Thursday, December 13, 2012

25 Years Ago

Tune In The World 1987 Edition
As I have mentioned previously, this is my anniversary week of passing my Novice Exam and Morse Code exam 25 years ago. In a very early blog posting, I went into detail on how I ended up becoming involved in this great hobby of ours so I won't go into detail here. But, I have a few hams to thank for it. The first being Don, KF8FE and the second, Ralph, WA8GAK. Don planted the seed and Ralph was the first one to give me a full demonstration of ham radio and also got me the information on the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). I ended up ordering the book you see to the left from the ARRL along with my 5 wpm cassette code tape. Once I received them in the mail (no internet ordering in those days) I jumped right into listening to my code tape and studying the book. It was not long before I felt I was ready to tackle both tests, my Novice exam and my 5 wpm Morse Code test. 

The ad that sold me!
I remember opening up my study manual (pictured above) and on the inside cover was the advertisement you see to the right, for then new Icom IC-735! I was immediately in love! I knew that was the radio that I wanted! I don't remember what I paid for that radio those many years ago but it was not cheap. If I passed my tests, I had plans of ordering this radio. In those days, the Form 610 had to be mailed in and it would take approximately 6 weeks to get your license. You had to wait patiently for it to arrive and see what callsign you were issued. Since I lived in Ohio, I knew it was going to be a 2X3 callsign, or 2 letters followed by a number, which was followed by three more letters. I obviously knew that the number was going to be an 8 but the rest was a mystery!

I believe that Ralph may have given me the phone number of Pat Keating, WB8KWD. I phoned Pat and made arrangements to meet him at the Red Cross building in Fremont, Ohio. Fremont was not far from where I lived at the time, approximately 45 minutes away. I met Pat along with Ron Winke, WB8NMK in Fremont, on December 12th, 1987. I took my Morse Code test and passed with not only 100% (10 out of 10 questions) but also with 100% perfect copy! I don't remember the reason but I ended up going back to Fremont on the 14th of December and I was given my Novice written exam. I passed that with a 96%, missing one question out of 30. The form 610 was completed and sent off! 

Feedback Response from ARRL
Since I had passed my Novice exam, I ordered the Technician study guide and began working on that license. There had been an issue with my original 610 Form submission so my wait for my Novice license took a bit longer than usual. But, I continued to study and shortly after passing my Novice license, I took and passed my Technician license test (passed my Technician Theory test on January 9th, 1988) along with my General (passed my General theory on February 7th, 1988 and my 13 wpm on February 13th, 1988)! It took two attempts to pass my 13 wpm code test but I made it. And the way things had worked out, by the time I received each of my licenses in the mail, I had already taken and passed the next level license class. I went onto pass my Advanced Class on March 12th, 1988. After passing my Advanced Class license, I opted to change my callsign and I received KE8RO. I stuck with it until I moved to Alaska. I had my sights set on my Extra Class next. At the time, the ARRL was interested in what you thought about their training manuals. I made sure to write in after passing each level of license. It was nice to get letters back from the ARRL responding to my comments (see ARRL letter above). I thought it was a nice note from Larry Wolfgang, then WA3VIL. 

Certificate of Successful Completion
The final step of my license journey ended on April 9th, 1988. It was that day in Maumee, Ohio that I passed my Extra Class exams! One thing I remember about Maumee was they ran a tight ship! Very professional, no nonsense and by the book. I was not quite yet at 20 wpm with my Morse Code but I was able to get the answers by fill-in. Basically, I was not at 100% perfect copy but I copied enough to fill in the blanks and obtain the correct answers to the code test. 

It's hard to believe that 25 years ago this week, I was pacing the floor awaiting the arrival of my FCC paperwork telling me what my callsign was. My new Icom IC-735 and accessories were ordered. When my license finally arrived, I made my first appearance on the bands as KB8DVT! I chatted with several of the locals on 10 meters and it was not long before I was making contacts on that band across the country and beyond. I was bitten by the ham bug and I'm as addicted today as I was then. The nervousness has long passed but I continue to learn and enjoy what ham radio has to offer. Even after all these years, there are modes and bands I have not yet tried. One person who I need to thank is my CW Elmer Ed, K8QWY. Ed is the reason I enjoy that mode today. I was about burned out on Morse Code studying for my tests and receiving is one thing but sending was another. With Ed's patience and persistence, I eventually saw the light. CW was truly the Key to my DX success and still is today!  


  1. I became a Novice in 1980. Stayed there for about a year. Those months were the most pleasant time ever. Mostly on the Novice segment of 15-meters. Plenty of DX contacts. The Novice class, (of that period!), offered plenty of opportunities on the CW bands. 15/40/80 meter privileges were more than adequate and I know of a Novice who remained very active at that class until he passed away at a good old-age. Maintained his old boat-anchor gear by himself and was the first cw contact for many a new Novice on 80 meters.

  2. Dick, I agree! Novice Enhancement sure seemed to open the world and for those who faced the CW requirement head on, there were lots of places to hang out. And voice on 10 meters, well that was icing on the cake! The days before the internet boom and cellphones was a great period. Repeaters were busy and packet BBS systems were the place to read the latest and greatest news. It's still the same hobby, only more modern like every other aspect of our world. But thankfully those old forms of communication that we have used for so many years, lives on! My first contacts were CW and on 80 meters. I'm sure I shook that straight key enough to add a few extra dit's or dah's. Thanks for reading and commenting! I always enjoy hearing from others. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  3. Hi Phil, nice story from 25 years ago. I had the same thing with my radio which I still have. I saw a advertisement of the new Icom 706MK2G, the radio that could do all. I bought it as soon I was licensed. But the radio bug did bite me already 20 years before that, I started on CB and worked the world before I was licensed. But anyway, you know the story. 73, Bas

  4. Bas, I also began on 11 meters and Don mentioned above, was the one I used to talk to almost nightly. When I did not hear him for awhile, I finally caught up with him one night. He told me of Novice Enhancement and explained that if I wanted to talk with him, I would need to get my ham license! Well, the rest is history! :0) Very similar stories for sure. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!