One word still has the power to strike terror in my soul: molybdenum. Back in 1969 my Mother drove me to Houston, Texas --- the nearest exam site where the Federal Communications Commission offered a chance to earn a ham radio license. Multiple-choice tests of electronics theory and FCC regs were easy. Morse at 13 words per minute was tougher. I had practiced and felt I was ready ... but when the dits and dahs of the international radiotelegraph code began to flow past, I choked. I tried reading words as they were spelled out, guessing to fill in gaps when I missed a character. Big mistake! I only needed to get one minute solid out of the five minute transmission. But then, letter by letter, I heard the dread sequence that would forever haunt my nightmares: M- O- L- Y- B- D - .... Huh? What's that? Arggghhhhhh! My concentration shattered like a dropped vacuum tube.
I settled for a lowly Technician Class license that day; it only demanded 5 words/minute of code. A few months later I tried again and passed the General (13 wpm) amateur radio exam. Advanced and finally Extra Class (20 wpm) followed a year or two later. N6WX became my call sign: "WX" means weather in Morse, and my brother the meteorologist got K5WX. We both eventually were ARRL certified at code speeds of 30 wpm or so, far above any official requirement. But don't ask me to spell "molybdenum"!
Wednesday, January 10, 2001 at 05:58:42 (EST) = Datetag20010110