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Norm's Ramblings

Thoughts on my first exposure to Ham Radio:

I had just graduated from high school, and was heading for higher education at UBC, and one of the early events at that campus was the annual drive for new memberships at the various clubs that exist at that locale… everything from Public Speaking courses, to Decorative Basket Weaving!

As I went around, talking to the various promoters of their clubs, I came across the UBC Ham Radio Club…  I had always liked to play around with electrons of some type, and the idea of getting into the club piqued my interest.    I was advised that there was a course being offered on the Theory of Radio, and classes were available in learning the International Morse Code (a requirement, in those days, to get one’s ham licence).
Within a few weeks, I found myself constantly being drawn to the Ham Shack (rather than spending time at the University Library…  where I should have been studying!), but I found the Theory of Ham Radio drawing my every free moment.   That is, until the results of the Mid-Term exams came out…  just before the Christmas recess.

My dad, a high school teacher, brought it forcibly to my attention that something had to be done about my marks…  and my first dalliance with radio had to come to an end.    However, that first infection with ham radio had taken its toll: over subsequent years, I started to build various HeathKits… first a multi-meter, and even many years later of building the venerable HW-101 transceiver.

I recall vividly spending many evening hours with the smell of solder wafting through my nostrils…  my wife being a registered nurse, worked a lot of shift work…  and my constant companion was the enjoyment of making marks on the kitchen counter with a hot soldering pencil.  By that time, I had made friends with a local ham (Mike Heritage, now a Silent Key) was my mentor (or, more correctly, my “Elmer” who encouraged me with my affliction of Ham Radio).

Still, I was not On the Air, and decades passed before I decided to attempt to write the multiple-question Industry of Canada ‘test of proficiency’ exam.    By this time, my late wife was fighting a battle with her cancers, and at the time of one her many surgeries, I had booked myself to write the exam, but suddenly she was in for more surgery, and the first of that month suddenly presented itself unexpectedly…  I decided the evening before that I should write the exam…  just to get the ‘feel’ of the exam...  it didn’t matter to me whether I passed it or not… 

But being former College Boy, I had some insight into how to handle a multiple-question exam, and I found myself leaving my fellow candidates in just over half hour, much to the surprise my fellow would-be-hams.  To my great surprise, the examiner placed the ‘stencil’ over my answers and seemed to be noting my answers…  suddenly looking up at me and asking me if I had $12 in my pocket.    My response was, “I thought the examination was free…”,  to which he remarked, “… well, you’ve just passed the exam…”  

I quickly dug into my wallet and found the necessary funds, and received the call sign VE7IIT, which I have to this day.   

Since the original contact with Ham Radio 1948, many times I found myself purchasing magazines that had the theme of Radio…  everything from “Popular Science” to Hugo Gernsback’s “Modern Electronics”…  occasionally even to purchasing the annual copy of “Radio Amateur’s Handbook”, as my funds would allow (I can recall it rising to a whopping $8.00 a copy !).   In 1942, the Handbook  was available from the ARRL for $1.00 (postpaid $1.50, outside of Continental U.S.A.). 

The big names in radio technology in the early days included, National, Hallicrafters, Hammarlund, Eimac, most of which are now just memories.  Hams, in the 40’s and 50’s were largely solder enthusiasts, but if a ham built his own transceiver, it had to be examined by a federally-appointed inspector before  turning on a key.

At U.B.C. Ham Club, we were running largely war-surplus 250 watts of AM radio transmission equipment that was crystal-controlled frequency…  a few hams had graduated to VFO control at that time, but were required to be as stable as a crystal.   The transmitter stood as tall as a home refrigerator, including the power supply.   The transmitting tubes were as large as a milk bottle, and one could put one’s hand the transmitter to fondle the tubes (also war-surplus, available for a few pennies on the dollar).

I recall being able to hear a few local (Vancouver-based) hams on the 2-meter band…  these were the true edge-of-Space experimenters, in 1948!   Side-band reception was that funny Donald Duck sounding voice on a few of the bands, again using home-brew equipment.  It was an un-written law at the Club to leave the transmitter turned ‘on’ to allow the crystals to stabilize to the frequency that we were transmitting.   

And, yeah…  by utilizing the Club call… in those days VE7ACS, every novice, student, and unlicenced enthusiast used the transmitter.  We had a sked with a university club down in Texas, and we also hopped over to Australia, as the winter ‘skip’ came alive.
These are but a few of the early memories of my early days ‘in the shack’… 

~ Norm VE7IIT

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