My name is Todd Carney, K7TFC, and I live in Portland, Oregon (CN85pl). I’m a retired professor of American History at Southern Oregon University. That may seen odd, but in my misspent youth I was an electronics contractor and engineering-support technician. I’ve always been an all-around maker, hacker, and goofer-arounder with anything technical. I was raised that way.

Just out of high school (1975), I spent six years as an engineering-support technician, mostly for a few companies in the Bay Area (including Zeltex–see photo) which specialized in precision A/D and D/A converters for Ampex, IBM, and for various aerospace applications (my father was an engineer in that field himself). No RF experience there. It was all DC and digital.

Returning to school in 1981, I put myself through college and an M.A. as a engineering tech for the Space Dynamics Labs at Utah State University. SDL is still one of less than a dozen major research groups on upper-atmosphere EMR, both near- and far-IR especially.

When I was at SDL, more than half the projects were for the Air Force Geophysical Laboratory (AFGL). This was during the cold war, and AFGL wanted to find ways of “hardening” the arctic early-warning radar system against blackouts sometimes caused by various solar flux or CME events. Since those are usually associated with auroral activity, most of SDL’s work involved basic research in IR radiometry and interferometry of auroral spectra to learn more about the physics of high-energy plasmas.

When I was there, this was done at ground stations in Alaska, using upper-atmosphere sounding rockets (the venerable Aerobee series of rail-launched rockets–launched in Alaska), and two Shuttle-based IR telescopes (due to the Challenger distaster, only one–CIRRIS 1A actually flew–see photo). I had only a tiny part in all that–and no IR or RF stuff at all. Again, all DC. I continued to work for SDL during the summers of ’88-’92, as I trudged on to my doctorate (in History) at the University of Oregon.

I trace my interest in amateur radio back to a Heathkit catalog–1967 or 68–my father had laying around. He had built a number of their test instruments and audio equipment in the ’50s and early ’60s. Alas, I had so many other interests that radio just smoldered in my head for several decades. A few times along the way I started working on Morse code, but other things always seemed to get in the way. I bought 73 or CQ magazines off-and-on, and did other reading now-and-then, but otherwise I did very little.

But now I find no obstacles in my way, and I mean to make up for some lost time. In 2010 I was granted my Tech and General tickets. In 2014 I served as the president of the Rogue Valley Amateur Radio Club (RVARC) in the southern Oregon city of Medford. Upon retirement from the university in 2015, I moved to Portland. I’m working on passing the Extra exam in a few months.

I have a number of ham-related interests I’m pursuing: QRP, SOTA, EmComm, RF design, and home-brewing radios and test gear. At least half of my passion lies with design, testing, and construction. I get on the air with phone, CW, and digital modes mostly as an excuse to design and build stuff. To me, a well-drawn schematic or pcb layout is a work of art, I’ve never met a test instrument I didn’t want, and I love the smell of solder in the morning.

It’s fascinating to me how one can take a device emitting less power than a typical flashlight, throw a wire into a tree, and then communicate at sometimes long distance. Okay, it’s a little more involved than that, but to me it’s still something of a miracle.


Todd K7TFC

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