Sunday, March 06, 2016

I Am Now KM6AAI And It Only Took 55 Years!

(Note: Since posting this I have passed the Extra exam, changed the call to a shorter one... dropping the "M"... becoming K6AAI... here is how I decided on the call. I also wrote this piece on tips and tricks to help pass the Extra (or any) ham exam. I hope it helps.)

* * *
It took a lifetime, but I finally did it.

Ever since I was in my early teens I wanted to accomplish a specific goal in life.

In the early 50s our family was wealthy. My father ran a dress business with my grandfather (who started the business.) They manufactured what were called "cotton frocks"... basically cotton house-dresses for woman... the kind of thing a woman wore around the house and nice enough to go to the grocery store in.

It was the kind of dress Donna Reed and June Clever wore (June wore pearls with it because we know that all housewives of the era wore pearls when they were dusting!) and you still see these thin, cotton dresses worn by some women in the southern states.

We had a thirty-foot boat which was docked in a marina not far from our Long Island, NY house. On the boat we had this huge Zenith multi-band radio. It not only had the marine stations for weather, but you could hear Europe and the amateur (ham) bands. It was portable (weighted a ton) and was so much fun to listen to. Here is a pix of the model:

In the late 50s the business failed... factories went to the South and women started wearing slacks and jeans... and my father just didn't change with the times.

We were broke.

My parents got divorced when I was 11 and as part of the settlement my mother got the radio, which she gave to me and I put it in my room where I spent hours listening to Europe ("BBC Calling", "Radio Moscow", etc.)

But what I loved more than anything was listening to the ham radio stations talk to each other... often across the nation and to Europe as well. I was fascinated by radio and wanted to get MY ham license (there is no age limit.)

I would also visit Elliot Gross's house. He had been licensed when he was around 10 years old and I was amazed at how he could talk to people all over the world in his father's ham 'shack.'

Back then the entry license from the FCC (called the Novice class) required that you take a written test that was fairly easy... and you also had to be able to send and receive Morse Code at five words-per-minute. It was not hard, even for me.

But it wasn't the entry license that I wanted. That one was limited to low power transmission which basically worked for "around the block" communications.

I wanted what was called the General class license because that allowed you to 'work' the "DX" (distance) bands and talk to people across the country and throughout the world.

The General license required you to pass a (more) difficult written exam and be able to send and receive thirteen words-per-minute of Morse Code. That was a super-high speed (for me!)

But there was a problem.

I simply could not receive the code at that speed. I could send it, but receiving just didn't work. If dit-dit-dah was sent I might hear dah-dit-dit.

It was not until years later that I learned that I had a minor audio dyslexia issue. I always wondered why someone might say "That's a large dog" but sometimes I heard "That's a dog large.”

Anyway, it was never much of a problem and it was random, usually triggered by stress, and I was not bothered by it... music sounded fine... and although I might have heard some of the sounds a bit differently than others, it was no big deal. But it was (obviously) a big deal with hearing code at higher speed... so I had to end my quest for getting the General ham license.

I recently learned that several years ago the FCC dropped the code requirement and so I started studying for the "new" entry level (now called the Technician License) which is rather easy and I passed that a few months ago (January 2016) and was assigned the callsign of KM6AAI.

Then I started on my real quest... learning the more difficult material for the General exam.

How many of you remember how to compute the square root of the  reciprocal of a sum of reciprocals:

                           1   +     1    +    1
                          ---       ---       ---
                           x         y         z

or can figure out the answer to this... even after studying?:

What signal source is connected to the vertical input of an oscilloscope when checking the RF envelope pattern of a transmitted signal?

A. The local oscillator of the transmitter
B. An external RF oscillator
C. The transmitter balanced mixer output
D. The attenuated RF output of the transmitter

This was not an easy test and I had to re-learn a lot of college algebra.

Yesterday (March 2016) I took the exam, only missed one question and achieved a life-long goal... and now... 55 years since my 13th birthday... I am the proud recipient of the Amateur Radio General Class FCC license.

Just a small thing to most... but a huge thing to me.



Alan N. Canton, Managing Partner
NewMedia Create
Fair Oaks, CA

Alan Canton
Fair Oaks, CA