After 15 years of continuous DX-ing and almost being a slave to the ARRL’s DXCC program (2001 – 2016), I took a look around and found that amateur radio – as it always has – had grown and advanced in so many ways.
My first “post VK0EK” effort was to dig into Top Band and learn more about receiving antennas. I spent an entire year doing that – even though it started out as just a “summer project”. It was really great to pretty much exhaust that “trail”, and I ended up with three very good RX antennas – Mod-Bob (my design), DX Engineering DV-40-P 40M phased array that rocks on 160M as an RX antenna and the FB Wellbrook ALA1530LNP receiving loop.
This past summer it was all about trying a “Ham Maker” project, and the URAT (Universal Remote Antenna Tuner) delivered big time. Not many others were interested in it as it turns out, but for me, I learned more with that one project than any other project ever. There was the electronic, the code, the product design, the difference between Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Raspberry Pi Zero W and ASUS Tinkerboard, the hacking the Elecraft KPOD and its driver and learning all about antenna tuners and matching components – especially what a “true balanced tuner” is. Can you imagine any other project covering that much ground? It still amazes me . . .
This past weekend was my “FT8-Palooza”. I dove deep into FT8 and WSJT-X and nailed down a full secondary station, which now I can switch to with one antenna switch. I have what Ward, N0AX, calls “ham radio V1” with my K3 and SPE amp station, and then my second ham radio V2 station – which is the KX3 and KXPA-100. Both have their respective PX3 and P3 panadapters.
So, since VK0EK, I have removed my “DXCC Blinders”, and I am glad I did – the wonderful world of amateur radio has a fantastic learning opportunity and so many sub genres and different things to do and try – its a tinkerers dream. The camaraderie in ham radio cannot even compare with the very ugly and time wasting “social media” and “social networks”. They, along with the daily news depress and anger me – whereas Amateur Radio makes my day. In the mid 90’s I got rid of cable TV, and after this past election got rid of Facebook and Twitter. They turned so negative and nasty and they just are total waste of time anyway.
Somehow hams have figured out how to play well with each other – certainly in a way not seen on the so called “social networks”. Maybe its the barrier to entry? Or that its a hobby with a specific topic – or set of topics – that keep us on track and on point to have a resonable discussion? Sure – there are small pockets of “miscreants” in the hobby, but compared to say Twitter or Facebook – what a major difference. Heck, even the hams I disagree with I can live with peacefully. Thank you fellow hams – you are a good lot!
This past week I was especially proud when I saw the Amateur Radio response and national press coverage of hams providing communications in and out of Puerto Rico. In fact, that was about the only good news it seems.
Ham Radio has been in my life since 1973, with only fits and starts between 1977 and 2001, but I am having more fun with it than ever. The hobby waited for me to come back, and it truly is better than ever. The word Recreation means “Re-Create”, and that is what I do when I participate in ham radio. I re-create and I learn.
An unbeatable combination.