A reluctant Ham gets jazzed
Jessica Littmann, KA1WEB
My nonHam friends were totally baffled when I gleefully announced that I was attending the Dayton Hamvention. Most had never heard of Amateur Radio, and the few who had didn't understand the purpose of the event. "What is it exactly?" they asked. "A conference? A flea market?"
"It's kind of like a Mecca for Hams," I explained. I viewed the event as a way to spend some time with my father, W1OU, who got me into the hobby when I was in eighth grade. Plus, I hoped that a little time at the heart of Hamdom would help rekindle my interest in radio. Since graduating from college and working for a few years, Amateur Radio had slipped down on my list of priorities. Although I still made a point of getting back for Field Day every year, that was really the extent of my involvement.
My impression, as a 25-yearold female who isn’t keen on being labeled a YL, was that the hobby was mostly middleaged men reliving their childhoods by buying all the equipment they couldn’t afford to get way back when. Although there certainly were strong elements of nostalgia at the Hamvention, I found plenty of encouraging evidence - including enthusiastic presentations by young amateurs, accounts of exotic DXpeditions, and the buzzing convention floor, that the hobby is thriving among Hams of all ages with diverse interests.
My dad and I arrived in Dayton on 18 May 2001, after meeting up in Chicago. The hotel was swarming with Hams - Hams with radios strapped to every appendage, Hams with t-shirts and hats emblazoned with their call signs, and Hams with antennas protruding from the backs of their cars. When we went in to the hotel restaurant, we were amused to see that almost all of the diners had HTs propped against their menus.
Our first night at the convention, we attended the Collins Collectors Association dinner. I was among a small minority of women at the presentation, and one of the few participants who wasn't even alive when Collins equipment was in its heyday. To me, collecting Collins radios was about preserving history - but to many of the other participants, it was much more personal than that. Ronald Steinberg, W9RVR, reminisced about the first Collins radio he'd ever owned, a KWM1 that he'd bought in the 1950s. "Now, if only I had my 1957 Chevy back to go with it." I sighed.
A video presentation of the Hammond Radio Museum in Guelph, Ontario, underscored the theme of radio as living history. Fred Hammond, VE3HC, now a silent key, was shown in the video escorting Floyd Soo, W8RO, around an immense collection of vintage radios and radio related paraphernalia. While the speeches and videos were all interesting, they left me with the feeling that for many amateurs, radio is more about preserving the past than growing into the future.
We hit the Hamvention floor early the next day. Although I knew that Hamvention was the largest gathering of Amateur Radio operators in the world, I was still unprepared for the scope of the event - it was larger and much more vital than I anticipated.
The first Hamvention in 1951 included only 13 vendors, according to Hamvention organizer Steven Schoemann, N8NRE, of Dayton, Ohio. "It just kept growing and growing, and snowballed into what you see here now." Schoemann said. A cadre of volunteers starts preparing for the event two weeks before as an estimated 28,000 visitors from every continent descend on the convention center.
Unlike other conventions I've attended, where slick signs, giveaway trinkets, and "booth babes" are the order of the day, Hamvention was marked by scores of lowbudget signs, and knowledgeable people who actually produce and use the wares they're selling. At every table I passed, I saw amateurs engaged in earnest conversation with each other.
For Bill White, W8IKF, attending the 50th anniversary of Hamvention was a trip down memory lane. White, who has been operating since 1951, attended the first Hamvention at the downtown Dayton Biltmore. "It's sure grown since then," he said. For White, radio was a great hobby "years ago, when I made my own stuff. Back then we built our own transmitters and receivers - now it's all readymade," he said wistfully.
There were, however, signs of a renaissance in homemade equipment - most notably, the Elecraft (www.elecraft.com ) table, where attendees crowded around the table for information on building radio equipment from kits. As I looked at the kits, I remembered how my dad and I had built an MFJ receiver years ago. Seeing where the parts went and soldering them in place helped me translate the squiggles on a schematic into a working knowledge of how the radio actually functioned.
One of the highlights of Hamvention was a forum on getting kids involved with Amateur Radio, moderated by Carole Perry, WB2MGP, of Staten Island, New York. Perry is one of the few educators in the U.S. to successfully integrate Amateur Radio into a gradeschool curriculum. Because Amateur Radio requires knowledge in different subject areas - including geography, history, science, math, and language arts, the hobby makes an ideal component of a gradeschool curriculum, Perry said.
Not all the young Hams at the event were fortunate enough to have time dedicated to their hobby in school, however. "School has slowed me down a bit." conceded Manhattanite Zane Wruble, W2YL, who earned her Extra Class license in February of 1999. An avid contester, Wruble cited "earning awards" as her favorite aspect of the hobby. The 12 year old has already garnered kudos in the form of a DXCC award, and is progressing toward working every county in the U.S.
Another young Ham, Jonathan Troop, K6DE, of Longmount, Colorado, emphasized the opportunities that Ham radio offers for mentoring. Troop, 13, serves as an Elmer for several other 7 -10 - year olds in the Boulder Amateur Radio Club (BARC) who are working to attain their licenses. Although some adults might think the idea of kids teaching kids is a bit risky, Troup pointed out that most kids appreciate the opportunity to work with a peer to get their licenses - it makes the hobby seem cool.
Fellow BARC Junior member Kristin Wilson, KC6INX, described the popular "Fourteener" event, in which Hams brave thunderstorms and rocky terrain on a predawn hike to the top of 14,000 foot Boulderarea peaks in order to log as many QSOs as possible. Wilson, whose mother, siblings, and grandparents are amateurs, described herself as belonging to "a family of pigs - I mean, Hams!" Her humorous presentation underscored Perry's message: Successful young Hams have in common a network of friends and family to encourage them with the hobby.
Farther afield, potential Hams get hooked on the hobby in other ways. Foxhunting, or radio directional finding, is one of the more popular ways to get kids involved with radio in China, according to Han Zhaofeng, Deputy Secretary of the Chinese Radio Sports Association (CRSA) in China. "It's part sports and part education." Zhaofeng said, adding that children are able to take classes in radio directional finding as one of their technology courses. Students build their own receivers and learn the principles of ARDF. "It is our hope that Amateur Radio will become part of education in the future. ARDF is how we get people involved." said Zhaofeng.
I was surprised to learn foxhunting is becoming a booming hobby in the U.S. In one forum, veteran foxhunters Bob Frey, WA6EZV, and Dick Arvelt, WB4SUV, explained some novel techniques for this specialty hobby. The two participated in ARDF world championships in Nanjing, China, which included 350 competitors from 26 different countries.
They're not the only ones who are world travelers. We also stopped in on the DX Forum on Saturday, and had the pleasure of listening to Garry Shapiro, N16T, and Tom Harrell, N4XP, describe their sometimes harrowing DXpedition to Kingman Reef. While visiting a desolate stretch of reef suspended in shark infested waters, the team learned a valuable lesson: Beware of sea urchins when bringing inflatable boats loaded with equipment to shore. Their description of combining adventuring with radio communication was inspiring enough to get an armchair traveler like me excited.
Our last stop was the sprawling outdoor flea market, where we saw everything from vintage radios housed in Gothic cabinets to mountains of spare parts. My dad and I were among the minority of conference goers who flew, rather than driving, to Dayton - a fact that irritated my dad when we really started trawling the market. "Do you think I could fit that generator in the overhead compartment?" he asked, pointing at a monstrous contraption that must have weighed over 400 pounds. He finally contented himself by buying some parts and a PSK 31 interface. I settled for a name tag with my call sign on it - and a resolve to get more involved with ham radio this year, so I can enjoy next year's Hamvention even more.
Reprinted from WORLDRADIO
Brush Fire Recall – Circa 1943
Emmett Goodman, WD4GOL
The Brush fires, now occurring in central Florida, have recalled an incident that occurred while I was employed as a lonely XMTR engineer on the “outskirts of town” location of AM radio station WAYS in my hometown of Charlotte, NC.
One nice fall day, during my afternoon shift, our teen-age after school janitor came in about 4 pm. He then proceed to sweep up the floor of the XMTR building, empty the ashtrays into the waste baskets, and take them outside to burn the contents.
About a minute after he dropped a lighted match into the trash pile I heard a scream from outside. “Mr. Goodman, Mr. Goodman,” he yelled. “Come out here quick!” I ran outside to see the whole field surrounding the antenna array ablaze.
The XMTR was located on 85 acres of land covered with scrub pine trees and wild grass called broom sedge which our southern forefathers used to make crude brooms. Now that broom sedge was nice and dry, just like the brush in Central Florida.
I ran inside, quickly grabbed the phone and called the Charlotte Fire Department. The XMTR was located 3 miles outside the Charlotte city limits in a little wide place in the road called Oakdale. One country store, gas station and no fire department! The Charlotte Fire Department dispatcher quickly informed me that since WAYS was located outside the city limits that the charge for city fire vehicles sent outside the city was $20 per truck. She asked me if I was authorized to OK the payment of the same. I finally convinced her that if she didn’t accept my authority that the whole place would burn down before the trucks could get there! Hi!
About five minutes after I hung up the phone, two big trucks with 12 firemen showed up. That operator, while arguing with me, was smarter than I thought. She must have dispatched those trucks from the nearest station, about six miles away, while she was talking with me!
Those 12 firemen with burlap bags beat out that fire in just about 10 minutes. Fortunately, that broom sage burned so fast, helped with a nice little breeze, blowing away from the XMTR building, that it did not create a hot enough fire to ignite the scrub pines.
As it was now after 5 pm I only mentioned the excitement to the announcer on duty at the uptown studios. So all was quite until the uptown business employees came to work the next morning.
Then I was bombarded with telephone calls at home. I was having my breakfast when I got the first call from the business office manager. He said that I did not have the authority to OK that $40 expense and that I would be hearing from his boss about whether it would be taken out of my next pay check or not. Hi! I asked him whether I should have let XMTR building burn down?
Fortunately, the next call came from the station manager, and he said that he had oked the payment and that I had done the right thing. It was three days before our young janitor showed up for work again!
What has this got to do with Ham radio? “Well?” as former President Regan would say. “out of the seven engineers at the station, three of them were licensed hams!”
GRUMMAN AMATEUR RADIO CLUB
MINUTES OF GENERAL MEETING – 5/21/03
By Pete, N2PYV
The meeting was called to order by Pat at 5:40 p.m.
All present introduced themselves.
Finances continue to be in good shape.
Gordon was absent. Pat stated that they had removed the amplifier from the Bethpage Repeater system and it is now running on about 20 watts from the repeater.
NET REPORT –
The Sunday Morning 40-Meter Net was good this week. They were able to talk to some of our members at the Dayton Hamfest. The Wednesday Noon 20-Meter Net was also good this week.
VE REPORT –
There were four VE’s and two applicants present at the last session. One applicant made Technician and the other upgraded to General.
WAG REPORT –
The company has ordered the new generator, which we specified. It will cost about $1500.00. It should be delivered next week.
Two applicants were approved for membership as follows:
Donald E. Huber,WB2UKA, Extra for Sustaining Membership.
Andrew Feldman, WB2FXN, General, for Full membership.
Andy Feldman, WB2FXN, gave a presentation about the plans for the Air Show to be held at Calverton on September 19, 20 & 21. Andy is the ground coordinator for the event. He is looking for hams to help with the communications at the event. The gates will open at 10 a.m. and the flying will be at 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. There will be A-10’s and F-14’s flying. They are planning for as many as 45,000 people to visit.