Michael J. Thom Father. Nerd. Race fan. Musician.

10Oct/11

K6MJT is On the Air!

Ham radio. Amateur radio. I have seen no recent survey but I would imagine that few people my generation even know what amateur radio is. At best, maybe "isn't that something grandpa used to do?" Or, "yeah is that like CB radios?" These are a couple of responses I've gotten from friends... in addition to several blank stares: "What's that?"

To me, amateur radio is in fact a bit about the nostalgia. Do I fancy myself a tweaker? Yes, of course. However, I don't imagine I'll be building antennae and radios in my (nonexistent) "shack" anytime soon. It is true, though, that I have always found physics, wiring, electricity, radios, microphones, sound waves, and like all very fascinating.

Grandpa with my sister and me, July 1991

In truth though, I have joined the likes of the great Gordon West (WB6NOA) due largely to my family, specifically my late Grandpa Thom (WA6BLC). He was a ham for many, many years, and (among other activities of course) he used to communicate around Seal Beach, CA, with my Uncle Dan (WB6DYN). My dad is a ham (KB6FWM), and my mother even had her license for a while (though it's now lapsed). Though I can't say it was huge in my upbringing, it always existed, and I always thought it was so cool. Plus, Grandpa did it.

In the late '90s I got some of the Gordon West literature and studied some (and practiced my Morse Code, as that was still a requirement back then!), but for some reason never got around to actually taking the test. I suspect marching band and general high school busyness is largely to blame for that.

When my Grandpa passed in 2005, for some reason that I truly can't explain, I determined that I would pass my ham test. Even if I never did much with it, I wanted to honor my Grandpa by doing so.

It may have taken an additional five years for me to get around to actually doing it, but I have, and I know my Grandpa would be proud of me. My uncle was also a big help in getting back "into" ham radio, so I definitely want to thank him a bunch too. Plus, he's kept my dad and me supplied with radios and batteries 🙂

Does amateur radio service a daily purpose? For many, it sure does. The community they have built among hams is really cool. While I have not really dived in and joined that at this point, it's neat to know that the community does exist. And in times of emergency, I have the license as well as know-how to be able to assist.

Say hi if you see me on the road!

Since rediscovering my desire to get my license, I've been mildly surprised by just how many hams there actually are all around me. While I don't operate daily, I'm looking forward to meeting many more in person and on the air.

Initially licensed as KC9UQE (what a mouthful!), I knew (regardless of what random call I was assigned) that I wanted to apply for my vanity right away. My family runs the Bay Area Radio Fraternity - Beach Area Group ham radio club in Seal Beach, and the club has/had a handful of signs used at times by my Grandpa, by my uncle, and by others. K6MJT was one of these that was used by my Grandpa -- he and I both share the initials of MJT, so, to me, this was perfect for me. I get to carry on one of his signs, but it's also specifically meaningful to me (having my initials in it). Also, it has the region code of "6" in it, paying homage to the fact that I was born in California and that's still "home" for the Thom family, despite the fact that I was living in Indiana when I was licensed. I even went so far as to get the vanity plate for my car, I was so proud of the new call sign!

I will also add that the main reason I specifically had ham radio brought back to my attention was by none other than Leo Laporte... I've been a big fan and follower of his shows for years (dating back to the Ziff-Davis TechTV days), and when he started a new show on his network with Bob Heil called Ham Nation, I was hooked. I knew I needed to get serious about my studying again and finish what I started so many years ago. Though as any ham will you tell, you never truly finish.

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