Issue #1 - Intro to Trials and Errors

Discussion in 'Trials and Errors - Ham Life with an Amateur' started by KF7WIS, Nov 21, 2022.

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  1. KF7WIS

    KF7WIS QRZ CEO Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Issue #1 – Trials and Errors – Intro to Trials and Errors
    By Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

    I hope the Victorian artwork used in my logo for the new column has convinced you to give me a few minutes of your time to make my case for Trials and Errors, a regular piece published exclusively here on QRZ. It’s from the end of that Victorian era – 1895 to 1910 – that radio had its beginnings, and it’s there I find my inspiration to write and speak about the hobby that we love today. When I write, I recall those early radio experimenters. It may have begun with Marconi, Tesla, Fessenden and others, but there were a great number who came afterwards, all of them tapping into ‘wireless’ through endless trials and errors. Yes, some became famous names, but far more remain unsung heroes of radio.

    Photo Credit: rarenewspapers.comI would like to dedicate my column to Hugo Gernsback, the first entrepreneur to manufacture and sell a complete radio package for the amateur. His company, the Electro Importing Company, advertised and sold in 1905 a complete package of wireless telegraph transmitter and receiver (the “Telimco” complete station, with a guaranteed range of one mile.)

    Hugo was also responsible for starting the first association of Amateur Radio operators, the Wireless Association of America, which grew quickly into nearly 15,000 members. A few years later, Hugo founded radio station WRNY out of New York City. In short, this guy was a part of radio history that should be celebrated.

    [​IMG]Was everything a “win” for our early experimenters? Of course not. What makes Gernsback a model citizen for my column is that he was an innovator and an entrepreneur, the first to sell a commercial transmitter to amateurs. Did every project work out for Hugo? Of course not – in the world of trials and errors, most projects fall into the latter category. Look at the photo of Gernsback with his “Isolator Hood” as one example – a device to instill focus by feeding the brain pure oxygen while allowing no distractions. If that looks to you like the stuff of Victorian science fiction, you’re right. (Today, when Sci-Fi writers get their top award, it’s the Hugo Award . . . Hugo Gernsback is also known as the father of science fiction.)

    This column, Trials and Errors, will feature new issues several times a month on a loosely defined schedule. Keep coming back and you’ll see something new in each issue . . . it could be a product review, an interview with an innovator of today, a trip report from a recent Hamfest or POTA activation, or even an editorial. As you’ll see, the column includes its own forum where you can add commentary, advise others of your own user experiences with a product I’ve reviewed, or even gripe about the author to your heart’s content. (That’s OK, I can take it. Griping is a regular practice for the Amateur Radio operator).

    But where I really need your input lies in your suggestions for future ham radio products that can make their way into these pages. My mission is to always place an emphasis on products that are sold outside of the amateur radio dealer network. So, to kick things off, my first editorial comment is that our hobby depends too much on the distribution that has developed over the years. The current system means that it is very difficult for smaller companies to compete. In my view, finding a way to promote innovation – the T&E mission – is essential if we want to build a healthy cadre of world-class amateur radio innovators. Hugo Gernsback is a great example, but who are the Hugo’s of today? How do we find them and uncover their cool innovations? I’ll be writing about this extensively.

    If a small company makes a great hex beam, or a world-changing ham gizmo, it’s only logical to want that product on the shelves of the major dealers. I understand that because good dealers are critical in their own way. When I got back into radio after a too-long absence, I called one of the big USA distributors and was blessed with an acquaintance whom I still count on today (thank you to W8BBQ); I know the value of a good dealer rep. And as an example of how distribution serves our community, I’m sure you’ve read about the QRZ and GigaParts collaboration on radios for new hams. Talk about giving back to the operators they serve!

    But it’s not always possible to tap into that distribution network while you are building a new venture. Imagine how it would have affected Hugo Gernsback if he had opted to sell his radios through Sears and Roebuck instead of direct-to-users . . . perhaps his $8 radio would have been a $40 or $50 investment, cutting way back on his intended ‘amateur’ market. Today, a $600 antenna becomes a cool grand, and a $2900 linear amplifier becomes a $5K+ investment when they are marketed through dealers. While I won’t miss the chance to point out a great dealer product from an ICOM or Yaesu, you’ll see reviews here of amateur radio gear made by boutique innovators as the Internet has made direct sales possible. Accessory items (from sources like Amazon, eBay, Etsy or even IKEA) will also find their way into these pages if they’re worthy of discussion.

    What makes a product “worthy of discussion” in Trials and Errors? First and foremost, it must do its job as described. While the products showcased here in the future will not have “Sherwood style” reviews with a lab bench and exhaustive testing, they will be rated for their user experience value in real-life shacks through fellow hams whom you will meet in these pages. They become worthy by improving our ability to communicate. An antenna that gets us out further, which pushes the boundaries of our station, or gives us coverage that we didn’t have before . . . a linear amp that follows us like a puppy dog as we change frequencies and move across the bands, or a key that just takes a pounding daily and keeps coming back for more. While there will always be differences of opinions, the core of a well-reviewed product on T&E will be its user experience value.

    I’m anxious to start writing for you regularly. Please drop me a note in the forum below about your suggestions on products or topics for discussion. In closure for this issue, I’d like to introduce you to a regular feature called “Short Takes.” These small nuggets about gadgets or accessories won’t fit into my typical column format but they may still be of interest. Every now and again I will gather a few of these items that I’ve discovered and bring them together in “Short Takes” format for your enjoyment.

    73 for now,

    Dave W7DGJ
    KK7HUW, HA2ZB, 2M0JVR and 10 others like this.
  2. KD9CCE

    KD9CCE Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks for the Hugo Gernsback information. I know him from SF, was able to visit Uncle Hugo's in MN years ago. Had no idea of the radio connection. -Fred KD9CCE
  3. KD9CCE

    KD9CCE Ham Member QRZ Page

  4. KU4GW

    KU4GW Ham Member QRZ Page

    I know I'm going to love this series of articles Dave and look forward to every post you make! I'm not only an avid ham, I'm a history buff as well. Have you ever read the book, The Victorian Internet, by Tom Standage? Amazon's intro says, Beginning with the Abbe Nollet's famous experiment of 1746, when he successfully demonstrated that electricity could pass from one end to the other of a chain of two hundred monks, Tom Standage tells the story of the spread of the telegraph and its transformation of the Victorian world. The telegraph was greeted by all the same concerns, hype, social panic and excitement that now surround the Internet, and Standage provides both a fascinating insight into the past and a context in which to think rather differently of today's concerns. Standage has a wonderful prose style and an excellent eye for the telling and engaging story. Popular history at its best.

    I loved it and could barely lay it down it was so intriguing!
    "73 & 44 de Cliff, KU4GW"
    K0UO, AG6QR, KB0QIP and 2 others like this.
  5. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Cool, Fred!!
  6. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks for the suggestion and I'll look at that site. Dave
  7. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks Cliff. That sounds like the kind of book that i would enjoy a good deal. Checking it out on Amazon! Dave
    K0UO likes this.
  8. K0BZ

    K0BZ XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Looking forward to these forays into (thus far) lesser known people, places and things of ham radio lore. One of the things that always intrigues me about the hobby is the length that some hams will go to just to get on the air. Specifically I'm talking about indoor antennas and operating positions constructed under constraints such as space, the need for concealment (think HOAs and clandestine purposes), spousal approval, budget, etc. As a DX station for many years, I enjoyed calling QRZ for stations using indoor antennas and then asking for descriptions or even photos of these engineering marvels that could send a signal around the world. Perhaps an idea for a future column.
    73, Brad - K0BZ
    K0UO likes this.
  9. N8DXZ

    N8DXZ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    A wonderful start. Please be sure at some point to tell the sad story of Lee DeForest -- a hero of mine from teenage years. Thanks!
    73, Jerry - N8DXZ
    K0UO likes this.
  10. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi brad, there's nothing better for me at this time than a good idea. I have committed to at least 3 articles a month, and that's a tough deadline for sure. With an idea like yours, I can see how that might develop into a real interesting review of one angle of our hobby . . . how the desire to get on the air forces thinking and creativity that brings new ideas, new antennas and more. Thank you Brad. Keep coming back, please. Dave
    K0BZ likes this.
  11. XE1ICI

    XE1ICI Ham Member QRZ Page

    Saludos Dave
    Espero ser un asiduo lector de tus artículos , para el pasatiempo o hobby que nos gusta .
    te sugiero que tus artículos sean provechosos en el acerbo cultural .
    Las revistas del hobby han sido esenciales para tener una buena referencia de los equipos que se diseñan y se fabrican , creo que sera un buen tema para algún comentario.
  12. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Gracias por su comentario y le deseo todo lo mejor de la temporada de vacaciones. Gracias por ser un lector. dave
  13. XE2B

    XE2B Ham Member QRZ Page

    Dave, Great article!
    K0UO likes this.
  14. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thank you XE2B!
  15. KC3MIO

    KC3MIO XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I wonder if this will blossom into a competitor of QST.
    K0UO likes this.

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