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Novice Rigs and Skills

Dwayne Rea (KA0AAM) on September 30, 2017
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That First Novice Rig

I can remember that first contact when I was a novice. . . even decades later. I studied what it seemed, all night, all day, all week, and (what it felt like) all year. In actuality, maybe a couple of months, but I studied. The rules and regulations had to be memorized, so that everything you did was satisfied by the laws and ethics of Ham Radio. This is not what this story is about. It is the prelude of that first contact. The first sound of Morse Code, coming from the airwaves from someone you have never met.

I finally passed that novice test. What a thrill it was to have a piece of paper, sent by the government, dictating that I have fulfilled the requirements that brought me into standing of a more elite world of folks. -- A piece of paper that is recognized by the government as a true radio operator of importance. I was a true blue Ham operator, that could operate equipment within my guidelines of my license.

I treasured that ticket. It was gold. It was the start of an adventure that will take me down a road that never stops you from learning. I, Dwayne Rea, had a ticket of importance. I had only one problem, and that was a radio.

I was young, 15 years old, broke, and nothing to go on. I wanted to build a transmitter! I had an old Hallicrafters s-38 for a receiver, but that was my extent. I needed a transmitter. With a little help from my Elmer, I built my first transmitter. It was a crystal controlled, slopped together transmitter that was QRP with a chirp that eventually got me a postcard from an OO, telling me that I chirped on such and such frequency, and to look over my equipment.

The times were tough. QRP when others are running 90 watts into the finals was (novice limit) pretty tough to compete with. So, I started looking. I knew I was getting out, but not good enough. After a while, I spotted the Eico 720. A novice radio, crystal controlled, a mark for the novice limit of power, and a cheap enough price to purchase. Out came my cash, and in comes an Eico 720 to my room.

I peaked my grid, dipped my plate, and watched my wattmeter move for the first time. I had POWER! I had enough power to move my power meter more than just a needles width, but half way up the scale! My hands were shaking, sweat was pouring down my face, and you would have sworn an earthquake was happening from all the shaking I did.

I fired up that Eico on the antenna, and sent out my CQ. After about 2 or 3 times, a station actually sent me my call sign with his!. . . (This meant more sweat and shaking going on). Can they copy me? Can I really communicate with these people? Lots of questions went through my head. They were answered fairly quickly. I CAN communicate with Morse Code, using Continuous Wave (That’s CW), and a key!

After the first 10 or so contacts, the sweat subsided, the shaking stopped, and I was on my way to being a ham operator. I spent hours into the night making contacts. What is nice about this memory is the equipment that I used. I used equipment that was considered very basic in those days, and in today’s world, no one would even want to think about using it. Why should they? They have these new fangled radios that drink beer for them, make their beds, cook, and have a menu system that is 10 menu items deep full of special filters and options to making contacts a piece of cake! If they should go bad, they just mail them in to be fixed. Not with most of the novice rigs! We fixed them!

Radios of today, you only have to turn a knob (for power), key up a Mic, and presto! You are talking. There is very little that can go wrong, as well as very little to cause frustration. People spend thousands of dollars on gadgets and gimmicks that are hidden into modern day transceivers, that makes Ham Radio contact skills a thing of the past. This can be good or bad, depending upon how one looks at it.

But, there are groups out there, that can help us return to our past of real Ham Radio. We have all kinds of CW groups, from FISTS, SKCC, CWOPS, to NRR.

NRR is one of my favorite groups. Novice Radio Roundup, is a group of growing Ham Operators, that have one goal: To relive the real ham radio days of yesterday. The purpose of the NRR, is to bring back our old Novice stations, restore them, or do whatever it takes to bring back the novice radios to life. In doing so, we use these radios as our primary radio stations, to relive and capture the fun we had when we were a novice. We use our temporarily forgotten novice skills, to make contacts with our restored stations. We even have a week long “Contest” or “Event”, in which we make contacts with our novice stations, using the novice frequencies of yesterday.

Most of us are rock bound. (Yes, we still have crystals and use them just like we did in the novice days). Others will have a VFO. We also enjoy talking to all Ham operators, no matter what equipment they have. Maybe you should give it a try? For the folks with newer radios, I would suggest split VFO. We may be listening on one frequency, and transmitting on another frequency 15kc away! You may enjoy chatting and hearing these homebuilt radios, Novice transmitters, and radios of yesterday.

At the same time, you just may dig out your old novice station, put it on the air, and for the first time in a long time, SWEAT as you work that station with your nostalgic radio of your novice days. Who knows, you just might like it well enough to keep that station right next to that new station, so that flipping a switch will switch radio setups, allowing you to enjoy both stations when you want!

Dwayne (KA0AAM)

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Novice Rigs and Skills  
by KB9FMV on September 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Yes one of the best moments in my life getting my novice license! I was so proud! I am not sure today those who take the new tests feel a sense of achievement ?

RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by NN2X on September 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Very similar experience....And learning that way, which lead me to my career in Engineering...

Today, there is still the thrill, just in a different areas. For example the like digital modes.During these very low sunspots, digital reins as the great DX avenue!

Olivia, for example, can work signals, -13dB below the noise floor..(Yes you can have a QSO!), 30WPM..Typing, but putting it together take some work, just like the old days in different technology.

My point being there is still the thrill of discovery and learning, it is just in a different area of Ham radio...

I passed in 1973..(Still junior fellow), and I passed all 9 commercial FCC, BSEE Degree, (Even met my wife indirectly through Ham radio!! (CN Land). (Check out my QRZ Page NN2X, see the whole family!)

But all in all, what a wonderful hobby (Ham radio!)
RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by KF4HR on September 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Same basic situation here, starting around 1967. Built my first transmitter as a kit (Amemco AC-1), borrowed a surplus receiver, built my antennas, told my tests at the FCC Field Office, etc.

Those were the days a Novice Class licensee "had to learn" to survive in this hobby, because back then the Novice Class license was good for only one year, and was non-renewable. Back then the FCC required that Novice Class licensees meet the requirements of a higher class license (Tech, General, Advanced, or Extra) within that first year, or you were off the air. (Or you could wait a specific period of time and re-test for another one year Novice license.)

But all that was "bad then." Things are certainly much different today. Answers to all test questions are readily available on the internet for anyone to memorize, and no more of those (OMG) frustrating CW tests. And a whole slew of plug & play equipment is ready to go! (And the phrase "play radio" was invented.)

Perhaps we can think of the early years of ham radio just like the early years of automobiles. No longer do we have to go out and create steam for our Stanley Steamer's, or hand crank our Model T's. We just jump in our vehicles, turn a key or push a button, and off we go! And just like our modern vehicles, most hams have no idea how their modern equipment works, it just does. Right up until it doesn't.
RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by N6JSX on September 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
By 1972, Novice was a 2yr one shot and my high school electronics teacher Mr. Zazski (an Advanced) gave us the test and two of us passed and got licensed. We were still hobbled by rocks, 75W, CW only. So we had to learn how to work split frequencies real early in HAMdom.

My personal RX was an old Hallicrafters S40A with a HKit Q-multiplier that allowed me to pick out the various CW signals on 3700-3725. We tried to build our own CW TX in class but none of them worked. We had to use Lincoln High School HAM station that originally was setup by a local notorious HAM named Gordon Heffernon (retired school teacher and a good friend of my grandfather), Manitowoc, WI.

Our biggest obstacle to advancement in the 1950/60/70/80/90's was the once a quarter FCC test in Milwaukee vs distance to Chicago. MKE FCC location was ~85mi (no freeways) and Chicago was ~152mi (no real freeways). A trip to Chicago was a maybe once a year event and certainly not for HAM radio. So as teenagers HAM advancement was off the table - only after 10yrs USN did I become a born again and have been ever since.

de N6JSX /8, x-WN9KAS

RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by AC7CW on September 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I remember that first contact. While waiting for the license to arrive I forgot the code!
RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by N4OI on September 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Great article! I got into the hobby too late to experience the entry-level CW licensing, but can imagine what a treasure my TenTec Century 21 would have been like for a new Novice! I am still amazed what 25w and CW can accomplish...

But not all is as it was. I was in a good chat on 40m yesterday and after a few minutes, the other guy did not reply. After a minute or so he called, I responded, and then went on about me drifting 200Hz causing him to have to find my signal... He went QRT right after that.

I have to believe that back in the day, following each other around the band a bit was expected and part of the mystic of pulling signals out of the ether. Modern, rock-solid VFOs and tight filters have benefits, but "The Drifters" will always be popular to some of us..

Sure Does Sound Familiar Here, Too…!  
by VE3CUI on September 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Dwayne, my sincere compliments to you on a VERY readable --- and most enjoyable, too! --- piece…

I could see my own beginnings as a member of the Ham radio fraternity, through your own personal experiences: my first operable rig was a homebrewed 6T9 compactron tube, gleaned from the March 1971 "Beginner & Novice" section of QST magazine. Those 8-watts of rock-bound power opened-up an entirely new world of possibilities to me back in '71, culminating in a 3rd-hand Johnson Ranger-1 in 1973 ("VFO'ed QRO, I have ARRIVED!").

My earliest joys as an Amateur came whilst pursuing U.S. Novices in the old 7.1-KHz to 7.15-KHz "WN" band of that time: did VE3CUI ever have occasion to work YOU, I wonder…? I remember the thrill I got whenever veritable pile-ups of "WN"-prefaced calls would be all over me after a CQ --- I was, quite obviously, "DX" to the vast majority of these fellow newbies!

One thing that I took special notice of --- and on MORE than one occasion, too --- was the sudden and complete silence of some Novices whenever I answered their "CQ" calls. I just KNEW that these stations could hear me well enough, because many of you put out some very fine 599+ signals across Lake Ontario…but I could just see a few in my mind's eye, suddenly being exposed to a very strange "VE3"prefix coming back to them: "Do I answer him…? What if he's a pirate station…? What and where is 'VE3'…? Will I get into trouble with the F.C.C. if I acknowledge this guy…?" And so on and so on...

Were any of YOU reading this now one of these overly-timid "WN"-types in the early 70's, I wonder…? And was working a "VE3" an especially "big deal" for you back in the day…?
RE: Sure Does Sound Familiar Here, Too…!  
by W7ASA on September 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Oh yeah!

Thanks for the memories. You article was a trip down memory lane for me too.

"VE" was DX for me along the coast of California in the very early 1970's. The best though, was hearing a VE SSB operator calling CW in the old novice band (80/40 - I don't remember which) and actually working cross-mode back to my CW.

Yes, I specifically listen for slight drift, chirp, warble and less than perfectly filtered TX power supplies. It tells me that the ham on the other end likely knows a lot about how his radio gear acturally works, rather than only how to use a credit card. Great conversations come from that.

There was even this ONE fellow with a home made, solid state version of a WW II Paraset, now what was his callsign, DWAYNE? ;-)

73 de Ray ..._ ._
RE: Sure Does Sound Familiar Here, Too…!  
by W7ASA on September 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

The VE ham was calling CQ ( not CW )
RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by W3WN on September 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Great story!

I hope you don't mind, I'm going to use it in my club newsletter. (I'm always a sucker for a reason to run a picture of a Hallicrafters rig!)

73, ron w3wn
RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by KB2FCV on September 30, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Great article! I remember studying for the Novice license. Our science teacher lent us HW-16's to listen to W1AW code practice and other CW. I still remember the sound of that HW-16 as W1AW came through on 80m.. or the 40m broadcasters. We were then lent the VFO once we got our ticket so we could get on the air! We made 40m dipoles after school and our own keyers & keyer paddles. I still have them.. when I was QRV on 2m moonbounce back in 2012.. I had to use my paddles I made back in the 80's in shop class for my first CW EME QSO! Who would have known way back then those paddles would be bouncing signals off the moon.. something we were told about sitting after school learning about ham radio.

The school radio club had a SB-303 / SB-401. It had a big rotator bearing maps on the wall and they had a mosely tri-bander on top of a telephone pole. They had some sort of dipole for the lower bands. WA2RGV was the callsign of the radio club.

I remember the Novice tent for Field Day.. most of the Novices were all my age so we had a blast operating a 'modern' Ten Tec rig! It was either a Triton IV or an Omni. The first rig I bought/had as a Novice was a Ten Tec 540.
Novice Rigs and Skills  
by KC8Y on October 1, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Just reading this article brings back a whole-lot-of memories for me :) I got my novice license in 1968 and built my first 7-watt 40m transmitter (CW only).
Was so proud of my accomplishments!!!!

Ken KC8Y
Novice Rigs and Skills  
by KC8Y on October 1, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Just reading this article brings back a whole-lot-of memories for me :) I got my novice license in 1968 and built my first 7-watt 40m transmitter (CW only).
Was so proud of my accomplishments!!!!

Ken KC8Y
Novice Rigs and Skills  
by KC8Y on October 1, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Just reading this article brings back a whole-lot-of memories for me :) I got my novice license in 1968 and built my first 7-watt 40m transmitter (CW only).
Was so proud of my accomplishments!!!!

Ken KC8Y
RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by N8YX on October 1, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
My high school electronics class was a mirror of several of the replies in thread so far. As far as rigs...three Novices in my graduating class had a variety to choose from. Mine was an HQ-100 with a 12BY7/6L6 40M crystal controlled transmitter; good for maybe 15w.

That soon became replaced by a GSB-100.

Heathkit had some interesting offerings marketed toward the Novice operator back in those times. There are a couple of HR-1680/HX-1681 setups in my project pile awaiting restoration and use.
Novice Rigs and Skills  
by K6YE on October 1, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for the nice article and another walk down Memory Lane.

I was WN6ZNL, which at the time was a one-year, non-renewable novice license and had voice privileges on 145 to 147 MHz. I used an end fed dipole on 80, 40 and 15 meters using an Ameco AC-1 transmitter and a Hallicrafters S-85 receiver. I remember that I only had three "rocks" for 40 and tried to grind one with toothpaste and grit in an effort to raise the frequency. I broke the first one but was successful with subsequent tries. QRM was fierce back then and with probably 6 watts delivered to the antenna, it was tough work. But the rewards felt grand!

VEs were DX from southern California and I enjoyed the few that I managed to work with my modest station. One gentleman owned a wood processing center mill and sent me some examples of the products made there.

I met a lot of fine hams then. That was the time when one could knock on a door (after spotting a bodacious tower festooned with a Christmas tree of yagis) and be admitted into the residence. I always wanted a KWM-2 as a result of some of those visits. BTW, I never got one.

Thanks again for the article and comments from others.

Semper Fi,

Tommy - K6YE
RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by KA3AUD on October 1, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I still have my original novice ticket, issued in 1978, framed and hanging in my shack. Great article.
Novice Rigs and Skills  
by K6CRC on October 1, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I really enjoyed the article. I studied hard for my Novice MANY years ago. Reel to reel code tapes and ARRL books in the public library. For many reasons, never got the ticket. My high school Electronics shop teacher had his ticket, and there was a full Swan station in the class. But, he was retired on the job, and wasn't about to stay one minute after school to help any student with anything. Local hams were not the nicest people. Forget it!
Then, I got sidetracked by a truck that needed work. Then, a girlfriend, then surfing...
Fast forward 40 years, I got my General ticket after retiring. I really like the hobby and many of the people. My only regret was not being able to see past the people obstacles early on. I enjoyed my first weeks on the air, but still not the thrill I would have gotten with my HQ-129x and the borrowed transmitter when I was 17.
Maybe it is time to re-learn code...
RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by K8QV on October 1, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Obviously, if you have to DO something, KNOW something and pass a REAL test there is a sense of accomplishment and excitement that accompanies that journey. Those days are gone for amateur radio but I'm glad I didn't miss the thrill of learning, doing and building back in the day. Sure, it's easy to get your ticket now but, as BB King would say, the thrill is gone.
Novice Rigs and Skills  
by N5LB on October 1, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
These are my novice days, as I remember them, as I believe I lived them a long long time ago.

You probably remember waiting for your novice license to show up in the mail as the FCC took their time issuing a call sign for you the operator and the station. Remember when you needed an operator and a station license? It seemed very formal, very important to me as a teenager with a ham radio license.

When that license appeared and my mother handed me the envelope I think that I actually jumped up in the air and yelled. She figured ,I guess, that being a teenager was just too much for me. She was probably wondering where she failed. I had my HT-40 and my S-108 and my antenna ready to go. I called my friend Gary, WN5MRL, and told him and he immediately got on the air to be my first QSO. It wasn't too scary and signals were loud and Gary even QRS'd. That was 22 January 1966.

Shortly after I worked my first "DX" on the 40 meter band. It was unreal, the crowding, signals all over the place calling CQ through the non existent selectivity of the S-108. Right after signing with Gary a novice in Texas called , frankly causing a brain freeze and panic. We managed to have a QSO and that became my first state. Now I was enthralled with 40 meters, as if I had a choice, and at night signals were everywhere, far more than I could ever separate. And then of course I only had a 7.182 crystal.

Today I miss the crowded 40m band.

I never achieved WAS. Mike, WN5OSO a few miles away did, thanks to an SX-101 that could actually get down to a single signal.

Of course my friend Gary had moved up to a Viking 2 and NC-303 and that set up seemed even better than Mike's SX-101. For him WAS and DX came easily.

Nevertheless, I stayed on the air and worked through horrid 40 meter nighttime QRM. When I discovered Heathkit I saw that they had a Q Multiplier kit and since the one I built from the Handbook never worked this seemed like just the thing. That Q Multiplier became the first of many Heathkits and it worked great. Finally I could narrow down and amplify one signal, more or less. It was a great time on 40.

Moving to the 15 meter band, using the 40 meter dipole and my new 7050 kcs crystal, I really came to experience DX excitement and this thing called drift. So I could really add selectivity and gain with the Q Multiplier but the signal just drifted away. Our house was on a major street with a lot of truck traffic and what I also discovered was that a cement truck could easily QSY the S-108 receiver 5 kcs or more on 15 meters. You learn to compensate. I managed to work a fair amount of DX using the HT-40/S-108/Dipole and finally having developed better ears and Morse skills. Read my notes on the SP5YC QSL......interesting times.

I think back to those days when the FCC had a use it or lose it policy and you needed a certain number of hours in your logbook. This was a big concern plus the non renewable one year novice ticket. You had to build code speed and to do that you had to have QSO's. But I was determined and though my CW copying skills were never great the code speed came up.

I worked hard at learning to send and receive 13 wpm and went to the FCC office for my exam. They kept the place freezing, the examiners were expressionless, and in the room were professional radio operators testing for their Radiotelegraph, but that's all another story. My General came in the mail in July and I escaped the dreaded expired novice ticket.
Novice Rigs and Skills  
by W0DT on October 1, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article.. Can relate to many things.. Also that was my first ham receiver.. Low cost but worked.
Novice Rigs and Skills  
by KB2DHG on October 2, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Sounds just like me... I wish they still have the licensing the way it was back then I loved the Novice ,Tech, General, Advanced and General formats...

Your article sounds just like my first experience and I too used the EICO 720 60 watt Transmitter for my rig and contacts.. I STILL HAVE THE RIG!

Yes there was something magical and great about those times back then...

To me the old rigs were so cool to use YES they requires a bit of work to operate but that was all part of it...
Nice article brought me back in time...
Novice Rigs and Skills  
by KI4ZUQ on October 2, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Really a great story!

Novice Rigs and Skills  
by N2EY on October 2, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Great story!

But one small point:

The Novice power limit was never 90 watts. It was 75 watts until the mid-1970s, then 250 watts (DC input). When the rules changed to PEP output, it became 200 watts (on HF)

Novice Rigs and Skills  
by W0XX on October 2, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
It was different "then". There was in my opinion, much more hands on, building, tuning, using and the exams were more of studying license guides that did not have the answers only the theory. Before my Novice, some folks had to draw schematics. Things today are much more applicance, get it, hook it up and use it and hopefully, correctly.
Novice Rigs and Skills  
by K6CRC on October 2, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
We all need to be careful here. As I re-entered Ham radio after retirement, I heard a constant drum of (pick the word)...
"Things were (harder, better, more fun) back when I was young. Today, the kids are (stupid, lazy, rude) unlike when I was young!"
None of that is completely true. How many old timers can program in any language, build a website, or even navigate common phone apps?
The hobby faces many challenges. Don't blow it for the rest of us by turning off future hams with a sour, negative, hateful view of today based on a largely fabricated past.
That attitude hurt the hobby when I was 17, and still does.
RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by N0QJA on October 2, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I too had experience with Gordon.... I was just out of tech school and working at WCUB with Hubert Willis (W9TQV now a silent key).... I remember him doing the Civil Defense/EAS tests over the remote pickup equipment that the office he was in had at the time.....
Novice Rigs and Skills  
by KJ7WT on October 3, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I enjoyed this article, even though my experience was somewhat different. I was first licensed in 1969, just before graduating from high school. I had fiddled with electronics for many years previously, and had built a simple rig using a TV sweep tube oscillator, and I had one 80m crystal for it! However, I didn't have a receiver.
I decided to go for a Tech ticket, as I struggled to learn CW, and figured that I could talk on 6m with a Tech, and forget that CW stuff! I passed, and became WA0ZEW, but then we moved to 7-land (And I became WA7NTG), and I joined the USCG, so ham radio took a back seat for a time. I bought a used Lafayette 6m AM rig from the father of one of the officers on my first ship, and made one QSO with it! The ham I contacted was unimpressed with my first QSO excitement, and told me that he was looking for DX. OK, cool. I let my license expire, but before the 1 year renewal grace period was up, I met some hams at the company for which I was then working, and revived my interest. I applied for a "6" license, and received one of the new 'N' calls, N6AFV. I actually used CW in the novice/tech portions of the HF bands, and in 1983, I took the 13WPM test and became a General, then became a no-code Extra in 2014. I have never used CW since I got my General ticket, but I'm thinking I need to bring that skill back. Thanks for the trip down nostalgia lane!
Novice Rigs and Skills  
by K4EQ on October 3, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I got my Novice ticket in 1960 and, like you, get rather nostalgic thinking about the fun I had during my Novice days. As I recall, the Eico 720 ran up to 90 watts, but it had a 75-watt mark on the meter so you could keep within the Novice legal limit of 75 watts. I'm not sure anyone actually "saw" that mark, but it really was there. Hi!
Novice Rigs and Skills  
by N8XI on October 3, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

Very nice and similar to my novice days (1959).
Started with a Hallicrafters S-53A RCVR given to me by an uncle for Christmas and a homebrew 6V6/807 XMTR.
My first QSO was a very nervous time for me also. Not only that, I got a pink slip from the FCC monitoring station
in Allegan Michigan for being in 7149.2 with a 7150 KC XTAL :(
Novice Rigs and Skills  
by KE6EE on October 3, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Yes, gear back then (1957 for me) was possibly more complicated to use due to poor dial calibration, drift and having to tune a pi network transmitter output. More knob-twisting and switch flipping. Less information: small changes in the deflection of a meter rather than multiple digital readouts.

The geography of a band was a mental construct as much as an approximate indication on an analog dial.

On the other hand, many technical aspects of operating were more transparent. Zero beat was simply zero beat rather than a possibly-challenging matching to a sidetone pitch. Sending with a straight key required a deeper understanding of the rhythm of Morse.

Today's gear may be plug-and-play but the actual understanding of how gear actually does what it does is
far more complex and difficult to get to. A beginner has to do a lot of reading about what's in his magic box rather than having the experience of building a kit, mounting big components on an aluminum chassis and doing point-to-point wiring.

The hands-on experience of assembling a kit taught a lot about how circuits work because, for example, one could see a massive, heavy power transformer and a tapped inductor with switched taps.
RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by KK6HUY on October 3, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
"I am not sure today those who take the new tests feel a sense of achievement?"

I did. Wanted to do it since I was eight. Finally did.
Novice Rigs and Skills  
by K1FT on October 3, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Great article Dwayne. I suppose it helps to have been licensed in the 50's, 60's and 70's to relate, but I also think that the same thrill was present even when my sons were licensed 35 years after me. I got my ticket in 1960 and ran a Heathkit DX-20 and a Knight Space Spanner regenerative receiver. If you were brought up with that kind of receiver,you never need filters as your brain was tempered to do that job on it's own.
As a second to the NRR, Novice Rig Roundup, it is a great group to join in for year around activity, or just for the event from Mar 3 to Mar 11 in 2018. I still use my DX-20, and this year will use it with HQ-100 receiver. Lots of activity and lots of fun. Just like the old days for a whole week. 73, Deke K1FT
RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by K2LGO on October 4, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Nicely written Dwayne....Licensed in Jan 1958 as a novice with the test given at a local high school...Had a HQ-100 that I had been a SWL with, and a friend lent me a Heath XMTR (AT-1 MAYBE)....Well for 6 months I had a love affair with the brass, and then the lure of the opposite sex became too strong, and I drifted away...Joined the NAVY in Aug of 58, and the NAVY decided that I should become a CT (Communications Technician)...Well I was a wet behind the ear kid, and the personnel man who said I would learn electronics as a CT failed to say that the school they we're sending me to was for copying code (CT-R brancher) and so I did four years of ditti chasing...and funny thing some of the guys who came into the class knowing no code at all passed me in ability...Well here it is almost 60 years later, and I do remember the thrill of my early ham radio days, but I can still not find the thrill in CW....hard as I may try....73 /L.I. N.Y.
Novice Rigs and Skills  
by K5DH on October 5, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Wow... thanks for the wonderful stroll down Nostalgia Lane! Such memories! It's a shame that the "Novice experience" is long gone.

My Novice station consisted of a used Eico 723 transmitter (crystal controlled, 60 Watts input, CW only), a used Lafayette HA-800A ham-bands receiver, and a G5RV antenna strung up as an inverted vee with the apex atop 40 feet of steel TV antenna mast and the ends tied to a couple of trees. Including required stuff like coax cable, Morse key, logbook, and so forth, I had a total of about $150 invested. I delivered a lot of newspapers and mowed a lot of lawns to earn that money! It wasn't much of a station even by 1970s standards, but I spent countless hours in my parents' basement filling page after page in my logbook with contacts from all over the place. The receiver was broad as a barn door, drifted endlessly, and was subject to hand capacitance. I could fine-tune a station just by holding my fingers near the main tuning knob! Using that awful receiver was a real challenge, but I did it, and I loved it!

My QSL cards were in high demand because there weren't many stations on from Delaware, especially on the Novice bands. I didn't have much money, so I got my cards from The Little Print Shop. Remember them? :)

Even today, over 40 years on, I still have a "thing" for little Novice rigs. I buy 'em, bring 'em back to life, and sell 'em on to some other dreamer. There's always someone who wants to relive their glory days. Once in a while, I even make a buck or two, hi! My latest resurrection is a rusty ol' Globe Chief 90 that had been given up for dead.

Fun stuff! Thanks again for starting this topic!

Dean K5DH
Novice Rigs and Skills  
by AI4BJ on October 9, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Nostalgia is great -- I indulge in it myself quite regularly. But do you not see how phrases like "Ham Radio contact skills a thing of the past" and "relive the real ham radio days of yesterday" are destructive and a huge turn-off to young, newly-minted hams in 2017?

By all means, resurrect your old boat-anchor if that's what floats your boat, but spare me (and our newer generation of hams) the lecture that only contacts made with unfiltered radios that drift 500 Hz/minute constitute "real" ham radio. The modern ham seeking challenges has plenty of options at his/her disposal that don't involve the use of 50 year-old technology!

Mark AI4BJ
RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by K5TEN on October 12, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I LOVED my Novice days!!

I was first licenced in Winona, Minnesota by Les Hittner (K0BAD)as my elmer in 1981. He was tough on me for the exam and I asked that it be.

I was in college (Winona State University) at the time and wanted to earn my ticket no matter how hard the test. I wanted a tough test because I wanted to make sure I knew my stuff on the air as to not embarrass myself.

Upon moving back to Waukegan, IL I reset my address and got the call KA9SOX. Being a Cubs fan I both laughed and cried.

The novice Roundup Contests got my CW speed up to 25 wpm, and soon delved into ARRL 10 meter Contest (as a Novice, CW only) and got hooked on CW and contesting.

I still love CW and love helping new hams get comfortable on CW. I miss the Novice days!

RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by WA7VHW on October 13, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Great article! Brings back great memories. I got my novice in 1973 and was shaking as I made my first QSO on 80 meters. Had a Heath HR10B rcvr and a homebrew 6146 xmtr built by my Elmer. LAter upgraded to a DX-60B, which I rejuvenated last winter and still put on the air now & then.
Novice Rigs and Skills  
by K1FPV on October 13, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Yes! I remember coveting the crystals I had for the 3 Novice Bands. The warm glow of the tubes of my Knight R-55 and the glow of the 6DQ6B Novice Oscillator/RF Amp rig (approx. 15 Watts input) from the handbook. That included a QSL from the FCC for a second harmonic violation. I was operating on 15 meters (on the 3rd. harmonic of the 7 Mc. XTAL) unfortunately, the 2nd. harmonic was radiating too! :(

I replied to the FCC with my Mea Culpa and immediately bought a Knight T-60. No harmonic problem and more power. Instead of the 15 watts input from the 6DQ6 osc./TX tube rig, I had several stages of tuned output for more spectral purity and more power(60 watts input).

Boy has this hobby changed in the last 55 years!

Bill, K1FPV
ex. KN1FPV
RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by KB6QXM on October 15, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
The original Novice class license was the last holdout of what Amateur radio was before political correct inclusion and incentive licensing was pushed down our throats. In those days, you either you learned your 5 WPM and passed the examination in a FCC office and had to upgrade within 1-year. No whining, no excuses. You either did it or you found another hobby. PERIOD!

What has happened to the license requirements is a shame. Granted there is a lot of factors that required the bar to be lowered, but there was a time when you announced that you were an amateur radio operator and people respected you because it was understood that you had technical skills and knowledge.

Recently I was at a local ham club meeting where a "licensed" technician class asked me what a repeater was. Also did not know how to solder a PL259 connector onto the end of a piece of coax.

I do not see events that teach the hobby to the younger generation. Also with all of the CC&R and HOA rules against putting up a tower and antenna, I wonder about the future of amateur radio.

The days of rock radios, limited power and CW only of the original Novice license of are an era of simpler times and when you actually were proud of your accomplishments, did not whine because you cannot distinguish the differences between dits and dots. You either did it or found another hobby.

RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by NN2X on October 15, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I have agree with the below statement

"What has happened to the license requirements is a shame. Granted there is a lot of factors that required the bar to be lowered, but there was a time when you announced that you were an amateur radio operator and people respected you because it was understood that you had technical skills and knowledge"

My first job was based that I was a Ham operator..

And what I had to learn by passing the Ham exams launched my career (Satellite communications). I comprehended the fundamentals of communications and basic electronics all from Ham Radio. By doing so,it was a breeze to pass the 9 commercial licenses (1ST class Phone etc) and the 4 year BSEE degree...We definitely had to comprehend the material..that was the key...It did not take all that much more effort than memorizing a pool of questions..

It is really true, that going through a higher standard of understanding, is not only better for the ham community, but even moreover for me personally, as it gave me a handsome living to support my family and a respectable profession. Without the high standards of Ham radio, I would not have the life I have today...

I know this is controversial topic, but make no mistake about it, if new Ham Operators had to go through the same challenges and standards as we did in the past, it would be not only beneficial to the Ham community , but more enjoyable, satisfying and like myself, my even launch a career!

C U all on the bands, no matter the era!



RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by KB6QXM on October 15, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

Small world. My first engineering job was because of amateur radio. The director of engineering was a ham. In his interview with me he asked me how do you load and tune an amplifier. I also have had a great career in high technology here in the Silicon Valley. I do not talk about ham radio here as it is associated as an "old guy" hobby. Mobile ham radio here is outlawed because of "distracted driver" laws here in California.

Granted back before the incentive licensing obtaining a license required focus and discipline. I guess that is a lost art now.

I do not buy into the DX paper chasing, the mindset of always QRO or "radio sport" that has been prevalent in the last couple of decades as a way to promote the hobby. Why would I want to spend thousands of dollars and effort to see how many contacts in an hour without a real conversation just to get a 5/9 QRZ?

The days of ham radio decades ago where a new ham would want to put up a tower/antenna and the local club would line up for the tower party. Now all I hear is "how much will you pay me?" The tower parties with the BBQ and a bunch of experienced hams is gone.

RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by W4KYR on October 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Although I never was a Novice. I found this article (as well as most of the comments) to be interesting, inspiring as well as enjoyable to read.

Novice Rigs and Skills  
by K4KJC on October 19, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Really nice story, Dwayne, those were magical days. I began in a very similar manner in 1964 with a Hammarlund HQ110C and a Heathkit DX40, feeding a dipole. I can well remember the nervous first days and weeks on the air, it hasn't been that "magical" since. Good memories though! Thanks for bringing it all back.
RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by NZ5L on November 3, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article. Brought back memories.
I still have the qsl card of my very first qso, from April 1960, proudly displayed between my WAS and DXCC certs! Like yourself, I used a HB xmtr of limited potential, and a Halli S-40B. That was the whole station for almost 5 years. Today's ops don't know the joy of simply landing a reply to a CQ with what we had to work with, and I remember those days as some of the most exciting of my Ham career.
Nonetheless, I'm not sure I want to re-live working with a 10 watt rockbounder and an S-40B! Like the saying goes, "you can't go home again".
Anyway, thanks for the memory.
RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by WB2BWC on November 5, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Man, I had tears reading this post!! First licenced in 1966. With my dad's help ,after mowing alot of lawns,we built a dx60,hg10 vfo, and then a hw100! I still have my first receiver ha-350, and hw100, and both are functioning! My parents took me to Heathkit headquarters in Benton harbor anD toured the plant. I am now retired, and enjoying radio even more!Wow what a heartfelt article!THank you for this blog!!!
Novice Rigs and Skills  
by WA4FOM on November 11, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I loved the "I peaked my grid, dipped my plate" reference. I had to chuckle, because I knew you were kidding. You dipped the grid for resonance, and peaked the plate for output.
RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by W3RSW on November 13, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
He peaked the grid for maximum or at least nominally enough to drive the final tube , then dipped plate tune for resonance then peaked plate load for maximum power in probably a PI output network in the common two stage transmitter of the day.

He also may have repeatedly dipped and loaded alternately as he brought up the grid drive, especially if he was unsure of the antenna matching. Many simply had a wire antenna of decent length which the PI net loaded into with nary a hitch. Many had a doublet antenna cut for the 40 meter novice segment if sufficient knowledge or help was obtained to do so.

If his transmitter was a single stage such as an electron coupled 6CL6, 6V6 or 6L6 oscillator in his era, then he simply used only the two PI net controls, tune and load. This after he set the grid feedback capacitor for minimum chirp from his crystal.

Yes, those were the days!
Novice Rigs and Skills  
by K2ACB on November 16, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
This was a very interesting article and it brought back a lot of memories. I feel very strongly that it would be beneficial to the hobby in the USA if some form of the Novice license was reinstated.

I was 14 years old when I got my novice license back in 1963. My call was WN2DZW.I never went for the Tech license. I failed the CW portion of the General Class license at the local FCC offices in downtown Manhattan 5 times and the theory twice before I passed the General Class license and became WB2DZW.I only had two months left on my Novice license before it expired.
I subsequently went on to obtain the Advanced and Extra class licenses after my General class license

My novice rig was a used Heathkit DX 20 ,a used Hallicrafters SX110 receiver and a 40 meter dipole on the roof of a 14 story apartment building on the upper east side of Manhattan in New York City.I bought my novice equipment from a fellow I met at my high school radio club who had gotten his General Class license and wanted to get better equipment to operate as a General Class operator.I too sold that equipment for better equipment after I got my General class license.

As a novice I managed to work most states and about 20 DX stations. I still have the QSL cards I received from my Novice contacts.

I also during the period I was a novice received over a bizarre incident, an FCC pink slip. That is a story in itself. That was the first and last time I ever had any problems with the FCC. You can imagine how my mom felt as did I, when an FCC official came to our Apartment with his FCC badge and asked to see me and my station.

He cited me for not putting down in my log book, when I went on the air the time I went on the air and signed off. I only put down in my log book when I made a contact.Today you do not even need a log book. I was also cited for not having on my SX110 receiver a BFO so I should know the band edges. As A Novice at that time I had to be crystal controlled. I could not use a VFO and was limited to a maximum of 75 watts.

I wrote the FCC I would correct these violations . The FCC official who came to the house confiscated my log book. It took me almost a year before the FCC mailed me back the logbook.

When I started in amateur radio there were a lot of young people who were involved in amateur radio, especially teenagers. There were also a lot of high school radio clubs.I was a member of my high school radio club. I lament that today there are probably more seniors and retirees joining the ranks of amateur radio than teenagers.

There are also far fewer high school and college radio clubs that are operational today than there were years ago. Those clubs were a breeding ground for new radio amateurs.

I married late so my sons are now in college. They are both studying computer technology. My younger son has constantly told me that in this day and age there is no need to take a government sponsored examination including radio and electronic theory when there is the internet and cell phone technology readily available to everyone. He is studying computer engineering.

I have told him that especially in times of emergencies, when internet links and cell phone towers maybe down, as well as a loss of electric power,the only means of communication could only be through amateur radio. This argument does not seem to have much of an effect on young people today becoming radio amateurs.

My two sons have never had an interest in the hobby. Though I tried when they were youngsters to get them interested.They grew up in the age of the computer which is a completely different era when I grew up in the 50's and 60's.Amateur radio is less of a thrill today as it was before the computer era.

I thought it was a shame when the FCC did away with the Novice license. I read that the ARRL has made recommendations to bring this license back in some form or another. I hope that they succeed. It may help to revitalize an interest in Amateur Radio by younger people, especially teenagers.

Amateur Radio should not just be a hobby of mostly middle age and older men. In this day and age we should also try and attract besides younger people more women (YL'S)as well. Women have made great strides in many fields over the past few decades. But there are still very few women in the ranks of radio amateurs. Who knows maybe a new Novice license will also inspire more women to join the ranks of this wonderful hobby?


Novice Rigs and Skills  
by W3HR on November 19, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Novice Radio Roundup sounds like it's right up my alley. Those were exciting days, when you actually had to work towards a ticket!
RE: Novice Rigs and Skills  
by W3HR on November 19, 2017 Mail this to a friend!

Okay... looks like it's Novice RIG Roundup...

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