Ham Radio Nostalgia

In my new rating as Yeoman, I worked in the ships personnel office and was put in charge of doing all of the paperwork for re-enlistements, retirements, separations, discharges, the daily AWOL report, court marshalls, and whatever else came along.  My most interesting job on-board ship was my assignment during GQ (General Quarters).   Due to my rank, I had made second class Petty Officer [E-5] a few months prior to leaving Scotland, I was assigned to the Captain of the ship.  When General Quarters was envoked, my job was to follow the Capatin around on the bridge of the ship and relay his orders over the ship's sound powered telephone system.  This later lead to some interesting experiences.

On-board ship we stood 6 section weekend duty.  I did not like ship-board life, it was a major change from my Scotland days.  The dry dock in Boston was very close to Logan airport.  On weekends when I did not have duty, I would walk to the airport, buy a ticket, and fly home to play radio.

Shown below is a photo of the station taken in December 1972, just prior to getting my first SSB rig the Drake C-Line.  I operated this station at home while I was stationed on-board the USS. Grand Canyon.

WA3KOC October 1972 QSL cards

By the end of 1972 I had about 110 countries confirmed for DXCC.

First 100 QSLs  

After the ship's sea trails were completed in GITMO, I returned to Newport, Rhode Island in late April 1973.  I continued to operate from the base club station keeping in contact with my amateur radio friends in Baltimore.  On August 23, 1973 I was separated from active duty.  I was separated from the Navy 6 weeks early because the ship had been assigned a new home port in Mayport, Florida and was due to leave Newport before my normal separation date in October 1973.  Just prior to being discharged, I had ordered a Drake C-Line.  It was waiting for me when I returned home.  I had saved my military pay to purchase the new rig.

Immediately after returning home, I entered The Community College of Baltimore (formerly BJC) for a second time in September 1973.  I enrolled in their electrical engineering program and in September of 1975 transfered to the University of Maryland at College Park to complete my EE degree.

Below is a photo showing the station from 1976 to 1980.  New in this photo is a Murch antenna tuner modeled after the Ultimate Transmatch, a Heathkit power/SWR meter built from a kit, a home brew electronic keyer with vibroplex paddle and an Ameco pre-amp on top of the keyer. To the right of the Drake C-Line is a homebrew power panel and 30 ampere homebrew power supply which powered an Icom IC-22 two meter FM rig (not shown) along with a 70 watt 2 meter amplifier (not visible). The rotor control box in front of the power supply rotated a pair of homebrew stacked 6 element 2 meter yagis for 2 meter FM.  This period was during a minimum in the solar cycle when I worked a lot of 2 meter FM simplex.  My best 2 meter DX was Louisana, Florida, Canada (Ontario), and Nova Scotia all worked on 146.52 MHz FM.  Shortly after this picture was taken I purchased a second hand Heathkit SB-200 linear amplifier to help keep the DX coming on the HF bands.  I was attending college at the University of Maryland working towards a degree in electrical engeineering and working part time as an engineering COOP student for the Navy at the Naval Surface Weapons Center in White Oak, Maryland an also attending evening classes while I was working.

WA3KOC 1976 1976 QSL cards

In early 1977 I applied for a new callsign in the 70's version of the vanity call sign program. The only requirement back then was tenure as an extra class license holder.  In March of 1977 I was issued the call W3DF.  See the link History of the Original W3DF on the main page for more information.

From 1976 through 1983, I was active chasing DX and became involved in contesting after joining the Potomac Valley Radio Club which held their monthly meetings just a few miles from where I worked.  I completed my degree in electrical engineering in December 1979.  Upon graduation, I accepted a full-time position with the Naval Surface Warfare Center in White Oak, Maryland where I worked from 1976 until mid-1992.  Since 1992 I have worked for NOAA on various projects including the NEXRAD pulse doppler weather radar system (1992-1994), the NOAA High Altitude Hurricane Surveillance Jet (1994-1996), the POES Project (formerly TIROS), a polar orbiting weather satellite (1996 to 1998), and most recently the GOES Project, a geo-stationary orbiting weather satellite from 1998 to present.

In 1980, I was married to my lovely bride Jackie.  We lived in an apartment in Baltimore from 1981 to 1983 so my ham activites were limited.  In 1983 we built a house in Westminster, Maryland and started a family.  I was intermittenly active on the HF bands until the end of 1983 and inactive from 1984 until mid 1997, although I did do some sporadic HF operatring and regular 2 meter FM operating during that period.   From 1985 to 1997 computers replaced amateur radio as a hobby while we were raising out two children.  I also enjoyed photography during this time while taking photos of our children.

In May of 1997, I joined the Carroll County Amateur Radio Club.  Field Day was fast approaching and the club was looking for CW operators so I volunteered to operate the CW station.  Once I sat down in front of the rig during Field Day, it took about 30 minutes to get my code speed back to where it was in 1983.  After Field Day, I decided it was time to get back on the HF bands.

Station 1998

In late August 1997, I purchased a Kenwood TS-130S from a club member, put up dipole antennas, and got back on the air chasing DX after a 13+ year absence.  The photo at left is the station in 1998 consisting of a TS-130S, an MFJ antenna tuner, MFJ memory keyer, Autek audio filter, Vibroplex paddle, and my antique 286 PC.  The basement shack was in the process of being finished and the setup was somewhat make-shift but functional.  Once finished, I'll have a room which will be dedicated to the ham shack and the home computers.

The present QTH near Westminster, Maryland is a major improvement over the old east Baltimore QTH of the 60s, 70s and 80s.  Instead of the postage stamp size lot I had back in Baltimore, I have 2+ acres of land to play with.  My antennas,  dipoles for 80 thru 10 meters at 35 feet at 30 feet, are out in the open.

Carroll County, Maryland is characterized by gently rolling hills and farmland.  Over the past 20 years a lot of the farmland has given way to housing developments, but there is still plenty of open countryside.  My view to the south is completely unobstructed.  To the north, I am 10 to 15 feet from the peak of a hill.

The photo below-left is the view looking due south from the antenna location.  If you look closely at this photo you will see a rainbow.  The photo below-right is the view looking to the south west.

View looking due south View looking south west

In March of 2000, I added a Kenwood TS-870 to the station.  The TS-130S, which I have used since 1997,  is now dedicated to PSK-31 operation.  My interest in PSK-31 was peaked by the article which appeared in the May 1999 QST.  Since December 1999, I have added PSK-31 to my modes of operation.  In the fall of 2000, I  became active on 160 meters (the TS130S did not have 160 meters) after installing an inverted-L.  Each year since then I have improved the antenna by adding more radials and getting more of it's length vertical.  My goal is to work DXCC on topband.

In June of 2001, I upgraded my antenna farm a second time.  I purchased an AB-577 military mast and installed a 5 band, 2 element quad on the mast.  For more details on this see The Quad Project on the main page.  In December of 2002 I added an Ameritron AL-1200 amplifier.  After being back in the hobby for 5 years, I now have a fully equipped HF station operational on 160 through 10 meters.  Most of my on-the-air time is spent chasing DX and ragchewing.  You will occassionally find me on PSK-31.

Below are some of my more recent QSLs. The cards at bottom center are the ones I use today. Work me and I'll send you one.  For more QSLs, see my QSL Gallery.


Lastest QSL

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