K3WWP's Ham Radio Activities
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Jane - KC2OBS

You can work WAS in Your First Year

They told me that very few women were hams, and hardly any of them operated CW. It sounded like there was no real place for women in ham radio. Right then, I decided that was my kind of challenge! Little did I know then that bigger challenges were just around the corner---I'd soon be in a race to work all states in my first year on the old Novice bands, something very few newcomers have achieved.

But to start from the beginning, even as a contest logger for Scott, WA2EQF during a DX contest little more than a year ago, I was already focused on getting my ticket. First I started listening in on code practice sessions between WA2EQF, WB2PJH, and WB2EZG. Then WA2EQF lent me a Morse tutoring program so I could learn on my own. I still didn't know a thing about transmitters, receivers, antennas, or FCC rules, but I bought the Technician study guide and went through it every chance I got. Within six weeks I was able to copy near 5 wpm and ready to try the Technician exam. But my nerves got to me at the last minute and I didn't make either test by the narrowest of margins.

I was disappointed. But that got me all the more determined. Only a month later, in April, I found myself sitting in a classroom next to two young kids, all of us ready to take the test. This time I was ready. The written exam went well. Then it was time for the CW test. But wait...now I was intimidated and nervous again. At that moment, 5 wpm seemed like 20. I put everything else out of my head and went for it. And I walked out of there with a passing grade---all that studying paid off.

Next I borrowed one of Scotts 100-watt rigs, we put up a dipole at about 40 feet and I went to tackle the next challenge----finding the courage to get on the air with other ham radio operators. But there was another problem. Most all the hams were sending a lot faster than I could copy. So I figured the best way to contact hams would be to call CQ, at my own speed, instead of trying to answer their CQs. It worked. Most everyone was patient and most of them slowed down their sending for me. I got on almost every night, mostly 40 meters, and made one or two contacts every time. Anytime he didn't hear me, Scott told me to get on the air.

Now I was really into ham radio and enjoying CW. However, I was looking for yet something different to do within the hobby. But what could I do as a Technician? The answer came to me just before Thanksgiving, when WB2EZG noticed I had QSL's from 37 states. "Why don't you try to work all the states within your first year? he said. "Very very few starting out in the Novice bands have ever achieved this certificate. I don't think even the ARRL has a record of it."

I soon realized it might even be tougher now. Old-time Novices were restricted in their transmitters output power and had to be crystal controlled, but today there were hardly any operators in the Novice bands! I had to find a way to get them there. I found out the best way to do it was by using one old tool and one new tool: Word of mouth, and the amateur radio callsign database at www.qrz.com.

But again there was another big problem I hadn't counted on. We were at the low end of the sunspot cycle: The 15- and 10-meter bands were going to be closed for most of the year, and the DX I had figured would show up on these bands was going to have to be worked on the lower HF bands. Nothing was guaranteed. It was a matter of sticking with it every day, and hoping for a little bit of luck.

With most every night came more contacts, but no new states. So I started asking hams that I worked in states adjacent to the ones I needed if they knew anyone who might want to get on the 40- or 80-meter Novice segment. Most of the time, that's where the conversation ended. One Saturday just by blind luck I was able to work two new states - How exciting! Then I tried contacting YLs in the remaining states I needed. But the few that did get back to me were inactive and none operated CW.

Time was running out. Here we were coming into March and I had somehow gathered 44 states. I had counted Alaska but the station I thought I had worked in my first days as a Technician turned out to be a bootlegger - How disappointing! So I had the usual rough ones left: North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Hawaii, and Alaska. Of the easy states, only Oklahoma, a state I somehow thought to be easy, had escaped me. Thoughts of working all states except Oklahoma were making it tough to sleep at night.

One by one, though, the referrals came through. Oklahoma, Wyoming, South Dakota, and finally North Dakota fell. Then Hawaii came in, following an e-mail I sent to a ham in Hawaii AH6RH, he forwarded it to one of the biggest clubs. I ended up with two QSO's from Hawaii. There was one state left, and one week to do it. And then I received a call from NL7QT, who wanted to try. We tried for several days. He could hear me plainly, but I couldn't hear a thing, because all the international broadcast stations were wiping out everything on the band, and noise levels were much higher than usual, perhaps due to solar conditions. We tried every hour from 10 pm to 2 am local time. I never heard a thing. But on the fifth day we succeeded on a noise lull that lasted for several minutes. We tried on 80 but I could not quite copy him, we than dropped down to 40 and at the 11th hour, so to speak, my one-year quest was done. And all accomplished on 40 meters CW.

With that behind me, I know there is a place for women in ham radio, and we can set goals just as meaningful as any ones. Now onto the next challenges: Trying for my General Class, WAC, and raising my code speed (now 16 wpm) to a level where I can become a good contest operator. See you on the air!

How to work all states from the Novice bands
  • Operate at the lower end of the allocated segment
  • Call CQ often---90 percent of my contacts were made this way
  • Don't miss a night on the air if you can---it took me 350 contacts to work all 50 states
  • Ask hams you work if they can refer other hams from hard-to-get states
  • On bands with broadcast QRM (i.e. 40 meters), be open to split frequency contacts
Maximize your operating fun
  • Short CQs work best
  • Don't be afraid to ask the other operator to QRS.
  • Master the lost art of ragchewing--dont make hello/goodbye contacts.
  • Lose your Novice accent--- read ARRL operating procedure carefully.
  • Keep practicing: Listen to W1AW code practice regularly
  • Build something.

Jane Tymko
FISTS # 11706

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