(HOME) Station AJ8MH - Marquette, Michigan

The Early Active Years

  [ AUSTIN,TEXAS ]  After finishing my tour-of-duty in Southeast Asia with the Air Force, I was sent to Bergstrom Air Force Base in Austin, TX.  I had less than a year left on active duty, so this would be my last duty-station.  Since I only had a conditional amateur license, I made arrangements with the Federal Communications Commission in Houston to test for the general and advanced tickets early in 1972.
With that out of the way, I was ready to get down to business.  First, I needed a transceiver, power supply and antenna, so I placed a couple orders.  I had already built a few Heathkits, so most of the small stuff was done, but now it was time to try a big job.
I still remember sitting at the kitchen table in that small Austin apartment.  The table was piled high with cupcake tins filled with various electronic parts waiting to be soldered in place to form my Heathkit HW-101 transceiver. The smell of solder permeated the air every evening, and all day on the weekends.
It seemed to take forever to finally complete the transceiver and power supply kits, and was I ever disappointed when The HW-101 smoked the first time I turned it on.  (But, that's part of the excitement of building your own... isn't it?)  After a little troubleshooting, I found a missing resistor, and I remember being amazed at how much smoke (and damage) that mistake caused.  After replacing a couple resistors in the circuit and a tube, I was ready for another test flight.  This time, no problems where encountered, and the radio aligned just like the book said it should.
(Side note:  While grilling steaks outside early one night, I met my next door neighbor in the complex.  It so happens he was a licensed ham (Max-K5OVW), and he had gotten permission to place a small tri-bander on the roof.)
Weeks earlier, I had purchased an Hy-Gain 18AVT vertical.  It didn't take too long to assemble it and place it just outside the bedroom window at the edge of the apartment parking lot.  It was installed on a small tripod, and grounded to a nearby water-pipe.  After a few adjustments to the length of the antenna, I was off and running, and within a couple of months, managed to work all the states and continents.  (K5OVW and I couldn't operate on 20 meters at the same time!)
It was during this time that a group formed to build activity on the ten meter band.  Ten-Ten International was born with the motto, "You have to make contacts to get results."  After working 10 members on ten, I was presented with the Ten-Ten International certificate number 5991 on September 14, 1972.  At that time, WB6LWW was President, and W6LRY was Secretary.
It was now the middle of October, 1972, and time to leave Austin.  I said goodbye to the military, and headed to Mississippi where I could seriously start to work on confirming 100 countries to qualify for the DXCC award.

  [ BILOXI, MISSISSIPPI ]  By June, 1973, I had 44 countries confirmed, and just moved into my first house where I could erect a tower.  I refused to buy an amplifier, and continued to run only 100 Watts output.  (The 3 element beam at forty feet sure helped, but those "Big Guns" made it difficult to work the rare ones.)  By the end of '73, I had confirmations from 61 countries, and to make a long story short, it took another year and a half to finally confirm number 100. My DXCC is dated June 3, 1975.
I did other things during the time I chased DX.  I joined the YL International SSB organization, and received member number 9420.  I also worked many contests, and managed to win First Place SSB-USA during the Michigan QSO Party in 1975, and First Place CW-Mississippi QRP in the '76 Michigan QSO Party.
In addition, I got bit by the 2 meter bug, and built a Heathkit HW-202.  That's about the time the autopatch came on the scene, so it didn't take too long for me to convert an old telephone touch pad for radio use.  Talking on the telephone while driving around town was quite a thrill in those days.
While living in Biloxi, I joined the Mississippi Coast Amateur Radio Association (MCARA), and served as their Vice President in '76 and '77.  I also had time to rebuild on old Hallicrafters receiver, and you can see it on the far left of the black and white photo taken of the station in '77.
It was March of '76 when I switched gears, and got interested in QRP work (under 5 Watts).  I bought another Heathkit (the HW-8), heated the soldering iron, and was soon on-the-air with this great little rig.  Now, I spent most of my operating time seeing just how little power was required to maintain a contact.  By August, I had worked 43 states running less then 3 Watts.  My best contact was with Japan (JH1APK) on 15 meters running 1 watt.  (That's about 6,907 miles per watt.)
Running QRP continued to be my main interest, so I joined QRP Amateur Radio Club International on May 11, 1977, and was issued the number 3904.  After scanning notes in my log book, it appears that I sold all my HF gear in mid '77, and bought the top-of-the-line QRP station available at that time; the Ten-Tec Argonaut.  This radio was a workhorse, and when five Watts wasn't enough, I just kicked in the matching 50 watt amp.  Yes, sometimes I needed a little more power to work a new country.  I now had 127 countries confirmed.
1978 marked the beginning of a three year slowdown in my operating due to personal changes in my life.  My tower and beam came down in late May, and I moved to a couple different locations on the Mississippi coast over the next few months.  My antennas where not always the best, but I managed to log eleven pages of contacts from apartments, and my QRP Worked All States total continued to climb.
In October of '78, I moved back to Austin.

  [ AUSTIN, TEXAS ]  I continued to operate occasionally from apartments until November, 1980 when I purchased my second house, and a year later, I finally installed a 40' tower and 3 element beam.  Up until then, I was using a 40 meter inverted-V with homemade open-wire feed-line, but still managing to work DX.  In November of '81, DXCC was at 142 countries confirmed.
By September of '82, 166 countries were confirmed, and my first computer was sending and receiving CW through a home-built interface.  (The Radio Shack TRS-80 Color Computer "CoCo" was really a Motorola design using a 6809 processor.  I modified it to drive a monitor, and I added more memory.)  Two months later, I finished building an RTTY interface, and made my first teletype contact with WB0DWK.
It's interesting to note that from September of '82 to November of 2000, no mention of country totals is noted anywhere in my logs, so I guess you could say that my interest in pursuing additional DXCC countries ended with the addition of a home computer to the shack.
Nothing really changed in the shack over the next four years.  I finally purchased a new Yaesu FT-757GX in November of '86, but couldn't let loose of the Ten-Tec workhorse.  The Yaesu was nice, but the Argonaut seemed to have more punch at half the power, so I continued to use it even on RTTY.
Oh yes, an Atari computer was purchased in March, '87.  (It used the powerful Motorola 68000 processor, had 1 Meg of RAM, and two real disk drives.  The disks were much better then the cassette tape storage used with the TRS-80.)  I also purchased an MFJ TNC.  It replaced my home-built interface on CW and RTTY, and it allowed me to work local 2 meter packet with an old Ten-Tec hand-held rig.
My log is filled with contest contacts, a few phone-patches, and a number of general QSO's from '86 on.  Many QSL cards were sent out, but nothing special is noted until March, '91 when I purchased a Kenwood TR-751, and made my first satellite QSO with the "Robot" on RS10.  (It was QSO number 64 while the bird was over Florida.)  It wasn't until February, '92 that I started working through the packet satellites.  I used a PacComm modem/MFJ-1278 TNC combination, and was very active for about three years.
1995 signaled an end to my "Active Years."  Operating took a nose-dive while undergoing more personal changes in my life. I briefly moved into an apartment in '96, but quickly bought a new home after a few months.  However, I never fully regained my motivation to operate daily.  I made a few satellite contacts, and chased DX, but nothing like in past years.  I still enjoyed amateur radio, but I seemed to do more listening then anything else.  Mainly because I was always at the computer or refurbishing older gear.
Joe (AJ8MH)
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