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Author Topic: Improving Operating Practices  (Read 4256 times)

Posts: 36

« on: March 28, 2001, 04:40:28 PM »

Everybody wants to be a better operator given a chance. Having just listened to a couple of 24 hour days of contesting I am convinced we need to put together a simple learner's Q&A manual on contesting and operating practices to encourage new folks (who are not knowledgeable but are intimidated) or would-be contesters to actually contest and to improve some of the practices heard on the air. This would be solely to improve what we do.  How about some sample Q&As in some archive? Just because I couldn't find one doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Let me give you a sample question, the answers to which, if widely distributed, might have helped things out this weekend.  Just as an example, not a criticism.

Sample Question:
When I hear a DX station calling CQ or QRZ, should I call back at the same frequency or a higher or lower one? How much higher or lower? How many times do I call back? Is the practice different during a contest?

You fill in the blanks but the answer is not pure profanity as I heard this weekend.

Sample Question:
Why don't people have a normal CQ during a contest?  Why do they give a strong of numbers and leave?

Sample Answer:
The answer isn't "read the rules, dummy" because I learned this weekend, a lot of folks don't even know where to go to get them, much less read them. And they never heard of Cabrillo or multipliers either. So when they hear "5,9, 376" they are truly baffled.

For people to learn, somebody has to teach.  The teaching has to be clear, simple and non-threatening and not embarass any of the participants.  Any ideas? If it does exist somewhere, we should advertise its presence regularly - perhaps in a starter's section or link on e-ham - so folks could just link to the right database.  But we have a lot of well-meaning folks out there who would like to get better and do not know how to do it. And Q&As on concrete topics, rather than some long essay on the topic might be more readable.
Anyone agree?  Disagree? Got a better idea?


Posts: 5

« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2001, 08:41:37 PM »

In my case it's a Ham Club that will be Elmering me on operating practices.

I get Elements 1, 2 and 3 classes and the chance to work with a bunch of folks who have BTDT. Field Day and the weekend near the Forth of July will be spent helping the community and polishing my skills. And moving a few bits of equipment around. Wink

Chris N5ZVP

Posts: 10091

« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2001, 08:02:28 PM »

I've often thought that a "Contesting for Dummies" book (online probably) would be worthwhile albeit time consuming.  There is so much to contesting - and radio in general - that needs to be learned to fully enjoy the experience.

As to any written tome's ability to make a substantial improvement in lousy on-the-air operating, don't hold your breath.  While some would take its lessons to heart, others wouldn't bother to read it - they "know it all".  There will always be crummy operators, no matter how much others write, teach or otherwise explain.

« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2001, 12:58:32 PM »

<< For people to learn, somebody has to teach. >>

Not necessarily.  For people to learn, people need to WANT to learn.  If not, cramming info down their throats won't help.

Contesting is no big mystery.  Join the ARRL, read QST's contesting calendar and various rules pages.  Go to the ARRL's web site and do the same.  There are dozens of websites with contesting info.  If people wanted to find it, they would.

I'm really tired of people complaining that information isn't available.  Ham radio info is ten times easier to find today with the Internet than ten years ago.  People have to learn to do some things themselves.

Posts: 999

« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2001, 11:06:31 PM »

I tend to agree with anon, although I wish he hadn't posted anonymously.  One problem is the guy who turns on the radio, hears a contest, and decides to begin his participation at that moment.  One really needs to do some preperation before embarking into the madhouse of a major contest.  However, that is in conflict with the modern perception that everything should be handed to one on a silver platter.  If you were to move your mouse just slightly to the left on this page you could discover a "Contesting" link that will take a great deal of the mystery out of contesting.  The ARRL has been publishing "The Radio Amateur's Operating Manual" since before dirt and it has an entire chapter on contesting.  But one has to be motivated to 1), own the book and 2), actually consult it before it will do them any good.  After nearly 40 years on the air, I still can't imagine operating without this reference near at hand.  Many second echelon contests still catch me by surprize and send me scrambling for published material to find out what's going on, who to work, and what is the exchange.  Contesting is a microcosm of ham radio in general.  It is a complex, technical hobby, and to ever hope to become accomplished at whatever aspect of it happens to intrigue you, you need to be motivated to find out some things on your own.  When the requirements to get a license become too easy, whether it be CW or written exams, you end up with masses of uncommitted, marginally interested individuals getting licensed who expect everything about ham radio to be easy.  The whiners have made their bed, now it's time to sleep in it.

Posts: 73


« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2001, 01:35:24 PM »

I think it's very unfortunate that your being chastised for not 'getting off your butt and going to look for the information'! I disagree with those positions strongly. I have a lot of the ARRL publications and other than the VERY basics, they are pretty much worthless in explaining whats going on during the 'heat of the battle'. As a very avid single operator, home station type contester, I would love to share the little I know about how it's done. Our local PVRC has been just recently discussing how to get more members to participate and having bacic information available for those who want to learn, is just not available. Most answers start with the huge (expensive) towers and yagi's that you need, the latest and greatest (expensive) radios and amplifiers you need, etc. It almost leads one to believe if you dont have a lot of bucks, you can't contest and nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, a pretty large number of the so-called 'big guns' have, over the past 2 years started running contest with less than 100w and some have gone QRP just because they love to be competative and want to try a different approach to it.
Bottom line here is that your absolutely correct in what your asking for, a contesting site or page for people who really would like to know the basics of whats going on with the '59 367' numbers. Plus information on all contest occuring each weekend, not just the major ones that are listed everywhere.
If you have contesting questions that I might could help you with, feel free to email me at and I'll do what I can to share info with you.

« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2001, 08:53:23 PM »

What good are contests if QSL cards are never sent out to confirm a QSO ?!?!
Having mailed out QSL cards with return envelopes and postage, I'm still waiting
for a dozen or so cards from contests almost 6 months ago.

Posts: 3

« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2001, 11:25:25 PM »

There is a site...


Posts: 2994

« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2001, 02:16:20 PM »

I'm with W4BQF.  If a person expresses an interest in improving his/her operating skills, then by all means we should be as helpful as we can.  As for contest QSLs, I've found most contesters will QSL eventually, if you send your request to the correct address.  After all, they want you to call them during the next contest.  

Posts: 28

« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2001, 02:14:35 AM »

I think that rude, discourteous operators will always be there, and that's a shame, but reality.  I got into contesting just this year, especially the CW contests, and they really have been enjoyable.  I only got my ticket 18 months ago, and nobody taught me much.  Here is what I did:
1.  Found the rules, either through QST or from  Most of the rules are online from the various organizations that sponser contests.  I read them, and then re-read them, paying attention to the exchange, bands, and general rules.  
2.  At the onset of most contests, I make a point to LISTEN ONLY for about 15 minutes; as I figure an investment of my time LISTENING will pay off with smoother exchanges.  Also, there is a certain rhythm to the exchanges.  
3.  For any beginner, like myself, I recommend that if all possible, contest first on digital, or CW.  The reason is that in the "heat of the moment" the rudeness occurs on SSB because of there being no delay from mouth to microphone, especially if the people are using vox.  The keyboard or key gives one a critical second to "cool off" a bit.  I'm sure that people use profanity during CW and digital contests, but one cannot hear it.

I'm by no means an expert, but these are some objective opinions from a relatively new contester.  I'm looking forward to the CW SS this weekend, and have been preparing for it.  This far, I've really enjoyed contesting, and it's been a great way to improve my skills, and sofar, it's been great fun too.  Just my 2 cents.

Posts: 5


« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2002, 09:01:38 AM »

Nice to hear folks talking about contesting. I have been a ham for only 5 years and have enjoyed contesting more than any other aspect. But I agree with the statements regarding the lack of information. Depending on your location, it can be very discouraging trying to find verifiable information on much of what contesting requires. Sure there are sources of information, but in many cases you have to know WHAT they're talking about. Detailed discussions of how to set up and tune a Beverage antenna for the low bands for example took me several weeks of asking "dumb questions" to a variety of sources (besides owning and reading several the Handbook, ON4UN's Books, Jerry W4???'s book). There is a difference between reading things and assembling working devices. I concur with the original post.. there is room for MORE information and its not just because people are lazy. I tend to wish that more of the "older knowledgable" would share with the new kids. It's not for a lack of desire... many of us are growing up in a generation that communications are easy. But understanding the nuts and bolts of how we got there wasn't as important along the way as it was when our fathers and grandfathers grew up. There are lots of things we can do that they can't but there are equally things that never quite got passed through the generations. Contesting is just one facet of a larger trend away from Amateur Radio. And for those of us who enjoy it, we should share its pleasures with those who want and are willing to listen. Thanks for the generally objective posts.

Posts: 95

« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2003, 12:42:53 PM »

I'm assuming that anyone wanting to work contests, but "struggling" to find information has a radio.  During your next QSO, how about asking about contest operation?  If that person doesn't know, well...CQ CQ and try again.  It's really not hard to learn when you want to.

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