Recent Updates

My first 100 Novice QSOs

I've made a list of the first 100 stations and operators I worked as a Novice back in 1972. Along with the list are QSL cards from many of the contacts. Don't miss them! More…

What's a WADD??

My "Worked All DDs" quest. More…

My Novice Memories

An old email I wrote to my friends on the QRP List after entering all my Novice ham radio contacts into a new electronic logbook. More…

Chasing States

My quest to earn the ARRL's Triple Play Award. More…

QSOs with Hell

No, I haven't been making radio contacts with the devil. I've been playing with an intruiging mode known as "Feld Hellschreiber," "Feld Hell," or just plain "Hell." More…

NDB Hunting

It might sound terribly boring, but I've actually found it a lot of fun listening for airport beacons and seeing how many I could copy. I've set up a whole web page for the topic. More…

Other items of interest...

Tom's Running Page

Back in 2002, I started running again after a long hiatus. Since then I've run the Chicago Marathon 8 times!. Read more about the running exploits of an old, slow geezer. More…

Old Radio Restorations

I've had a lot of fun restoring old tube radios the last few years. More…

Frisz Family History

My family came from Northeastern France back in the 1840's. Read more about the Frisz family's history here. More…

Shortwave QSL Card Gallery

As a young teen I discovered Short Wave listening and started sending reception reports to get QSL cards from the stations I heard. You can see images of my collection on my SWBC QSL page. More…

My Amateur Radio History

Knight Kit Star Roamer I had an interest in radio ever since I was a young teen in the late 1960's. A pair of walkie talkies I received as a birthday gift triggered an interest in radio communications. The next Christmas I got a Knight Kit Star Roamer receiver. I vividly remember sitting next to my dad in his dark room (he was an avid photographer at the time) and watching him as he built the kit. My dad knew about a lot of things. He had built kits before - a hi-fi receiver, etc. He taught me about proper soldering and component identification.

Yes, I was a WPE! The receiver worked like a charm (after moving a couple of swapped wires on the bandswitch.) I remember excitedly running to the living room to tell my mom and dad "I got Ecuador!" "I got Germany!", etc. I didn't realize it at the time, but we were at the highest part of a sunspot cycle back then, and 1967 was probably also very near the peak of the Short Wave propaganda wars. The bands were filled with very loud signals and lots of interesting listening. Boy, did I have fun. I started sending in reception reports to stations and collecting QSL cards. I still have all those cards. You can see my collection on my QSL Gallery pages.

My Novice Ticket

As an avid SWL, I was well aware of Ham Radio. I read about it in the pages of Popular Electronics and I sometimes tuned my Star Roamer to the Ham bands to see what I could find. One of my most memorable Ham SWL'ing achievments was listening to Tom Christian, descendent of "Mutiny on the Bounty" fame from Pitcairn Island chatting on 20 meters. Occasionally, one of my high school friends, noting my interest in radio, would ask if I ever thought about getting a ham radio license. I'd always say "Oh, probably some day..."

My first QSL card Someday came during the Fall of my Senior year in high school. Mike Schmaltz, a friend, asked me if I'd like to go along with him and his dad to a Novice ham radio class at Brandywine High School in Niles, Michigan. I agreed to go along. I loved the class. Our instructor was John Huffman, WB8CIY - A very likeable guy, who was a teacher at the time. John is now K1ESE, and lives in Waterford, Maine. We've been able to get reaquainted in recent years. As I remember, I did very well in my Novice class. I managed to pick up CW fairly easily and was copying close to 10 WPM before the class ended. I had been exposed to Morse Code in Boy Scouts and used my Star Roamer to pick up CW over the air (not an easy task with no BFO.)

Heath DX60B Transmitter I took the Novice test in December of 1971. My parents got me a Heath DX60B transmitter and HR10B receiver for Christmas. I built the receiver, and it didn't work. Up to Benton Harbor it went. Luckily, Heath was only a half hour away. My receiver came back repaired - only 1 bad solder connection, an inadvertent short to a ground lug on one of the tubes. I spent lots of time listening to my new receiver and waited for my license to arrive, and waited, and waited. My friend Mike received his ticket in the mail. I waited some more. Like many, I found out my Novice call when I got a mailing from "The Little Print Shop" with QSL advertising, but my license still hadn't arrived. Finally, a letter was sent to the FCC and I received a duplicate license in the mail. Apparently, my license had been lost somewhere. You can't begin to imagine what I went through waiting. When the duplicate license finally arrived, I was the happiest kid in town. Now, I just had to get on the air...

Knowing better, but too anxious to do things right, I tossed up the 80 meter dipole I had made along some pine trees on the side of our property. It couldn't have been up more than 6 feet or so, but I was hearing signals, so I got brave and tried to make contacts. QSL from Mike, WN8INZ - My first QSO! My first QSO was with WN8INZ in Lansing, Michigan. The second was with Mike Shmaltz's dad. Then I was off to the races. What fun I had! Two days and 15 contacts later, the transmitter died. I don't remember what took so long, but it was over four months before I got back on the air. This time, I had my dipole up between two tall trees and I hit the airwaves again with great success. I spent a lot of time on the radio in the late summer of 1972 and beyond. You can see some more details about those early days on the air in my "Nostalgia" page.

Onward and Upward

WB9IUQ - Advanced Class I studied hard and was ready to try upgrading by the winter of 1972-1973. I made the trip up to Chicago with my new ham friend Tom Warnock, WN9GSP. I passed both the General and Advanced that day. My studying had paid off. The General was pretty much a breeze, and I had read enough of the Advanced class material that I made it too. It felt funny venturing out of the Novice bands. It was still great fun exploring new bands and frequencies. I upgraded to Extra the next year. I spent a lot of time on the air running QRP with my HW-7. It wouldn't be until I had graduated from electronics school and started my first "real" job before I could afford to upgrade my equipment, but I still had a good time and learned how to really listen and dig out the weak ones.

My Days at Valpo Tech

After graduating from High School, I spent two semesters at the local campus of Indiana University, here in South Bend. Then I decided to make the move to electronics school and enrolled at Valparaiso Technical Institute in Valparaiso, Indiana, about 50 miles west of home.

Although I was a mediocre student at best, I really enjoyed my days at Valpo Tech. There were other hams there - Jon WA3MVM, Kurt WA3IUI, Bob WN8RXD and several others. I spent a lot of time in the school's ham radio club station - W9SAL. It was there that I got my first taste of operating SSB with a transceiver. We had a Heath SB-102 that WA3MVM had built with a tri-band beam on an old windmill tower to go with it. I had lots of fun running the station.

Valpo Tech's Club Station QSL Jon was a pretty smart guy. He dug up an old teletype machine from the school's storage area and got it on the air. I had lots of fun running RTTY on 80 meters with it (when the guys watching TV in the next room didn't complain about TVI!)

We had lots of good instructors there, but my favorite was Gene Wiggins W9CWG. Mr. Wiggins had a stern, gruff exterior, but he had a soft spot for guys who were hams. He was a great instructor who always had wonderful old stories to go along with whatever topic we were learning at the time. He'd be lecturing away, then suddenly pause with a bit of a reflective look, and then launch into one of his great stories. I loved them all.

I remember one day in Transmitters class. Mr. Wiggins was talking about oscillators. He diagrammed a typical circuit with output winding moved back towards a grid winding for transformer coupling and then asked "What would happen if we slid this output coil down along this path until it touched the bottom of the input winding?" He had redrawn the circuit so that it was now a Hartley oscillator. It was as if a light switch turned on in my brain and I suddenly understood the difference between an RF and a DC ground. Yes, Mr. Wiggins was a great teacher - one of the best I've ever had.

While at Valpo Tech, I got my First Class FCC license. I had aspirations to work in broadcasting after I got out. That never happened, but Valpo Tech did get me started on my way to a lifelong career in electronics.

Two Meter VHF Repeater Days

As a Field Service Tech for Burroughs Corporation, I was in the car a lot. I started with Burroughs in 1975. FM repeaters were just beginning to become very popular back then. My first taste of two meters was with an old converted commercial rig loaned to me by a friend. I used that from home (I was still living with my folks.) Then I bought a Wilson hand-held from Wayne K9IXU. He was buying multiples of them at a discount and reselling them to locals. Getting on two meters allowed me to discover a whole new circle of local ham friends. It sure made the work day go faster when I was able to chit-chat between calls with "the gang." There was a big group of locals who had similar jobs to mine - chasing service calls all over the area. We'd check in on the local repeater as our day started and keep in touch throughout the day. The radios allowed us to meet up for a quick cup of coffee or lunch together regularly. These days, when I listen to two meters, I get very nostalgic for those old days of the 70's and 80's. Two meters isn't anywhere near as much fun now, at least not in this area.

Tom the Teacher - Novice Classes

I don't remember what prompted it, but someone asked if I'd want to help out the Michiana Amateur Radio Club by assisting with some Novice Ham Radio classes. Along with a couple older club members, I taught a class at the South Bend Public Library. It was great fun. I gave a LOT of novice tests. Back in those days, the CW test consisted of five minutes of code at five words per minute. One solid minute of perfect copy was necessary to pass. I always used to ask those taking the test if they wanted to hear a couple minutes of code to practice with before I gave the "official" test. They were always shocked when, after a minute or two I'd say "Let me see how you're doing," and then tell them "OK, you passed!" I think if they'd been under the pressure of the "official" test, nerves would have gotten the better of a lot of them.

I helped launch an awful lot of new hams in those years. We continued with more classes and I even taught a class up in Niles, Michigan myself. I'm sure the total has to be well over one hundred who got their tickets through the classes I helped with. I always love hearing from hams who were in those classes. If one of you happens to be reading this, please drop me an email or sign the guestbook!

Packet Radio

A radio friend from LaPorte, Rich Dugger, WD9ARW, started telling me about his "packet radio" setup. I stopped by his house and saw his early GLB TNC. The mode certainly seemed intruiging. While at Burroughs Corp. training in Chicago for work, one of the instructors, also a ham, told me more about this "new" mode. I decided I had to give it a try.

A younger N9DD - 1987 I bought an MFJ TNC from Michigan Radio and had it on 2 meters the same day it arrived. WOW! What a fun mode! I'm still amazed at how much information I was able to absorb those first few weeks on VHF packet. I loved having keyboard QSOs. It brought out a whole different personality from me. I've never been much of a rag chewer, but keyboard QSOing was something else entirely. Exploring the new packet network and all its nodes and digipeaters was great fun. I felt like a detective, figuring out new paths.

Interest in packet radio was exploding. A defunct local RTTY club, The Radio Teleprinters Society of Northern Indiana, was resurrected and reformed as a packet radio club for our area. I got very active, serving as president for quite a while and taking over a monthly newsletter that we dubbed "Teleprinter Talk." Those first few months with the new mode were so much fun, I figured that packet radio would be a part of my ham station forever. Unfortunately, things were changing...

RTSNI Newsletter Almost from the beginning, bulletin board stations (BBSs) started popping up on packet. They provided a tool for email exchanges between stations. They linked together to forward mail throughout the network. This mail forwarding became a huge problem, taking over the packet frequencies and making keyboard to keyboard conversations - the part of packet radio that I loved, next to impossible. Networking schemes arose that put the forwarding on seperate frequencies. Our club became very active in setting up these networks. We had NetRom and then Texnet nodes here in South Bend.

Eventually, I realized that I was expending a huge amount of time and effort to get packet radio back to what it was those first few months I was on. It was an impossible task. As interest in the Internet grew amongst hams, packet radio networking began to seem almost silly. The Internet did such a better job for email, message boards and chat rooms. Finally, I gave up and quit packet radio entirely.


Lucky for me, as my interest in packet radio was fading, interest was building in ham radio circles for QRP - low power operating. I'd always been interested in QRP. I had an HW-7 on the air in 1973 and had always been intrigued with the idea of building a small, low powered rig and making contacts. Some Early QRP Projects

There was an article at the time in QST on building a small receiver, using NE602 and LM386 ICs. I built it and was amazed at the result. Then I saw a packet radio BBS message from a guy in California who was enthused about QRP. Doug Hendricks, KI6DS, almost gushed as he learned about QRP rigs and operating. It was infectious and my old interests in QRP surged.

My NorCal 40A Order Confirmation Doug and his friend Jim Cates, WA6GER, had founded the NorCal QRP Club. No rules, no dues, just fun. I joined and bought one of their first club kits - the NorCal 40A. What a neat little radio! My most memorable moment with the rig was when I broke through a pileup to work Jacky, 3B8CF in Mauritius.

I had such great fun becoming part of the QRP scene. I joined the QRP goings-on at the Dayton Hamvention, joined QRP-L (Internet QRP List), started entering QRP contests, etc. It was like a huge circle of like-minded friends. I built all kinds of QRP projects. On the right you can see a bunch that I took one year to Dayton to display. On top is my OHR WM-1 Wattmeter, then my NorCal 40A, NN1G 20 Meter rig (kit from Dan's Small Parts), and on the bottom, a 30 meter transceiver from NN1G's Small Wonder Labs.


In the past few years I've found a lot of enjoyment by marrying my ham radio activities with the Internet. Using a logging program that ties into web DX clusters and links to data (Ham Radio Deluxe,) has given me a huge amount of data to help chase DX, link to others with common interests, etc. My discovery of K3UK's LoTW sked page has brought me the most ham radio fun I've had since my Novice days.

Lately I've been busy chasing DX and working towards awards like 5BWAS, WAZ, etc. I contest from time to time and have had tons of fun getting on 160 meters.

I'm always looking for new countries to add to my DXCC and other award totals. I've gotten serious about collecting QSLs and have been making lots of new radio friends via the Internet and on the air.

I don't expect this ham radio biography to be finished for a long, long time. Everyday I find new, fun things to do in the hobby. The list of things I still want to try or improve at is never ending! Stay tuned as I update this biography page!

I always love hearing from visitors to my web pages. If you have any comments or questions, you can email me using the link at the top of this page or, better yet, sign my guestbook. Thanks!