There is probably nowhere better to see what is going on in the world of ham radio than at a ham flea market, convention, or swap meet. Are we a dying breed? Not from what I have seen. It is growing in leaps and bounds, and predominantly with new Technicians who want to do public service. I have a CQ VHF badge that has my name and callsign on it and states that I am a columnist for the magazine. That badge has given me a wonderful opportunity to really get a feel for what is going on in the world of VHF.
I recently met two women who had just passed the Technician license exam and had no idea what they had gotten into, except that they were excited. They were so excited that they were already studying for the General Class license exam. We met at the annual Mike and Key ARC Flea Market held each year in March. Close to 2000 hams venture to the great Northwest to buy and sell ham gear, get a license or upgrade, or just wander through the many booths. My chat with these two new hams was an eye-opener, as there seems to be a lack of mentoring. We have people who teach the license classes, but are they recommending clubs to join and are those clubs aimed at mentoring these new hams? And how do we attract those who have quietly used resources such as QRZ.com to study and take the test without ever taking a class? This is not a criticism, but an observation. There are many new hams out there who have no idea how to program their new handheld and will get frustrated quickly if we donget Elmers and new hams together.
Instead of just talking about it, I have decided to do something about it. I am going to suggest that we set up a table with Elmers in attendance at the next flea market, or any other ham radio event, just to answer questions for the potential ham and the new ham. I am volunteering for it as well. What do you think? What does your club do to encourage new hams? E-mail me and let me know, as all suggestions are welcomed.
OK, I had heard about this handheld from John Kosmak, W3IK, a long-time friend and mentor going back to my old USAF days. John knows radios, and he knows antennas. He makes Bobtails for any band and as many elements as you can imagine, but thatanother story. He purchased a WOUXUN KG-UV3D and has been telling me how great it is, so I broke down and bought one. I must admit that I am impressed. I highly recommend that you purchase the programming cable and be patient with the software, as it is a bit clunky, but once you program it, it works great. It also monitors your favorite FM radio station as well as aircraft frequencies, plus some police and business bands. If you have a commercial license or a MARS license, it also is easy to unlock the radio with software that is on the internet. It even has a flashlight built in! Who would have thought of that? I can now see the ceiling in the dark with my radio on! All joking aside, this is a great radio for emergency communications and should be a part of everyonekit.
WhatHappening in EmComm?
As I write this, the month of April starts off with the Communications Academy. It is in its 14th year and remains in the more than capable hands of Martina Zuetell, N7LSL (www.commacademy.org). It is held up here in my neck of the woods (Seattle, Washington), and I have had the pleasure of being a speaker for a few classes over the years. This is a great place to learn and great place to meet others with the same interest. I highly recommend getting the academyCDs if you canmake it up here or if you missed it.
Another EMCOMM exhibition worth noting is EMCOMM-WEST 2012, this year held May 4,5, and 6 in Reno, Nevada. The exhibition features a swap meet, guest speakers, ham radio classes, and a BBQ! BBQ? Ithere! For details go to: .
Also, letnot forget Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas. There is a yearly conference called the Global Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Conference (GAREC) held by the International Amateur Radio Union (www.iaru.org).
Since the earthquake that occurred here in the Pacific Northwest back in 2000, I have always tried to have a handheld radio with me. At work I have a lot of radio equipment, including two handhelds for VHF/UHF and a mobile in my car, but I sometimes forget one when taking walks along the lake near my house. With time we tend to forget that a mile away from home during any disaster can turn into many hours of frustration trying to get back.
I am also concerned about those in my family who do not have amateur radio licenses. One of my sons is a ham, as is his wife, and my wife is working on hers, but I have other sons and daughters who do not have the interest. I highly recommend that you encourage your loved ones to get a Technician license, at the least. There is nothing better than knowing your family is safe during a disaster, and there is nothing worse than not knowing, and a ham radio connection can be the key. It took me hours to find out that my wife was OK during the last earthquake here, and even more time to know that two of my sons were safe. It took even longer for my parents back east to know. Beg or cajole, do what you have to, but make sure they all get a license, and at least a handheld.
Until next time, remember that we, as hams, are responsible for helping and assisting anyone we can during an emergency, but it is a lot easier if we know our families are safe as well.