AM Has Revitalized My Hobby!

by John Levasseur, W2WDX

© 2001

One of the things that got me interested in Amateur Radio was the idea of a marriage between technology and art. Radio, the building or perfecting of the station and the use of that station in a useful and fun way, is a technical and creative challenge.

I got my ticket a few years ago and have struggled with the code, both from a problem I have with rhythm and a lack of time. Yes, I am a lowly Tech Class. I found myself relegated to listening to repeaters. I found myself in world of turn key operators whose conversational skills consisted of, "...yeah and Frankie showed up at the club meeting and didn't bring the donuts again, so we voted him out of the Secretary job. Joey always brings the donuts [pause] Franny, will you shut the dog up. I'm on the radidio." Joey got the job I guess. Argh!!!

I slowly drew away from Amateur Radio.

Then one day I discovered I owned a Hammarlund HQ-100 that I got from the guy who lived next door to my parents house. He was moving when I was a kid, and knew I was an electronics nut, so he gave it to me. It didn't work so I put on a shelf and forgot about it. A recent trip to my parent home led to looking around, and there it was. A spark flew somewhere in my head, and I grabbed it and took it home. After an enjoyable restoration, something I forgot I loved doing, I fired it up. The first thing I heard was what I thought was a beautiful broadcast signal, until I heard "73's" and looked at the dial and realized I was on 75 meters. It was one of the fellows who, as I now know, operate AM here in the northeast. My god, what a wonderful sound, from both the radio and the operator. Then another broke in and did a dead on impression of Don Pardo, with all the subtlety and nuance that could only be reproduced on AM. I was dumbfounded. This is HAM radio the way I always thought it should be!

Every night after I would come home and listen to these wonderful, real, and human conversations on air. No "Your signal is 5/9", no club gossip, no complaining about this guy or that guy. Just plain simple creative conversation, with flair and style. I was reinvigorated!

I now have been creating the time to learn my code and get on air as soon as possible. I can not wait to get home and listen to the wonderful AM, and practice my code. I have been restoring and building like a banshee on the weekend in preparation for my HF privileges. I can't wait. My wife says I'm on a mission from god.

Then one evening, after listening to the AM QSOs for about two hours, I noticed a SSB signal creeping into the narrow little "AM Window." I flipped on the BFO to copy and what did I hear? The same guy who was on that repeater with the wife named Franny, bitching about "how broad those AM stations were". He was talking to four other similar pathetic turn-key operators less than 25 miles apart from each other.

There was about 300 kc below them that was, at the time, unused, yet they insisted on starting a QSO right within the bandwidth of the AM stations. Oh ... and since he was nervous about "not getting over the carriers" he turned on his kilowatt. Hah. I turned off my BFO and will probably never turn it back on again. Gentlemen prefer gentlemen!

AM operation and the manner of the gentleman operating here in the northeast has brought me back to the hobby. Whether nostalgic tones are illegal (which in this case they aren't), and even the occasional belch or two, are of little concern to me. AM just sounds wonderful when executed properly. And the exchanges between operators are interesting, entertaining and artfully playful. It's just wonderfully fun! I want in!

Check it out yourself, buy an old radio or build something, grab a cup a joe, sit back and enjoy the hobby with some interesting, creative people. I will, very soon.

Back to The Features Page

15 October 2001