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Issue #41: How Do New Operators View Amateur Radio?

Discussion in 'Trials and Errors - Ham Life with an Amateur' started by W7DGJ, Jul 3, 2024.

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  1. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi Rich -- You may have seen an ad that QRZ was running on the front page about 8 months ago. It referred to an open position at the firm for a website developer (but they must be a ham). Well, the good news is that they made a great hire and there are now programmers working on a major site change for QRZ.com. It's funny, but only the people who are truly into programming and so on can see these "ugly" issues that I just don't see. I can live with QRZ, eHam and other sites that haven't changed in years. I guess thats the old guy in me. Dave, W7DGJ
     
    KD2SQK, AI7KI and K0TWA like this.
  2. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks Mike. I think that if you are going to post a technical question as a newbie in social media, you've got to anticipate that at least two out of ten replies are going to be upsetting. When I first started actually posting, a friend of mine (Dave, W7UUU) told me that if I was going to post in social media I would have to quickly develop a very thick skin. He was right. Mine is still too thin but getting thicker every year. Dave, W7DGJ
     
    AI7KI likes this.
  3. WA1ZJL

    WA1ZJL Ham Member QRZ Page

    That comment about the proper use of a grounding stick on a high power amp brought back a memory for me. I was about two weeks away from a brand new associate degree in electronics when I was hired as a transmitter operator for public broadcasting. I remember walking into that plant afraid to take my hands out of my pockets! Yes, I did have someone there to train me. The point I'm trying to make is that we can have all the book knowledge but still be lacking in the practical side of things. I was told that my degree was merely a license to learn and I spent a lifetime learning. It's the same with our ham licenses! Digging into a piece of gear is a lot different than what we had to learn on in school.
    As far as the cost of gear is concerned, I have a very modest station and am thrilled to have what I do have. I drooled over the TS-2000 for years and finally a year or so before they were discontinued I was able to purchase one. We certainly don't need the latest and greatest to have fun. Many older rigs are out there that are stable enough for even the digital modes. I have a 2003 pickup in the yard. We did $3500 in body work last year. We just use it around town. There was no way we could afford that brand new pickup but this one does what we need just fine! Same way with ham gear. It may be used but if it does what you want who cares. That new rig is something you can dream about like I did with my 2000! Who knows, some day you may even get your dream rig.
    I think a lot of people just aren't club people. I know I'm not. Sometimes a one on one is the best way anyway. There are a lot of us old geezers out there that will answer the newcomer's foolish questions. Actually no question is foolish if you don't know the answer.
    As far as code is concerned I'm happy to be a no code extra. Before that I was a before the FCC Advanced. Code came extremely hard for me as I guess it does for many. I suspect hearing deficiencies have something to do with it for me. So what? We make do with what we can. Even with headphones I now have difficulty with SSB contacts. I'm playing with the digital modes now. We do what we can to have fun with radio and even if some modes aren't our first choices they are all there and we have opportunity to use them.
    Unfortunately it's a completely different ball game than when i was young. Ham radio has a lot of unlicensed competition. We're probably just not promoting it right for the younger generation. And I'll quickly add that I don't have the answers. When all else fails is certainly true.
     
    W7DGJ likes this.
  4. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi Hal, thanks for being here. No one has all the answers I'm afraid. I'd like to even have one or two answers, but nope I'm coming up empty. Except, as you and others have said, there's a certain amount of flexibility required and as long as we are accepting of new ideas and new modes, new technologies and so on, we'll have newcomers and the ARS will still be here in 50 years. Dave
     
  5. KZ4DZ

    KZ4DZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I relate to a variation of the "mode forcing" complaint the most. I am very young but I don't personally enjoy data modes, and I don't enjoy operating from a shack very much. DX'ing is neat, but it's far from my passion. I don't enjoy ragchews, either. I do however love portable ops and the science/magic of propagation. Summits on the Air took me from a disappointed/disillusioned Technician with a pair of Baofengs to eventually learning CW, antenna building, upgrading to AE, and investing in Elecraft products. POTA is accessible for the vast majority of US ops and offers even more opportunities to activate than SOTA.

    I believe those portable programs are one of the best ways to get more young people involved and excited in this hobby. The amount of people saying QRP is bad for new ops or "XYZ antenna will never work, just use a dipole at 1/4 wave height," or the Chinese HF radios are garbage susceptible to QRM etc... it makes sense if the operator wants to sit in the shack and chase DXCC awards. But when you are the "DX," QRP is more than sufficient to have a blast outside. Without affordable Xiegu radios, I would have never considered HF at first. I haven't been victim of "mode forcing" but I have definitely been the victim of "program forcing."
     
    KI7EZU, W9AFB and W7DGJ like this.
  6. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi Joseph - Yes, POTA and SOTA have been hugely successful in getting people fired up and enthused about radio. Even old timers who were just a tad burned out on radio from the shack have turned the corner with renewed enthusiasm by getting out to POTA parks. It's fun, and it's possible to get hundreds of contacts in the log from all over the world via the POTA system. Thanks so much for coming on and talking about what has happened to you! You've got the Rolls Royce of small gear, but certainly you don't need to do that. I reviewed a small Chinese radio with about a $200 price that works GREAT in situations like POTA, as long as you can manage the code. I'm especially happy that you are also a CW operator at this point. No one forced you to do that, it came naturally. I had a 45-50 year break for my Morse Code activities but when I dove back into it, it was still there in my brain somewhere. It is the coolest "secret language" in the world, for sure. Dave, W7DGJ
     
  7. K0TWA

    K0TWA Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I may be wrong, but if the format of QRZ gets updated "too much" there will be a number of old-timers that will be very upset.

    I for one believe that it's current format is just fine, it's adequate, and certainly much better than some other sites; but it is dated. At least it's not too reminiscent of BBS sites of old. QRZ is as close as I get to social media these days.

    I had a FB account years ago, closed it for many years, and opened a new FB account with an iPad recently; it's barely functional at best. I only opened a new account to check out the local Clay Center Kansas Radio Club. What a waste of effort. FB has, from what I can tell, gone the way of MySpace.

    I tried Reddit and Twitter (pre-Musk) a few years back, got kicked-off of both for not being woke enough.

    Keep up the good work Dave.

    Phil, K0TWA
     
    W7DGJ likes this.
  8. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Phil, I am presently using my wife's Facebook account to access a couple of ham radio groups that just won't move off of FB. I've had so many complaints and a lot of negativity about my choice to use her account. I always sign off "Dave, W7DGJ" but no matter, they think I'm a gal because of the photo. One funny thing . . . the founder of "Friendly Amateur Radio Elmers" contacted me and wanted me to be a moderator, which I would have happily helped out with. But when he found out that I was a guy instead of the pretty gal in the photo, he backed out. Weird, and it could only happen in social media. Dave, W7DGJ
     
  9. K7GUD

    K7GUD XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi Dave. Interesting article with a lot of good points. I am 71, but didn't start ham radio until 5 years ago: so I'm a old newbie. At first I thought the equipment was expensive, especially since I wasn't sure ham radio was something I was going to do a lot. But once I got my first radio and antenna, I was hooked. Now, the equipment doesn't seem too expensive; you get what you pay for. And as you or someone mentioned, companies that build ham gear are building for a small market, so the cost of development is high and so is the retail cost.

    Regarding One Upsmanship and Scolding, I don't think either of these is limited to older hams. In fact, in almost anything you do, there are people young and old who like to tell you how their equipment is better than yours. But it seems in ham radio, antennas is the area where you can get easily flamed by the scolding hams. Still, there are many hams who are very helpful when you ask a question or express an idea. Thanks again for your writing.
     
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  10. AI7KI

    AI7KI XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Dave,

    I love your column - please keep it up!

    I was licensed back in the 70's-80's and again in the last decade. I enjoy fiddling with radios and antennas, and am currently learning digital signal processing. It is kind of hard to make connections in the hobby, though. I live in Salt Lake County and the club there is not as engaging as the active club in the county to our south, Utah Valley ARC. Noji KN0JI and Carl WE7OMG are just two of the many active people in that club. Would love to work with some newer hams to help them get up the learning curve! (And me too!)
     
    W7DGJ likes this.
  11. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks Richard! Utah is beautiful. I’m in St. George now for Hamcon.
     
  12. VE3BXG

    VE3BXG XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Grumpy
     
    N6HCM likes this.
  13. K7JQ

    K7JQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I just read this article, and the first thing I wondered is…why would a newcomer *hate* anything about a hobby (and IMO it is a ‘hobby’) that they must have had some interest in to pursue taking a test for a license? There are so many facets within our hobby that if you can’t find one that interests you, then maybe you should try something else.

    When I got into ham radio as a 13 year old in 1959, I didn’t have an ‘Elmer’. I heard about this thing called amateur radio and looked it up in the World Book Encyclopedia. It recommended material and books by ARRL to get started, and I was hooked from then on.

    All of the *hate* items mentioned in the article also existed back then, but there was no social media to expound on and amplify it. We all dealt with it in our own way and adapted.

    “Hate” is a pretty strong word. If you *dislike* something after trying it, then try something else and stop griping. If you join a club and its members/interests aren’t your cup of tea, then get out. If equipment is too expensive, then compromise and buy something you can afford. If you don’t like what you hear on the air, there’s a thing called the VFO knob. Old vs new technology?…it’s always evolving so accept it, respect those who embrace it, and move on with what *you* like.

    I was brought up on CW and AM/SSB. I tried some digital, most recently the very popular FT8. It’s not for me, but I don’t ‘hate’ it. I just lament that when looking for a CW or SSB ragchew or DXing, there’s slim pickings while the FT8 segments are jam packed with S9+ signals. So be it. I’m just glad that many years ago I developed contesting as my major operating preference. I enjoy setting up an efficient station based on what real estate I’m limited to, and look forward to weekends where I’ll have enough CW/SSB activity to still enjoy the hobby. I can’t control and don’t care what others like, think, or do.

    The only ‘social media’ things I participate in are generalized ham radio forums like Eham or QRZ, and specific forums pertaining to equipment I own. I’ll offer opinions (like this one:)), and respect those of others. On equipment forums, I’ll only offer comments/advice about my experience with them.
     
    W7DGJ likes this.
  14. VA3RTG

    VA3RTG Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think we all know how expensive this hobby can be- the rigs, antennas, accessories, etc. But as so many have mentioned, QRP is much more reasonable and does get results (when conditions allow, of course). And some of the Chinese radios deliver huge value for little coin, along with all the associated baggage.

    But the main thing I want to address here is (nearly) FREE amateur 'radio'!!!

    Nearly everyone has a home windows computer, and many have an android mobile. With either and an internet connection, there is a whole world of VoIP amateur radio activity via the Peanut program (and others) ( https://www.pa7lim.nl/peanut/ )! One can argue that it isn't really radio (except for possibly a WiFi connection), but it is truly hams talking to hams in a PTT simplex format. No challenge, you say? Where's the challenge in chatting on a repeater, which many enjoy? But instead of your local coverage on the repeater, this is global. Along with voice (major mode), they also do digital modes (CW, PSK, SSTV, etc.), many different nationalities are represented (for example, many Japanese hams like speaking English), solid copy- and no amplifier, radio, nor antenna is needed. I've had a number of very satisfying chats with people all over the world via Peanut (Australia, NZ, UK, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, US, Philippines, India, Europe, etc.). And there are ways to connect with terrestrial 2m networks globally (XRF299 for New Zealand for example). And it's all free. Here's a sample of the offerings: https://peanut.pa7lim.nl/rooms.html , and who is active now: https://peanut.pa7lim.nl/

    Along with Peanut, there's Echolink, DroidStar, PiStar, CQ100, Hamsphere, etc. I'm not very familiar with the apps I've listed, but I know that at least some are also free.

    So I don't think there's much room in the discussion that the hobby is too expensive. It sure can be, but doesn't have to.
    Rob
    VA3RTG
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2024 at 9:26 PM
    W7DGJ likes this.
  15. W7DGJ

    W7DGJ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks for posting Bob. Nice comments. Are you going to Flagstaff Hamfest this coming weekend? Should be a good one, Dave W7DGJ (PS love your scorpion antenna).
     
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