Operate an amateur radio station from anywhere with an Internet connection.

Month: January 2020

Yes, you can say it… But should you?

Ham station with laptop PC connected to DMR radio for programming.

A laptop PC is connected to DMR radio for programming. The IC-7200 station is in the background.

Cast your thoughts back to the middle of the 20th century.  Yes, I know many of you can do so – you were born in that era and, though childhood memories may be a bit fuzzy.  Lots of us are old guys who grew up in a Minnesota that was much more rural and young and Christian and white. We pretty much agreed on most things.  That made it relatively easy to manage our politics, but even back then we knew our best bet was to keep our traps shut about that topic during Thanksgiving dinner.

In fact, when I got interested in electronics during high school, the more or less default advice on being a good ham radio operator was to never broach any of three deadly subjects on the air:  sex, religion, and politics.  

That was good advice then and it’s good advice now.  In fact, it’s even more so in 2020, when our new Minnesota is so diverse and our political landscape is so polarized.  We come to ham radio because we share a common interest in one or more of its many facets – circuit building, antennas, public service, contesting, DX, hidden transmitter hunting, space communications, digital modes, CW, DMR, SOTA, portable operation, special events, teaching and volunteering, and so many more.  Most of us leverage those topics by making them part of our on the air activities.  

No one is suggesting that talking about non-ham related activities is a bad thing.  In fact, it’s fun to connect with others who share your interest in other hobbies or topic areas like history, science, aviation, firearms, or stamp collecting.  

But much of life is about being practical.  Making good choices. Thinking about consequences. 

So yes, we can talk about the toxic three: sex, religion, and politics. The question is whether we should, because going there is like stepping into a minefield.  You may get through unscathed, but like as not someone is going away unhappy. Back in mid-20th century Minnesota, we were more alike than different, and the mines were further apart.  Today, we are way more diverse – different in our ethnicity, age, religious background, and yes, politics. That makes for a minefield with a lot more mines.  

Don’t assume that the op you are talking with on the air shares your beliefs on these toxic three.  You may be surprised that even those in your own demographic think differently on one or more of them.  Furthermore, the damage can filter outward from such conversations and be bad for Amateur Radio in general.  I have lost count of the remarks about “old dudes on 75 m” that I have seen on social media platforms frequented by younger folks.  Guys going on about their politics and religion are a MASSIVE turn-off to young people who might be interested in ham radio. 

Are we in it for fun, friendship, public service, and learning?  Yes!  

Are we in it for arguments and proselytising?  Not me. Let’s make better choices on the air. Please. 

January 2 – 3: W0EQO online; W0ZSW online; WA0TDA online

Icom IC-7200

The IC-7200 station

W0ZSW is online.  The Windom antenna is in place and the station is working great.  Users will note that this new antenna is a great performer, much quieter than the old one because the feedpoint is well away from any buildings with their noise sources.  80 – 6 m operation. 

WA0TDA is available. Contact me at my ARRL address to request access.  160 – 6 m operation. 

W0EQO is online. Thanks to Bill, N0CIC, for his help at the station location.  160 – 6 m operation. 

Check out the Blitzortung lightning map here. Thunderstorm season is spring through fall in Minnesota, but storms can happen even in cold winter weather!   Storms can pop up quickly, and when they do, the stations may be shut down in order to allow the antennas to be disconnected so as to avoid lightning damage.  There may be little or no warning, but the stations will return to service after the storms pass.  This is just an inconvenience we have to live with, especially during the late spring and summer. 

Remember:  WA0TDA, W0ZSW, and W0EQO all accept multiple users at the same time!  Please do not log off because someone else is already connected.  You will be able to hear both received at transmitted audio at all times.  You can take turns transmitting, assuming you are all okay with staying on the same frequency together.  The first station logged on is the one controlling transmit by default.  Use the “ASK” button to request transmit.  If you want to change the frequency, be sure to text and ask for permission to do so from the other users.  

W0EQO is located in northern Minnesota, near the headwaters of the Mississippi River.  W0ZSW & WA0TDA are located in the Minneapolis – St. Paul East Metro area.

You can browse the worldwide list of Remotehams-enabled stations that are online here. 

Check out the Blitzortung lightning map here.
Please remember that sometimes the stations may need to be shut down with minimal notice when thunderstorms are in the area of the antennas. This is done to prevent lightning damage to the equipment.

Don’t hear anything?  It may be HF propagation.

The IC-7200 station