Chaz Cone

Ham Radio and me in College

    When just a kid in junior high school, I decided I wanted to work for IBM.  My Dad ran a wholesale liquor business in Little Rock.  A group of his warehouse employees began stealing liquor at breaks and lunchtime, stashing pints in one of their trucks in the parking lot.  It took a lot to determine that there was stealing and a lot more to catch the seven of them involved.

    Once that was over, Dad decided it wasn't going to happen again.  He called IBM and they proposed a punchcard accounting system to handle invoicing and inventory.  He was just about to sign the contract when he asked the IBM rep:

    "So this system will tell me exactly how much of each item I have in the warehouse?"

    The IBM rep said, "No, sir.  It will only tell you what's supposed to be there.."

    Dad signed the contract and, in due time the gear was delivered.  Giant grey boxes.  A bunch of 'em:

    That summer I was working as a laborer in the warehouse (for $1.00 per hour) and I saw the stuff being delivered and installed.  I was instantly fascinated and, over the next few months, I decided that IBM was for me.

    Once that decision was made, I thought I needed to be an electrical engineer to be hired by IBM after college.  I scouted around for engineering schools.  I reasoned that I already had a leg up since, because of Ham Radio, I already knew how to solder.  Sigh...

    I wanted to stay in the South so I applied to Georgia Tech and Tulane University in New Orleans and was accepted at both.  I picked Georgia Tech because....

..scroll down..







They had the best fight song!

Click HERE to hear it!

    That's right; I chose Georgia Tech because of the Ramblin' Wreck Song.  This type of decision-making is right up there with the assumption that knowing how to operate a soldering iron would be beneficial in pursuing a degree in electrical engineering..

    When I got on the plane (a Delta Convair 440): go to Georgia Tech, I didn't know it was in Atlanta.  I knew it was in Georgia (the name was kind of a give-away) but that's about it.

    I was a real stud:

Me in my "Rat cap" on my first day at Georgia Tech

    My dad was in the Phi Epsilon Pi fraternity when he was in college at the University of Illinois in 1920-21:

    Phi Ep had their Xi chapter at Georgia Tech so I was a legacy.  I was rushed (they had no choice, I guess) and pledged the chapter.

    Though I was the only member of the fraternity with a Ham license (one of my pledge brothers told us he was a Ham but he was shown to be a liar), I had little support when I asked to put a ham station in the fraternity house.  But then, as now, I was a pretty persuasive person so I got the go-ahead.

    A digression (it has, ultimately, to do with Ham Radio.  Trust me):

      In my freshman year I lived in a dormitory.  Freshmen had no choice.  I was assigned to 106 Harrison Hall, a typical dorm room with a single roommate as was the style in the '50s:

      Even with a twenty-one-quarter/hour class load there was a little time for extracurricular activity.  One of my hobbies was knife-throwing.  Believe it or not, my mother got me started.  In the back of most pulp magazines were ads for "Malaysian Throwing Daggers".  These were nothing but 8'-10' stamped pieces of steel with sharpened points and the handle wrapped with rawhide.  I had several:

      One day in the dorm room, for some reason I decided to throw knives into the back of the closed door to the hall.  The door was made of heavy, solid oak about 2" thick.  It was a really good medium for knife-throwing.  I continued this activity for several weeks without incident.

      One afternoon I was so engaged when the dorm counseler opened the door unexpectedly.

      The knife, making two more revolutions, zipped past his body and stuck in the hall wall opposite the door.  I don't know which of us was more frightened.  Well, yes I do; he was.  I didn't soil my khakis...

      After he cleaned himself up, the dorm counseler turned me in to the Associate Dean of Students.  The Dean's name (believe it or not) was Dean James Dull (yes, "Dull"; I am not making this up!)  He was the college-level equivalent of the high school Vice Principal:

      Dean Dull's first inclination was to boot my butt out of Tech but, remember, I am persuasive.  In the end, he agreed that I could redeem myself by paying to replace the hideously knife-scarred door and disposing of my throwing knives.  I thought that was fair and readily agreed.  Then he told me the cost of the door: $600.00!

      As a freshmen in college I rarely had $6.00, much less $600.00.  I didn't want to tell my folks so I worked out a payment plan for the door with Dean Dull.

      Here's the Ham Radio connection:  My plan was to make the door into an operating table for my ham gear in the fraternity house.  Y'just buy a leg kit, screw the legs into the knife-scarred side of the door and you have sturdy 3' x 7' table.  Sure, it does have a stencilled "106" on the top, but what the heck.

    I received permission to set up my ham station in the fraternity house basement (on my new table) and so I brought my station from home (the same one in the picture about Manitowoc, Wisconsin in my high school story).

    If you read my explanation about callsigns (licenses) section, you know that, in those days, ham licenses were assigned to geographical areas.  Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas were in the "5" area; my callsign was K5AZL and you'd be able to tell from the "5" that I was in one of those "5" states.  Georgia was in the "4"th call area so I was required to get a new license to operate for a protracted time from Georgia.  I applied and was assigned W4GKF which I hold to this day.

    I don't remember operating much, but it was fun to have it there.

    I graduated on a Saturday in June, 1961 and went to work for IBM two days later.

    Read on for me '60s Ham Radio experiences..