Selective (Accidental) Nostalgia

The NorCal40A – Precursor to Elecraft

I have the NorCal40A and more “souped up” Red Hot 40 – both kits that came from the NorCal QRP group – designed by local designers Wayne Burdick – N6KR of Wilderness Radio and Elecraft fame, and Dave Fifield, AD6A

Red Hot Radio 40

I have had these on my shelf for many months – just waiting for a new spot to open up on my ham radio operating desk. Well, with the DX Engineering DV-40-P being retired – I can have one of these rigs in the space where the DV-40-P control box used to sit. I have one last open antenna coax switch position open for it, DC power pole slot, and a WinKeyer USB output from my Begali HST III (that will be here in about 10 days). I will swap one in and out from time to time – but it gives me another way to play the radio game on a day to day basis. Ham Radio – just for the fun of it – what a concept!

Begali HST III Single Lever Paddle

Since getting back into playing guitar, I have switched from being a “lazy” ham and using SSB Fone “just because” and have gotten back into CW seriously – copying the W1AW Bulletins on my Collins 75A-4 and even using CW with the KWS-1 via a modern WinKeyer and Begali Intrepid – used as if it were an HST III. The Edison Light-bulb went off in my head – and after being a Ham Radio Operator I realized a few things:

  1. My nostalgia only goes so far – while I fancied trying a Bug again – that was a FAIL. Trying a vintage keyer was a FAIL too. HOWEVER – all of this has to do with the fact that sending CW really is more akin to a song being played on a musical instrument – that the tactile and sound of sending and listening to CW is very musical – and a lot closer than I had expected it was (I always knew it were percussive – but did not realize how musical it is as far as its “note” is concerned
  2. I still can’t believe that it took almost 50 years for me to figure out that the best key by far for me is a Single Lever “Side Swiper” paddle. I do remember “Cootie Keys” from when I was a kid – but I always went with what everyone else seemed to use – straight key, then bug, then dual lever keys

So, while getting into the SW-3, Gold Dust Twins and even that cool old wooden Regal guitar amp are examples of nostalgia with toys that glow in the dark, my attempt to be nostalgic about CW fell flat on its face – but in the process I had a cool epiphany. I do believe its “Synchronicity” – especially because I have reconnected with friends from my past in the process of all of this – both in music and ham radio circles. I also have become much more social in the old fashioned “face to face” aspect – with no “social media” involved. Old social – just like old Morse Code, or old tube gear.

In fact, in the last two years while developing my Data Discovery and Compliance Catalog, I have approached this mentally as if I were in my shack thinking about radio, or designing antennas, or tinkering at my workbench. It’s made work much more fun.

This is why for me hobbies are so important – they exercise a part of the brain you just can’t get at work or pretty much anywhere else. I think its the adventure of experimenting and trying new things – and doing at your every whim that has a feeling of “freedom” – something that seems rare and fleeting in life.

Grab it while you can!

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