Welcome to Bob's Spyder Web

The beginning of my first real hobby

 

Amateur Radio became more then a passing interest during my high school years when friends of my parents began to leave short wave receivers at our house for my listening pleasure. The very first radio receiver was a military surplus rig that only tuned from 6.5 kilocycles (KC) to 7.5 KC. It used headphones for listening and required an outside antenna. I used a paper clip and a hunk of hook-up wire hooked to the window screen in my room.

A Genius Moves In

In 1958 a genius moved into our neighborhood. He was a licensed, General Class"  "ham" and an Electrical Engineer for the Montgomery Elevator Company in Moline, IL. He pushed me to get my "Novice License." Finally after studying long and hard on my own the local radio club, W9YCR, "Your Club Radio" in Moline, IL gave the test to me and I passed it. ; My first call sign in 1958 was "KN9YGM."

The First Transmitter

I built my first transmitter with the help of my Dad, Mom, Heath Kit and John the ham next door. A Heath Kit DX-35 model. I was now "radio active" with a straight key, a hand full of gift crystals, a home made dipole antenna, a borrowed Halicrafters S-38 receiver, soon replaced by a Knight General Coverage Receiver from Allied Radio Company, Chicago, IL. A whole lot of luck and patience.

Time is running out on my license

Back in the "old days" you got a one year long license period to make up your mind, "is this for me or not?" At the end of nine months of working on expanding my radio skills that it was a given. I was hooked for sure and studying for my next big upgrade to become a "General Class operator." I was a little bit over confident and the test was a failure. Finally on try number two I sort of half passed I missed the code test but passed the written test so instead of getting a "General Class" license I had to settle for a "Technician Class" license. I was still on the air just not on CW any more but on six and two meters. My call sign changed from KN9YGM to K9YGM. This was better then nothing but not my goal.

John kept on me along with Mom and Dad so I had lots of "rooters" and one week John said, lets ride up to Chicago I want to go to Allied Radio and shop for some parts. Little did I know that he also planned to stop by the Federal Communications Commission Field Office and take his Extra. We walked in the door, he handed the Examiner his paper and little did I know he had a Application for General Class Examination for me to take the code test. Well, not having enough time to get nervous I took it too. This time we both passed. While the staff kept me from flying out the window on a cloud he took his Extra Class exam and we both came home on cloud nine.

Living in a 8 foot wide mobile home provided some real challenges in providing adequate space for the hobby. For months at a time we, Dad and I, used Mom's kitchen table to build radio kits on. The kitchen table built a Heath Kit, DX-35, DX-60, Apache, Phone Patch, SWR Bridge, Comanche, Cheyenne and a Allied Knight kit general coverage receiver over a period of years.

For a long time I had the radio station stacked on top of each other in my clothes closet that was on one side of the aisle or passage way from the front to the rear of the mobile home. Having the middle bedroom in a 42 foot mobile home guarantees you don't have a lot of extra space, quiet or privacy. Like living in a subway or on Main Street, lots of foot traffic. But we made it work just the same.

When I finally was able to land a real cash paying job after school I got my first commercially built receiver a Hammarlund HQ-170C with a real built in clock. I actually began to hear stations on their own frequencies instead of a different beat note in a what sounded like a pile up. We were hitting the big time for sure now.

Dad Takes the Plunge

Dad had the bug now so he got his Novice license and I began to share the radio setup with him. Then we relocated from K9 land back to W4 land, Daytona Beach, FL. I changed my call sign from K9YGM/4 to WA4IDI and Dads call when his Conditional Class license arrived was WA4IHV. He qualified for the Conditional Class due to his loss of hearing and sight in one eye and ear from his childhood. Now Mom really did lose what little free space she had in her living room. The radio station got put into a bookshelf in the living room and the desk top space came from two sources. It was either a portable steel folding typewriter stand or your lap which ever was best for the mode you were into at the time.

In 1965 Mom and Dad decided that we needed more space so they purchased a lot and a new 12 foot wide and 60 foot long mobile home. I had my own bedroom and bath on one end for the first time since 1956. The radio station now had a permanent spot in the kitchen on a desk of its very own. Mom got her kitchen table back and her living room too. This worked out great for many years of hamming then the marriage bug crept into the picture.

It was 1970 and I got married and moved a whole block away. We broke up the radio station and Dad got a new Swan 500 CX and I took the HQ-170 and Apache with me to its new home in the kitchen at my house. Where it resided virtually unused for months at a time. The hobby hit a low usage period for many years. But it was always there when ever I wanted to while away some time. The new modes of Single Side Band (USB/LSB) were very much in the picture and the Apache was pure CW or AM. So I stayed up with  my copying code (CW) speeds.

Dad Earns his SK

Tragedy struck our house unexpectedly, Dad had passed his examination to move into Ham Radio Heaven suddenly out of the blue. Mom looked at his radio station and kept breaking into tears knowing how many Saturdays and Sundays he sat there and diligently ran his phone patches for the military in the Panama Canal Zone and out of the country GI's. So it got moved to my house where I kept it on the air for many more years.

Carol, my first wife and I, decided it was time for us to expand our lives some so we sold our mobile home and lot taking the money from the sale and finished buying 5 acres of land in the County. About 12 miles from Mom and 15 miles from my work place. ; We cleared the land on Saturdays and Sundays at the same time we were living in a borrowed condominium in Daytona Beach. Finally, we got financially stable enough to qualify for a home construction loan an started our first home. I would finally have a room specifically designated as the "Radio Room." Our builder even insulated it and the air conditioning experts heated and cooled it.

Radio Teletype or RTTY (ritty) Comes on Board

It was during this time period that two ham friends (Neal, WA4WIW and Paul, N4EKW), introduced me to the wonderful world of Radio Teletype (RTTY) or "ritty" as everyone called it. I was truly bitten by this mode and it has lasted to being one of my most favorite radio modes today. In 1980 the once wonderful marriage busted up overnight it seemed like to me and I was forced out of the house and my wonderful radio room overnight. Mom said, "come on home" so I did. I could not take all my wonderful mechanical teletype gear so it was all given either away like it was given to me or returned to its rightful owners. I now started into the new scaled down, ultra-quiet RTTY mode with a new Robot 800 solid state terminal and a monitor. This mode stayed with me from 1980 until 2001 when I went totally state of the art, computerized, miniaturized, and really versatile.

In 2001 I switched from pure "ritty" to the newest digital mode, Phase Shift Keying (PSK) 31. This format is so cool it takes no excessive amounts of power. Most conversations are held at the 0.5 watt to 20 watt level. It utilizes your personal computer, soundcard, and an interface device my interface was a RIGBlaster Plus manufactured by West Mountain Radio.  2015 arrived and a longtime friend, Elwood "Butch" Carter stopped by the house to thank me for helping him establish his first ham station.  So I gave him the RIGBlaster as I had just upgraded  to a Signal One USB which is even smaller then the RIGBllaster.