My first-ever radio was an Archer Space Patrol walkie-talkie

Since the age of 7 I was fascinated by radios. I would take my Archer Space Patrol walkie talkies apart to figure out how I could get better range with them. I would usually go as far as to replace the antenna with some random metallic item – sometimes benefiting my reception! I would often duct-tape a broom stick to my bike and tie a wire to the inner metal coil of the rubber antenna.

TRC-222 CB walkie-talkie

TRC-222 CB walkie-talkie

When my family moved to Ottawa in 1989, I had discovered the world of CB radio. Late at night I would climb the 30′ pine tree by our house and tie myself in so that I could listen to the far-off stations broadcasting. I thought it was incredible that I was receiving these stations from so far away. I would often extend the length of the CB walkie-talkie’s antenna by a random wire length, trimming it to optimize (by ear only) the reception. I would also often misbehave by mouthing-off to the local CBers out on their fox-hunts.

Years went by where I seemed to forget about radio – I blame it on my high school years.

When I joined the Canadian Forces in 1997 I was re-introduced to the world of radio when we were trained on the AN/PRC-77 “Man pack” or “77 set”. I was always happy to play with the radios, however, the other aspects of my trade always won. Chimo!

When I enrolled in university, I had vowed I would take the time to study and pass the Amateur Radio exam. Well, that doesn’t happen as easily as one might think when you have been away from school for so long and are working like mad to stay afloat. Unfortunately my dream was put off once again. This time however, I had a plan of action. You see, I would often visit the Ottawa Public Library and sign-out a book published by the Ottawa Valley Mobile Radio Club (OVMRC) [the book can be found here].

I read that book cover-to-cover at least 3 times during university. Each time, I swore I’d just go write the exam and be done with it. Well, that never happened.

Midland mobile CB radio

Midland mobile CB radio

In 2005, I started working for Bell as a repair technician where I met a good friend of mine (Cory) whom I would often go off-roading with. The nature of our off-road exploits necessitated some method of communicating while we were off in the trails. Naturally, I suggested CB radios which we quickly adopted. We picked up some nice Midland sets which we installed with 5/8wave whips. We got some great use out of those puppies, however, when we would off-road in the more remote regions, we would come across range issues.

Off-roading would take a long break as my off-road partner lost interest in the hobby, but after from persistent prodding a few years later, we were back in the trails.

By mid 2010, I had convinced Cory that we should finally go get our amateur radio licenses so that we could make use of > 4 watts TX power and the 2M repeaters around our favourite off-road spots. So that was it! We decided to go for it! I did some research and discovered that the very club whose book I read still offered a radio course to help people with the more technical and regulatory topics. I was ecstatic!

It was only the day-of the first course that I learned from Cory that he would not be joining. I was pretty bummed out to learn that he would bail-out on me at the last possible minute when I called him to arrange car-pooling. I decided to continue on since I had put certification off for so long – and I am very glad I followed through with my goal!

On Nov 20 2010 I passed the Basic exam with honours (allowing HF privilages) which put me well ahead of the class schedule. Yay! Licensed at long last!

Most recently, I passed the Advanced exam while my course-mates wrote their Basic exam on the 22nd of February 2011. Now I just need to commit to learning Morse Code!

As of Dec 15th 2012, it has been just over two years since I passed my Basic qualification exam and was licensed. Shortly after passing my exams, I was recruited by Ernie (VE3EJJ) to assist in teaching the theory and practical application of radio principles and introductory topics in electrical engineering. I dearly enjoy assisting prospective Radio Amateurs learn the fundamentals of our hobby and I look forward to seeing the delight in peoples eyes when they receive their qualifications.

In April of 2013 Julie and I bought our first house and it has kept us busy! We have plenty of space and no neighbours close by so a real antenna is a possibility. I just need to do a bit more work around the house before I can justify dedicating time and resources to an antenna tower; my plan is a 40 or 50-foot tower with a multi-band Yagi. We will see what the spring has in store!

Julie and Felix

Julie holding Felix at 2 months of age

On Nov 24th 2015 Julie and I celebrated the arrival of our first child – Felix. I had the distinct honour of delivering our little boy at home in our office which, while not planned, felt extremely natural and exhilarating.

During my paternity leave (banked vacation) I was lucky enough to install a hidden antenna in the attic to get me “on-the-air” while I work out the logistics of my radio tower.

5 Responses to Biography

  1. Thank you very much for the ft857 library, i use it in some projects.

    see (only in german)

    73 de Roland, OE2ROL

    • James says:

      I am very glad to hear that you have found the library to be useful!
      With the continued use, perhaps I should really make it more compatible with modern Arduino environments.

  2. dan katzman says:

    great lib for 857. thank you. i love it.
    do you know the CAT command to control the RF power of the Radio?
    i did not find it published.

  3. Jaques says:

    My older brother got a SSB CB set to chat with his highschool mates. Every chance I got I’d be in his room listening to the voices barely audible in the white noise and static. I was hooked. Got my ticket in 97 and lost interest because it was just too easy on FM. Got HF priviliges around 2004/5 when the laws changed and haven’t looked back 🙂 SSB is for me!
    Although the utility and service of FM cannot be ignored so I’m fiddling with the idea of emergency communications preparation and packet radio.

    ZS6JV de Jaques

  4. John Power says:

    I love remembering how magical radio seemed when I was young. I still get goosebumps when I remember hearing a voice in the first crystal radio I built. I made one a few years ago (I’m now approaching 50) just for fun, but it was still amazing.
    people forget the magic, it gets hidden behind all the buttons.
    Great story James
    John VK5OI

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