Thursday, August 27, 2015

Nasty OT Ham - Reality or Myth?

Every now and then I wander over to eHam. net. And sometimes I wonder why I bother to wander.

It's not uncommon for me to read the articles, and then inevitably, come across some comment by a self-proclaimed "newbie" wherein he or she begins to bemoan the treatment they've received from some "old fart", nasty, mean ol' Ham.

The common scenario seems to be:

"I'm new, bright-eyed, bushy tailed, full of exuberance and spit and vinegar -  but yet somewhat lacking in knowledge and experience. I've gone to WB#XYZ repeater or to the Amateur Radio Club of Greater Podunk, where my inquiries were met with laughter, ridicule, sarcasm and down right meanness from Joe Ham. I am now going to sell all my Amateur Radio equipment because I'm traumatized and I never even want to hear the words "Amateur Radio" again."

I've seen this retold several times, in several different instances. I hate to question the veracity of the people making these claims - but can they be true? This has become a pet peeve of mine.

I've mentioned many times now, that I've been licensed for over 35 years. In all that time, I have never, ever, not even once come across treatment like that from an older Ham. Don't get me wrong, I've had to withstand my share of newbie ribbing, and have received my share of friendly and gentle reprimanding when doing something wrong - but nothing like these guys are describing.

A case in point. Shortly after upgrading to General in 1979, I joined the Old Bridge Amateur Radio Association.  They owned and operated the KB2TX repeater at the time (well actually, it became the KB2TX repeater after Walt, the owner, changed his callsign to KB2TX - I forget what it was before that). Anyway, I had installed a used non-Icom microphone with a DTMF pad on my Icom 2 Meter mobile, so that I could make phone patches if the need came up.  Back in those days, (am I dating myself?) it was rare for a mobile microphone to come with a keypad pre-installed. Unbeknownst to me, the microphone's element wasn't working. The DTMF tones were making it through, but my voice wasn't. So Walt got on the air and in his usual gruff  and no-nosense manner announced, "Hey! Whoever's sending the tones - you've got no audio. Stop it and identify yourself".  I was saying "KA2DOH (my call at the time) testing.", but it wasn't coming through.  I had Walt's phone number and gave him a call, explaining the problem.  After listening to my profuse apology, he got quiet and thought for a few seconds. Instead of giving me a tongue lashing, as technically I was breaking the rules, he suggested that the impedance of the microphone element might not be the proper valuthat the rig was looking for - a mismatch. Sure enough, that's what it turned out to be.

I listened and I learned something (that had never occurred to me) and was able to remedy the situation by going to Radio Shack, where I purchased and soldered into my microphone an element with the proper impedance.  Walt could have dressed me down, and read me the riot act, but he didn't. He was that way to everybody. In fact, in dealing with all the Old Timers throughout my Amateur Radio career (there were many) - they were all like that.  I can't ever remember a time where I received a snotty, snarky or sarcastic reply to a question. In fact, in my dealing with experienced Hams, they have always been helpful, accommodating and educational. And I live in New Jersey, too - supposedly the home of unfriendly, sarcastic, snarky and just plain mean ol' human beings in general!

So where does this curmudgeon live?  DOES this curmudgeon live? Or have we become so hyper-sensitive to any kind of criticism that even helpful criticism is taken as an incidence of ego-shattering reprimand?

Maybe they do exist, and maybe I'm lucky that I've never come across one.  Maybe I just need to go down on bended knee and be grateful that I've never run across the "No kids, no lids, no space cadets" type of Ham.  I can tell you that I have become dear friends with several "Old Timer" Hams who did have very rough and gruff reputations, only to find out after spending some time talking with and listening to them, that they had hearts of pure gold. Sometimes that's all it takes, just listening for a bit instead of always chattering and insisting that we know everything, and that we're always right - when maybe, just perhaps, we're not.

Food for thought.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


  1. W2LJ de KF7JAF...
    I know some crusty old curmudgeons, (and I'm well on my way to becoming one myself,) but I have not experienced anything like this myself, and was first licensed in 1970, but what I have met are some "newbies" that seem to expect other hams to just drop everything and explain really basic stuff that they should already know or be able to find out online or in a handbook, like "what is the exact impedance of an antenna that is so many feet long on 80 meters," or "what is the exact length of an antenna for 20 meters that will cover the whole band and what would the SWR be across the band," kind of thing that doesn't have an easy answer. And then, when someone does try to explain to them that maybe they are asking the wrong questions, they get upset that some "old timer" is giving them a hard time. I'm sure there are exceptions to both of these extremes, but I haven't really seen it.


  2. Great post, Larry. I have seen some snarky responses, especially when it comes to opinions about coax, antenna construction, and stuff like that, but rarely directed at newbies, just other KIAHs (know-it-all hams). And, as easy as it is to become a ham in this age, I suspect there are a bunch of newbie hams who thought it would be cool to become a ham, but likely don't really have the inclination to become a ham like it required in the old days. You *really* had to want to become a ham in the old days, because it took a lot of work. It's unfortunate, but I think a bunch of the new crop of hams think getting a license, a Baofeng, and activating the PTT button defines ham radio for them. Solar data tables don't affect their 50W 2M signals into the local repeater. Once they start stringing wire, working a band other than 2M, and learning about how thrilling CW comms can be, do their attitudes, and most likely their expectations, change. I think once you pass the General exam, and put a digital signal on the air (CW or otherwise), then you are officially a ham. And we all should be as nice as possible to the newbies (I still consider myself a newbie) - but I'm going to try to teach them to fish, rather than catch their fish for them. I have a feeling you are exactly the type of Elmering ham many newbies would love to have around. I have a great Elmer I rely on to this day to help me with my radio. He knows more about the KX3 than I ever will. I can't ever see him being gruff or mean to anyone, and like you, I don't think I have ever run into a mean ham (some trolls on the internet). Thanks Larry. 73. Pat NQ0N

  3. Larry, I will throw in my two cents here. I have had a mixture of both. I am a relatively new ham, and more new to HF and especially cw. I have gotten some gruff treatment, and some kind treatment. Some of the gruff treatment may be due to violation of supposed "rules" that are actually customs and practices that aren't documented anywhere, and aren't apparent to someone trying to listen in for even extended time prior to keying up. I am actually getting frustrated with it. Although I am not huffily talking about selling my gear and quitting, I find myself getting on air less and less because I often feel unwelcome. George KC9ZRB