Dennis Green ZS4BS, the editor for Radio ZS, and secretary for the SARL recently sent out the advertisement, “Radio ZS has vacancies for the following columns – Youth Activities; the YL Column; VHF,UHF and Microwave News; Satellite News; SOTA,POTA, IOTA, RaDAR News; Club News and Activities; Homebrew. It can be a monthly or bi-monthly column”. This is the first of the RaDAR News column which I will write on a monthly basis.
In recent months I’ve been struggling with my own morale as far as ham radio is concerned. Conditions are up and down and QSO counts averaging around two QSO’s per weekend. Granted I’m always QRP and always operating from the field. I’ve set up my link dipole about 100m from home in the veld using my yellow painters pole mast. It stays there for weekend operations.
I have resigned from Facebook. I was active there for over a decade. Before the end of December everything I ever participated in will be erased as if I was never there. I’m still active on various WhatsApp groups though. Most members of such groups are active and this our only means of alerts other than ham radio.
I asked my grandson Eduan how he felt about amateur radio. He loved imitating his grandfather when he was younger. He’s just turned thirteen, now a teenager with wisdom. He said ham radio did not interest him, it is simply communicating with someone, WhatsApp is communication too and he’s quite happy with that. Of course very true, I could not argue.
I was talking to a friend involved in neighbourhood watch, doing patrols at night keeping residents safe from criminal activities. They work closely with a police colonel. The radio’s they now use are GSM radios with built in GPS’s and can be used tactically much like our very own APRS. APRS is nothing “special” or a ham only facility anymore. There is no need for high sites and repeater systems but they do rely on the cell network. He did say the batteries are sometimes stolen at cell phone tower installations which cause problems. They have backup standard VHF radio systems in the event of a total cell network blackout something close to science fiction but not impossible.
So to improve my own morale I think back to things that inspired me to take on this journey. It started at a science faire at the Johannesburg city hall in the early 1970’s. I wonder if the hall is still a hall and if anyone ever goes into the centre of Johannesburg anymore. I really don’t know! There were radios sitting on a table behind a counter. The sounds of morse code, not AM or SSB, and the comments from hams manning the station is what triggered my interest. Nothing has changed, this is the very basic thing that has kept me going for forty three years. CW defines ham radio!
Then there is RaDAR, I’m too far away from anything to do with SOTA or GMA or IOTA but I can do RaDAR. In fact it’s RaDAR that allows me the freedom to practice ham radio in its most basic form.
RaDAR movements is the only thing that makes RaDAR different from similar activities. Now that I’m over sixty I find movements also a little challenging. Still, to keep practicing such activities gives purpose to my way of being an active ham.
I still love those old radios that sit on a desk. There is nothing more beautiful than radio equipment that is antique. Linears and digital modes like FT8 don’t attract my attention at all. In fact I think FT8 is killing ham radio!!! Well that’s my opinion, others will certainly differ.
Even satellite activites bore me now, same exchange with the same people from the same grid on every new satellite pass and reports are always 59. But, there are new satellites been launched and need to be worked. Satellites can be used for SOTA activations and RaDAR too. Disheartening though is that I have never achieved five QSO’s during a RaDAR challenge! Always a maximum of three in an otherwise busy environment? I wonder why ….
Recognition for RaDAR in ZS is certainly there and it’s value acknowledged but participation is at an all time low. It’s that way for most other activities as well. Fortunately the interest in CW is growing and that gives me hope. Imagine SOTA activations using CW, RaDAR challenges using CW – sure that happens in other parts of the world but very rare in ZS. Let’s hope 2019 sees these dreams become reality.