Early Ham Memories
1. My First Receiver - Heath AR-3
\I'm reminded of my experience with the AR-3
which was my first receiver and also the first kit I'd ever built. The year was 1957 and I
was a new novice and anxious to get on the air and at least listen to some hams.
First time kit-builders sometimes are guilty of skimming over the instructions in order to
get to the main project and see it work. I didn't know about trimming the leads on
components so all mine were full lead length, just like the day they were manufactured.
I quickly hurried past any cautions and soldered it all together. Amazingly, it lit up and
even would receive something, although now I don't remember what I heard. Perhaps it was
only noise from the speaker, but it was something. My very first kit and it worked. I was
The book suggested that I take it to a ham friend to do the alignment and I knew just the
guy, Tommy - W5CFF. He was a member of our small amateur radio club and also worked for
the telephone company. Best of all, he had lots of really good test equipment and offered
to do the alignment for me. I remember the anticipation as I watch him with my wonderful
receiver on his bench as he set about to line it all up. The frown on his face worried me
a bit but he continued to work on it.
Finally, he put the tools down and said, "Jim, I can't get it to hold still long
enough for me to align." I asked him why and he told me long lead lengths caused it
to be unstable. I didn't know a lot about radios then but that didn't sound good.
I said, "What can I do to fix it?" He said, "Well, if it were mine, I'd
unsolder everything and start again." He carefully showed me how to use minimum
lengths on the components and even showed me how he lined them up so they were going the
same direction. He told me that didn't make it work any better but just looked nicer when
others viewed my handi-work.
I've never forgotten his excellent advice. I took my spidery-looking AR-3 back home and
removed all the soldered-in pieces. I then took my time and rebuilt my receiver kit, but
this time, like it was supposed to be. Not surprisingly, it took me quite a bit longer to
build it the second time but it sounded, and looked, so much better.
I took it back to Tommy to realign and this time it was solid as a rock....... at least as
solid as an AR-3 could be. I used it for several years and it was a great receiver. I
would love to have it back now since it still has a special place in my early ham years
----------- Added August 4, 2005