Tag Archives: hw101

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.