Chaz Cone

Ham Radio and me in the '60s

    During my senior year at Tech I interviewed with only one company: IBM.

    It was tough to get hired by IBM.  It was a multi-step interview/testing/interview process and being a Ham Radio operator didn't count for anything.  But I got through it and started my IBM career in Atlanta, June 12, 1961.  My starting salary was $500/month -- and that seemed like all the money in the world to me.  I had to bail out my checking account every month to keep it from overflowing!

    Straight into IBM School.  IBM Phase I training was eight weeks long and I was really enjoying it -- until one Friday each of us in the class were going to have individual interviews instead of class that afternoon.

    Naíve as I was, I thought that because I was hired by the Atlanta office, I'd be working in Atlanta.  No one had mentioned that "IBM" stood for "I've Been Moved!"  In those days, IBM moved employees around like chess pieces (exactly like chess pieces) based on "needs of the business".

    When it became time for my interview I was given a choice of two cities to move to: Savannah, Georgia and Greenville, South Carolina.  At least they were both in the south.  They gave us all the weekend to consider.

    I really loved Atlanta (still do) and wasn't excited about moving but there were only two choices.  It didn't take me long to decide on Greenville.  Why?  Simply because it was three hours closer to -- Atlanta.  Now, I know that Savannah is a beautiful, historic place and Greenville is, well, Greenville -- but at that time, "closer to Atlanta" was the only criterion that mattered to me.

    Once I'd announced my decision, I was asked to drive up to Greenville to meet the Branch Manager.  His name was Phil Green and I liked him at once.  For one thing, he drove a Mercedes 190SL which dispelled my worries that my Corvette might seem inappropriate to IBM.  He said he had a real need for a IBM 1401 computer jock and would I mind bailing on the last two weeks of Phase I and going right into 1401 school?  Would I mindNo, sir!

    My Phase I class still had several weeks to go and, at that time, the plan was:

    • Eight weeks of Phase I training (wiring control panels on big gray boxes)
    • Several months back in your field office applying your skills
    • Four weeks of Phase III training (learning the IBM 1401 computer)
    • Back to the field office to apply those skills

    I was going to short-circuit Phase I, skip Phase II and go right into Phase III.  And so I did.

    After Phase III I moved to Greenville and began what became my life-work, working with computers.  Here's the five-foot-tall IBM 1401:

    Once I got settled into life in Greenville I realized that, socially and Ham Radio-wise there wasn't much going on there.  I lived in an $85/month apartment and was only able to string a wire antenna (stealthily).  But with fresh coin in my pocket I traded in my trusty SX-99 and DX-100 on a state-of-the-art Hallicrafters station.

    Up until the early '60s, Ham Radio voice communications used the AM mode (much like the broadcast stations you hear on AM today).  But about that time, a new mode called "Single Side Band" (SSB) was coming into its own.  This new mode had the advantage of allowing many more contacts (QSOs) in the same bandwidth -- but it required (of course!) all new gear.  Here's my first SSB station:

The Hallicrafters SX-101 Receiver

The Hallicrafters HT-32 Transmitter

    This was really great gear.  It was big and heavy.  The style then was to achieve "frequency stability" through great mass.  Collins Radio Company was doing a better job at a fourth the weight, but Collins gear was just out of range cost-wise.

    The Hallicrafters gear worked well enough, but I met and married my first wife, we moved to Tampa, we got pregnant, we moved back to Atlanta, had a baby (our daughter Debbie), bought a house:

535 Windsor Parkway

    ..  got a dog and settled into the life plan that we were all raised to follow in the '50s.

    I did get a tower erected and a beam installed -- and, newly flush with cash after a couple of promotions, traded in the Hallicrafters station for the station everyone wanted, the Collins S-Line!

The Collins 75-S3B Receiver and 32-S3 Transmitter

    And then I learned that "we" weren't happy so we divorced.  Ham Radio was the last thing on my mind for a couple of years; at least I got the S-Line in the settlement!

    I moved to New York City for a couple of years and that's where I met and married Gael, my bride of nearly fifty years (as I write this).  We moved into the Windsor Parkway house (which I also got in the divorce settlement) and lived happily ever after through the rest of the sixties.

    Read on for my '70s Ham Radio experiences..