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A Mouse Ate My Radio!

Updated 25 July 2004

We had been in the Medway digs about two years when I finally got back into radio. I'd been more or less inactive -- except for occasional forays into 2m FM with some of the Far Out Radio Club gang -- since 1982, when my father died.
    Eventually, however, I found myself back at the bench with soldering iron & wire strippers, trying to put together a Howes 40m transceiver. Cindy was just then pregnant with our second son, and here I was playing QRP again. I even went so far as to scrounge up $200 to buy a used Ten Tec Century 21 transceiver at a radio store in Hamilton, Ohio. Cindy wasn't too sure about the idea, but she figured it was time for me to renew my radio therapy & let me off with spending the cash.
    One singularly significant point was my discovery one afternoon, that a mouse had chewed up some of the insulation on the power supply wires in "Bozo the Amplifier." When I turned it on that day, C.M. Howes direct conversion receiver and transmitter ca 1997flames shot out from holes in the back and the face of the meter flew off in a rain of sparks and the faint hint of ozone. My high power days were over . . . and not simply because my second son, Andy, was born.
    Soon enough, however, it was time to reabsorb myself into the responsible father image. It wasn't really that tough, except that I had forgotten what my youngest son noticed 12 years after his birth: babies take a lot of attention. Maybe that's why it took me over seven years to finally finish the construction of a C.M. Howes 40m transceiver that I'd bought back in 1984 from the G-QRP Club gang. And, in the meantime I also built a couple different radios, mostly as if I were prescient about the eventual unsteadiness that has become common for my hands many years later in the more recent time.
    Ultimately, however, it must come down to that G-QRP Club booth that I stumbled into back in 1984. I stood there looking at all the displayed stuff that they'd brought with them from their island and wondered about how crazy these guys really were. I mean, there were transmitters built into cigarette boxes, on one-inch squares of circuit board material, in beautifully machined (but still very small) metal cabinets and run by everything from 9 Volt batteries to solar panels.
    And right next door were the QRP ARCI, the more or less "gringo" QRP club that I'd joined 12 years before, sharing their space with Dick & Kathy Szakony, proprietors of S&S Engineering. 
    Dick & Kathy had for display & sale two very interesting pieces of equipment, both looking like they'd been designed for government use inside heavy aluminum boxes. One was the ARK4, a miniature version of the larger ARK40 CW transceiver. Both radios caught my eye immediately, mainly because I have a weakness for crush-proof electronic gadgets.
    As time went on I built every radio that S&S Engineering had for sale, along with others kitted up by members of the Northern California QRP Club and Wilderness Radio. Which led me to build the Elecraft K2 transceiver, a beautifully designed kit that I put together while recovering from hernia surgery. I took the K2 to a beach vacation with the family the summer after I'd finished building it and had a great time. At one point I had a QSO with a guy in Australia. I was running the K2 on a homebrew antenna tuner to a piece of wire held aloft by a 30-ft fiberglass pole. And runnin' 5 watts. It was enough to get me fully reinvolved in QRP. Which I did.
    Along the way to that point, however, I ran into a bunch of radio crazies on the Internet whose support & appreciation for my own lunacy has renewed my interest in QRP & ham radio. I often say that I am interested in radio as I am mainly because of the QRP-Internet "club" and the folks in other organizations whose friendship I appreciate. And, it is because of those people that I've gone through a Ten Tec Argosy, a couple LDG automatic antenna tuners, gotten articles about radio published in fairly well-respected journals and been generally as content as I am today. . .

Edging Back to QRP Again

Updated 25 July 2004

The Medway outhouse radio shack with tower baseBefore Bozo the Amplfier blew up & the mouse had eaten my radio, and after I'd built the Howes transceiver, I bought a Ten-Tec Century 21 transceiver. That one I ran from a typewriter table that Dad had built. The antenna was some burned-out Kodak projector motor windings stapled to the rafters in the attic of the Medway digs. I built a pi-network tuner, which I subsequently rebuilt using the Ultimate Transmatch circuit that's been in the ARRL handbook for at least a couple decades now.
   It was a station, yeah, but not much of one.
   Then at some point I got fired up to put a shack in the converted outhouse that was part of our property. Another part of the property was a garage that had been converted into a house, which I rented to a biker. When the biker came up owing me about four months rent, I asked him to move or pay up. the building area of the outhouse shack ca 2000He gave me some of the money but eventually loaded all his crap onto a pickup truck and drove off into the sunset.
   I got an empty building and a only slightly mangled springer for the front fork of a Harley. And three 110VAC window airconditioners. I had the building torn down, but only after I'd built a wall and other stuff to fit in the converted outhouse/work shop that the biker had been using to store his Harley 74.
   It was a carpentry experience.
   Eventually I moved the shack off that typewriter stand and out to the shed/outhouse. I put the TR7 back on the desk & tried to have some fun with the whole thing. It worked out pretty well, except in the summer when I lost weight sweating and the winter, when I lost weight shivering. And in between, I'd build stuff. Or try to.
   By this time I'd gotten in pretty well with the QRP-L low power ham radio list gang. When one of 'em put a used Argosy on sale, I bought it right up. Picked it up from him at the '92 Dayton Hamvention. Took it home and put it on the air from the shed. Then, when my eldest moved out, I moved all the good stuff inside in the vacant bedroom and ran it with my home-brew antenna tuner and the wires still stapled to the rafters.
   As ham radio experiences go, it was ok. But it was less fun than I thought I should be having.
   Part of the problem, which will be explained later, was a combination of pressures at work (see the front page quotes for a hint or two) and the overall lack of success that I was having even building stuff.
   You have to remember that by this time I'd built three S&S Engineering radios (all marvelous pieces of engineering & well worth the cash I paid), two or three different frequency counter doodads (with hopes of putting one of 'em into the Argosy so I could get away from the calibrator button), a couple Northern California QRP Club project radios & key paddles and managed to not blow too much stuff up in the process.
   And then along came two radios that made me drool and slobber all over the house for months, which drooling and slobbering must have taken its toll on me, 'cause there's a hernia operation in there somewhere. . . which, as you expect, leads to the next page.

Copyright 2004 Nils R. Bull Young