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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

The Digital LID and His Elmers

Michael Cozzi (KD8TUT) on August 20, 2014
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Previously, I wrote a very negative article about politics between ARCs. In this next installment, I'd like to talk about the good experiences. As a life long lover of electronics and radio, it's only fair to write about the "good stuff" too.


Love me: I am the "Digital LID"

My first re-introduction to Ham radio was through an "ionosphere simulation" called Hamsphere in May of 2012. This program tries to be a rough approximation of HF operations. I tried the demo, loved it, and bought a membership.

At that point I carried my laptop with me everywhere, making simulated calls and having a great time- truly wondering why I had left radio in the first place. But no matter... I was "playing Ham radio".

One of the nice things about Hamsphere was that there were both licensed and unlicensed operators, from all countries, who were there for various reasons. Some because they had antenna restrictions, some because they were too old for tower climbing, some because they were 11 meter hobby guys, some because they just liked it. But licensed or non licensed everyone was getting a marginal radio fix.

After being on the system for about two weeks, I fell into a late night cyber-QSO with a gentleman named Greg S. He was a commercial radio engineer who had a life long SWL addiction. But even as a non ham he knew how to really operate properly. He could chair a round table very well. He started encouraging me to "get the ticket".

At the same time, Vic VE3JAR, held many encouraging QSOs with me. As an older ham who liked the idea of a simulated radio system, he was always telling people who were interested to "go for it" and get the ticket.

These guys really put the fire under my boiler.

Admittedly, I dragged my feet until November of 2012, but did start studying a little. Some of it was review from my electronics background.

My test date was January 9th 2013, and I found an exam with the Schaumburg ARC and passed the Technician exam.

When my call hit the ULS a few days later, I "hit the real airwaves" through Echolink and the Schaumburg ARC repeater, graduating from "Digital LID" to a "JANH"- Just Another New Ham.

I'll also admit to feeling pretty darned proud about returning to Hamsphere with a Ham call. Now it was my turn to encourage people to get their licenses... and I sure do!

The Elmer-cup Over-floweth

When I passed the Tech exam I was already well into into the materials for General, much of this was review for me, and I was confident I could pass.

Picking a random local exam from the ARRL website, I called the number for the ARC, a person answered the phone, and then spent 3 hours on the phone with me, in the middle of a work day, talking to me about radio, testing, recent activities... an amazing amount of topics. This was the president of the club, James KA2DRQ, and this marked the moment this guy took me under his wing.

From then on, I got a call from him every week. How are you doing? Are you coming to the club breakfast? Did you get a radio yet? Can you reach the repeater? Check out these other clubs... it went on and on.

I passed both the General and Amateur Extra with this club, the 220Mhz Guys, in February and March of 2013. And it was as if the whole club was singing like angels over the "new ham".

But I wasn't the only one. Others had passed their exams there, and they were treated the same. They were encouraged, mentored, welcomed, and offered a seat at the table. And many of them stayed as members.

For instance, I had the opportunity to play with some old VHF/UHF equipment I'd never have the opportunity to play with- old Motorola gear. Simply because an older Ham needed help moving the stuff from one storage locker to another. I was handed a full box of old Ham books and magazines. Just because someone thought I should read them. I could (and did) call any of the officers of the club with a technical issue or question.

When my first radio arrived, it was a 2m/440 chinese thing. Which I had chosen for it's inexpensive price and disposability. At 5 watts with a rubber duck, the only repeaters I could hit were a set of repeaters run by The Chicago FM Club. The club with the largest repeater system in the city. These guys had technical know how, transmit and recieve range, and a vast membership. Intimidating to say the least.

Sadly, their club meetings are on an evening when I need to attend a mandatory board meeting. No way to get out of that. So I was only able to attend once, and join the club.

However, guys like Tom KB9AJM, were always around to chat with. And chat with them I did. But what is most interesting about Tom, will not be apparent until later.

The Return of the "Digital LID"

Somewhere during the first couple of months of "Hamdom" I found Remote Hams, a real-RF system where donor Hams, make their radios available to other Hams, via the internet. This was a real eye opener. First because it was free, and second because there were so many radios available.

During my first year as a Ham I was able to remotely run a Flex 3000, Icom 756 Pro III, Yaesu FTDX-5000, Kenwood TS-480, and a number of others. There were three formidable stations in Michigan, my home state, run by Bill N1ASS, Rick, K8WZS, and Roger W8RJ. All three of these guys were helpful, granted transmit ability on their radios, and made suggestions occasionally. I had asked Bill for a station tour to see his Carolina Windom at 90ft, but ended up not being able to make it... but it was a great testament to his Elmer-dom that he was willing.

Rick K8WRZ however stepped up to the plate as a full-on Elmer. This guy spent time just sitting there watching and listening to me make calls on all the HF bands. He encouraged me to make calls when mic shy. He taught me multiple ways to bust pileups by changing the timing of your call. He explained everything in great detail... over and over until I understood. Then made sure I understood by making sure I wasn't parroting the right answer. He indoctrinated me. His co-admin Bill AC8QO befriended me, he was also a new Ham.

And after he had mentored me, made fun of me (and Bill), drilled me (and Bill), berated me (and Bill), and spent countless nights rag chewing with me (and Bill), he gave me admin rights on his radio along with his co-admin (Bill). Both have become good friends. And I do not make friends easily.

Going Dark

Part of the reason I had returned to Chicago on a part time, then full time, basis was to care for my mother who was, to be direct, slowly dying of cancer.

During this time I would be very active on the air, and in clubs, when she was doing well. And when she was not doing well I would have to stop doing radio things, and care for her.

There's nothing harder than providing end of life care for a person, let alone your own mother. But I had made the commitment and would carry it through no matter what.

So as mom edged in and out of relative health, I edged in and out of the Ham community.

Around November of 2013, mom started doing not so well. The chemo was taking a toll. And I was in ultra-full time mode. Meals when needed, doctors visits, ECT.

While this was going on James, the president of the 220Mhz guys, moved on to something new, and Kelvin W9BBQ, the Vice President, took over as President. They put up a massive 220mhz repeater with big receive and transmit. The Chicago FM Club continued rag-chewing like rascals on their very formidable and intimidating repeater system (it really is a technical marvel). And Rick K8WZS, and his Remote Hams TS-480, kept breaking-in new hams while he made fun of his co-admins.

And I... went dark. From January until the end of May... I was no where to be found. Except for some short QSOs on UHF/VHF and a bit of rag chew with Rick.

But as I disappeared, messages came in from the hams I knew. Rick would drop me Skype messages to keep me in the loop. Kelvin would drop me a facebook message. Club Vice President Steve KB9DSQ would call from time to time to check in. James the former president, would talk to me on the phone. When I popped up on a repeater Tom KB9AJM would check in. These guys remained. They were there even when I could not key a mic.

Saying Goodbye

On May 24th 2014, my mother passed away. She had broken her hip on Mother's Day morning while standing up to turn off her alarm clock.

There was not much to do for mom after she passed except to grieve (which I'm still doing). However, I was immediately thrust back into having "My Life". Suddenly, and without mercy, I am my own person again- though at great and extreme expense.

The Return of the Ham

I've been advised, that people in my position take a lot of time doing "personal" things for as long as a year after providing care to another person in the manner I did. They've told me not to rush... that the experience has injured me, and that I should do what I want for a while. There's logic in that, because for roughly two years, I have been centered on mom's illness. Now it's my job to recover.

In talking with a good non-ham friend, I asked him in a befuddled manner what he thought I should do now. He said "What do you want to do"?

The answer was clear: Get Back On the Air.

So what is the point of all this? if you think this article is about my mom, you've completely missed the point!

It's because I now know what real ham radio is:

1. It's when my club, the 220Mhz Guys, supported me, and welcomed me home on our new repeater. When they educated me and looked after my success as a Ham. When they check on how I'm doing. And when we share those long 8 hour breakfasts full of long interesting conversations.

2. It's when I check into the Chicago FM Club 220mhz roundtable, and they hold a moment of silence for my mother. Because Tom KB9AJM remembered and asked how mom was doing earlier in the day- and I hadn't talked to him in months.

3. It's when a Ham in Canada and a commercial radio engineer in New York, on a VOIP system, make new hams by encouraging them to really get licensed.

4. It's when a guy, Rick K8WZS (and Bill AC8QO), take on a baby Ham, teach him, befriend him, and support him even in things outside radio. Then trusts him to run his whole radio system. It's when you get so used to talking to the guy every day, you feel weird if you do not.

5. It's when Bob KC9UJY, who I talked to simplex every Thursday, remembers me and helps range test the repeater while I'm driving.

It's when beyond the technology, which is finite, we connect and work together for the betterment of each other, and the hobby- which is an infinite endeavor.

I think I get it now.

KD8TUT

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
 
The Digital LID and His Elmers  
by WB6DGN on August 20, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Very nice articles (also the one on your QRZ page). What a wonderful family. The support that you received from your family is beyond measure and your words show hat it has borne fruit. You are truly blessed.
Tom
 
The Digital LID and His Elmers  
by HA7WX on August 20, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Michael. My sincerest condolences for your mother and God bless you and yours.
Life is plenty with challenges because of family concerns and also because of professional concerns.
XYL struggled and suffered several months ago trying doing her best to find out how to save her father who had colon cancer and liver cirrhosis.
Fortunately the 66 year old man could make it through even though his liver is still in a critical condition but at least stable. Now everybody has some relief.
As a consequence XYL is nowadays struggling of (luckily minor) health issues we hope she'll get better soon.
The loss of a family member is the worst one can experience in life. Luckily my parents are alive and well but i remember loosing my beloved granny back in 1994.
HAM radio is a hobby and it's from time to time hard to maintain regular presence on the nets. As life goes on I personally experience I have less and less time to be beside my rigs.
73s de Chris HA7WX
 
RE: The Digital LID and His Elmers  
by N4UM on August 20, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article.

If you remember your high school Latin, the word amateur is derived from the Latin word for love - remember that stuff about amas, amat etc?

You sound like a real amateur to me and you've obviously been exposed to a number of other real amateurs - not just people that have radio licenses.
 
The Digital LID and His Elmers  
by KH6DC on August 20, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Awesome article, keep 'em coming!

73, Delwyn KH6DC
 
The Digital LID and His Elmers  
by AA9G on August 20, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article. I too was my moms primary care giver while she suffered from pancreatic cancer. I have been EXACTLY where you are now and not so long ago. All you can do, Michael, is step forward one day at a time. It hurts, it sucks, it seems interminable. There will be some good days and quite a few horrible days (and nights).
Be with your friends, try and get out and do things. The first year is the toughest part. After that, it gets better.
73,
David
 
RE: The Digital LID and His Elmers  
by N0QJA on August 20, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I lost my wife in 2009 so this year will be the 5th year (in September) without her. I had a string of them.. 2008 was my father, 2009, my wife, and 2010 my brother. I know how you feel.. Use the energy you would have used on her to better yourself. I went through some tough stuff myself and I am still on the air occasionally on 2 Meters and do a little HF. All the guys at the local ham club were a lot of help to me to in that time.
 
RE: The Digital LID and His Elmers  
by N0QJA on August 20, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I lost my wife in 2009 so this year will be the 5th year (in September) without her. I had a string of them.. 2008 was my father, 2009, my wife, and 2010 my brother. I know how you feel.. Use the energy you would have used on her to better yourself. I went through some tough stuff myself and I am still on the air occasionally on 2 Meters and do a little HF. All the guys at the local ham club were a lot of help to me to in that time.
 
RE: The Digital LID and His Elmers  
by N0QJA on August 20, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I lost my wife in 2009 so this year will be the 5th year (in September) without her. I had a string of them.. 2008 was my father, 2009, my wife, and 2010 my brother. I know how you feel.. Use the energy you would have used on her to better yourself. I went through some tough stuff myself and I am still on the air occasionally on 2 Meters and do a little HF. All the guys at the local ham club were a lot of help to me to in that time.
 
The Digital LID and His Elmers  
by A92GK on August 21, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Michael,
Very nice and touching article.I know how it is to lose ones mother. I lost my Mother when I was 14 and it was Ham Radio which gave me the inspiration to realize the beauty of life and the will to carry on.
Hope we can meet soon on the bands.
best 73
de
A92GK / VU3VOC / AK4EC
 
The Digital LID and His Elmers  
by AB1DQ on August 21, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Michael,

Thanks for sharing your wonderful story of ham radio & life. My condolences on your mother's passing and I hope you may be comforted in your grief by many fond memories.

I must say it is refreshing to read such an uplifting story about ham radio. I sure hope we get to work on the air someday!

Very 73,
James (AB1DQ)
Bedford, Mass.
 
RE: The Digital LID and His Elmers  
by N2ADV on August 23, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
That is what amateur radio is all about!

Very sorry to hear about your mother but also very glad you have a support system in a great group of folks.
 
The Digital LID and His Elmers  
by JOHNZ on August 26, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
@N2ADV

A warm and fuzzy human interest story - yes - but only a small part of what ham radio is all about.

 
RE: The Digital LID and His Elmers  
by N2ADV on August 26, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Helping others and general goodwill toward others is only a "small part" of amateur radio? That certainly explains some things I have heard on the air as of late...
 
Are you a ham radio operator, Mr. Zinc?  
by W8ASA on August 28, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
John Zinc made a comment that prompted me to see if he is licensed. He's not, at least in the U.S. There are no hams listed in the FCC ULS page with a last name of "ZINC". Perhaps he's licensed elsewhere. If he is, I am curious to know how long he has been a ham, what kind of license he holds, and what about ham radio interests him the most.

Then I'll know how to interpret his remark fairly, and not the way I was going to.

Ken, W8ASA, celebrating my 50th year as a ham, and the proud member of two outstanding amateur radio clubs, the Dayton Amateur Radio Association (W8BI - think "Hamvention"), and the Bellbrook Amateur Radio Club (W8DGN).
 
The Digital LID and His Elmers  
by KC5SAS on September 5, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Condolences to you sir. I lost my better half, Tena (KE5ECF) this past January. I suddenly went from taking care of her health care to being alone. But I wasn't alone. I found that the hams of the 2 clubs I belong to came out to support me. They encouraged me to get out and live life again. I am so glad that we both had our ham licenses and were active on the air and made so many friends via the hobby.
73,
Steve, KC5SAS
 
The Digital LID and His Elmers  
by K7DAA on September 8, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Excellent, well-written article! Thanks for taking the time to do this.

73,

Dave - K7DAA
 
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