Name: Howard Lang
Call: KB6NN
QTH: Eureka, California
Grid: CN70ws

Photo of Howard at radio.

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When the hobby first bit:

My 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 because it had tube diagrams in the back. One of my father's friends was a ham, so my dad asked him to show me his gear and recommend a receiver. My first receiver was a used 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:

Some years later (1975), I had joined the ARRL and had accumulated a number of books, including Hints and Kinks for the Radio Amateur. I built a simple direct conversion receiver from scratch, from a schematic I found, and parts from an electronic surplus shop.  I wanted to listen to ham radio while I was away at school. I copied the W1AW code practice broadcasts, and did some qualifying runs.  Got my certificates up to over 10wpm.  I was ready for my test, which required sending and receiving code at 5wpm.  I didn't take that test until three years later.  

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Home Sweet Home:

When I settled in Humboldt County in the fall of 1977, I listened to the 80 meter band on the receiver I had built, 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, which met at the OES headquarters in the basement of the Humboldt County Courthouse in Eureka.

Elmers abound:

At the ham club meeting, I met several friendly Elmers, who helped me get my first license, which at the time was the entry level Novice class, and my call sign, KA6AAZ, in May of 1978.  Again through the club, I took courses, jumped over General 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.

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My favorite things:

Besides the time I spent as a novice working CW, which I still consider my best of times in ham radio, my most enjoyable ham radio things have been the various Field Day and field operations I have participated in.  This would also have to include a receive-only adventure in the Great Smokey Mountains in the summer of 1977. The little direct conversion receiver I had built was running on battery power at the campsite. The band was active that day during the downpour - unforgettable.

Ham hiatus:

Life got in the way of ham radio, and I put my ham gear away. 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.

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All that noise on the bands:

Back in the groove again in 2007, 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 man-made noise. But now, it was 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 was weekdays while people are at work.  

Power outage takes away noise:

Once during that time, 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!  In the weeks afterward, 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 there was on the bands.  More adventure, because there was now an even better reason to go portable or mobile.   

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packet setup

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 much fun.  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 (got the parts from JDR Microdevices), with a megabyte of memory (yes, a whole megayte), a 20Mb hard drive (yes, a whole 20Mb), and a 5.25" floppy disk drive. Yep.  And how magically fast it seemed in those days!

These days, packet and other digital modes can be done without a hardware Terminal Node Controller (TNC). Instead, software does the work and the computer's sound card or an external sound card creates the tones that go to the radio.  You still need to have a way to get tones to and from the radio.  You can use acoustic coupling, but copy is better if you use a wired connection.  Used to be, one could go to the neighborhood electronics store and buy a few parts to do the job.  There might be some parts stores in a large population area, but not any more in smaller cities and towns.  If you are interested in making a wired interface, just using 1/8-inch phone plugs won't do it.  The levels will be too high and distorted.  Breadboard something with back to back audio transformers and some trim pots so you don't overload the radio or the computer audio input stages.  Many designs available in print and on the internet.  External sound cards that do minimal duty are found at low prices.  A decent external sound card designed for ham radio will cost you more.  

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See you on the bands.


Howard Lang, KB6NN

Eureka, California
Grid: CN70ws

Eureka is located in the middle of Humboldt County, California. Humboldt County is in Northern California, on the coast, about 80 miles south of the Oregon border.

Howard's Amateur Radio Memberships:

Humboldt Amateur Radio Club 

Far West Repeater Association

Ten-Ten International (#25696)

American Radio Relay League 

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