VA3JEF in Ontario 1993-1997

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On 2
4th December 1993 I passed the Basic exam and received my ham radio call VA3JEF. At that time, the qualification allowed me on VHF. Of course, I immediately started looking for a hand-held transceiver and decided on an ICOM W21AT, a radio that I still have all these
years later (see photo at left).

On 18th January 1994 I passed the morse code test at 5 wpm and, immediately after, at 12 wpm. At that time, the 5 wpm morse code qualification allowed me on 80 metres and the 12 wpm qualification allowed me on the rest of the HF bands. I looked around for a used HF rig and bought a Kenwood 930S-AT at a flea market (see photo on the right). This was a solid-state, 100-watt transceiver with a built-in power supply. It weighed a ton!

In order to encourage its newly licensed members to overcome their stage fright and get on the air, my local ham radio club, Thornhill Amateur Radio Club (TRAC), organized a “Worked All TRAC” contest where one received a certificate after contacting twenty-five other club members over the air without using the club’s repeater. On the right is a photo of my certificate. You can click on it to see a larger version. The club also ran classes where participants did a bit of home-brewing, making items such as antennas, battery chargers, and other items useful in ham radio.

I also joined Canada’s national ham radio body, Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC), and, later, the South Pickering Amateur Radio Club (SPARC). My SPARC membership badge is shown on the left and my QSL card below right.

I don’t have a lot to say on the air and so morse code (CW in ham radio parlance, from “continuous wave”) attracted me more that did voice. I had always been fascinated by morse code and remember when I was about 14 years old, recording CW from a short-wave receiver and playing it back at a slower speed so that I could decode it. By translating the morse code characters into binary, a dit as 0 and a dah as 1, I had also sorted the morse code characters into numerical order (i.e. ETIAMN etc.) and learned the characters that way. I made my first CW contact with Ty, N9UIY, on 15th May 1994. I was very nervous and tried for a very short QSO but after he found out that it was my very first CW contact, Ty wouldn’t let me go and did much to build my confidence. Thanks, Ty.

In the July 1997 issue of CQ magazine I read about an organization called
The International Morse Preservation Society (also known as the FISTS CW club). This organization exists for amateurs who enjoy the art of communicating by CW. It runs CW contests, provides “code buddies” for beginners and generally promotes the cause of morse code in ham radio. On 13th March 1997 I sent off my $15 and became a member with membership number 3100.

For antennas I had a dual band, 2-meter and 70-cm J-pole on the roof of my house and a G5RV in the backyard. I also had a dual-band mag-mount antenna on my car which I later changed to a trunk-mount. In those days cell phones were not as common and it was a real plus to have a VHF transceiver in the car, especially when one could make phone calls by calling up the ham radio club’s “autopatch” interface to the phone system.


VA3JEF in Ontario

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