Name: Howard Lang
QTH: Eureka, California
Amateur Radio Website
Home About PhotosLogContact The Packet Setup in the photo above
is the rig I had running in the so-called golden age of packet in the
1980's and 90's before the internet took off. I recently took it out of
storage and got it working again. What surprised me was how slow data
traveled in those days. Also a surprise was how reliable it is, and how
To the right of the monitor is the packet rig. The
mag mount antenna is on the power supply. Beneath the power supply, the
Kantronics DVR 2-2 dedicated packet VHF transceiver (crystal
controlled, low current draw, great for solar installations). Beneath
that, the TNC, a Kantronics KPC-2. The computer is a home-built IBM-PC
XT clone, with a megabyte of memory, a 20Mb hard drive, and a 5.25
floppy disk drive. Yep. And how magically fast it seemed in those
These days, packet and other
digital modes can be done without a Terminal Node Controller
(TNC). Instead, software does the work and the computer's sound card
creates the tones.
first knowledge of Ham Radio came when I told my father I wanted to
listen to short wave. I had been enjoying a hobby of working with audio
gear for a number of years, and had bought a Radio Amateur's Handbook.
One of my father's friends was a ham, so my dad persuaded him to show
me his gear and recommend a receiver. My first receiver was a
Hallicrafters SX-111. I listened for hours and dreamed of becoming a
ham. But life, as it sometimes does, got in the way.
Joined the ARRL before I was licensed:
years later, I had joined the ARRL, and had accumulated a number of
books, including Hints and Kinks. I built a simple direct conversion
receiver so I could listen while I was away at college. I copied the
W1AW code practice broadcasts, and did qualifying runs.
I settled in Humboldt County in 1977, I listened to the 80 meter band
and heard a loud local CW signal. I tracked the guy down, and he
invited me to my first meeting of the Humboldt Amateur Radio Club, that
met at the time at the OES headquarters in the basement of the Humboldt
County Courthouse in Eureka.
the ham club, I met several friendly Elmers, who helped me get my
novice license, KA6AAZ, in May of 1978. Again through the club, I took
courses, jumped up to Advanced, and got my current call sign, KB6NN, in
May of 1979. I eventually made Extra, in July of 1991, in an informal
competition with a school classmate of mine who lived in Southern
California, and with whom I had been conducting a regular schedule.
the time I spent as a novice working CW, my most enjoyable moments have
been the various Field Day operations I have participated in, including
a receive-only adventure in the Great Smokey Mountains in the summer of
1977, as a short wave listener, before I was licensed. The little
homebrew direct conversion receiver was running on battery power at the
campsite. The band was active that day during the downpour.
Life got in the way of
ham radio, and I put my ham gear away somewhere in the 1990's. I made a
few attempts to get on the air again, but was off the air for more than
a decade in total. I resumed operation in the summer of 2007. What got
me back in? Field Day. Of course!
in the groove again, I was surprised at how much noise was on the bands
all the time. As a novice, I
had been used to after dark operating HF, since there was less
noise. Now, it's the opposite. A "broad band white noise", from
consumer electronics: computers, televisions, etc., now runs S-7 to S-9
or more, reaching a peak starting about 5 or 6 PM local time, and
continuing into the night. It's almost all the day and night on
weekends. So the most quiet time in radio at my QTH is weekdays while
people are at work.
Power outage takes away noise:
time a few years back, an earthquake took out all the power in our
area. Before cleaning up, the first thing I did when I got home
was turn on the HF rig. Quiet like the old days! I started
going out away from home with a battery operated radio and found that
the farther away from town I got, the less noise. More adventure,
because there was now an even better reason to go portable or mobile.
It's good to be back in ham radio, the 1000 hobbies hobby.