Sunday, May 10, 2009

The romance of radio

I confess to having a certain nostalgia for the distant days of my youth... bands that played music you could whistle, gas that cost 35 cents, and radios that didn't require a computer interface. So it was inevitable that I would turn back to the way radio used to be -- no digital signals, no single side band, not even AM, but pure unadulterated CW.

The homebrew radio with tubes glowing and antenna thrown over the tree outside the farmhouse window conjures up not just a simpler time but a period in which getting on the air meant building your own set. And to talk with like-minded individuals you needed to know code, a tradition that was passed down through the decades, only recently falling by the wayside.

I passed my General license exam back when the code test was still mandatory, but I did the bare minimum to pass. Now I find myself drawn to it. So it was with some interest that I saw a Bencher iambic paddle on eBay and seriously considered trying code again, and $90 later it was mine.

OK, so I'm cheating on the 'no computer' part, but the keyer is built in to the radio.

Now what? My code skills are hopelessly weak, so I'm hauling out my old ARRL practice CDs and listening to other hams on the air. But I'm still approaching my first code QSO with some trepidation -- will the other guy laugh at my ragged dots and dashes, thinking I'm a total amateur (no pun here)? On the other hand, I'm exhilarated at the thought of trying something new.

So if you hear what sounds to be erratic 'dots' and 'dashes' sprinkled amongst serious code QSOs, relax. You've discovered me making my CW debut.

- 73
- Steve KB3IHX

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