[CQ-Contest] Some Thoughts

Jim Reid jreid at aloha.net
Thu Oct 30 19:20:55 EST 1997

Aloha from Hawaii,

I hope the following will not cause me to be de-listed
from the reflector.  However,  we need to consider the
situation that may be developing in the FASC committees
of both the ARRL and the IARU.  And, maybe,  within
other nations as well.

Here are some thoughts about the future of amateur 
radio, our numbers, and a point or two about Morse

First,   what is amateur radio?? 

Does it exist so folks can communicate with one another??  

This is one thesis:  we want to communicate, and there are 
many  modern, efficient, high bit rate modes.  They work
better than CW and SSB modes under high noise conditions.
For communication's sake,  these ought to be used; new 
amateurs should be tested about these,  not Morse CW, 
which certainly should not  remain a test requirement 
for HF band license privileges.

Others speak of the real world -- that the activities of interest
to many hams are rather foolish and lack  application to the
real world.  They criticize the license structure as flim-flam,
needing over-haul, and in particular the Morse test eliminated,
as this will  surely improve amateur radio's public image. 
These critics  believe an image of  amateur radio as archaic
exists today:  that of  the ancient and geriatric ham playing 
games;  such as perhaps  this past weekend's CQWW DX SSB 
contest,  which by the way, had thousands of hams very active 
and interested,  in many ways,  all over the world for 48 hours.  
They were very busy,  and happy, just contacting one another 
for a moment.  This  is NOT communicating, as has been said 
many, many times by critics of our use today of
the HF spectrum amateur bands.  But it IS something of
great interest to many, many HF licensed hams.

So,  is the ability to communicate,  real information-laden
data, at the  heart of amateur radio?  And is communicating 
information most efficiently  what should appeal to the 
young people that are alleged to be needed to rescue the 
hobby/service from  alleged decline??

No,  I do not think so.  What gets guys and gals really 
interested in pursuing amateur radio is something more:  
almost a mysterious need to understand and use something;  
to learn the technology, to personally be able to apply it,  
and to test their own abilities and whatever equipment 
they may have to the limit.  

Many have pointed  out that few hams build their own HF 
rigs any  more;  I am sure this is true;  but many of us 
sure enjoy fooling  around with different HF antenna arrays.
I have three different antenna set-ups now - inverted, 
parallel V-dipoles on 160, 80, 40 and 30 meters; 
also, 4 each 600 foot long wires which are switched about 
via relays to form several V-beams which cover nearly 
all azimuths,  and,  of course, the ubiquitous tri-band beam,  
with a rotating dipole attached to cover the five HF 
bands from 20 up through 10 meters.

Each  antenna/band  combination is useful at different 
times for different reasons,  all of which require some 
understanding of the mysterious and wonderful aspect of 
HF propagation, the ionosphere, and the status of the Sun.  
Every day of the week,  I check the Mt. Wilson
Observatory web site for the doings on the sun.  You must
be interested in how it all works for an interest to really be
vibrant and lasting in the HF radio world,  or so it seems to

What is at the heart of the REAL amateur radio operator,  in
my opinion,  is a natural curiosity,  and desire to KNOW more
about THINGS than that of the typical person.  It is the sort
of person,  who, when  young,  was interested in bugs,  or
the stars, or, maybe math.  He was the kid who the teacher
in middle school spotted who enjoyed the general science
class,  who already had some hobbies which related to
things about the world,  real touchable,  things,  like maybe?
pollywogs,  or collecting rock mineral specimens.

Amateur radio needs young people who already are naturally
inclined and curious about physical things about the world and
how and why they work as they seem to.  These are the kids
who may grow up to be technical professionals: engineers,
physicians,  technicians, mechanics, plumbers, electricians 
and also computer  or radio amateur nerds!

As a traditional mode of ham radio, should new people to our
service/hobby be required  to learn the Morse code?  I believe
the right people we want to add to the ranks will want to know
Morse,  and use it.  However that point evolves,  young people
need to be encouraged in the right directions by someone who
can make the "nature of things" become of interest to them. I was
very lucky,  as when I was young, perhaps 1938 or so I think,
a friend allowed me to look at the moon and some stars through
his backyard telescope!!  Wow,  I  was turned on to real stuff!!

And, as is being discussed by the FASC,  amateur radio needs
to be presented to people as a place where they can learn more
about the way things are and work;  but they must already have
had some spark of interest ignited about natural phenomena.
The amateur radio service/hobby will prosper,  and grow in
numbers,  if that is deemed desirable,  only to the extent that
we attract the type of person I describe above into it.

Amateur radio will not survive if our aim is just to get more
people communicating with one another on the HF bands.
They will swell the numbers for awhile,  but I cannot believe
their interest will remain if they are not the sort that really
wants to delve into the how and why of it all.  Just getting
on and talking,  or exchanging bit streams will not be of
lasting interest.

That's my opinion about how  amateur radio should be grown
in the future and also be maintained as a viable use of 
the spectrum  allowed us.  We want the right new people,  
young and old,   not just those who only want a neat, 
new way to communicate;  they won't stay,  nor contribute,  
in my opinion.

73,  Jim, KH7M
On the Garden Island of Kauai

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