Tag Archives: hamradio

my old ham radio “shack”

Some of my ham radio (amateur radio) equipment from when I was a teenager in the 1970’s.

I didn’t date in high school, so I had to have an absorbing hobby. I still have a valid license. I’ve been careful to keep it renewed for decades, because it would be big trouble to go back and retake all the exams.

The outdoor shot:

The horizontal antenna is a tri-bander for the 10, 15, and 20-meter amateur bands. I used a cheap Radio Shack “Archer Rotor” to turn it that was meant for small TV antennas, so that array turned around very slowly. It would take several minutes to do a 180, yet that motor never burned out.

The vertical antenna is a fiberglass CB (Citizens Band) antenna for the 11-meter band.

The indoor shot:

The radio in the middle with the low profile is a 23-channel CB. Brand is Craig. It would do more than the legal 23 channels after I modded it. Standing up just to the left of it is an Astatic D-104 “power mike” (lollipop shape) microphone that was the envy of CB’ers. It made you sound BIG on the air.

On the right is a Heathkit HW-101 amateur radio that I built from a kit. It contained 20 vacuum tubes. It was for the 80, 40, 20, 15, and 10-meter ham bands. Like the CB, after I modded it, it would do more than that. To the right of it is a Sure 444-D microphone. Nothing really special about it, but you can see one in the TV show “Superstore” in customer service.

Now you can see what happens to frustrated gay closeted teenagers who don’t know what to do about things and can’t tell anybody. They take up complex weird hobbies.

All this was pre-Internet when conventional instant international communication was reserved for well-heeled companies and the wealthy. I talked all over the world on the ham rig. I’d get up at 5 AM on school days so I could “work the USSR” for two hours before school. The cold war communication problems didn’t apply to amateur radio. Everybody talked where they wanted to when the Earth’s atmosphere would support it.

My parents liked that this hobby kept me off the streets and out of trouble. As far as they knew, it did.

radio gaga

I went out on dates almost none in high school and didn’t go to the proms. I just wasn’t up to tackling all the issues that would  have made it possible for me to do it the right way.

Instead, I got an amateur radio license (ham radio), covered my parents house and yard with huge antennas, and sat down in their basement alone with my tube-type radio (Heathkit HW-101), and geeked out by talking with people all over the world.

My parents seemd to like it because it mostly kept me out of trouble.

I was often up by 5:00 a.m. before school so I could run downstairs and work the USSR for a couple of hours before leaving.

Then when I hit my twenties, I tried to make up for the lack of dating.

I still have a valid radio license.

hot water 101

This is a net pic of a ham radio transceiver I had starting when I was in junior high.

Heathkit HW-101. It was nicknamed the “Hot Water 101” because it had 20 vacuum tubes in it which made heat roar out the top. It sucked a lot of ‘lectricity. I built it from a kit. It was known as a moderately shitty rig that had problems with having a drifty VFO (tuner).

I had my little “shack” in my parent’s unheated basement. On cold winter mornings, I could warm my hands on the top of the rig.

I’d get up at 5 AM on many school mornings (how many school kids did that?) so I could have a couple of hours on the radio before leaving. Sometimes it was dramatic: cold, still dark out, talking to other operators all over the world, some of which I got to know, including many in those “forbidden” countries, like the former USSR.

American teenager had a fondness for “forbidden” international friendships which translated well over to Internet decades later. Good hobby.

I also did a lot of “phone patching.” Phone calls could be piped through shortwave radio saving enormous, often prohibitive, international charges. Quality was low but tolerable. I often did this for military ships at sea (service people calling home), immigrants needing some audible love from back home, etc. Drama sometimes went through my radio: new baby, death in the family. I had to listen in to know when to transmit and receive. Parties on the line were instructed to say “over” whenever they wanted the other person to talk.

As an often dejected teenager, this gave me some value.