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The Streak at 15 Years (Pt. 1)

Column #88 by John K3WWP. Back on August 4, 2009 my streak of making at least one QRP CW QSO per day reached the 15 year mark or 5,479 consecutive days. At that time I presented an interview about the streak in my web site (http://home.windstream.net/johnshan/) diary. For those who missed it, here is a condensed version of it in the next couple issues.

The interviewers were hams who submitted questions about the streak. The first few questions were from local ham Tom WY3H, former newspaper reporter, good friend, and president of the NAQCC.

WY3H: How did you get startted in ham radio and when?

K3WWP: It was back in the early 1960's when I tuned away from our local Pittsburgh station KDKA on the AM BC band and heard WHO in Des Moines, IA. I thought it was wonderful you could hear a radio station from so far away. I tuned around some more and heard other distant AM stations. Then I wondered if I could get even more distant stations if I hooked up some kind of long wire antenna to the radio. I did so, connecting it to the tuning capacitor where I saw the internal loop antenna was connected. Not knowing much about radio at that time, perhaps I connected it to the oscillator section of the capacitor. Anyway, somehow that changed the tuning range of the radio and I heard Radio Switzerland as my first ever short wave station. After hearing other SW BC stations, then I heard this station with someone talking as if he was on the phone who identified himself as W3CYG. I later found out he was a local amateur radio operator named Red Claypoole. I didn't think much about it at the time, but some time later a friend of mine, Larry Hooks, was showing off his CB radio to me, and mentioned he was going to get his amateur radio license. That sounded intriguing to me, so I decided to try to get my license also. Of course then you had to learn Morse Code to get all classes of license except Technician. So he and I studied the code together, and I was immediately fascinated by it. When we were ready, Larry and I went to the aforementioned W3CYG to take our Novice exam. I remember that session as clearly as if it happened yesterday although it actually was 47 years ago now. Red was fooling around with the key sending a few letters just to let us get familiar with his sending and the sound of his code practice oscillator and to relax a bit. Suddenly I caught him sending R U READY? Larry didn't catch it, but I did and said I was ready. Red sent us the 5 WPM code test which we both passed, then gave us the written part of the test which we also both passed. The info was then sent off to the FCC, and in a couple weeks on April 3, 1963, Larry was KN3WWW and I was KN3WWP.

WY3H: Your current streak started 15 years ago, but just how?

K3WWP: My friend Eric KB3BFQ who used to live next door and I are sports fans and sports deals a lot with various kinds of streaks such as Lou Gehrig's 2130 consecutive games played streak subsequently broken by Cal Ripken who played 2632 games in a row before he missed a game. Eric and I wondered how streaks could be applied to ham radio and thought of the idea of seeing how many days in a row it would be possible to make a contact with my simple equipment. I still haven't found a definite answer other than to say it is at least 5,479 days and counting. (Update - 5805 days as of 6/26/2010)

WY3H: What are some of the memorable events in the streak? Your most memorable QSOs for example.

K3WWP: That question could lead to writing a book since there were many. One of my most memorable QSO's came just a few days ago when I worked Mirek VK6DXI near Perth Australia which is just about as far away from Kittanning as you can get and still remain on Earth. I've worked Australia many times in the streak, but this QSO was on 40 meters and it came when the sun hadn't yet set here. Both Mirek and I are just about certain it was a long path grey path QSO which would mean my QRP signals travelled over 14,000 miles from here to there. Australia also figures in other memorable streak QSO's. I worked VH6HQ on 30M a couple times. The first time he answered my CQ, I figured it was a Canadian station when I heard the initial V, then after I got VK I thought he must be portable somewhere in North or South America. However he was near Perth Australia. One of the times we worked, shortly after the QSO ended, my phone rang and when I answered, it was VK6HQ calling (VERY) long distance. He wanted to know a bit more about my setup here and we chatted for a few minutes. Another event was working Hawaii on 80 meters not once, but twice, and almost three times in this year's (2009) ARRL DX contest. What a thrill to hear KH6MB and a few minutes later KH6LC come back to my call. The QSO's were not all that difficult either. They did involve a few repeats of my info, but both were completed successfully. A further attempt with a third station didn't get beyond K3W??. A mini-streak within the streak is memorable. From November 23, 1999 through February 11, 2000 I made at least one DX QSO each day. Then after missing a day, I started again on February 13 and continued through July 15th. The second streak was 154 days long which made 235 out of 236 days I worked some DX. More about the overall streak and the mini DX streak can be found on my web site. I must also mention my first Japanese QSO with JA3ZOH. It took a long time to get that first Japan QSO, but now I have around 180 or so. The first QSO with Asiatic Russia was also memorable, as were several DXpedition QSO's where I had to break big pileups to get the QSO, but I'd better quit here and let you ask your next question.

Thanks Tom, for the opportunity to answer those wondeful, pertinent questions. In the next part of this interview, I'll field the questions I alluded to earlier that came from diary readers. -30-