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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

The End of Ham Radio?

DOUG BINGLEY (VA3BD) on February 8, 2016
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THE END OF HAM RADIO?

There’s an old saying “if you can’t hear them, you can’t work ‘em.” Over the years, hams have built ever better receivers, designed specialized antennas and adapted technology so that even the faintest signal can be heard. By using those techniques, world wide contacts on the HF bands have become commonplace.

But what if background noise levels become so high that they drown out all signals, even local signals? We are already moving in that direction and I predict that within five years, RFI could become so bad that our HF bands are unusable. Let me explain my position: My wife and I recently moved from a suburban location into the city. At forty feet wide, the lots in our neighborhood aren’t gigantic, but they aren’t tiny either. Our home is over ninety years old, so we completely renovated it, including re-wiring from top to bottom. After several months in our new home, I decided it was time to get back into ham radio.

I dragged out an old RX and hooked up a short interior antenna. Nothing. Not a peep on all bands. “Stupid boat-anchor.” Oh well, I obviously needed to get the tower put up and see how things worked on the beam, A few weeks later the tower was up, the feed-line was in and I expectantly hooked up the receiver. Nothing. “OK, time to hook up the new solid state transceiver.” Still nothing but buzzing – ‘Hmm, the noise is 2 units over S -9.” Oh, oh, must be the power lines out front. “

So, I fired up a portable receiver and started down the street. By the time I wandered into the middle of a nearby intersection the buzzing was reduced, and I could clearly hear signals. Next I checked out the power-lines - surprisingly, all clear. Back to my house and the noise was so high, all signals were crushed.

Long story short, our new pot-lights are LED types. All radiate RF. The security lights, also LED, radiate RF. The built in night-lights radiate RF. The source of most of the interference was those LED lamps, all of which need low voltage to operate. To convert from household power to low voltage, each lamp has a built in switching power supply. Each power supply is noisy as hell. Pot lights are extremely popular. I counted a total of 26 in my home, and each one was a little transmitter spewing out RF. The cumulative result was an incredibly high noise-floor. That’s just in my house.

I turned all the lights out. Still noise, this time from the digital stove and the digital washing machine. Turned off the main breakers, less buzzing, but still no signals. “Guess my neighbors have new pot-lights as well.” In fact, using the portable receiver, I determined that there are only a few homes on the street that aren’t radiating RF. The scary part is that the switch to LED’s and digital appliances has just begun. In the rush to get cheap, energy efficient products into the hands of consumers, our regulators have been caught flat-footed, if they even care...

At one time the HF bands were a valuable commodity. But technology has moved on and today there are relatively few users of HF frequencies. Those users that do exist, including radio amateurs, just don’t have the same sort of clout with the government as say a cellular company. (You can bet that if these devices wiped out cellular service, they’d be off the market in a jiffy). There doesn’t appear to be any scrutiny of this flood of new products. From light bulbs to coffee pots to digital cable, household appliances have become digital noisemakers.

So where does that leave us as hams? If our own regulators don’t care, surely we can’t expect that manufacturers located on the other side of the world are going to be concerned. Why should they worry about the impact on little used radio frequencies? I hate to be a pessimist, but if this trend continues, we may soon reach the point where in many parts of the world, operation on the HF bands will become untenable.

I’m going to replace my LED lamps with incandescent, but that won’t resolve the interference from the neighbors. And I sure can’t go up and down the street demanding that they turn their lights out. I’m going to try to reduce interference at my side through use of a shielded loop antenna at the end of the yard. That may help out a bit, but I could be fighting a losing battle. I just don’t know if I will be able to enjoy the HF part of the hobby in a few years.

Is this the end of Ham radio as we know it?

Member Comments:
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The End of Ham Radio?  
by ONAIR on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
If that's the case, portable operation may become a lot more popular!
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by W2UIS on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Try DStar.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by G4AON on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
A local replaced all his kitchen lights with LED ones and was quite proud of what good value they were... Until he tried to use 2m, it was a disaster. Fortunately the supplier agreed to take the lights back and swap them.

We have a few LED light bulbs and they are totally RF silent across HF/VHF/UHF -as far as I can determine with a hand held spectrum analyser right up against them. The LED bulbs are "Diall" branded from B&Q, I can't guarantee that other LED bulbs with that brand name are quiet, so anyone in the UK looking for similar replacements should try one before buying too many!

The QRM here varies significantly during the day/night. Some of the locals blame "atmospherics" but if I operate portable with a HF dipole the background noise is zero.

73 Dave
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by G4AON on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
A local replaced all his kitchen lights with LED ones and was quite proud of what good value they were... Until he tried to use 2m, it was a disaster. Fortunately the supplier agreed to take the lights back and swap them.

We have a few LED light bulbs and they are totally RF silent across HF/VHF/UHF -as far as I can determine with a hand held spectrum analyser right up against them. The LED bulbs are "Diall" branded from B&Q, I can't guarantee that other LED bulbs with that brand name are quiet, so anyone in the UK looking for similar replacements should try one before buying too many!

The QRM here varies significantly during the day/night. Some of the locals blame "atmospherics" but if I operate portable with a HF dipole the background noise is zero.

73 Dave
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by KF4HR on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Sounds like a good idea to use a portable receiver as part of the home prepurchase inspection.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by KB9WQJ on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
S9 here. And the f'ing FCC does nothing to stop this stuff. Worthless pu**ies. Stuff that radiates like this should be f'ing illegal to even sell.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by HA7WX on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Had the same idea as KF4HR back a while ago when we purchased a home we eventually had to sell to get closer to the workplace.
I went there with my mobile rig and checked QRM conditions. Everything was pretty quiet, on that point of view there was no reason not to buy it.
Now in the city noise is a disaster even if at times it vanishes quite well at s2 over 40m. Other than that 40m is always burried at s6 continuously and as there are different sources nulling out one of them will not add any significant improvement.
Indeed, noise (RFI) is one big threat to come as switching PS are poor quality whatever the product.
Portable is exiting, i myself like it a lot, but I virtually have no time for it.
73, Chris ha7wx
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by NW0LF on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Very interesting. I have a 6 bulb, 4 foot LED shop fixture here in my office/ham shack. Noise level doesn't change with it on or off. Obviously not practical for the house. To to OP, where quality bulbs, such as Cree, purchased or where they cheap bulbs?
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by KX5JT on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Legal limit AM mode. Quiets the static and sounds marvelous...... 40 over signals bury all noise.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by KX5JT on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Doom and gloom.... there is PLENTY of amateur radio going on on HF and I don't see that changing... yes noise is a problem but there are solutions. QRP digital modes, QRO phone modes for instance. Also, moving out of a neighborhood (yes some of us still like the farm and rural areas). Operating portable in the forest. Tracking down noise makers and solving the problems.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by K1TN on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Doug:

This a well-written post, but scary. About a year and a half ago I moved into a condo apartment and was ready for the worst. I managed to get an end-fed wire in a tree and I get out pretty well. I cleaned up my own RFI by replacing the switching power supply for my laptop computer with an MFJ variable voltage DC supply and that fixed that. I don't have any LEDs in my apartment. But as for my neighbors, who knows?

I have an HF noise floor of about S4. My TS590S digital NR helps a little, as does the ancient technique of riding the RF gain. And I work only CW so I generally keep the bandwidth cranked down really tight. But ... I can work everybody I can hear. I know there are plenty of signals under the noise that I would be able to hear if it were quieter.

The irony of this is that I make no RFI of my own. Everybody in the building has cable TV, probably only a cell phone, and nobody listens to over-the air radio anymore, except me. It seems we have traded one scourge for another.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by N8FVJ on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
My neighborhood has underground electrical for about 1 square mile. The housing density for many miles is low in this country setting. Besides a spike at 10 over S9 on 80 meters, the bands are very quiet.

I replaced the furnace with a high efficient unit. It creates S4 noise on 75 meters and just perceptible on 40 meters. I placed a Corcom filter on it and the noise is now barely heard on 75 meters.

I believe the underground electrical makes for a quiet location. Hopefully no new electronics shows up in the neighborhood.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by K8QV on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Years ago I was warned that a plasma TV would make ham radio impossible. I never noticed anything. Even got a second plasma and still nothing. Then there was the noisy light bulb scare. Nothing.

But if I develop a noise problem in my neighborhood I'll be sure to tell everyone else it's the end of the world as we know it.

Oh, and "Thanks, Obama!"
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by AI4WC on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Scary, indeed. This may be a watershed moment, because LED's and associated household electronic materials are becoming ubiquitous. Going portable and such is not the universal answer. We should ALL put thoughtful inquiry into the situation and put forth answers only after real and rational thought. Please; don't let this become a "CB" or "no-code" shouting match or an 80-meter tirade by the "good ole boys!" We ALL need to THINK and EVALUATE; then we need to formulate RATIONAL solutions. Many "bits" of the answer will be better than "half-baked" solutions!
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by KD7YVV on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
It does seem if you want no noise you have to move out
of the city. Our electrical is underground too as is
cable tv. The motorola SB6151 I'm currently using
is an RF polluter like you wouldn't believe.
I unplug it, and the noise floor drops to S0.
If I'm not online, I turn it off. It makes for a
better listening experience.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by AA4LR on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I recently moved from a very rural county in Georgia to a county closer to the metro Atlanta area. I've had a house in Gwinnett county all this time, but when I started spending time in the shack there, I noticed something.

For the four years I spent time out in Floyd county, I didn't have much in the way of antennas -- I had a 80/40m dipole and an inverted L for 160/80/40m with 24 radials all hidden up in the woods. Lack of antennas didn't stop me from operating, and I managed to work quite a few stations, even some choice DX, all with those wires in the woods.

But, in Gwinnett county, despite a small tower, tribander and some other wires in the clear -- the noise level is amazing. 40m and below has S-7 to S-9 noise all the time. 20m isn't much better.

And it isn't my house either. I conducted an internal RFI front, and the noise level doesn't materially change even when I switch off the breaker. (running the receiver on batteries)

I've concluded that I could work so much from Floyd county simply because I could hear everything. I may be looking to retire in a decade or so to a much more rural place. In the meantime, I'll have to tough it out.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by W7AIT on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
You Chicken Littles are so wrong! Quit lying, LID!
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by K6AER on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
RF noise will radiate and basically decrease 6 dB every time you double the distance. All electrical devices are governed by FCC Part 15 compliance. A certain level of interference is allowed to be radiated in the RF spectrum from HF up to 1 GHz. Having said that your noise floor is also affected by the square law effect. Every time you increase the emitters by a factor of four the noise level will go up 6 dB. Add all your neighbors within 300 foot radius and you will have a very high noise level in the HF spectrum.

The higher the frequency the less the noise the emitter will produce. Switch mode power supply noise and microprocessor noise tends to be below 2 MHz.
Here are some solutions:

Move to the country.

Get your antenna as high as possible.

Use a beam on a 60 ft or higher tower. This places the noise input above the emitters and increases the HF signals to your receiver.

The use of noise canceling equipment and noise blinkers will not help. The noise source is random and broad band in spectral frequency.

Place a .1 MFd 200 volt capacitor across the connections of every LED bulb socket.

One final note. This is why I use a 1500 watt amplifier when calling CQ. Most hams have a very high noise level at their receive location. I bought my place only after checking the local noise level. Call CQ with 100 watts and a few will call back. Call with the amplifier on and I have a pile up. You situation is not unique. Often I can make up for a poor location at the other end by running power and a beam up high. Not all hams are so fortunate.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by WX4O on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I have 98% LEDs and no RFI. One is 12 inches from my transceivers.. an IC-7200 and a FTdx-1200. No problems.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by WB4TJH on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
After 45 years of operation in various town and cities with their inherent noisy environments, last summer I moved out into the Missouri Ozark boonies. NOW, at last, I have quiet bands and a low noise floor. My nearest neighbor is a tenth of a mile one way, and at least a half mile in the other directions. It's nice to finally have left behind the electrical noises that generally occur in our normally crowded, electrical gizmo laden society. It's like operating portable, but never having to leave home. I find myself operating my 10 watt K2 more often now.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by AF6AU on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Welcome to Suburbia RFI. I feel ALL your pain, as any HF band below 20M is pretty useless where I am (north Orange County So. Calif.).

RFI is all over, and comes from so many things now.

Back in the 70's I was astounded by tuning the CB frequencies 3-4 days after Christmas. I wondered how many megawatts of RF came from Kid's toys those days before all the 9 volt batteries lost their poop.

Today it's everything. At work there's 100 computers plus network gear cranking out RF, and how about the schools now as well?

Oven clocks, Microwave oven clocks, WiFi box, TV box, AT&T Fios TV and internet over twisted pair drops to the house(s), bad shielding on CATV lines, radio type home telephone oscillators, motor drives for the house heater/air conditioning, Motor drive for the front loader washing machine, solid state drives on Pool pumps. Switcher power supplies for laptops, monitors, even printers. Oh and lighting, be it bad/poor LED drivers, poor incandescent dimmers, cheap poor fluorescent ballasts, and bad CFLs.

Maybe your own "Ham Radio" switcher power supply?

Not just my stuff in my own home, but the neightbor's as well. Years ago (2004?) when AT&T Fios came to town, I had video buzz harmonics all over HF. I had a talk with the FCC office in Long Beach, and the answer.... You better get use to it. And the funding that AT&T pays the FCC is many times what all amateur radio plus the ARRL pays. Follow the money..

You think we stand a chance? Legally, you have the right , go forth and fight 1,000 neighbors within a mile radius. Yeah sure. I do envy the rural guys.

I thank God that Data over Power Lines (BPL) went away with vastly superior Satellite access.


I really look forward to having a big power blackout these days. Then the garbage S-11 daytime RF on 20M drops to S-3, and I hear DX.

Even 440 has Radar every now and then, plus remote control on 433 and other FCC sanctioned interference/legalized encroachments.

And now theres a 20KW AM broadcast transmitter on ~1460 KHz about 4 miles away that splatters and desensitizes my HF front end(s). Ugh.

It drives me nutz.

It comes down to a choice, a home in RFI saturated suburbia with HOA's and have a wife, and in-town convenience, or live alone in the boonies with a radio, alone. Am I right for many of us?

Yeah, go mobile out the Mojave desert 1-1/2 hours away. It's a PITA to have to drive to a quiet area to operate.

JML
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by KD8MJR on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I have several LED bulbs and a Plasma TV. At night when they are all on I have killed the power to all of them and seen no difference across all the Bands. I made sure to buy the top of the line Panasonic Plasma TV in 2015 and it's shielded like a SOB. My noise level goes up and down with atmospheric noise. Last night it was an S1 on 20m and S5 on 40m. During the first few days of VP8STI I had an S6 on 20m and S9+5 on 40m. I have 60 other houses near me and several line transformers.
My Equipment 3El Steppir with 30/40 and 6m added and the rig is an Icom 7600.
I think VP8STI caused a lot of frustration because the Bands were full of QRN and DQRM which coupled with a weak mountain blocked signal caused many Hams in the mid and eastern half of the USA to start wondering if something was wrong with their stations.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by K6CRC on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I overlook Silicon Valley, which should be 'noise central' if there ever was one. Yes, I have noise, but not anything like the article. Some local noise sources kick in occasionally. I suspect Grow lights from some neighbors, who are regularly visited by the local narcs.
My K3 knocks down most of the noise that seems to be local. But, I noticed VERY high noise levels across the bands the past few week .Seem to be atmospheric. Couldn't hear VP8 over the noise for the last few days they were on.
Some diligence was needed when I first got on HF a few years ago. I did get rid of a couple of old power supplies, a flat screen TV, and helped my neighbor fix an RF problem with his instant on waterheater. Also found several noisy power poles, and Utility fixed quickly. Now, the noise seems not to be local. Can't get anyone to service the Sun, unfortunately.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by KA2FIR on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I read in a Home Depot review that non-dimmable LED bulbs don't generate noise. I have a few non-dimmable Philips LED bulbs and they seem to be much quieter than Philips and GE dimmable bulbs.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by W8WOW on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Frankly I'm surprised how many of the provided solutions to this problem are essentially "operate max legal limit power". If this problem is "real" in the sense that it is increasingly common and potentially damaging to the service/hobby of Ham Radio (not saying it is), going QRO to fix it is a temporary patch.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by AA4PB on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
An even bigger threat to ham radio is the newly mandated arc fault circuit breakers. Every time you key up, your neighbor's circuit breakers start tripping. Imagine if you trip the breaker to his freezer and he looses a couple hundred dollars worth of food.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by JOHNZ on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
What is the ARRL doing about this problem?
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by KK5JY on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
As the OP pointed out, some of the worst RFI you get on HF is from your own house. Power poles, neighbors' cheap electronic junk, etc., all contribute, and have to be dealt with, but some of the craziest sources I have faced have been in my house. Computers, their UPS's, long ethernet runs, battery chargers, all manner of power supplies, light ballasts, and so on. Most of these issues are one-offs, where a single bad model of something turns out to be very noisy. Some of them come from ham vendors, amazingly enough (e.g., power supplies).

In some ways, the proliferation of cheap electronics has helped RFI. Devices consume less current, which means they have less ability to radiate energy. I haven't yet had any issues with plasma TVs, but I was definitely glad to see tube TVs go away. Some sweep circuits were very noisy.

In other ways, modern technology is *moving* the RFI away from HF and into other bands. One of the strongest sources of RFI at my house is a ballast in a nearby rent house (no, it's not a grow-light). It is mainly noisy on 2m SSB. I have heard of similar issues with LED lights. The shorter the wavelengths involved, the less issue we should have on HF.

HF is far from over, but we are going to have to stay on top of this to keep the bands usable.

ARRL sends me regular invitations to contribute to their "Spectrum Defense Fund" but I have yet to find an explanation of how that fund is being used to make anything better. There are some knowledgeable guys over at ARRL's RFI group, but until ARRL + the rest of the hams find a way to get FCC to enforce their own rules, the regulatory option has limited utility.

Maybe we should quit pushing this "Parity Act" stuff in Congress, and get an "RFI Enforcement Act" moving, instead.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by WA3SKN on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
There has always been noise.
Doesn't anyone remember Mom and her vacuum cleaner? A couple of home made coils and .01 disc capacitors cleaned it right up!
Yes, this new digital world is full of noise sources. But with capacitors and ferrites, plus shielding like aluminum foil, we have a lot of tools available also.
The trouble is when the lawyers step in and everyone is sueing everyone. It would be nice if the FCC actually had more enforcement resources available for Part 15. You will notice that Europe requires much more shielding than over here... I wonder why?
73s.

-Mike.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by W6ZKH on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
My biggest offender is the xyl's darn washing machine!! When it goes into SPIN cycle, all I hear on 75/40/20 meters is "swish..swish" as it rotates. Needless to say I dont get to operate on wash day... I have no interest in fixing it either..... just incase say "fix it"...
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by WB8NXR on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
My Samsung 64" 2013 plasma generates killer noise. But the noise blanker on the IC-7600 takes it all out. Good thing because it if was the TV or my radio, I'd lose. :-)
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by KC7NOA on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Dang W7AIT .... you missed it.( WAIT -- is that your call)

We have a 5yr old Plazma Tv ... when its on its all over the 75M band. When the screen goes black or dark its the worst ... making it hard to hear people running QRO (and over) ...

puts the meaning of run the minimum power to make the contact out the door ...

The more that are sold .. the more the base line raises - period.

 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by K1TWH on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
It's so good to know we're being protected by CFR47 Part 15 and Part 18 rules, isn't it? I mean surely these devices must all meet these regulations, unless, well, unless they're "Fabrique en Chine" . Yeah, books and shelves of standards, and through deregulation we've gone to self certification. Working really well isn't it?
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by AC7CW on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Get rid of all the AC to DC converters. Use solar panels and resistors to reduce battery charging current, run everything from DC. Use DC appliances made for RV's. Battery lives will be shortened but it might be worth it.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by K6AER on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
What makes a DC motor turn.....brushes on the armature. Just a little arc.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by KC7MF on February 8, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Yet another end of the world article.

If Ham Radio ends it will not be because of RFI. Not because of no-code extras. Not because of HOA's.

If Ham radio ends it will be because we amateurs are not doing enough to bring more people into the hobby and keep those who are already there. When was the last time you invited someone to your shack and LET THEM TALK ON THE RADIO? When was the last time your club actively recruited younger people, made them feel truly welcome AND GAVE THEM REAL RESPONSIBILITIES? Not just kids. Younger working people. Is your club station available when younger working people are available and are your events scheduled with them in mind?

Because I am a certified geezer I can say this...I am getting really tired of grumpy old men. Who wants to hang around with a bunch of guys who complain all of the time, rub their mega-buck gear in other people's faces and believe "5-9 Alpha Zulu, 73, QRZ" is the very apotheosis amateur radio communication.

I do a net twice a week as net control. On the rare occasions when someone mentions that they have a visitor in the shack it is always "put them on the line and let me talk to them". When a new ham calls and mentions they are new there is plenty of time to talk to them and let them talk. They get a card when possible. There is always time to explain what we are doing.

Could all of us set aside just a few minutes each week to cruise the bands and spread a little good will? Could we invite others, young and old over to see AND TALK on the radio? Here is a bad example. I saw a field day event station. They had guys doing CW up front and the very people who the public might want to meet and TALK ON THE GOTA station were hidden in the back.

It is time that we understand that we live in a world where international communications is as easy and workaday as it can be. I am doing it right now with my feet on my desk, posting here. But one day a few decades ago my father fired up his HW-101 and handed me the mic. He taught me to call CQ and I did. Then a really nice man in Christchurch New Zealand answered the call, treated me like a friend (and an adult) and I was hooked. That is what is at the essence of keeping this hobby going. Creating a warm and friendly place where people can make new friends, enjoy each others company and explore all of the aspects of this rich and diverse hobby will cut through all of the interference in the world. It is not the noise that is going to get us. It is the silence.

Rant off.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by WS4E on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
>If Ham Radio ends it will not be because of RFI. Not because of no-code extras. Not because of HOA's.


Maybe not, but all those things just help it go down.

 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by OZ8AGB on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Time for a can of SOTA.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by KB2DHG on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Yes, noise is always a problem but more than anything. band conditions play a big part in it. Also the band you are operating on may be more susceptible to noise than others.
If I am being bothered by excessive noise, I scan other bands to see if it is worse or better, Most of the time switching to another band will yealy quieter conditions...

I also agree that living in a city is far worse than in the country as I can attest to.

Bottom line, I don't think HAM RADIO IS DEAD, I think we just have another challenge to conquer!
A great chance to find a way to eliminate QRM!
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by KB9WQJ on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
"Could all of us set aside just a few minutes each week to cruise the bands and spread a little good will? Could we invite others, young and old over to see AND TALK on the radio?"

TALK to who?...the people you cannot hear?
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by KH6AQ on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
The FCC is aware of the increasing noise level and if focused on how this is impacting the AM broadcast service. As I understand it the possible solution is to increase AM BC transmitter power.

That won't help us hams and we will have to do what we can with improved DSP noise reduction and move to CW and digital modes.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by K6CRC on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
The story complains about RFI, and rightly so. But, the real 'noise' problem is the small number of grumpy old men in the hobby shouting 'CBers!' and fighting the ancient war over code tests. Given the garbage on the TV and talk radio, I would guess most potential young hams are not easily offended, but who wants to put up with bad behavior for a HOBBY?
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by KC2WI on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
RFI is a big problem not just on HF, but HF is the most widely affected.

You can control the RFI from your own house but not the neighbors. Maybe, if you have a really cooperative neighbor, they will help you track down the source of the RFI from their house and then do something about it, but that's a big if.

Operating mobile and portable you very quickly get a sense of how much local RF garbage is being generated. All it takes is getting .1 mile away from power lines and seeing noise decrease by 6 s units to show how bad the problem is. I love operating portable because most times true background noise level very low, maybe s1 or s2 and sometimes no reading on the meter at all. I've been on 75M or 40M when it sounds just about like FM. It can be frustrating when you can hear a station very clearly but there is no reading on the s meter and you know it is extremely unlikely they will hear you with a 10W QRP rig because most likely they are in a populated area and their noise level is s5...

It is not going to get any better because the general public is unaware and doesn't care. Very few listen to shortwave or even AM radio so they don't hear the interference. Therefore few complaints to the FCC and no enforcement.

As far as attracting new people by demonstrating HF, most would take one listen to the noise, and being used to clear FM broadcast and digital or cable TV, cell phones, Skype and other VOIP Internet, or even cheapie FRS FM, they would be immediately turned off. Then they look at the need to put up 100 foot long wire antennas or beams on towers and compare it to the hand-held cell phone or computer you just plug in to the Internet and that's another strike against HF. The only real novelty in ham radio is HF long distance because HTs and such no longer impress people when compared to their smart phone.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by JOHNZ on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
@KC7MF

What common ground could today's youth possibly find by hanging out with a bunch of balding fat, gray hair old white men in their 60s, 70s, & 80s, who brag constantly about how many expensive radios they own or how many countries they have worked?

You are right about hams being braggarts. All you have to do is read the self-authored bios on QRZ.com. Most funny are the ones written in the third party style.

Field Day? Yes, that is where most clubs screw up badly, when it comes to presenting ham radio to the public. Clubs will run publicity campaigns ahead of field day, inviting the public to the field day site. Then when non hams show up at the field day site, they get ignored, leave, and wonder why they ever made the effort to visit such a bunch of fruits in the first place. Yes, there are a few smart ham clubs, who will be ready for visitors, show them around, explain the hobby to them, and invite them to a club meeting.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by K9MHZ on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
"....small number of grumpy old men in the hobby shouting 'CBers!'...."

Well, that generally happens for a reason and not as random, Alzheimer's-induced outbursts. It may seem fun to compare those hams with the old grumpy heckler guys in the balcony on the Muppets Show, but I might suggest that an expectation of some amount of class from our own isn't such a terrible thing. CB is just plain silly on so many levels, and not accepting that mentality is not a bad thing. Today's sensitive types will yell "hater!," so you'll always have that loser element. But what we've lost over the years is a true sense of identity as a ham community, and that's very sad.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by KC7AX on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I have had an RFI problem I have been working on for years but now am in sight of the end. I have learned a lot and have bought lots of equipment (MFJ power line finder, small spectrum analyzer, transceiver that covered much of the bands up to 1300 Mhz). Although frustrating, it has also been a bit of an adventure and I am in a place to help fellow local hams with the same problem. There are three things I have purchased that help a lot:
1. An ANC-4 noise phaser
2. A good DSP unit
3. An excellent speaker (it helps more than you think)

Also, learning to use an IPO and my radio's attenuator have helped.

Living out in the middle of nowhere (which I don't) is not necessarily a solution. I am going to help a guy whose nearest neighbor is half a mile away track some noise down. One of the most pernicious sources of broad band noise is electronic ballasts. Fortunately two companies are now making filters that go between the units and the light bulbs.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by W4KVW on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Watch your heads because The Sky Is Falling also from the Global Warming I'm sure!

Clayton
W4KVW
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by KF5DE on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
The United States Congress is responsible for most all of the new noise on the bands! Dear God, who else but them would create 15.00 light bulbs that create interference and damn near created power line transmissions that would have wiped us out completely?
We truly need a better system of governing the government. Butch Magee, KF5DE said that
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by G3SEA on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!

If it gets that bad or IS that bad there is always
ECHOLINK and IRLP :)
G3SEA/KH6
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by AC7CW on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
K6AER said "What makes a DC motor turn.....brushes on the armature. Just a little arc."

True 'dat. On my bucket list: build a ham shack that uses no AC power. I just feel way more peaceful when I get out of the 60Hz AC fields.

Cooling can be accomplished without these ridiculous power hungry AC units. Shade, thick insulating walls, a fan running at night cooling a thick slab, building into the earth even...

AC fans produce less noise than DC ones though...
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by HAMMYGUY on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Ham Radio and cities are incompatible. Part of my work is doing RFI calls for a local utility and you would not believe the amount of noise within city limits.

Go mobile, portable, and get the hell out of the city. Move to a country location.

Or you can give up Ham Radio.

 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by ON5PDV on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
a couple of years ago, I purchased a LED 'dusk-to-dawn' outside fixture, installed about 12m away from the antenna. When that light went on, S-level on the receiver went from S1 to S9+, no way to copy other stations anymore. This, despite the 'CE-approved' marking on it. Never used them since I spotted the problem. Recently, I gave it another try and bought GU10 (230V) socket LED spots (brand name), installed about 5m from the antenna (closer to the antenna than the RF-dirty ones I experienced before). The S-needle doesn't move a bit when they are lit, no extra noise can be observed. It depends really what they put into these fixtures. If you are unlucky and the bad ones are used in your neighborhood, these things can really be a serious brake on the fun of our hobby.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by K7FD on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I notice the kilowatt AM'ers on 80 meters wipe out all my noise and they sound beautiful! The solution is to run high power AM!
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by AI8O on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I have the same RFI noise problems in my town.

The local telco (Ringy-dingy Bell) built out their Cable system 20-30 years ago.
Windstream bought out Ringy-Dingy Bell about 7 years ago.
Windstream is not doing upgrades or PM on the system.

Their are lots of RF leaks in the system; uncapped connections, unterminated connections,wires hanging down from abandoned drops, expansion loops falling off their turning frames into the street,open amplifier cabinets, etc.

As I drive around town I hear all sorts of buzzes, beeps,noises on 2m.

Any how an aging, poorly maintained cable system is now causing RFI literally all over town.
 
Be Proactive for good Ham Radio?  
by AI2IA on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
If you are dissatisfied with your background noise, it is time to become proactive. Thoroughly investigate your environment beginning with your own shack, then your house, then your property, then your neighbor's outside property, then ask questions of your neighbors. You will be amazed at what you find and how quickly you can correct problems that are easier than you thought.

Examples are everywhere! Good hunting!
 
RE: Be Proactive for good Ham Radio?  
by KC2WI on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
"What common ground could today's youth possibly find by hanging out with a bunch of balding fat, gray hair old white men in their 60s, 70s, & 80s, who brag constantly about how many expensive radios they own or how many countries they have worked? "

How is this different then a bunch of kids bragging about their latest multi-thousand dollar gaming computer and what level they have gotten in some game??
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by AB4D on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I have multiple LED lights in my home. The kitchen has 12 recessed can lights, the closets and laundry are also have LED bar lights, and we have LED recessed lighting in the master closet. They do not generate any detectable RFI. Perhaps it the manufacturer. When I am on the radio in the morning. My wife is usually in the kitchen with the lights turned on. My noise level varies between S0 and S1.

Hope you find a cure. Perhaps it's the type installed in your home.

GL de AB4D.
 
The pursuit of radio science attracts young & old  
by AI2IA on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
It is tiresome to read the ravings of negative hams who have long ago lost the thrill of amateur radio due to their own self-imposed limitations. These gloom and doom folds who ridicule are out of touch with youth, with middle-age, and with elder radio science enthusiasts.

Never has there been so much opportunity in amateur radio to attract the ageless minds of the scientifically curious of all ages.

To all the gloom and doom hams I offer one and only one of a myriad of mind opening suggestions:

Go get yourself a copy of QEX Magazine and re-educate yourself for your own good, and thereby once again find happiness.

Otherwise, realize that you are in a deep, long rut, and the only difference between your rut and a grave are the dimensions.

de Ray, ai2ia
End of message
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by KI5WW on February 9, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I've become very concerned over the last ten years or so. It is getting worse. My Ariss wifi makes the am broadcast band unusable anywhere in the house and most of the yard. I have to unplug it if I want to listen to my AM radio. Which I still enjoy a great deal. At least I have that option. The wifi is worse than the power lines in my alley by far.

Johnny
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by KK5DR on February 10, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I converted all lighting in my home to CF (compact fluorescent) several years ago. There is no noise from them on HF at all, saved me $20 per month in electricity bills. The only time I hear noise from them, is when one is dying. That last for a day, and then the lamp goes dead. I replace it, and off I go again.
I use the cheap CF "bulbs", no particular brand. Have had good luck with them, and they average 10 years of life.
I don't use them in my frig (CF don't like cold), they won't start up. That would be a good place for an LED, and would only put out noise when the frig door is open.
I can't comment on if the CF make noise on VHF, I don't do VHF, no gear for it. HF is clear though.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by W4KVU on February 10, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
"Try DStar" --- Extra Class CB
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by W9CW on February 10, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Although I'm not a regular contributor here on eHam, this subject certainly resonates with me, thus I wanted to add my thoughts. I entered the ham ranks after a few years as a SWL in the late '50s, and got my ticket in 1961. Needless to say, the noise levels, and noise floor, on HF at that time were almost non-existent with an S-meter reading of S0 to S1 with a no signal condition.

Warp forward to 1978 or so, and noise was still almost non-existent. HF operation was very pleasurable with my station in our home on a small residential lot in the city. We moved to a suburban home in 1990, and slowly but surely, the noise floor began to increase. Today, my quiescent noise floor on HF is a minimum of S7, and typically S9. This makes HF operation difficult at best, and DXing out of the question.

Some will say: "Just move to another house, preferably out in the country." This is easier said than done for a myriad of reasons, including financial. What I've noticed are the following noise sources: noise from neighboring houses, this includes plasma TVs, grow lights, indoor and outdoor LED lighting, likely numerous Chinese-manufactured SMPS wall warts, etc.; cable TV line leakage due to an infrastructure that hasn't been maintained well since installation in the 1980s; and power line noise - a consistent problem, lately causing S9+20dB levels especially on 40m and 20m (Our local power utility closed their RFI Department several years ago, thus it's almost impossible to mitigate the problem). These are just three noise sources - of many - that contribute to the problem.

After over 50 years in ham radio, I have what most would call a "dream station," however due to the persistent RFI problem here, my operation in minimal. In fact, the thought of "selling everything" and finding another hobby has crossed my mind many times, especially in the last several years. My only saving Grace is operating portable "out in the stick's" with my KX3.

"The End of Ham Radio," possibly not, but with the recent decision of major lighting manufacturers to cease CFL production, and move all production to LEDs, and the constant HOA dilemma that many hams face today, ham radio is facing one of its biggest challenges it's ever faced.

Transceiver manufacturers have provided us with improved receivers with low MDS and greatly-improved dynamic range specifications, but these are moot if you have a noise floor of S7 to S9. Although ideally we need to find a way to reduce, or eliminate, the "source" of the noise, this likely will never happen. Rather, the transceiver manufacturers, along with improving their transmitters (IMD level, etc.), need to dedicates some serious design talent on the noise blanker circuits in the receiver. It certainly can be done, as some legacy noise blanker designs, such as the NB-4 and NB-7 used in the Drake R-4C and TR-7, were well-designed blankers with excellent performance even against many of today's noise sources.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by KC2WI on February 10, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I hate to say this but probably the only solution is digital. Even if DSP noise reduction capabilities increase, there will be a limit to the S/N at which an analog SSB voice signal can be pulled out of the noise. Probably some kind of spread spectrum or at least more than 3 KHz wide digital signal will be needed.

Either that or the only hams on HF will be those way out in the country who don't have local RFI. Add to that the difficulty of putting up a decent HF antenna in the city or anywhere on a small lot and/or with HOA/zoning restrictions.

Couple the RFI and antenna restriction problems with the trend towards urbanization and it doesn't look good for HF. It's not going to go away, but the old days of HF as a shared experience of all hams is already a thing of the past.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by N1FDX on February 10, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Interesting but true article, 18 years ago I move into what was then a new house in the country, middle of the winter, poor weather so no outside antennas. Had the builder install an empty conduit between the cellar and the attic. Put a simple 20 meter dipole and 2/70 vertical in the attic and I was on the air until summer. Worked great. I now have other antennas in the attic including a satellite array. Since that time more and more electronic devices have come into the house, with digital controls, compact fluorescents and LED lighting, WiFi, cordless and wireless everything.
As years have passed they have become somewhat un-useable. My 43ft vertical about 50ft from the house is still quite but anything near the house suffers.
Really stinks !
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by WA8MEA on February 10, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
We had a family several blocks away using pot lamps (verified by our power company) and they were completely legal under the "medical marijuana" laws. HOWEVER, the HUGE amount of RF they were generating from their sodium lamps was breaking FCC rules and unbearable. Even to my other neighbors who could not listen to their favorite radio stations or watch cable TV. I couldn't hear anything from VLF to 12.6 MHz.

The cable TV company came out and warned them about RFI, to no avail. Once the power company came out, that put an end to it. That, with a follow-up letter from our group of neighbors, thanking the RF offenders for turning off the pot lights so we could again watch TV and listen to the radio seemed to have done the trick.

You catch more flies with honey than you do with....
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by K6CRC on February 10, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I have received several letters from the ARRL looking for money to fight the 'dire' consequences of losing parts of our treasured UHF/SHF frequencies. Send money immediately!
Has anyone received a similar letter asking for money to fight RFI? Or to lobby the FCC to enforce radiation standards? Or to take legal action against utilities and cable companies that radiate into the bands that Hams actually USE?
Seems as if the ARRL is part of the problem here. Money needed for benchs, bricks, and saving our near-light band access. No mention of the REAL problems Ham here are facing, lack of enforcement of RFI emissions.
At least no one from ARRL has hit me up for money yet
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by K9COX on February 10, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0GFRcFm-aY
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by KB0IXM on February 11, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I read the title of your post and thought to myself have I missed something? Is there something happening that I'm not aware of? As I started reading your article I already knew where it was going. About halfway through your article I got to the part where you decided to head out in the mobile or as you put it "So, I fired up a portable receiver and started down the street. By the time I wandered into the middle of a nearby intersection the buzzing was reduced, and I could clearly hear signals. Next I checked out the power-lines - surprisingly, all clear. Back to my house and the noise was so high, all signals were crushed."

My question to you is why wouldn't you have done this in the first place before buying your home if you really wanted to operate HF as a hobby?

I know when I was looking for a house I looked in areas that I knew were going to allow for antenna's and a tower. I also used my mobile hf rig and drove around the home I ultimately ended up buying to make sure that noise wasn't an issue. I did this more than once to make sure the first time I checked it wasn't just dumb luck.

I'm not saying that everyone has to do this but to buy a home without doing due diligence as mentioned really just means you didn't do your homework before buying and not that "The End of Ham Radio" is near.

I hear some locals talking about how HF is not good or signals are bad and have to shake my head. No conditions are not optimum right now but DX is out there to work if you want but you might have to do some work yourself to be able to make those contacts. Using a poor antenna strung up 15-20 feet between tree's isn't going to get you the DX you want if conditions aren't 100%. Sometimes you have to do some (get ready for it) work to put something up in the air to make contacts.

For those who buy a home like the original poster in an area flooded with RF to claim Ham Radio is going to be gone in 5 years just makes me chuckle.

Now losing spectrum in the ham bands to other interests is a much more serious threat.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by W9OSI on February 11, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Is there D-Star on HF?????
Shows how much I know. I do know he mentioned HF though.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by W3TTT on February 11, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
"...Some local noise sources kick in occasionally. I suspect Grow lights from some neighbors,..."


Thank you! I would have s9+ buzzing on 80 and 40, but only Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and only until about 1 AM or so. In the morning, no buzzing. I walked around the neighborhood with an AM radio, and it seemed to be coming from a house with "hippies". Nuff said. I put on my reflective vest, carried my 2 meter HT, and walked around the front yard with my AM radio taking "measurements" (looking all Police official perhaps?). The noise stopped!!!!


Also, when it rains, we get a loud buzz on the land line telephone, and I get a buzz on 80 and 40. My wife, who is hearing impaired, can not hear the other person on the telephone in this case, and she is immediately calling the phone company. They come out and repair something on the line, and all the noise goes away. This happens regularly, so we get an upgrade and maintenance due to her complaints.

 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by W3TTT on February 11, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
End of ham radio? NO WAY!

It just opens up an exciting new facet of the hobby!


 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by JOHNZ on February 11, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
@K6CRC

Congratulations on your "awakening" as to what the ARRL is all about. An informed amateur radio operator is the ARRL's worst nightmare, meaning no more money being funneled into the Newington coffers.

My awakening was decades ago, when the Newington Yankees stole operating privileges from hundreds of thousands of hams in an ARRL scheme called Incentive Licensing, a scheme whose only purpose was to generate income for the Newington coffers.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by 2E0OPS on February 11, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Everything about the above is correct, my own location used to be a dead zone. Now the interference levels are depressing to say the least, especially the inverters from solar panel installations, this is my worst nightmare, all day and oddly enough all night, spiking signals of S8, while the unit has mains power supplied to it, it creates hash as it sits there biding its time to create the real noise when the sun comes up, thats S20 of noise from 6 all the way down. So yes, i firmly believe that HF radio as we know it, is on its way out the door, literally.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by K6CRC on February 11, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
JohnZ.
I assumed this site is for licensed operators. Not sure why you are commenting here.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by KI5WW on February 11, 2016 Mail this to a friend!

Actually that is correct. It chased me out doors. To the great out doors. Don't care what radio I choose, if nature is kind my noise level guna be great. I purchased a Honda generator just for that reason.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by JOHNZ on February 11, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
@K6CRC

A. You assume incorrectly. Kindly direct your attention to the eHam TOS for additional info.

B. If you are inferring that I do not possess a valid amateur radio license, you could be assuming incorrectly.

However, if you do not care to converse with me, I can accept that and wish you well.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by KI4WCA on February 11, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I live in the city of Asheville NC.Noise got progressively worse until DX on 75m with the 718 was impossible.

I bought a Icom 7410.Problem solved.The first time I turned on the noise reduction I thought something was wrong as the s meter dropped from 10db over S-9 to about S-2.
The Icom noise reduction DSP saved me!


I still want a remote mountain with giant antennas....
 
The End of Ham Radio? Not for Me...  
by N7RJN on February 11, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
We moved into this house (new construction) nearly eight years ago. I installed a combination of LED and CFL bulbs to lower our electric bill. Since then I have gradually replaced all of the CFLs with LEDs, as I had a few issues with the CFLs. There are about 45 bulbs in the whole house. Obviously not all are turned on at the same time. The LEDs are from a variety of manufacturers and were all purchased at Home Depot or Price Club. In the evenings with maybe about 15 of the lamps turned on I see a noise floor on HF of no higher than S2. This is the same as it is in the daytime.

Oh, and for all wall-warts for cellphones, clocks, AM/FM radios, etc., I use RF chokes at both ends of the cables. In my shack, I do not have any wall warts.

Bottom line is I have not had any measurable RFI problems with my LED bulbs.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio? Not for Me...  
by KB0IXM on February 12, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
http://terryweaver.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/headline.png
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by YL2VW on February 12, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I found out myself that not all LEDs are noisy. Here you can see/listen how noname made in China LEDs "sound" - from ebay 4USD/piece in 2014:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lyv_1jVpmy4
Antenna is 6.3 m high vertical some 20 m away.

After that I replaced those noname LEDs with Philips and Osram LEDs which nowadays during sales cost not that much anymore in local shops. And at least these few branded ones I got does not generate RFI.

Unfortunately I can not control what my neighbors are buying. I have already 3 neighbor houses which I have to visit and see what can be done with their noisy LED power supplies, if they let me in at all.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by W0NR on February 12, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I have a plasma TV, and it causes considerable noise across HF, so much so that I can't hear any signal above the noise. Had to locate my shack across the house, but still getting a lot of bothersome noise from the airco unit which is located on that side of the house. I can't seem to escape noise wherever I am.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by W0NR on February 12, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I agree with this. The openness and friendliness of hams is what got me interested when I was a kid. Adults treated us kids as equals and treated us as if we knew what we were talking about. Now that I'm finally an older new ham, I'm finding the community just as friendly. I recently moved to a new state and actually made my first contact there. The hams here have welcomed me into the community and have gone above and beyond in helping to get me situated on the air. It is that openness and friendship that will make the hobby endure. Many hobbies have a lot of snobby people -- those who have more or know more seem to look down their noses. I've been impressed with the relative lack of that in the ham hobby.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by KG5AXF on February 12, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
40ft by 40ft (1600 sq ft)...sounds like a population dense area. I can see the OPs point about RF interference, especially in such a compact space. Compact by Texas standards anyway; I'm on a 9900 sq ft lot.

In my opinion a ham should adapt to their area. So if you live in a population dense area then digital or portable would be the way to go. If you are in a more suburban or rural area then by all means, put up a tower.

Best of luck to the OP to find the right niche for them.

73, KG5AXF
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by KC2HTI on February 12, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
One day at a time.....
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by W2DB on February 13, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
One issue I found living in the Austin area was that all newer (post-1983) homes are being put on small lots. Even huge homes, 4000 sq ft 2 story on 5000 sq ft lots puts everybody closer and your antennas closer to their Chinese-crap. I left Austin in 1991 for a Ft. Worth suburb. Both places were quiet, HF was fine. When I got back to Austin in 2001 the general noise level everywhere was high, seeming to peak around 10 mhz. At my new home (2001) which was 2 blocks from the old one HF was unusable after a while, more and more imported crap in the houses around me. Killed my main breaker, noise didn't change, ok, not me. But the neighbors were pretty much high ego blowhard idiots that I just ignored. THEN came AT&T U-verse. Icing on the cake. Made HF impossible. Even before I got their service it was so. But my phone line connection (they come in via copper) was underground for about 120', to the side of the house and then they ran unshielded twisted pair around the house to the modem, about 100'. And the spectral distribution of their service goes right up through the HF bands.

Now temporarily at my dad's home in NJ taking care of him. Someday it will be back to Texas (its a TAX thing) but now we have some great tools, one being Zillow. You can find a place in the middle of nowhere, but close enough to somewhere to have internet and no restrictions. That's my future plan when I'm retired in a couple of years.

But here in NJ the house is about 200' from some high voltage lines, maybe 100kv or so. I thought they'd prevent HF work, but they're quiet as can be. My only issue here is a HOA full of retired busy body neighborhood nazis. The restrictions annoy me. Real estate people love them for some reason. But that's a whole other topic...
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by N8FVJ on February 14, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
BTW- I replaced the old furnace with a high-efficiency type. The electronic igniter produced a S9 on 75 meters, much less on upper bands. While running it produced a S3-S4 noise.

I placed a Corcom dual section filter on the furnace. During the day with the 75 meter band down, I just barely hear the igniter for 5 seconds and while the furnace is running I hear nothing.

The furnace should have come factory standard with an EMI filter installed.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by N2UJN on February 14, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
N8FVJ:

If you would email me information on your furnace noise mitigation install at n2ujn@arrl.net, I would be forever grateful. My neighbor has a similar furnace.

Thank you.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by AB6WM on February 14, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Sadly I discovered the same thing in our house.

One of the biggest noise generator was the LED lamp on the desk by my rig. Next was one I recently installed in the lighted magnifier over my work bench because the incandescent used to get so hot.

What a shame, they cast a nice warm light. Incandescents are fast disappearing, but if this LED bulb is indicative, there is going to be a lot of noise to contend with.

Peter
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by AA4HA on February 14, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Not a very helpful response for HF operation. DStar is a digital mode useful on FM operation in the UHF/VHF bands.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by AA4HA on February 14, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
The article is well written but it is FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) about a specific problem that one amateur radio operator has after moving in to an urban environment.

The problem has nothing to do with LED lights, everything to do with poorly designed switching power supplies. Those come in just about every appliance sold today as they are a cheap-er alternative to linear power supplies (with large transformers, bridge rectifiers, capacitors, chokes).

There are plenty of amateur radio operators who live in more spread-out (open suburban or rural) areas where we have more control over our RF environment and often do not need to deal with antenna restrictions.

It may be that serious HF operations will become less popular with urban, dense suburban and managed developments (HOA's). Then again there are other modes of operation that are not so common in distant rural areas so there is a bit of a trade-off.

If amateur radio is a major factor in what "makes you happy" and you have the choices to live in places where you can pursue the hobby then maybe it does not matter that much.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by N8FVJ on February 14, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I do not care for the savings using LED lights. So, I have a lifetime supply of incandescent bulbs.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by W2DAB on February 14, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the guys who built their own transmitters and receivers had it a lot tougher than today's interference by electronic devices.

To the naysayers that say ham radio and cities are not meant to go together, I say they are defining ham radio in a pretty narrow way.

The truth is most ham dedicated to the hobby find a way for it to work despite their circumstances. The knowledge that comes with being a general or extra class make it incumbent upon amateurs (those with the love of the hobby) to overcome obstacles and become better operators in the end.

I feel for the ham who posted this threat but, good gosh... there are options, this IS NOT THE END OF HAM RADIO. QRP, SOTA, digital modes, Repeaters, working through problems. Yes, we live in a different world but what hams do is adapt and overcome. That is were we shine.

So please, stop posting stories with titles like "This is the end". Maybe it's the end for you but that's OK, because Ham Radio will find a way to make it work and continue without you. After all, if we all wanted EASY then we'd just stick to cell phones and the internet.

If you really love the hobby, then be glad to fight for it, otherwise move on to stamp collecting or something else.

73
DB
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by AB7MC on February 14, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
it depend in your QTH. mine is always quite. S none.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by AE6RO on February 17, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Yesterday (February 16 2016) we had an electricity "scheduled maintenance outage" here in Long Beach, CA which lasted a blessed 11 hours 30 minutes or so.

So I fired up a battery operated receiver and was AMAZED at how quiet the band was and how the signals just jumped out. The noise floor was indeed much lower.

Now this blackout only affected a few blocks right around the QTH. So most of the noise is coming from my neighbors' "unintentional" radiators.

Actually sorry when the lights came back on! 73, Johnny
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by N4VNV on February 18, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I've been using the lights mentioned in the article for years. I had the RFI problem also, but solved it by moving my wire antenna further from the house. Maybe my neighbors don't use the afore mentioned lights. Only problem I have is on the 60M band. I have never found any local source of that frying noise.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by N5UD on February 19, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I have had a license since 1965. At different times I have worked with the power company, CATV, and even oil field electric contractors to clear noise. I know a lot today comes from poorly filtered appliances.
The disturbing thing to me is that the utility companies no longer seem to care to maintain their plant.

I operate only as mobile. The towns are just too noisy. Nearly all the HF noise is bad electric company plant. This lousy electrical plant extends to miles out into the country, and to different electricity companies. The only quiet plant is the new areas.

The only way I can get to truly S zero background noise. Is to drive out into the forests 2 miles from anything !

73
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by ANDREW30 on February 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Since when is HAM radio HF-only?

6m, 2m, 70cm and 23cm are not used at all?
Also the problem isn't with LED, just the switching supplies. Solution? Use 24V or 48V DC for LED lights with only one supply in your house. This also eliminate flickering issues many cheap mains LED suffer from. Of course you have to do the wiring separately, but it's always useful to have true DC available as an alternative to 230V (110V) mains.
Having dual clean supply of +24V, 0V and -24V is also perfect for audio equipment such as mixing consoles or amplifiers.
Of course the neighbour situation won't be changed by this.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by W5YZR on February 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Well said Sir....

W5YZR
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by N1KTJ on February 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Find this very disheartening for an apartment dweller. You think that you can get HF signals to work with and then you run into noise issues and several other issues.

1) No outside antenna, so do a single ended end fed dipole and drop it out the window.
2) or try a magnetic loop antenna.
3) Now we don't have a good ground because we are on the second floor, so need to create some kind of artificial ground.
4) Artificial noise sources create a situation where you need to have some built in DSP to drop the noise floor.
5) definitely need a antenna tuner because you are working with end fed lines.

so many ways to have issues. so many trials to get an apartment HF system to work, if at all.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by N5JRN on February 25, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
A better title for this article would be "The End of HF?".

It's a problem that's been long in the making. I'm old enough to remember how quiet the HF bands were in the early 1970s, when I first powered on an HF receiver at age ten or so. Every passing year has bought more and more technologies that just spew crud in the HF spectrum. First it was dimmer switches, then home computers, then touch lamps, and so on.

And through it all, the FCC has generally been asleep at the switch.

Some have recommended taking a portable receiver and doing an RF survey before buying a new home. Alas, that's not much of solution; unless one lives way in the boonies on acreage, there are neighbors who at any time can buy some piece of dollar-engineered equipment that just trashes the HF bands.

Myself, I've been pondering doing what commercial and government HF communications stations do: getting a remote receive site. (I'd use an SDR and an Internet connection. I'd put out feelers amongst friends who have rural property for one who'd be willing to let me put a receiver, antenna, and server on their property in return for a rent payment.)

What I do now is use a Doty low-noise antenna in my small-town urban location: http://www.iw5edi.com/ham-radio/?low-noise-antenna-connection,45 . It helps, but it doesn't work wonders. There's still a *lot* I can't hear due to local noise.

It's really sad that the days of being able to hear the world with nothing but a low-cost shortwave set and a piece of wire strung out the window are basically over for so many.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by KC0VOE on February 26, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I started buying stuff that's noisy on purpose just to piss of you hams
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by NV0S on February 27, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Our ham radio hobby has been on a downward spiral many years now. Not only because of man made QRN, but because of technology. Gone is the magic of actually being able to talk to a foreign ham via radio because of cell phone and internet technology. It's no big deal now. We've also dumbed down the hobby with easy exams and eliminating Morse code. Getting a license now is a matter of memorizing a few pool questions. Rule enforcement is almost nonexistent, allowing jammers, egotists and cranks to proliferate the airwaves.
Most of us can't afford moving to the country. Portable operation is severely limiting. VHF repeaters are boring, mostly idle chit chat and inane conversations.
Not much we can do about it. I guess I count myself as one of the lucky ones being a SWL and ham during the 50's, 60's and 70's. That era is now gone forever. However, I still love my hobby, I still get on the air, not as often now.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by JOHNZ on February 27, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
We have been on the road to total deregulation, starting in the 1980s when the government got out of the business of administering ham exams. Sadly, many hams have either not figured that out yet and/or are in denial. I recall being at a broadcast industry symposium years ago, and a high-level career manager representing the commission made a remark about ham radio. He said if there was a way for the government to get completely out of ham radio, he would do it tomorrow. The commission has been incrementally moving toward total deregulation, and the pace is increasing.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by K0UA on February 27, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I have a lot of can lights in the basement, I just got done changing them all out with Cree brand 65 watt Br30 bulbs.. NO RFI. I have many other Cree's in the house, and have not been able to detect any RFI from any of them. I have a very low noise level. Usually less than S1. And this is just band noise, with the exception to the occasional powerline noise. My OCFD goes over the house roof, and I cannot detect a thing from my LED's. I had a switching power supply once that will wipe out the entire HF spectrum with 40db over S9 noise. I replaced that supply :)
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by K9CTB on February 29, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Everybody and their brother has commissioned a "study" on "modulation methods". The good? It's where we get a lot of cool new digital modes. Some of the same guys doing those "studies" are also hams. The bad? Most of what they're doing in our HF bands is frequency hopping or sweeping. The more of this stuff they "study" the more unidentifiable crud shows up on the bands. The more of that they spit out into the ether, the higher the noise floor on the band. A good example of this is anyplace downtown during a workday on any of the "ISM" bands. 902MHz is a great place to listen. If everybody buzzes 5 times per minute, pretty soon the entire minute is filled with RF glop and your insignificant 2.5KHz deve FM signal is the local hospital's lunch - if you get my meaning. Amplify that kind of phenomenon across the HF bands and yep - the entire noise floor model will continue to change. By change, I mean worsen.

But is that the "end of ham radio"? Hardly. What hangs us up now is the way Part 97 is currently written. So long as a 30 foot bluetooth is the closest we can get to frequency hopping and anything of the sort on HF is considered "encryption" and denied to hams, we're gonna be challenged. Challenge is what the hobby is all about!! The challenge is just a lot different now than it was when everybody had a copy of Schrader's "Electronic Communication" on their desk. Now we have to be software-savvy and ditigally-inclined to face that challenge. Real radio amateurs never let each other down before .... why would they start now? <big, honored, grin>
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by KG4INK on March 5, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Digital voice will pick up steam towards becoming a standard because of this problem.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by K9RZZ on March 6, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Depends upon where you choose to live. I'm in the country and last week the power went off in the area for 3 hours. Using a car battery to run my receiver, I've never heard the bands so quiet before!
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by N6NKN on March 10, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I bought twenty acres in Montana. Me no worry.

 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by AB5S on March 11, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Several years ago, I wrote about a solution for
"noise holes" that worked very well in
my experiments (not noise inverting antennas).
For my trouble, I got cussed and derided as
"destroying ham radio" by offering a solution.
So I guess we'll just have to live with the noise.
I'm not going to put-up with that a--holery again.
Dave AB5S
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by VA3BD on March 11, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
OK Dave give us a clue. This sounds very intriguing
Doug
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by KG8LB on March 16, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
Toss a rock into a pack of dogs and the only one that gets hit is the only one that yelps.
I have been blessed with an Obama Era Plasma screen transmitter that sits about 20 feet from my antenna .
In the old days, the FCC took up inspection and enforcement . Now they simply auction off public airwaves for HUGE $$$ and complain that they have no resources for enforcement .

 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by VE7IG on March 17, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
There are solutions that at least can resolve some of the problems, after you have cleaned up interference from your own home:
1. Noise cancelling technology -- The MFJ1025 DOES work and the DX Engineering unit, although expensive works very well. I used a unit from the UK years ago that worked exceptionally well. Then the power company cleared up that particular noise and I need anything for years.
2. HF receiving loops , such as the Wellbrook or the
DX Engineering RF-Pro really work for lower band HF noise reduction. I have a Wellbrook loop that works very well on 80/160m. A friend of mine who lives right across a river from a hydro electric dam couldn't operate on 80 or 160m at all without his RF-Pro loop.
3. Nobody in this particular forum has mentioned remote HF operation. Commercial remote ham radio has solved the noise and/or HOA problems for a lot of hams. This can be expensive and also raises the hackles of some but it does let hams operate HF from city houses and apartments. I have my own remote HF station nearly 6000 Km away and when it is working it works very well, out in the country. Several people I've talked to have remotes located in summer homes away from the city. A simpler solution is to remote a receiving antenna in a quiet second QTH if you have one or a friend who would let you install one at his QTH. Also some radio clubs already have remote installations for use by their members.

HF radio is not dead yet but may require high tech solutions to keep it alive.
 
RE: The End of Ham Radio?  
by VE7IG on March 17, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
That should read "and I didn't need anything for years." Somehow the "didn't" got left out.
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by KI7AA on March 19, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
This whole thread is about LED lights. What about CFL? We have lots of compact fluorescent bulbs in our home but no LEDS.

KI7AA
 
The End of Ham Radio?  
by KD0ILM on March 20, 2016 Mail this to a friend!
I had/have a part time shack in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Vietnam. The noise is so bad that for the most part SSB is out of the question. Maybe with a beam. LED signs etc. are everywhere which I suspect is part of the problem. Add to that wiring, transformers etc that only rivals India and it is hopeless. Unlike the US you can't exactly get in touch with the govt. or power company and complain.

I agree that it is getting worse here but we have a long way to go.
 
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