Back in the 70’s, I was a fan of David Bowie, (up until around the time he lost his voice… but that’s another story.) What impressed me the most was not so much his music, but the way he re-invented himself. Unlike most pop stars, his stage persona seemed to be “for a limited time only.” There was always something new around the corner.

When I built my first radios back then, it was all based on my first love – AM and Shortwave broadcasts. As a teenager, I stayed up late at night, listening to KQV or KDKA in Pittsburgh, and sometimes the signals skipped in from further away (WBZ, CKLW…) I soon discovered shortwave, and built my first Heathkit. I even collected QSLs from shortwave broadcasters.

When I was a kid, I always dreamed that if I were stranded on an island, with nothing but an old TV set as a resource, I could build a CW transmitter, send “SOS” and get rescued. (Don’t bother asking what an old TV set was doing there. Or where the power would come from. I was young!)

The magic was that I really could hear stations from far away, like HCJB, or Radio Nederland, or from deep within the evil empire (the Soviet Union – Radio Moscow.) I learned to love the smell of solder, and risked my life with high-voltage vacuum tube projects. It was worth it.

First with CB, and later with ham radio, I did get on the air – and my own signal was heard on the other side of the world! My first DX (CW of course) was a station in Brazil, on 40 meters. That was 1972.

I went on to chase the usual “awards” – first continents, then states, and finally started counting up the countries. In 2012, I managed to go past 100 on 8 of the 9 HF bands. But it was getting harder and harder, and I was getting bored. I also needed to move to a smaller place.

I think 40 years of trying to recapture the magic of HF is enough.

The Shortwave broadcasters are gone. Heck, never mind shortwave – broadcasting is gone! We can listen (or watch, for that matter) to anything, anywhere, anytime. This is taken for granted, thanks to what has become a universal, global data network.

In fact, the process of converting all those older, analog forms of communication into bits, and back again, is where the action is. I think I’m ready.

Re-inventing ham radio, one bit at a time
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