QSO Today with Kirk Kleinschmidt NT0Z

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by 4Z1UG, Dec 30, 2021.

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  1. 4Z1UG

    4Z1UG Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page


    Kirk Kleinshmidt, NT0Z, has spent most of his
    professional life working in amateur radio as an editor, author, and
    contributor to the amateur radio magazines that we have grown to love
    including QST, ARRL Handbook, Spectrum Monitor, and others. His own
    book, Stealth Amateur Radio, continues to advise us how to get on the
    air and enjoy our hobby, even when our living situation is against it.

    AJ8S, WD5GWY, N4FZ and 2 others like this.
  2. BG7YH

    BG7YH Ham Member QRZ Page

    M1WML likes this.
  3. KZ4TN

    KZ4TN XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Great interview. I always enjoy your column in Spectrum Monitor.

    73 KZ4TN
    M1WML likes this.
  4. W9BRD

    W9BRD Ham Member QRZ Page

    Fun interview. Kirk and I worked together at ARRL HQ back in that day.

    Despite lamenting that fewer and fewer hams nowadays are interested in "communicating," Kirk mentions not having the patience for CW rachchewing -- even though ragchewing on CW somehow existed as a major staple of ham radio for most of its first century, and was so when he was first licensed. During a discussion about how an 18-year stretech of bad propagation is part of a "perfect storm" that has depopulated the ham bands in favor of such modes as FT8, Eric mentions that "and yet on contest weekends, suddenly there's propagation -- how does that work?" Kirk also mentions returning to several "projects" he's long had underway: several different 5-band awards, plus WAZ.

    Both guys are missing a major point: Many hams no longer have the patience/attention span for, and interest in, actual communication, and for them the hobby has devolved to repeatedly seeking and achieving external validation through the (preferably ritualized and time-compressed) use of radio. Consider the most elite of elite CW contests, in which actual communication -- message content with high entropy, as opposed to the intent-to-be-formulaic-and-predicable <report> <datum>, where <datum> may be a location ID of some sort -- not only doesn't occur, but actually works against the achievement of high scores. Of _course_ "propagation" is "suddenly there" during big contests -- because of the sudden appearance of hundreds of suddenly-again-doing-radio participants who will soon return to sleep as xx:xx:59 rolls around and their seemingly magical self-reactivation of "propagation" ends.

    Perpetual variations on awards -- now WAS, now QRP WAS, now 5BWAS, now WAS with 2-letter call sign suffixes, now WAS standing on my head in the rain -- are another symptom. Many, many hams are just _bored with radio itself_ and have long been so; combining that with today's drive for addiction to continuous micro-external-validation through social media, plus the destruction of the information/participation-scarcity model that drove the formulation of such centralities as ARRL by the open-sourcing of all things Ham Radio, gets us to where we are today.

    Perpetual variations on commercial gear used is another symptom; maybe "59 New Jersey" will somehow be or feel different if I spend another four-figure sum to buy myself another hermit-crab's technoshell. Plus I can get instant social gratification by messaging about thinking about buying it; buying it; unboxing it; endlessly comparing one of its microfeatures against its counterpart -- or the absence of its counterpart -- in my previous technoshell. (You know, the same one that 5 years earlier was the previous Gotta Have It I couldn't stop thinking or talking about.)

    I've had no trouble making QSOs _as a result of propagation_ over the last 18 years -- _if I actually want an actual QSO_. No regulatory change has taken away from the ham radio I do; to the contrary, I've only gained modes and bands. What I _do_ commonly encounter is what I call The Sleepy Old Ham Syndrome: Late at night, on -- say -- 40 meters, the band long (and correctly) characterized as "always open to _somewhere_" I can call CQ after CQ without answer even though RBN tells me my 20 W -- usually emanating from a homemade transmitter alongside a homemade receiver -- is perfectly readable over noise across much of the US, while at the same time FT8 robots shrill away at the usual spot frequencies.

    Many, many hams continue with ham radio even though they have actually long since fallen out of love with it and radio itself. Those of us who have not yet lost our attention spans and our interest in radio continue to find it and ham radio bewitching regardless of propagation and whatever Bright Shiny Quick-Social-ROI Object happens to be in play at any given time.
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  5. 4Z1UG

    4Z1UG Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I am so delighted that you listened to the interview and have something thoughtful to say about it. I am still in love with ham radio for a thousand reasons. I am a propagation ham where I work on my projects, including the QSO Today Podcast, and get on the air to test, then go back to the bench. Cycle 24 was not bad for me.
    N3RYB, N4FZ and M1WML like this.
  6. KQ1V

    KQ1V Ham Member QRZ Page

    Ugh, I think the ARRL publications are overkill for a hobby that is really "buy-it-out-of-the-box" and operate. Furthermore, ARRL spends virtually no time on converting GE or Motorola radios for ham use.

    IMO, QST is the worst publication, as it "tries" to be too techy. It is typical writing of an engineer, poor. The grading scale for product reviews is exceptionally poor; I'd recommend a 5-star rating system or a Likert 1 - 10 scale. I'd prefer a publication like QC or the defunct Popular Communications. ARRL wanted to make QST seem more techy based on a supposed feedback survey of a limited amount of radio amateurs. Who, I ask? The folks in Newington?!!

    I belong to the ARRL, and every year I say to myself, I don't know why I belong to the ARRL. It's funny, but just about every radio amateur I know says, "...you must join the ARRL!" yet then can never give a reason as to why one should join.

    Caveat emptor, it's a hobby.
    N9CJT and M1WML like this.
  7. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Wonderful interview, Eric. Happy New Year!
    The other Eric. :)
    M1WML likes this.
  8. W9BRD

    W9BRD Ham Member QRZ Page

    Your ham radio, maybe, but not the ham radio of many hams.

    Here's a secret about how to read a magazine -- or the world, for that matter. Ignore what doesn't interest you and/or what you don't understand, and move along. (Which from what you say about not grokking the value of the League's presence and history in amateur radio you've apparently gotten pretty good at doing.) Then that content won't bother you, and while others not disinterested or repelled by the presence of such content can benefit from its value. You may even find that over time your interests change and what was offputting before is worth more than a glance now -- you know, like when there's a ham radio technical problem you need to solve and realize that the only way to do so is to learn something new from someone else.

    Having worked for nearly 15 years at ARRL HQ, I've heard, and played a modest role in helping to address, every variation on the opinion of "how technical" QST should be. I've read the ongoing discussion of that topic, and seen the results of the work to address it, across the entire history of that publication, which by the way is not a technical publication per se -- despite what some pretty bright technical lights in the community would like to claim for it, especially when speaking of The Good Old Days that were never like what we think they were -- but rather the journal of a membership organization. ARRL's membership has varied from those who can't tell a resistor from a Jolly Rancher to Nobel laureates to kings of foreign lands to the authors of famous electronics books to experts on nuclear fusion. Striking exactly the right balance of technical content v non has been, and remains, a moving target.

    But one aspect is clear: Not only does modern ham radio rely on more and wider technology than ever, so does socialized human life. So, in my opinion, if you really do think that ham radio is merely "'out-of-the-box' and operate," you were misled, possibly by the one who looks back at you from mirrors, and/or paid insufficient attention to the ham-radio landscape on your way in. Which is to say that if, in a hobby that on its face is based on technology, you expect the monthly journal of its preeminent membership organization and its publications to be clearly and continually biased toward mere passive use of that growing and widening technology rather than on the prospect of continuous self-improvement in understanding and using that and related deepening technology and its socialization, you may continue to be puzzled by its ongoing inclusion of technical coverage.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2022
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  9. N9CJT

    N9CJT Ham Member QRZ Page

    That's why I switched to _On The Air_ for reading enjoyment and placing on the magazine rack in my office.
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  10. KQ1V

    KQ1V Ham Member QRZ Page

    Seems I struck a nerve. For the record, yes, I think QST is the worst radio magazine I've ever encountered. A sophomoric attempt. As you suggest, and for 15 years I have been, just reading the Letters to the Editor (even though the editorial staff at ARRL is deaf) and the Silent Keys. After that, the magazine is tossed into the recycle bin. Now, please, recognize that is not a slight against you, personally; it is a criticism of the organization.

    Thanks, I do not need life lessons on how to read a substandard publication.
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