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I was born in Oak Park, IL just a stone's throw from the Chicago city limits. So, I am a "city" kid and have always enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the big city. This would prove valuable later in life as I traveled major cities of the world. I had a good childhood with a good home and a good family. In Boy Scouts I became interested in the Morse Code and taught myself the code. I built a small code practice oscillator, but since I didn't know any hams, I had no way to get a Novice license. I used to go to the library and always read "So you want to be a ham". After Boy Scouts, I began to lose interest in ham radio. While in the 8th grade, a new student had just transferred to our school and we ended up sitting across from each other. It turned out he was a ham! Paul, at that time K9ATB, was just what I needed to rekindle my interest in ham radio. In a few months, I was licensed as WN9ELV.
One weekend I visited my grandfather who had a Hallicrafters S-40. He was not a ham, but was always interested in hams and SWL-ing. I was thrilled to be able to tune the bands. I told him I had my license, but no equipment. He gave me his trusted S-40 on the spot! I still have it today. My first transmitter was a homebrew 6L6 with a random wire and no tuner. At that time, I had no idea what an SWR bridge was! I was able to work Paul (about 8 blocks away) and W9DWQ (also 8 blocks away). I saved up money from my paper routes and soon bought a Knight-Kit T-60. Wow! I was now able to work around the midwest. I ordered QSL cards and soon was anxiously watching the mailbox for new QSLs.
In High School we had a very active radio club, due mainly to my real ham radio mentor, Father Robinson, W5QXS, who just recently passed away. I soon upgraded to General and bought a used HyGain TH3Jr and installed it on the chimney of my parents house. I was quite interested in DX-ing, but with 60 watts and a small yagi at 20 feet, DX did not come too often. I added an external VFO to the T-60 along the way.
Like many young men of the day, once I turned 16, my thoughts were on girls, cars, football and food (not necessarily in that order!). I let ham radio slip to the back burner. Once in college, my interest was rekindled and I upgraded to a Heath SB102. This was like driving a Rolls Royce after my T60 and S40! My buddy Paul went into the marines and was a radio operator, so we used to meet on 80m at 1am and ragchew into the wee hours. I even got the mobile bug and bought a Heath 40m monobander for the car and participated heavily in MIDCARS (around 1970-71).
After college, I met my future wife and we were soon married. Now that I was a bit more settled, I got into ham radio and DX-ing. I bought an SB200 (still have it!) to supplement the SB102. Of course I was living in an apartment and got my first taste of TVI complaints! Soon, though, we bought our first home, and when I saved some money to buy a used 40 foot tower. I thought I was on top of the DX world! 600 watts and a tribander at 40 feet! wow!
After 4 years, we moved into a bigger home, and, of course, a bigger tower. A 70 foot Rohn 45 tower sprouted with a big mast and monbanders for 10, 15 and 20. The HyGain 4 element 20m monobander to me is still the best antenna I ever owned! After a few years, I got the itch to DX on 40, so I changed out the monobanders for a TH7 and added a 2 element HyGain 40m yagi. Wow! 40 meters suddenly sounded like 20m. I was working DX - and I was DX! I received tons of QSL card requests from EU and JA. I eventually added a WARC rotary dipole from Cushcraft to get on the WARC bands. Of course, I went through a number of rigs and am currently using a Kenwood TS990. I am still very fond of the Kenwood TS930, but that damn digital board just kept failing on me, so I dumped it. In 2013, I changed to a SteppIR DB18E which is what I use today.
After getting married I worked for one year for Heath Company. That was fun, but it was obvious that Heath was going a different direction, so I put my University of Illinois engineering degree to better use and started at Motorola in 1973. I ended up staying there for 29 years! I took an early retirement package in 2002. Next I went to work for a small Canadian startup, and spent much of time in Canada, where I am licensed as VA3CDX. We sold the company in May of 2005, so I started my consulting practice - John Sweeney and Associates. (www.johnsweeneyllc.com) But, in 2006, I was recruited to work for Bell Canada and moved to the Toronto area and was mainly operating as VA3CDX (www.k9el.com/va3cdx). In late 2010, I retired from Bell. My wife and I relocated back to the Chicago area in 2013. I am now fully retired and enjoying life to the fullest.
I have been married for 43 years with a wonderful son and daughter-in-law and one very beautiful grand daughter!
That's my story!
last updated aug2015