Open channel D

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Let's do this chronologically, oldest first. In the beginning (May 1968) there was WN1JMO, Bridgeport, Connecticut. Then, in January 1969 at age 15 I trekked by train from Bridgeport to the FCC office in New York City, upgraded to General class and became WA1JMO. Advanced soon followed with a second NYC journey. The year 1973 found me in NYC a third time, nervously receiving and sending at 20 words per minute (for me, sending at 20 wpm on a hand key was the hard part) in front of a stern FCC examiner. I was judged successful, so I became an Extra class ham.

[WN1JMO in 1968, the WA1JMO shack in 1970]That's me at the right, in 1968. My proud dad took the photo shortly after I received my Novice ticket. There's a Knight-kit T-60 transmitter and a Lafayette HA-63A receiver. The T-60 was a decent Novice transmitter, but the HA-63A was a marginal SWL set and nearly unusable for copying hams in the Novice bands. After a couple of months of struggling with this receiver, I learned to use its RF gain control to keep signals from overwhelming the weak BFO. The Heathkit Q-multiplier (below the receiver and to the left) helped a lot too. A few months later I replaced this still-miserable receiving setup with a second-hand HQ-129X (bought for $60 at Kaufman Electronics, 73 Frank Street, Bridgeport, Conn.). What a difference a real radio made. At last I could have real QSOs! There are no pictures of the HQ-129X in the photographic record, sad to say.

After spending a few months as a General-class licensee using the HQ-129X and the T-60, I upgraded to a Heathkit HW-100. At far right are the best, believe it or not, pictures of the "HW-100 era" at WA1JMO. I had obtained a cheap black-and-white Polaroid camera, and used it for some record shots in 1970. The top photo shows the HW-100, barely visible in the scratchy murk, with its cabinet top cover off. (This was the normal running mode for this rig, as there always seemed to be something that needed tweaking.) I can recall the day I made the lower photo. I put the rig on the floor in a spot that was flooded with afternoon sunlight so I could get a decent exposure. The Swan dial drive modification that I did is clearly visible. The original dial-drive mechanism of the HW-100 was very poor—a cheap plastic thing with plenty of stiction, vagueness and backlash—so I replaced the whole mess with the two Jackson ball drives and knobs that Swan used for super smooth tuning on its radios. Many HW-100 owners performed this mod, which was from an article in the March 1969 issue of CQ magazine.

[The WA1JMO shack, Bridgeport, Conn., May 3, 1972]By 1972 I had upgraded again, to the HW-100's big brother: the Heathkit SB-101 transceiver. I bought this rig cheap at Kaufman Electronics. The original builder couldn't get it working, so it was priced low and I could actually afford it. It was cosmetically excellent, too. I don't remember specifically what the trouble was, but I do recall that it was a wiring error at the 6146 tube sockets and was an easy fix.

Flanking the SB-101 are the SB-600 speaker console and a homebrew open-wire tuner. Out in front in the photo is a Turner 454X mic, and barely visible behind it is my "homebrew" keyer. I bought the original Digi-Key IC keyer on a PC board ($15), and added case, controls, connectors and AC power supply. (By the way, I believe this keyer was the original Digi-Key product. If you wondered how electronic component supplier Digi-Key got its odd name, now you know.) Also barely visible in the photo is my keyer paddle, a rare James Research Permaflex Key, which I still have.

I moved to Waterbury, Conn. in late 1975. Between the time of the photo on the left and the photo on the right below, WA1JMO became W1JA. (My old written logbooks identify 21 March 1977 as the date I received my new callsign.) How did this happen? Starting around 1976, the FCC began giving 1x2 callsigns to Extra-class licensees. This was before the vanity call sign program, and before there were lists of available callsigns. I used the Callbook to find unassigned calls and sent the FCC a list of 20. My callsign criteria were: needs no phonetics on phone, sounds good on CW, and, well, I just needed to like it for subjective reasons. I received the #2 pick on my list, which in retrospect was probably the best choice because, in addition to satisfying the three criteria, it uses the first four characters from WA1JMO, rearranged. 
[WA1JMO in shack, Waterbury, Conn., 1976] [W1JA shack, Waterbury, Conn., 1978] 
Above is the WA1JMO shack in early 1976. The SB-101, SB-600, homebrew tuner and Turner mic followed me from Bridgeport. New is an MFJ keyer and a Vibroplex single-lever (non-iambic) paddle.

Between the time of the SB-101 station above and the FT-301 station above right, I had the pleasure of owning a Hallicrafters SR-2000 "Hurricane" 2-kW transceiver. It sat right where the FT-301 and SB-230 are in the above-right photo, and it was quite a radio. In retrospect I don't know why I felt the need to sell it and replace it with modern gear. No photos were taken of the SR-2000 station, unfortunately.
 This is the W1JA shack in early 1978. A few years of full-time employment has its advantages: Most of the station equipment has been replaced with new. There's even a new chair. From left to right on the top shelf is an RF Power Components Maxi Tuner (to replace my homebrew tuner, which was not kilowatt-capable), a Yaesu FT-301 (my first radio with no vacuum tubes), a Heathkit SB-230 amplifier (which I still have), and a Yaesu FRG-7 SWL receiver. On the lower shelf is a Heathkit GC-1005 digital clock that I built in 1974 (it's still keeping good GMT in my station today) and the Vibroplex paddle. To the right is a Yaesu FT-221R 2-meter multimode transceiver. I had fun doing weak-signal CW and SSB work with this radio from my high-on-a-hill Waterbury QTH. 
W1JA callsign history

From Radio Stations of the United States (a government-provided list of stations), July 1913
Fred A. Dimond, Jr., 1JA
4 Purchase St.
East Carver, Mass.

From the July 1916 Radio Stations of the United States
John W. Leathers, 1JA
78 Bay State Ave.
Somerville, Mass.

From January 1920 QST magazine
Aubrey R. Godwin, 1JA
190 Warwick Rd.
Melrose, Mass.

From the spring 1936 and summer 1952 Callbooks
Edward M. Hammer, W1JA
20 Salem St.
Lynn, Mass.

From the 1967, 1969 and winter '71-'72 Callbooks
John B. Worth, W1JA
Courthouse Road
Amherst, NH 03031

(1999's A partial list of the former EP call holders states that EP2JA was a call held by Steven C Garcia, W1JA. But it's a typo; Mr. Garcia's call was W2JA.)

Thanks to W2PA, W4FC, W4AXL and W3EMH for providing information about former W1JA callsign holders. Please contact me (my e-mail address is at the bottom of this page) if you have additional information on this topic.

In 1978 I moved from Waterbury to Newington, Conn.
[Aluminum in the air, Newington, Conn., 1978] [W1JA in shack, Newington, Conn., Dec. 1978]
[The W1JA Shack, Newington, Conn., May 1979] Soon after moving to Newington I put up my first tower. After I collected the materials, poured the concrete base and assembled the antennas, W1VW and his crew showed up for an antenna-raising party and all I had to do was watch them make it look easy. The photo at upper left shows the results of our efforts when everything was brand new on a sunny day in late 1978.

Above is a Dec. 1978 photo of me at the operating desk. Stuff from the Waterbury shack is here, rearranged a bit. A new addition, a Yaesu FV-301 external VFO, is partially visible at the left edge of the pic.

At the left is the W1JA shack in May 1979. Things have been rearranged again. As I recall, the changes were prompted by the arrival of the Yaesu YO-301 monitor 'scope. (Also, notice the Maxi Tuner. Its cabinet was offered in several colors. When I ordered it in 1976 my main rig was the Heathkit SB-101, so I chose the Heath color scheme. I got a small discount because the painter mistakenly reversed the cabinet and front-panel colors.)

After a few years of inactivity I found myself in Suwanee, Georgia. When I left Newington I sold all of my commercial gear except the FRG-7, SB-230, E-V 719 mic and James Research Permaflex Key, so I had to start over, mostly.
[The W1JA shack, Sep. 1986] [W1JA homebrewing] [Sarah, age one]
This is the W1JA shack in Suwanee, Sep. 1986. Not a lot of discretionary income to work with, so I chose a Yaesu FT-757GX because it had a built-in keyer and it looked cool. An MFJ tuner and a Bencher paddle have been added, but the other equipment (including the typewriter) is what I saved from my life in Connecticut. In Dec. 1987 I'm working on a direct-frequency-entry keypad for the FT-757GX. From a construction article in QST. It's Jan. 1989. This is my daughter Sarah, approx. 13 months old, getting ready for the ARRL VHF DX contest. But seriously, a few years later she proved herself to be a quick study, learning the code in just a couple of short sessions. Alas, the knowledge was lost; she never developed an interest in ham radio.

[Mole W1JA] [Monkey W1JA]
After about three years with dipoles and verticals, I decided that I "needed" a directional array with gain. Which in turn needs a tower for support. Here I am, above, in July 1989 digging in the dirt for the tower base. Actually, dirt's not the right word for it. Hard-packed clay the density of kryptonite is more like it. When it got to the point where I was removing clay by the tablespoonful, I rented the electric jackhammer you see to my right. That speeded things up a bit, although it was still backbreaking work to make the hole fully 6 feet (1.8 meters) deep. Eventually it got done, and you can see me making like a monkey at the top of the cranked-down tower about a month later (photo above, right).

Directly at right is a photo taken in Jan. 1990. Not much has changed except for the addition of a ca. 1968 Swan 500C (my first vintage radio), a rotor control box for the tribander and 6-meter beams on the tower, and a Yaesu FTV-107R transverter with 6-meter module installed. (I worked the world, including Hawaii and Australia, on 6 meters with the 10-watt output of this transverter.)

The Sep. 1990 photo at right shows that more material goods have been added to the W1JA shack. There's a new Icom IC-751A (with RC-10 frequency-entry keypad!) and a computer for logging and award tracking with DXbase (the earliest DOS version) software.
 [The W1JA shack, Suwanee, Ga., Jan. 1990]
[The W1JA shack, Suwanee, Ga., Sep. 1990]

It's 1992, and the Icom IC-751A has been replaced by a new Kenwood TS-850S/AT. Diligent searches for Kenwood photos produced only this poorly exposed snapshot. If I had realized that this would be the only record made of the Kenwood period at W1JA, I would have taken more care.

Glowing orange directly to the left of the TS-850 is a Yaesu FT-212RH 2-meter FM transceiver. I used it together with an MFJ TNC (remember those?) to connect to the local VHF packetcluster (remember those?) DX spotting network. The Ten Tec Titan 425 amplifier and 238 tuner make their first appearance (at far left in photo). Also visible is a new station computer. (But it's still a laptop with a monochrome LCD display.)
 [Lousy photo of the Kenwood era at W1JA]

In the early 1990s I put together this vintage Drake station, consisting of Drake twins R-4B and T-4XB, L-4B amplifier, C-4 station console, MN-2000 tuner and MS-4 speaker. Also present were the Drake TR-3 and TR-4CW-RIT transceivers, which are the earliest and the last vacuum-tube transceiver models Drake produced. [The W1JA Drake station, Suwanee, Ga., 1994-2014]

In the new millenium it was out with Kenwood and in with Yaesu. By the time this photo was taken in 2006, there was a new computer with a fancy widescreen LCD monitor, and there were Yaesus (FT-847 and FT-1000MP) in the main operating position.

Visible to the right of the computer monitor is another desk where I set up two Kenwood 599-twins pairs—on the middle shelf an R-599D, T-599D, and Hallicrafters T.O.Keyer; on the lower shelf an R-599 and T-599; on the top shelf a Heathkit SB-230 amp.
 [The W1JA shack, Suwanee, Ga., Dec. 2006]

By 2008, the Yaesu rigs had fallen out of favor, replaced by Icoms IC-756ProIII and IC-7000. [The W1JA shack, Suwanee, Ga., 2008-2014]

This wide-angle view shows what the whole W1JA shack looked like in 2008. (That rug on the wall is an artifact from the 1970s. My beloved spouse tells me that even the concept of hanging rugs on walls is from the 1970s. To learn more about the 1970s, buy this book.) [The W1JA shack, Suwanee, Ga., 2008-2014, wide-angle view]

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