eHam.net - Amateur Radio (Ham Radio) Community

Call Search
     

New to Ham Radio?
My Profile

Community
Articles
Forums
News
Reviews
Friends Remembered
Strays
Survey Question

Operating
Contesting
DX Cluster Spots
Propagation

Resources
Calendar
Classifieds
Ham Exams
Ham Links
List Archives
News Articles
Product Reviews
QSL Managers

Site Info
eHam Help (FAQ)
Support the site
The eHam Team
Advertising Info
Vision Statement
About eHam.net



[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

Any Tinkerers in Your Area?

from W5IDX on December 26, 2018
View comments about this article!

Here in the Texas area its near impossible to find a Ham group that has people doing things, building antennas, building projects, doing the things you would normally do in a hobby.

Most all conversations at get togethers are about new items they just bought or are going to buy.

Is this the norm elsewhere?

W5IDX

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by K3UIM on December 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I'm afraid the pleasure of yesteryear isn't today's cup of tea. My guess is the overabundance of 2 meter handhelds and the lack of (mandatory) cw interest is dominating the "youth" of this hamming era.
I dropped out in 91(?). In 30 years of building, experimenting and repairing, it seemed we all were either working towards out Novice test, or trying to get our WAS award. Now the king of ham radio looks like it's the local repeaters and I think the computer games are more interesting to them than the magic of electronics.
I could be all wet. "Mine eyes have seen the glory" of that first sound from somewhere in the world on my home-brew receiver and transmitter. … sigh … Hi.
Charlie, K3UIM

 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by KD7YVV on December 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Most younger hams would think why should I?
I can get anything I want off
Amazon, Craigslist, Ebay, Eham, Offerup, or QRZ, and
bunch of other places on the net.
Why build a DC to daylight receiver when you can just
plug in a dongle and have the computer do it all for you?

Then there's the availability of parts.
Gone are the days when you could rip open an old TV
and actually read the resistor values as well as
the values of other components.
Nowadays the stuff is so tiny you practically need
a microscope to even get started.

Gone too are the local parts shops.
Remember when you could go to the Shack and get
something if you needed it?

It's not as easy to be a tinkerer as is was years ago.

 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by WO7R on December 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I suggest you look into the "maker" community.

There are lots of people, young people, just the sort that eventually become hams, that are out building things.

It's just, they are not building the kinds of things you expect them to build. A lot of it isn't even radio related. Robotics are big with my 14 year old grandson right now.

But, a lot of what they build is. It's easy to build up a station, yourself, that is chock full of Linux PCs, Arduinos, and Raspberry Pis that are completely custom things that were "made" and not "bought." The radio and the antenna may be stock commercial, but how the station operates and what connects the things together need not be and often is not.

You want automatic band switching between your rig and antenna farm? Well, you can buy that _or you can build it yourself_.

You can, if you want, have a process where your 80m four square is automatically aimed at the station you are trying to work. Or, move a rotor to do the same thing.

There's a lot that can be done nowadays that was either never done or too expensive that one can do for maybe 100 bucks and a little effort. And, some are making that effort. Hardware and software.

Me, I have a station that is full of such things. I have myself managed to write software that scarfed up the data WSJT creates and use it to aim my 2m EME array. That's just one example.

If you look for the building projects of the '50s, you will be disappointed. So, don't look there.
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by KJ4DGE on December 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I disagree. I recently as of a year or so ago was asked by a ham op who did not know how to solder to assist his kids in a science project to build a simple Quaker Oatbox AM radio kit. The kids had to solder like one connection and as I sat with them they asked many questions about how the radio using a simple coil and diode could pull in a station. We are talking 7-8 year olds. Sure they have a smart phone and the net and the idiot box but I have faith the shear joy of hearing that magic happen through their earbuds won't be forgotten. The boy may go on to develop interstellar communication gear and the girl may be a world leader someday but they will never forget that learning experience just like the feeling I had listening to HAM ops on a Zenith tube Transoceanic at that age.
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by KW4JX on December 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
It's not confined to ham radio but the art of conversation is dying. Also the exhortation to Public Service in the hobby has been at the expense of International Goodwill, which is hardly mentioned in ARRL objectives.
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by K5SBR on December 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
The radio world has always been divided into two distinct groups: operators and techies. And there are those folks who dip into both pools. Sometimes more or sometimes less.

The internet has been a boon to homebrew "artists", sometimes now called "makers". Delve into any topic and you can find a wealth of information and experience from across the globe.

As for parts, Madison Electronics is gone. However, abandoned TV and computer carcasses still yield all manner of goodies. Virtually any component, vintage and otherwise, is available via eBay or other internet sources. For current production items, a number of suppliers are available.

Oh, and nowadays custom printed circuit boards can be commercially produced inexpensively, or you can build Manhattan or Ugly style. Then cover it with a custom machined front panel from any one of several suppliers.

It would sound as if you have been looking for tinkerers in all the wrong places. Start with an Elecraft kit and work your way into the weeds. What you seek is alive and well - hiding there.

73 & GL,
Ed
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by K5LXP on December 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I think part of the apparent "loss" of tinkerers is just a matter of perception. Maybe a few decades ago it was a big deal to etch a board, source parts and knock out an enclosure in your garage but anymore that's a pretty easy thing to do. I've encountered a number of really interesting projects and designs that hams and non hams alike have created without any fanfare at all, they just did it because they could and didn't feel compelled to post it online or publish it in QST or wherever. My own inspiration to tinker isn't driven by amusement but necessity. I only have so much time to spend on my hobby so I only build what I can't buy. Anymore, there are few things I want I can't buy. Why would I reinvent any wheels? That feeling of accomplishment is still there when a homebrew project is completed but the projects aren't the simple widgets and geegaws of decades past but more complex and application specific things that likely no one else would ever want or need to build. This isn't a group activity so I'm not surprised "ham clubs" aren't the place you'll find "tinkerers". I rarely involve anyone else in my projects unless I need a part or tool or something. I've always considered tinkering/building a solitary activity. Maybe if you've never built anything from scratch before doing it as a group might be interesting at first but from there you're not going to want to do or build what a group is doing for long and you'll be on your own.

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by K3UIM on December 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
DGE: That was me 45 years ago! I gave classes at the YMCA and at out "club house". I gave the Novice tests to many of the locals. etc.

I'm glad I threw my 2 cents into this thread! You are all right. It's the same thing, only different. Hi. Thanks for all the comments. My spirits are lifted.

Charlie, K3UIM
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by K6CRC on December 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
The tinkerers are out there, they just may not be hams anymore.

What makes more sense for a 14 year old...learning CW or Python? Program robots or listen to an old ham droning on about how lazy young people are because they do not want to learn Morse code.

I would suggest that people here visit a 'maker faire' or such and see what the throngs of young people are doing.

Hobbies change with new generations. Just enjoy what you like to do. Young people will take care of themselves.
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by K3UIM on December 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
CRC: Amen.
Charlie, K3UIM
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by N6JSX on December 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
The answer to the question is; NO it's hard to find local Makers/Tinker Groups, today, and in the future. This part of HAMdom is almost gone, youth hold no fascination and HAMdom is getting much older like WWII/Korea/Vietnam Vets that are all +60yrs old.

It is due to the revolving times with its pressure to make profits NOW and lack of investing in the future that might not happen. How many companies today have a 20yr plan - none.

The MAGIC and CURIOSITY of Radio has been replaced with THE NOW easy access communications/APPs. Even the various Blog web sites are fading due to membership non-participation/clicks driving low site profits.

The Magic of Radio is no longer a wonder or creates curiosity. We got AM/FM/TV and Intagram/TXT/Voicemail/Tweeks/YouTube/etc on your smart cellphone. VOA, WWV, SWL'ing is history and maritime is now via SATs.

And if HAMdom would ever be honest with itself it would acknowledge the dumbing down of our license tests and elimination of CW was to gain more sales. Event QST lives by the number$.

Now one thing this new modern world has created is the ability to do faster research, find like minded people and communicate faster more easily via the internet.

If you still want to find the local Makers try listening to 2m Simplex. Lots of us hang out there.

Kuby, N6JSX /8, MS-EET, licensed +46yrs
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by K2BEW on December 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
"Most younger hams would think why should I?
I can get anything I want off
Amazon, Craigslist, Ebay, Eham, Offerup, or QRZ, and
bunch of other places on the net.
Why build a DC to daylight receiver when you can just
plug in a dongle and have the computer do it all for you?..."

Because it is a lot more satisfying to build something yourself and see that it works and use it, then buy it off a shelf. I enjoy building more than operating or any other aspect of the hobby, and I think young people would too if they were exposed to it. What is fun about plug and play radio when they already have phones that do that and more?

 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by K4PIH on December 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I think some of it can be attributed to ham's that have a complete fabrication shop at their QTH and can use things like CNC machines, surface mount, etc. to build things that look like factory made.

New hams look at these and think since they don't have all the fancy machinery then there's no use in even trying. They just turn on the HT and never get any farther.
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by K5UJ on December 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
First, let's ditch "tinkerer" and "maker" and call them what they've always been called in ham radio: homebrewers or builders. In my opinion, you have to inhabit the right ham radio world for homebrewing. Some hams think programming an arduino board is homebrewing but not in my book. Writing code isn't building--it has to be the construction of a material item; not just software.

The best world for ham homebrewing from my experience is the world of vintage radio--AM, CW and mechanical RTTY. High voltage and vacuum tubes are the order of the day. Sheet metal work and point to point wiring is the usual m.o. and you don't need a microscope to do it. But all of that necessitates having some sort of shop and metal working tools and test gear, although Bob Heil's Pine Board Project is an excellent way of getting around the business of finding and punching a chassis. Unfortunately, schools may not teach shop these days, and modern ham handbooks don't cover this sort of thing. New hams supporting families may not have the time and money to set all of this up. Where to go? The gathering places are hamfest flea markets where you'll find fellows with similar interests looking for old books and chassis punches, and AM operator gatherings. The print communication media isn't QST (although they have been running more content on vintage radio and AM of late), it's Electric Radio magazine. Back issues are a treasure of information and knowledge.

Patience is required. You don't produce a QRO transmitter or amplifier by sunset. If you can't get past wanting it all and getting it all right now then you'll get frustrated. You have to start slow, making simple but useful items like an in-line RF pickup for an oscilloscope, or a two position QRO coax switch and move on to an antenna feedline matching network, or fixing up a vacuum tube push pull audio amplifier or All American 5 broadcast receiver. Then a VFO perhaps followed by a Novice CW rig. Each one of these projects is satisfying provided you aren't a perfectionist.

Interest in operating will slip away as you discover the other half of the hobby. The two will balance each other. Some hams find they enjoy building, restoring and modifying more than they do operating.
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by WX7Q on December 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
"It's just, they are not building the kinds of things you expect them to build. A lot of it isn't even radio related. Robotics are big with my 14 year old grandson right now."

I would like to echo these thoughts. At work, the office buys Xmas gifts for "At Risk" children instead of an office mate. Last Xmas,I drew a 14 year old girl who wanted a robotic project. I purchased 2-3 robotic kits for her along with her own tool kit. Maybe, just maybe, we can spark the minds of the younger generation. Who knows where it will lead.

73
WX7Q
Jim
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by KC0FNS on December 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
One thing you make as a maker, is other tinkerers.

Builders, Hackers, Makers, Hombrewers, Tinkerers - yes they exist, and in some ways are as plentiful as always. In this sense - they make things, and sometimes, if you are careful may tell you what they made! We hams and makers in general don’t brag or share outside our community of tinkerers, so you have to be a maker to know a maker. Ham homebrewers sometimes making things that are domain specific and hard to understand. So, for example, unless you are already a CW operator, you would not understand a mechanical slow-speed code mod for a vibroplex. Why would you share what you have made with someone who does not think that is cool.

We are busy with other hobbies, family and of course reading about our hobby maybe more than actually operating. We make things for our own use, not often because it’s cheaper or better., but because we are learning more about the technical craft we use to solve some problem.

Ham radio operators contribute to the technical capability level of their communities beyond just our ham friends. Perhaps their contributions are sharing or fixing open source code, teaching others a new skill or fixing their friends quadcopter with a soldering iron and some glue.

If you want to meet other tinkerers keep sharing what you make, and eventually ham friends will talk about the things they made. Tinkerers do. You are a technical resource and leader in your community!
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by VE3EGP on December 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Our school system has changed as well which has contributed to the demise of the tinkerer. Gone are the shop classes that were mandatory when I attended high school in the 70's. At the high school I attended, we had a licensed amateur station in our electronics class.

Not only are tinkerers a dying breed, we are witnessing dire shortages of skilled trades - plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc. Most young people today have been told they can sit behind a computer screen in a cubicle writing code and earn $50K+ per year.
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by N8AUC on December 26, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I find that I can usually buy something far more capable than anything I could build, and have it cost far less. Cost is important, because I'm cheap, err...frugal. Yeah, that's it...frugal!

I get motivated to build something when I think I can do as good a job, or better, than a unit I can buy, for less cost.

My most recent project was a portable 42Ah battery box. I looked at what vendors were selling, and I built my own for 1/3 of the cost. And I built it the way I wanted it. Then I took some photos, put together a power point presentation about it, and gave a talk at the local ham club meeting. It was very well received, and got 3 other people started down the path of duplicating what I had done.

What really gets me, is when I see people actually BUYING wire antennas. There is no way I can buy a wire antenna for less than I can make one. A LOT LESS! The funny part is when I read their product reviews raving about what a GREAT deal they got. And many of those are right here on eHam.net.

73 de N8AUC
Eric
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by N1KWW on December 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Some say everything we need has been invented, now we are just modifying. Are schools doing anything to awaken the spirit of discovery? Driving around after school lets out or on weekends one would think children have disappeared from the landscape. Organized athletics have taken the spontaneity from children. Would a group know how to determine who was up first? I "tinker" with antennas, easiest and I think I understand the principle. Would like to know how to read a schematic and transfer it to a working radio but at 79 doubtful that will ever happen. Guess I fall into the group of "appliance" operators. N1KWW
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by NC5P on December 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Where in Texas are you? This is just one club and there are others in the Metroplex with similar activities:

The Dallas Amateur Radio Club has a Lab and Lecture on the fourth Saturday of each month starts at 10am. LnL is held at the Dallas Medical Center (which is the same same locations for DARC meetings) ususally on the 3rd floor.

Topics range from DIY antenna building to electronic kits and other interesting radio topics. Check the w5fc.org site or keep you eye on the event calendar for up and comming meeting topics and other news.
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by KD6VXI on December 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I tried to build a working am solid state TX and a crystal receiver with my son for his science project.

School wasn't having that! "Might be dangerous, or something" was the answer given. Especially disheartening after presenting my licenses for professional and amateur radio qualifications.

Just like building fences around our schools makes our kids safer, keeping them from ever building anything will keep them safe, too. And makes them good little consumers! Because that's important.

--Shane
KD6VXI



And we did make a TX and rx. Screw the school, my kids get to actually learn
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by WA5RR on December 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I am in North Central Texas and we have a group that gets together, both in person and online, to share all sorts of projects. We've had folks experiment with SDR, antenna building, and many other things. Our group is a sort of 'splinter' group from the main club in the area but it coexists nicely with the larger organization.

Don't let anything stop you from building and tinkering. If you share it enough, you might attract others.

73,

Korey==WA5RR
Wichita County, TX
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by KA6WKE on December 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I've noticed this lack of interest in tinkering/homebrewing/making - whatever it's called these days. I started a Virtual Elmer live stream for beginners to get over that initial learning curve.

https://www.ka6wke.net/live-stream
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by N5LXI on December 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I do not know about the Houston clubs, but the Dallas ARC typically has one educational hands-on event per month.

You have some good resources in Houston, Electronic Parts Outlet and and Ace Electronics. I never mess them when I'm in Houston. Both are great stores full off cool stuff!

In Dallas we have Tucker Electronics and Altex. Tucker is great.

How about starting a tech net on of the local repeaters?

joel / N5LXI in Dallas
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by KF4HR on December 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I'm sure there still are a percentage of hams that enjoy building antennas and/or equipment and enjoy learning how equipment actually works. Many of the older hams probably still remember Heathkit manuals which included complete circuit descriptions in the back. Now-a-days it's a safe bet that the majority of hams, particularly newer hams, prefer the buy->plug&play way of life, and just trying to digest an operational manual is hard enough.

Most of the incentives of the past, along with building equipment and actually learning how it worked has been reduced or eliminated by easier licensing procedures, plug & play equipment, and world-wide digital/internet communications equipment that can be had for a song.

I suspect finding tinkerers will be harder and harder to find in the future. Like it or not, it's a sign of the times.
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by WO7R on December 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
<<<< Some hams think programming an arduino board is homebrewing but not in my book. Writing code isn't building--it has to be the construction of a material item; not just software. >>>>

What are you even talking about? I know of no Arduino projects -- none -- that do not involve hooking _hardware_ up to the Arduino. Often, it has to actually be soldered, just like the old days.

The whole point of using Arduinos, in particular, is to create a hand crafted something-or-other that either does not exist at all or does not exist in the form you wish it to.

If it doesn't require hardware, you can just code it up on an old fashioned PC. For straight-up programming, an Arduino is a terrible choice. Add a bit of gear, however, and it becomes wonderful.

And as for radio projects, they abound. There are plenty of people hooking up various inexpensive SDR boards and chips to do stuff and learn stuff.

That isn't, quite, a homebrew transceiver, but it is very useful.

Just because it isn't what you have done doesn't mean it isn't tinkering.

Every age tinkers in its own way with the tools available to it.

Discrete transistors have been in short supply for a long time. But, there are plenty of robotics parts out there, SDR receivers, and much else that is easy to hook up to Arduinos.

So, just as we did back in our own day, _that is what they are going to be doing_.
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by KW4JX on December 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Kids are interested in Physics - batteries , bulbs, magnets, etc at a very early age, yet the schools often delay Physics until they are leaving the schools for college. This is because the schools are obsessed with a bogus safety, taught theoretically, and they are not willing to pay Physics teachers more than other teachers. Also, because of the shortage of Physics teachers, the subject is often watered-down into mixed science where it becomes a Cinderella Science.
The local repeater nets have banal contributions such as 'no traffic', 'in and out' and 'What did you do for Christmas? If you ask a technical question it is not answered. So what do you expect? In England, Physics is taught experimentally right through the high school, not in the last year.
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by AA4MB on December 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
My thoughts (likely worth way less than $0.02) on some of the comments so far:

K3UIM: Well, if you've been uninvolved for 25 years or so, I guess that explains your perspective on repeaters being "king." Yeah, when I devolved from VHF ops years ago and went strictly HF, I was in for a rude awakening when I decided to take my IC-7100 on 2 meters (or 70cm) to listen to local chat. Put simply - at least in this area, it's not exactly a wasteland, but it's a small shadow of what it used to be. That does beg the question - what does everyone else think the 'king' of ham radio is now?

KD7YVV: Good riddance to "Cellular Shack," in my opinion. As early as 25 years ago, they really didn't give a tinker's dam about hobbyists and home brewers any longer - they got caught up in the instant gratification of R/C cars, cell phones, TVs and batteries. I find it mildly ironic that their website nowadays seems to imply they still consider themselves a DIY parts supplier of sorts. The last time they HAD a part I was interested in, there was no way was I paying the exorbitant prices they wanted. I simply went without the SO-239 barrel connector for a few days and stopped at a CB shop when I passed it next. The owner said, "Hardly anyone ever asks for these ... here, it's on the house." Don't forget to turn off the lights after the last customer leaves the store, Tandy.

You can actually get nearly any discrete part your heart desires, short of roller inductors and the like, by ordering online and waiting a couple of days. That's the new paradigm.

KJ4DGE - sorry, but all I could see in your post were the words, "... ham op who did not know how to solder ..." Wow. There's another topic for another day.

KW4JX - quite right. The art of conversation and dialogue has been replaced by all caps screaming at each other pseudo-anonymously in social media.

K5SBR - you're right, but don't go quite far enough I think. Absolutely anything is available ... usually quite inexpensively. The real issue is finding a *group* that is doing it in your area. A club or a 'community' if you will. I checked my local area for maker's communities and there is one. Of all the discussions, I could not find one about ham radio - even in the electronics section. Sigh. Maybe that's an opportunity to *start* one? Gotta look for the positives.

N6JSX - Kuby, you totally 'get it,' my friend. This is what I've been saying for quite a while. I was on 80 m CW a few nights ago and talked to a guy 20 years younger than myself (I'm 59). I must have looked like Redd Foxx grabbing my chest and saying, "It's the big one, baby ... I'm coming home!" At 59, a full 99% of the time I'm younger than the other guy (yes, nearly always a male) by at least 5 - 10 years at a bare minimum. Young folks are simply not impressed by 2 meter autopatch any longer. (assuming you can find one or someone who knows how to bring it up/hang it up)

K4PIH - huh? I don't think I've ever heard of - and certainly never conceived - of a potential new ham being turned away from the hobby because he/she thought they needed a CNC machine. And I don't think they even turn on the HT more than a 1/2 dozen times, because it's either dead air, a weather reporting net or a couple of us old fossils who don't know that there's not much on VHF/UHF compared to the 'good old days.' The Baofeng or Anytone HT just goes in the closet along with the 36 shot glass bandolier you won as a gag gift, the old Daisy BB gun that Uncle Phil's wife gave you when he vapor-locked or the $25 drone you ran into the tree and can't find replacement propellers for.

VE3EGP - funny you mention radio in the high school. Even in 1975, when I approached the headmaster of our high school with what I thought was a very well-reasoned proposal for a radio club and ham station on-site, I was given the polite, yet very condescending version of "get off my lawn, kid!"

N8AUC - yes, yes, a thousand times YES! I cannot conceive of ever purchasing a pre-built wire antenna.

N1KWW - you're right. You seldom see kids 'at play' in neighborhoods any longer. They are all inside drooling over their cell phone and/or video games (guys) or their cell phone (girls). I worked with kids at church for 25 years as a youth volunteer and when I bailed out 3 years ago, we were already losing their attention span during presentations to their iPhones and Androids. Someone came up with a bright idea to put PostIt notes with their name on the phones and putting them in a basket and giving them back to the kids when they left. That worked really well ... and brought down the size of the group, too. Many wouldn't stand for it.

KD6VXI - I practically wept when I read that. Yes, let's keep us safe from crystal radios for gosh sakes!

KA6WKE - Virtual Elmer! See ... hope in the midst of darkness - thank you!

WO7R - yes, discrete transistors are getting in shorter supply. But they aren't hard to get - at all. If you visit Mouser's web page, you'll see that they claim to be able to supply 35,919 different types, with 25,522 data sheets available. If they have none in stock and can only get 10% of what they claim, that's still a bunch.

AA4MB - here are my thoughts, and not because I saved the best for last or I think I'm more right than anyone else. As a die-hard CW operator for 44 years, I think we might have even fewer hams on CW if we made it mandatory again. And definitely fewer hams in number. And numbers aren't what it's all about, either - otherwise, the myriad of Baofeng HTs which languish in shoeboxes on the bottom of the closet floor would form one heck of a voting block. I choose to think that we are largely a dying breed - and we will never all be gone - but I'd bet $ to donuts that in 30 years there will be huge segments of the population who wonder what ham radio is/was. Heck, 30 years? There are huge segments now who have no idea what we are. That's probably our fault, too. Since the advent of radio, we really never reached out that much, overall. Folks reached out to US - and we extended a hand and helped them in. I think most of us would still do that ... but they ain't reaching any longer and we haven't figured out that to save the hobby from dying off, we must change our strategy of getting new members and actively recruit them.


 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by VK4FFAB on December 27, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Seek and ye shall find.

Clubs are not the be all and end all of amateur radio. If your club does not do anything, find another club if you need clubs to feel whole. Or, get on internet and find a whole world of homebrewers exist and are busy doing their own thing.

Youtube, blogs, forums etc you can find lots of people building and experimenting with radio. And most of these people are just an email away and are happy to talk to you.

Homebrew is my main interest in amateur radio. I am not a member of a club, i do not know any local hams near me, but I have a good groups of friends scattered all over Australia and the World who are also homebrewers and we talk about these things via DMR, HF, social media, email, you name it, where there is a will there is a way.

We live in a global society, boarders and distance no longer are limitations, so look further afield than locally and start making friends globally who share your interests. And get on facebook, there are electronics groups that are amazing, filled with people of varying skill levels building amazing projects.
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by WO7R on December 28, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
<<<< But they aren't hard to get - at all. If you visit Mouser's web page, you'll see that they claim to be able to supply 35,919 different types, with 25,522 data sheets available. >>>>

Great, then you need to get the word out. I'm glad to know it is still possible.

What I see, however, and some of this is my own interest and some of this is just what pops up in my Internet feed and yet more of it is what pops up in my _grandson's_ feed are projects that do _not_ use individual transistors.

They tend to use assemblies of various sorts. Some require soldering, some do not. That's what the kids have visibility to these days. And, there are more kids doing this kind of thing than there was 10 years ago.

Meanwhile, you can go to Fry's and buy Arduinos, boxes of all kinds of kit gear (anything from robotics to temperature sensors to various USB devices to relays) and string them all together with a little code to make whatever interests you.

In my limited neck of the woods, anyhow, that's what I see being done and particularly what is being done by kids.

Maybe there are discrete parts here and there (e.g. my temperature sensor is kinda sorta one) but a lot of it isn't. If you can get an SDR receiver for under 20 bucks (and you can!) then building one out of a bunch of discrete parts can be done, but why would you? The 20 dollar chip is actually easier to interface and then you are off to your applications while your buddy is still soldering and testing a bunch of connections.

Inexpensive hobby stuff is simply available at a higher level of function more often than not compared to "our" day in the '60s or '70s.

Radio Shack is dead, but kids have found places (Fry's is very relevant to this discussion) where they can get stuff. And, yes, Fry's even sells individual resistors and that sort of thing. Heck, you can buy N connectors there now. But, what the kid interested in electronics is going to actually _see for sale_ (especially for their very first project) are projects with things like Arduino at the heart of them.

Not only that, I can get the Arduino _itself_ for four bucks from many sources. And, an Arduino can replace a lot of discrete logic.

If you assigned me to build a sequencer for an EME array, I would do most of the work with an Arduino, because the code for the sequencing is both reliable and trivial. I would not string it together out of more conventional discrete parts. My more traditional buddies would never dream of doing that, but I see no earthly reason why it wouldn't work and I, at least, would know just how to build it and test it. A lot of 14 year olds would come to the same conclusion.
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by AA4MB on December 28, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
“We live in a global society, boarders and distance no longer are limitations, so look further afield than locally and start making friends globally who share your interests. And get on facebook, there are electronics groups that are amazing, filled with people of varying skill levels building amazing projects.”

You know, our mate down under sort of flipped it right around and made the perspective more clear. Maybe it’s only most of us old dudes who think that the only way to do this is the (our) traditional way - face to face. You certainly can connect with others of a like mind, far more rapidly than an in person QSO after a 30 minute drive across town. You’re right - for information sharing and interfacing, ‘borders’ are largely a thing of the past. It can be more visual than our old classrooms, too.

Thanks for the insight.
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by W1RKW on December 28, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
tinkering, building, homebrewing, etc. is alive and well here.

And getting parts is just as easy if not easier today then ever.
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by K5SBR on December 28, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Many excellent viewpoints have been shared. And quite a few homebrew builders have exposed themselves. Hams with soldering iron burns typically don't run around showing them off.

The reasons for not advertising technical expertise are many. One such appeared at one of our local club meetings. The fellow began by expressing interest in getting his ticket, but further discussion exposed that he was only there looking for somebody to repair his CB radio - for free.

Sizeable groups doing meaningful homebrew projects are hard to find because most of the reasons for building are very specific and personal. That is why the internet has been such a benefit to the homebrew community. As an example, few hams in even a very large population may have any interest in building a vacuum tube HF amplifier, but there is plenty of experience across the globe.

Consider what YOU want to do, then begin. It is a process. One that will continue despite the march of technology and the cries of the pessimists. "Why build a receiver (or whatever) when you can buy better?" My reply is simply, "I don't know that to be true until I prove it to myself."

Have fun, however that works for you.
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by KC2QYM on December 28, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
We have to be more objective of how the amateur radio service (hobby) has been evolving. Studying/memorizing multiple choice question pools, taking the test and passing gets you the ticket. Whatever road one takes to get on the air will often dictate their level of development.

If the new ham joins a club he is more apt to find others willing to help and hopefully promote discovery and experimenting which normally leads to building things. Most hams who get a Technician license and stay with the limited repeater culture often buy everything they need, they don't usually build anything. Lone wolf types who study, memorize, and pass the General and even Extra test often buy everything to get on the air including wire antennas (what a shame). They don't join clubs because they are not interested in the social context and therefore never rub shoulders with experienced hams.

I myself have not been a ham very long and I'm in my sixties. I joined a club after I received my license and it was a great experience exposing me to many skilled folks who shared their expertise with me. I was open to learning new things building on my basic skills in radio operations, SWLing, etc. So although I am not home brewing radios I certainly will build an antenna, upgrade my SB-200, and do other in chassis upgrades and tweaks without fear. My solder skills are pretty good. Well enough about me.

The main issue (if it really is an issue) we have here is that an ever growing percentage of hams are just appliance operators. They are happy to buy every last component and device and just fit it together and get on the air....and they don't think about it too deeply either. They carry no guilt about being that sort of ham...they are not embarrassed about forgetting the formula question on how to measure out a half wave dipole. Heck..they just buy some wire antenna and their only engineering challenge is how to get it up in the air.

Now I'm no RF engineer or electronics builder but I really look down on a guy who has a license and can't solder a connector on a cable or fit out a dipole for construction. And I'm sure there are hams who will look down on me for not being able to build a class A amplifier. However, how shameful to the purpose of the hobby that we have guys who are literal basket cases when it comes down to basic hands on station improvement and operations. And I'm talking about guys who don't even try...others may be redeemable.

 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by WO7R on December 28, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Hams buy most of what they need to get on the air because the gear is ubiquitous and cheap. Sure, romanticize building all you like. It's an honorable and wonderful pursuit. It no doubt created, not terribly indirectly, the livelihood of many reading these words.

That said, it's just a different age now. The kinds of things one does to get on the air today, for cheap, are quite different.

The inflation adjusted price of gear is a marvel compared to when I started out. The qualitative improvement of said gear is amazing and makes the price comparisons borderline irrelevant because today's gear is so much better.

An old (say) TS 430 is out there for prices little different than the X Box most of them own. They don't have to build _just to get on the air at all_.

Sure, I could spend a lot of time homebrewing a receiver and probably feel great satisfaction in doing so.

It is very likely, however, that a simple, inexpensive SDR stick that I could buy for 100 dollars or less (sometimes under 50 bucks) will outperform what I build by leaps and bounds. Doubly so if this is my first project.

And, that SDR stick _will_ interface with my PC. A lot of great old kit designs are entirely innocent of interfacing with computers. Great for SOTA backpacking, but not really responsive to today's needs overall.

With FT8 taking up _half_ of today's QSOs, any homebrew transceiver (or transmitter or receiver) that doesn't interface with a computer is literally _half_ a solution. At best.

Are we going to see books full of kits that _present_ USB CAT control and Windows' sound card drivers? This is the future of transceivers. Building such a thing oneself is a lot of extra work if you can even find the designs.

You can, however, find chips and boards that are already available and assembled that do most if not all of this work, and for reasonable prices.

Today's kids, if we can get them to care about radio to start with, are not going to want to recapitulate the 1930s or even the 1970s. This will be true for the same reason the Heathkit builders didn't build spark machines.

They are looking for gear that meets today's needs. If someone wants to build the ol' "Tuna can" CW rigs of yesteryear, I have no doubt that a few 14 year olds will find their way to such projects. But, as the foundation of a real on-the-air experience? As a vision of what their real "base HF" rig is going to be like? Nothing of the kind. A receive-only SDR stick is going to look a lot more like their future.

If we look to what we built in the '70s, we are going to decry the future. If we look to what would actually be interesting to someone not invested in the last 50 years, but more like the last 5 or 10, we will find there is a very different world out there, a world where most of the building-blocks are on a larger scale. These await the interest of today's youth.

If they are building robots instead of radios, it just might be because we expect them to build yesterday's radios and ignore today's technologies. It is always hard to get kids interested in building yesterday. Some will, but most won't. We did not.
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by G4AON on December 29, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I have always been a home builder of electronic items, to me “Black Box” operators aren’t real radio hams. OK, I have commercial radio kit and test equipment, but my daily SSB ragchew net is done using homebrew solid state separates, the TX is hard to distinguish from my K3, with several asking which rig are you using. The homebrew RX sounds nicer than my K3 or my TS480. My very simple PA0RDT style active antenna is an easy weekend project, yet some of my friends who know of it prefer to buy an inferior version from Eastern Europe on eBay that is just plain junk.

Surface mount, synthesised VFOs, and computer circuit modelling all make homebrew radio kit better and easier to make than it has ever been. Here in the UK there is a group called “Men in Sheds” that try to encourage mostly retired men to be constructive, usually with bench based woodwork, but ham clubs could run something similar to make radio and antenna related items.

73 Dave
https://www.qsl.net/g4aon/
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by K5UJ on December 30, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
<<Black box operators aren't real radio hams>>

Agree completely. Anyone who wants to operate with all the solid state doo dads they can string together is FB in my book IF they know how it all works down to the component, and get extra points if they are able to make repairs. But work some ham operating a SDR or the latest plastic radio and solid state leenyar, or some new digital protocol (no, the alphabet soup computer "modes" are not distinct modes of transmission) and 99% of the time he is unable to discuss his station in technical terms at all. These consumer electronics stations are a part of the on-going CB-ification of ham radio.

Why is that a problem? Because from my experience, hams who confine their hobby activity to operating only, miss out on the other 60% of the fun of the hobby, which is building, repairing, and modifying and restoring. And a lot of hams in this category drop out eventually because at some point, operating gets boring, and boredom is the single biggest reason for a licensee losing interest and becoming inactive.

I have no idea how any of the new stuff works, which is why I operate mostly vintage vacuum tube gear. That's what I understand, have schematics for, and can restore and repair. The ionosphere and some ham's receiver both don't know the signal from me came from tubes, hi.

73

 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by AD5VM on December 30, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
I became a ham in the year 2000 while working in the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley. I was a member of a couple different clubs in the Bay Area and I would sometimes attend the meetings of clubs I wasn't a member. I can't even begin to describe how much different the ham scene was there than in the places I've lived since. Most everyone was an electrical engineer or software engineer or high level technician by profession. Not only did everyone build and tinker, but the good projects were selected to be mass produced as kits and sold to raise money for the clubs! I bought my Norcal 40 right out of QRP Bob's apartment! I bought my Super Antennas MP-1 right out of Vern's pickup truck, I picked up my Elecraft K2/100 right AT Elecraft which was just down the street from my house! Wayne and Eric were regular speakers at club meetings! I bought several kits from the trunk of Doug Hendricks' car! The Livermore swap-meet was EPIC! Not to mention there were TWO Ham Radio Outlets in the metro area! I assumed this was how the ham radio community was everywhere.. Then I moved to Albuquerque, then to Dallas, then to Tulsa... And it's just like you said. The only tinkering going on is the maintenance work on the repeater.

Here is an example. The K6BJ club had a separate regular meeting just for design and building of radios and antennas. http://www.k6bj.org/cake/
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by WO7R on December 31, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
<<<< I have no idea how any of the new stuff works >>>>

Do you not see this as a problem?

If you don't know how "the new stuff works" and you consider yourself among the last generation of the tinkerers (that's how I read your posting), then you are _admitting_ that tinkering can and should die out for lack of learning new tech.

Either kids are going to find their own way without you, or else you're going to have to catch up if you hope to Elmer any of them, because they have no obvious interest or need for tube-based, discrete transistor-based tech. They may use it, if it has an advantage, but they will skip it if they can find something newer, cheaper, _and faster to build_ that works.

Do you know when that is or is not true? If you don't, how can you expect to guide them?

I can guarantee you that negligible numbers of them want to build good ol' tube rigs in 2018, and that's assuming they can and will track down the parts, which I doubt many know how to do.

An SDR is going to be about 1,000 times more interesting to them, too.

Better learn if you want to stem the tide.
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by VE3WGO on December 31, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
Does anyone in the USA or Canada really know how an SDR works? For example, what is inside a modern RTL dongle? Does anyone know how to draw the circuit schematic or functional block diagram of the dongle? What parts are used and what they do? Any ideas?

How about the software in the dongle? Other than some vague understanding of the functions that they perform, does anyone know how to create functions and write the baseband code for a dongle?

A few do. The rest, well...

The circuits and chips were designed in Taiwan and China. The dongle is designed, built, and tested completely in China. And it's cheap. There is nothing comparable from W/VE land. Nothing. We don't have any idea about how to do it. Europe does, we don't.

The new generation in North America just doesn't have a clue.

It is time to reverse this trend of complacency. We need get serious about putting useful electronics and real software (NOT just making pretty web pages) training back into our high schools like in the 1970s, and give our kids a fair chance to compete on the world stage.
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by WO7R on December 31, 2018 Mail this to a friend!
<<<< Does anyone in the USA or Canada really know how an SDR works? For example, what is inside a modern RTL dongle? Does anyone know how to draw the circuit schematic or functional block diagram of the dongle? What parts are used and what they do? Any ideas? >>>>

The internet is your friend. Very early on in the SDR revolution, good, competent summaries of "how it works" were published. Go google them, they still exist.

The short answer is: A typical SDR is a Direct Conversion Receiver with the I and Q outputs processed in software with Fast Fourier Transforms. In effect, it is the front end of a Direct Conversion receiver with the back end replaced with software.

In the early days, most SDRs were basically taking the output of computer sound cards and doing the aforementioned operations on sound card output (and, for transmit, providing the input).

Today, many SDRs are processing _directly_ from the RF without the intermediate Direct Conversion stage even. But, for kit building, the Direct Conversion design is still quite viable and can produce a fine result.

You could, if you wanted to badly enough, get a single chip direct conversion receiver (or even build one out of discrete parts if that suits your fancy) and then feed the resulting I/Q signals into your PC. I recommend a secondary sound card just to keep your Windows' "dings" and other noise out of the data stream.

In fact, in the earlier days, precisely this was done. In the US. The "soft rock" receiver was quite popular for a while. To my recollection, it was not built in China and it _was_ available as a kit.

The fact that other designs are out there does not mean you cannot do what you seem to be grasping towards -- the ability to fully understand and build one of these things. You can. You don't even have to invent it.
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by KJ7WT on January 1, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Yes, I am one of them, although not as prolific as some. I've fiddled with a variety of small projects, and worked on reviving some boat-anchor gear (definitely not state-of-the-art, but fun nonetheless).
Not sure about local club members in particular, I know we have some who are definitely tinkerers, and some who stick to all store-bought gear/accessories. I'd be willing to bet that many near you are tinkerers, but don't make a big deal out of it. I typically don't advertise projects that I build - they are just for my own amusement.
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by KL7AJ on January 2, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
I tink continuously.
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by AA4MB on January 3, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
"We need get serious about putting useful electronics and real software (NOT just making pretty web pages) training back into our high schools like in the 1970s ..."

Huh? I lived through the 1970's and graduated high school in '77. I don't remember any of that in *any* high school where I grew up - and there are a bunch here. In fact, nothing in any of the high schools then even approached giving you reasonable life skills which might help you cope in the real world, with the sole exception of the typing class I took - and I took that because it was full of girls. (best life skill ever in the modern world - high speed typing) I'm holding out the possibility that other areas may have actually had serious electronics and computer classes in the 70's ... but that wasn't the case here, unfortunately.
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by AA4PB on January 4, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Ahh - HS typing class, boy did that pay big dividends. I went active duty in the Navy and spent a month lay-over at a shipyard while waiting for an opening in electronics class. I was the only one who could type (or at least the only one who would admit it) so I went to an air conditioned office to type orders. The rest went down to the shipyard to chip paint every day. After electronics school I went to aviation code school where everything was copied on a mill (more typing). Later I was assigned to a MARS station where we handled lots of RTTY traffic (more typing). After the Navy I got a civilian engineering job which eventually migrated to writing firmware for embedded processors (more typing).
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by WO7R on January 5, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Computer classes were barely available in _college_ in the '70s. As a separate discipline, it was still in its infancy.

The "PC revolution" was well-launched before computers in the classroom took off.

By a coincidence, I was on the board of a local preschool when we decided to add a computer. That was right about the same time the public school was working on the problem. This would have been around 1982 or so. And that was just the beginning of it all. Not the '70s.

I don't think that was at all atypical.
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by N8FVJ on January 10, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
I believe the hobby has moved to appliance operators. Any item you would desire is already built and available. Further, the hobby electronics has moved to mostly surface mount components making building much more difficult.

The parts can cost more than an assembled item due to cheap Chinese labor. That makes building not to desirable now.
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by VE3WGO on January 11, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
the trouble is that not only has the assembly labour moved to China, but so has the design labour. And it is a good idea to have designers located near the factory to help the production ramp go faster.

An RF designer in Beijing makes < 40% in USD of what an American one earns, and their skills are just as good. That's what I see in my multinational. So not only the grunge factory jobs have disappeared from here, but also now the cushy design jobs are leaving too.
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by K3UIM on January 21, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Attending our local club has got me thinking that I've become one of the "old timers of yore" that has fallen into the cracks when it comes to modern high tech.

"Our" generation of tinkerers has changed from the thrill seekers of creating a piece of gear, to do whatever we need, to those "new thinkers" of today's generation that checks for the best prices on the gear that they need. It's become a "buy it" hobby with no satisfaction of accomplishment for a job well done, as it was in my "old days". … sigh …

(I'm wondering if we hams have that much in common anymore.) I wish they'd bring back CW. (I know! The Model T as compared to a new Thunderbird comparison.) I long for that very special comradery of home-brewing hams of my era that would compare notes on our latest project. (Lost cause.)

Charlie, K3UIM
 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by WB5WPA on February 1, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
I guess we never bumped into each other on 160 meters in the mornings or in the evenings. There are (were) several of us that frequented 1900 kHz in the mornings, but since I got my sight back I've been working (and getting spots) from overseas on 160 meter WSPR from a small city lot up near Dallas.
 
RE: Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by W2RWJ on February 14, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
I'm involved with a Makerspace in Southern NJ. The membership includes a couple of amateurs, however it's not a ham club.

In addition to the usual metalworking and fabrication stuff, it has a podcast studio, along with a decent dedicated RF bench (with all the gear your would need to tackle an amateur project).

There are places out there, you just need to look...

73 Martin
W2RWJ



 
Any Tinkerers in Your Area?  
by AB1ZI on February 21, 2019 Mail this to a friend!
Looks like I am the only "Tinkerer" here in my area of Maine. I Think the lack of government surplus parts and rigs hurts. I have trouble getting parts for cheap but I am still a scrounger. 73 Carl
 
Email Subscription
You are not subscribed to discussions on this article.

Subscribe!
My Subscriptions
Subscriptions Help

Other Editorial Articles
Sherlock Solves a 30 Year Transmitter Hunt