About Me & DX
My interest in radio began about the time I reached my teens. I saved for several weeks and scraped together $25 to purchase a used Hallicrafters S-38 from a local TV repair shop. I must admit that the rest of my family thought that my purchase was not well thought out! However, when I broke the news, hot off of Radio Moscow, that the Soviets had shot down a spy plane it turned a few heads. I soon became an avid shortwave listener and discovered the amateur radio bands – almost by accident!
My first opportunity to operate a ham radio station occurred in the high arctic while I was visiting Alert, NWT (now Nunavut). Under the guidance of one of the weather observers/radio operators I was on the air as VE8ML using a full Collins S-Line and a huge antenna. I had been bitten by the DX bug!!
In the late 60s, while at grad school in Texas, I rescued a Hammarlund SP-600 from a dumpster! It was a rack mount version (less the rack) and a heavy beast. Much to my wife’s dismay, I dragged this nearly 45 kg (100 lb) behemoth from Texas, to Central America and eventually back to the west coast of Canada. This General Coverage receiver was a quantum leap above the S-38.
In the mid ’80s I finally got all my “ducks in a row” and took a ham radio course while I was living in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. My first callsign was VE7ASR and I was limited to CW (Morse code) for the 1st year. After 12 months I obtained my Advanced and the very rare, Digital licenses. (The latter was so rare that the Department of Communications examiner needed the answers to the exam faxed to him from Vancouver.)
My original ham station consisted of a hybrid (tube and solid state) Kewood TS-520 transceiver, an Icom VHF handheld and vertical antennas for HF and VHF. I was quickly on the air locally using the VHF repeater system. However, it took almost a week before I finally got up enough nerve to call CQ on 20 metre CW. Within a couple of minutes I was having my first CW conversation at around 8 or 9 wpm with Jim, ZL2FS, in New Plymouth, New Zealand. It was a very brief, somewhat shaky, but memorable QSO (contact). It was also my first DX and I cherish the QSL (confirmation) card! I had been bitten by the DX bug!
I have more than 20,000 QSOs’ in my logbook. Over the years I have been fortunate to meet several of those operators in person. As might be anticipated, most that I have met face to face are North American. However, in the mid 90s I had the pleasure of hosting Mikhail, RW0CN, at my home in Victoria. Two years later I was honoured to be hosted by Mike and his family in Far East Russia where I operated as RA0C/VE7ASR. Several years later Mike returned for a visit and was very taken with Victoria. He was so impressed that he sent his 15 year old daughter to high school here the following September. Today I am happy to report that both Mike and daughter Sasha are Canadian citizens living in British Columbia.
Several years ago my wife Doris and I took a cruise around South America. There was a possibility that we might make an unscheduled trip to the Falkland Islands if the weather cooperated. Well the weather was great and when we landed in Port Stanley I telephone Bob, VP8LP, to see if we could take him to lunch. After a brief tour of the area, with Bob as our personal guide, we were having coffee with Bob, his wife Janet (VP8AIB) and neighbour Mike (VP8NO). Several years later I was hosting a ham radio class student in my shack. The student was tuning the 17 metre band when I asked him to stop for a moment. I had heard Bob calling CQ. I explained to the student that this was the Falkland Islands and I turned the antenna and went back to Bob with my call. You can imagine how shocked the student was when the return was “Hi Rick how are you doing!”
The world is a small place and over the years I have been fortunate to see how ham radio can bring people together! It has been a great hobby and I have learned a lot about electronics and about people!