Yes, I’m an amateur radio operator…..
I’ve done this since I was 11 years old back in 1978. Back then, this WAS what the internet is today… a way to communicate and share ideas with people all over the world. My first call sign was KA0CDM and I was a novice for many years, at that time relegated to only being able to communicate with others using Morse code (I know it well, even to this day…..very nerdy…..), until I turned 17 when I took my General Class test and then shortly afterwards my Extra Class test becoming NJ0Y.
Now licensed radio operators are able to get “vanity” call signs by applying for them through the FCC, but back when I received this one it was completely by chance. I remember very clearly how I found out I had such a unique call sign while I was driving my grandma’s 1973 brown Chevy Vega hatchback to my grandparent’s house from NE Iowa where I lived. I was a page in the State House of Representatives and was home for the weekend with my family, but my grandparents lived in Des Moines so I stayed with them while I was serving as a page. Before the days of cell phones I was unable to call her to see if she received the FCC document in the mail and I was about 60 miles outside of Des Moines desperately curious to know if my new license came in the mail. I got on my radio and called another radio operator in Des Moines and asked him to call my Grandma on the phone for me. She answered and told the friend that I did in fact receive some mail from the FCC and she opened the envelope while I was driving. My friend reported back to me that my call was now N0JOY. “NO JOY” he said!! Kinda depressing….but my Grandmother quickly corrected him and said it was NJ0Y. “ENJOY !!!” he exclaimed!…. and that is how I learned my great call sign.
Over the years I enjoyed doing club activities and meeting up with some very interesting people. Some of them were quite strange, but still enjoyable in their own right. There was always something or someone fun to look at while at the various meetings, hamfests and Field Day excursions. I was even the Winneshiek County Emergency Coordinator while I was attending Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Since my college days, however, I lost interest and was simply too busy raising kids and dealing with my demanding education and subsequent career.
Then about 3 months ago, I started thinking about getting back into the hobby while constructing a tower in my north field to someday house an amateur radio repeater on 144 MHz. As I was applying for the coordinated frequencies for my repeater, I began thinking about my old mentor, Gary. The very same day that I mailed out my application, I got a surprise call from none other than Gary (W4GAL)who now lives in sunny Florida. I hadn’t heard from him in probably 30 years. He’s in his mid 70’s and enjoys his retirement and is a VERY active and accomplished amateur radio operator holding many coveted and difficult to obtain awards and has even written for the definitive journal of the hobby, QST. He has travelled the globe to promote the hobby and it is a great honor for me to have had him as my teacher and the administrator of my novice examination. I remember crying in great despair because I was struggling with Morse code part of the exam, but his patience with me was well worth it in the end and I eventually passed.
Now Gary is planning a move and wanted to sell a radio and some other equipment. I ended up being very much in the market and have recently purchased an excellent radio that I hope to use in the very near future. In the meantime, the hobby has changed so much with the advent of the internet that I am able to use his radio in Florida, having near complete control of everything on his radio while sitting at my laptop. Truly amazing to me having been out of this hobby for so long!
I have plans to get my antenna up in the very near future and hopefully can enjoy listening and talking to many new people. I am especially interested in some of the new digital modes that didn’t exist when I was active and I have always wanted to do EME communications (Earth-Moon-Earth…. bouncing a radio signal off the moon and having it reflect back to the earth to communicate with someone on the opposite side of the earth)… I own the domain njoy.net and for now it forwards to this site. Also I recently discovered a subgroup of the Wally Byam Caravan Club (The world’s largest Airstream club) that has a subgroup of amateur radio operators called the WBCCI Amateur Radio Club and I am a new member of that group as well. Greatly looking forward to having some fun with my newfound, but old hobby.