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The QRP Experience Begins

Updated 25 July 2004

There is a certain literacy that comes with being involved in ham radio. It's derived from the need to keep up with what's going on in the hobby. From this literacy many beginning hams learn about things that others would consider unexciting or dull. Others use this literacy to find challenges or to consider novel ideas.
    One idea that has been part of ham radio since its early days, one borne almost certainly of necessity, is low power operations. In the beginning days, everyone but Marconi was low power. It was just not easy for youngsters and even adults to find the monetary basis for a 5 kW spark station. Those who even attempted to reach that level often did so by collecting the parts or building the neccessary impliments over extended periods of time.
    And over the course of that same time, the technology would change or the means of transmission or reception would improve in some way or the other to make low power operation more successful. And success, one way or the other, was the point. No one wanted to invest tons of time & money in a hobby that was fraught with so much frustration and so little profitable experience.
    This low power gambit became the realm of the early hams, men & boys and girls all over the world who, for some reason or the other, wanted to recreate for free and for fun what Marconi had accomplished with much more pecuniary goals.
    I first learned about QRP from a little article that appeared in an early edition of the now-defunct Ham Radio Magazine. The article mentioned the publication of another magazine, The Milliwatt, by a college student in the central US. The magazine was cheap enough & I subscribed immediately.
    What I got for my money was a very heady introduction to the possibility of using less than 5 W to talk around the world. And the means to do so, even commercially available stuff, was within easy reach. The adverts for what I needed showed up often enough in the ARRL "official organ," QST.
    So I sent for all the stuff . . .

Trying Out a Ten-Tec PM2

Updated 25 July 2004

A new company -- at least new to the ham community -- called Ten Tec, founded by Al Kahn of Electrovoice fame, offered for sale a complete set of doodads to get someone on the air and quick for a reasonable price. All the buyer had to do was put up a good antenna and play with the toys.
    I got my PM2 around the end of 1969 and soon enough added the antenna tuner & SWR meter. This was followed immediately by the KR20 keyer, which allowed me more than just easy CW. It also improved my code speed, which is another story.
    I never got to try this system out in Puerto Rico -- or probably better said: never had any success with it there -- because of the limits of my license and the fact that I didn't have antennas for the bands that the PM2 allowed me to play on. But when I got transferred from Puerto Rico to the USS Saratoga, I spent a month at home with my parents. There I, discovered just how magically cool it was to talk to someone in the Central US from my snow-swept digs in the basement of my parents' home. I was hooked good.
    Not that a QSO with a Swedish ham, after which I discovered that the drive on the transmitter was all the way down, had anything to do with it.
    A couple months later, home from the Med cruise and back in Dayton for the weekend, I went to a local military surplus electroncis joint & bought (for $15) a US Army CW transceiver, complete with built in antenna tuner, that ran off car batteries. This little box went to my apartment in Florida & was my sole personal ham radio companion until I got out of the USN in 1972. Over the course of that time, between October of 1971 and March of '72, I had many QSOs with people all over the US who were as amazed as I had once been at what success one could have with just a few Watts of RF and a reasonable antenna.
    By the time I got out of the Navy, of course, many parts of the QRP technological gambit had changed, all in ways that just made me more determined to have as much fun as I could with the meager post-Navy income that I had. That, of course, . . . leads to the next page.

Copyright 2004 Nils R. Bull Young