Elmer – [ EL-mer ] – Noun,someone who provides personal guidance and assistance to new and would-be amateur radio operators.
If there is anyone in amateur radio history that can get people excited about the ham radio service, it is Gordon West, WB6NOA. I have been fortunate to meet Gordon a few times. First time was in 1992, when I was first licensed. I met him in Valley Forge, PA, at an ARRL Convention. Up until that point, I only knew of Gordon through his ham radio study books. Today, you can really feel and experience Gordon’s enthusiasm towards amateur radio in his participation in the weekly Ham Nation series on YouTube. Through those books, Gordon was able to bring ham radio to life through easy reading and common language that allowed me to understand and put these newly learned principals into practice. Books and study guides are only half of the Elmer equation. As amateur radio operators, we are called to Elmer the next generation of operators, new licensees, and soon-to-be hams. Having a go-to person(s) that take you under their wings in the first formative steps in your amateur radio journey is invaluable.
Elmers, too, also need to be humble enough to learn new aspects of the amateur radio service. Growing up in Southern New Jersey, I was fortunate to have great Elmers that answered the most basic of questions I had, even when I felt embarrassed to ask those easy questions. Elmers serve an important role in that they guide us each an every stage of what may seem overwhelming, bewildering or mysterious. Elmers make it look easy, but what makes a great Elmer is that they, too, know the hard and bumpy road each of us traveled in passing our exam, learning morse code, or understanding a repeater CTCSS tone. Through this knowledge exists the understanding, as a seasoned Elmer, that learning never stops. Great Elmers also know that they, too, must learn new modes and incorporate what excites our new amateur radio operators and show the overlap. The Makers and Hacker movements are simply a couple of arenas that have amazing overlap into amateur radio. We simply need to show and demonstrate amateur radio’s capabilities in those arenas.
As the New Year is upon us, maybe you are thinking about your ham radio resolutions for the year. Although accomplishments of DXCC (Confirming 100 countries) or WAS (Worked All States) are good to set, have you ever considered the impact you have as an Elmer? There is something amazing when you elmer someone and the “AH-HA” moment hits. Maybe you have a great way to study for the FCC exam or know great resources; or maybe you have a knack for teaching Morse Code? How about programming radios or teaching and showing the key components in a repeater? Maybe you discovered a way to design and purchase QSL cards online that are inexpensive and easy to navigate? No matter your skill level or experience, offering a hand, support and encouragement is likely all new and prospective amateur radio operators need and you can play a vital role in a positive impact as an Elmer. Having a go-to person(s) that take you under their wings in the first formative steps in your amateur radio journey remains invaluable and my hope for you in 2021 is for you to answer that call and continually welcome in our newest amateur radio operators.
73, Dan – N2SRK President Parker Radio Association
As you read this, we are nearly 100% through the year 2020. At the start of this year, I wrote about my Ham Radio Resolutions for 2020 – become more proficient in CW, finish DXCC, and maintaining focus on “Keeping the Squelch Loose.” As Meatloaf reminds me, “two out of three ain’t bad.” Most important to me the past year, for the PRA, has been the evolution of our committees and the enthusiasm, energy and excitement that the Chairs/Co-Chairs and overall membership have brought to the PRA. When people ask about the future of the amateur radio service and how to attract more people to ham radio, we simply cannot describe ham radio, we have to show it, demonstrate it, while allowing people to get a flavor of the service. That time time is now.
Hitting the 200 member mark was not part of an overall plan or strategy, it simply happened. Last month, we talked about the snowball effect of our membership gain and the contributing factors that led to such an explosive growth. As an organization, not only did we tap the talents of our members, but we exhausted resources with online platforms to do much more than a monthly meeting. We brought content, hands-on demonstrations, and plenty of Q&A to promote the learning experience. The best part of leveraging this technology and online platforms is that we created an excellent reference library as a go-to that showcases all the possibilities that amateur radio can provide. Not everyone has a ham radio, but nearly everyone has YouTube application at their fingertips or in their pocket. The Parker Radio Association YouTube Channel is filling with great topics of learning. If you have not subscribed and LIKED our videos, please do so as it helps open up additional resources within YouTube for us. If you have a topic that you would like to present, let us know!
There is no doubt that change is necessary for any organization or entity to survive. One of my favorite books, “Who Moved My Cheese?” tells the story of two mice and their ability/inability to embrace change or remain cemented in their ways. This very much tells the story of the amateur radio service. Our service is rich in history and tradition, which is a good thing, at times, because it acts as the cornerstone to the structure. At the same time, too, amateur radio undoubtedly faces some needed attention to its promotion in the “here and now” society we live.
As amateur radio operators and ambassadors to the service, how do we best promote amateur radio? I firmly believe that although ham radio can be briefly described, it has to be shown or demonstrated in such a way that we do not show to be 20 or 30 years behind the rest of the world from a technological standpoint. Like Apple does every year with their iPhone release, we have to cannibalize our own product. Not to the point of death or destruction, but in such a way that we can showcase our ever evolving technology.
This past year, I purchased a FlexRadio and as many of you know, I was anxiously nervous in purchasing a radio with zero knobs or numerous buttons. However, when non-hams ask me what I like to do for fun, one of the first things I mention is that I am a licensed amateur radio operator. Most people ask if I have a big tower and giant antenna at my house. When I describe the basic set up of a well hidden wire antenna, I leverage technology; I pull out my iPhone, pull up my FlexRadio SDR app and tell them that this is a live look and listen to the radio at my house, what it is hearing and the countries on the air. Here is where I get serious bites on the hook while demonstrating through my iPhone…I will ask, “hey, you want to talk to this other station?” Usually my question is met with “Really? I can do that?” Sometimes the skeptics laugh and say, “yeah, right, you can’t do that.” When that demonstration happens, jaws drop open and people say, “I never knew ham radio was like that today!” From there, I typically learn that some people had a scanner, or a family member that listened to shortwave radio. I even found a co-worker that liked to experiment with RaspberryPi building and SDR receivers. Talk about a golden opportunity to embrace the hackers among us! Speaking of embracing, the PRA will continue to embrace and welcome everyone. We do not need to do anything special; we simply need to leverage technology that people are familiar with and demonstrated in the Here and Now.
The bottom line is this, if you are waiting for something to magically get amateur radio promoted in our next generation of ham radio operators, you are missing a great opportunity. The time is now to act in demonstrating what we can do as operators. At the same time, too, we have to be open to new ideas, suggestions, and embracing the overlaps of other Makers or Hackers and their technology with amateur radio. Even though we hold tightly to the roots of amateur radio, we must embrace the only constant; change. The time is now.
May your stockings be filled with plenty of DX and your New Year be free of high SWR.
73, Dan – N2SRK President Parker Radio Association
Over the past nine months, everything has been different. Businesses have operated remotely, carrying masks is as common as having a hat, and most gatherings are met with some levels of healthy hesitation. At the end of 2019 and going into 2020, the PRA was gaining great momentum and a true snowball effect of participation and activity was sparking a lot of energy and enthusiasm throughout the organization. Then, March 2020 met us with lockdowns, basic necessity shortages, and a lot of unknowns. For the PRA, we stared at a potential stall in the momentum we gained. Fortunately, the momentum gained in our organization was like an avalanche that was gaining momentum month after month.
This week, the PRA hit another milestone. On Wednesday, November 18th, the PRA welcomed Anthony, KF0CED of Parker, as member number 200. You read that correctly; the PRA has hit 200 members. Not too shabby for a small group of 13 that met in 2014 to break ground and lay the foundation of your amateur radio organization. Although strong growth numbers are important, it is the impact that the organization makes with every member. We have all been there, the new person that walks into the room, knowing nobody. We made it a point that the PRA, like the 1980’s sitcom Cheers, “Everybody knows your name, and we’re always glad you came.”
This 200-member milestone is also a testament to the hard work, dedication, and hands-on activities by the previous 199 members. From great monthly presentations to Elmer Nights, and numerous committees, this all goes to show that giving just a little back in time and effort pays tremendous dividends quickly. If it was not for you, the PRA member, our organization would not be as strong, as versatile, or as impactful. You provided the support, input, ideas, and resources to build upon our foundation of having fun, playing radio, and keeping the squelch loose. Thank you and thank your fellow PRA members for jobs well done.
As we look at uncertainty of what the next rounds of precautionary measures are being taken and the impact they will have, one thing remains a constant and that is the amateur radio service. Use this time to get on the air, make your first contact, try a new mode, ask for guidance, put together a presentation for our monthly meeting or Elmer Night…there is plenty of opportunity in front of us to give a little back to the service and the ride we are taking on this beautiful avalanche is fun and exciting. The momentum is encouraging and is setting the stage for the next wave of 200 members that will join the PRA in the years to come.
Thank you for being an amateur radio operator and thank you for being a part of your Parker Radio Association.
73, Dan – N2SRK President Parker Radio Association
Over the last several months (although it feels like years), we have been inundated with political ads and the occasional porch greeting by local candidates. By the time you read this, hopefully our elected leaders are clearly identified and ready to take their respective oaths in the coming months. One thought captures my imagination lately; what if we embraced “keeping the squelch loose” outside our world in the Parker Radio Association?
For students at all levels, educators and parents alike, this year faced tremendous uncertainty on the school year. Planning and preparation has taken on a completely different landscape. As distracting as the last school year ended, it prepared all levels for the unexpected. At the bottom line, the results of these preparations are playing out. What was weird, awkward and messy at the end of last school year is now relatively smooth and for better or worse, this experience has the opportunity to position itself as a new beginning. I know that with one high-schooler left in my house, what was stressful last school year is now loose and met with a level of curiosity in learning methods and adapting to new hybrid models of learning.
For the PRA, we have a lot of adapting to do as well. What we thought was temporary in March, April, and May of this year with the shift from face-to-face meetings to online platforms, we quickly adapted and embraced what was in front of us as an organization. The path of least resistance simply was not an option for the Leadership and Committee Chairs. Instead, it was amazing to watch the increase in activity, curiosity, and learning that has taken place. In 2020, we have increased our membership by over 90%. We could have simply done on-the-air nets and called it good; however, we dug in and leveraged technology to our advantage through live video presentations and recording our monthly business and Elmer Nights to YourTube. Our active curiosity propelled a paradigm shift in our thinking of “how can we possibly make this work?” to “let’s see how we make this work.” Throughout it all, one core belief resonated…we had to “keep the squelch loose.”
As November begins, we are over 80% of way through 2020 and time changes and early darkness is upon us. I urge you to use your time wisely in the coming weeks and months in supporting amateur radio. How you may ask?
First, get involved. Our various committees are VERY active and are great ways to learn something new. For example, don’t know about how repeaters work? Join the repeater committee! You’ll know the difference between a duplexer, and a controller in no time. Maybe you are interested in how to work HF portable? We have our Portable Ops Group that will get you to grab your gear and head to the outdoors. This is only a couple of examples of committees at your service.
Second, get on-the-air. Each and every member of the PRA has been the ‘new ham’ on the block and I can assure you that you will be welcomed with encouragement, enthusiasm, and a warm welcome on any one of our repeaters. Mic-fright is real and I am happy to admit, I had it, too, when I was first licensed. Once I got over mic-fright as a Technician, it came back again when I upgraded to General and jumped on the HF bands. Luckily enough, I was elmered (instructed), by a couple of great hams when I first got into the hobby. They taught me to jump in, make mistakes, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Taking my first couple of nets was frightening, but taught me to slow down, listen intently, and ask clarifying questions for accuracy. No better way to get over mic-fright at 14 years old than to take a net with 67 check-ins on a Tuesday night for a Philadelphia area net.
Third, ask a lot of questions. The members of the PRA absolutely love and embrace questions because we believe that when we can shorten the learning curve, the more rewarding the amateur radio service will be for newly licensed operators.
Forth, join the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL). The ARRL is much more than a monthly magazine. It is the only national organization for amateur radio operators that protects our valuable frequency spectrum, while providing a buffet of weekly, monthly and quarterly publications for operators at all levels. The newly released ARRL Learning Network is one of the best learning libraries I have ever seen. As a member of the ARRL, you have full access to not only past sessions, but you can participate in the Live sessions as well. Again, this is but a slight taste of all the ARRL has available for its members. Be sure to check out www.arrl.org
As November and turkey time is upon us, I remain thankful for you, the Parker Radio Association member. This organization belongs to you and we thank you for your trust, support, and participation over the past several months. We hope that throughout our preparation, we have kept a spirit of “keeping the squelch loose” and I am certain that we can carry that kindred spirit in the months and years to come as we improve and promote our amateur radio service.
73, Dan – N2SRK President Parker Radio Association
From one of the most iconic movies on my time, John Hughes’ Ferris Bueller’s Day Off captured the single greatest day a high school senior could have in skipping school. That seemingly innocent day off for the main character, Ferris Bueller, turned into a day filled with simply staying one step ahead of his parents, teachers, principal, sister and the student body itself. Throughout the chaos of that day, Ferris drops one of the most memorable lines in movie history to the viewers; “Life moves pretty fast…if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.” Even though the year 2020 could be remembered as the ‘Great Pause,’ the amateur radio service and the Parker Radio Association are moving pretty fast…if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss all that is happening in amateur radio and your amateur radio organization.
Without skipping a beat since February, the PRA has been bringing amazing online content via its YouTube Channel. (If you think you’ve missed something, go to YouTube and search ‘Parker Radio Association’). Our monthly business meetings and Elmer Nights are always capped off with amazing presentations related to the amateur radio service. These presentations are given by members that are simply passionate about a particular aspect of ham radio. Personally, there has not been one presentation that I did not learn something new. Considering that I’ve been licensed for 28 years, it goes without saying that these presentations are top notch. I also think that our presentations speak volumes about our membership, their talent, and willingness to want to teach and educate.
Even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the PRA committees have been very hard at work. Our website committee continues to ensure our website is one of the best out there for membership content, ease of accessibility, navigation, and content. What is also really exciting is that the website team is working diligently on a facelift to the site. Keep an eye out in the coming months for an even more amazing site.
Another committee that has been nothing but consistent and moving forward is our repeater committee. This committee has not only secured a site for the K0PRA Fusion repeater thanks to Randy-K0TNG, but through the support of Don-W0CFI, the committee has been able to place our D-Star repeater in its new home, with internet access. As infomercial hosts tell us, “but wait, there’s more…” The repeater committee, through generous donations of equipment, time, and resources, has also been able to set up a 2M analog repeater as well. This goes to show that even in the face of adversity, amateur radio and the will of its operators, remain committed to ensuring the message gets through.
A third example of a PRA group that has been active is the Portable Ops Group. This group enjoys hiking and deploying portable HF equipment every month or so. The hikes range from basic table top, park-bench set ups, to climbing summits, and everything in between. This group not only loves making a bunch of contacts, but this group is passionate about teaching everything from antennas, to batteries, backpacks and coax. Not only is getting on the air important, but being able to teach and learn about the amateur radio service is where the magic happens.
What has been exciting in the last several weeks has been the resurgence of VE Testing in the area. Our area Volunteer Examiners have been busy and the growth of new operators and upgrades has been plentiful. If you’re considering getting your amateur radio license or your considering an upgrade, there is not better time than now to take that first step towards your goal.
At the core of the PRA is, “Our mission is serving others by promoting amateur radio in the community and providing the training and support required to become an amateur radio operator. We will develop, enhance and maintain radio systems suitable for providing communications for the benefit of the community; and when requested, to assist civil authorities. We will continue to promote a culture that gives opportunities for amateur radio enthusiasts to socialize, learn, exchange ideas, and contribute to the enjoyment of our hobby.” One only needs to look back at the at the last 60-90 days to see the PRA living out this mission each day, week, and month. All members and committee chairs should not only be proud of your individual and collective efforts, but for those members that are new to us, we welcome you!! We highly encourage you to get involved by shopping for a committee to broaden your learning in amateur radio and participation in the PRA. There is no doubt that the PRA moves pretty fast…if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss all that is happening in amateur radio and your amateur radio organization.
73, Dan – N2SRK President Parker Radio Association
It seems like only yesterday that the Parker Radio Association hit the 100 member mark in 2019. In 2014, the founding 13 members figured that if we could encourage about 25 or 30 regular members to participate on a monthly basis in regular club activities, we would be successful. As of the end of August, we are at 176 members. Not too shabby for a group that committed to Play Radio, Have Fun, and Keep the Squelch Loose back at our founding meeting in 2014. One thing that remains constant in amateur radio is change. Change is necessary for survival; at the same time, we can never lose understanding on our foundation and the actions that have gotten us this far.
One of the most intriguing anomalies since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the PRA has grown. In previous articles, I have mentioned that one of the most important traits in the amateur radio service is the ability to stay versatile. By embracing online meeting formats and tying those into a YouTube Channel was only a wild idea in January 2020. Fast forward to today, it is our norm. It is because of this versatility that our members not only embraced an online format, but encouraged it. Through that encouragement, our content grew, our platform was easily accessible, and we continued to attract new members. It goes without saying that no one person was responsible for making this happen; it was a collective effort of talents, resources, knowledge and ultimate passion for amateur radio that delivered for the PRA and amateur radio. If you have been a presenter, a net control operator, participated in our meetings, or provided help behind the scenes in the Production Control Room, you are what make the PRA great and I thank you for your commitment and generosity.
It would be foolish of me to not recognize a fellow “2-Lander” that has risen to the ranks of the new ARRL CEO. The ARRL Board of Directors elected David Minster, NA2AA, of Wayne, New Jersey, as ARRL’s new Chief Executive Officer, starting on September 28. In the ARRL release, Minster states, “Building a culture of accomplishment and accountability is what I do best. My initial focus will be working with the Board on establishing strategic goals and concrete plans to navigate ARRL through the digital transformation required for the coming decades of its Second Century. This includes exciting and innovative ways to be engaged in amateur radio, while growing activity and membership.” I think it goes without saying that the PRA can likely give David a couple hints and suggestions on providing those innovative ways to engage in the service while growing membership actively. Bottom line, David will be a great resource for the ARRL and its membership.
In a surprise proposal, we learned in the last few days that the FCC has introduced a proposal to reinstate Amateur Radio Service fees. Bottom line is that licensees would pay a $50 fee for each amateur radio license application should the FCC adopt the rules it proposed this week. Included in the FCC’s fee proposal are applications for new licenses, renewal and upgrades to existing licenses, and vanity call sign requests. One key note is that applications for administrative updates, such as changes of address, and annual regulatory fees are excluded.
The FCC proposal is contained in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in MD Docket 20-270, which was adopted to implement portions of a 2018 Act “Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services Act” — also known as the “Ray Baum’s Act.” Take careful note; “REPACK AIRWAVES YIELDING BETTER ACCESS FOR USERS OF MODERN SERVICES ACT.” You will have the opportunity to comment on this proposal directly with the FCC. Deadlines for comments and reply comments will be determined once the NPRM appears in the Federal Register. When that happens, we will announce it and you have the opportunity to file comments by using the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), posting to MD Docket No. 20-270. As standard procedure, the FCC will consider all filed comments, once the proceeding has been opened to receive them. Stay tuned for more information.
Amateur radio is far from shaking the stigma of being a “grandfather’s hobby,” but we must constantly demonstrate its effectiveness and advancement in technological resources it has. Amateur radio operators volunteer their time, their resources, their equipment for the public and our community. Along these similar lines of promoting the amateur radio service, there is no doubt that our assigned spectrum has tremendous value, especially from organizations that not only want them, but have money to lobby for a piece of our action. The ARRL is your only resource in spectrum defense. If you are member of the ARRL, your annual contribution goes beyond QST Magazine. Fighting for, lobbying and protecting our spectrum takes tremendous effort and costs by the ARRL. If you are not a member of the ARRL, I highly encourage you to do so not only for spectrum defense and QST Magazine, but for a variety of member benefits. Check out those benefits here at the Rocky Mountain Division site: https://rockymountaindivision.org/?page_id=52
The only constant is change. With change, we can never dismiss what got us this far in the amateur radio service. Just as we did since 2014, we did not settle for only 25 or 30 members. If you had told me that the PRA would be quickly approaching 200 members within its six year history, I would have laughed off that fleeting thought of being impossible. As we have adapted, persevered, and remained versatile, we have been successful because we never lost focus in Playing Radio, Having Fun, and Keeping the Squelch Loose. Thank you for what you do for the PRA!
73, Dan – N2SRK President Parker Radio Association
The past several months have taught us about adjusting and being versatile. What has been most impressive is how the amateur radio service has leveraged technology. At first, it was awkward and was not very pretty. Of course, I’m speaking from firsthand experience. From online platforms like Skype, Zoom, Meets and YouTube, our amateur radio learning experience is experiencing a renewal and virtual library right at our fingertips. The advancement of the amateur radio service is primed for leveraging this vault of information and it is up to us licensed amateurs to promote on-demand learning for the next generation while balancing opportunities for hands-on learning.
If you have not done so already, take a look at the Parker Radio Association YouTube Channel. A simple search on YouTube will navigate you there. As a side note, be sure to LIKE the videos and SUBSCRIBE to the channel to make sure you are updated on its regular content. We made this move to stream our monthly meetings and Elmer Nights in order to continue to provide our members amazing content each month. Recently, we’ve opened up the studio to have ALL members participate. The interaction has been tremendous and has really propelled the learning experience on the topics presented. There are a lot of people behind the scenes that have made this possible and without their support, knowledge and ‘can-do’ attitude, we would be spinning our wheels.
For those of you that are ARRL members, the ARRL recently launched the ARRL Learning Network. This new member benefit piggybacks on what the PRA has been doing for the last several months and their content is typically 15-minutes per session topic. A great snapshot of learning. Since amateur radio is about discovering, learning, and sharing how to use radio technology and radio communications, this is yet another great way for ARRL Members to take advantage of their member benefits in continuing their learning of our radio service. The bottom line is that the ARRL Learning Network is a webinar series featuring live online presentations from member-volunteers who want to help you become more active, involved, and engaged in ham radio. You can participate during a lunch break or as a quick evening activity. Presenters will stick around for another 15 minutes of Q&A. More information on this can be found at http://www.arrl.org/arrl-learning-network
What we have learned as amateur radio operators is that we are quick to adapt to situations; whether temporary or long term. We need to continue to leverage this pandemic ‘problem’ as a true opportunity to accelerate our learning. Amateur radio remains an amazing buffet of options in technology and communication. As amateur radio operators, we are ambassadors to learning and promoting the service. The advancement of the amateur radio service is primed for leveraging this vault of information and it is up to us licensed amateurs to promote on-demand learning for the next generation while balancing opportunities for hands-on learning.
73, Dan – N2SRK President Parker Radio Association
Throughout the month of June, I was overwhelmed by the well wishes and congratulatory remarks on my appointment as Vice Director of the Rocky Mountain Division of the ARRL. The ARRL has been an important part of my amateur radio journey and I am excited to carry the successes of your Parker Radio Association throughout the Division and to ARRL Headquarters. If you are not a member of the ARRL, I highly encourage you to research all that the ARRL does for the amateur radio service prior to joining. If you think that an ARRL membership is simply a subscription to a monthly magazine, please dig deeper. There are dozens of services and benefits to ARRL membership that most members do not take full advantage of in their amateur radio activities. After you’ve done some research on ARRL Membership, should you have any questions, please reach out to me.
For the past six years, the Parker Radio Association mantra has been simple; Play Radio, Have Fun, and Keep the Squelch Loose. In the last several months, our membership numbers have accelerated well past the 160 member mark. Some amateur radio organizations are growing, while many others are experiencing a shrinking membership. I’ve often wondered what elements of the Parker Radio Association have supported our growth. I’ve kicked this wonder around to several of our new members, and in particular, our female members. In summary, the responses were conclusive and consistent. The best comment that summarized all the comments received:
“The PRA made me feel like I was a long-time member the first time I walked in for a meeting. I was greeted quickly and introduced to several other members. I’ve attended a few other group’s club meetings, besides the PRA, and went completely unnoticed…but not with the PRA; you can’t go unnoticed with this group.”
One of the other elements that the PRA does very well is encouraging and celebrating milestones. Many of our members are sitting for their first amateur radio exam; others are upgrading. We surround our brothers and sisters with encouragement and offers of help, when called upon. We also celebrate first contacts and milestone contacts such as a new country worked on HF. The bottom line is that when we continue to welcome our visitors, guests, and all members with enthusiasm, we get to know them better so that we can best surround them with encouragement and a warm spirit.
Last weekend, we held our first major face-to-face gathering as a group since the end of February by participating in the ARRL Field Day. Simply put, it was our best Field Day yet. Our Field Day coordinator, Brent-KB4SMK, was the conductor and lead a great team to not only a successful weekend, but one that was filled with laughter, learning, excitement, and fun. There is not a Field Day that I don’t learn something new. This year was no exception. Everyone there learned something, many taught something, and everyone had an amazing experience. Hopefully this is the launching pad for many more PRA events through the balance of 2020.
May we continue to focus on people in each and every opportunity we have. Making people feel welcomed into the PRA and do so with a spirit of kindness, friendship, and goodwill. You never know what impact you are making on that person and their future within the amateur radio service.
73, Dan – N2SRK President Parker Radio Association
As of today, we are nearly 42% through 2020. At this point, 2020 is already going down as a year that history aficionados will thrive upon in discussions of local, regional, national, and worldwide impacts. Over the past two months, the PRA has learned to be flexible, versatile, and intuitive. Even though our program venues have changed from face-to-face to online, we are still getting on the air, having rag-chews, and getting a lot of contacts in the logbook. What continues to remain important for the PRA and its membership, is that we need to continue to encourage our new and potential hams, continue to check-in on one another, and share some of your newly found discoveries while we have had extra time in the shack or work bench.
This week, we learned of our ARRL Section Manager, Jack Ciaccia-WM0G, is stepping down from his position. For those of you that have not had the opportunity to meet Jack or get to know him, you missed out on meeting an Amateur Radio institution in Colorado. Rewind the PRA timeline back to January 2014. A group of 13 of us met in a conference room of a church in Parker, CO to discuss the feasibility of starting an amateur radio club in the southeast area of Denver’s suburbs. I invited Jack to participate in this inaugural meeting because, well, he was our Section Manager and definitely had some insight into what we were trying to pull off. I went into this meeting with some healthy optimism, but I was nagged by one comment given to me by email, “just what the Denver area needs, another ham radio club…SMH (shake-my-head).” Needless to say, within five minutes of the start of the meeting, Jack gave us words of encouragement, some pointers and the resources of the ARRL. With that, how could we not be successful?
I had an email exchange with Jack this week and one comment he provided summarizes the PRA perfectly. “The Parker Radio Association has become a force among our amateur radio clubs.” This statement is a testament to the 157+ members and their individual and collective efforts over the past six years. It is obvious that our success did not happen by accident and it did not happen perfectly. We grew by making mistakes, learning, supporting one another, and following our mission in “Playing Radio, Having Fun, and Keeping the Squelch Loose.”
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we could have taken the easy route in dialing in all meetings and events. We leveraged technology in bringing monthly meetings and Elmer Nights to YouTube Live. Just like the amateur radio service itself, we remained versatile, we tried new means to bring solid content to our members and continue to make impacts in learning about this great service.
This same mindset will carry into this year’s ARRL Field Day event. We are remaining on schedule for our annual excursion to Colorado Campground in Woodland Park. Obviously, a tremendous amount of efforts and coordination has been executed by our Field Day Committee team, lead by Brent-KB4SMK. What makes this year unique is that the ARRL has a temporary rule change that allows individuals to participate in Field Day at their home (or other location) while still contributing towards the points, counts and overall success of their Club; even if you’re not at Field Day in the woods with the PRA, you can still help us score BIG points and memorable contacts. More information on the temporary rule change can be found here: http://www.arrl.org/news/temporary-rule-waivers-announced-for-2020-arrl-field-day
The year is still relatively young and there are more changes to come. I am hopeful and optimistic that these coming changes will have positive and lasting impact on our amateur radio community. Hopefully, with some of the coming changes, the PRA and amateur radio as a whole, will continue to thrive and be, as Jack would put it, the “force” in our communities. If you have any suggestions on making your PRA stronger or have an idea for additional content platforms, let us know! Again, continue to encourage our new and potential hams, continue to check-in on one another, and share some of your newly found discoveries while we have had extra time in the shack or work bench.
73, Dan – N2SRK President Parker Radio Association
If there was one book that I would love to get an original copy, it would be Clinton B. DeSoto’s 1941 classic, CALLING CQ. In the day and age of the internet, there is so much information at our fingertips. I happened to stumble across DeSoto’s work a few years ago. For a book that was written nearly 80-years ago, nearly everything he writes not only remains true today, but proves the excellent health of amateur radio. Do we have some areas to work on? You bet. The Parker Radio Association will perpetually work at “Having Fun, Playing Radio, and Keeping the Squelch Loose.” As I read the following excerpt from DeSoto’s book, I wonder if his ham radio club was like the PRA? I have a feeling it was pretty close.
Excerpted from the 1941 classic, CALLING CQ, written by Clinton B. DeSoto
ACCORDING to the official definition, amateur radio is “radio communication between amateur stations solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.” A comparable definition might describe a diamond as a “carboniferous solid.” Yet, properly mounted, a diamond is a many-faceted gem of dazzling beauty. Amateur radio, too, has many facets.
This is one facet of amateur radio: it is a hobby. “The ordinary life of the ordinary man from whence spring the great majority of hams is a dull, drab and somewhat dreary struggle,” according to one amateur. “Psychologists tell us that periodically one should drop his work for awhile and try something else, that if it be interesting enough one will usually return with renewed interest and zest.” Then this amateur, a successful professional man, continues: “Amateur radio is my hobby. In its pursuit I find the balm of Gilead.”
He might have added that amateur radio is unique among hobbies in that it is the only one established by federal statute and international treaty, the only one whose practice is limited to qualified, licensed practitioners. This is another facet of amateur radio: it is a means of self-expression.
“Being an amateur gives me the chance to meet people I would otherwise never meet,” says one. “That’s part of it. There’s more to it than that though. If I build a new amplifier or something and make it work I feel that I’m creating something. When I hook up a rig I’ve just finished and I push the key and a fellow in the next state answers me–all this with things I have made with my own hands–why, then I feel like I have accomplished something sort of worthwhile.”
Another describes his facet thus: “I have radio pals in all sorts of odd corners of the world whose signals come whispering to me through the night … out of the jungles of the Congo … from the tiger-infested districts of Malaya … from the interior of Dutch Borneo … from mountain tea estates of Java and India … from the elephant and lion country of Rhodesia, from the burning sands of Iraq…. We wander over the face of this little old world like a bug on an orange.” There are other facets, too: public service by providing emergency communication in the time of disaster, radio contact with expeditions to remote places, experimentation and research, and many other activities that combine to make amateur radio truly “all things to all men.”
Radio amateurs live in a world of their own–a magic world not open to everyone. The “Open Sesame” that lifts its portals is the possession of amateur-operator and station licenses issued by the Federal Communications Commission. The applicant for such licenses must pass a stringent examination at one of the district offices of the Commission, demonstrating his technical qualifications, his knowledge of radio theory and law and his ability to send and receive the International Morse code. He must first spend hours burning midnight oil, acquiring the rudiments of an engineering knowledge of radio theory. He must practice for seemingly endless weeks until the meaningless string of dots and dashes becomes an intelligible language. He must learn the regulations of the F.C.C. and the provisions of basic communications law, because all radio–including the amateur brand–is a closely regulated enterprise.
The neophyte does not metamorphose easily into the full-fledged amateur. But when he does leave his chrysalis a new world is opened up to him. First he gets a new name–his radio call letters. Thenceforth he has a new identity–even a new personality and new social status.
He finds amateur radio “the means of communications with others on equal terms, of finding friendship, adventure and prestige while seated at one’s own fireside,” according to Dr Raymond V. Bowers. “In picking his human contacts out of the air, the amateur is not seen by them…. He is not known by the company he keeps nor by the clothes he wears, but by the signal he emits.
He enters a new world whose qualifications for success are within his reach. A good homemade set gives him more prestige than a commercially manufactured one. There are no century-old class prejudices to impede his progress. He enters a thoroughly democratic world where he rises or falls by his own efforts. When he is W9XYZ the beginner the radio elders help him willingly and when he becomes W9XYZ the record breaker and efficient traffic handler he willingly helps the younger generation. Without a pedigree, a chauffeur or an old master decorating his living room he can become a prince–of the air. At the close of the day, filled with the monotonous routine of the machine age, he can find adventure, vicarious travel, prestige and friendship by throwing in the switch and pounding his signals into the air.”
His equipment may be of the most elementary kind, and his complete station may cost less than fifty dollars. Yet with such an outfit–with perhaps ten or twenty watts’ power–he can accomplish as much as his operating skills will permit. One amateur in New South Wales, Australia, for example, talked with each of the six continents with a ten-watt transmitter. Another amateur, in Columbus, Ohio, communicated by code with South Africa, Australia and New Zealand–halfway around the world–using only one-half watt of power.
On the other hand, he may have high-powered, completely automatic transmitters rivaling or excelling those of a large broadcasting station and costing many thousands of dollars. A Mexico City amateur is reputed to have spent fifty thousand dollars on his station; another, in San Francisco, is said to have invested over one hundred thousand dollars.
But the enjoyment of amateur radio is not measured in dollars or even in elaborate equipment. It is rather measured by such gauges as service, self-expression, a sense of personal accomplishment.
Friendship is such a gauge too. Even the shyest, most introspective soul will respond to a proffer like this: “Well, old man, let’s know each other better. I’m thirty-nine years old. I own a garage in this sleepy Arizona town of five hundred people. I also do electric welding. I have three children. What do you do?–and how old are you?”
The Chicago dentist whose CQ he had answered responded in kind, and between the Chicagoan and the Arizona garage owner there sprang up a strong friendship. Such contacts occur constantly in amateur radio; the community of the air is a friendly one. And, lest those contacts become ordinary and commonplace, coupled with them is the element of unpredictability. The next amateur “worked” may be a grocery clerk or a retired banker or a housewife or a rancher or a film star or physician.
Fraternalism … good fellowship … ingenuity … public service … the power to annihilate distance and bring oneself closer to mankind throughout the world … the ability to build and create and put the products of one’s hands to work to overcome the miles and hours … thrills and sport and adventure….
That’s what amateur radio is like.
Bottom line, I think DeSoto would have fit in really well with the PRA and likely would have taught us a few things.
73, Dan – N2SRK President Parker Radio Association