Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Licenced four years ago today - what a wonderful hobby we have

This was me with my test results the day I received them.
Four years ago today I got a very special phone call. I had just left work and was on my way home on a Friday evening, thinking that I would have to spend another long weekend waiting for good news. But a phone call came. It was a Dublin number. I answered. It was Derek from Comreg. He was sending out my licence in the post, but was ringing to tell me my callsign. I can remember it clearly. He spoke very slowly . . . "Echo . . . India . . . Eight . . . Golf . . .  (and then an indescribably long pause!) . . . HOTEL . . . bravo". He asked for an email address so he could send a PDF copy of my licence and I could operate straight away. I was elated. I thanked him generously and bid him a good weekend.

I hung up the phone, and immediately called out through the Dundalk 2 metre repeater. Tony EI4DIB came back to me for my first QSO as a licenced ham, and at that moment a great adventure began. Following years of interest in the hobby of radio, I was finally a fully fledged radio amateur.

My first ham station, pictured in winter 2009.
The four years since then have flown by. I can remember using my Icom 718 and a half-size G5RV which was only about 12 feet off the ground during that first couple of months in winter 2009. Sunspots were non existent, and the bands were closed every day by the time I got home from work. I had only 40m SSB to sustain me through the winter, because the half-size G5RV wouldn't tune there. And I hadn't yet learned CW. Soon, I had a Kenwood 570, and in early 2010 I got the Butternut HF6V up and running with the help of Tony. I started to learn CW. It took me about a month, maybe a little more, and by February 2010 I was already working contacts on CW. I took the test at Coolmine that month, with my lifelong friend Brian EI7GVB. We both passed. I became EI2KC on March 5th 2010 and within a few days he had received his new callsign - EI4KC.

The station grew, as did the antenna system. An MA5B minibeam followed, as did 40m and 30m inverted vees. The DXCC count went up steeply. I was working far-off places with a hundred watts, morning, noon and night. Stuff I could only have dreamed of. From a small garden I was, quite literally, working the world. I was following a passion which had been ignited when I was a teenager, and my older brother was a CB operator, and later a ham. I worked DX on 11m using an old Silver Rod from my boyhood home. Now, I was back chasing DX again, years later, and feeling good.

One of the nicest aspects of the hobby though is the camaraderie and the friendship. I have so many friends in the hobby; people of all tastes and interests. Some of them love HF and DXing. Some of them don't. Some of them are shortwave listeners. Some are VHF enthusiasts. Some of them live in far-off countries. Yes, ham radio unites people, across political, geographical and religious divides. Everyone has their niche in ham radio. But all of them are friends, and in the long nights of winter, and even in the balmy days of summer, there's always someone on the other end of your CQ, waiting for a QSO or a good ragchew.

Morse code opened up the world to me. This is the J-28
morse key which I used to learn CW, borrowed from EI2HX.
Four years on, with DXCC worked on eight bands and a total of 295 DXCC in the bag, I'd never have thought I would do so well so quickly. I guess it's the passion. I have been stuck in some horrendous pile-ups, for hours on end, rattling out my callsign on a morse paddle like there's no tomorrow, fighting with the rest of the world for that glorious "5NN" and a new country in the log. I have lost some battles, and I have won some. Thankfully, I've won more than I've lost. What a terrific hobby this is. We can communicate using just a piece of wire or metal and the ionosphere, contacting people in some of the most remote places on earth. Oh yes, this hobby is glorious. Who'd have thought I would contact someone on a rock jutting out of the ocean called Malpelo? Who'd have thought I'd work Pitcairn Island of 'Mutiny on the Bounty' fame, on 80 metres CW, in a narrow two-minute greyline opening? Who'd have thought I'd chat with people who have gone to the ends of the earth for the hobby - in Antarctica, Marshall Islands, Western Kiribati, Jan Mayen Island, Sable Island, Galapagos, South Cook, Austral Islands, Kermadec, Yemen, Somalia, Myanmar, Marion Island . . . the list goes on and on and on.

And this coming month, with any luck, I will be battling through more pile-ups, for rare and far away places such as Wake Atoll, Juan Fernandez, Banaba and more.

But in addition to all this DXing, I have been involved in other areas of the hobby. The local clubs are a great source of friendship and social interaction with other radio enthusiasts. I have been involved in contests and portable operations and even an IOTA dxpedition. I am on the committee of the Irish Radio Transmitters Society, and write the HF Happenings column for the society's magazine, Echo Ireland. It really has been a fantastic four years. Here are some of my stats: I've had 19,163 QSOs. I've worked 301 DXCC (6 deleted) and confirmed 280 (4 deleted). I've worked 287 DXCC on CW, 256 on phone, and 131 on digi modes.

Enjoying a bit of craic during AREN (Amateur Radio
Emergency Network) training with Derek EI7CHB and Pat EI2HX.
Ham radio brings the world into your home. And far from being an old fashioned, outdated pastime, amateur radio is very much a modern pursuit, encompassing technologies that are under constant development. OK, we may be the only ones left in the world using morse code. But we also combine computers with radio for genuine experiments in telecommunications. Some of us speak with astronauts on the International Space Station. We broadcast images on amateur television. We bounce signals off the moon. We push new horizons all the time, using weak signal propagation modes to make contacts that were previously impossible. Some of us make our own radios and antennas. Others monitor the bands for incursions and illegal activity. Many of us are involved in emergency communications, showing that the hobby has a civic and community side. In the event of disaster, radio amateurs provide communications when mobile phone networks and power grids are down.

What a wonderful hobby we have. Thank you to all those who've been there along the way. Thank you to all my ham friends, in Drogheda, in Ireland, and all over the world. It's been a beautiful journey so far. And we have so much more to look forward to.

4 comments:

  1. A well written promotion voor de radio hobby Anthony. You're a writer and we expect that from you ;-) I remember our 80m QSO when you were just licensed as EI8GHB. Wow, time goes fast. Your DXCC list was fast growing as well. It's incredible what you achieved in just 4 years. It will take a lifetime for others, but you showed it is possible. 73, Bas

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    1. Thank you Bas. Indeed you are one of those friends that I've met through the hobby and I'm very glad to say I know you. You also write with great passion and devotion to this wonderful hobby of ours. I am a bit obsessive about dxing. Not everyone is quite so anxious to notch up the DXCC count!! But it does indeed show what's possible from a small lot.

      PE4BAS de EI2KC 73

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  2. Good morning Anthony, yes there is never a dull moment within the hobby for sure. Something always to explore and refine! I have managed to take a picture of all the rigs I have had as well as the setups. Things can sure change in the shack and it's nice to have shots of the changes over time.
    Mike

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    1. Mike, It would be an interesting idea to post pictures of all your rigs over the years in one blog post. I would enjoy that. Cheers, Anthony.

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