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Issue #23: Life Lessons from Ham Radio

Discussion in 'Trials and Errors - Ham Life with an Amateur' started by W7DGJ, Jul 7, 2023.

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  1. SM0AOM

    SM0AOM Ham Member QRZ Page

    The main difference between "then" and "now" is that things were allowed to take much longer time.

    Both the patience levels of the mentors and of prospective amateurs were much higher, and it was emphasised from the very beginning that you needed to put in some serious efforts and that "there is no such thing as a free lunch".

    KE8TSH and W7DGJ like this.
  2. KE8TSH

    KE8TSH Ham Member QRZ Page

    I agree 100%! Being 75 my brain just can't retain all the electronics necessary to be considered a real ham. I try to make up for that deficiency by contributing in other ways. One of my clubs has morning coffee nets Monday thru Saturday and my daily is every Monday. At the other club I became treasurer. Showing up at events and work parties goes a long way to being accepted. A little effort goes a long way!
    W7DGJ likes this.
  3. K4CUA

    K4CUA Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    My elmer was my father, W3WVU (SK). He and my father-in-law, also SK. They got me interested in ham radio, although neither ever got on the air to my knowledge. Dad might have used 2m repeaters a tiny bit just to experiment, but that was it. He was, though, in the Army Signal Corps in Korea, and used aviation radio as a private pilot until his hearing went bad. I now use Dad's IC-718. I won't upgrade -- it's like an heirloom, if electronics can be heirlooms.

    Anyway, my father-in-law was an electrical engineer (I am not an engineer). He taught me some basics about good practices with wiring, electricity, soldering, and so forth. Not technician stuff, just neat and clean practices. Dad was a Nike guy before Nike existed -- "just do it." From his example I learned that the fun is in the doing. It's OK to just string an antenna and see what happens. (He never did that, he just set the example.) It's important to try, but if it's no good abandon ship and move to something that is. Both taught me, by example, that there's no shame in failure, only in being afraid to try. They also taught me that you can do things you don't know how to do with research, study, and hard work.

    My log now has a pitiful 94 contacts listed after 24 years, not including a lot of unrecorded repeater contacts. I'm thrilled, though! I made 3 40m SSB contact this evening. I've taught myself RTTY; figured out how to string an HF antenna in the attic; made a few antenna out of scrap; participated in one Field Day; used and taught radio commo basics in a side job; expanded to GMRS so my wife can be involved when we're camping without being a ham; bought, sold, and played with boat anchors; and more.

    The life lessons?
    - You can do a lot with a little;
    - You can teach yourself if you're willing to work and try (and fail);
    - The library can be your elmer;
    - There's no substitute for hard work;
    - You can do a lot if you know a little and aren't satisfied with complacency;
    - Ignore the know-it-alls, loudmouths, and bullies;
    - Go outside and play!
    N9WFT, W7DGJ and PY2NEA like this.
  4. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Great post Greg! Upbeat, positive and with great advice. I'd be your ham buddy any time! Dave. W7DGJ
    K4CUA likes this.
  5. K4CUA

    K4CUA Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thank you! Life is too short. There's so much negative talk on QRZ, and enough on the frequencies . . . sometimes we just need to focus on the good. You can't do ham radio wrong, you should only try to learn from it. Do you know, learning to run a net helped me in my business management job. All these experiences tie in to make one better -- at everything.

    Greg, K4CUA
    N2EY, N9WFT and W7DGJ like this.
  6. W9YW

    W9YW Premium Subscriber Volunteer Moderator QRZ Page

    My late father was a good teacher, but knew zip about electronics. He was a math, statistics, and algorithm head.

    The real Elmer was Bill Fellows, a ham but call forgotten. I did my Novice way back when and shelved it, having failed the General code test at age 12. In HS, Bill was my electronics teacher and four years after failing the code test, at age 16, I was ready for electronics, ace-ing his courses. As I was far ahead of my classmates, he let me build and fix odd things, like an early Western Electric facsimile machine, long before pre-v.29-standard faxes arrived. This machine electrically etched special paper mimed from its pair-- a cylinder/drum with a paper that was optically "read". I got it running, a museum piece. I made a photo-electric CW transceiver using a xenon bulb and light-dependent resistor pair; it was good for 100yards+. EzPz.

    I just built stuff and fixed TVs, stereos, whatever someone brought in. He's answer my questions and give me direction on where to look for answers he didn't have (often a trip to the library for a Sam FotoFact).

    Despite my best intentions, I fried a few things unwittingly. I also ganged together several electrolytics, charged them, soldered anode and cathode to thumbtacks, put it under his seat pad, and watched him fly out of his chair. Fortunately, he had a sense of humor. I'm lucky I didn't get thrown out of school. It was that early skunkworks lab that let my imagination run wild, and be challenged as a young man. Now, in semi-retirement, my CV is packed and I still have a ball of fun, taming electrons.

    73 Tom W9YW
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2023
    W7DGJ, W4PG and K4CUA like this.
  7. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi Tom, thanks for jumping in. Stories of other peoples' Elmers are always fun. I had a Mr. Florian, much like your Mr. Fellows. He helped set me on the right course . . . finding a great teacher only happens once or twice in a lifetime.
    Dave., W7DGJ
  8. WB9QLR

    WB9QLR Ham Member QRZ Page

    I had several Elmers in my early days...two in particular (K9SIR and K9ZRL, both sadly SK) but a whole club-full of them with the Hoosier Hills ARC in southern Indiana. As a novice, I did a lot of 40M and 20M ground-wave CW with the gang from the club.
    W7DGJ likes this.
  9. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Its great to have a club like that. Count your blessings, as there are SO FEW clubs that welcome new members like that, and give you the 100% "Elmer experience," as you had. Often, clubs are just a little clique and it takes forever to be accepted, Dave
  10. K1TGX

    K1TGX Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    My dad (never licensed) and Bill Pace (W1ILV/W1ID) were my Elmers, both sk.

    At 13 my father saw my interest in taking apart electric 'stuff' and encouraged me to buy a $5 crystal set from Lafayette Radio. After I put it together I was mesmerized that it worked. By improving the antenna there were more stations coming in - I was hooked. He then took me to meet Bill Pace.

    Bill was a self taught ham, an old timer to me back then (1959) and was president of the Waterbury (CT) ARC. He took me to club meetings and set me into the novice class that had started already. Bill elmered me with the code to help catch up and demonstrated ham radio to me in his shack. He had infinite patience in all things. A gentleman's gentleman, I have never met anyone like him in my life.

    After I passed the novice exam at the club's field day the following year Bill continued to guide me on my ham radio journey. He helped me build a 'junkbox' crystal tranmitter from old TV's and showed me how to properly construct a dipole. Operating practices and the need to have a good fist were things I will always be thankful to him for.

    A few years later I went to college and became a EE. Bill would try to defer to me on issues that he clearly knew more than I did, such as antenna design. We would get into spirited discussions that would usually end with him saying, "Go home to your wife and think about it. We'll discuss it tomorrow." Tormorrow would come and he would still be right.

    Bill was the consummate ham, always a gentleman on and off the air, always willing to lend a hand.
    W7DGJ, KC3TEC and WR2E like this.
  11. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    You are probably familiar with the classic engineering rule:

    "Fast, cheap, good. Pick any two."

    73 de Jim, N2EY
    W7DGJ likes this.
  12. N2EY

    N2EY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    My Elmers were books - or, rather, their authors.

    When I got started, there were no hams in my neighborhood or family, but I found books and magazines, and they did the trick.

    I met only one of my Elmers in person, and I met two of them on the air.

    Let's see:

    By Goodman, W1DX
    Lew McCoy, W1ICP
    Doug DeMaw, W1CER (worked him on 80 CW when he was trying out a new QRP rig in 1968)
    George Grammer, W1DF
    Rod Newkirk, W9BRD (introduced me to limericks, name puns, and anchovy pizza)
    Robert V. McGraw, W2LYH (look up his homebrew articles).
    Lou Moreau, W3WRE (she was local - knew her back in the 1970s)

    and many others, including some who died before I was even born.

    73 de Jim, N2EY
    W7DGJ likes this.

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