Learning: What works for you.

I don’t like to get caught up in arguments or debates, especially as it pertains to a hobby like amateur radio. Unfortunately individuals are unique and where opinions differ, disagreements arise.  I don’t profess to knowing EVERYTHING about amateur radio, I don’t intend to. This hobby can pull individuals in so many different directions, you are bound to find a are that is of interest.

In the past I have spent many hours logged on to amateur radio forums and it never ceases to amaze the degree of hardheadedness that occurs if your opinions varies from that of another. In 2007, the FCC eliminated the five words-per-minute Morse code examination and went to a 3-tier licensing system; Technician, General, Amateur Extra.

I’ll admit that learning Morse code was a stumbling block that had to be overcome when I was originally license in 1990. I bought cassette tapes from Radio Shack and attempted to learn code, unfortunately I did not dedicate time every day to learning. It wasn’t until this new rule went into effect that I upgraded to General and then to Amateur Extra, known by some in our hobby as a “no code Extra” as opposed to a “know code Extra.”

I did take it upon myself to use and learn Morse code after I upgraded to Amateur Extra. Even now I don’t use it in the conventional manner many dedicated CW operators do, but I do use the mode and thoroughly enjoy it. When it comes to learning Morse code opinions vary on how to learn. There are many online programs and methods on learning to use CW. I am of the opinion, use what works for you.

Many individuals try to push “their way” as the best way when it comes to learning, but if their way of learning isn’t working, logic would say to find another way that allows you to learn and progress. Yet read many amateur radio forums and there are thread upon thread and post after post that will contradict what the previous just said.

I approached amateur radio with the thought of, “the Amateur Extra is a lifetime license to learn.” I can’t say everyone will agree with that opinion, as the ham operator has moved from being a tinkerer or experimenter to an appliance operator. I will label myself somewhere in between, but probably learning a bit more to the appliance operator side than that of the experimenter. So while I didn’t need to learn to use CW, I did.

When I decided to undertake this task, I did not want to worry about having to pass more FCC exams, so I learned to use CW after I being an Amateur Extra. When I did start to learn I used a number of different programs, you can read about those on my CW page. I also decided to purchase MRP40, which I used (and still use now) as a tool when operating CW. Now the purist will say I am now a CW operator, but I am using the mode and enjoy the mode.This isn’t for everyone, especially those who took the time to learn and the mode, participating in the FCC exams to “earn” as some would term it, their General and Amateur Extra licenses. But for a new ham or someone who wants to use the mode, I think this is a great tool to assist you in learning and using the mode.

I have written about this before, in a topic titled, Why do you care? last March, which addressed this same issue. While we are all amateur operators, I see no need to label operators because of what they know or don’t or how they operate. Accept them and their approach to the hobby and if you don’t agree, then move along.Amateur radio is a great hobby! I have been thankful for being introduced to the hobby early in my childhood and while I was not pushed into the hobby or forced to learn Morse code. I am pleased with my operating habits and what I have learned over the years. Among the contest club I belong to, the NCCC, there is amazing wealth of knowledge, as well as some world class contesters and stations available.

No Contesting?

I realized today I am in need of some amateur radio. It struck me after reading the latest JUG from the NCCC as W6FB and N6WM discussed “gadgets” and “teamwork” in respect to contesting. I have been QRT since November 28, 2010 as I turned off the rig during the CQP after I had more pressing priorities.

Since that time I have missed some enjoyable contests, as well as club meetings. This thanks in part to the ongoing remodel that seems to have me by the balls…STILL! I have already missed the ARRL RTTY Roundup in early January, a contest I did well in back in 2010. Coming in a few weeks CQWW WPX RTTY, a contest I did very well in from my QTH last year.

I actually had my best showing in any contest, any mode last year when I ran low power, made 544 QSOs for 350,364 points and actually won 6 call area, low power. A great achievement on my part, but with work and the remodel I am not sure I will be able to put in a full effort or even a partial effort. I am keeping my options open at this point, but will need to make a decision very quickly.

The nice thing about amateur radio is, there does not need to be a contest in order to get on the air and make some contacts. Personally I really enjoy the contesting side, even if I never win any awards. The fact I am participating and enjoying making a large number of contacts in a short period of time gives me the satisfaction I desire.

I have made a commitment to myself not to get on the air until our remodel is done. Unfortunately it has been the remodel that has been sucking up much of my free time and days I take off from work. So while I don’t figure to get any contesting during WPX I can look back on last year and hopefully build on those numbers next time I have a chance to operate.

K6B: Good Operating!

I have never been the station from which a pile up has built. I have experienced that the past two days, as I call ‘CQ’ as K6B, Kilo-Six-Bravo. This special event call sign is one of approximately 500 stations in the Northern California Contest Club that is “celebrating 40 years of contesting excellence.” I opted for the 1×1 using K6B, since our club motto is “kick butt” I felt the 1×1 call sign was fitting for the special event.

In about 4 hours of operating I have close to 200 QSOs from many amateurs in the United States as well as DX stations from Japan, Hawaii, Argentina, Ireland and most surprisingly Sierra Leone, which was a first for me, operating any mode.

My best hour of operating so far as been a rate of 89/hour, but operating this special event has not been about rate, at least for me. I have tried to make it a point to pull up QRZ info on the station I am talking to and attempting to comment on something in their profile before giving a signal report and moving on.

The event is in full swing, which started on 18 September and goes through 2359 UTC on 01 October, where it will lead into the CQP (California QSO Party), which is sponsored by the NCCC.

So far the main modes I have concentrated on have been SSB and RTTY on 17M and 20M. I was looking for DX yesterday beaming Japan and the South Pacific on 15M and 20M, but had no luck making any contacts.

I do plan on offering a QSL card at the conclusion of the event, as well as uploading my log as K6B to LOTW and eQSL. It will be a very simple design, as I anticipate on using this call sign in the future for club sponsored event, possibly to include CQP. I did plan on operating at K6B for CQP, but might decided to see if I can get the call sign extended for an additional 24 hours just for the event.

It has been a great event and I have met some wonderful hams, then again that is what makes amateur radio a great hobby. Hopefully I have a chance to work many more across the US and abroad as I plan to spend many more hours beginning today, on nearly any band. I think I will give 40M a shot later today on SSB and see if I have any luck. Thanks to all I have contacted. 73.

The 6th Thought: Let it Go!

I don’t think a day ever passes that somebody does not take a cheap shot at another in a hobby related Internet forum. I am sure I can call myself on this in years past supporting a game I helped in developing since I was the big, bad “Forum Nazi” and rather quick to bring the hammer down on threads and forum goers. Personally, I saw nothing wrong with removing or editing questionable content or applying a ban to an individual for questionable actions.

Actions like this of a moderator are usually met in protest with shouts of “freedom of speech” and being able to express their thoughts without any sort of repercussion. I must disagree, if you participate in a forum, you have no rights to act like a complete ass and ignore guidelines set in place.

I am moving away from my original point, that is the fact that it’s amazing to see amateur radio operators taking shots at each other continuously. One of those “hot button” topics is contesting. There seems to be no middle ground, you either like it or hate it. There is a subculture to contesting, those who participate in CW as opposed to SSB. Guess there is something special being a CW contester as opposed to a SSB contester, still haven’t figured that one out.

I just find the animosity difficult to swallow on a daily basis. Right now, some might be thinking, “If you don’t like it, don’t read the forums.” You are exactly right! There are those ridiculous topics I usually end up avoiding because they don’t provide any useful information and nothing is ever resolved.

As I mentioned I am sure every hobby is similar in this way, sure we are licensed by the FCC, but we must govern ourselves. I am still appalled at the attitudes of some amateurs who feel they are high and mighty and above everyone else. Conversely, there are some real great individuals who always prove timely and sensible information relevant to any discussion. For those individuals I thank them.

Of course my complaining about it is no better than those partaking in these arguments, but why these ongoing arguments continue on a weekly (monthly) basis is just mind boggling.

The Mentality of Some

It is unfortunate there are some involved in amateur radio who feel the way the individual quoted below does. There always seems to be a small percentage who want to ruin the fun and enjoyment for everyone else. On forums, these sort of individuals are known as “trolls.”

  • Real radios GLOW
  • Life is to short for QRP
  • Real hams took their test in front of a FCC official (and drove hundreds of miles to the office, walked twenty miles to school in the snow,etc).
  • If you don’t know code, and use it, you are not a ham.
  • eQSL is not REAL paper so it should never count!

From a thread discussing eQSL (electronic QSL cards), this “ham” has the sense to post garbage, along with an opinion on eQSL cards, which is fine. But I don’t consider myself any less of a ham radio operator because I did NOT take my extra in front of an FCC official or that I did NOT learn code in order to gain any of my licenses over the year.

This is sort of comments that are far to prevalent today with the “dumbing down” of licenses procedure set forth by the FCC. Yet there is a vocal presence that says the hobby is dying because new blood, the youth of America are not interested in RF, but social network via a PC using the likes of Facebook or My Space.I am proud I am an amateur radio operator regardless of how I obtained my ticket. So what if I did not learn Morse Code? But it seems to chap some asses that this, Element 1 was rescinded from testing procedures. Many of those “grumpy, old men” cannot let go of past procedures or how they were tested and licensed.I wonder when these same hams will sport the attitude of, “Well if you are operating anything but CW or SSB, it’s not really ham radio.” These are probably some of the same individuals who won’t try new digital modes, like PSK31, Olivia and countless others because of what they have done in the past.

The joy of amateur radio comes down to what YOU, the operator enjoys doing. So what if I or any other ham did not learn Morse Code. So what if we did not test in front of the FCC. We ARE all hams.P.S. – If this response was meant in jest, then I apologize. I just get tired of hearing the same BS over and over.