My ham radio station is located in west central Alabama out in the country on my farm. I have been licensed since 1959 as KN8OPP, got my General class license and became K8OPP, then in 1973 I moved from Ohio to Alabama and 1999 to 2018 I became K4WI. Below are three histories of those times:
1959 to 1973 as K8OPP
I remember how all this got started years ago. I was in my early teens and one evening after supper I wandered into the living room and started messing with this brown radio with a gold dial and all of a sudden the "Lone Ranger" program came in. So every evening I would mess with it and didn't take long to find that there was a Short Wave band. That's when I came across HCJB... "the Voice of the Andes" .... that opened up a whole new world for me. Once in high school I started reading and learning everything I could about the invisible world of radio waves that is all around us. I built a crystal radio that actually picked up the local AM station. Then I got my Mom to order me a Heathkit AR3 short wave radio.... it worked but barely. I visited a friend's house who's dad happened to be a "Ham".... wow, I was hooked. Two of my class mates were Dave Barnett and Bob Copas and we made the trip via bus to Cleveland, Ohio to the FCC testing center and took the Novice test which led Dave to become KN8OTP, Bob became KN8OIL and I got KN8OPP. We all eventually upgraded to the General class license and dropped the N from our calls. Another high school chum was Drew K8YFM who eventually ended being my brother-in-law. Once I got my license I had to find a rig to use. I really don't remember how I got this but I ended up with a Hallicrafters SX99 receiver and a Johnson Adventurer transmitter 50 watts xtal controlled and a long wire out my 2nd story bed room window. Unfortunately I don't remember much about who I contacted but I did make some contacts. The Novice license was only good for one year back then so sometime before it expired I made the trip back to Cleveland and took the General exam and code test. A Collins 75A2 came up for sale from a local ham and I was able to spend my meager earnings and purchase it. I don't remember where or how I got the matching 32V2 transmitter but it was a winning DX combination. I had made a two element 15 meter beam and mounted it on a pole outside the bedroom window and turned it by opening the window and hand twisting the pipe. Being on the second floor I didn't exactly have the best grounding and you could get a nasty lip burn if you got to close to the mike. That was one of the main reasons I stayed mostly on CW. The 32V2 used a 4D32 final tube and it was not shielded which caused a lot of TVI and complaining from my siblings.
Fifteen meter CW was the DX place to be in the early 1960's.... unfortunately I don't remember who all I worked but I did get DXCC back then. I was never able to get a confession of who exactly did it but after I had moved on to college someone cleaned out my room and threw away my logs and qsl cards. So no records remain except what I have in my head! But the DX bug bit me and remains to this day! Check out the photos in the Ham Radio section of the Gallery!
1973 to 1999 as K4JYO
By 1973 I had gotten married, relocated to west central Alabama, started a family , and was on my way to a career in farming. My General class license as K8OPP had expired in 1970 and somehow I had let all of my ham radio life just fall by the wayside. But I kept dreaming about Collins 75A4's and hearing CW everywhere. I realized that I had to get back in the game. I found out the nearest FCC testing location was in Mobile, Alabama and they gave the test once a month. I got up early one morning of the day of the test and made the 3 hour drive down to Mobile. When I got there they asked what I wanted to do. I was a little nervous because it had been 8 years or more since I had anything to do with the code or regulations. So I started at the bottom.... took the Novice written and 5 wpm code test... easy; tester guy asked if I wanted to keep going; sure.. why not? So took the Technician test, passed; took the General written and 13 wpm code; passed.... next was Advanced, passed. Tester guy was getting a funny look in his face.... asked want to try the Extra? Sure, took the written and 20 wpm code test. Passed the code test but missed too many on the written. The examiner said I would have to come back next month to re-take the written but the code was good to go. Which is what I did.... went from Novice to Extra in 30 days. A month later K4JYO arrived in the mail..... me... tickled pink!
So now I had to start thinking about a new rig and some kind of antenna. I ended up ordering a SB102 kit from Heathkit and got it together and working. Found a 75A4 to go beside it and made a 3 band 2 element quad out of bamboo and stuck it up at 40 feet. It wasn't much in a way of a setup but I was back working DX starting all over again.... didn't take long and I had DXCC. I found a couple of hams in the area and we teamed up to work "New Ones"; kept in touch via landline! Don WA4BCY (now K4UE) and Herb WB4OXX (now KD4Y) and I worked some really rare ones back then.
By the end of 1975 had my third youngster up and running and a new house built a mile up the road from where I started. Put up a 100 ft tower and and installed a new Hygain HyQuad. I bought a set of Drake Twins R4C/T4XCand and SB220. By 1981 I had passed the 300 DXCC country mark. Things were going well with my work so I put up another tower and swapped over to monband yagis. That KLM "Big Stick" 20 meter 6 el at 100 ft was a killer! The 4 line was getting older so I jumped to a complete Drake 7 line: TR7A/R7 along with every accessory they made except for the L7B amp.
By the early 1990's I had worked most of the needed DX so contesting rose to the top of my activities. There was no way to interface the 7 line to the computer so I started thinking about a new radio. The Yeasu FT-1000D fit the bill to the T and then I traded the 7 line for a late model Alpha 86 amplifier. This was a great setup and I kept on picking off the last few countries and honing my contesting skills. Check out some photos in the Ham Radio Gallery!
1999 to 2018 as K4WI
In 1999 my contesting efforts had taken on a whole new approach and it had become obvious that I needed to shorten my 1x3 call sign to a new one being a 1x2. So I immediately started a search with the FCC for a better call sign . In almost a year I had made 10 different applications for 10 different call signs that I thought would work. Finally I scored and received K4WI in the mail in November of 1999. This turned out to be a great call sign both on CW and SSB and put it right on to work.
In the 90's I realized that I needed to be able to interface with a computer for logging and cluster access so I decided to upgrade my station equipment. I purchased a Yaesu FT-1000D and connected it to a computer and acquired internet access via phone line. Wow.... a whole new world opened up! Compared to todays set up it was very slow and primative but still better than before. I bought a Yaesu FT-920 so I could get on 6 meters and I traded the whole Drake 7 line for an Alpha 86 amplifier. Eventually I migrated to Writelog for contesting software and DX4WIN for my general logging software. To simplify things in 2007 I sold the 1000D and 920 and stepped up to a FT-2000D which gave me 160 to 6 in one package. I needed a better way to interface radio and computer so I added a microHam KEYER 2 and got internet via satellite. Also I found a King conversion Heathkit SB-220 so now I have a KW on six meters. Then in 2016 a friend had a FTdx5000MP only several months old that he needed to swap for cash so I helped him out. Sold the 2000D and now I have a FTdx5000MP with all 3 micro-tune units, DMU-2000, SP-2000, microKEYER hooked to an AMD Quad-Core 4.20 GHZ processor and 8.0 GB of memory hooked to line-of-sight 5 GHZ radio interface to internet. My next step will be to swap the two amps for a new 160-6 auto-tune 2 KW amplifier.
I also have several other types of radios that I consider to be essential for me to own. Every vehicle that I own has a top of the line CB radio, a two meter radio, a GPS unit and radar detector. If I am going to be traveling I consider them as a necessary option for safe traveling. The two meter radio is nice in big cities but basically worthless for out on the road. I do enjoy listening to 132.25 mhz "Atlanta Center" as I have a private pilots license. The CB radio and radar detector give me complete situational awareness when going walk-about as the local gendarmes and DOT officers are much more concerned about "revenue generation" rather than public safety. I can say this because of the almost one million miles I have driven in the last 12 years and the interaction I have had with the enforcement boys!
In 2004 I finally worked VU4RBI in the Andaman Islands for my last one and got me up to the #1 Honor Roll DXCC. I got them on 10 meters all thanks to the new system I had put up in the early 2000'S. I wanted to be competative in contesting so I decided to concentrate on one band. I picked 10 meters as I figured I get the most bang for the least bucks here. I bought four M2 7 element 10 meter yagis on 44 foot booms and stacked them on a 140 foot tower: 7/7/7/7 @ 140/105/70/35. I fed them with equal length RG213 to a StackMaster and built a custom rotator control to control the 4 rotors. I could select any/all combination and rotate any or one direction. It was a killer array and I won quite a few contests with it until April 2011. That year Alabama got struck by 7 different tornados in one day; massive destruction and loss of life. I lost the 4 stack tower when a tornado sucked up the metal shed that I kept my pickup and Corvette in and threw it into the guy wires which brought it to the ground. I also had roof damage to my home and I found my little water well housing a 1/2 mile away. I figured I was lucky... at least I wasn't one of those who lost their life that day. I replaced the stack tower with a new 150 ft and put a KT36xa tri-bander on top and now i am satisfied to make due with that. I put some photos up ... check them out in the Ham Radio section of the Gallery!