HOW I GOT STARTED IN HAM RADIO
or
"HOW TO TAKE ALMOST 40 YEARS TO GET YOUR HAM LICENSE"
BY
N4UJW

If you visited the first page of this site, you may have noticed that this site is dedicated
to
 MY DAD
"Who sparked the interest"


My Dad as he progressed through the years!

AND OF COURSE THE REST OF MY FAMILY!



MY DAD, PICTURED ABOVE, SPENT MOST OF HIS LIFE, AT LEAST AS FAR BACK AS I CAN REMEMBER, IN THE ELECTRONICS FIELD.
ALTHOUGH HE WOULD HAVE LOVED IT AND WAS WELL QUALIFIED.....HE NEVER BECAME A HAM.


I THINK BACK THROUG ALL THE YEARS THAT I HAD HIM, AND I THINK THE REASON THAT HE NEVER BECAME A HAM WAS THAT HE KNEW THAT HE HAD TO PROVIDE FOR A WIFE AND 5 KIDS AND JUST DID NOT HAVE THE MONEY OR TIME TO DEVOTE TO GETTING HIS LICENSE.

DADDY ALWAYS READ TECHNICAL, (ELECTRONIC), STUFF IN HIS SPARE TIME AT HOME TO HELP HIM WITH HIS JOB AND ENJOYED GETTING BOOKS ABOUT ELECTRONICS AND TECHNOLOGY FOR BIRTHDAYS AND CHRISTMAS PRESENTS.

I GAVE HIM SEVERAL OVER THE YEARS AND IT WOULD MAKE MOM KIND OF MAD BECAUSE SHE WOULD SAY "IF HE EVER PICKS UP THAT BOOK, HE WON'T KNOW WE ARE AROUND"!
 
MOM WAS CORRECT. DADDY WOULD GET INTO HIS BOOKS WITH SUCH POWERS OF CONCENTRATION THAT MOM WOULD HAVE TO SHOUT HIS NAME SEVERAL TIMES BEFORE HE HEARD HER!
BOMBS COULD GO OFF IN THE HOUSE AND HE WOULD NOT KNOW IT AS LONG AS HE WAS READING!

DADDY DID NOT "JUST READ THEM", HE STUDIED THEM WORD FOR WORD AND LINE FOR LINE, DRAWING LINES UNDER THE KEY WORDS AND PHRASES AND MAKING NOTES IN THE MARGINS.
DADDY COULD HAVE BEEN A GREAT ELECTRONICS THEORY TEACHER AND I LEARNED SO MUCH FROM HIM AND AM THANKFUL THAT I AM HIS SON AND HE IS MY FATHER!
 
THE SPARK!

SOMEWHERE AROUND THE AGE OF SIX OR SEVEN, AROUND 1950, WE LIVED ONLY TWO HOUSES FROM MY GRANDMOTHER AND GRANDFATHER (MOMMA AND PAPPA, MY DAD'S PARENTS).
 

IN ONE ROOM OF THEIR HOUSE, STOOD THIS HUGE WOODEN BOX WITH KNOBS, AND DIALS AND A GREEN EYE  THAT LOOKED AT YOU!

AND IT WAS NOT JUST ANY ORDINARY BOX!


IT WAS A RADIO!

MY DAD, (WITH HIS ASSISTANCE), WOULD LET ME TURN THE KNOBS TO SEE JUST WHAT I COULD PICK UP AND I REMEMBER WATCHING THE "GREEN EYE" CHANGE WHEN I TUNED IN A STATION ON THE BUTTON.

ONCE, WHILE PLAYING WITH IT, I HEARD TWO MEN TALKING ABOUT RADIOS AND ANTENNAS AND DIFFERENT THINGS ABOUT RADIO AND I ASKED MY DAD WHO THEY WERE.......
HE LOOKED AT THE DIAL, LISTENED FOR A WHILE AND SAID THAT THEY WERE HAM RADIO OPERATORS AND THEY WERE TALKING TO EACH OTHER FROM THEIR HOMES WITH THEIR OWN RADIO TRANSMITTERS AND LISTENING WITH THEIR OWN RECEIVERS!
WOW.....THE SPARK.....
I WAS HOOKED!

I SHOWERED
MY DAD WITH QUESTION AFTER QUESTION AND HE COULD TELL THAT HE HAD
SPARKED THE INTEREST IN ME TO BECOME A HAM!

A COUPLE OF YEARS PASSED AND WE MOVED TO NORTHERN ALABAMA.
I WAS STILL LEARNING THE BASICS FROM MY DAD ALONG WITH GOING TO SCHOOL.

ONE DAY I PICKED UP ONE OF MY DAD'S MAIL ORDER CATALOGS FROM A COMPANY CALLED
ALLIED RADIO AND INSIDE I FOUND A KIT THEY SOLD FROM WHICH YOU COULD BUILD 10 DIFFERENT ELECTRONIC PROJECTS....THE ONE THAT CAUGHT MY EYE WAS THE AM TRANSMITTER!

I PLEADED WITH MY DAD TO GET IT FOR ME SO HE ORDERED IT AND IT CAME A FEW WEEKS LATER.
I HAD VERY LITTLE  TROUBLE BUILDING IT AND MY DAD HELPED ONLY WHEN I HAD A QUESTION.

IT OPERATED UNDER THE FCC PART 15 RULES AND REGS AND WAS designed TO TRANSMIT ON THE STANDARD AM BROADCAST BAND WITH AN ANTENNA "NOT TO EXCEED 5 FEET IN LENGTH".
I ASKED DAD WHY THIS WAS AND HE SAID IF I MADE IT LONGER THAT THE SIGNAL WOULD TRAVEL A LOT FARTHER THAN THE FCC ALLOWED FOR THAT TYPE OF TRANSMITTER AND HE STATED BLUNTLY THAT I WAS NOT TO ADD ANY TO IT!
DADDY SHOULD NOT HAVE SAID THAT......TO A YOUNG HAM TO BE WITH THOUSANDS OF QUESTIONS!

"HOW'S IT WORKING"?

I WAS A FAN OF ELVIS AT THE TIME AND DAD AND MOM HAD GIVEN ME A GOOD QUALITY REEL TO REEL
TAPE RECORDER AND I HAD RECORDED SEVERAL ELVIS SONGS.
I FIGURED OUT A WAY TO HOOK THE PLAYBACK FROM THE TAPE RECORDER TO THE AM TRANSMITTER THAT I HAD BUILT AND FOUND SOME OLD TV GUY WIRE THAT MY DAD HAD SAVED (SEVERAL HUNDRED FEET) AND STRUNG IT AROUND THE ROOF OF THEIR HOUSE WITHOUT THEM KNOWING AND ATTACHED IT TO THE ANTENNA CONNECTION ON THE AM TRANSMITTER THAT I HAD PUT TOGETHER.

I TURNED EVERY THING ON, TOOK A PORTABLE RADIO AND FOUND THE FREQUENCY OF THIS HOMEBREW KIT I HAD BUILT AND SURE ENOUGH, THERE WAS THE ELVIS MUSIC LOUD AND CLEAR.

I WALKED OUTSIDE AND AROUND OUR BLOCK AND THE SIGNAL NEVER FADED!
THAT AFTERNOON WHEN DAD GOT HOME FROM WORK, MOM ASKED HIM TO GO TO THE GROCERY STORE AND I SAW MY CHANCE TO SEE JUST HOW FAR MY ELVIS MUSIC WOULD REACH FROM MY LITTLE
PART 15 TRANSMITTER.
I ASKED HIM IF I COULD GO WITH HIM AND HE SAID YES...SO I WENT INTO MY BEDROOM AND TURNED
THE TRANSMITTER AND TAPE ON WITH ELVIS SINGING MY FAVORITE SONGS, THEN WENT OUTSIDE TO THE CAR WHERE MY DAD WAS WAITING.
I QUICKLY GOT INSIDE AND TURNED THE CAR RADIO ON AND STARTED TUNING TO "MY FREQUENCY".
THERE IT WAS, LOUD AND CLEAR.
WE BACKED OUT AND STARTED DOWN THE STREET AND I WAS GLUED TO THE MAGIC I WAS MAKING ON MY DAD'S CAR RADIO.

AFTER DRIVING SEVERAL BLOCKS AWAY FROM HOME MY DAD ASKED ME, "HOW'S IT WORKING"?

WITHOUT THINKING I SAID "GREAT" AND THEN ALL OF A SUDDEN I LOOKED AT HIM AND HE HAD A SMILE
ON HIS FACE AND HE SAID "WELL....LET'S SEE JUST HOW FAR IT WILL GET.
I KNEW THAT I HAD BEEN CAUGHT AND BY A MASTER.....MY DAD!

WE DROVE TO ALMOST A HALF MILE FROM HOME ACCORDING TO MY DAD WHEN
THE
SIGNAL FINALLY FADED INTO THE NOISE!

DADDY NEVER DID PUNISH ME FOR ADDING ALL THAT WIRE TO THE ANTENNA CONNECTION AND FOR DISOBEYING HIM, BUT HE JUST SMILED, AND SAID, "I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT", AND MADE ME TAKE THE GUY WIRE OFF OF THE TRANSMITTER NEVER TO BE ATTACHED AGAIN!

A YEAR OR SO LATER WE MOVED NEAR CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE AND I WAS JUST AS INTERESTED IN RADIO AND ELECTRONICS AS EVER.

MY DAD FOUND OUT THAT A LOCAL RADIO AND TV REPAIR SHOP HAD A SURPLUS OF OLD RADIOS AND ELECTRONIC DEVICES THAT WERE TO BE DISCARDED SO HE TOOK ME TO THE SHOP AND AFTER TALKING WITH THE OWNER HE GOT PERMISSION TO SALVAGE A FEW OF THE OLD CLUNKERS.......MY DAD'S CAR TRUNK WAS PACKED TO THE LID AND HOME WE WENT.

I SPENT MANY HOURS OF FUN WITH MY DAD'S SUPERVISION TAKING APART THE OLD RADIOS WITH A SOLDERING IRON, AND VARIOUS TOOLS HE HAD LOANED ME.
MY DAD WAS A GREAT TEACHER FOR ME AND HE ALWAYS TOOK THE TIME TO EXPLAIN THE ANSWERS
TO MY HUNDREDS OR MAYBE  EVEN THOUSANDS OF QUESTIONS.

IN MY EARLY WORKING YEARS I SPENT ABOUT 10 YEARS WITH A WHOLESALE RADIO AND TV PARTS
DISTRIBUTOR. WE HAD A LOT OF HAMS WHO WOULD BUY PARTS, COAX,  ETC FROM US AND I GOT TO KNOW A LOT OF THEM AND VISITED THEIR SHACKS FROM TIME TO TIME.
ONE HAM IN PARTICULAR THAT I REMEMBER WOULD HONK HIS HORN WHEN PASSING IN FRONT OF OUR STORE USING THE CW LETTERS (MORSE CODE) .....H......I......   DIT DIT DIT DIT      DIT DIT.
I ALWAYS KNEW IT WAS HIM AND THAT HE WAS ON HIS WAY TO WORK.

AFTER MANY YEARS OF LISTENING TO SHORTWAVE RADIO, PLAYING WITH CB AND ALWAYS GOING  BACK TO THE HAM BANDS IN PARTICULAR AND SPENDING THOUSANDS OF HOURS JUST LISTENING AND TELLING MYSELF...SOME DAY I WILL GET A HAM LICENSE.....

I FINALLY MADE UP MY MIND.

IN 1988, I WAS NOW MARRIED, HAD A GOOD JOB SO I STARTED STUDYING FOR THE NOVICE TEST, THE ENTRY LEVEL HAM LICENSE AND THE LOWEST CLASS OF HAM LICENSE AMONG SIX AT THAT TIME WITH THE GOAL OF LATER UPGRADING AFTER I GOT A LITTLE EXPERIENCE UNDER MY BELT.
 
I USED THE ARRL MANUALS, SOME MATERIAL FROM RADIO SHACK, THE GORDON WEST CODE TAPES, LISTENING PRACTICE ON CW ON THE HAM BANDS, AND ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING I COULD READ ABOUT AMATEUR RADIO.

TEST DAY CAME ALL TOO QUICKLY!
I WENT IN PREPARED TO GET A NOVICE LICENSE AND WITH MY DAD'S TRAINING, A LITTLE STUDYING ON MY OWN AND HIS, "YOU CAN DO IT",RINGING IN MY HEAD,  I WALKED OUT OF THE TESTING SESSION, PASSING NOVICE, TECHNICIAN AND TECHNICIAN PLUS ALL IN ONE SITTING!!!!!!!!!!
I WAS NOW.....
A HAM!
MY LICENSE ARRIVED IN THE MAIL WITH MY CALL SIGN WITHIN A FEW WEEKS, (WHICH SEEMED LIKE MONTHS),  AND I WAS ISSUED THE CALLSIGN OF
N4UJW

I LIVED IN FLORIDA AT THE TIME AND HAD NOT SEEN MY DAD IN ABOUT A YEAR AND I WAS SO
EXCITED THAT I CALLED HIM LONG DISTANCE.  WHEN HE ANSWERED,  I SAID "HI DADDY!  GUESS WHAT I JUST GOT IN THE MAIL." HE SAID "I DON'T KNOW.  WHAT?"
I DECIDED TO GIVE HIM A HINT SO I SAID IT WAS SOMETHING I HAD WANTED FOR ABOUT 40 YEARS.
 
THERE WAS A SHORT PAUSE ON THE OTHER END OF THE PHONE AND THEN HE SAID,

"YOU GOT YOUR HAM LICENSE"!
I SAID "YEP," AND THEN DADDY CAME BACK WITH THOSE WORDS THAT HELPED ME BECOME A HAM,

"YOU DID! I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT!
DADDY WAS SO THRILLED FOR ME AND HE ASKED ME IF I HAD GOTTEN A RIG YET AND WHAT FREQUENCIES HE COULD LISTEN ON SO MAYBE HE COULD HEAR ME... AND A THOUSAND OTHER QUESTIONS JUST LIKE I DID WHEN I WAS A KID WITH MY DAD BESIDE ME LISTENING TO THAT BIG WOODEN BOX WITH THAT GREEN EYE THAT LOOKED BACK AT YOU AS IF TO SAY,
"
YOU CAN DO IT"!!!!!!!!!!

SOME TIME LATER, I TOOK A TRIP TO VISIT MY DAD AND MOM.
I HAD INSTALLED A 2 METER MOBILE IN THE CAR AND WAS EXCITED TO DEMONSTRATE IT TO MY DAD. 
HE WAS ABSOLUTELY FASCINATED AT THE WAY IT WORKED AND THEN BEGAN ASKING ME THOUSANDS OF QUESTIONS JUST LIKE I HAD DONE!
 

THANKS DADDY!
I LOVE YOU!

FOOTNOTE:
April 28, 2002 was my birthday......I was thinking about my dad, now passed away, and I could hear him saying in my mind,"You did it!  I knew you could do it"......I got my General Ticket missing only one question and here again with my Dad's help and memories pushing me along with his confidence!
 
Most of my working background was in some way related to electronics and in my later years, I was in medical electronics all due to my Dad "Sparking the interest" and with my Mom keeping the flame hot!

Thanks again DADDY and MOM!  Sorry I took so long!"

TO YOU.... THE READER
So this my family, friends and fellow Hams is how it took me 40 years, (in a matter of speaking), to get my Ham license.
 
THE LAW OF AVERAGES WOULD STATE THAT MOST OF YOU DO NOT HAVE A DAD THAT CAN HELP YOU GET INTO HAM RADIO AND SPARK THE INTEREST LIKE MY DAD DID.
DADDY HAD A SPECIAL GIFT IN THAT HE COULD EXPLAIN SOMETHING THAT WAS VERY COMPLICATED TO ME, IN A WAY THAT MADE IT SEEM VERY SIMPLE AND I WILL ALWAYS BE THANKFUL THAT I HAD HIM WITH ME FOR ALL THOSE YEARS!

MY MOM IS STILL WITH ME, (IN HER 80'S), AS I WRITE THIS, AND THIS ARTICLE WOULD NOT BE COMPLETE WITHOUT MENTIONING HOW IMPORTANT SHE HAS BEEN TO ME.

MOM ALSO HAD HER OWN WAY OF ADDING FUEL TO "SPARK" THE FIRE WHEN IT CONCERNED HER DEVOTION TO ALL OF HER 5 KIDS, NOT JUST ME.
MOM SPENT MOST OF HER EARLY YEARS MAKING MANY SACRIFICES FOR HER KIDS.
SHE WAS CONSTANTLY LOOKING FOR WAYS TO SAVE A PENNY HERE AND A PENNY THERE, (LITERALLY), SO HER AND DAD COULD PROVIDE FOR ALL OF US. AS I LOOK BACK ON MY YEARS, THEY ARE STILL LOOKING OUT FOR ME.

MOM WAS ALWAYS THE ONE PRODING US TO "GET YOUR LESSONS", DO YOUR HOMEWORK AND STUDY HARD TO BECOME WHATEVER YOU WANT TO BE. I KNEW ALL THE TIME MY DAD WAS STANDING THERE THINKING THE SAME WORDS.
MOM ALSO USED THE PHRASE,
"YOU CAN DO IT, I KNOW YOU CAN"  ...........SO I DID!......Don Butler N4UJW

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

IF YOU ARE READING THIS AND WOULD LIKE TO BE A HAM RADIO OPERATOR, YOU CAN GET ALL OF THE
 STUDY MATERIAL YOU WILL NEED TO PASS YOUR EXAM ON MY STUDY PAGE.

IT WON'T TAKE YOU 40 YEARS LIKE ME!


THE MATERIAL IS PUBLISHED BY THE AMERICAN RADIO RELAY LEAGUE AND IS THE SAME MATERIAL THAT MOST HAMS STUDY IN ORDER TO PASS THEIR AMATEUR RADIO OPERATOR'S TEST.

DADDY CAN'T BE THEIR WITH YOU WHILE YOU STUDY AND MOM CAN'T BE THERE TO PROD YOU, BUT THEY WILL NOT NEED TO BE THERE.

THE STUDY MATERIALS ARE EXPLAINED IN A WAY THAT EVEN YOU CAN UNDERSTAND AND WHEN YOU TAKE YOUR TEST, AND PASS YOUR EXAM AND GET YOUR LICENSE, THEN I WILL SAY..........


YOU DID! I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT! (JUST LIKE MY DAD AND MOM DID)