So I visited my friend's trove of "electronics" and immediately recognized that there was a lot of Good Stuff that seemed serviceable and of good quality. The widow was now trying to clear out the house. Through several conversations, she came to the conclusion that she just wanted to get rid of the stuff and was bringing a dumpster in.
Well, this was difficult for me to contemplate the trashing of several useful and even antique-quality pieces. It was then I realized that I'd been thinking about getting back into the hobby. The barrier was the expense of getting equipment. A solution to that problem was right in front of me. Connecting those dots occurred to me right in her garage. So, we had a chat. The widow was delighted that somebody would get good use out of the 'junk.' We made a quick cash transaction and I walked away with equipment that, back in the day, probably totaled a few thousand dollars.
So, the deceased's stuff was now my stuff - not all of it. There was just Too Much. But I did try to rescue the things I could recognize as useful.
Next, get the pieces home and stacked up. Then, clear out space in the basement to set up my workshop-station. Once that happened, I started pulling out old tools that hadn't seen the light of day in years. That began my tinkering. I would identify the equipment, look up the manual online, get the piece 'fired up' (apply power and turn it on) and - fortunately - nothing sparked or spit at me. Then I would run through some basic functions. For the radio transmitters, I would use the receiver function as I didn't have legal privileges to transmit a signal.
In the meantime, I bought a couple books on basic electronic theory to refresh my recollection (my knowledge was oddly good in some areas and bizarrely weak in others) and to get ready to take the Federal Communications Commission's test for the first level of radio privileges.
In the Old Days - well, when I was a youth - the FCC had five tiers of amateur radio privileges. They were called (in order of increasing privilege and requirements): Novice, Technician, General, Advanced, and Extra "classes." During that time there was a "Technician Plus" class created, but I was inactive during that period. About 15 years back, the FCC decided to revamp the tiers. The requirement to use Morse Code was eliminated and the tiers simplified. The new tiers were Technician, General, and Advanced-Extra. So, this meant I needed to study a bit more and learn some of the capabilities and practices that didn't exist when I was previously active.
It was a bit of a trick to find a testing site, but I traveled about an hour, took the test, and was told that I'd passed. Yay!
Now, I needed to wait for my pass result to be passed up to the FCC, be posted on their database, and learn my randomly assigned call letters. True to form, about ten days later - May 1st, 2017 - I was recognized as "KA8GVY."