With a 40 meter dipole, a few crystals, my homebrew transmitter and a Hammarlund HQ-110, I began my ham radio journey. It is interesting looking back at my first logbooks. In those days, you were required to log basically every time you transmitted, whether you made a contact or not. So every unanswered CQ was logged (you could call CQ several times and only log the start time and end time). Same with a QSO, just start and end times, not each transmission. But compared to today, where logging at all is optional, it was quite different.

One thing I recall from those first few months as a ham, was the sudden increase of mail sent to me. QSL card samples, equipment brochures, and catalogs. Even pre-internet, vendors had ways to get data from the FCC of new ham radio licenses.

Then QSL cards starting coming in. New hams were especially active in sending and receiving QSLs. I needed to get some printed. Luckily the QSL card companies had been sending me samples, so I picked one out and put an order in. It was a popular and simple design from “Little Print Shop” in Austin, TX. I choose to have a variety of background colors, so I had some in red, blue, yellow, gold, silver and green.

For Christmas 1971, my parents got me a Heathkit DX-60B. I had only been working 40 meters on my homebrew, as it only had 80 and 40, and only had the 40 meter dipole for an antenna. I had the DX-60 on the air by mid-January 1972. As a novice, I could also work on 15 meters, but Novice had to be crystal controlled only. 40 meter crystals were used, the the 40 meter novice band crystals x 3 did not land in the novice segment of 15 meters. So I needed some additional crystals for 40 meters that would multiply into the 15 meter novice band. The 40 meter dipole would load on 15 with less than 3:1 SWR, so now I had another band, and started to work the west coast. On Feb 21, I worked my first DX (not counting Canada), working VP7NA in the Bahamas and DL7IA in West Germany on 15 meters.

I had a little Worked All States map on the wall that I would color in as I worked a new state. I never pursued it, but had 40 some in my first year. My code speed also was picking up. The novice license was good for two years, but non-renewable. So I was also listening to the W1AW code practices, trying to get confident a 13 WPM. In the fall of 1972, I felt like I was ready.

Back then, you had to go to an FCC Field Office to take a General or higher test. The closest one was in Buffalo. I don’t recall exactly, but they may have given tests once or twice a month, like on a Friday. I can’t remember if you just had to show up with a form 610 in hand or what. But very early one morning, my Mom drove me to downtown Buffalo to where the FCC was located. I was seriously nervous for the code test. The FCC examiner with his white shirt and tie, setting up the code machine device, telling us what we needed to do. I’m not sure if you failed the code test, whether or not you could still take the written test, but either way, I did not want to come back. I passed the receiving part of the code test. I think they made us send a bit, just to make sure it was also OK. I went on and passed the written test as well. It was quite a relief.

A couple of weeks later, the new license arrived with the new callsign – WA2CRR. That Christmas, I got an HG-10 VFO for my DX-60B. No longer rockbound. Plans began for additional antennas, a 80 inverted-vee and a HY-Gain 14AVQ 40-10 meter vertical.

I did go back to the FCC office in Buffalo a couple of years later (1975?) and took the Advanced test. Luckily no code required for that as long as you had passed a 13 WPM test. I made it through that one as well.

I really enjoyed my time as a novice. If I had any regrets, is that I wish I had stared a bit earlier, like age 12 or 13. I got my license as a freshman in high school. I played JV basketball and was on the golf team that first year as a ham, and that took up some of my time.

The current licensing structure does allow some privileges for Technicians, but other than 10 meters is CW. Without code being a requirement, probably not too many techs take advantage of it. Personally I am glad to have entered the hobby when I did, as I’m not sure I would have stayed around as long otherwise.

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