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February 28, 2013

w1aw:kl7meYou sit and turn the dial, listening to the quiet roar of the ionosphere searching for that elusive DX country, grid square, state or conversation that you know will make your day. Some days we turn the power off with a satisfied feeling other days hoping for a better tomorrow, but that is the nature of ham radio. I now have a number of hams that follow my blog and have been wanting to write something that applies to us as hams, but I always seem to get side tracked by some major action or event that makes the writing flow easily. I felt that after my article, ‘Why we are Hams’, in the August 2012 QST was published I did indeed have much more to say but when writing for your own blog you will never get rejected so I have put off another ‘Op-Ed’ article.

To those non-hams of you out there you may want to skip this one, but like the title of this posting in ham speak CQ, CQ, CQ is a call for ‘anyone’ to respond, DE means ‘this is’ and of course KL1HB is my call sign. I first need to lay some ground work for this posting by saying that I do understand the basics of how things work and how to operate electronic devices. With that said the ham communities overall biggest concern is the shrinking numbers of people involved, and especially the lack of new younger men and woman becoming hams. With the overwhelming barrage of cell phones, text messages, iPads and social media it is no wonder we are finding it harder to attract new members.


But I do believe there are many young people who take an interest but quickly become frustrated and move on to other interests. The youth of today are conditioned to this instant gratification, without the hassle of doing much to accomplish their goal. Indeed the FCC has made it easier than ever to be licensed when they removed the seemingly dauntless task of learning morris code, so what is the problem? I say it is the fact that you must still almost be an electrical engineer to function fully as a ham.

Take for instance these randomly picked sentences from articles throughout the latest issue of QST magazine:

“At the antennas design height and perhaps 10 feet above and below it will be less than 1.7:1 SWR, rising to 2:1 at a height of 40 or 50 feet, all based on typical soil (conductivity of 0.005 S/m, dielectric constant of 13).” {QST pg 35}

“Radiation at wavelengths from 0.1 to 1 nanometers (hard x-rays) and radiation at 121.5 nanometers ionize the D region.” {QST pg 49}

Or how about from QST’s monthly column ‘The doctor is in’, where we regular hams get to ask questions when we have a problem.
“In the case of 10uF-10%+100, for example, the capacitance value will be between 10uF-10% (9uF) and 10uF=100% (20uF).” {QST pg 61}

Yes I know I sought out the most technical sentences I could quickly find. But weather its QST or the ARRL handbook or the Antenna book you need a solid in depth understanding of math and electronics to understand what they are getting at. Even the advertisements for new radios makes blood seep from my eyes in frustration. When I am trying to figure if one radio has a better receiver than another I encounter statements like:
“You will be pleased with the outstanding 112 db dynamic range and superb IP3 +40dbm at 10 kHz separation (CW/500 Hz BW)”

I guess I will have to take back my earlier statement about a basic understanding of electronics because the only way I know that statement said it was a great radio was that the radio cost more than my first car. Yes I know that’s why we have ‘Elmer’s’ to guide us on the path of radio enlightenment, but what about that new ham or some young kid interested in becoming a ham? He reads that magazine and then his brain hurts and he gives up and goes back to his x-box.


Yes I have survived, partially because I have, KL7EDK, what I believe to be the best ‘Elmer’ in the world. If you merely mention a problem he will help overcome it without a second thought. I have made amateur radio a vital part of my life and do not know what I would do without it, but I also know I am missing quite a bit. For instance when I search the antenna book about building a new Yagi usually after the first paragraph the text is full of formulas and references to equations.


Back when I was in the Army we had a saying ‘KISS’ it meant keep it sweet and simple stupid. Why not have a handbook for those newly licensed or those looking to understand ham radio before getting involved that was KISS’d. When talking about radios and why one had a better receiver just say that if this or that function had a number equal to X or better it would be a great radio. Or when building a Yagi for 20 meters just say you do this than you do that and eliminate any reference to equations that only the physicists looking into the theory of relativity would understand. I say lets make it more attractive to potential hams not some daunting task that they shy away from.

Of course this would make it also easier for an old timer like myself

but then that’s why I wrote this posting, Hi Hi.



8 Comments leave one →
  1. unalaska permalink
    March 1, 2013 3:10 am

    Definitely sounds confusing as all get out. Someone needs to write that quintessential guide – Ham Radio for Dummies.


  2. March 1, 2013 6:55 am

    THe Ham Radio for Dummies exists.

    But the point is still valid. You need a _little_ bit of math to cut your first dipole, but it quickly gets way too “mathy.” Especially in a hobby where you’re just supposed to try things out and see how they work.


  3. March 1, 2013 4:03 pm

    Great post. I agree with the difficulties of the math equations. Altho I just recently upgraded to general, extra is a slightly more daunting task. I will add that another difficulty is that most of the gear costs more than I make in a month or two, which is why I have a few blog posts regarding my experiences to find more inexpensive methods.
    73(hope to catch you on hf sometime),
    KD7LTN Eric


  4. Terry permalink
    March 2, 2013 9:30 am

    It is interesting, Pete. Years and years ago I had minimal exposure but didn’t have the patience then to appreciate it. But I think I will check out the Ham Radio for Dummies – sounds fun. Yes, hobbies are supposed to be fun – not just work/study ;-)

    Oh, and I love the outdoor photos :-)


  5. delbert permalink
    March 2, 2013 12:08 pm

    LOL Pete.. yea i know I went through that too… But I just bought one a kind of figured it out by trial and error. And 11 meter crystal… skipped all over up there… used it basically for emergencies and to follow the iditarod….. go figure….
    anyway the wildest thing is I would receive all kinds of Q cards and letters from people all the world! It was wild……. And I still have my yeasu ft 301ad but havent hooked it up in yeaaars……….stay warm, Del


  6. Jon permalink
    March 4, 2013 12:51 am

    So just what the hell are you guys talking about anyway? LOL!!!!!


  7. Tricia permalink
    March 4, 2013 1:34 am

    Jon, I understood your comment.


  8. Mike Hohmann permalink
    April 2, 2017 8:21 am

    I got ‘Ham Radio for Dummies’ and ‘Electronics for Dummies,’ and a few antenna books… and read parts of all of them… although I finished the Ham Radio for Dummies book. I’ve had Technician License for a year and expect to get General within a couple of months. I figure the most important thing is getting on the air! I’m a hiker/backpacker and plan on using QRP up on mountains, ridgelines and hilltops beginning in a couple of weeks… when the trails dry out in northern MN. I’m looking forward to a great ‘radio enabled hiking season this year! 73 de Mike, KEØGZT also at:


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