Over the years I've operated on CW, SSB, and PSK31. I keep coming back to CW. Like most old codgers, I started out with a hand key. Tried using a "bug" but never had the patience to get it right. Somewhere around 1967 I built my first electronic keyer. The circuit came from a copy of the ARRL Handbook, circa 1964. The keyer used a pair of 12AU7 vacuum tubes! Worked really well, and I had a TenTec paddle to drive it. A direct lightening hit of our home back in Florida turned that keyer unit into charcoal. By the time that happened, I had a radio with a built-in keyer circuit. Been a keyer-guy ever since. I had a chrome Bencher paddle for over 20 years and it did a good job. Comfortable and super-heavy. I didn't have to chase it around the desk when operating! However, last year I sold it and upgraded to a Begali. Wow - what a silky feel to those keys, and the movement is great! Check it out---->

While living in Martinez CA, I started working on Five Band Worked All States (5BWAS). I was doing pretty good - had 40, 20, and 15 meters completed, with only a small handful remaining on 10 meters. 80 meters needed some attention. But, all my efforts were in vain. When we moved to Folsom in 2010, I had to start over. ARRL WAS/5BWAS rules state that all QSO's must be made from within a 50 mile radius. Folsom is about 85 miles from Martinez. Crap. All that work and mailing costs down the tubes. I don't normally get into contesting, but the ARRL Sweepstakes, 10 meter contests, and several others have helped me climb back into the hunt. I'm getting there and with the current sunspot cycle peaking, I'm slowly getting close again. I'm finding that the western states are tough on 15 and 10 meters. Of course, the eastern states are problematic on 80. January 2014 update: 40, 20, and 15 meters are complete. I only need Maine on 80 and five of those "close-in" W7 states on 10 meters.

In December of 2012, I bought a Tigertronics SignaLink USB (SLUSB) - hooked it up to the K3 and my MacBook Air laptop and I'm doing some occasional PSK31 operating. A fun mode, and maybe I can snag some of the states I need for that 5BWAS award.

If you've read the "My Equipment" page, you know that as of January 2014 I now have an Elecraft KX3 to complement my K3/P3/KPA500/KAT500 station. I've moved the SLUSB over to the KX3 and use that radio for any data modes I want to operate, currently PSK31, JT65, and JT9. In 2015, I dumped the SLUSB and replaced it with a Tascam US-125M external sound card. Big difference in the ability to decode much weaker signals now.

The station keeps evolving. Wasn't super happy with using my KX3 as the data-mode rig, so I moved the Tascam back to the K3 and think it's the best solution for my situation. I also quit using the MacBook AIr for logging and other ham stuff. I now use my bigger, super-whammo iMac with the 27" screen. As I mentioned on my Equipment Page, I added a 12 meter Moxon Beam and a 30 meter vertical to the antenna farm. I used both of these antennas with an eye on Worked All States on 30 and 12 meters. I got into JT65 and JT9 a couple months ago. Certainly not good modes for casual rag chewing, but for my WAS purposes - they worked great. After getting WAS on 30 and 12, the Moxon beam and the 30 meter vertical came down. Now using that old 5BTV for a diversity receive antenna.

January 2016 update: Worked All States is complete and confirmed on 80, 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12, and 10 meters. I need only ONE MORE STATE on 160 meters - West Virginia. Not too bad for wire antennas and living in a HOA/CC&R antenna-restricted community!


I again changed things around. I purchased and built an Elecraft KXPA100, the 100-watt amplifier as a companion for my KX3. With this behind the little rig, I was determined to return the KX3 to digital mode status. And so, I got it back in that state, using the Raspberry Pi 3. Now I can run more than 15 watts on JT65 into my wire antennas. Normally 15 watts is sufficient for JT65 or JT9. But using a wire antenna, competing with 25-30 watt signals eminating from yagis and quads, it was frustrating. The amp took care of that problem.

In April my family and I went to the island of Mindanao, in the southern Philippines. This is where my XYL was born and raised. Well in advance of the trip, I contacted PARA (Philippine Amateur Radio Association) - the Philippine equivalent of ARRL. I joined as a Life Member, and the kind folks there were quite helpful in my obtaining a 12-month temporary operating permit from the Philippine NTC (National Communications Commission) - their FCC. So, with boxes, suitcases, paperwork for DU8/W6JHB, kids, and radio equipment in hand we were off. A 14 hour flight from San Francisco to Manila, five hour layover, and then another one hour flight south to Mindanao. After some family gatherings in her hometown, we moved to a resort in the village of Pinan, about 50 miles form the coast. After a couple days getting familar with the place and the management, I finally arranged to get my 35 foot end fed wire strung up in the coconut trees. Quite disappointingly, I was able to hear NOT ONE SINGLE CW signal on any band! But, I had brought my laptop, Tascam external USB sound card, and cables. Firing up WSJT-X, I was decoding signals! Worked only a handful of stations in between family activities and swimming. And then….. terrorist activities on the nearby island of Bohol came to light and we opted to move out of this remote area, back into town - the provincial capital - Dipolog. No chance for an antenna there, so all my work and planning resulted in only a few JT-mode QSO’s. But, next time - I know the drill, I know what works and what doesn’t, and we will be renting a proper residence, with abundent trees!

© James Bennett 2012