My thoughts on Amateur Radio... (April, 2000)
I first became interested in radio in the early 1970's, when I messed around with my parent's portable 4-band Sony radio. It had FM, AM, LW, and SW. When I tuned SW, I discovered stations from all over the world. My little viewpoint broke wide open. I suddenly discovered a bigger world than my block. And I began to hear views and news from other people around the globe.
I was hooked. I began to dream that maybe I could also get into radio. Participate. Be a broadcaster, or whatever. Then someone told me I could build my own radios and even become a "ham."
It took many years to finally get my ticket. From the start in the early 70's until about 1989, I was just a listener and learner. I did some broadcasting. I really got into computers. But my passion was to get on the air.
Finally, one of my supervisors, an Amateur Extra, encouraged me to complete my study. He and fellow Extra's finally tested me (sending and receiving on cw, and the test). In my own way, I struggled to get the Novice. When I passed, I felt a lifelong dream had come true.
Since then, I have pushed to continue my growth and skill.
I bet many people who are coming into Amateur Radio feel the same way. Their stories might be different than mine, or yours. But the same opportunity exists for each of us to realize our dreams and to participate in this communication hobby. I welcome everyone.
I am concerned about our resources and skills and where we are going. But I don't moan about where we are. I see only opportunity. And I am pro-active in trying to make a difference, like teaching at my local school. I've taught Science and Amateur Radio. The kids are hungry for it. The hobby and service of Ham Radio is not dying.
Some folks think that Amateur Radio is becoming more like Citizen's Band Radio. To me, Amateur Radio is not the same as "CB Radio." It is not just buying a factory-made, plug-and-play station and pushing the mic key, shouting, "CQ CQ!" It is about much more. Emergency communications, community service, friendships outside our local geographic boundaries, gaining and honing technical knowledge and skills, family activities, and so much more are part of this hobby and radio service.
While currently in the United States there exists a trend to make entry and upgrade to Amateur Radio privileges easier, there is something this hobby represents that is true for any amateur radio operator, in whatever country s/he resides. We represent our respective countries. We are ambassadors. When I talk with a Ukrainian Amateur, I actually come away thinking, "So that is how they act over there. That's what that country is like." In addition, Amateur Radio to me is an art. The art of communication, the art of language, the art of electronics, propagation, etc. Perhaps that is why CW is so attractive to some people, RTTY to others, and why DXing is so hot to many others. It is more than just making quick contacts and feeling like you did something grand because your 1500 watts made it 3000 miles.
Amateur Radio is considered both a hobby, and a service. A hobby that allows an individual to increase personal skill and education. And a service through which the individual contributes to both the hobby, as well as to the community and country in which s/he lives.
But, at the core, we Amateur Radio Operators are making connections. The human touch. Perhaps making peace and improving the human condition. Could it really be possible?
All of us are part of a large family. This hobby allows us to use technology in a pleasurable way to "reach out and touch someone" (remember that advert?) and make connection.
If we wish to encourage the long life and health of Amateur Radio we should nurture the sizzle. This has been said, and said again. We lead by example and through embracing those who choose this form of communication. The result is that more of us humans are connecting, forming a closer family around the world. No skin color. No gender. Pure exchange of thoughts and the sharing of common experiences. A service that is others-centered.
I am a father of four children -- and my life's work is to nurture them into becoming leaders -- people who know the "real deal" and lead by example. Ham Radio is just a channel that allows society to communicate. What we communicate and how is an extension of who we are and what we believe. So my hope is that my children and I exemplify a high standard that impacts the world of humankind with something of value.
Life is simple. Really, it is. And Amateur Radio is not God's gift to the world. But it is a very valuable pursuit. The foundation of this hobby is made in part of the value of life and the respect of each other. Modes of operation in Ham Radio is really insignificant. What we do through these modes is more at issue.
I hope to spark the kindling in other's minds. To tempt the non-amateur with the magic and sizzle of crossing boundaries and issues, and connect. Be it with dit-dahs or with long-winded chatter.