KXB - Rick at Lake Vermilion, Minnesota USA


Ham Radio


When I was six or seven years old, my parents gave me a marvelous toy. It was a plastic box with a speaker and a microphone, and it had a second microphone and speaker connected to it on the end of a long piece of wire. You talked as loud as you could into one of the microphones, and the person at the other end might be able to hear you, barely. It didnt have any batteries, so it must have relied on acoustic energy. My best friend Jim (now KCAA) and I spent hours with it. Wed route the wire around corners, into other rooms, through a window to the outside, and talk and talk and talk.

I remember clearly someone was watching (It might have been my grandfather, but I cannot say for sure), and he or she told us about ham radio operators. That is when I got the idea of becoming a ham. It took another ten years to get my license, but I have been fascinated with this hobby ever since. Years ago, I told my wife, This is who I am.

The next big step for me was when I got my first real shortwave radio. It was an RME-45 receiver. I had been listening to shortwave broadcasts on my parents Philco and my great aunts Westinghouse console radios, but this looked like something a ham would use. It even had a crystal phasing control, whatever that was. I strung a long-wire antenna outside, and I spent my free time listening to broadcasts from all over the world. I kept a log; I sent reports to the stations I received; and I started to collect QSL cards. This was also an excellent way to learn geography. (Where in the world are the Windward Islands, anyway?)

As a member of the Boy Scouts, you had to learn Morse code in order to earn a First-Class badge. I think I would have learned the code anyway, since I wanted to earn my ham license. But this was an incentive to get it done right away. My Dad gave me a key and other equipment so I could practice, and it didnt take much time. After all, memorizing twenty-six things is not that hard. My friend Bob was a scout and wanted to be a ham too. Soon, he and I were communicating back-and-forth in code. I passed the tests and was licensed as a Novice with the callsign WNAPN in September, 1961.

My Dad and I installed my first antenna, and it worked well enough to have fun. I was on the air by November. Chris VE4NE answered my CQ on 80 meters for my very first QSO, and by the end of 1961 I had worked eighteen states and provinces in the US and Canada. I worked CO2BB in Havana in November, 1963, and I contacted hams in seven other countries in Europe and South America by the time I left home and went away to college in 1964. My log now contains approximately 81,000 entries, and I have worked 349 different countries.

Ham radio is a unique and special hobby. It allows people all over the world to have immediate, one-on-one conversations regardless of their background, regardless of politics, and regardless of all the other things which separate people.


Rick Borken KXB

Lake Vermilion, Minnesota

January 8, 2006; revised July 20, 2013, February 15, 2019


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