A Tale of Two Radios

Ever since I was a young lad, I was interested in Amateur Radio. I bought books and read and got a few kits and bits from Radio Shack. My electronics mecca at the time. I had no help from my parents. It was a wonder my father didn’t burn down our house with the way he wired things. I felt sorry for the person who bought the house after my father left it.

It wasn’t until years later that I took a more serious attempt at getting my ham radio license. I was in the U.S. Army as a member of the 101st Airborne Division stationed at Ft Campbell, KY. Being a member of a division that could move itself lock, stock, and barrel, in 30 days, kept us busy night and day. I decided I was going to build a radio in preparation for getting my license. I chose the Heathkit HW-8 as a fairly simple radio. Along with it, I got a Jensen Kits JT-6 Mean Little kit with enough tools for the project and a case to put the tools in when my workbench reverted to the dining room table.

Just as I finished up the kit and arranged for a friendly ham to help me with the alignment, I was placed on orders for Germany. It dashed my hopes of getting licensed and I ended up selling the radio to the guy that was going to help me. I never sent one dit or dah on it.

It wasn’t until quite a few years after I got out of the army that I finally got licensed. many years have passed and with that, many enjoyable minutes and hours enjoying the immense sphere of amateur radio. As I approach retirement, I have taken an interest in CW once again. It has become my favorite mode. I am no speed demon and my copy skills still need improvement, but as I lurch along, I am meeting new friends of all skill levels. At least in my old age, I can laugh at my guffaws.

A couple of months ago, John Dillon of Penntek Radios released the details of his new radio, the Penntek TR-45L. I already have enough QRP radios and for grins, I went to Tom’s K4SWL’s website where he was reporting about the beta test he was doing. When I saw the radio, a flood of memories came over me. I remember the fun I had building the radio and dreaming of getting on the air. I also remember being a little saddened, when I realized, I would not be using that radio and that licensing would still be a few years away. But HOLY COW did that Penntek bring back that same vibe as the HW-8! I knew I had to have one. I placed my order and then the wait…

It showed up a couple of days ago and it brought me back to the early 1980s when I had the HW-8. I felt very nostalgic. This radio is more complex than the HW-8, but it has that vibe, that Joe Friday, “Just the facts ma’am” attitude. Easy to use, simple controls that remind you of a bygone era. Before cell phones, the internet, and computers. In a recent blog, I spoke about naming radios. I call this one Apollo as it is reminiscent of the Apollo era when man first stepped on the moon. The computer on the Apollo Command Module had less computing power than a high school calculator. There certainly wasn’t a “Hey Siri” either.

This is a busy time of year. So far, I have been able to play with the radio for a short while and was able to make a couple of CW contacts on 20 meters. I do have a weekend activation planned and the TR-45L is going with me. A nice back-to-basics, just me and the key weekend. Shoot, I may do the full monte and paper log. Over the next couple of weeks, I hope I get to work you on the air. If not, then a very Merry Christmas to all. 73 de Scott

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