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I was first licensed as Novice KN7IPZ in summer 1959 when I was midway through high school in Tucson, Arizona. I upgraded to Conditional Class (remember that one?) soon thereafter, borrowed an AM rig from my Pastor/Elmer, and got on AM phone. Phone was fun then--you could work anybody on 10 meters with fifty watts (input) and a vertical. But I found that CW was more challenging and rewarding, and so I built a CW station and returned the AM rig.
College at the US Naval Academy followed by Polaris Submarine duty brought years of on-and-off activity. In the 1970's, graduate school at U. of Arizona in Tucson afforded some "spare" time for CW traffic handling, some DXing, a couple of Field Day outings, and FCC exams (remember those?) for upgrades to Advanced and Extra Class tickets. I became K7IA in 1977. I dabbled in RTTY for a while, enjoying the sounds and fragrances of a Model 15. Ribbons and rolled paper weren't easy to find, so, like others, I used both sides of the paper, and I used ribbons until I could hardly see the print. No "glass teletype" in those days!
I finished a PhD in Nuclear Engineering in 1978 and then worked as a technical staff member at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque for a few years. I built an IMSAI 8080 computer and learned Assembly, writing a number of routines that married the computer to the radio: logging software, sending/receiving CW and RTTY, etc. Those programs did the job, but they were quite primitive compared to what's available today!
In 1980 I tossed away my spare time and started medical school at U. of New Mexico in Albuquerque. At 36, I was the oldest guy in my class. The radios once again gathered dust, this time for eight years of schooling plus residency training in Radiation Oncology. I got enough operating time to satisfy the activity requirements, and I kept my ticket intact.
Now I'm retired and after five years of building our "dream house," just a few "little" things remain unfinished. My wife, Erin (KB5ZKE), and I live in the New Mexico outback, "off the grid," an hour due east of the Silver City Wal Mart. I homebrewed a large photovoltaic system that satisfies Erin's requirement that she "does not have to live like a pioneer!" The solar electric system (by day) plus diesel electric generator (by night or in cloudy conditions) allows for QRO hamming.
The "dream house" is not in a ham's "dream location," however. Instead of on a hilltop, it's in a canyon, away from most of New Mexico's stiff winds. Had I been a contester before purchasing this property, well, so much for foresight!
With dwindling house construction projects, there's more and more time for hamming. In August 2011, I added a 92 foot tower to a modest antenna farm (a 4 el SteppIR at 52 feet, a ground-mounted SteppIR vertical [66 radials], and vees for 80 and 160 at about 50 feet). The vertical's principal use is for diversity receive, and it's a treat to listen to the horizontally polarized component in the left ear and the vertically component in the right ear. Yes, the major axis of eliptically polarized incoming DX signals constantly "rotates" and is interesting to listen to.
The new tower carries a 2 el M2 yagi for 40m and an old but refurbished TH5 tribander at 60 feet. The tower is shunt feed for 160 meters, and it supports the apex of a full-sized delta loop for 80m directed towards Europe.
In late March 2012, Milt, N5IA, loaned his considerable expertise to raise the SteppIR tower from 52 to 82 feet in height, and the SteppIR plays even better than ever. What a difference! Antenna work is never finished, and a few months ago, I shunt fed the SteppIR tower for 80 meters and added a vee for 160 meters for close-in work.
Because a line drawn between the two towers bears 90 degrees away from Europe, I constructed a full-sized square loop for 30 meters, vertically polarized, and attached it to a suspensory line between the towers. The upper wire is about 75 feet above ground. Works like a charm!
In Fall 2012 I constructed Beverage antenna employing two bidirectional receiving wires oriented towards Europe (and VK/ZL, 900 feet) and towards JA (and South America, 650 feet). Directivity is not as sharp as I would have liked, and I think the reason lies in the steep walls of our canyon QTH favoring high angle incoming signals that are less directive. However, the construction effort was worth it, because I made many contacts in the 2012-13 160m contest season that I wouldn't have heard otherwise.
I rarely use the SteppIR vertical for transmitting these days. It's principal use is for diversity receive, and it's a treat to listen to the horizontally polarized component of incoming elipically polarized DX signals in the left ear and the vertical component in the right ear. It's a stereophonic sensation, revealing the relative strengths of the two polarization components. The relative components change from moment to moment, usually improving overall copy in poor conditions.
How does the antenna system play? I'm happy to say the 5BDXCC plaque is on the wall, fulfilling a quest begun in 2005.
Thanks to the many who have kept amateur radio exciting over the years!
6182102 Last modified: 2015-07-16 00:22:00, 6221 bytes
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