When I was a kid I was at my aunt's house. In her basement she had an old wooden cased multiband short wave radio. I asked if she ever listened to it and she said no...she had gotten it at a rummage sale for a buck and never even plugged it in. I asked if I could have it and she said sure. I took it home and plugged it in and got used to the strange dial.
I heard SW stations from all over. I was 1976, so the solar cycle then was doing very well. I had great propagation!
I heard hams on 160M on AM. It seemed VERY cool to me that a regular person could get a radio and talk all over the planet. The CB boom was at it's height back then, but most days it was 30+ heterodines on all channels and mainly a mess. I knew on ham radio it was a very "professional" atmosphere.
After working at Montgomery Wards as a 16 year old, I bought a Radio Shack DX-160 SW reciever. It was all band all the way up to 30 mHz, and I could hear IT ALL! One winter night (after putting up a 100' longwire at 50') I was listening to 20M and heard PJ2CO in the Netherlands Antillies...he was in a major contest and running North American stations 50 to 60 an hour. It was AMAZING to hear a guy working so many stations. I had never heard a ham contest before!
With trying to get into college and sports taking up most of my time--radio took a back seat until I got in college. I was working part time at a local radio station in Winona, Minnesota when I found out that the station Chief Engineer was a ham! He said if I would study the Novice study book and learn the code he would give me the test. I did, and after 2 months of studying hard in my part time I passed the test! I was KA0NIU! That was 1980.
I didn't do much hamming until after college and I got married. A friend of mine had a pair of Kenwood Twins that he wanted to sell. I had ALWAYS wanted the Kenwood Twins---they were THE most gorgeous radios I had ever seen! I moved back to the Chicago area and applied for my change of address, and my 9-land call sign. I waited and waited. One day, I went to the mailbox and there it was--an envelope from the FCC. I opened it up and looked at my new callsign. "KA9SOX" it said. I alterately laughed and cried for about 10 minutes. I was a Chicago CUBS fan!
I spent my novice days pretty well. I put up a 10m dipole and joined the 10-10 orginazation and also had a 10-80m Cushcraft vertical. The vertical worked far better than the skeptics had told me. I buried 3 25' radials of #10 wire (pretty horrible system, actually) but managed to work all sorts of DX on 80m as well as 15m. Having only CW (morse code) privelidges--I had to make do with what I had. The 10m band was in sad shape, but we had a GREAT group of locals and they were ardent 10-10'ers. With their help, I studied hard and got my General licence.
I would whole heartedly recommend joining 10-10 to any ham! Some hams think that if they aren't in 10-10 and get on 28 mHz that they don't seem to count--and that's not the case! What the FUN part is is that being in 10-10 is like a fraternity on 10m. I also learned (through the 4 times a year 10-10 contests) to be a contester--just like that guy I heard when I was a high school kid. 10-10 contests are like any other contest except 10 meters is "The Great Equalizer". Even a guy with 100 watts and a dipole or better yet--a 3 element yagi--can run stations when the band is open just like those legal limit/6 element beam at 120' and 1.5 kW guys on 20m! That is a BLAST!
10m is a GREAT band, and most hams pass it off as a wash. A couple of examples:
I was in between jobs and came home after a sad day of looking for a job. I turned on the radio and scanned the beacon segment (28.200-28.300) and didn't hear a thing. I scanned the rest of the 28.300-28.500 and didn't hear even one signal. I tuned up (we had tube radio transmitters back then) and called CQ. I could hear a very strong signal tune up just down the band---so I called CQ again. Coming back to me at 20+ over S9 was PJ2WG--Willie, in the Netherlands Antillies. I asked him if he heard any other stations on teh band and he said no. We talked and he helped cheer me up about looking for a job. This same scenerio happened about 10 more times. Willie was a GREAT guy, and a great 10-10'er. The band WAS open--it's just that you never know unless you get on!
After about 4 years of being inactive--I got the ham bug again. I renewed my licence (it had almost lapsed) and promised myself a few things:
1) No more crappy antennas. Plan out every antenna and squeeze every dB out of every watt possible. Gain antennas on any given band at the top of the list!
2) Get in on the next ARRL 10M contest with the biggest gain antenna I could.
3) Help as many other hams have as much fun on 10m as possible.
I built a 6 element quad out of very cheap electrical PVC and wire and strung it toward Europe/Africa at 70' on a rope boom and took my 100 watts to the next ARRL 10m contest--all SSB. My 100 watts sounded like a kilowatt--and there was still spunk in the band even though it had peaked 2 years before. I had the time of my LIFE! With an antenna with that much gain, I had NO problem holding a frequency--and running stations! It was the most fun I had ever had on ham radio. I submitted my score and hoped for the best.
Six months later, a big envelope arrives from the ARRL. It's a really nice certificate. "#1 in Arkansas ARRL 10M Contest". Turns out I was 4th in the Division and 35th overall in Low Power SSB. Not bad.
It had come full circle.
The kid listening to PJ8CO contesting in 1976 finally had a chance to be a real contester on 10M. No kilowatt required.
That comes from an OT (Old Timer) who's old as dirt.
I hope you get a chance to get licenced! You will meet new friends from all over this big blue rock--and even get to go meet them in person sometimes. Ham radio is one of THE most unique gifts you can give your self in life...but you have to earn it.
ex-KA0NIU, ex-KA9SOX, now K5TEN (117 countries confirmed--Submitting for DXCC soon! WOOT!)
SWL: WDX9KJX And the "WDX9KJX Short Wave Monitoring Service" from 1973 to 1986
1st SW QSL: "Happy Station" Radio Nederland Wereldoemroep, Holland, 1974
2nd SW QSL: "The Voice of Nigeria" Lagos, 1974
3rd SW QSL: "Radio Moscow" USSRhttp://m3jzt.proboards82.com/index.cgi