When I was growing up in South Bend, I was a member of a Scouting Explorer Post at WSBT. We did all sorts of production work including helping with remote broadcasts (we had to haul those huge cables that were needed for the cameras in those days). We also produced a weekly radio show that, in retrospect, did more to prepare me for my career in video production than almost any other activity. Anyway, once a month, the station would shut down overnight for transmitter maintenance. We went once to help out and it was quite an education. Basically, they would tear the entire place down completely, clean and replace tubes and components preemptively.
Not that I am even that organized, but generally, during the holiday season, I try to do the same to my ham shack (and office). First off, you would be amazed how much dust collects amongst all of the radio gear and secondly, it gives you a chance to refresh your memory about why you installed things a particular manner (good practice #27…label cables!). My station, like most of ours, started humbly enough and then, as we acquired new radios or accessories, we quickly would add wires. Soon you have a hairball! So, I am in the process of totally re-engineering my ham shack for the umpti-umpth time. I have a new solar panel powered battery backup system I have been working on for far too long. One of my Scouting friends returned one of my boat anchor radios, the Kenwood TS520, so I have been trying to figure out how to get that installed. Also, after a season of public service work, my UHF/VHF radios are just piled high. Need to organize and build a go-kit (there’s a New Year’s resolution!). Amongst the biggest issues I need to straighten out are my coaxes. In the old days, I would use almost any piece of coax I could find and use it. As I have added radios, I am now finding I am using the wrong type of coax for the band or now it is time to replace the older cables with newer ones that might be better suited for the assignment. That is typically part of my summer maintenance program (I call it a program but really it is on a when I get to it basis.) This seems more true to the case, as I learn more about good radio and engineering practice, I re-build my humble shack.
So, call it a New Year’s resolution or whatever, but it seems to be a good practice to continue. My biggest issue is the computer that I have been using in the shack. It is a Windows XP driven PC and the time has come to move it up to the next generation of computing technology (There is always something to change).
I often wonder if we are the last of a breed. I am speaking mostly of people who love the power of radio to beam RF to various devices and learn about new applications. It is true that the current generation of young people feed on “Apps”…perhaps that is where their passions will lie. My cousin’s son is an IT engineer and has been working for the past three summers with Microsoft building Apps. Apparently, he has a real knack for the skill as they are offering him a very nice job (with a commensurate salary) when he graduates. You don’t hear about those opportunities in the radio field so much. Building a career in commercial radio is very bleak these days. Cell phones might be the closest field to radio, but those have become small computers and with phones as an afterthought. Clearly, the engineering passion for the younger generations definitely is computer driven. So, that’s why I wonder if we will ever get the numbers of young people into ham radio? Seems to me that when I was younger (and couldn’t afford much), I caught the fire for radio. That early interest was fueled when I finally could devote more time and resources (meaning money) to the hobby. I watch my own grand children. Every day they come down to play with my iPad…oh, they do enjoy pretend to talk on the radio and messing with all of the buttons in my shack, but largely they are obsessed with the interactive experiences they can enjoy on an iPad. Something to ponder while the temperatures outside are so frightening!
For me, I am grateful to get my ham shack back in operation and have renewed my vow to make at least one contact per day. I wish one and all a healthy and joyous New Year.
73 Rob K9RST