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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

Old Ham Comes Home

Glenn C. Peck (KE5GK) on February 8, 2017
View comments about this article!

After a hiatus of a decade, I have returned to the airwaves. Here are some current, non-scientific, general observations:

1. Hams calling CQ on 75M are rarer than caramel popcorn one day after the ubiquitous Christmas round tin of popcorn is opened. Most of the evening QSOs on 75M are informal “nets” with enforced protection as a result of “squatters rights.”

2. QSO content today often deals with the following:

a. Doctor appointments, medications, and recent Silent Keys.

b. Weather observations, in great detail. NOAA wannabes abound.

c. Newly acquired ham gear and regret for letting old gear go.

d. QRO advocates enjoy describing how they brought old (usually Heathkit) amps back to life.

e. Homebrew antennas are the source of great pride—especially, if they work!

f. The Big Gun contesters are faster than ever.

g. SDR and digital modes occupy many new ham QSOs.

h. Email confirmation---either sent or received.

i. Intentional QRM seems much more prevalent today.

j. Profanity, religion and politics are no longer off-limits.

k. I have thankfully only heard one ham that invited a fist fight. Could have been a case of a “suitcase of 807s” talking.

l. On 20M there are several QSOs between cold weather hams and their ham friends who have moved to Florida, Texas or Arizona. It is always a discussion about snow or sunshine or both.

m. Ham clubs, ham fests, and beginner classes are seldom mentioned.

n. Hams on AM talk technical more than SSB hams. For the AM hams, size matters, transformers that is.

3. In over six decades of being a SWLer and Ham operator, I have never observed propagation so poor. That being said, I am very glad to being back on the air. Is this a great hobby or what?

KE5GK

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Old Ham Comes Home  
by K9CTB on February 8, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I remember listening to 75 meters on an old SP-600 when I was a kid ... long before I got my license in 1980. Things were quite different on SSB ... talk was more technical on some occasions and the Medicare Nets (my name for them, public domain) were there then, but not as prevalent as now. That "in your face" bad language was non-existent because back then, pink slips were a reality. Today ... well, ya need an amp, a strong constitution and a good antenna to run 75 phone. An Extra license helps, but doesn't guarantee you a spot. Just remember there are other bands and modes ... and there's always <gasp> CW where, if you listen long enough, you'll actually hear an OM with a real key, pen and paper ... and not FLDigi in the CW mode. <hihi> All in all, ham radio is alive and well ... with so many new ways to use it rolling out each day it seems!

73,
K9CTB
 
Old Ham Comes Home  
by KB2DHG on February 8, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I have had my ups and downs with Ham Radio but never went off the air. I still get on most everyday. I turn on the rig and scan around. If I come to hear an interesting conversation I would try to get in, If I hear someone calling CQ I will answer it and if I have the time I will try to catch some DX...
All in all I love this hobby... I just wish more youngins would get involved so the hobby would thrive...
 
Old Ham Comes Home  
by WX4SNO on February 8, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
As a hydrometeorologist and an amateur radio operator, I enjoy the weather reports folks provide...I like to know what's going on on the other end of the conversation! Vive la liberté and vive ham radio!
 
Old Ham Comes Home  
by W3TTT on February 8, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Glenn

You are so right! It seems that Hams talk about whatever they want. The subjects of discussion are exactly what Hams are thinking about.

I personally would like to discuss cutting edge technical issues like Quantum Computing, Gene Splicing, and Warp Drives. Also Artificial Intelligence computing and Robotics.

Yours Humbly
Joe W3TTT
 
Old Ham Comes Home  
by N3HEE on February 8, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
How about all the racist comments and rants that take place daily on 40 SSB. I am truly saddened to hear so much of it on the ham bands.
 
Old Ham Comes Home  
by KJ4DGE on February 8, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Welcome back Glenn! Stick around though it seems like a mess now it WILL get better. By the way nice bunch of AMers on 3.982 in the morning. Amazing how far 25 watts stock in a rig can carry these days. Its still a great hobby and btw I may just call CQ on 80 to test if anyone comes back. Last HAM I answered calling CQ on 40 went off on a rambling tirade about police officers and militias and I politely signed but hey life's like that some time. You never know what you will get. Still there are a lot of good ops out there. Just have to listen for them.

73
KJ4DGE
 
RE: Old Ham Comes Home  
by N9AOP on February 8, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
You forgot colostomy bags.
Art
 
Old Ham Comes Home  
by ONAIR on February 8, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Yes, things were a lot different on 75 back in the day, with a lot more CQs and local activity. Lately however there seems to be some increase in newcomer activity because of internet groups like "QSO NOW" on Facebook, which alerts readers to the time and frequency where hams will be operating and attempting to make new contacts.
 
RE: Old Ham Comes Home  
by K9MHZ on February 8, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
"By the way nice bunch of AMers on 3.982 in the morning. Amazing how far 25 watts stock in a rig can carry these days."

It's funny how the attitude toward AM has changed so much. I used to do it, and really miss it now. Before though, AM was jammed and even reasonable people seemed to love to hate AM because it's so wide. Then some SSB went right down into the bowels of depravity, and people seemed to rediscover the AM guys....their sense of community and desire to talk about equipment, designs, etc.

Never understood the big audio boards, and eSSB probably has that locked up anyway, but lots of current AMers have gotten away from the radio studio wannabe fad, which is nice.
 
RE: Old Ham Comes Home  
by KF4HR on February 8, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Glenn, you just about nailed it! But you left out the best part. On the rare occasion when someone does call CQ, hams on the other end rush to the Internet to look the CQ'er up on QRZ, and before the CQ'er knows it, the receiving party starts reciting the CQ'ers Name, QTH, what gear he's running, antenna, etc! Heck they even call the CQ'er by name before it is given! Then the only two items left to exchange are the signal reports and 73 (or 73's). Gotta luv these wonderful QSO's! :)

Is it any wonder older ham's enjoy remembering the good ol' days? Ham Radio is quickly becoming Internet [based] Radio.
 
RE: Old Ham Comes Home  
by ONAIR on February 8, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Yes!! Where did the days go when it was so easy to strike up conversations on HF??
 
Old Ham Comes Home  
by W8BYH on February 8, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
So work to make it better!

I've been out of ham radio for about a decade and when I got back in a few months back I noticed a lot of the same issues - rough language on a lot of the HF bands (from guys old enough to know better - it's not just the new kids that have the potty mouths), almost zero activity on the repeaters (the Atlanta area has one of the highest density of repeaters in the nation, but it's just a bunch of lonely repeater controllers IDing back and forth to each other), new digital modes that are little more than VOIP, cheap Chinese radios that sound like c**p, new Technicians wondering just where all this 'elmering' is, local nets that are little more than 'check-in/check-out' sessions so the operators can get back to watching Netflix.

Amateur radio needs to be reinvigorated with a sense of purpose and relevance. I think the ARRL is on the right track with it's 'When All Else Fails' campaign, but it's up to local hams to bring the service back to its roots - science, experimentation, a sense of exploration and adventure, a healthy dose of 'McGyver' and a dedication to truly being there when all else really does fail.

In the past month I've latched on to two new hams just starting in the hobby, providing encouragement and assistance. I'm encouraging others to get back in the habit of dropping in for the 'drive time' rag chews on the local repeaters. I've made a commitment to getting back on HF specifically to participate in regional and state emergency preparedness nets and encouraging others to do the same.

The future of amateur radio isn't in the ARRL's hands, or the FCC's. It's in our hands. We need to encourage, cajole, police, inspire and excite the next generation. Show them that amateur radio is relevant, interesting, even exciting.

Let's not complain about the state of our hobby. Let's make it better!
 
Old Ham Comes Home  
by K5ML on February 8, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
After being QRT for 23 years, I became QRV again in 2007 on HF. I quickly noticed several distinct differences that still continue:
1.The bands are less crowded.
2. A ham under the age of 40 is an endangered species.
3. DXing is easier than ever. I worked more DX in the past 10 years using verticals than in the days when I had a tower, beams and quads. I attribute that to not having a day job, DX clusters and running 1 KW.

Even with those changes and HOA antenna restrictions, I enjoyed the past ten years of hamming more than any other time when I was QRV. When friends ask me how I spend my days, I tell them that I'm fulfilling my inner teenager.

My concern is hearing so few young people on the bands. I suspect that that may largely be due to HOA restrictions. Why go to the trouble of getting a license if you can't put up an antenna? So many hams we all know went onto have great professional/technical careers either directly or indirectly through amateur radio. Fewer young hams is a loss for today’s youth and a loss for the world tomorrow.
 
RE: Old Ham Comes Home  
by NN2X on February 8, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Digital modes...This is the key...

If you look at the percentage of communications over Ham bands, the digital modes are becoming more popular..I counted the amount of QSO on 20 meters, comparing SSB, and the digital modes without a doubt had far more QSOs than SSB at any given time..(Of course the digital modes take less bandwidth, but still more activity on digital modes, is the point...)

Why? Cutting edge technology, modulation techniques, coding schemes are allowing very modest set ups to enjoy DX, and you add to the fact that Millennials are generally good typists, there is your future growth in ham radio, which are all in the digital modes. Yes, it is some boring QSO's with just mindless macros content, but never the less that is were the growth will be..and add to the fact we are in the low end of the sun spot, we are all pointing towards the digital modes for future growth, and activity

About a QSO on SSB, I can assure you, if I have a QSO with a fellow Ham operator it will not be 59 TNXs for the QSO and 73's. I like an old fashion QSO, with content..Yep, sometimes I do cross the grey area, and talk about politics, (But polite), or culture.. I lived in 69 countries so it is nice to compare notes, and I might tell a few war stories, or even better here someone else stories!

C U all on the bands...

Cheers..

NN2X

Tom

 
Old Ham Comes Home  
by AA7LX on February 8, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
W8BYH and K5ML are exactly right in their directed comments. My comments to add to this discussion...
1) Don't keep changing or continue to propose new USA FCC Licensing levels. Having 3 levels is sufficient; newer digital and analog licensing Exam questions will take care what is required information to compete within the Amateur Service as worldwide technology advances-- the FCC Testing Question Pools change with the times. 2) Middle school and High school students are exposed to and discover advanced technology. One can't "make" students -or- Adults become Hams. 3) If, you want more Students and Adults to become Hams-- become a local club member and then sign up to become a VE; contact your local Community College to teach; Take action at your Local level and National level-- get actively involved with your local school district and local ham club! And-- '73, George, AA7LX.
 
Old Ham Comes Home  
by K6CRC on February 8, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
For better or worse, Ham radio mirrors society. And, it mirrors the general decline of group hobbies. Not bad or good, just the way it is.
I grew up with many hobbies, collected coins/stamps, played with trains, kites and such. My kids don't have hobbies, just what they can download on their phones.
Things are not as important as experiences to young people, as has been reported over and over. Translated to ham -speak, a DXpedition would hold more interest than a shiny new Transceiver.
Maybe that is a way to rejuvinate the hobby, sponsor some young people to come along on a DXpedition.
 
RE: Old Ham Comes Home  
by NO9E on February 9, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Sometimes I call cq on 80 meters or on other bands. This is with legal limit and high dipoles or a beam. Sometimes not a response but sometimes a pile up. Guys who run low power, have compromised antennas and are hungry for a qso. Sometimes if takes a receive antenna to copy them. Often they would not receive a 100w station. Could be HOA stuff plus high RFI levels from cheap stuff available in the US as when I am operating in EU the situation I am more successful SSB even with QRP.

My advice to those with good stations is to call CQ and spread the good news that nice guys are around and ham radio can be fun.

Ignacy,
NO9E, SP8FWB
 
RE: Old Ham Comes Home  
by K9MHZ on February 9, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
"Things are not as important as experiences to young people..."

Excellent point. They are very different than we were.
 
RE: Old Ham Comes Home  
by W9TAM on February 9, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
As a younger ham who is fairly new to HF, I have quickly learned to avoid 75 and parts of 40. Frequency squatters, racist diatribes, and details about medical issues mean I'm just going to spin the dial and move on.

I try to tell my non-ham friends that not every ham is a 400-pound racist, but listening to 75 phone, it seems that many are all too eager to fulfill that stereotype. You wonder why it's hard to get young people interested in the hobby? Here's yet another reason.
 
Old Ham Comes Home  
by W5BBB on February 10, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Licensed 25 years.
SSB on all HF frequencies was the goal...it was (is) fun.
But now (mostly) for me: QRP, CW, vintage rigs...
Isn't Ham Radio a FUN hobby?
Something for everyone. DON'T DENY ANYONE THEIR PASSION!
God Bless digital, God Bless SDR, God Bless APRS, God Bless Stepp IR...
Gimme' a key and some wire! I guess I'm just a dinosaur, but I love this hobby.
 
RE: Old Ham Comes Home  
by KJ4DGE on February 11, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
W9TAM,

Tim, I really understand your observation but try to listen a little longer on 80 and 40. Tune around a lot and try 3838 at 6 AM EST among other places. You will find a number of us old farts are not too bad and we don't weigh 400 pounds! There are all types on the bands, the clowns mostly hang out in a specific area and yes, just turn the dial. As far as getting older you can learn a lot even like me at 60 from the 70 and older guys out there that have been doing this for awhile. To a lot of them I am new too as I was licensed in 2003. At the same time I worked for a company called Heathkit for 10 years 20 years before that which was a great teacher. So traveling through the HF world you will meet all kinds and all types but the old dudes still have something to offer. Hang in there!

73

Greg/KJ4DGE
 
Now I'm afraid to talk  
by WB4M on February 11, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Gee.. is there anything we can talk about that does not offend you? Perhaps you need to stay gone another 10 years.
 
Old Ham Comes Home  
by N9GZ on February 11, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Some things I do in a QSO is to ask questions about the person. Humans love to talk about themselves to a point. What kind of work do you do or did? What other hobbies do you have? You would be amazed how a QSO can lead to other things. I have run across hams who had the same interests or have other interesting things they do. People more often than not have other things going on in their life besides radio that can make a QSO better. It is like sitting next to a stranger on a plane for example and engaging in a conversation. You just have to ask. Been a ham for almost 35 years and have had many many nice contacts doing this. Just something to try. Helping a new ham with his first contact is gratifying. With all the crazy stuff you hear on the bands today it is nice to make your little corner on frequency a bit more enjoyable.
 
Old Ham Comes Home  
by WD4ELG on February 14, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Back in the 70's when I was a teenager, I remember playing chess on 40 CW during the mornings with other young hams when school was not in session.

A lot of my rag chews have been pretty standard (weather, CW, rigs, antennas) UNLESS it's a more-than-once QSO. Then I look at the ham's QRZ page. If they have something in common with me (like dogs, horses, hiking, astronomy) then I will quickly move on to one of those topics.

One of the best ragchews occurred on SSB. It was October of 2012 with a VK6 on 20 SSB. I put some of the details in my blog:

http://wd4elg.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-art-of-rag-chew.html
 
Old Ham Comes Home  
by KD6NRP on February 15, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
I agree with your your observations.

However, one comment really stands out: "In over six decades of being a SWLer and Ham operator, I have never observed propagation so poor."

I've been monitoring HF since December 1968. The propagation today indeed seems to be much worse than in the past.

73

Brian, KD6NRP
 
Old Ham Comes Home  
by N4ZAW on February 27, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
It's good to HAVE you back, and hope to QSO someday. I'll keep my faith to myself,as well as my political opinions -- which aint sayin much. ;)
As for the profanity, yeah, it's a major turn-off (or VFO spin) for me also.
73

 
RE: Old Ham Comes Home  
by W0MSN on February 28, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
This is a fun hobby and the majority of hams a great ambassadors.

I think there are a lot of hams sitting on the sidelines listening, wishing that they felt more welcome or were more at ease on the air. Not all hams are as comfortable trying to make conversation. Some will make a DX contact or a special event contact because they know that they only need to give a quick signal report. They are in search of a reason to get on the air and cant always find a safe haven.

One might assume that because someone is a ham that they must like talking but so many are attracted to the technical side of the hobby and are a bit mic shy.

I am not on the radio as much as I would like to be but I have noticed that especially on 40m and 75M phone, if I'm in a QSO and I ask if there are any other stations that would like to stop in and say hello, there are always many stations that are anxious to get on the air. Once one station keys up, then others follow.

There are many hams that are really good about encouraging participation in conversations but too often its just the opposite. They make it clear that the street corner belongs to them and "just keep walking"

I think it's up to all of us to make a better effort to encourage new and old hams to join in and be part of a conversation. They may ask for a signal report and vanish but chances are they have more to say and just need to be welcomed.

Catch you on the air..
 
Old Ham Comes Home  
by AA4LR on March 3, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Yes, things certainly have changed in the last 30 years or so.

Back in the mid-80s, 40m would be complete bedlam every Saturday morning packed with yakking hams, except for one Saturday a year -- that would be the Saturday of the Dayton Hamfest.

Today, if there's no contest going on, there's very little activity, even on 40m Saturday morning. I attribute this to three things:

- Hams don't tend to operate as much as they used to, choosing shorter operating sessions, or operating only with a purpose (eg a contest or specific DXpedition)

- Hams don't tend to tune around as much as they used to, tending more to look at spots and reverse beacon postings.

- Hams don't tend to call CQ as much as they used to, which leads to less stations to hear in the second point.

Now, part if it may simply be that conditions aren't what they used to be. The last couple of sunspot cycles were disappointingly short-lived and smaller than those 30 years ago.

 
RE: Old Ham Comes Home  
by K3UIM on March 19, 2017 Mail this to a friend!
Back in the early 60's it was truly different. There were so many hams, both novices and generals, that were building their own transmitters. The receivers were purchased, usually with dad's help, but the thrill of hamming was in the ability to say, "My rig is homebrew with an 807 final."

It seems that now it's quite unique to hear of anything being constructed. And if it's a kit you're putting together, you're really accomplishing something great. Hopefully I'm all wrong.

I left hamming in the early 90's due to "ham radio widowing" but now that retirement has come to both of us, she agreed that I need something to occupy my time and ham radio is back in the picture. (Late 2016)

I rejoined the local club and right away wanted articles or info on VFO's for a homebrew transceiver I'd built in the late 80's. Anything to get started.

On ebay I spotted a DDS Sig Generator that looked like something that would keep my interest and it was only $36.50, way less than what I'd sink into a good stable VFO, so I sent for it.

I'm telling you, I haven't had this much fun since I quit hamming!! Scrounged a 6N2 (scrapped) VFO for the case, I machined a front panel, created a power supply, sent to China for many resistors, caps, connectors, etc and now have a beautiful VFO. As Gene Autry would say, "I'm back in the saddle again." ... uh, ... Gene was a cowb ... oh, never mind. LOL

The smell of melting solder caused me to send for a tri bander kit, the KD1JV CW QRP Transceiver. ( For 40, 30 and 15.) Gotta keep melting solder!!! I'm loving it again!

Charlie K3UIM
 
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