My amateur radio journey began in the mid-1970s. At the time, I was about 12 years old, with an interest in electronics that puzzled my parents. With little guidance, and fear for their lives, as I regularly inspected the inside of the TVs and radios in the house, they turned to the kind older gentleman across the street, Mr. Brown. He had the traditional business card of a suburban ham – a giant 60-mast beam antenna in the backyard – so they figured he could act as my mentor.
Mr. Brown taught me a lot about electronics and took me almost far enough to take the test for my beginner’s class license. But I lost interest, probably because I was a male teenager and I didn’t think the ham ticket would improve my chances with the young ladies. My ambitions for ham remained well below the surface as life took place for the next 40 years or so. But as my circumstances changed, the idea of working on the air reappeared, and in 2015 I finally took a step back and won my general class license.
The next part of my ham story is very familiar these days: I haven’t done anything with my license. Oh, of course, I bought some comfortable Baofeng and Wouxun tokens and stalked the local repeaters. I even bought a good, solid high-frequency platform and built some antennas, but I made one connection in common – a short conversation with a ham in Texas from my old home in Connecticut on the 10-meter strip. It is.
There is obviously a problem. There is no lack of understanding of the art and science of radio amateurs. More than the ordinary Joe who goes out on the street to take a license test (and these people are much more than you think), I have a pretty good idea of the theory and practice of radio frequency communications. This is also not a money problem. For now, I have enough disposable income to spend on “The biggest hobby in the world.” It’s not the time, at least not really. My kids are old enough to be self-sufficient, so it’s not like working with tapes while there are dirty diapers to deal with. And my wife supports it too, so that’s not it either. So what’s my problem? Why am I not active in the HF bands and register with local repeaters?
Because, as it turns out, when you’re a ham, you end up talking to other hams. And I don’t like talking to thighs.
In order not to be perceived as hatred of ham, this is not the case. Honestly, I really don’t want to talk to anyone, face to face or in the air. But there is really something unpleasant in the style of communicating with ham, at least for my ears. Part of this is due to listening to public radio all my life. My father was a cop, and listening to radio broadcasts in his cruiser was the soundtrack of my life from the day I was born. Later I listened to scanners as a civilian amateur, then with a more professional interest as an EMT and a volunteer firefighter. I even worked on the other side of the microphone as a dispatcher for multiple agencies. So I developed a strong preference for radio style – short, cut-out messages that minimize airtime while maximizing information content.
In other words, the exact opposite of what hams do.
When I hear two hams chewing on the rag, I think, “Please just stop talking and take your thumb off the microphone switch.” It doesn’t matter what they’re talking about, though it certainly does matter; he tells a lot about what XYL did for dinner and updates on everyone’s prostate troubles. I could ignore the choice of content if someone somewhere just unplugged the mic from time to time and took a breath.
I know, I know – that’s not what the ham radio is for. Ham strips are more of a conversation than anything else, at least its sound. I think I can have a better experience if I study HF networks that occur regularly in preparation for providing emergency communications in disasters; they are probably more my style. Or maybe digital modes would suit me better – to be able to write short, content-rich messages and make contacts without any of that annoying talking sounding quite passionate.
But for now, I’m sure I won’t hang around the local 2-meter repeater to make sure everyone knows what I’m getting at the grocery store. I’m glad the local thighs have built the infrastructure to do that, and I’m glad to know they’re practicing the craft. I just don’t want to talk to them that much.
So, active hams, what part of the craft are you interested in? I would love to hear your suggestions on how I or someone else can use the license more widely and help preserve the hobby for both new and old thighs.