First off, I would like to thank all my CW ops advisors, Dennis K2SX, Ron VE3FXX and Buz AC6AC and to my sponsors Tim W7EEE, Jim WT8P and Joseph KH6FHI for helping me along this road to better CW.
As a young teenager interested in electronics, I often would read about amateur radio in our set of World Book Encyclopedias. These were the days of no internet, three TV stations and a school library to get books on various subjects. My family had an old AM/FM “three transistor” radio with out of tolerance components which allowed me to tune the upper end of the commercial AM band and discover funny sounds, short and long tones in various combinations. Finally I realized I had wandered into the CW portion of the 160 meter band.
Ah, more questions now, how does one get a radio to operate on this band, is there licensing involved, and how do I do all of this? From this radio I also realized that signals traveled further at night due to the stations that I received at that time. These things all fascinated me such that I began reading all I could about electricity, electronics, and radio.
Growing up on a rural beef cattle farm in East Tennessee did not leave much time or funds for getting into the nitty-gritty of amateur radio, so that notion had to be put on the back burner for a while. After high school I attended college and obtained my degree in electrical engineering and along the way got married. Soon after, kids came along and the usual parent things of school aged kids. By this time, I had started my own engineering consulting business, currently licensed in 10 states to practice electrical engineering.
I finally started working on my license in late 80s and obtained my Novice license with 5 wpm code. Then came the progression up thru Technician, General (13 wpm), Advanced, and finally Extra. I still remember taking my 20 wpm test 8 times. I think I got exactly 1-minute correct copy either; that or the VE team felt sorry for me because they had seen me the last 7 times they tested. No, I did get my 1 minute correct because they came over to me and one of them said in a gloomy voice “Well Joe, guess what?” I thought, “Oh well, here we go again.” Then about 5 members of the team said, “You made it!” Yes, a good night that night. (I think I can still find my cassette tapes if anybody has a player.)
I had also begun to assemble a modest 100 watt station so I could join in the fun. As you would expect, I stuck to SSB while letting, what CW skills I had slide. I guess I never really enjoyed CW at that time. Moving forward with life, family, kids and their school activities, my radio time became almost nonexistent. Then our kids went off to college and I had some time to pick and choose what activities I wanted to do now that there was more free time in my life.
I applied for and was selected to serve on K2BSA staff at the 2013 and 2017 National Scout Jamborees in West Virginia. We were a staff of about 50 Extra class operators teaching the amateur radio option of the radio merit badge. The Director for K2BSA at the time was Jim Wilson K5ND and in one of his blogs in 2018, he commented that with the solar doldrums we were having that he wanted to get his CW skills back up and he was registering with CW OPS for a class to get back into QRP work. I do not know if he ever did take the class but that information got me to thinking that maybe I should try it. I looked up CW Ops on the internet and read all about the CW academy. I ended up filling out the forms to get registered and the rest is history. I am a much better CW operator since graduating.
I’m 60 now, my wife (KF4CAO) and I have been married 36 years. We still live on the old family farm I grew up on with beef cattle, fences to fix, hay to mow and bale along with engineering work and amateur radio. As I look at retirement, I have a good hobby to keep my mind sharp. Again thanks to all the CW Academy advisors.