Foundations of Amateur Radio Learning on 2m FM Last week during F-troop something very interesting happened. If you're not familiar with F-troop, it's a weekly net for new and returning amateurs and every Saturday we welcome callers to the one hour net to discuss anything and everything amateur radio. It's been going for about seven or so years, about as long as I have been making this weekly contribution to the hobby. Normally there's a host, often it's me, but not always, handing the microphone to the next person who then in turn hands the microphone back and the host passes it on to the next caller. This is helpful for new amateurs who then only need to remember two callsigns, their own and that of the host. It's a safe place where people can ask questions and hopefully find an answer, make a mistake, say the wrong callsign, have their roger-beep turned on, be off frequency, all the typical things you do when you're learning or when you've dusted off an old radio after having been away from the hobby for a while. Last week we had a surprise visitor, a special event station, VI4GAMES, operated by Reg VK2MNM who in the midst of the Commonwealth Games was having little success on HF and decided to join in on our net. After saying hello and calling in other stations I started handing the microphone to each caller, encouraging them to make contact with VI4GAMES so they could each claim a contact, end up in the log and get a QSO card for their trouble. Sitting on the side was hard, but at the same time it was extremely rewarding. I witnessed stations calling a special event station for the first time in their life, dealing with strange callsigns, interruptions, distortions and delays, misheard phonetics, incorrect procedures, you name it, I heard it all. There were some who just made the contact and moved on, handing the microphone back to the host and others who started a whole discussion about their life, their station and their joy in making the contact. There were stations just saying their callsign without phonetics, or saying it once, or fast, stomping on the other station, all the things that happen in real life when you're trying to make a contact using HF and SSB. Just to re-iterate, this was on 2m FM, connected via IRLP, Echolink and Allstar to repeaters across the globe, with callers in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. It was eye-opening for me. In the past I've attempted to make contest examples, to make DX contact simulations and tried to get people to change frequency and check back in. As serendipity would have it, this was by far the most learning I've ever seen in the 7 years of this net and I'd encourage anyone to try this at home. Some of the direct take-away tips from this are that using phonetics on 2m FM is not stupid and sometimes it's even required. Repeating your callsign to a new station is not a waste of airtime, since you have no insight whatsoever as to the state of their receiver. You don't know if they have a poor antenna, or if they're connected via the internet, if the link is not optimal or the volume not set correctly. Waiting until the carrier drops on the repeater is a must for many repeaters and keying and talking at the same time is a recipe for being misunderstood. Key your microphone, wait a heartbeat and then start talking. Leaving gaps between overs allows other players onto the field and you should see that as an opportunity, not a burden. I'm sure there were other things that were learned on that random Saturday and who knew that you could learn that much from 2m FM, special event stations and some patience. I'm Onno VK6FLAB To listen to the podcast, visit the website: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/ and scroll to the bottom for the latest episode. You can also use your podcast tool of choice and search for my callsign, VK6FLAB, or you can read the book, look for my callsign on your local Amazon store, or visit my author page: http://amazon.com/author/owh If you'd like to participate in discussion about the podcast or about amateur radio, you can visit the Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/foundations.itmaze Feel free to get in touch directly via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on twitter: @VK6FLAB (http://twitter.com/vk6flab/) If you'd like to join the weekly net for new and returning amateurs, check out the details at http://ftroop.vk6.net, 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.