How to get Techs on HF?

In the Muskegon Amateur Radio Council newsletter, Flashovers, the following short column appeared:

ASK ELMER (Advice for the Ham)
Dear Elmer,
Most new hams seem to become active on the re- peaters to the exclusion of HF. How can we promote their activities on HF?
Signed, HFer

Dear HFer,
10 meters provides good opportunities for the Techni- cian operator to operate CW and SSB. But not FM. Perhaps, if they had FM privileges it would make the purchase of a 10 meter rig more attractive.
73, Elmer

Elmer would like to hear from you too. Write to him at: Flashovers, PO Box 691, Muskegon, MI 49443-0691 or contact him  at the following email address,

I e-mailed Elmer:

Hi, Elmer:

I have a couple of suggestions for encouraging Techs to get on HF.

  1. If your club has a club station, invite them down to the club station some evening or Saturday and have them get on the air! This might be especially cool during a special event or contest, such as the MI QSO Party.
  2. If your club doesn’t have a club station, invite them over to your house and let them operate your station for a bit. Show them your QSL cards and maybe the projects you’re working on. If you show them how much fun you have on HF, it will certainly encourage them to get on as well.

73, Dan KB6NU

I think all of us HFers should take some responsibility for introducing Techs—especially new ones—to the magic of HF. How do you do it?

Amateur radio in the news: students earn licenses, tower exemptions, making friends

Petal teacher helps students earn amateur radio licenses. Petal High School Information Technology teacher Brad Amacker helped his students earn amateur radio licenses thanks to a grant he received during the 2012-13 school year. Amacker received the Mississippi Professional Educators Classroom Grant Award. He was recognized for this award at the August 13th school board meeting.

City supports exemptions for towers used by amateur radio operators. Garry Schwartz says his 19-metre amateur radio tower has been up for so long, most people don’t notice it unless he decorates it for Christmas. Schwartz, president of the Saskatoon Amateur Radio Club, is happy that the city seems prepared to relax restrictions for amateur radio towers despite more restrictive rules pending for new commercial antenna towers. “I’m pleased with the results,” Schwartz said Tuesday after a meeting of the city’s planning and operations committee. Schwartz said his antenna has been in place for 40 years.

Making friends a world away. Marilynn Jordan was the guest speaker at the Crestline-Lake Gregory Rotary Club’s morning program on July 25, and she spoke to members about how easy it is today to enjoy the amateur radio hobby. “It’s really a lot of fun,” she said. “I’ve spoken to radio operators in Greenland, Finland and all over South America. Everyone speaks English, so it’s very easy for us to talk with other ham radio operators.”

From my Twitter feed: Rigs for Ethiopia, Sun’s bizarre behavior, mobile apps


RigolHam's avatarSteve Barfield@RigolHam
Yasme Foundation Funds Transceivers for New Ethiopian Hams | @arrl amateur radio


RadioGeek's avatarKKØHF @RadioGeek
LA Times – Sun’s bizarre behavior: Weakest solar cycle in 100 years


HamTubeJp's avatarHamTubeJp @HamTubeJp
Mobile Apps for Ham Radio: Mobile Apps for Ham Radio This video will… #YoutubeHam3 #hamr

21 Things to Do: Find an Elmer

21 Things to Do After Getting Your Amateur Radio LicenseAmateur 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.

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.

Ham radio and Boy’s Life

Click on the image to see all the detail.

The magazine cover at right is from the January 1959 issue of Boy’s Life, a magazine send to all Boy Scouts. Dave, W9OCM, shared this with members of the Glowbugs mailing list, a mailing for hams who enjoy working with vacuum tube circuits.

Of course, this unleashed a flood of memories and comments. Dave himself comments:

In February 1959, I was 13 and just beginning to figure out radio.  In some ways, I’m still trying to figure out radio….just not 13.  I wouldn’t be licensed until 2 years later 04/61 as KNØHSD.

Tom, N0JMY says,

If you go to you can read the article  by W1UED (click on the appropriate line in the contents).  Also, there’s a National ad on the contents page. [[All the ads are interesting to read.....Dan]]  I was alive then, but it wasn’t until the late winter of ’67-68 that I picked up a Boy’s Life mag out of boredom and stumbled onto an article called “Hamming it Up”.  And the rest is, as they say, “hay-seedery.”

Jon, K1NV, comments,

I’m getting a little teary, seeing a copy of “Boys Life” for the first time in about 50+ years. There was a ton of practical info to satisfy any American boy’s interests.  I was torn between stamp collecting, astronomy, model airplanes, and, yes, radio.   My stack of “Boys Life” magazines fed these interests.

We couldn’t afford the shortwave set kit  but the official Boy Scout crystal set got things going for me until I graduated to the Philco console with two shortwave bands in the mid-fifties. After learning code with flags and flashlights as a Boy Scout, the novice ticket arrived early in 1959.

Bill, KU8H, says,

My experience with Boy’s Life is from the late 50s and early 60s. They did help set the hook for my interest in electronics in general – ham radio in particular. The oatmeal box with home made capacitor and a crystal detector was from Boy’s Life. I don’t remember which issue(s). That was more than two weeks ago! <evil grin>.

They also fed my interest in the outdoor life in the woods. When people want a campfire or a fireplace lit to this day…I’m their go-to man. One paper match no matter the wind. No gasoline, kerosene, nor other artificial accelerants.

People are sometimes critical of Boy Scouts, and I often joke about my very short career as a Scout, but you have to hand it to them in many respects. They exposed boys to a wide range of activities, many of which stick with them for a lifetime.

Another Method for Teaching and Learning Morse Code

On the SolidCpyCW mailing list, Martin, OK1RR, mentioned W0UCE’s method for teaching CW. This is an interesting method for learning the code. Unfortunately, it requires a teacher. That is to say, someone can’t use this method on their own, as there’s no computer program to step the student through the program. A couple of notable points:

  1. Learning takes place at 28 wpm. This is the philosophy behind the G4FON program.
  2. Sending is an integral part of learning. I advocate sending as well as receiving when learning the code.
  3. No more than 30 minutes per day is devoted to learning the code. Too often, those learning the code spend too much time on it in the beginning and then “burn out.” Once they do this, they often abandon the code.

When asked, I normally point prospective CW operators to the G4FON program or hand them a copy of the K7QO Code Course on CD-ROM or both. One of these days, though, I’ll give a face-to-face class a go and use this teaching method. Maybe the more personal approach will help them get over the hump faster.

Thousands of Satisfied Customers

No Nonsense Tech Study GuideI’ve been sending out a “press release” of sorts about the print versions of my amateur radio license study guides to various “maker” blogs, electronics hobbyist blogs, and even electronics engineering blogs. In the press release, I cavalierly said, “It’s helped thousands either get their ham radio licenses or upgrade their licenses.”

I was pretty sure that I was right about that, but to be honest, I hadn’t really checked to make sure. Heck, I wasn’t even really sure if I could confirm that number. Then, it hit me. I could see what Google Analytics had to say about it.

Well, Google Analytics backed me up (whew!). According to the statistics, from 8/11/2010 to 8/10/2011, the No-Nonsense, Technician Class License Study Guide was downloaded 3,007 times. In that same time period, the No-Nonsense, General Class License Study Guide was downloaded 1,886 times.

That’s even more than I’d anticipated.  I guess I’m doing something right. :)

Ham Radio in the News – July 17, 2001

Here’s another installment of “Ham Radio in the News.”

Denver's Inside Out ProgramTeaching radio in the digital age. This is a great article on the Denver school district’s Inside/Out program, which offers additional learning to gifted and talented students. As part of this program, Bob Sterner, the district’s senior telecom engineer, introduced them to amateur radio.

I really liked this article. It makes me wish that I had better skills for working with kids. All of my attempts at implementing kids’ programs have so far fallen flat, but it’s good to know that there are others out there who seem to be able to get kids interested and motivated.

Ham radio users still play vital role in communications. Just one example of the dozens of articles on Field Day activities.

The Sky is Not the Limit for the Fethiye Radio Amateurs Club. A member of the recently-formed club FARAD discusses ham radio and club activities. Even though this interview is in a Turkish newspaper, the article is in English.


Ham Radio Organizations, Revisited

About a month ago, I posted some ideas about how we might change the way ham radio is organized locally.  You can read that post, but basically, I think that we need are “real” nonprofit organizations, with paid staff, to promote ham radio and conduct ham radio activities.

I talk up this idea whenever I can, most recently in an e-mail exchange with my friend, Ralph, AA8RK. He challenged me, “What, in simple terms, would be the mission of this nonprofit? What would the money be used for?”

I replied, “A simple mission statement might be ‘to provide opportunities for people to become amateur radio operators and to become better amateur radio operators.'” Thinking about this some more, I think a good mission statement could be crafted around the five bases of amateur radio as spelled out in Part 97.1, “Basis and Purpose.” Each of those are great goals to strive for.

As for how we would use the money, I came up with the following list off the top of my head:

  • Provide more training than just quarterly one-day Tech classes, such as General and Extra classes, basic electronics and antenna classes, and emergency communication training.
  • Provide leadership training and perhaps other types of support services to ham radio clubs.
  • Operate publicly-accessible ham radio stations and workspaces, such as our station at the Hands-On Museum.
  • Run a “lending library” of equipment, such as beginner transceivers, antenna analyzers, and other test equipment.

These are things that clubs or the sections could do, but rarely do because they’re all-volunteer organizations. All-volunteer organizations can only do so much.

Anyone have any thoughts about this? Anyone good at fund raising that might want to join with me and start raising some dough?



Tube or Rod or Wire?

One of my newest Elmerees is now intensely interested in antenna making. He’s making a series of J-poles and dipoles and who knows what else. On Saturday, down at the museum, we got into a discussion about the different types of materials he could use to build antennas. I repeated to him the old chestnut, “The larger the diameter of the material uses to make the antenna, the wider the bandwidth will be.”

Now, I’m not sure exactly where this bit of advice comes from and what the theory is behind it. Can anyone point me towards a discussion of why this is so?

After having said all this, I got an e-mail from my Elmeree this afternoon. He asked, “So, which is better for a vertical antenna, a solid rod or a tube?”

My answer, “Whichever material you have on hand or whichever is cheaper.”