So just how did pinochle lead to a career in Communications/Electronics and a decades-long licensee in Amateur Radio (AKA 'ham radio')?

Pinochle... and Ham Radio


Another aspect of my Vietnam service

Larry worked in the RTTY ('Teletype') area of the commo section. The RTTY guys used the Collins KWM-2A radios for HF communications just as we CW'ers did. However, instead of the 'puny' 30L1 amplifiers we used, RTTY used the massive Collins 30S1 amplifiers -- 1 kilowatt+ beasts!

Since RTTY was intended more for 'point-to-point' communications, they used a huge log periodic antenna. (We're talkin' BIG here!) The combined effect of the 30S1 and the log periodic gave Da Nang's RTTY section the equivalent of a 5000 watt radio station. By comparison we CW'ers had a 500 watt signal.

Once in a while on the graveyard shift Larry would dial down into the Amateur Radio frequencies and make a few 'ham' contacts. Larry was a licensed ham. He would tell them that he was 'maritime mobile' -- on a ship. Larry explained some of the ideas behind ham radio, including the fact that many of these guys tried to establish contact with as many different countries as possible. "DX'ing" they called it! There were numerous ham radio awards recognizing DX achievement. This fascinated me.

One night when things were quiet, I re-routed one of the CW radios to use the 30S1 and the log periodic. Using the country list in the Collins manuals, I issued a call in Morse code: CQ CQ DE 3W8GB. [ In plain English this is like saying "Hello... Hello... this is 3W8GB".] Even the static seemed to stop immediately!

I sent another call... CQ CQ DE 3W8GB.

Instantly, it sounded like the entire radio world was calling me. Unknown to me, Amateur Radio communications from Vietnam was illegal! The whole world wanted to establish contact with this exotic new call sign... 3W8GB. The 3W8 is the prefix assigned to Vietnam, so anyone who heard my signal would know: This is a radio station in Vietnam!!.

This was my introduction to ham radio. What a thrill -- yet strangely prophetic!!

My Amateur Radio callsign for the past forty-plus years has been... K3GB !

After that brief (and illegal) introduction to ham radio, I was 'hooked'. I was determined to learn electronics and whatever was necessary to become an actual 'Ham Radio' operator. When I left the Army in the late 1960s, I went back to college. While going to school, I also studied electronics. In 1968 I took my first ham radio license test and, in November, became a novice-class licensee: WN3LMH.

I taught mathematics for a couple years after graduating from college -- but my interest was in electronics. I continued to study and in 1974 took FCC exams for RadioTelephone, RadioTelegraph, and Amateur Extra licenses. I passed all three after a grueling 5 hours of testing. Those licenses and my knowledge of communications/electronics (CE) allowed me to embark on a career in CE that would last for two decades. Then I was introduced to computers... but that is another story.