As a young kid in the late 60’s and into the early 70’s, I used to visit my grandfather’s house and pull the electronics magazines and catalogs off of the shelf. I did not understand what I was looking at, but I was fascinated with what I saw. In the back of the house was a room that I wasn’t supposed to go into. I went anyway. That room contained old radio and television chassis, boxes of parts, and more books. My grandfather used to repair old radios and televisions. That room was his old shop.
As I got a little older, I started building crystal AM radios and later AM/SW radio receivers. Most of what I was doing was not well understood, but I was beginning to learn a little. Listening to shortwave stations as I grew up fascinated me, and made me aware of a much broader world. I strung wires up in the trees and new languages poured out of my radios.
Fast-forward to the late 70’s and early 80’s. One of my dad’s friends was involved in something called Amateur Radio. I soon was in possession of a small mobile radio, intended for automotive use, that could transmit and receive on a group of frequencies called two meters. I wanted in. I listened to people around the area talking with each other, one on one, and in larger groups called nets.
They all had Amateur Radio licenses and were referred to as hams. I bought a book about becoming licensed and found out that I would have to learn Morse Code, a method of communicating without voice, using long and short tones. My dad’s friend loaned me a set of record albums (Google it kids) that were intended to help you learn these tone groups that let you communicate with others.
No matter how many times I listened to the records, I just couldn’t manage to get the patterns right. I returned the records and shelved the radio. Years later, things changed.