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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

VE7NSD: The Knack, personified

We've occasionally provided photos that seem to capture the essence of "The Knack." Here is another one. This is Stephen, VE7NSD, operating from his trailer out in the wilds of British Columbia. I found Stephen's story to be really inspirational. His first receiver was a Gillette Blue Blade! His first QSO was with Beaverton, Oregon! He took typing in 9th grade (the only boy in the class!) so that he could copy CW faster. Here is an excerpt from his page:

I started playing with radios in Roseburg, Oregon when I was ten. My Dad’s prospecting buddy Cliff, had been a Radioman in the USN and turned me on to building a crystal set using a Gillette Blue Blade for the detector. I built it but had no headphones and ordered some from the Allied Radio catalog. I felt like it took about 6 years for them to arrive, but it was probably more like 6 weeks. When the headphones finally came the xtal set didn’t work and so I started learning troubleshooting. Eventually, it worked fine and I experimented with a hunk of galena my Dad had in his rock collection.

From there Cliff gave me circuits for regenerative receivers and I built a few but none of them ever produced a usable output. All of my SWL listening had to be on the big console radio in our living room.

I can’t remember how I came to have an Arc 5 receiver for 80M, but that was my first real radio. It was probably a gift as I had no money except what I got from my paper route and all of that went to pay for the bike I used to deliver the papers. I started going to local ham club meetings and Bob Reese, W7TUI, became my mentor.

I read a copy of How To Become a Radio Amateur and started collecting parts to build the single 6V6 transmitter on the orange crate slat chassis. All of my parts had to be scrounged from the radios, TV’s and other electronic gear that was given to me. I built the power supply on a home bent chassis. I got it to work on out-of-band xtals but it had a mean chirp. W7TUI showed me how to add a VR to the power supply to feed the screen grid in the 6V6 and that cleaned up the chirp.

I was licensed as WN7VTZ in 1952 at age 12. My first QSO was with Beaverton, Oregon, with less than 10 watts input and feeding a random wire with no ATU. I suspect that there wasn’t much radiated power from that lash-up. Another buddy in Roseburg was licensed at the same time I was and we contented ourselves with cross-town QSOs.

I was the only boy in my grade 9 typing class. But, I was glad I learned to type. I could copy CW quite fast, much faster than I could write. The first time I sat down to my typewriter, put on the headphones, and put my fingers on the keys it was like magic. When my ear heard a di dah, my left little finger pushed a key. Di dah dah dah and my right index finger pushed a key. I could just sit there and watch the message appear on the typewriter paper. No effort required!

Read the full story on his page:

And check out his Wilderness Workbench site (complete with a real moose skin):


  1. I didn't know Tommy Chong was a ham

  2. Thanks to Bill for posting this. I only heard about it today.

    In the 60s when many looked like I do now, I was an electronics tech, short sleeved white shirt, slacks and shiny shoes, in what soon became Silicon Valley and played blues harp in a band in the evenings and weekends. Back in '92 I built a hippie school bus rig. At this rate I might become an acid head before I'm 70. :=)


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