My first efforts at radio were at the age of eleven, when a friend and I at school, (Laurence Franklin, now G3LWF/9J2LF), built crystal sets. These were the genuine article, complete with cat's whisker detectors, and using the ubiquitous red OXO tins for cases. The components were mounted on black Ebonite top panels.
I became interested in Amateur Radio a little later, having heard a few of the locals on their Top Band net on Sundays. My receiver in those distant days was a battery operated superhet which fortunately happened to tune to that band. The receiver was later up-graded to a R1155 which my parents had purchased from the Co-op milkman, for the grand sum of five pounds. The set had been previously demonstrated to me, and I well remember being fascinated by the Morse Code sent by a Polish amateur, (or so I was assured at the time!)
This interest was followed up by visits to the local radio club, at Bath, whence tuition for the RAE and Morse Test were received. Two of the locals who gave many hours of their time to help me, and others, to get their tickets, were Sid Marsh, G2CZU, (now deceased), and Les Cowling, G3IGX, also sadly no longer with us.
Incidently, the training for the RAE helped me no-end to get an apprenticeship in the radio and TV servicing trade, a career which I pursued for many years thereafter.
My first forays as a transmitting amateur were on 160m CW and using a home-brew VFO/PA into a 150ft end-fed. I became addicted to CW and had plenty of good contacts in those days with stations such as G3LYW, G3PU, G2FIX and G6LM.
It was not too long before I had the urge to get going on HF. I obtained an old command TX and soon modified it to operate on 20m. I well remember watching the blue glow from the pair of 1625s in the final! This was at the time of the sunspot high in 1957, and contacts to W6/7 and long path to VK/ZL were very plentiful. The antenna used was a simple half-wave dipole at about 20ft, and the main station receiver was a National HRO.
One of the first transmitters I had in the early 60s was a KW Vanguard. This was used in conjunction with the HRO and built from a kit. It was amplitude modulated with a pair of 6L6 valves, but I must confess to using it mostly for CW. I did say I was a CW addict!
I think my first commercial rig was a KW-2000 which I bought new from KW Electronics at Dartford, Kent. This was a really neat piece of kit for its time, and I often see adverts for them even today.
Pretty soon, I started to build SSB equipment, such as the excellent designs by Dick Thornley, G2DAF. His articles in the RSGB Bulletin, as it was then, were legendary, and many such rigs were built. It's such a pity that popularity of homebrewing is not as strong these days.
Rigs may come, and rigs may go - but some go on for ever, or so it would seem. For a large number of years now, I have used a Kenwood/Trio TS-830-S. It has an external VFO and does everything I want. It'll be a hard act to follow if it comes to choosing a replacement some day.
That day finally came in June 2000 when I bought a TS850SAT. It had all the narrow filters which I needed for CW operation, together with many accessories. Like my K2, the TS850S has been well designed and is crammed with cunning! Should satisfy my needs for the foreseeable future!
Since July 2002 I have been lucky enough to buy a Yaesu FT-1000MP from an SK over in Essex. The rig is in near perfect condition, and has even more magic gizmos on-board than the TS-850S. In my opinion it is near perfect for my present requirements, and takes pride of place on the operating desk. I never cease to be amazed just how fast modern technology moves on!
Later again, I have become very impressed with radios designed Elecraft in California. I have acquired 3 Elecraft 'rigs' to date, their kit transceivers K1 & K2. Both of these a very enjoyable building process, reminiscent of the old Heathkit Co. of yesteryear, again from the U.S.A. The latest of their radios, at the time of writing, is the model K3, this being a very up to the minute design involving digital signal processing circuitry in part. The major advantage of this is that the newest 'firmware' can be downloaded from the Internet, and loaded directly into the radio, thus giving it the very latest features. (Great 'future-proofing!)
Or at least it does to me! Over the last 20 years or so, I have become a devotee of QRP operation. Of course, I still use the 100W rig when chasing DX, but have discovered the joy to be had by operating with just 2 Watts output from home-built equipment. Designs by W7EL, K1BQT, GM3OXX, and G4ENA, plus some of my own, have been the products of my labours over the past few years.