Are you an Elmer?

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by VK6FLAB, Nov 23, 2018.

ad: L-HROutlet
ad: l-rl
ad: L-MFJ
ad: Left-3
ad: Subscribe
ad: abrind-2
ad: Left-2
  1. VK6FLAB

    VK6FLAB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    Are you an Elmer?

    In our hobby there is a term "Elmer", referring to someone who helps new amateurs find their way inside the community, locate resources, understand techniques, etc. It's part of what we might consider the folklore of amateur radio.

    I started this with the intent to quickly introduce the concept of an Elmer and then spend some time talking about our own role in this adventure, but as is often the case, I was side-tracked by my own investigation.

    There is a push within the community to abandon the concept of an Elmer, that it's not real that it serves no purpose and that it's a recent invention and irrelevant to our community. Finding an Elmer today appears to be hard work, seeing the wood for the trees, finding a unicorn in this social media connected world. But as it turns out, Elmers are closer than you think.

    With a little searching, the person who is credited with introducing the word Elmer into the amateur radio vocabulary was Rod W9BRD. He was the author of a column "How's DX?" in QST magazine from 1947 through to 1978. In March of 1971 he wrote:

    "[t]oo frequently one hears a sad story in this little nutshell: 'Oh, I almost got a ticket, too, but Elmer, W9XYZ, moved away and I kind of lost interest.' Sure, the guy could have burned through on his own, maybe, but he, like others, wound up an almost-ham. No more Elmer. We need those Elmers. All the Elmers, including the ham who took the most time and trouble to give you a push toward your license, are the birds who keep this great game young and fresh."

    Rod was first licensed in 1937 as a 14 year old. He became a silent key in 2012.

    On the face of it we have this idea that an Elmer is someone who helps you get your amateur license, but it started me thinking. What if Elmer wasn't a phrase, but a reference. The name Elmer is a male name from Old English, meaning "noble" and "famous". What if W9XYZ wasn't an actual callsign, but an example, given Rod was licensed as W9BRD, it would be simple to think of XYZ as a random suffix, much like I might use VK6XYZ, which happens to be a non-existent call at the moment.

    What if Rod was saying: Oh, I almost got a ticket too, but Peter VK6LB, or Paul VK5PAS or Mary VK4PZ, moved away and I kind of lost interest.

    Instead of using real amateurs like I just did, Rod wanted to use a generic name, someone "nobel" and "famous", with a generic callsign to not single out a particular person.

    The reference to "Elmer" takes on a whole different meaning. It means anyone, you, me, the amateur at your club, anyone who can help another person become an amateur.

    As it turns out, "Elmer" is all of us, it's a way to refer to anyone and everyone, it's not a specific role or purpose, it's the invitation to you to help another amateur.

    This of course means that you need to step-up. You don't need to put on your Elmer cape and become a superhero, you just need to be part of the community, to ask questions, to help with discovering answers and to encourage investigation into this exciting pursuit of amateur radio.

    So, are you an Elmer and if not, what are you going to do about it?

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB

    To listen to the podcast, visit the website: You can also use your podcast tool of choice and search for my callsign, VK6FLAB. Full instructions on how to listen are here:

    All podcast transcripts are collated and edited in an annual volume which you can find by searching for my callsign on your local Amazon store, or visit my author page: Volume 7 is out now.

    Feel free to get in touch directly via email:, follow on twitter: @VK6FLAB ( or check the website for more:

    If you'd like to join a weekly net for new and returning amateurs, check out the details at, the net runs every week on Saturday, from 00:00 to 01:00 UTC on Echolink, IRLP, AllStar Link and 2m FM via various repeaters.

    Attached Files:

    • wise.gif
      File size:
      450.8 KB
  2. WY7BG

    WY7BG Ham Member QRZ Page

    I feel a rash of "If... you might be an Elmer" jokes coming on.
  3. KM1H

    KM1H Ham Member QRZ Page

    I hate the Elmer name! I have been Mentoring others since the mid 1960's in many phases of the hobby including CW. These are not regularly scheduled events. The most recent were a pair of Comcast techs that came here to resolve a problem.

    One is currently a General running HF mobile only since his apartment (he is young and single) does not have any way to string an antenna. And the other an Extra interested in mostly CW and digital modes with a little SSB. He is married with a home and is regularly antenna experimenting and is planning for a tower next spring.


Share This Page