One of the joys of being an amateur radio operator is that the hobby is really a whole bunch of hobbies all bound-up under one roof.
There is, quite literally, something for everybody. And no Morse code requirement, so that hurdle doesn’t exist like it did for a bunch of us “oldtimers.”
It’s also great for people who are somewhat attention deficit. Because you can “drift” from one part of the hobby to the next, seamlessly,, and in a single weekend.
Take last Sunday, for example.
One aspect of ham radio is “contesting.” This is where you see how many stations (in how many countries, states, grid-squares, or counties – all depending on which contest) you can talk to. So last Sunday I turned the “big rig” on and pointed the beam up east of due north, over the pole, to see what I could do. Here’s part of my online log from QRZ.com:
As you can see, in the case of a major disaster in Europe, I would have a decent chance at getting first-hand information. The Turks and Caicos station was off to the band and side of the beam’s directional antenna pattern..but the 20-meter band was in really good condition.
Closely related to “contesting” is “certificate-chasing.” .. Every weekend, there are “special event” stations and if you work one (sometimes more) you can win yourself a certificate to go up on the wall. Here’s a great one…
There’s a special event station at the Indy 500 every year. And the Enigma certificate is worth chasing, too. Commemorating the busting of the Enigma code machine during WW II. But, there’s way more depth to the hobby that just turning on a ham radio (rig, we call ’em) and knowing how to use it.
Ham radio is a “goes with” hobby.
Take fine wood-working, for example. Some hams are expert at making furniture. So they build the most amazing furniture to house and hold their “other hobby.” Some guys have entire buildings devoted to the hobby.
Low power fanatics? QRP it’s called (meaning low power). Some of worked over 100 countries on less power than one of those ill-named “tactical” flashlights. That, my friend, takes some skill. Then there are the digital modes which we talked about a few weeks back.
Other people like metal work. For them, there’s always something to do on the tower, antennas, and other peripherals. For the more technically-oriented, there is bending up a chassis by hand on a brake and then building a piece of equipment in your own box. I’ve done some of that, but you can buy aluminum “project boxes” on eBay if you’re not interested in sheet metal work right this minute.
One of my upcoming “metal hobby” projects is welding up a solar panel mount for the antenna tower, for example. What could be cooler? Vince Gingery had one of his famous “how-to” books lay out how to use conduit and rebar to make a 37-foot fold-over ham radio tower…see how this works? Nice unifying hands-on hobby.
Who do you suppose makes all that ham radio software?
It goes without saying that you can go nuts on circuit design and engineering of new antennas (which I enjoy immensely) because once done, you take your design and head out to the shop, fab it up, and then toss it up on the tower or in the trees and take it for a spin on the air…
Drones your hobby? How about using a drone to lift a leader line up over that 100-foot high pine tree? With antennas, the higher the better, except for near-vertical-incident-skywave (NVIS) communications which my buddy “the Major” has been lecturing emergency-services oriented ham around the PNW on.
Ah, then we come to restoring old gear. Waiting for it to arrive, but here’s my next project (after I finish up the old Johnson Pacemaker transmitter):
Hams will recognize this as an old KWM-2. This one is missing a bunch of parts (has no crystals, for example) and those are a bit pricey to dig up ($25 a pop is the going rate). Which doesn’t sound too bad, until you realize you’ll need about a dozen of them.
Still, I snagged the basic chassis on eBay for $125 plus $40 in shipping, so I figure how far wrong could I go?
Not like I have time for any of this, as it is just another series of distractions. While working on the newest builds of our Light Crown project, there’s an old Kenwood TS-430 on the electronics bench and listening to CW (Morse code) keeps the brain agile while soldering and assembling things.
I realize this may sound like a pitch to run out and grab a ham ticket. You can find local ham radio clubs that have licensing classes *(usually a single day for the “technician” license, which is the entry-level license) over at the https://arrl.org website.
Oh….forgot to mention that if you’re a “hot rodder” it’s also a blast to put ham gear in your car or truck and be able to cruise down the freeway talking to some in, oh, Ecuador, for example. Passes the miles most enjoyably. Plus, with another radio dialed in to the right “trucker channels” on CB, you can keep a high level of situational awareness while traveling. I’ve always figured “How can this be a bad thing?”
OK, then I found the answer to that: Added a radio which was capable of police frequencies and the NOAA weather radio alerts, too.
Ah…the hobby with everything except for the one thing we’re all short of:
Write when you get licensed…