Tuesday, March 05, 2024

The latest thing

Amateur Radio is a hobby of niches. Not all facets of the hobby are popular with everyone. That being said, it seems to me, in my most humble opinion, that there are periods where a certain "thing" becomes all the rage.

A few years ago, it seemed like you couldn't swing a dead cat in the Amateur Radio community without coming across something about magnetic loop antennas. More recently the rage has been end fed half wave antennas. These trends of prominence didn't last too long. If you want to look at trends with long standing time (years) in the limelight, I would suggest FT-8 and POTA fit the bill.

I'm not a participant in the digital modes, so I can't realistically comment much about the popularity and proliferation of FT-8, but I can comment on the same about POTA - Parks On The Air - why is it the rage? Again, this is simply my opinion, please take it with the proverbial grain of salt.

1) The spectacular success of NPOTA, National Parks On The Air. When you look back on it, this operating event organized by the ARRL to celebrate the Centennial Anniversary of the National Parks System was a much more huge success than anyone anticipated. In fact, if and when they celebrate the second Centennial of the ARRL in the distant future, I am certain that NOPTA will remain one of the historical highlights of the organization. 

I remember when it was announced toward the end of 2015 and all I saw on the e-mail reflectors that I am a member of were ambitious plans for activations right off the bat on January 1st. NPOTA resonated with the Amateur Radio community quite unlike anything I have ever seen in my 45 years as a Ham. Everyone could participate - no matter what your favorite operating mode happened to be. It was easy to participate in and you had an entire year to partake as much or as little as you desired. If you couldn't activate a park or entity- no problem! There were a plethora of hunters willing to fill up your logbook.

The program was so successful (over 1,000,000 QSOs were made during the event) that it became quite apparent that come January 1st, 2017, when NPOTA had officially ended, that something was going to have to fill the vacuum.  A non-profit organization, Parks On The Air was formed in 2018 to give structure to carry on after NPOTA ended.

2) The proliferation of smaller radios has drastically improved the ease whereby Amateur Radio operations can be taken portable. All mode 100 Watt rigs are smaller, lighter and more energy efficient than ever before. Add to that fact that the latest development of lighter and longer lasting lithium batteries have made it even easier to power them and leave the indoor shack without having to break your back carrying gear around.

In the QRP world, you can find multi band, multi mode rigs that are as small or smaller than a pack of cigarettes (remember those?) With sunspot Cycle 25 coming to a peak some time in 2025 - effective worldwide communication is possible with just a few Watts. You can put an entire portable station - radio, battery, antenna, mic or key and accessories into a daypack and come in at under 10 pounds.

3) HOA's. This is one that a lot of people don't consider, but I think played a major part in the success of POTA  More and more Hams live in communities that fall under the jurisdiction of Home Owner's Associations. Some are quite liberal and Amateur Radio friendly, but others are not. They frown on anything that disrupts their idea of a "perfect community". Things like Amateur Radio antennas are strictly verboten. So what's a Ham stuck in one of these communities to do? They can either find a stealthy antenna solution - or they can take the show on the road - and POTA is perfect for that. Put as little or as much time into it, when and as you want, and you can satisfy that Amateur Radio craving that you can't receive at your residence.

I'm sure there are other factors that I haven't even considered - but these seem to be the main factors to me. I wonder what the "next big thing" will be?

On a sad note, I saw on QRP-L last night that Diz Gentzow, W8DIZ passed away on Sunday after a long illness. Diz was the proprietor of Kits and Parts and was one of the founders of the Flying Pigs QRP Club International. He passed away peacefully at home with his loving wife Nancy and other family members at his side.

I never met Diz in person, but had corresponded with him on several occasions regarding parts orders, Flying Pig matters and the few times he participated in the Skeeter Hunt. He was a kind gentleman with a good sense of humor - one of the good guys, who was respected and admired by those of us in the QRP community.

My friend Brian KB8BVN summed it all quite appropriately ........ "It's a sad day in Hamville."

RIP, Diz, you will be sorely missed. Farewell and "oo".

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very least!

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