Friday, April 21, 2006

The state of mind that is QRP

I guess that most QRP operators (myself inlcuded, tend to forget that not everyone has the QRP "mindset". What is the QRP mindset, you may ask? Let me take a few minutes to try and explain why it is that we do what we do.

1) QRP operators love to use low power, that is 5 Watts or less when using CW or the digital modes and 10 Watts or less when using SSB. Some of us use it out of necessity. Some QRPers live in places where Amateur Radio antennas are not allowed. These folks use "stealth antennas' and use low power so they cannot be detected. The rest of us? We just love using low power for whatever reason! The challenge is to maintain RELIABLE and QUALITY communications with low power. Efficiency is our passion. Others of us love the idea of establishing radio communications using minimalist equipment; and then there is an entire branch of us that lives to take small radios and light, efficient antennas out to the great outdoors to operate while hiking, camping or just anywhere outdoors!

2) Please do not mistake QRP operating with weak signal operating! QRPers do their utmost to maintain and produce a clean, readable and reasonably loud signal. We understand in many cases that our signals may not be 599; but in the same vein, we're not sadists who live to torture the unsuspecting Ham with sub-par signals! However, in the event our signals ARE weak, you won't offend us if you choose not to work us. We realize that while our QRP sigs might not be loud to QTH "A"; they might very well knock the headphones off of Joe Ham at QTH "B"!

3) Which brings me to the next point. QRPers, outside of hardcore DXers, are probably the most familiar with ins and outs of RF propagation and the effect that the sun has on the ionosphere. We know our signals might not be the loudest; so we tend to learn as much about RF propagation conditions as we can so our signals "work smarter and not harder". If you'd like a real treat, I urge you to go to:
This is an article about the ionosphere and how the sun affects it and radio communications. It is the best article in easy-to-understand-everyday-English that I have ever read on the subject.

4) QRPers do the best they can to learn the characteristics of their stations and antennas. QRPers take great pains to make sure that they squeeze every electron out of their antennas. If you spend any time on the various QRP e-mail reflectors, you will see more posts about antennas and receivers than just about anywhere else. And the experts abound! You can learn so much from these guys; and the giants of QRP are more than happy to share whatever they have learned over the years.

5) By their nature, QRPers tend to be builders, tinkerers, experimenters and tweakers. This is all done to maximize efficiency of equipment and antennas - to get, in essence, the biggest bang for the buck. The side benefit of this is that if you're having trouble with a piece of your station equipment or antenna; then go and find the nearest QRP enthusiast! If he or she can't help you themselves, they'll probably be able to point you in the right direction to clear up whatever problem you might be having.

6) Since QRPers are familiar with weak signal work, they tend to become first rate, top notch Amateur Radio operators. The best of the best can dig out signals from below the noise floor so well that you would swear they use ESP! In fact many QRPers tend to use just that term! Signals that are just barely audible are said to be at "ESP level"! Also, since the majority (but by no means all) of QRP operating tends to be using Morse Code, the best of these guys have the most outstanding fists! The Morse flies out of their fingers like music and their CW is an absolute joy to copy and listen to.

All the above being said, QRPers tend to be very enthusiastic about not only QRP; but about Amateur Radio in general. The majority have the "spirit of Amateur Radio' that was handed down to us by the great Hams that came before us. Our enthusiasm is infectious; and we hope we can relate that enthusiasm to the rest of the Ham population.

73 de Larry W2LJ

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