Why I Love Ham Radio But Hate The Direction It Is Going
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Ham radio is a fun and rewarding hobby that can provide years of service and learning. Unfortunately we have gotten to a place where ham radio is regarded as and old mans hobby. We do have a younger generation of people coming into the hobby, but we have dumbed down the testing so that we could gain more of a presence amongst the younger crowd without providing any of the desire to learn more about the technical aspects of the hobby. In return we now have a whole group of appliance operators that do not know how to put a simple radio station together nor how to put up a simple dipole and get on the air.

Many of us got started in radio during the CB craze of the 70's and 80's.

Many of the ham radio operators in my age group got started in ham radio through the CB or Citizens band, a group of 40 channels allocated in the 27 megahertz (MHZ) frequency spectrum for public general use that sparked an interest in radio. Putting together a better more efficient station was always part of the fun. Finding ways to get a bigger louder signal out across the airwaves to work distant stations while staying within the guidelines allocated by the F.C.C (Federal Communications Commission) made it challenging and fun.

When I first heard of ham radio through an in-law I was amazed at the set of frequencies that were available and the amount of power that was legal to put out. Ham radio provided a way to explore new techniques to work a station on the other side of the world without the stricter allocations that were designed for CB use. I was hooked. Ham radio frequencies all have their own characteristics that allowed for different methods to bounce a signal off the atmosphere. The frequencies for amateur radio use gave freedom to move around with out the tight restriction of CB channels.

With ham radio I was not restricted to AM or SSB either. I could experiment around with digital modes as well as Morse Code (CW) to get a signal out on the air. Unlike CB, I could now legally run 1500 watts PEP (Peak Envelope Power) instead of the 5W for AM or 12w for SSB (Single Side Band).

The ham radio exams have been dumbed down in order to make the process fair for everyone, and in return we now have radio operators with lower standards on the airwaves.

Ham radio operators that got their start in CB are not the problem. It is the lower standards that we have put in place to gain more operators and keep ham radio alive. In return we now have radio operators that can't put a simple radio station together and put it on the air.

The ones to blame our ourselves. Instead of Elmering and tutoring the next generation of amateur radio operators we bitch and whine about what poor operators they are while making the testing process as simple as possible.

The final blame falls squarely on our shoulders.

So what can we do to change this.

As Amateur radio operators we are all the image that is seen by the public. When asked about my radio equipment most people assume that it is just CB until I explain what Amateur Radio is. Unfortunately we as ham radio operators are all grouped together with CB operators. So the first thing that we need to do is to change our public image. That means talking to people about ham radio, informing people that we are also a public service that provide communications during natural disasters.

Although Ham radio can cause interference to other devices just like CB, we as radio operators are better equipped to resolve a problem when it arises so that both partied are satisfied with the end results. By putting your best foot forward to resolve a problem, also change the public perception of Amateur Radio.

When we argue amongst ourselves or cause chaos on the radio, we are only making the problem worse. A perfect example of this is the chaos that is on 20m SSB.

Although I am an avid Morse Code operator, I do not believe that removing CW from the testing has caused as much of the problem as dumbing down the exams and making them available on-line. Ham radio is supposed to be about learning about radio. It is supposed to be for those with the desire to experiment around with radio and electronics. When we have appliance operators (someone who know how to key a mic or push the on/off button) it degrades the service.

Amateur Radio operators should hold themselves to a higher standard than other services. This includes correcting each other when we make a mistake, or giving an honest deal when making a purchase on a used piece of equipment. I can't begin to describe the feeling I had the first time I was ripped off from another ham radio operator on a used HF rig. Up to that point I had nothing but the highest regards for ham radio operators and worked hard to be on a equal platform with them in person and on the airwaves. I still try to hold myself to a higher standard, but now have open eyes and more common sense. Even then I still get taken once in a while from a ham radio operator, as recently as last week.

Ham radio is a fun and rewarding hobby.

Ham radio is still an excellent hobby that has taught me a lot over the years. I enjoy working stations from all over the world on simple antennas that I make, and know that there is always a band of frequencies open to DX (Distant Stations) day or night. It has made me a better person and introduced me to a whole group of like minded people that also enjoy all the different aspects of radio. Whether you are a seasoned veteran or just starting out, Amateur radio has a lot to offer. It doesnt matter where you started, whether it be CB or shortwave radio, just the direction that you are going. So let's crack open those textbooks and learn something new everyday while trying to be the best and professional operators that we can be. And remember that the world is watching us.

Hope to see you on the air soon.


Street Talk

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