2014 marks fifty years since I passed my “beginner” ham radio license exam. The Novice class license required a Morse code send and receive test at very slow speed, and a multiple choice exam on basic electronics and ham radio rules and regs. The license was valid for only one year and could never be renewed. In that one year, you were expected to upgrade to a higher level class.
I passed the next license class up with two months to spare, and scoured ham magazines for a radio that I afford. I found it in a Heathkit catalog, a 5 watt VHF AM transceiver called the “Twoer.” Many hams jokingly named it the Benton Harbor Lunchbox, since Heath was based in Benton Harbor Michigan, and, well, it DID look like a lunchbox!
The Twoer was something even a high school kid on an allowance could afford! I was able to build the kit on my own, asked for help from my high school radio club buddies getting it tuned it up, and I was on the air.
VHF is a local-only radio band and I only used 5 watts, but I still had a ball talking to other hams around the Chicago area, and experimenting with antennas fashioned out of coat hangars. I remember the excitement of contacting a San Angelo TX ham during a rare atmospheric event. He even wanted a diagram of the antenna that I had built!
Reminiscing about that old radio recently, I couldn’t resist heading over to eBay. For $26 plus postage, I now have another Twoer here in the ham shack. I didn’t expect much when I plugged it in (and stood back) but the tubes lit up and it actually receives and transmits!
Ham radio has come a long way since the Twoer, but it’ll be here on the shelf as a fun reminder of my early days!