New Hams and Lack of Elmers
There has been a recent influx of new operators lately, which is a great thing for a diminishing hobby. Earlier this week, new operators were using the local repeater and their calls are in the KD9TXX range. Having new blood on the air is always a great thing. It breaks the monotony of hearing the same people on the repeaters talk about the same thing. The repeaters tend to turn into a “good old boys” club, where new operators are ignored. A new operator will put out his call and get no response. Less than five minutes later, old timer 1 will put out a call to old timer 2 and get an immediate response. While they could have scheduled this before hand, it tends to happen too often to make the assumption they both turned on their radios at the exact time.
Why is this an issue? Put yourself in the new operators shoes. You put you call out on the repeater and no one responds. You do it again and no one responds. This goes on for a bit, say a week. The new operator will get the idea that something is wrong with their equipment or operating style. They hear others talking, but they are not acknowledged themselves. Then, someone finally responds to them. They have no idea what to say. This goes by different names but is commonly referred to as mic fright or mic shy. It puts the new operator in a strange spot, as they are accustom to not hearing a response.
Why do I say this? I was in this position. I put my call out for a week before someone came back to me. I was so nervous and didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what any of the Q calls were. I had my G-Shock set to beep every 10 minutes to remember to sign. I was a mess. This could have easily been solved with mentoring. Once I received my license, I received a phone call from Carl, K9LA, who had received a radiogram congratulating me on receiving my new license. This made me feel welcomed, but this feeling quickly diminished when no one wanted to talk.
Eventually, I got on the air more. I now have an informal sked with another operator in the area on Saturdays. This isn’t planned before hand. We just started talking on Saturdays and here we are. This may not have happened without persistence on my part. Again, put yourself in the shoes of a new operator. My original plan was to get Extra and jump into HF. After a month or so of not having great luck chatting on the repeaters, I was at the point that I was going to give up. This is why I got General so quick. I thought I would have better luck on HF. Nope. Another reason why I prefer FT8.
Clubs should have a way to attract new operators to get on the air. The club could set up new hams with someone who would be willing to mentor them. They could help steer them in the right direction. I’ve made bad purchases, but I also have the means to make bad purchases. This may be why I have 5 HTs with another on the way. Having a mentor would have helped guide me in the right direction. The mentor could also guide the new operator in general operating tips. For example, many new radios are dual VFO. When someone comes on the radio and just says their call, I have no idea what VFO they are on. Was that the 76 repeater or the 94 repeater? What if my radio was in scan? I hear a bunch of new operators do this, because they hear it from the more experienced guys. They know what the repeater disconnect tone is and assume everyone else does. Not to call out a particular crowd, but this tends to be more common among the contest group as they are typically quick with their calls. Ham radio is about communication. It doesn’t help making it more difficult.
While I do YouTube myself (not for ham radio), ham YouTubers can be some of the worst operators with terrible operating habits. They get away with quite a bit due to their pseudo-celebrity status within the community. For example, the new ISS repeater went live some time ago. Once it went live, a YouTuber tried to make a contact using 50 W from their mobile. This is poor operating practice, but if I am a new ham with no mentor, I would think this is acceptable. Logging onto another YouTube channel and hearing him consistently say, “The bands are dead.” may steer me away from HF due to low/no activity. This simply isn’t the case. An unnamed YouTuber put out a video on the lines of “Field Day – The Bands are Dead” or something similar, which is an clickbait title, since the YL and I were making contacts on 10 meters during Field Day.
YouTubers also have a large amount of gear, which is great. I want to see items in use before I spend my money on it. The issue is that they hype up some gear as better than it is. This leads to poor purchases, or purchasing an item that isn’t needed. Imagine buying a DVMega hotspot before you have a digital voice radio. Same with Broadband Hamnet, which isn’t active. This could be solved with my previous point of having a mentor. From all of my years on YouTube and Twitch, I have never had a company refuse to send me something due to a poor review. Dankpods, an audiophile YouTuber, tore apart the Raycon wireless earbuds. Want to guess what happened? Raycon sent him their new and improved pair, which he gave another poor review for. It is okay to give a product an honest review. This leads to more consistency as a reviewer. There are some reviews that hype up really poor quality product, meaning if they say a radio is the greatest radio they’ve ever seen, I know it is absolute trash. This is the consistency from a reviewer.
Lack of Common Sense Radios
I have covered this before, so I’m not going to beat a dead horse. Instead, I’m going to focus on one radio in particular. Baofeng. “But Adam, you hate Baofeng.” You are right. But they sell like crazy. Almost everyone has one. Want to know why? Because I can get one for under $30. No one buys them because of the features as there simply aren’t any. It is cheap and gets you into the hobby (on all band *sarcasm*) for a low price.
What does this say to me? There is a market for inexpensive radios with no features. Yaesu, Icom, someone else… get on this. Not Kenwood. They have their niche, and it works for them.
KENWOOD RANT – If you ask for someone’s favorite radio, you will rarely get a Kenwood, but Kenwood makes kick ass radios with top notch audio. They are amazing. One of my favorite HTs is my Kenwood D74. It is also my most expensive. But it is so good. It has a great interface. The audio is the best I’ve heard from any HT, or any other amateur radio for that fact. It is amazing. More people should give it a try. The problem is they occupy the mid- to high-end. If they started making entry-level radios, it would probably hurt them. If Icom is IT guy and Yaesu is the firefighter, Kenwood is the business executive with two yachts, two houses, three Ferraris, and Warren Buffet on speed dial.
Back to inexpensive radios. The best radio manufacturer to cover this would be Yaesu. Icom is in an odd spot right now. The ID-52A is delayed due to the semiconductor shortage. They only have one HT right now, and it is alright. Their bread and butter falls under the HF market. But Yaesu could make a $40 HT, and it would fit their business model well. Dual-band, FM only, single VFO. Simple and easy. I know there are other radio manufacturers. Alinco could do it. Anytone could. Bridgecom could. But Yaesu is known. Everyone talks about them. That would be the smartest route.
Right now, all of my HTs are flagship models from their respective companies. I would buy an FM only radio from one of the big three Japanese companies if they offered a low cost solution. The lowest price solution is the FT-60, which is $60 on discount. That is double the price of a Baofeng. How can you convince someone to pay double for the same features? We understand that Baofengs are terrible quality, but it is hard convincing anyone of that.
I just needed to stand on my soapbox. As I’m writing this, a new ham is just saying his call repeatedly on the repeaters with no one responding. He is hardly making the repeater. No one is letting him know proper etiquette. Instead, he is going to just spam the repeater with his call until he gets tired. My solution: I’m going to invite him to the picnic this afternoon, so I don’t embarrass him on the air.
Thanks for reading. This was more of a rant that I needed to get out. Also, I got in some new headphones that sound amazing. It is the small victories.