29 October 2011


Edna and I lived in Honolulu for those two years.  I say that to make clear that the various specific subjects I will talk about, or have talked about, during that time - working on Yapese, snorkel-and-mask spear-fishing - and, what I will write about in this post, electronics - are not our life.  This sort of thing must always be true, I suppose, in any sort of writing.  One talks about things that happen.  Things that simple are are not so easy to talk about.  Edna's and my life together was not 'specially about these activities of mine - not even about my University studies and Yapese work, large though these loom - but about life and love, especially about our daughter Kathleen, about times with friends, about going places - we went at least once to Hilo on the Big Island to visit my parents.  But, as Tolkien says somewhere in Lord of the Rings, things that are pleasant (and, as the eventual failure of our marriage implies, things that are less pleasant, if they are part of the routine of life) are quickly told and often do not form very interesting reading.  It is the extraordinary that can more readily form a tale.

Sparks.  From childhood I was drawn towards things of science and of technology.  In Oroville, when I was in 4-H, in addition to agricultural subjects - including, obviously, my rabbits - I did projects on electricity and on Morse code.  Sometime during my high school years, I built a Dynakit valve stereo amplifier.  That was, indeed, a very good piece of equipment.  Coupled with two mid-range speakers from my father's vending business - he had some jukeboxes that were part of his stable - they became my amplifier for a turntable (purchased) and an AM-FM tuner (built from a Heathkit), which I carried around and used in California (from whenever I built it - perhaps 1959? - until 1966), in Honolulu (1966-73), in Auckland (1973-76), in Yap (1976-84), and in Pukekohe (1984 until it was finally replaced with transistorised equipment, maybe about 1985 or -6).  It had a long life and did yeoman's service.

I have built many Heathkit pieces of equipment during my life.  When Edna and I lived in Poki Street, I built a television receiver, again Heathkit.  In private e-mail Edna has claimed that I never finished it.  This doubt is deeply hurtful to me :-) !  (Well, ok, maybe I didn't finish it whilst we still lived together - but I do think I did).  Whether then or later, I don't know, but I did, indeed, finish it, and Susan and I hauled it to Auckland in 1973, where I had to fiddle with its tuning to get it to work with New Zealand television signals.  Thankfully, that, at least, I did not drag to Yap - I knew there was no television broadcasting in Yap!

And anyway, I had by this time become a broadcaster myself.

Well, not literally broadcasting - unicasting is the term.  At some point - and I am pretty sure it was in Poki Street - I acquired an amateur radio operator's ('ham') licence.  One reason I am sure that this occurred at Poki Street is because I recall the gear taking over more and more of Edna's living room - much, in fact, as the fish had done in Berkeley.

Your first amateur radio licence is a 'Novice' - and, at least in 1966 or whenever I was licensed, you get a distinctive call sign - sort of like having an 'L' in your car's rear window in modern New Zealand, to broadcast to the world your shame at being a 'Learner.'  My novice call was WH6GPC.  For the Novice class you just had to be able to copy Morse at 5 words per minute, and are limited to using Morse - no voice.  When I was able to master 13 WPM, I was allowed the glory of a real call - KH6GPC.

Amateur radio was something that I stayed with continuously and with considerable dedication right through the end of my time in Honolulu, my and Susan's three years in Auckland, and our eight years in Yap.  I have been:
  • WH6GPC
  • KH6GPC
  • ZL1AMT ("Able Mable Table")
  • KC6JJ (calls in Micronesia are luxury class :-))
  • ZL1WW ("Whisky Whisky")
My interests were not really so much in the idea of long-distance communication as in both the electronic side of things - which, in the event, proved an important help in my early involvement in personal computers - and in learning the skill of Morse - the latter, I suppose, connected with linguistics.  I did, over the years, do a fair bit of radioing, and graduated from kitsets to building my own stuff from scratch - and, once, nearly killing myself in the process (800V DC is quite stimulating).

These two years, from mid-1966 through mid-1968, gave me my Master's degree.  During this same time, however, some of my reading, and some of my other experiences, were beginning to eat away at the sandy foundation my life was built on.

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