I have been seeing a lot of preppers out there on the internet promoting Amateur Radio. For those who don’t know what a prepper is, you can compare it to a survivalist as they are similar in some ways. In my opinion a Survivalist learns how to live off the land and a Prepper is “Preparing” for an event. It can range from someone preparing for a storm all the way to someone preparing for when the S#!T hits the fan ( SHTF as they call it) or “Doomsday”, the end of the world. Some of them go far as building huge underground bunkers equipped with enough fresh water, food, power and ammunition to last for years. Recent TV shows like “Doomsday Preppers” have increased the spotlight on these types of people.
I think some of these extreme preppers are nutty but as long as they are spending their own money and don’t bother anyone else, they can prepare all the want. Who knows, they might have the last laugh but I am not going to spend my life worrying about a “What If”. By the way, I do believe that you should have at least some preparations such as a flashlight, weather radio and the plans that are mentioned on the Ready.Gov’s website. I am not here to put down the preppers.
At some point along the way in the prepper movement, it was mentioned that Amateur Radio is a necessity as it allows you to communicate with the “Outside World” and to keep tabs on what’s going on. It’s suggested on many websites and there are a lot of YouTube “Prepper” videos which promote Amateur Radio. I am all for promoting Amateur Radio but the way it’s being promoted is what bothers me. Instead of focusing on Amateur Radio as a whole, it’s only focusing on the prepper aspect of it with a sprinkle of EmComm. I know it’s their angle but there is more to Amateur Radio than just for using it during an emergency or when “Doomsday” happens and I wish more of these sites would mention it or dive into Amateur Radio a little deeper.
Preppers getting licensed at what cost?
I am glad they are getting licensed and I am sure certain radio organizations are glad so they boast about higher numbers, but at what costs? Sure, they have a license but are they going to use the radio other than listening? Are they going to take advantage of their new license? Are they going to be interested in the hobby other than from a prepper standpoint? I would rather see 10 people licensed that are active and really care about the hobby than 100 people get licensed to check into a couple nets and put their radio into storage mode.
I am NOT stating that Preppers shouldn’t get licensed!
I am glad they are taking the steps in being legal. It’s better than having the equipment in the hands of someone who has no clue what they are doing or don’t care. Hopefully while in the process of studying for their license that they see what Amateur Radio is all about and end up being more involved. All I ask is for these websites/bloggers/podcasters/youtubers that are promoting prepping and amateur radio to consult an active and established amateur radio operator. You wouldn’t want me on your show giving prepping advice just because I’ve read a couple blog sites. There are many operators that would love to make an appearance to correctly promote ham radio. all you would have to do is just ask.
This is just my opinion, I maybe wrong!
Thanks for reading and 73,
Jeff – NT1K
That’s right folks, I went to NEARfest. No, not the progressive rock festival but the New England Amateur Radio festival held every spring and fall in Deerfield NH. It’s considered to be New England’s largest and most attended hamfest. If you’re an amateur radio operator in the Northeast then there is no way you never heard about it. Due to other things going on in my life, it was either play in the New England QSO party (NEQP) or NEARfest. I can’t do both so I went to NEARfest but for only Friday.
Even though it’s not true, I’ll just say I’ve never been to NEARfest. I’ve been to Hosstraders which was the name of the hamfest before but I was very young and didn’t really pay attention to anything that was going on.
I left early Friday morning in hopes of getting there early. Further east I got, the more traffic started building up for those who are commuting to the Boston area. I got to the Fairground around 8:00 with a line of 20 or so cars of those who didn’t have tickets to “Get In” the fairgrounds. As the gates opened I was impressed in how fast people and cars were herded into the fair grounds. I was expecting a long wait because I assumed they were going to “inspect” everyone’s tickets. They did a great thing and sold tickets to every car in the waiting line.
Upon entering and parking, I wanted to shop right away to scoop up any deals before anyone else did. However I found out that most of the tailgating vendors were in the line with me and still had to setup. So the walk around the fairgrounds was to get a layout of the land. As more tailgaters and vendors were lining up I went around again and started purchasing stuff
My Shopping List
- 250pf Variable Capacitor (Antenna Project)
- Toroids – Various sizes and types (Antennas / RFI projects)
- MCX to SMA connector (RTL-SDR)
- Soldering Station (Grounded Variable Temp)
- Various RF connectors
- RG-213 cable
What I ended up purchasing:
- Rigrunner - Well within my price range
- MH-31 Handheld Dynamic Mic ( For my FT-736R)
- 250pf Cap (not the butterfly type like I was hoping)
- Toroids – Two tailgaters were selling various toroids. Wasn’t sure of value but purchased anyway
- Various sizes and values of variable caps – They were cheap enough
- MCX to SMA cable
- Battery for my Motorola XTS3000
- RG214 cable
So I purchased some stuff that was not on my list. Who doesn’t
To be honest I didn’t know what to expect when I showed up. For the most part everyone was friendly and you can see the “cliques” forming. All the military stuff was in one area, all the whackers had their light shows parked next to each other and it appeared that it was more of a social gathering of hams than a “Flea Market”. I was expecting NEARfest to be similar to the Swap/Sale section of the QRZ forums with everything marked up because it’s “Vintage”, “Rare” or “Barley Used” but I was glad to see that most of the tailgaters and vendors had decent prices with a sprinkle of those who think their equipment should go for as it were new.
When it comes to anything amateur radio related, I expected the smelly ham, the mega obese ham, the scooter ham, the mega nerd and the high visibility whacker ham. What is a Ham Fest without them. I was expected to see them, I did and I am used to that. However this year I saw quite a few “Boston Marathon” hams to point where I could have made a drinking game for every one I saw. I guess by wearing the neon yellow (or blue) jacket you’re telling everyone in eyesight that ”I was there man”. I am not sure of a reason to wear that jacket other than at the Boston Marathon or to show off that you were at a tragic event. I’m still not clear as to why someone would constantly wear it. Haven’t notice people wearing previous years jackets like what I saw this weekend.
On another note, I got to meet and have a very small chat with Burt Fisher (K1OIK), who is a known in the Amateur Radio world for his youtube videos, some of which are very controversial. Some might find him to be offensive, a trouble maker and demeaning to amateur radio but I really don’t think so. I may not agree with everything he says but he is just a person with an opinion. With differences aside, He has a lot of very informative videos so I give him credit.
I would have to say that I had good time. However I wouldn’t return unless I had a reason to go that would make the effort worth it. I could have purchased all the stuff that I got from the fest online for similar prices including shipping. If I had a bunch of stuff to sell or was looking to purchase a big ticket item such as a transceiver, amplifier or antenna rotor then I can see it worth returning. If you’re active in amateur radio in the Northeast, then I would at least go once.
Thanks for reading,
Jeff – NT1K
Let me start off by saying that I understand the need for Amateur Radio operators when it comes to emergency situations. I saw it get put to good use when a tornado ripped through the area I live in. This article is about the small fraction of people that are involved and is not meant to discriminate the entire EmComm community. These are just opinions on what I’ve witnessed throughout the years of being licensed and my personal views about it. I could be very wrong about it.
For those who are new or do not know, EmComm i.e., Emegency Communications, is a part of Amateur Radio. It has been since as far back as World War II (and possibly before). They consist of amateur radio operators who volunteer their time and resources (e.g., transceivers, antennas) to assist other operators and their community during times of disaster where normal means communication has been compromised and/or during significant weather events. A large percentage of these people also volunteer to provide communications during non-profit events like marathons and walk-a-thons. It’s been proven time and time again that these operators are an asset to their community. I am not going to deny that. It’s what got some people interested in Amateur Radio in the first place.
Most EmComm operators are involved in a related group(s). It could be governed by the group itself, by a national/regional chapter, by a municipality or even by state or federal government. These groups provide the necessary training needed so the operators can quickly establish communications and provide vital information to those who need it. The major groups are RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services), ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service), MARS (Military Auxiliary Radio System). These groups work with each other, municipalities and other emergency management groups that spring into action during an event.
For weather, there is SKYWARN among others. SKYWARN is not really an Amateur Radio group per say but uses amateur radio and their operators as a tool. They provide localized weather related information to the National Weather Service and other weather outlets.
Most, if not all of the people in these groups are made of people who really care about their community and take pride in volunteering and providing much needed information. However some of these people like it a little too much to where I would put them in the “Whacker” group. Whacker is a term first coined by the volunteer firefighter community. It’s when the volunteer treats their duty as it were a full time paying job and beyond. They would buy more gear than necessary, decorate their personal vehicle with lights and sirens and start showing up to calls when they are not even scheduled to show and possibly do no work while taking a lot of the credit. That term is also used in law enforcement, medical profession and even amateur radio.
In amateur radio, it’s the person who owns and uses one or more of the following
- Uniform – Similar to a uniform worn by Law enforcement or Military.
- Duty Belt – Once again, worn by Law Enformcent or Military
- Multiple radios w/ speaker mics worn on said duty belt
- Badges – I’m talking TIN baby
- High Visibility Clothing – Extra points for saying “Emegency Communications” on it
- Police gear – Things like holsters (for their radios), big flashlights (With optional traffic cone) and tactical vests
- Amber lights – Like the ones you see on Police Crusiers. Extra points if they are permanently attached to their vehicle
- Decals – Either a sticker or a magnet that shows you that they mean business.
- Law enforcement type vehicle – This is the ultimate form of Whackerdom. A typical example would be either a Ford Crown Victoria or Chevy Impala (depends on what brand of vehicle is most used in the area) that its setup to look exactly like a police cruiser. That would include multiple antennas placed in similar locations, Push/brush guard, steel rims with “Center caps” and amber lights throughout the vehicle. Some will go as far is actually buying an ex-police cruiser.
This can range from the most expensive high tech gear that even municipalities can’t afford; all the way down to old surplus gear that is on the verge of being broken, rotted, worn and non-functioning. Yes, there are even well-to-do whackers that are caught up in it.
When these whackers are attending public events like a Marathon, they tend to focus more on their “style” and their attempts to be “authoritative” more than actually helping out in a situation. You’ll see them
walking standing or driving around in their gear trying to look like they are actually making a difference and are important. They also LOVE the sound of their own voice. They love the sound of their voice so much to the point where they are reporting in every minute detail that has little to do with or no effect to the reason why they are there in the first place. If it was something important that actually happened, instead of just giving the facts, they would give out way too much useless information and find ways to prolong the communication so it gives the appearance to spectators and others who are listening that they are serious business.
You will also see this stuff in weather related events as well. They will be out in their “Official Storm Chasing” vehicles reporting on things that either have no relation or no effect to the weather event taking place. And if there was actually something to report, it would be greatly exaggerated. 1/4″ or less size hail (if any) would be reported as golf ball to softball size hail. A gust of wind would be reported as 60 Mph force winds. A tree branch snapping off a tree in someones back yard would be reported as an entire tree fallen into the street. For SKYWARN, it’s encouraged to stay inside a safe location during an event and there is a toll-free number that can be called to send reports. But that’s not fun… Is it?
You also have armchair weather whackers that are just as bad, if not worse as those that are outside. They sit there and stare at online radar maps, listen to the police scanner and actually report on the things that appear they’ve seen with their own eyes.
All these people do is get in the way of things. Tying up the airwaves with nothing but useless information just so they can flex their jaw muscles and puff their chests to show how important they think they are. I just hope that they’re not on the air when an actual life threatening situation occurs. Just imagine what would happen if someone is in cardiac arrest and the only mean of communication is ham radio. But they can’t get through because some whacker is going into great detail about a twig coming off the tree in their backyard.
Sometimes it’s just one or two people in a group that casts a shadow over the entire group. There are groups where everyone in it is a whacker. There are even some whacker groups that get so involved with the town, city or county that they convince them that they need to invest money, equipment and even property to their cause. Some of these town/city councils have no clue. They are just trying to look out for the well-being of their residents. In some places the decision makers are whackers themselves. Some of them don’t even know that they fit the definition of a whacker.
How come these people exist? How come they haven’t been kicked out, excommunicated or shunned from their group? It’s really simple… It’s all volunteers. These organizations need bodies to survive and stay operating. They will take anyone they can get and will put up with their “whackerness” up to a point. Some of the whackers do really care about what they have signed up for and possibly listened and paid attention to their training and followed the guidelines and reporting criteria. Even though their “whackerness” shows, they really care about their purpose. But then you have the whackers who didn’t listen and didn’t pay attention to their training just to get an excuse to go out and inflate their own egos. You’ll never get rid of these people and they will always be here. Back in the day when cell phones we not even existent and not everyone had a landline in their house, Radios were depended upon and taken more seriously. With todays technology, Ham Radio is looked at as a last resort.
Is it preventable? Yes and no. People view whackers in all different types of ways. Some may think they are dedicated to what they do and others may think that the person is just nuts or somewhere in between. Since they are mainly volunteer positions, it’s difficult to “Fire” them unless they have done something really wrong. If organizations started getting rid of all their major whackers, it would be seen by the entire community that it’s a unfriendly organization. It will discourage the closet whackers from joining. They also might not be whackers when they first joined up. They either get sucked into it by another established whacker or become one once they get a little taste of it. They might even have no clue that they’ve become a whacker. They love to congregate with other whackers and feed off each others egos and whackerness. They also become really defensive and sometimes irrational when they are labeled as a whacker or the term whacker is mentioned. You’re basically attacking their livelihood by poking at their whacker ways. They are too proud to admit to it and will give you reasons trying to justify their whackerness. It can range from the truth of “Hey, I just like dressing up this way” to some stretched out lie like “When I am not at this walk-a-thon, I work for the (INSERT CITY, COUNTY, STATE OR FEDERAL AGENCY HERE) doing some important stuff” to justify their actions.
Why do you have a stick up your butt about these kinds of people?
Due to possible major interactions with the public, It will lead to a negative impact on the Amateur Radio community as a whole. When people that I know outside of amateur radio find out that I am a ham radio operator, one of three things come up. What are you, a nerd? Isn’t that for old people? Are you one of those guys running around with a vest and a Radio pretending to be a cop? I can always argue and say that I’m a proud nerd, that a lot of young people are getting back into it and that it’s only a tiny percentage of operators that actually run around pretending to be a cop. It’s also really embarrassing to me as an operator to hear and see people having no clue that what they are doing and are just making things worse. I am sure deep down they are just trying to help but I don’t think we need a 5 min report about a tree falling in your backyard and then to hear it again 3 more times because net control doesn’t seem interested in your report. Obvious exaggerated reports coming in also really annoy me. The whole point of emergency communications is to get on the air, give the facts and get off the air so others can help. Not to sit there, holding up the frequency because you need to tell others in your area that it’s raining in great detail.
Other than to rant a little bit, the whole point of this article is to show others that these people exist and they do not make up the majority of EmComm community or the Amateur Radio community. Hopefully a full blown whacker reads this and changes their way. Hopefully the airwaves will get less polluted with crap. Hopefully the police gear disappears. I doubt that will happen but you may never know!
I decided to participate in CQ Magazine’s World Wide CW (Morse Code) contest. It’s one of the, If not the biggest CW contest of the year.
I have been trying to learn CW off and on since the summer so I needed some help if I were to even make one QSO on CW. I setup N1MM logging software for the contest and used DM-780 that comes with Ham Radio Deluxe to decode and encode the CW.
Since I never participated in a CW contest before I wanted to see how it worked so I can configure my macros to work with the contest. I was very impressed on how fast contacts and exchanges are made. It’s way faster compared to SSB, RTTY and PSK31 and I felt even more compelled to learn CW after playing in this contest. I worked the contest off and on so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed about the activity. I started off searching and pouncing (S&P) on only the strongest signals. I would wait until I have their full call and exchange before even attempting to contact the station. N1MM does help out by looking up the CQ zone which came in handy a couple of times. After establishing contact I would get the typical 599 and zone exchange. After the first night working the contest. I have learned what my new call sounds coming back to me and phrases like “TU”, “TEST”, “?” and some of the shortcuts ops used to make a faster contact like instead of a RST of 599, it will be 5NN and A5 would be zone 15. I went to bed with code buzzing around in my head. I woke up the next day to play again. I’ve managed to make 100 contacts even though I know for a fact that I can make more. I just wanted to see what it was like to play in a CW and I liked it. Nothing like just jumping right in with both feet and absorbing everything. Once you learn the key terms in code the contest went much easier. I would encourage ops who want to learn CW to work in a contest. After learning what some of the stuff sounds like, the only trouble would be on decoding the call sign. I just hope that the people on the other end got my call right.
This now leads me to my rant. I lurk around on a lot of Ham radio related forums and also hear it by ear. I see a lot of people saying something along the lines of “These No-Coders are going to ruin HF” and “Amateur Radio is going to be just like CB” because the FCC dropped the Morse code requirement years after many other countries dropped the requirement. Now all these “Techies” or Technician license holders are upgrading to general and/or extra without passing a Morse code proficiency test.
After spending a couple of years on HF I have not seen much (or any) evidence to support this claim that has been spewing out of the elders mouths for over 4 years now. A lot of the Issues I see have a lot to do with elder hams. For example, when it comes to contacting a DX station I see a lot of things happening. Things like after the DX station acknowledge someone, there are still people trying to crowbar their callsign in because there is a second of silence. I also hear 1KW amps tuning up RIGHT on frequency of the DX station then spew out their call (like we don’t know who you are when you’re 40+ on my meter). Then you got those that see a massive pileup trying to contact the station and when acknowledged, will try to strike up a rag chew session by describing their town and the weather and their medical ailments even though there are 100′s of people waiting. And if the DX working split… FORGET ABOUT IT! They endlessly send their call even though you have a bunch of people telling him that the DX is listening 5KC up. Try listening to the RX Frequency of the DX station working spilt. Wholly crap there are a lot of people who don’t even come close to following the DX code of conduct. I’ve jotted a bunch of these calls down and looked them up on QRZ to find out that a majority of them are elder hams (By the age of their call and station setup).
For a Hobby that is so-called “Dying”, I wouldn’t spend much time complaining about those who are actually trying to stay interested in Ham radio. Not only should you welcome these “No-Coders”, you should thank them for showing interest. Because with that negative attitude you will drive away the young Hams that are genuinely interested and you will see a truly dead hobby. After a couple of years on HF and thousands of contacts, It’s rare that I run into someone around my age (28). I basically think that those who bitch and moan about it are just jealous or feel that they are “A class of their own” because they had to pass a 20wpm (or 5wpm) CW proficiency test. The funny thing is that since I’ve upgraded, I wanted to learn CW more than ever so I can make even more contacts farther away.
This is just my personal opinion, I could be wrong.
Ever since I moved to my house I always had noise in my receiver. It wasn’t loud enough for me to care until now. For the past couple of months the noise has been real bad. Bad to the point where I didn’t even go past 20m (14mhz). I Figured when Field day comes around I will be able to see if its something with the radio. I turned on the radio at field day and the noise was still there. I was upset that I was going to have to ship my radio to YAESU for repairs. That is until someone turned off the light that was 3ft near the radio. THE NOISE IS GONE!!! YES!!! Found out that the cheap-o CFL Bulb (or it’s ballast ) was causing the RFI. I thought that this might be the same cause at my QTH. So after field day I setup back home and tried the radio without the lights. Noise was still there. Today I finally got off my ass and started to track down what was causing the RFI. I went to cellar and turned off all the circuit breakers except for the room which the FT-950 is in. The noise is still there. I unplugged everything in the room except the power supply and the Noise was still there. At this point I took a TV car battery (sealed) and hooked it up inside. The noise is GONE! With the process of elimination, I found out that the power supply was to blame. Back when I purchases the FT-100, I Moved the power supply close to the radio so I could power both the radios.
The power supply that was causing the RFI is the SAMLEX SEC-1223. I googled the model number and there were numerous sites that mention the RFI that power supply generates.
ZL2DF used ferrite beads and ceramic disk capacitors (about US$10 for part modification) placed right before the output terminals and OZ1DB used two 1.5uf 100V Capacitors ( US$ 3) on the output terminals
This year I participated in Field Day with the Hampden County Radio Association. Instead of dropping by a site and using their equipment, I decided to offer up my equipment for use as the “HF DIGITAL” station. Other than a couple of software issues, the Digital station was a success with over 170 contacts.
Here are the pictures I’ve taken from Field Day
Check out Hampden County Radio Association’s Website for information about Field Day.
At the beginning of the month I participated in the New England QSO Party. This is the first contest that I’ve taken a part of to where I submitted logs. I’ve participated in contests by accident. Meaning that I just happened to be on the air when the contest was going on and thought it would be fun to make some contacts for the log book. The reason I wanted to take part fully in the NEQP is that I’m based out of New England and thought it would be fun to see how well I can do in New England considering I rarely hear New England stations. On Saturday night (May 5th), I’ve spent 5 hours planted on one frequency on 40 meters and started calling CQ. I’ve tuned the 950 so I can filter out most of the QRM and I have to say that I had a really fun time. I thought I would be horrible since I am not running with what I consider the big guns (expensive setups, beams, towers). With my 100w rig and a G5RV dipole I thought I did very well to the point where I was getting pileups. I would have never thought there would be a pileup to contact me. May 6th was not as exciting as the bands were dead (well, for me). However I kept on 40 meters and made an additional 50 contacts with brought the total to 256 X a multiplier of 31 = 7,936 points.
In days since, I received many QSL cards with SASE. Please be patient as I am trying to find a good printer, that is decently price for full color QSL cards. Once I receive them, SASE cards will be sent first followed by those who sent cards and finally, those who I promised a card to. I would also like to thank all the stations that contacted me. Also like to thank the NightWatch Net.
Now for a drink
This contest now brings me to my rant. I don’t like ranting because it causes nothing but trouble. This time I don’t care. During the contest I’ve heard a couple of people referring to me as “these contesters” like it’s a bad thing. I’ve also seen write-ups and videos of hams complaining about “Contesters”. I don’t understand what the big deal is. Oh no! you now have to move a couple khzs because someone is contesting on a frequency that you’ve used since 1909. For a hobby that is so-called “Dying”, I wouldn’t spend time complaining about other ham operators that are actually involved in this “Dying” hobby. Now if they just hopped on the frequency that you’re currently talking to your buddy on (or 1-3 khz near) and starting contesting without checking if it’s a clear frequency and/or calling QRZ, then I can understand. It’s happened to me and it’s just plain rude. But if they’re using proper ham etiquette then let the contesters play. I’m sorry, I can’t sit for hours listening to long-winded hams talk about their setup and the weather. It gets real old, real fast. That is just my 2 cents, I could be wrong!
Since my recent purchase I’ve been back into digital. In the past couple of say 20M in the afternoon has been really good to me
I made contact with the following
RK9AN – Anvar -Asiatic Russia
RN3AJK – Artem – Euro Russia
DK9WB – Jakob – Germany
CT2FPY – Leonel – Portugal
M0NPQ – Nerijus – England
DL5MGH – Armin – Germany
IW3SGT – Alessandro – Italy
IZ3LEF – Emiliano – Italy
IW6NBX – Antonio – Italy
SP5GRU – Wlodek – Poland
EA3BJW – Joan – Spain
US5CCO – Vlad – Ukraine
UA3ON – Antoly – Euro Russia
RD3WW – Vladimir – Euro Russia
IN3NHZ – Roberto – Italy
KE5AQD – Roger – USA
W3CRR – Craig – USA
9A4A – Zlatko – Croatia
I have been noticing lately that after sending CQ and acknowledging someone that people are still trying to contact me. I like pileups for me but it’s hard in the digital world. It gets annoying because I’m unable to make out the first half of the conversation because of QRM. I figured like on SSB, once someone acknowledges someone else that everyone else on the frequency remains QRT until the exchange ends??? – END RANT
I also got work K2TPZ on CW. I still have trouble receiving so I cheated and used the computer to receive his CW and used the touch pad to send. I hope by engaging in CW more and more that the dits and dahs will automatically turn into letters and words