Ham Radio


I was first licensed in 1958 as KN4OWV.   Two months later, I took and passed the "Conditional Class" license exam.   The Conditional was a General that was administered by a volunteer ham who held a General or higher class license.   Conditional licenses were available if one lived 200 miles (as I recall) from the neatest FCC examining point.   My nearest examining point was Atlanta Ga.   At that time, when one upgraded from Novice, the same call was issued less the "N", so I was then K4OWV.

I held K4OWV for many years and remained a conditional class licensee as there was no real reason to upgrade.   At that time all class licenses (except Technician and Novice) had the same privileges.   The FCC decided that this was not totally fair (and I concur) so they came up with what they called an "Incentive Licensing" plan.   What Incentive licensing did was to divide most ham bands into 3 segments and reactivated the "Advanced" class license.   I say reactivated because I think that was a class "B" or some such back many years ago.   The higher class licensees (Extras) got to use all segments of all ham bands.   The Advanced got less and the General even less.

Incentive licensing worked for me.   I drove to Atlanta and took and passed the General and Advanced.   Since I had a Conditional, I had to retake the General portion before an FCC examiner.   I was almost pleased with the Advanced privileges but not quiet.

Birmingham, Al was a quarterly FCC examining point at that time.   I had to submit a request and if approved the FCC would appear on a quarterly basis and administer exams.   Since, I had to drive to Birmingham and since the FCC also administered commercial license exams and since the theory is blind as to what one is being tested for, I scheduled the Extra class and its associated 20 WPM CW test in the morning and the FCC First Phone in the afternoon.

Well that was a pretty full day but I came away with and  Extra and a First Phone.   After the FCC stopped requiring commercial radio and TV engineers to be tested and changed the First Phone to a General Commercial license that was good for life, I got one of those.

When I got my 20 years (as I recall) experience as a ham I applied for and received my current 1X2 (K4VB).   At the time, in order to get a 1x2 call, you had to have been a ham 20 years (as I recall) and hold an Extra class license.   That was before the FCC opened the flood gates to anyone who had an Extra and started issuing licenses almost as prizes in cereal boxes (I refer to the current VO fiasco).

By the way, I do not have a vanity call.   K4VB was issued before you could buy a 2 letter call and I pay no extra money to renew.

My son, Mike Fanning was first licensed as WN4QHI at age 10 and later upgraded to WA4QHI.   He currently holds an Extra class license K4GU (all FCC administered exams).   My wife (Pat Fanning) is a General class WA4BYW.   My father in law and good friend, Jack Garrison, WA4WQU (now deceased), held a general class license and lived in Augusta GA and later in Chattanooga, TN.   He and I held many very enjoyable QSOs.   We still miss you Jack.

I was first introduced to Ham Radio when I was in the 7 the grade.   I was visiting a school buddy (Harold Caneer - never a ham) and his back yard neighbor was a ham.   Harold introduced me to his neighbor, Bob Brandon, the ham.    From that day, I was hooked.   I started trying to learn Morse code.   That didn't come easy for me.   I lived in the country, had no friends that were interested in ham radio.   I learned to copy code from a 78 RPM record.   I thought I was doing great until I realized that I had memorized the darn record and could not really copy CW well at all.

After graduating from high school, I went to work in the Aerospace industry to pay college tuition.   I met my elmer and very, very good friend, Harold Hughes (then W4SVM and later W4ZS) (now deceased).   Harold was no ordinary guy.   He was among the most intelligent people that I ever knew.   Harold put up with me, this punk kid with patience and understanding.   At the time I was dating my now wife, Pat (WA4BYW  remember?).   I would pick her up for a date, go visit Harold and practice Morse code while Harold's wife, Irene (a real saint) entertained Pat.  

Harold nurtured me (put up with me actually) through both the novice and conditional licensing process (He administered both test).

He then gave me most of the parts to build my first transmitter.   A 6AG7 tube oscillator and a 6L6 tube final.   I build it and it didn't work.   Transmitter under arm, I head for Harold's house.

Harold had his ham shack in his utility room which was about 6 foot by 6 foot and was shared with the washer and dryer.   He sat the transmitter on his operating bench, turned it on and it made one sound  "BANG" and instantly, filled the small room with white smoke.   As you can imagine, I was in panic mode.   Had I set his house on fire?   Well, Harold just appeared at the door through the cloud of white smoke and casually said "I'll bet you put a capacitor in backwards".   He was right, a filter capacitor in the power supply.   He drug out a replacement, soldered in in , fired up the transmitter and made a few contacts.

He found me a Hellacrafters SX-28 receiver that I could afford.   Huge thing, weighed about 75 lbs. but it was a good one.   He gave me an ARC-5 military surplus receiver that would tune 455 Kc (now called KHz).   He showed me how to make it pick up the IF of the SX-28 and greatly improve the performance I believe he called it a "Q5er".   We also gave me a Q multiplier.   If I ever got all of this stuff tuned up and working, I had a darn good receiver.   From time to time, I was able to do just that. 

My first novice CW contact was with a guy in Georgia.   He was so loud that the walls rattled.   It being my very first contact, I was very nervous and rattled to the point that I could not copy him and there was no way that I could send.   I fumbled with the key for a while and finally told him QSB had gotten him and signed.   There was not an ounce of fade on his signal - I was just too nervous to copy or send very well.

I operated all HF bands for many years.   When the FCC narrowed the band limits for commercial two way FM gear the market was flooded with wideband FM surplus commercial gear.   That pulled me onto the 2 meter band.   Most surplus FM gear sold for about $25 and was one channel crystal controlled.   That was pretty confining so a real good friend of mine, Gary Grantland WA4GJT, was a design engineer that I worked with.   Gary designed a 2 meter Frequency Synthesizer that used only one 1 MHz crystal and would output 400 channels.   The IF offset and output frequency was programmable by moving jumper wires so that it would work with any radio that we tried it on.   I laid out the PC board and helped him as my limited knowledge (relatively speaking as he was a genius) would allow.

He and I wrote an article on the unit that was published in ham Radio Magazine in 1960 as I recall.   We called it a 400 PRO (PRO was for Programmable Receive Offset).   We formed G&F electronics and sold a few thousand PC boards to hams around the world who wanted more elbow room on 2 meters.   I still get request for information on the 400PRO from time to time.    It used all very cheap TTL ICs and one linear IC.

I got one request for a board and a few critical items from a ham in Czechoslovakia, a then communist country.   He advised that it was illegal for him to send money out of the country but offered to trade stamps or fine china for what he needed.    I sent him what he needed and told him that good relations among countries was more important than money and there would be no charge.   I felt really good about my gesture until it soaked in that I may have violated US law by shipping technology to a communist country.   I never got in trouble for what I did.   I am guessing that publishing the details in an international magazine (Ham Radio) probably was my legal out but nevertheless I was concerned.

Later in life, I moved into fast scan TV (Amateur Television - ATV) where I operated for years, then Satellites with Oscar 10 and later Oscar 40, which was a nice machine.   That was my first venture into the GHz spectrum.

I now have equipment capable of operating on all bands from 160 meters through 1.2 GHz, all mode (no antenna right now for 160, 80 and 40 Meters).   I have receive only on 2 GHz, an AO-40 leftover.

I am collecting parts and technology to get my satellite station upgraded and ready for the next AMSAT HEO (High Earth Orbit) project and possibly try my hand at moon bounce.   I still need to install software and hardware for tuning the rig to compensate for Doppler shift and to steer my antenna.   I used Nova for Windows for satellite tracking and loved it until I upgraded to a W8 on a 64 bit machine.   I cannot get Nova for Windows to run on the 64 bit W8 machine.    The computer that I use for Ham Radio is a dual boot W7 or W8.   Nova runs great on that same computer in W7 but I cannot get it to load on W8.     I also purchased SatPC32 a few years back but never used it that much.    Because of the Nova problem with W8, I dug out the manual for SatPC32 and boned up on its operation and darn if I don't think I am going to like it better than Nova.     SatPC32 is a pretty slick program and the author is super active on the AMSAT Satellite reflector and provides far above average support for SatPC32.

 I purchased an LVB Tracker and was just before connecting it to my Yaesu G-5500 AZ/EL rotor when the Yaesu G-5500 crapped out.    In my opinion, Yaesu makes a pretty sorry AZ/EL rotor.    The Azimuth rotor appeared to be stalled OR A gear stripped as it "hummed" but did not turn the array.     I took it off the tower and tore into it to find the motor was actually running.    The set screw that locks the first gear onto the motor shaft had loosened its self to the point that it was not turning ant gears.     I tightened it and now the rotor turns the array fine but I got the calibration all screwed up and will have to take it back down and get that straight.     In the meantime, the elevation rotor shows half scale relative to the actual elevation.     I am guessing that the pot is hosed in the rotor but I have not made voltage measurements at the back of the control box to isolate the problem to the rotor.     It might actually be something in the rotor control box but I doubt it - that would be too easy!    Hopefully before the summer is over I will get the Az rotor off the tower and re-calibrated and trouble shoot the elevation problem.      I spend more time working on the Yaesu rotors than I do using them!


Last update 5/5/14