Amateur radio can be a complicated hobby. You will, undoubtedly, have questions about the technology, questions about the rules, and questions about operating procedures. An “Elmer” is someone who can help answer those questions and help you avoid some of the pitfalls of the hobby. He or she is a ham that you can go to when you have a question about what rig to buy, when you want to borrow an antenna analyzer, or when you’re having trouble understanding a particular concept. If you haven’t already, you might want to find an Elmer.
The term Elmer first appeared in the March 1971 issue of QST magazine. In that issue, Rod Newkirk, W9BRD, called them “the unsung fathers of Amateur Radio.” He wrote that an Elmer is “the ham who took the most time and trouble to give you a push toward your license.”
Where do you find an Elmer? Well, the first place you might look is the club you just joined. Lots of the “old timers” there are more than happy to help newcomers, and many clubs have “Elmer” programs. Ask for help and ye just may receive.
Nowadays, you might find your Elmer online. There are lots of websites and mailing lists that are geared towards helping people become better amateur radio operators. One mailing list that I am a member of is the HamRadioHelpGroup mailing list (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HamRadioHelpGroup/).
You probably can get by without an Elmer, but without one, it’s easy to become frustrated and set aside the hobby. One ham I spoke with said, “I did not have an Elmer. I got my license, and within a year, I started a 20 year hiatus. I blame that on not having an Elmer.”
You don’t want that to happen to you. Find an Elmer and take his or her advice. You’ll get a lot more out of the hobby.