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A few words from Rob K9RST…

Elmers...and Skywarn

Elmers
Elmers…how on earth they got that name, I don’t know, but without Elmers where would this hobby be? Elmers come in all shapes and sizes and their impact may be short or long term. It seems we don’t often think about these wonderful, sharing people until they pass away. My first Elmer was my former physics professor – I don’t even remember his call sign! Al Shatzel used to love working 40 meter CW at night from his humble home in Glenview. He knew of my life-long interest in the hobby and encouraged me to get my ticket and get on the air. At one point, he gave me his TS-520S radio as further incentive to get going! With the radio on my desk, I had little option but to get my ticket. Well, there has been no looking back from those heady days. Al died several years back, but his spirit lives, and his radio recently was returned to me. I had loaned it to a young man who aspired to get into ham radio and needed a radio.  It is part of the Circle of Life…we give so others can enjoy the hobby…and so it goes.

When I learned that Joe Schroeder, W9JUV, was ill and then suddenly passed away this past week, I felt I had lost another Elmer. Joe’s influence was not as direct…we did not interact that often, but I got to know him enough to understand his passion for DX and ham radio. His amazing DX record has been recognized by many, including this past month’s QST. So while we mourn the loss of some of our greatest Elmers, the pressure grows for us to carry the torch on our own. Maybe that is the best way to honor our Elmers - become one. Who have you Elmered lately?

Skywarn
For many years, I have sat on the sidelines hearing about the wonderful work done by the ham radio Skywarn teams. To be honest, some of the dialogue was more about the frustrations experienced by this loose group of volunteers. In some ways, we are all a loose group of volunteers. Some want more stringent procedures, or discipline or support. There always seemed to be room for improvement. Fact is, even as they discussed these matters amongst themselves, they still got the job done - providing timely reports of weather conditions to the National Weather Service. They have benefited from the incredible work done by Mike Swiatkowski, AA9VI, who built web sites and brought order to the process. He was soon joined by Craig Dieckman, KC9HWK, who took the project a little deeper…and then, both found they could not continue the work they started. Babies, work, teenagers, life….something always seems to get in the way. Well, fortunately, there continues to be another group willing to do what is necessary to keep the Skywarn net together here. Scott Irwin, W8UFO, has agreed to be the Northern Cook County Skywarn Net Coordinator and your NSRC is helping provide some financial support and leadership continuity.

While this service is not as visible to the public as some of our other public service events, it is, none the less, exactly what I think a major part of this hobby should be. We need to give back to the public that so graciously has allowed us to use valuable frequencies. So, you will see many more Skywarn nets and discussion on our repeaters in the coming months. You can help by taking some of the many Skywarn courses available so that you can be knowledgeable and provide effective reports when the time comes.

Storm season is here - and something new at Radio Shack

Radio for me lately has been reduced to preparing to organize several public service events, taking Skywarn classes and preparing for various NSRC presentations. Occasionally, I turn on the HF rig! Still, this has been a terrific, enriching time. I attended the very popular DuPage Advanced weather seminar last month and found the experience most satisfying. They had several college professors as presenters and offered some top notch topics. Many of the presentations focused on the structure of super cell storm systems, the kind that produce potentially dangerous tornados. The pictures of the storms taken on various storm chasing expeditions were simply spectacular, very dramatic but also quite informative. There has been a tremendous amount of on the ground research done by these brave souls during storm events in recent years. Of course, they said that these storms are not isolated to farmland in Kansas, that big cities can also be hit…and that Chicago is due, if you follow climatological trends.

One very interesting discovery for me - they had data on some of the biggest storms in history…and there was one series of storm tracks over Illinois and Indiana in 1965. It was one of the biggest storm events in recent times. I was a Boy Scout in South Bend and I remember being mobilized by our Troop to help clean up after the tornados hit. The damage was amazing.the ground had scars where the tornados touched the earth. You could follow that path to a demolished building or uprooted tree. It was a very visible display of the power at work there. So, with that as a backdrop, I am boning up my ham gear to support our Skywarn team, now that we are approaching storm season.

In preparing to do my class on kit building, I was absolutely thrilled to discover the new “Radio Shack” now called the Shack, I think. Anyway, I have been very dismissive of them in recent times, but this time I went in to seek out some robotic toys that I thought I could build for my grandson. Of course, the toys were sold out, but I discovered a whole new initiative at my local store to offer electronic building block kits. Most of this is created around the Arduino breadboard projects that enable people to experiment or build all sorts of new devices. The young man who helped me was amazing. His eyes lit up and he got very animated when he talked about all that these little things could do. I don’t think I have ever been in a Radio Shack store where I could make that statement. Of course, before I left, they did try to sell me a cell phone! So I nibbled…seems like the least I could do to accommodate his welcome advice.

Finally, several of us are going to be helping with the Shamrock Shuffle. This is the world’s largest 8K event. Nearly 35,000 runners. I used to run this event myself, but now I am stuck in a cold tent, helping provide radio support to the medical teams in the field. It has been a great partnership for ham radio and fun to be involved with something on this scale. This event is not nearly the size of the Chicago Marathon, so we only have 19 hams helping out…the Marathon requires close to 119. These events have become very good ways for ham radio to be of use to our communities and serve the public good. It has been more difficult to find consistent public service roles with served agencies for ham radio, since so much depends on waiting for events to occur. In the Chicago area, we are blessed with many, many professional service agencies. As a result, it is not an easy sell to offer ham radio operators as a volunteer force. No one wants a volunteer…well, until they need one. One place where there is a connection for hams has been the CERT courses that are being offered. The notion being that you and your neighbors should be prepared to serve as first responders in your neighborhood in the event of a true disaster, since most public service might be overwhelmed. There has been an increase in interest in ham radio among this population and I think it is a welcome trend.

So, see you around the block, if not on the air.

Hamfest in Yuma

A Ham Fest in Yuma, Arizona. Yuma? For those of you without a sense of American geography, Yuma is in the very bottom corner of Arizona, next to Mexico and California. And yes, it is still part of the USA. Known best for its old territorial prison and the last port of entry for the Colorado River, before they drained all of the water out of it to irrigate the desert farm land. Yuma is a desert town…and home to a huge Marine base. Yuma is also home for my in-laws and as i was reading the last issue of QST, I saw an ad for the Yuma ham fest, so, we built a trip to see the in-laws around the ham fest.

The ham fest is actually at the Yuma Fairgrounds…and most of the attendees drive up in their RV’s (Yuma is the summer home to about 30,000 snow birds from all over, who drive down and spend the winter living out of their aluminum mobile homes.) So picture the fair grounds loaded with about 100 parked RV’s, and in front of each is a pile of ham goodies for sale. There are four large exhibit buildings, but only one building has exhibitors…not a large pile of vendors, but some rather interesting ones. Seems, that the survivalist movement has discovered ham radio…so there were a bunch of exhibitors who were selling strange tools to survive the …well, whatever. I spent most of my time and money with one guy who, it turns out, spent his entire professional career soldering electronics He had a many different types of soldering stations and stories for them all. He was fascinating to talk to and a font of fabulous information. (I did get his business card!!) He was from California. As you can imagine, there were many vendors selling wares that were suitable for RV applications…many end fed slopers and extension poles for RV mounts.

Outside the main building, a large crowd was huddled around a couple of guys preparing to launch their weather balloon with a ham radio APRS, slow scan and fast scan camera equipment. I watched the proceedings and was very impressed with the launch and flight operation. We had a beautiful picture of the earth below as it climbed to nearly 40,000 feet and went about 35 miles down range. You have to coordinate these launches with the Marine base…but I wondered what would have happened if the winds were blowing south, and had taken the balloon to Mexico! Also, I understand the ballon swells to almost 15 feet in diameter as it ascends and eventually bursts, sending the gear back to earth (look out below…well, in Yuma, there isn’t much out there) so unless you are a hapless rattlesnake, most people are safe from the descending gear.

The other two buildings had VE testing in one and seminars in the other. The seminars were fascinating…although I could not stay for some of the better ones on Friday afternoon.

I didn’t spend all of my money in Yuma. I did save some for Dayton. It was really fun to visit fellow hams in such a distant land…and find that we all speak the same lingo and have the same interests. I wish I could have spent more time at the hamfest…but I did try to be mindful of my limited time with my in-laws and my most tolerant wife.

Teaching teachers about ham radio

Don Whiteman KK9H, Dave Hewitt N3BXY, Derick Bonewitz AB9PR, and I spent a recent Saturday morning at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI showing 15 middle school and high school teachers ways they could integrate ham radio into their classroom. It was an exciting day.

As some of you know, we are facing a PR/Membership dilemma in this hobby. Many of us came to ham radio listening to shortwave broadcasts. Most of that is gone today, for various reasons. Others came to ham radio as a result of scouting! (I had to learn Morse code as part of my First Class requirements and that kept many others from ever getting past that rank). Since those days, ham radio has gone deep underground. It is virtually invisible to the public. Over the years, technology changed, radio changed, the Internet was born, and the iPhone generation was born. Wither goest ham radio? Yeah…that’s right…”Is ham radio even around anymore?” we were asked?

You bet! Part of it is in the phone you use, or the car radio that uses satellite technology, or the remote controller for your TV or your wireless phones at home. We are surrounded by wireless technologies…but most people don’t realize that ham radio has been there all along. Meanwhile, we are also facing a tremendous shortage of technically inclined young people so schools are trying to combine disciplines into something called STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. So, what do you think? Do you think Ham radio could play a part here?

Well, that was the gist of what we were proposing. There are countless ways in which ham radio can be used in the classroom, not only to teach core academic skills, but to enhance communications.

Turns out that Lynne Zielinski, a retired science teacher from Glenbrook North, and who spoke to us at the NSRC winter banquet last year, invited us to be part of an extension program Yerkes offers science teachers to find new ways to bring STEM to the classroom. We jumped at the opportunity (even though it was the same day as our own Winter Banquet that many of us were going to attend!)

By all accounts, it was a smash hit. We did an overview of what ham radio is, how we can use it to teach simple science principles, and then let them enjoy some of the more common operating modes - SSB, AM, PSK – as well as experience several of the modes on the fringe of our hobby…meteor scatter, moon bounce and the like (it was Yerkes after all!)

Yerkes is part of the University of Chicago and still houses the world largest refracting telescope. In its day, it was the state of the art facility of the discipline and was the site of some very seminal discoveries itself about our sun and galaxy. Famous people walked the halls, including Albert Einstein and Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, who did studies on white dwarf stars and other stellar structures.

Yes, Yerkes would be a great place for a Field Day or a special events station and the door is open for us to explore that idea with the folks at Yerkes. For now, we have found several new ways for us to introduce ham radio to another generation of students (and teachers). To me, this is our next charge…not only to keep the hobby alive, but to keep it vital. We must find ways to continue to get our story out to students and young people. We don’t have to compete with iPads - we offer our own unique experience, once people know we are out there. In fact, there are many ham radio related apps for ham radio on the iPad already! We just need to bring it to people’s attention.

Rob
K9RST

A Holiday KISS

The other day my mother’s 7 year old iMac stopped producing a video signal. Being naturally resistant to purchasing service, I started by searching the web for solutions. This strategy has served me well for many of my other monitors…buy some capacitors and do a little soldering. No brainer. It was fascinating to see the long chain of emails related to other folks who had similar complaints. Turns out that there was a large batch of capacitors made some years back that have all gone bad. Dell, I guess, spent millions replacing their capacitors. I downloaded the 35 page booklet on how to access the inside components of this iMAC. This is one of Apple’s early efforts to put the monitor, CPU, hard drive and DVD player all in one sleek device. So you have all of this equipment stuffed in the monitor shell (about an inch thick). Pretty nice deal, until you have to fix it.

So, as I dug into the issue, there are about 30 capacitors that could be replaced, if you can get down to them. You might spend 4 hours digging down to the point where they are installed on the mother board. So, knowing that I don’t have that kind of time, or the special tools needed to even crack the case, I headed off to the Apple store for their advice. We experimented – and in their wisdom, they did provide for a monitor out plug on the back of the machine. We plugged in a test monitor…and it worked just fine! So the solution presented itself: buy a new monitor and plug it….and …eh…wait…yeah, you need a mini VGA plug. OK. Apple should have that. Right? Not right. They don’t carry anything like that anymore, and neither do many other big box stores. If it doesn’t support something in their current inventory, they don’t stock it. So, back to the Internet…where I did find the cable and monitor and it is being delivered today. Doesn’t do much for my hope to complete the task in a couple of hours, but patience is a virtue we all need to learn in this modern age.

So, this set me off on my current rage…cables. In our desire to have the latest, hottest gizmo, manufacturers are killing themselves to produce stuff faster and faster…and they are just leaving the after-market for others to feed on. I have a bag of power cables for my phones, computers and accessories that provide a dazzling array of connections…most of which are now obsolete. I was reading that Europe is considering a law to make all power connections the same….THE SAME…so that you don’t have this cacophony of cables. I know, this might impede progress and certainly the economic recovery…but think of the relief it will provide the landfills!

Meanwhile, back to high tech stuff…I finally found time start hunting for ham Apps for my iPad…there really are quite a few…but they all seem to stop when you get to the all too important INTERFACE. You need to get adapters to take their 19 pin power plug to anything else…and that is exactly how Apple wants it. They don’t want you messing with the plumbing. (Thank you very much…they are so thoughtful). I learned yesterday that they too are planning to change the power plug to yet another soon! Now I know I am in the wrong business. I need to manufacturer adapters and plugs for the old stuff.

Somewhere in between all of this ham radio finds itself. It is increasingly difficult to build your own gear, so we are left to be adapters…adjusters to what we have been given. For this reason, most radios today are being designed to be all things to all people, which means they are extraordinarily complex and expensive. So, as much as I love my technology, I have to wonder what we have done to ourselves. What price have we all paid for living on the edge of sanity and innovation? For me, I am hanging on to my bag collection of wacky adapters and plugs…you never know when you will need that odd ball piece.

So, this Holiday season, reflect on this issues when you buy that camera, iPhone, radio, even your toaster! Enjoy the season with loved ones and get on your radios! Keep it simple (KISS…you can add the last word if you choose). That’s my plan.

Helping hams

When I first joined the Club, there was an active group who worked several weekends a month helping other hams with their stations. We took down towers and antennas. We put up towers and antennas. It was a fun way to meet members of the club and provide an actual service. Since that time, we still do this work, but the volume has dropped considerably. Perhaps it is because so few seem to be on HF? Or perhaps, more are doing this work on their own? I know that I benefited greatly from these work parties, especially in the early days of my ham radio career when I was eager to learn as much as I could about grounding or antennas or even operating. As many of you know, I have an 8 foot sling shot that we have all used on Field Day…now many others have the same device, so the demand for is has diminished, but I still get to do some house calls.

Recently, Randy K9OR asked me over to help put up – well, first take down – his old 80 meter wire. We slung it up there maybe 7 years ago. He had only one request then…get the antenna up the tree in the corner of his lot without having to get on his neighbor’s property. It was a very difficult shot, but I just aimed and nailed it on the first shot. Well that antenna was very well anchored. The tree literally grew around the dogbone at the end of the wire, which is why it was impossible to get down. Pulling with all our strength, we couldn’t get the old wire antenna down at all. So, using a little old Yankee ingenuity (I think I have a bit of MacGyver in my gene pool), I took an extension ladder and braced it up against the base of a tree and then took the wire from the antenna and wrapped it around the end of the ladder…making a giant lever. Now we had a mechanical advantage and we pulled the wire right out of the dog bone (it remained in the tree), with almost no effort. So, we got the wire out. The next challenge was putting up a support rope for the new antenna. I wasn’t as lucky this time. Took several shots, but eventually we did get it and we never had to get on his neighbor’s property. Randy now has a new 80/40 dipole. We had a great time installing his new gear…and I got to practice my sling shot skills.

Cables, Connectors and me

I have been around this hobby long enough to have collected enough wacky cables with unique connectors to fill two file cabinets. I keep them in plastic bags so that the cables don’t mate at night (have you ever noticed how cables will entwine if you just put them in a drawer? The plastic bag solved that problem…it s a social thing. Anyway, I have a Yaesu 8800 radio that needs a unique programming cable. I had the software, but not the cable. I did have one cable I bought on the Internet from a manufacturer in Hong Kong. When it arrived it had a driver disk that didn’t work. I remember sending the guy a note saying his software didn’t work and he send me the file via email…but that was 4 years ago. That’s when I found out my cheap Internet purchase wasn’t such a bargain.

Still, now I needed that cable again. So I ripped through my drawer looking for that darn cable…I had every strange cable but the one I needed. After spending almost a day looking for the programming cable, I decided I was better off just buying a new one…and I made sure it had a driver this time. It arrived the next day and worked like a champ. Then, of course, I found the first cable I bought, along with zillions of other cables for old cameras, obsolete recorders and power cables for every imaginable cell phone that was made since 1995, etc. etc. 

Yeah, the drawer was stuffed. What is it about ham radio that demands that we save every connector, every scrap of wire? I know for me it is the hope that one day there will be a need for that one cable…and, of course, when that day comes, I probably won’t be able to find it and I will have to just buy another. Welcome to ham radio!

Thoughts before the Chicago Marathon

As I sit on the eve before I join about 110 other ham radio operators from three states to work on the Bank of America’s Chicago Marathon, it has given me some time to reflect on this incredible community we have created.

First, what are we bringing to the party? We represent a diverse group of largely professional talent that has come to this hobby as a source of fun, education and service. We come prepared with our own equipment and talents. Many of us had additional training in how to be useful parts of larger responses.

Yet, the unfortunate fact is that most people belittle the contribution we could make because they see the hobby as out dated or not relevant for our iPod/iPad/iPhone generation. So, I am most grateful that the organizers of this event that they have come to realize that ham radio can play an important part and the operators who work behind the radios have much more to offer than just a car loaded with antennas and a few radios. We have become valued because we have shown that we can deliver for the medical teams who are deployed along the 26 miles of the course and they have come to depend on use for their communication back to Event Command. So, yes, working this event has been very rewarding …but so have many of the other public service events that I have been part of this year.

In June, I worked as a SAG (support) car for the Tour de Cure Bike race. Hams were used at rest areas and as rovers helping bikers who have flats or are exhausted or in some cases, needed to be transported to other places. Radio has connected us with these events and offered ways for the sponsors to provide a professional level of support to their riders. Same is true with the Evanston Bike Club’s North Shore Century. 30 hams from various clubs, although largely from ours, gave the 1900 riders of that event a sense of security and safety that you would not have ordinarily felt if you were out riding on your own. Our repeater, the tool we use every day to chat with one another, became an incredible important lifeline for this organization. The riders expressed their appreciation by waving or commenting to us when they were riding in our cars. They were very impressed with our professionalism!

So, all of these public service events help to give an important face to ham radio. Yes, unfortunately most people associate ham radio with their father’s generation or with the Titanic! And, you can’t totally blame them. Where else do they even see us working our magic? Well, in our basements, in closets or tucked away in attic ham shacks? We are invisible …so it is incredibly important that we come out and support these events, just so people know we are here. So our voices can be heard! So the public can see what we can do. Personally, I am very proud of the public service work I have done using ham radio as the tool. It has been a most rewarding activity. If you have not yet helped out with one of these events, try one. There is something happening almost every weekend and many of these could use an additional ham radio volunteer.

Meanwhile, I just want to say thank to the hundreds of you who have already said “yes” and have done your part to help us deliver for our various sponsors. Slowly, we are making a difference and younger people are seeing that there is much more than “i_” …

Rob K9RST

North to Alaska

I am in the middle of packing for a two week trip to Alaska…and before anyone even asks, no, I am not bringing a radio. I know, I should, but as I have become one of the members of the medical team (for which I just took a 40 hours Wilderness Medicine Course), I am going to be burdened with several pounds of medical supplies. This course is terrific in that it really teaches you how to provide first aid, if needed. I also took an American Heart Association CPR and First Aid course and I found it very frustrating because for almost every single condition, they made it clear you should call 911 first, then apply an band-aid or do CPR (if needed). The point here is that we all live in communities that are powerfully connected to multiple health systems and getting care in Glenview, most of the time, should only take a few minutes. Where I am headed, professional medical care might be days away. So, the more first aid you really know, the more likely we can actually help someone. Of course, I am not planning on being bear bait…I don’t have enough gauze for that kind of encounter!

My granddaughter called the other day at 7 a.m. and asked if we could take her and her brother to the outdoor fair in Northbrook, at the Village Green Park. How can I say no to a seven year old? This is the same park where we used to hold our annual Field Day, until the village decided that they needed to have a very sizeable fee for its use. I presume the event organizers paid dearly for the abuse they caused to the lawn from the enormous foot traffic and large carnival equipment that had taken over the small park. Of course, she wanted to ride the Gravitron…it has been a while since I rode on any carnival ride, so I just said sure and went along. We got inside this capsule, which turned out to be a huge centrifuge. We spun around at tremendous speed, blasting my body against the wall. It was really a hoot, if not entirely disorienting but I survived and felt like the real hero grandparent!!! (Thank goodness she didn’t ask to go back, however). At one point, I left her with a couple of friends while I sought out a necessary room. As I was racing along trying to find the port-a-potties, an older guy grabs me and says, “Hey, are you a ham?” I was kind of taken aback. How did he know I was a ham? Did he know me from the Club? Field Day? He was quite friendly and we spoke very briefly…and, after I had found the rest room and was standing in front of one of those silly warped mirrors, it suddenly dawned on me why he knew me…I was wearing my Field Day shirt from 2006!! And here I thought maybe I was famous!

For me personally, this summer has shot by with several out of town trips, and ailing parents to care for, so ham radio other than Field Day has been an afterthought. So, I was grateful to the ham at the park who reminded me of the little community that is shaped by ham radio. I am in the middle of recruiting 110 hams to support the Chicago Marathon, and right now, our numbers are kind of low…then I got an email from one of our long time volunteers from Peoria stating that he would be glad to recruit more hams from his town, to serve two aid stations. It is this sort of thing that always pumps me up about the people who are in this hobby. Hams are indeed friendly as a group, but they are also quick to help when the time comes. We are as concerned about public service as we are about making DX contacts. For that, I am grateful to be part of this fine community. And, by the way, if you want to help out with the Marathon in October or the Evanston Century in September, just drop me a note and I will get you on the mailing lists.

73’s for now…back around the 18th of August, hopefully many photos and stories to tell! I will have to leave the radio work to you folks for now.

Rob K9RST

Field Day Reflections

In many ways this was our best overall Field Day performance ever. We had the best turn out for set up and take down; we had the most operators in some time; the food was terrific, the weather great, the camaraderie was fabulous. Personally, I got but a scant hour of restless sleep about 7 a.m., but for me, this was the best year operating. I worked the late night shift with Ron WM9Q. When Mark WA9IVH popped his head in the SSB tent at 6 am, I was thrilled to give up the operating chair. We had fabulous runs on 15, 40 and 80 meters through the night. For a while, California was booming into our location better than FM….and people were lined up to call us. It was just amazing being at this end of a pile up and trying to keep up. At one point while I was logging, I was backed up three deep…it was that crazy.

The leadership team is already meeting to discuss plans for next year…we see plenty of places to make improvements, but certainly, we would love to hear from you. What was your experience?

How can we do things better? How can we include more people? How can we involve more youth and local officials? In the end, that is the ultimate point of Field Day, to get others to see what ham radio is and what it can be when needed.

In the 11 years I have been working our Club’s Field Day, this was our best team effort. But we all know we can do better and that is the passion that keeps feeding the day. I am currently working on a documentary in Guatemala …and I can’t work radio because I am laden with video gear…when I get home, I get to relive Field day all over again because everything was dumped in my garage! Field Day is fun, but it is also a ton of work for a few folks who hold down some key jobs…so I would like to thank the guys who worked the hardest to make this year’s event the success it was:

Randy K9OR, who does everything that no one else remembers to do, including tracking our scores and bringing tons of gear; Randy also served as our CW station captain with Pete AG3R, and Don KK9H. We were thrilled to have veteran CW op Bill W8LVN back behind the key this year. Mark WA9IVH served as SSB and RTTY captain. Doc K9JPE did a great job coaching the GOTA station. Dave N3BXY was always building something that needed to get made. Ron K9RH, Ron WM9Q, and Ed N9VTU were always around for prep, clean up and the nasty stuff. The great cooking team was headed by John KA9QJX, Larry AE9E, and Howard N9RUI. Al KC9EAA really took control of the hospital tent. Mike N9GHP and Al built a nice oasis in the middle of the site for visitors. Ed N9VTU did yeoman service getting fliers out to various libraries in the area…and Jordan W9QKE did all of the pre-event publicity. If I missed anyone, I apologize. It takes a village to raise a Field Day event…so thanks to all who participated this year.

Ham radio and making new friends

I am in the process of preparing for Field Day…a ritual that I have done for many years now.  I remember when I was asked to take over Field Day, many years ago, I picked up the club’s inventory of equipment from the person who had been running the event and I was surprised when he handed me three grocery bags of cable and wire!  Today, we have close to 30 storage tubs of antennas, coax, PR materials, tents - a complete movable feast.  In fact, we need a small truck to carry it all! My interest in Field Day started  partly from my days as a Boy Scout leader, when I had to manage the equipment for a growing troop with nearly 100 scouts. Field Day is considerably less complicated…or is it?  The best part of Field Day today is that we have developed one heck of a solid team of like-minded individuals who have really made the project fun.  We have a steering committee with at least 12 people – and a huge supporting cast of folks who come out to support Field Day.   Which brings me to the point of this month’s blog…ham radio is about making friends!  I never imagined that my interest in this hobby would introduce me to such a wonderfully diverse, bright group of people.  I know most of us come to the hobby to explore electronics or because we like talking on the radio, and over the years I have pursued those activities with vigor.

But the fringe benefit has been the great friends I have made along the way, from all walks of life.  I can count lawyers, doctors, engineers, accountants, librarians, businessmen, that have all been attracted to this hobby.  What has been truly marvelous is that while we all have strong political feelings,  that is not what draws us together.  We have plenty of great subjects to discuss without even considering what political or religious persuasion they might hold.   Of course, we can have those kinds of discussions as well,  but in these days of super polarized positions, it is kind of fun to remember what it is like to talk to someone about something other than politics or the economy!  They all may have started out as Elmers, but along the way, they became great friends.

This week, I ran into Bill Steffey, NY9H, a long time member of NSRC who was very active in the local ham radio community until he moved to Pennsylvania a few years ago.  Bill took his great enthusiasm for the hobby along with his huge tower and antennas and has slowly built a ham radio community around him at his new QTH.  He is now President and Field Day Chair for his local club, which has about 125 members.  And I recently saw Mike Anderson, WV7T, another long standing member of this club. When he and his wife moved to Colorado Springs, they took their hobby with them.  Mike is now the center of a robust community largely of his own making.  He has become a very active teacher for all ham license grades.  

These are just some of the folks that I have gotten to know locally, who now are in different parts of the country – still working the hobby.  This doesn’t include the growing number of operators around the world that I have also begun to get to know.  I am not the most aggressive DX’er, but I have done enough to have made friends in several countries, some of whom I have looked up while I was in Germany or France, for instance.

As I was talking to a new group of ham’s at Rich Davidson’s VE exam the other night, I was reflecting on the 10 VE’s who were there to help out, and the number of terrific people that this club and this hobby has brought into my life.  This is one of the fringe benefits of ham radio that I just never imagined would become so valued.  In fact, some of my ham radio buddies have become my best buddies.  Sometimes sharing a cup of coffee – having an eyeball QSO – has kept me off the radio, but make no mistake, ham radio is what brought us together in the first place.

So, get on the radio – make a friend for life.

See you all on Field Day.

Rob K9RST