Friday, January 08, 2016

So sad

I was browsing Facebook today when I saw this sad post (not verbatim) in the Amateur Radio group. "I am leaving the hobby after 10 years. I am tired of having people tell me that unless I have thousands of dollars of equipment, and lots of land for antennas that I am not a "real Ham" (I hate that phrase!).  Have a nice life."

I feel badly for this individual, and I suspect there's more going on here under the surface.  But, if that's the definition of a "real Ham" then I'm not one, either ...... and I've been at this "Ham Radio thing" for 38 years now.

I am not going to insult anyone's intelligence by feigning that I don't own expensive Amateur Radio equipment.  I do.  But when you look at my shack compared to a lot of others out there, mine is relatively modest.  No, I'm way beyond two tin cans and a wire, but I'm also do not own enough equipment that would equal the GDP of a small nation.

In the same breath, let me say that I do NOT begrudge anyone from owning enough equipment that would equal the GDP of a small nation. Hey, if you are wealthy enough, and you're not ignoring the basic needs of yourself or your family in order to fund your hobby - more power to you.

The second part of his definition is nearer and dearer to my heart, though.  I have never been in a situation where I felt I could put up the kind of antennas that I would like to have.  At both my QTHs, the one in East Brunswick, where I grew up, and the one in South Plainfield where I currently live - both are typical NJ suburban lots that are 50 feet wide by 100 feet long. (15M X 30M).

I had a G5RV here in South Plainfield that took so may twists and turns that it looked like I was playing the three dimensional chess board from Star Trek. Everything I have has to fit on my property, even the radials under by Butternut have twists and angles to them.  I'm not complaining, just stating the facts. Do I wish I had plenty of land where I could lay out a classic Beverage antenna for 160 Meters - or even put up a half wave dipole for 160 Meters?  You're darn tootin' I would.  But I don't, so I'm not going to shed tears over it. As bad as my case is, at least I can have outdoor antennas. A lot of people have to live with a lot less than I have, and I think about that every time I am tempted to complain or feel sorry for myself.

In the end, you make do with what you have.  I'll probably never make DXCC Honor Roll, but I am closing in on 200 countries worked. Given the antennas that I have (and had), I think that's a pretty fair accomplishment.

The bottom line is that you can't let another person dictate to you what something as wide in scope as Amateur Radio..... is. Amateur Radio is many things to many people.  My excitement over working Australia with 5 Watts might make you yawn.  Your excitement over having your 100th message passed this month might earn just a shrug of my shoulders from me.  Are either of us wrong?  No, both of us are enjoying what we like best in a hobby that has enough room for everyone!

So the next time someone tells you that you're not a "real Ham", just smile and walk away. Anyone who truly thinks they know what a "real Ham' is, is just kidding themselves, anyway.

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


  1. Well written Larry. I think a real HAM is someone who enjoys the hobby and does what he/she likes to do to relax. When doing so it will reflect at other HAMs and hopefully give them ideas to enjoy the hobby even more. The kind of radio or antenna is not important. You can even be a HAM and just listen what is going on at the airwaves. Or just building fun things. Or only help other HAMs to enjoy their hobby. Or, like we do, writing about the hobby. That's my idea of a real HAM. I think you're a real HAM, that's for shure ;-). 73, Bas

  2. good evening Larry, as Bas said it was very well written and as for me I am having a hoot with ham radio. My set up is a balcony that is 10x15 feet and that is my antenna farm spread! I get a thrill out of my 5 watts getting to places I never dreamed of. When I sit down at the radio I never for a moment allow my restrictions to dictate what I can get out of the hobby.
    73, Mike

  3. Michael - K6FTZ1:35 AM

    Thanks for writing this, Larry. At a time when I've been feeling a bit low limping along with little more than my FT-60 because I can't afford much more, this was a great perspective to run into. The more constraints we face, sometimes the more creative we get. My route? I'm finding all the things I can do for little or no money: Though I can't afford an HF radio setup right now, I was able to buy a paddle and inexpensive keyer kit with a practice oscillator. Now I can work on learning CW while saving my pennies. Not only that, I realized with some time on my hands as I save, now is a great time to study for the extra exam using for free. I'll never have a big expensive station. But there are so many small ways to dig deeper into the richness of our hobby. That's something I'm grateful for every day.
    - 73, Michael

  4. I hope he doesn't let the door hit him on the way out! Your suspicion that there's something more going on here is spot on. Anyone who would leave the hobby after ten years because someone told them they hadn't spent enough money or installed large enough antennas is likely on suicide watch for a host of other problems. Maybe their neighbor makes more money or has a better looking wife -- maybe that makes him want to drop out of life too?

    That guy doesn't need a ham license -- he needs professional help.

    73, Jeff

  5. I don't agree.
    Maybe he needed a better antenna for his site, and others put him down. It is my experience, the one's that do that can't ask a question and don't actually know much.
    That is my experience.
    It is frustrating, very frustrating to ask the same questions for a decade, or, for decades and no answers.
    Pladitudes that were never true, or, turn on the person asking!
    It is my experience of over 50-years, the "big boys" paid someone to set things up. They push the same buttons, and bever explore the hobby. I am saying those guys are poseurs.
    Radio amateurs that want some comaderie in the hobby, or, information or a question answered now and then, usually won't find it. The usual is to hear bragging about their rig, their outfit, what they did.
    My experience has been that I really like this hobby, and my interest keeps me in the hobby. It has been all up to me, to stick to it.
    For me, even the questions are interesting while I refine the question.
    It is my hobby. Nuts, to the idiots.