Welcome to the first installment of a new blog in the EETimes empire. First, a few words of introduction…I’m Doug Grant, amateur radio callsign K1DG. Like many of you, my interest in electronics began in my teenage years when I discovered shortwave radio, then took the exams and got my ham radio license. This led to a degree in Electrical Engineering, and a career in the electronics industry. I was fortunate to work for a chip manufacturer that did some pretty cool analog and mixed-signal ICs, and eventually got into RF chips. One thing led to another, and now I am a freelance consultant, specializing in analog/mixed-signal and wireless marketing projects. And I have time to get caught up on ham radio projects that were postponed when I had higher-priority job and family obligations.
I’m going to blog from time to time about things I see in the industry and in the amateur radio hobby. I may comment on new chips I see come into the market, companies I see doing good things in wireless ICs, and trends in both. Some of these observations may be complimentary, some may not please certain folks, but I hope you’ll find them interesting. For now, let me hear from you (hit the comments section below) – did you get your start in electronics through ham radio? Do you have a license today? Are you active? Did you have a license once and let it expire when other things got in the way? Ever think about getting back into it?
If you’ve been away from the hobby for a while, let me get you caught up a bit. The Morse code test scared a lot of technically-oriented people from their ham licenses. In fact, the code was a lot harder for me than the technical exams. The FCC some time ago decided to eliminate the code requirement for a ham license, so that’s no longer an issue. The same situation exists in most other countries as well.
The exams are now administered differently. In the old days, an FCC official administered the exam at an FCC office. Now, the FCC has outsourced the testing program to already-licensed hams who serve as Volunteer Examiners, and those activities are overseen by several Volunteer Examiner Coordinator organizations.
All the exam questions (which are multiple-choice), are now in the public domain, along with the right and wrong answers. This is a lot different from the old days, when the exam included essay-style questions requiring the application to draw schematics of oscillators, etc. It’s now possible, if you have a pretty good memory, to cram for a weekend and pass the test and get a ham license.
I’m often asked “Ham radio? Do people still do that? Why?” That’s a question with a long answer that I’ll answer in another blog.
Hi Doug - Congrats on the new blog! Enjoyed all the comments - lots of similarities on my side: Article in Boys Life and "comic strip" in Treasure Chest (magazine distributed in Catholic schools) that centered on ham radio. SWL rx for Christmas 1958 (S-38E), licensed as KN3LJZ in 1960 via high school radio club (St.Joe's Prep in Philly), BSEE from Drexel, career in RF/microwave semis and related components. Joined FRC in 1962 - been contesting ever since under several call signs. Looking forward to many more blog installments ! 73 de Carl, K2CJ
thanks for seizing the initiative and getting this blog up and running. I received a "Brayhead Radio Science Kit" as a Christmas present when I was ten years old and have been hooked on electronics ever since. It took a while to discover ham radio and I became licenced in 1976 at the age of 23. An elderly work colleague of mine had been a radio operator on Lancaster bombers during WW2 and he taught me Morse Code. He had a great sentence for helping to get a good rhythm on the key: "the word possesses possesses more esses than the word mississippi possesses".
Cheers for now,
Well Doug, as you can see by the comments so far, it's obvious that ham radio has played a significant role in many an engineers decision to study electrical engineering. I guess I'm the odd man out when it comes to Morse code. I love it and learned it in about a week when I was 15. I figured since I knew the code I might as well get my license and got my Novice ticket in 1969 with the callsign of WN7QYP. Upgraded to General 6 months later (WA7QYP). Got my Extra callsign in Illinois (20 wpm code woo hoo!) and am now WY9A. I'm looking forward to reading the blog as well as all of the comments. Bands are opening up! See you there maybe.
I got my first two ham licenses in March of 1954 and I have been W1AEL ever since, but not always active. My radio avocation led me to three EE degrees and a good career. Now that I am retired, there is more time for ham radio and woodworking; I keep so busy I wonder how I ever had time for work! Code was a problem for a while, but I have really enjoyed it for a long time. Thanks for the Blog, Doug, and HI to Bicycle Bill. Allan.
Great to see a Blog on HAM radio.
Got a Novice license in 1969 and currently hold a General Class license. But as with many of us, education, family, etc. licences at times go by the way side and my goal of an Extra class license got lost in the mix.
So I am hoping an Extra class license will happen in the next year.
I was first licensed at age 12 in 1963, designed and built a 500W HF linear by 10th grade and was able to enter engineering school in 1969 in great degree due to the influence of ham radio and some great mentors. Three engineering degrees, several patents and many years later, I'm still totally loving the career that ham radio has led to. Never allowed the license to expire and am now active in VHF / UHF emergency ops with a penchant for inventing antennas. I feel ham radio provides a powerful means to mentor technical innovations which can contribute to the well-being of all. Yes, full, no, WARP, speed ahead on your new blog!
My father used to bring home radios he'd find in the trash on his laundry route - for me to take apart. I joined my high school radio club in 1956 and passed my Novice test. The Code was very difficult for me and I let the license lapse after a year but stayed interested in electronics ever after. I started out to get an EE degree at the Univ. of Buffalo but fell in love with an IBM 1620 when it was installed in the engineering building. A year later I went to work full time for the computing center and was in IT for 48 years.
I built my first regulated power supply from an article in EE Times Jan. 15, 1973, back when it was on newsprint. I still have that article in my files and I still use that power supply from time to time.
My oldest son and I got our 5WPM Technician tickets in 1992 and now we're both Extras. As I sit here I'm surrounded by computers, active ham radio equipment, a wall of antique communication equipment, mostly ex-military, and a growing tube collection. I'm happy to see your new Ham Radio blog and I hope it will continue for a very long time.
Like the others, I am looking forward to this blog, being about Ham radio from an engineering point of view. I became interested in electronics partly because of having been given a 1957 issue of the ARRL handbook. I was self taught in electronics when I started engineering school, which gave me quite an advantage for a while. I was not licensed until they dropped the code requirement for the tech class, since the code did serve as an effective barrier to keep me out. Then, when the code requirement was dropped completely I immediately went and upgraded to extra class, all in one session.
One thing that has amazed me, after looking at the older handbooks, which I have some back to 1950, is that we did not lose so many hams with some of the incredibly unsafe constructions that were shown. I guess that hams must have been far more understanding about the hazards back then.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.