The Ham Shack

Funny term "ham shack." I suppose there have been a number of hams that actually do or did have a shack in the fundamental sense. But make no mistake, a ham's "shack" is a special place for him/her. It can be as simple as my very first one: an old three-shelf bookcase, a mere 3 feet wide and 1 foot deep sitting under the window of my bedroom. Or, it can be a large building equipped with all amenities required to sustain a weekend of multi-station, multi-operator contesting for a dozen hams.

Some of my "ham shacks" over the years

Unfortunately I have no pictures of any of my ham gear before 1973. I suppose it never occurred to me to take a picture in those days. The first was taken in our first house, the second when we moved into our current house in 1984. I present the evolution from that first picture.

1973 Shack

After selling my Eico 753 Paul, WA5MET-SK, encouraged me to buy this Garlaxy V. Paul was an old friend in high school. I bought the amplifier and rebuilt it. It used four 811s. Wish I still had that cabinet! I turned my Mosley tribander with that Radio Shack rotator.


After I finished my BSEE degree in August 1983, we built a new house the next year. I finally had time for ham radio again. I set up shop in the study with a Kenwood TS-430 driving an SBE 21a amplifier. Notice the Radio Shack Color Computer under the monitor scope: my first PC. I used it with the little TV for RTTY. My antenna was a coaxial dipole in the attic. I later put up a Butternut HF6V vertical. I was 36 in this picture. FYI, I started going bald in my mid-20s ;-).

Late-80s to Mid-90s

Our oldest son went to Rice University after high school in 1988. Very soon after, I moved "the shack" into his old bedroom. I built up a nice operating bench on casters so I could easily move it out from the wall to hook up things. The station was an FT980 and a homebrew 3-1000Z amplifier, I called "Big Bubba". From the mid-80s to the mid-90s, I chased DX. Even with the amp, I was a little disadvantaged using the HF6V vertical, but I managed to confirm 315 entities. I used a logging program run on the x386 PC running Windows 3.1.

Late 90s-Early 2000s

I call this period my "Boat Anchor Collection" phase. A lot of old gear found its way to AND from my shelves. By 1997, I had my fill of deliberate QRM and frequency cops. I was tuning across 75-meters one morning and heard Otis, K5SWK, on AM. As I listened to this bunch on 3880, I began reminisce of those magical days of my youth. Man, was I hooked. I soon had a plate-modulated AM transmitter: a Heathkit Apache. Soon I was in the "fray" with some very fine AM operators.

First Garage Shack 2004

I moved from the upstairs bedroom to a 10x12-foot room I built in our two-car garage. This was about as close to a true "shack" as I've had. A few years later, I built a 8x4-foot HO-scale train layout for my grandchildren in that bedroom. I realized I had more boatanchors than I could use. I started paring them down.


The current shack is located in a room that was once was our garage. I tore out the 12x10-foot "shack;" tore out the sheetrock; insulated the ceiling, walls, and garage door; re-walled it; textured; and painted; and carpeted it. I even cut out the outside wall and installed a window. I had a heating and cooling duct run. Then I began building a large HO-scale train layout. The "shack" was moved to a small "enclave" in the corner.
Nice blend of old and new. I enjoy my old boatanchors, the Globe King 500 and Collins 75A-3, and SDR operation with my FlexRadio 3000. In the small rack are: a Collins 75A-3 and a few pieces of audio gear for the Globe King. I also use a Flex 1500 as a pan adapter for the A-3 and as a receiver when conditions get tough.The two Flex SDRs are located to the right of the small monitor on the shelf. The mic is an AKG P120 condenser.