First u.RAT Presentation at EBARC and Making vs. Collecting

Saleae Logic Analyzer- with an Arduino sketch that loops and continually sends the word “Hello”

My good friend Mike, KJ4Z and I had a nice chat about DX-ing vs. Making in the Ham Radio hobby. Mike made a comment that is so true – he said DX-ing is all about “collecting” and that over time there is less and less to collect and it gets harder to collect – meaning there is a certain “planned obsolescence” baked into that pursuit. Collecting is a very solitary pursuit – you really only care about your own collection. On the other hand, Making offers building and learning and as you go, and it gets easier as you go. I would add that because technology changes, the opportunity to grow is limitless. As long as you have some imagination, making never gets stale or obsolete.

Mike has been doing the (modern) Maker thing longer than I have, although, back in the 90’s I did build several QRP transceivers as a way to try to get back into the hobby after being completely out of it since 1977. So “Making” is not new to me, but the world has changed since the days of stuffing PC boards with discrete components. Even after I stopped making QRP rigs, I did continue to design and build antennas and matching circuits.

From 2001 until 2013, I worked toward DXCC Honor Roll, and was pretty much a 100% dedicated DX-er. I was a full time collector and collected ATNO’s while being holed up by myself in my shack. .

I also made 8BDXCC, and soon will have 9BDXCC with 160M DXCC. The problem – its been so drop dead boring since Honor Roll, and yeah – I agree with Mike – the planned obsolescence really can get to you if all you do is wait around. I totally disagree with those who think adding new entities to keep the participants happy is the way to go. I find that as pathetic as someone who laments that things were so much better in the past – and so they anachronistically live for days that are long gone. They can have that.

Saleae logic analyzer sampling data being sent by the Arduino

The Maker world is one where people share and work together – like a friendly world wide net where people say hello and share ideas. If you are so inclined, there are Maker Faires, Maker Spaces and Meetups where you can get together and share.

One thing I found with the DX Community is that there can be really weird and negative behavior – both amongst “armchair DX-ers” and DX-peditioners. There is a lot of anti-social behavior in the DX Community, and I’ve grown tired of it. At the same time, I have come to meet and greet Makers who are always upbeat and sharing. What a difference!

Last night I gave my first u.RAT Presentation at EBARC, and the presentation is posted here:

http://www.ebarc.org/pdf/urat.pdf

The place was packed, and I had been warned ahead of time that attendance lately at the Club Meetings had been very lite, so expect that it would just be a good “warm up” for Pacificon.

To my surprise, not only was the place packed, but the interest level was much higher than any of my DX or DX Antenna presentations. They had always gone over well, but I could tell by the questions at the end that the Maker aspect of ham radio will have a much larger crowd than DX-ing ever will. Pacificon is usually a big EMCOMM ordeal, but the Maker contingent there has grown in recent years. It has never had much of  DX presence – you have to go to Visalia for that, and honestly, DX Conventions start looking the same after just a few years. There’s announced DX-peditions, praise for successful DX-peditions, a raffle and sometimes a “Last Man Standing”. I have always found the DX Community to be quite “cliquish” and somewhat closed.

I will pursue both – I don’t think one boxes out the other, but my participation moving forward will be 95% Maker and 5% DX-er – its just because I am at the end of the “collecting” line.

3 Comments on “First u.RAT Presentation at EBARC and Making vs. Collecting

  1. Sharing is definitely the killer app of the Maker movement. Whenever I have a new idea, I think to myself, “I bet someone has already posted code on GitHub that will get me most of the way there.” And probably 80% of the time, there it is! The speed with which it’s possible to iterate when you can leverage the global community’s shared knowledge is astounding, even for someone who does it all the time. And even the obscurest corners are covered. The other day, I was thinking about trying to generate my own local emulation of the WWVB 60 kHz time signal so I could play with a receiver module during the day. I found that someone had already published code that would do the job just by bit-banging a pin on Raspberry Pi — I already had a turn-key solution requiring zero work, and not even any new circuitry. If anything, it was kind of disappointing that there was nothing left to do.

    I imagine I will keep DXing, at least in a casual way, as long as there’s something new to chase, but sitting at 310 there’s not a whole lot that comes on now, and I really only care about ATNOs. Therefore any enthusiasm I can work up is self-regulating; I know I’m still looking at a couple of decades to pick up the remainders, in all probability. So I will probably not even fire up the rig unless I see in the newsletters that something I need will be on. In contrast, the instant dopamine hit that comes from seeing your idea come to fruition in hours is definitely addictive, and it’s no wonder that so many people get hooked. There’s also the bonus incentive that the skills you pick up from making stuff make you more marketable. Also, the mere act of sharing your code and talking about it gives you instant visibility among tech employers. I love CW but I’m under no delusions that a prospective employer would want to hire me more as a result.

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  2. I honestly believe you will be one of the last to make Honor Roll. I believe the entire program is on its last legs – just from an “actuarial” point of view. I think Honor Roll will continue to be attainable, but that #1 Honor Roll very soon will fall by the wayside. I was very surprised the last time I was at Visalia that a few very prominent DX-ers whom have been in the game a lot longer than I have said we have already passed a mark that I mentioned we would hit in 10 – 20 years. I was surprised that I was the optimist in that discussion.

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    • So far this year, I got one ATNO, S21ZED in March. Last year I got Spratly in April, Palestine in March, ZL9, the VP8s and KH5 in January and February (already had VK0/H and FT/J). So that’s nearly a year between my next to last ATNO and the last one, and 5 months since then with nothing in sight except Bouvet. Yeah, looking pretty sparse…

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