Does ham radio still really exist?
So, there I was standing in front of this kindly older lady who runs the business department for the Glenview Public Library. I was there to request a couple of dates for VE sessions for the Fall. She suddenly stopped her research on dates and asked…”This is for the ham radio group? Do people still do ham radio? What are you doing again?” Well, this opened the door for my 2 minute elevator speech about what ham radio is today. Yes, Helen, we still are around and stronger than ever in some ways. And, not only are we an educational organization, we often perform public service for events like the Chicago Marathon, or Skywarn to support the Weather service or we can provide support for larger, more serious catastrophes. Well, that seemed to appease her curiosity and got us talking about the good old days, and her father’s interest in radio. Why did all of our fathers play with radio?
Yes, ham radio exists, but we have hidden ourselves away in dark basement shacks. Even more, our antennas are in full retreat in many cases. We are not visible anymore…which is the entire point of Field Day. At least for one weekend a year, we drag our gear outside to show the world what we can do. Yes, we have made it a friendly contest but we have not done a great job of bringing the world to us. Partly that is our fault. We have chosen a site that has many amenities, but it not the most public of sites. Fact is, it is darn hard to find public spaces that would allow us to operate…some people put Field Day on in malls and parking lots. But far too many have elected to move their operations inside the public service facilities that many of the clubs have now as partners. Nothing wrong with that strategy! At least they have air conditioning! But, it doesn’t bring our story to the public. Telling the public our story through the media has become almost impossible as well, unless you have some peculiar angle that catches their attention. So, what does all of this mean? It means each one of us has an obligation to try to bring our friends and neighbors to our site. Bring them out and show them around. Show them that we have some pretty exciting technology and yes, ham radio really does still exist.
At our next meeting, we will be discussing many topics that relate to being prepared for emergencies, the likes of which Field Day is meant to simulate. Personally, I love the challenge of setting up stations in the outdoors, fighting Mother Nature and getting on the radio. Our Field Day has something for everyone, and I invite you to participate. Want to help some Cub Scouts learn about radio? Join me in teaching them at the Field Day site. Want to help cook? Yes, we have people who do that too! Want to operate? We have SSB, CW stations to operate. There is a GOTA (Get on the Air) station set up just for those of you who have not been on HF much and want to try it out. We also have a bonus station working 6 meters…the tent I call the Grabowski tent - you call and call and call, and sometimes you wake up the 6 meter gods and get slammed with pile ups. It can be both fun and maddening, but you don’t know what is out there unless you call. So, it rewards only those who work the band (sometimes)! We also have many flyers to send out to various places to encourage the public to find us.
Everyone is welcome to join us for our Field Day feast…we encourage you to bring a side dish, salad or dessert. Whatever is left over feeds the people who work overnight on the bands! The feast begins around 4:30-ish.
Field Day really is a feast celebrating ham radio. Come on out! (And bring some mosquito repellent and sun screen…this Field Day is outdoors!)
73 Rob K9RST