I’m Frank Ravenswood. Thank you for visiting my page! If you’re willing to hang out a bit, I’ll share with you how I got into amateur radio and some of what led us to cross paths.
Like many, I have several hobbies & interests. I’ll write something eventually about many of them. But if you came here primarily for the magic of radio, you’ve come to the right place. It’s a passion we share and my pages will be a buffet to your hunger for knowledge and exploration. Perhaps you’ll even LOL a couple times.
My earliest memories of radio are of dad (the “Proud Rebel“) and his Citizen’s Band (CB).
I was busy with other pursuits to take much interest. Seemed all it involved were adults, using adult language, talking about adult subjects.
And being the scrawny pimple-faced kid into comic books, sci-fi, and computers, I was obviously far too cool for CB.
Born and raised in Chicago, IL. Most of the remainder of my youth in West Virginia. Graduated high-school in 1984, accepted to WVU Tech the same year. But did well enough on my ASVAB to have any job offered, so I joined the Army.
Not being much into the Appalachian lifestyle, I was eager to get out and explore the world anyway. Goodbye frat-house, hello bunkhouse.
Hours before fully signing my body over to Uncle Sam, I picked through any radio specialty I could find in the 100s of listed jobs, or in typical military verbosity, the “military occupational specialties” directory.
I chose to a radio job because I literally had a Radio Shack scanner in my pocket. Unprepared and pre-Google, I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to do in life at the moment. Other than maybe be as cool as Don Johnson.
“Ah, something in radio I guess… uhhhh… hmmmmm….” 10 minutes later, (and holding up a line of anxious cannon-fodder), pointed my finger to Army MOS 05D, filled in the forms, then shuffled off to the next staging point. A few signed and sworn commitments later, and I was a fledgling “Signal Intelligence Emitter Identifier & Locator”.
Which I later discovered to be spending a lot of time in a dimly lit green box, monitoring, and sending Morse code so much it was sometimes difficult to turn off the noise in my head.
I was a bit relieved when the commander discovered I was great with computers. Spent the rest of my career in an office. Keep in mind, I still hadn’t discovered the love of radios, I just liked snooping. It was nearly a random career-choice based upon something close to a hobby.
After leaving the military, circa 1990, I didn’t follow up much on the radio hobby. I had at that point years of training and experience operating a radio, including Morse code, and didn’t so much as pick up a microphone for at least a decade. Not many civilian employment opportunities for a signal direction-finder, so I extended my hobby of computers into jobs, later a business.
Flash forward to early 2000s. I’m living in Oregon now. Settled in, I look for a public service I could provide in the area. Found the local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), a sort of local “FEMA” of volunteers and support systems. As we introduced ourselves, and a bit of our past, I mentioned my military radio experience. Wasn’t long before several were recommending I get my amateur “ham” license.
Not really realizing the strange and wonderful universe I was about to step into, I agreed to take an upcoming FCC license exam at the 2005 SeaPac ham-convention. With Morse code already in my pocket, a couple weeks later I was a Tech+. “Technician” is the first of three amateur radio operator licenses available.
A year later, General class upgrade. About a year after that, Amateur Extra. The Extra took me more than one attempt to pass. I really think I’d rather take the SATs again!
One thing you’ll learn about me along the way, my electronic skills, or interest really, is very limited. You’ll see I love playing with any gear I get my hands on, but I’m really more a software than a hardware guy. Basic soldering and board-swapping at best. That might change in time, but meanwhile, there’s still so much to do that I already love.
It really is ironic that decades later I would do about the same as a hobby (and part-time business) as I did in the military. Hunt-and-pounce on signals. And actually enjoy it! Having used computers most of my life, it wasn’t a huge leap from knob-control to mouse-control.
Like many, I started out with PACKET, RTTY and PSK31. Not being much of a ragchew kind of guy, a little mic-shy, my pursuits further migrated away from voice and Morse code to collecting more types of modulations. Olivia, JT65, AMTOR, MT63, military and government modes…. I’ve decoded and logged, as of this writing, nearly 100 different ways to communicate. I’ll talk more about many of those later.
I have enjoyed the process that leads up to the QSO as much as the contact itself. Even today, I might spend a day or two to study, configure, and find a new one to work.
Along the way, I watched my waterfall grow from 3k to 40megs+. Allowing me to not only see a sandbox or two, but entire bands, multiples even. Yet again completely changing the way I use a radio.
Now, nearly every rig I own is a Software Defined Radio (SDR). Knob-less wonders where the computer does most of the heavy lifting. Allows for more versatility than any other type of radio I’ve used.
I just celebrated my 10th anniversary as a licensed amateur radio operator. Since 2005 I’ve had several licenses, including Experimental, MARS and recently, commercial with the Marine Radio Operator permit. My goal is to add endorsements to the commercial license, someday “get ‘em all”. I’m sure to share a few of those anecdotes along the way. GMDSS is up next.
It seems that a decade at this isn’t a long time. I know many folks who’ve been licensed at least 5x that. But in all fairness, it’s the hours (of action), not the years (of having the license). I often work where I play, even now, several hours a day, learning and exploring amateur radio and related topics.
Which brings me to why I’m here. I’ve been doing a lot of online writing since joining the ranks of fellow licensed operators. Forums, Facebook, many short articles, YOUTUBE videos, even a couple of translations.
Sometimes I shared a few gems, sometimes junk, but every challenge has taught me something along the way. Thanks to the Internet, I found many friends and fellow experimenters.
I hope to pool all my resources and experiences while offering something worth reading. Whatever fancies me, I hope it might fancy you too.
I make no claims to being a great writer, or even a good one, but I do hope to at least entertain and education as I fumble along. I accept grammar and spelling corrections gracefully.
Thank you for joining me on this adventure, I hope you’ll visit again soon.
Before I close, I would like to thank a few of the important people in my life who have made this hobby not only enjoyable, but possible to do at all.
Far from complete, in no particular order;
Dad. I wish I paid more attention when you were sharing all this magic.
Joe Taylor, K1JT. Thank you for JT-modes and software.
Simon Brown, HB9DRV. Thank you for Ham Radio Deluxe.
Philip Gladstone, N1DQ. Thank you for the thousands of signal reports.
The ARRL. Thank you for your efforts to keep the spirit of radio alive.
Eric Fry, Antti Palosaari. For re-purposing a TV tuner into an SDR.
OTVARC. Thank you for the friends, food and fun.
Sharon K.. Thank you for talking me into getting my amateur license.
Most of all… Sandi Ravenswood, XYL. My lovely wife.
Thank you for putting up with me since 2001.
Very 73, de Frank K2NCC in Oregon USA (CN85nm)
©2015 Frank Ravenswood