The long, boring K5DH biography

Okay, you asked for it... if you're on this page, it's because you apparently *wanted* to read the not-so-brief history of my ham radio "career". Oh, well, you can always click "BACK" on your browser...

As a youngster growing up in a suburb of Wilmington, Delaware, I was always interested in mechanical and electrical things, and RADIO. On the nightstand next to my bed I had an old GE tube-type clock/radio. I used to tune around the AM broadcast band in the evenings, listening to far away radio stations. My maternal grandfather lived in Philadelphia, about 35 miles away, and we would visit often. On his nightstand sat an old Zenith Trans-Oceanic short wave radio. It was a model B-600, which he bought new in 1957. I spent hours and hours listening to it until my head literally ached from having those old bakelite Baldwin cans crushed against my young ears! I still have that radio, and I maintain it in working condition. Yep, from as far back as I can remember, radio in general fascinated me.

Meanwhile, back in the northern Delaware 'burbs, the kid across the street had a pair of GE 100 mW CB walkie-talkies that transmitted on channel 14, and we used to sit in our houses in the evenings and talk to each other. The walkie-talkies had regenerative receivers that picked up all 23 CB channels at the same time, which meant that we could hear lots of real CB stations. Listening to them piqued my interest in CB radio.

I became active in CB radio while I was in Junior High School. Some of the guys at school had CB stations, and they helped me get started in CB. In 1972, my parents bought me a brand new Lafayette HA-310A walkie-talkie for Christmas. It was a 3 channel, 1.5 Watt unit that ran on 8 AA batteries. I eventually added a battery eliminator and mounted a 1/4 wave ground plane antenna on the roof of the house. I used that walkie for a while, then upgraded to a second-hand JCPenneys 23 channel mobile unit, which I later traded for a tube-type Lafayette Comstat 25A base station.

I frequently visited our county library to do research for my school homework. I also scoured the shelves for books on CB radio! To my dismay, they had very few CB books, but something else caught my eye: the 1972 edition of the ARRL Radio Amateur's Handbook! I immediately checked it out (the first of many times!) and read it with rapt fascination. When I saw what amateur radio operators could do compared to what CBers could do, I was blown away! I knew right then that some day I would become a ham.

Around that same time, a neighbor was cleaning out a closet, and she came across her son's old Hallicrafters S-107 general coverage shortwave receiver. She knew that I was a radio buff, so she gave it to me. I spent countless hours tuning around the HF spectrum, listening to all of the wonderful sounds. But much of my time was spent listening to the hams chatting on SSB, and listening to the Morse code signals, wondering what they were saying. If I wasn't hooked on ham radio already from just reading about it, actually listening to it surely did the trick! But how does one get started in ham radio? Hmmm...

Unfortunately, there were no hams in my area (that I knew of), so my interest in ham radio was, sadly, put on hold. However, I learned a lot from that ARRL Handbook. When I was about 14, I began scrounging up bits and pieces of damaged CB antennas, and using that Handbook as my guide, I built a wide-spaced, three-element, horizontally-polarized Yagi beam! Can you imagine the surprise of the other CBers when they heard that this young kid had actually built a beam antenna, and it really worked? Wow! I stayed active in CB radio until I got into college. And yes, I'll admit it... I had a "slider" (CB slang for a VFO), I ran a "heater" (CB slang for a linear amplifier), and I frequently "shot skip" (CB slang for making a contact over 150 miles away). Hey, I was young and stupid. Are you gonna tell me that you never did any of that yourself, back when you were young and stupid?

I began college in September, 1976, at Delaware Tech in Stanton, Delaware, studying Electrical Engineering. The school had a club station, WB3CSM. I joined up as soon as I learned of the club's existence. Frank Getz, N3FG, and Bill Dykes, W3FRC (SK), were two of my electronics instructors at the school, and they were the custodians of the club station. Frank and Bill were my Elmers, and under their guidance, I received my Novice license on July 27, 1977. My call sign was WB3JBG. With continued help from Frank and Bill, I upgraded to General and then Advanced class within a few months. I attempted the Amateur Extra test in December of 1978, but because of poor preparation on my part, I failed the written exam. I never had any trouble with the code, but that written exam killed me! Undaunted, I just kept on operating CW.

My first amateur station consisted of a 1960s Eico 723 crystal-controlled 60 Watt CW transmitter and a late-1960s Lafayette HA-800A solid-state ham bands receiver that covered 80m through 6m. The HA-800A drifted like mad and was subject to hand capacitance. My antenna was a G5RV, hung as an inverted vee, with the center at the top of 40 feet of steel TV antenna mast that I bought from the Lafayette Radio store that was only a ten minute walk from home. It was a simple station, all I could afford on a college kid's part-time salary, but it worked, and I filled page after page of my logbook with contacts. Most of my contacts were made using crystals, although Frank loaned me an old Knight-kit V-44 "bong box" vfo for a while. After a few months, I bought a 1950s Heath VF-1 vfo (which drifted in the opposite direction from the receiver!). After a year or so, I sold the Lafayette receiver and upgraded to a nice Heath SB-303 solid-state receiver with a CW filter; what a difference! I recently found a snapshot of my station, circa about 1978, with the VF-1 and SB-303 in place (click here to see the picture). Shortly after the photo was taken, I bought a Heath DX-60A transmitter and used it for a few months, until the function switch burned up. I sold the DX-60A to a local ham, who repaired it and gave it to his Novice grandson. I replaced the DX-60 with a Heath SB-401, the mate for my SB-303 receiver. Wow - I finally had a real station! Unfortunately, that old SB-401 was poorly constructed, and I had constant trouble with it for the entire time I owned it. I was always having to work on it. I guess that's part of the amateur radio experience. If you ever meet me in person, ask me about the time that SB-401 went berserk and melted the glass envelopes on two brand-new 6146B's!

I finished college in the spring of 1980, and in April, I accepted a job with Texas Instruments in Lewisville, Texas. When I moved to Texas in May, 1980, I requested a call sign change and received KA5JVU. Even though I held an Advanced class license, I was given a Novice call sign because I still held my original Novice call. That's the way the rules were back then. In early 1981, the FCC offered the opportunity for holders of higher-class licenses who had not changed their call signs to request a call that reflected their current class of license. I jumped at the chance, and I received the Advanced class call sign KC5NG.

In 1982, I was part of a group of hams at TI Lewisville who formed the Texins Amateur Radio Club. The club lasted until 1999, when the plant was closed down. At its peak, the club had about 60 members, plus a club station and a 2-meter FM repeater on 145.170 MHz. After the club shut down, the repeater was operated by a group of local hams until 2004, when it was taken out of service. It was later put back on the air in another location in Lewisville by Bob Landrum, W5FKN, who still runs and maintains it to this day.

I upgraded to Amateur Extra in October, 1990, but I chose to keep my call sign. When the Vanity Call Sign program came along in 1996, I submitted a list of a dozen or so 1x2 call signs, and I was lucky enough to receive K5DH, a call sign with my initials. This call had been voluntarily vacated under the first gateway in the vanity call program. It was a little hard to get used to sending a new call sign on CW after having used the previous one for 15 years, but I managed!

I've always been mainly a CW operator, although I work HF mobile SSB on my commute to and from work, hamfest trips, etc. I like to chase DX, and I have about 240 countries to my credit, with the majority being CW contacts. I am also a QRP (low power) buff. I've worked and confirmed all 50 U.S. states, all continents, and many DXCC countries using my QRP gear (on CW, of course). I take my QRP station along with me on trips whenever possible. If you haven't tried QRP yourself, you don't know what you're missing! I have a number of homebuilt QRP and low to medium power CW rigs (see pictures elsewhere in this web site). I love to build, repair, and modify equipment, and I actually spend more time drilling and soldering than I do operating. In addition to building some of my own gear, I like restoring tube-type "boat anchor" gear. I also have a small (but growing) collection of Morse keys.

I have been a member of the American Radio Relay League pretty much since the beginning, and I continue to maintain my membership. For quite a while, I was active in the National Traffic System, handling traffic via CW, SSB, and 2 meter FM. I was net control on various HF and 2m traffic nets, and I served as Net Manager of the ARRL DFW Traffic Net on 2-meters for two years. I am a trained severe storm spotter, and I have been active with Denton County ARES Skywarn since 1980. I am an accredited Volunteer Examiner with the ARRL and W5YI VEC's.

In July, 1997, TI sold its defense operations to The Raytheon Company. I currently work as a Test Engineer at Raytheon's facility in McKinney, Texas.

Thanks for reading!