I don’t believe that I have ever posted this here on LiP, although I also know that some readers here are aware of it. For many years, I was an amateur radio operator, commonly called a “ham radio operator”. It was a hobby of mine for many years.
It all got started when I was about 10 years old. A friend and I found an old antique radio, it was a shortwave radio. It was of poor quality, but it worked, and we played around with it. To our surprise, we found ourselves listening to shortwave radio stations from around the world. When we first checked it out and played around with it, the first radio station that we happened upon was Radio Nederland, or Radio Netherlands. When we heard their broadcast, we were hooked. We immediately began tuning the radio all across the bands to see what else we could pick up. I guess that the hobby was, for us, more about our ability to receive distant stations from exotic places around the globe than it was about the entertainment we got from listening. We still did enjoy the entertainment on many of the stations, but the thrill of finding a radio signal from a new country, one we had not received before really got our adrenalin flowing.
My childhood friend and I continued listening to the shortwave radio for about 5 years. In that time, we each bought a number of new shortwave sets for our own pleasure, each of them continuously better and better in quality – thus higher and higher in price too. As a child, I worked a lot of entrepreneurial efforts and made a fair amount of money for a child, so I always had enough money to be able to indulge in this sort of thing. In addition to our radios, we also put up more sophisticated antennas in our respective yards so that we could catch even more rare radio stations.
When I turned 15 years old, I decided that as much as I enjoyed listening to shortwave broadcasts, I wanted to also talk on the radio, and communicate with people in other countries around the world. I just had a passion for doing that sort of thing, and chasing down rare catches on the radio. I studied hard, learning about radio and electronics, I also learned the Morse Code. I needed each of those types of knowledge in order to become a legally licensed amateur radio operator. At the age of 15, I achieved that goal, and my first Ham Radio callsign, assigned by the Federal Communications Commission was KA5DPO.
Over the years, I continued to upgrade my license, my equipment and my skills. I talked to people in many different countries, and was very successful at it. I enjoyed it a great deal too. I enjoyed also trying out different modes of communication. I remember, even as a teenager, I often talked to people in the Philippines over the radio. At the time, I had no idea that the Philippines would someday become my home, or of the deep personal connection that I would develop with the country and its people.
Back in 1987 or so, I met a fellow on the radio named Vladimir. Vlad was from Russia, of course, or the Soviet Union back then. He lived in Barnaul in Siberia. Vlad and I got where we talked on the radio several times each week and became close friends. In 1989, I decided that I was going to take a trip to the USSR in 1990 to meet Vlad and spend some time with his family I had an invitation from Vlad, and even an invitation from the Mayor of Barnaul. At that time, Barnaul was a closed city, and outside visitors, particularly Americans, were not allowed to visit the city, unless they had an official invitation. I was so looking forward to meeting Vlad and his family.
Early in 1990, though, something happened. I met Feyma, through a friend of a friend, who put us in touch with each other. We wrote letters back and forth, and I soon became enthralled with her. After a few months of letter writing, I decided to cancel my plans for the trip to Barnaul, and instead travel to the Philippines. What a life changing decision that turned out to be! Feyma and I ended up getting married that year, and the rest is history.
Thankfully, even though I never made that trip to the USSR, I did get to meet Vlad, though. A time came when Vlad made a trip to the USA, and he had a few days in Los Angeles. I was living up in the Portland, Oregon area at that time, and decided to fly down to LA myself and spend some time with my Soviet friend. It was an interesting few days and I learned a lot by meeting Vlad and getting to know him. That is a story for another time, though.
Anyway, after Feyma and I got married, I spent a lot less time playing with radios, and more time growing a family and spending my time doing family things. After a few years, the Internet became the rage, and the Internet took over my interest away from my waning interest in radio. Some 20+ years later, I am still a big fan of the Internet and I get a lot of entertainment, and also my livelihood from the net. Somehow, though, radio has always been a hobby that has fascinated me, and I have kept an interest in radio over the years, even if I have been inactive.
Now that I have been living in the Philippines for some time, I have often thought of getting a Philippine Amateur Radio license and getting back on the air. One thing I would love to do would be to travel to some remote islands that don’t have any Amateur Radio Operators, and get on the air from those locations, making the island available to those who “chase islands” and try to talk to as many islands as possible. There is a part of the hobby called IOTA (Islands on the Air) where people talk to as many islands as possible. Will I ever do it? Probably not… but you never know.
By the way, for any hams reading this, my US license has expired some time back. My last call in the USA was N7JXN. I kind of miss the radio. Who knows… maybe I’ll talk to you someday from the Philippines!