Information overload

There are so many facets to amateur radio starting really with an FM radio on a VHF band. To tell you the truth, I never listen on a repeater frequency especially if someone is in the car with me for fear of embarassment!

We try to push newcomers to the amateur radio fraternity into discovering MUCH better things on VHF and UHF like DX’ing on simplex frequencies, Meteor scatter, Tropo or even moonbounce (EME) to name a few.

Much of these modes require good antennas and higher power although one could get away with less if you’re very patient and the hams on the other side, too.

How many took advantage of the six meter openings just recently? Sadly I must admit I didn’t for reasons too many to list here but my heart was there!

Then many hams would venture onto the HF bands. There again infrastructure makes a huge difference. Many would use various wire antennas (I’m in that category) others would put up towers with rotators and beams using the lowest loss coax available on the market. A costly excercise, no doubt.

Some will always work “Barefoot” (I’m in that category too. Using only the radio’s capability +- 5W – 100W) whereas a few would use a linear up to legal power limit (400 Watts) …..

Many would go the QRP route (5 Watts) or even ultra QRP using simple but effective wire antennas and would normally be practiced outdoors in the veld, next to a dam or river. Does RaDAR come to mind? (Also known as “Adventure radio” , amongst others, in other parts of the world)

SOTA (Summits on the air) is very popular with QRP operators operating from mountain tops, in the snow and chilly wind. There HF / VHF / UHF are used. Sadly we have just about zero activity here in South Africa but there are many reasons for that too.

Then we have various modes. Besides FM, we have SSB and CW. Morse code is an attraction, it’s like a bird singing, it has that mysticism that attracts like a moth to light ….

For those that like to intergrate the computer world with radio, we have the digital modes like WSJT (VHF), PSK31, RTTY, SSTV (Slow Scan TV) or even AX25 (Remember packet radio?) to mention only a few.

We have favourite software like “Ham Radio Deluxe” (HRD) and FLDigi (Together with it’s support programs) to name only two of MANY!

The computer needs an interface to the radio of which many are homebrew and other very good commercial offerings.

The we have satellite communications via the International Space Station (ISS), Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites and the SSB satellites. Here too, it can be practiced on a limited budget or one can go full out using high gain antennas, azimuth and elevation rotators – Computer controlled and the top of the range radio. (I sit in the middle of this category because growth took place to support the intense interest (Passion) ).

I can’t believe how active I was on the satellite for around 4 years, just about every day! I don’t get the time anymore

We have many contests in South Africa and they certainly do help to warm up the ionosphere above us. Then again, a few hams are very competitive and others just like to be part of the activity.

Really, there is so much to do with amateur radio. Specialising in a particular field may make it more manageable. I choose RaDAR for the challenge it offers where amateur radio can be practised in very many different and fun ways.

Others would prefer VHF DX’ing and all the wonderful facets mentioned above.

Did I mention AM? We have the Antique Wireless Ascossiation (AWA) who like to use antique radio equipment mostly consisting of valves. (I’m in the middle of this category)

Where do you fit in? What is the ultimate attraction for newcomers. (Repeaters have already been ruled out)

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE


One thought on “Information overload

  1. Interesting, Eddie!

    I agree that the greatest challenge is to find sufficient time for not only all the aspects of amateur radio, but also amateur radio itself! I find it difficult to get an “open” weekend to just get away into the bush or even camping. Camping / the outdoors and amateur radio is just such a brilliant combination.

    My SOTA ambitions are as yet unfulfilled – again, that issue of time. One sometimes needs to recommit to a pastime or hobby, I suppose.

    The “ultimate attraction” would most likely be determined / guided by financial constraints, which is unfortunate.

    The biggest challenge I see for amateur radio is how to attract AND retain young people, especially children. If a child does not have a parent or interested family member who is a radio amateur, it is very difficult for him or her to become involved in the hobby. Equipment is really very expensive, it does not matter how you look at it. VHF/UHF phone simplex / repeater comms do sadly offer little challenge or stimulation. Once you start looking at HF and digital, the complexity and cost escalate dramatically.

    Many people do reason that we should not target children as potential hams, but that we should look at the 30+ age group, those who have completed their studies and have stable jobs and therefore incomes, i.e. being able to better afford amateur radio. If one is realistic, I suppose this is most likely sad but true.

    I would like to slightly rephrase your question: What is the ultimate realistic attraction for newcomers, especially young people, when one considers their limited resources?

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