly newsletter.)
Later that year, my WN prefix was replaced with a WA (as I had expected) when the FCC did away with distinctive Novice prefixes. I was determined to not be a "one-term-Novice" even if I wasn't on the air, as this was still when Novices couldn't renew. So I completed the upgrade to Tech at the FCC office in Manhattan during winter break in January 1977
W3HF (ex-WN2FKS, WA2FKS, W3KI)