When Bob was 9 years old, a Ringwald cousin from Oklahoma came to visit his family in Citrus Heights, CA. He brought with him an old Army surplus receiver. When the cousin threw a wire up in the tree for an antenna, he turned the radio on and for the first time, Bob heard Amateur (ham) Radio operators talking to other "hams" around the world. Bob was hooked. He knew that someday, he would have his ham radio license.
In February of 1957 at the age of 16, Bob passed the ham radio Novice Class license test and was issued the call letters KN6YBV. In August of that same year, he passed the test for the General Class license and was assigned the call letters K6YBV. He still holds the same call letters today.
Bob is very active on the ham bands. He transmits on single sideband and FM, (voice modes), International Morse code at speeds up to 40 WPM (words per minute) and on several new digital modes.
Throughout the years, Bob has had many interesting and exciting experiences because of ham radio. There was the time in 1966 when he was talking to a friend in Formosa, (Taiwan), an Island province off the southeastern coast of China. Radio conditions were rough that day and Bob and his friend were having trouble hearing each other. Suddenly a very strong signal broke in and said, "This is K7UGA. May I help?" Bob almost fell off his chair when he heard K7UGA, the call letters of the United States Senator from Arizona and former presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater. Barry graciously spent 45 minutes relaying information back and forth between Bob and his friend.
Here is a QSL card sent to Bob from K7UGA confirming their contact of April 2, 1966. Notice the 4-cent stamp?
Another time Bob heard a ham talking on the 75-meter band with what seemed to be very distorted audio. Another ham broke in to tell the first ham that something was wrong with his audio. The first ham turned out to be the well-known character actor, Andy Devine. Of course, there was nothing wrong with his audio, it was merely Andy's legendary gravelly voice.
For several weeks after the devastating March 27, 1964 (Richter magnitude 9.2) Alaskan earthquake, the only communications available to and from Alaska, other than official government channels, were via ham radio operators. Bob spent many days and nights relaying "health and welfare" messages to and from the survivors, their families and friends. He remembers the third night after the earthquake when it suddenly became impossible to find an Alaska station on the ham bands. It seems that most of the ham operators had been up for three days and nights straight -- they had all gone to bed...
On January 17, 1994 while living in the Los Angeles area, Bob and his wife Adele, along with millions of other Southern California residents, were jolted awake at 4:30 A.M. by the (Richter magnitude 6.7) Northridge earthquake. Being fairly close to the epicenter, he remembers the violent shaking which seemed as if it would never end. For several days and weeks after that quake, with phone lines being either down or jammed, he again provided much needed communications with the outside world via Amateur Radio.
One day while Bob was operating (transmitting and receiving) on the 10 meter band, (28.5 MHz) he heard a ham radio operator with the call sign JY1. Being a very rare contact, it seemed as if every ham in the world was trying to contact JY1. JY1 was the call letters of King Hussein, King of Jordan.
There was another time when, during a California forest fire, he overheard fire fighters who were trapped by the fire, calling for help on the radio. Bob was able to notify the California Department of Forestry and the fire fighters were rescued.
During the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Bob was one of the ham radio operators who handled messages from the Olympic athletes to their families and friends around the world.
In the spring of 1980, on an episode of the NBC series "Facts Of Life," Bob's daughter Molly Ringwald played the role of an Amateur Radio operator. She was portrayed as handling emergency communications from the girls' school during a bad storm.
After the first read-through of the script, Bob realized that while the writers wanted Molly to play a ham operator, the dialog was not authentic. He went to the writers and offered to rewrite the scene so as to use correct ham radio terminology. His offer was gratefully accepted. In the episode, Molly used her Dad's call letters, K6YBV. The show may be seen in reruns from time to time on TV. It is also now available on DVD.
In the late '50s, Bob used to hear Morse Code from Russian commercial stations on the 80-meter band. He tried many times to contact the stations, but was always ignored.
One night in frustration, Bob called the Russian and instead of identifying with his call K6YBV, he sent the call of the station that the Russian was calling. Lo and behold, the station came back to Bob and started sending Morse Code in Russian. When he stopped for Bob's reply, Bob told him that he was really an American ham. The Russian didn't wait for any further explanation. He immediately broke off the contact and would not acknowledge Bob. What with the political climate in the USSR at the time, Bob always wondered if some poor unsuspecting Russian radio operator got sent to Siberia for communicating with the United States.
K6YBV may be found on the ham bands on 14.292 MHz at 0930, on the Alaska-Pacific Emergency Preparedness Net, every evening on 3.906 MHz at 1830 on the California Traffic Net and on the Northern California Net at 1900 on 3.533 MHz. All times are Pacific.
View a list of Bob's ham radio station equipment.
Be sure to take a look at Bob's favorite accident report.
Bob is a member of:
Anyone wishing information on becoming an Amateur (ham) Radio operator may contact:
You can e-mail Bob