Technical Topics



"Wireless Radio" in the Early Years

A personal ham radio history

Nobody was ever this young looking.
17 year old WN8SXQ out in the back yard in July 1966.

Probably inspired by ARRL Field Day activity, the Novice station was set up outside near the vertical antenna. The 60 watt input crystal controlled transmitter was the Knight T-60. The receiver was the Hallicrafters SX-110, while the antenna was the Hy-Gain 18-AVQ, an 80 to 10 meter trapped vertical. A small Morse Code hand key completed the setup.

The Knight CW transmitter was purchased as a kit for the cost of $60. I paid for it by working one entire week in a cornfield during the summer. Dad helped me to get the receiver and antenna.

This was the second Allied Radio Knight-Kit I had assembled. The first kit I put together was their Ocean Hopper regenerative shortwave receiver. It was funded by profits from my paper route. Before that, home made crystal detector broadcast band receivers were built and experimented upon. An issue of Boy's Life described how to build a simple "fox-hole" crystal set.

The DX bug bit early. I searched the broadcast band for distant DX signals on a crystal radio during the very early morning hours before the local AM radio station started operation. Once WMRN in Marion, Ohio began their broadcast day, they occupied the entire band. The adjustable tuning coil did give the crystal receiver noticeable selectivity, but not when a strong local signal was present.

Mom for the most part tolerated the unusual ham radio activity, but after seeing the extensive ground radials for the vertical antenna once commented that she "thought this was supposed to be wireless radio". She took the back yard photograph and years later wrote "In the Beginning" on the back of it.

Building crystal radios requires a parts source. Located a few blocks away from home was a small radio parts distributor named Bell Radio Supply. They used a converted house for their storefront. I would ride my bike there to buy parts. Double cotton covered copper wire for coils and antennas, as well as a single earpiece high impedance headset were some of the parts purchased.

Bell Radio offered interesting 12-inch metal advertising rulers as customer premiums. This radio parts store was originally owned by Paul Bell. His son, Paul Bell, Jr. also worked there. They closed their doors and went out of business in the early 70's.

Before a ham license was obtained, I did participate in the Popular Electronics Magazine "Monitoring Station Registry" program. I was assigned the call letters of WPE8IUW. One of my younger brothers got his too as WPE8IWM.


I remember the excitement of working my first real ham radio DX station ever. Yes Sir, none of that USA west coast stuff. This time there was ocean separating us. It happened on the 40-meter Novice band before dawn. Hey, Max - KP4AQL from Puerto Rico even sent my first DX QSL card!

DX at Dawn

Only three years after the outdoors photograph was taken, WA8SXQ was listening to DX on a new Collins receiver and long wire antenna from a military radar maintenance facility located in South Vietnam : an important job, a real DX location, an awesome R390A receiver, nearby megawatt microwave transmitters, and a long way from that back yard.

Bill Jones (front), Leland Crist (hidden), and Dave Sheetenhelm (rear) are shown receiving the Air Force Commendation Medal for distinctive meritorious achievement and service from Lt. Col. Rex M. Hoopes, Commanding Officer 619 TCS during a special ceremony on October 15, 1970 at Tan Son Nhut Airbase, Saigon, Vietnam.

Commendation Medal, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign, Small Arms Marksman

Aerial photograph of 619 TCS showing entire facility