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Electronics => RF, Microwave, Ham Radio => Topic started by: BreakingOhmsLaw on May 22, 2020, 04:25:52 pm

Title: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: BreakingOhmsLaw on May 22, 2020, 04:25:52 pm
Question to the HAM operators:
I considered getting my HAM license this year, unfortunately all exams have been postponed due to Covid-19 situation.
Meanwhile, i have been playing around with an SDRplay, listening in on the usual bands. The result has been rather underwhelming. There is hardly anyone actually communicating. Even on the frequencies of the local relays, all that ever gets transmitted is related to housekeeping, i.e. automated messages. Is classic HAM still worthwhile?

Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: dr.diesel on May 22, 2020, 04:29:24 pm
Very active around here, go for it, you can get equipment darn cheap these days.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: bd139 on May 22, 2020, 04:35:53 pm
I've just dumped it not because it's dead, which it isn't, but because it appears to be quite boring and full of asshats when there is activity. There are either basic exchange contacts, contests or paranoid, mentally ill elitists going on about politics and ailments and nothing else. If you do find a contact, the solar cycle is right at rock bottom at the moment so it's incredibly difficult. I had most luck on CW but I've given that up now as well as the amount of work getting a single contact unless you have a beam or something is way too high. Plus there are asshats there as well suddenly in the last year.

There is a romantic vision of communication but it's hard work and not very fulfilling at least for me. It's also expensive as fuck.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: jmw on May 22, 2020, 04:56:17 pm
The ham bands are still great for the experimenter, if you want a playground to learn about RF engineering or try building something novel.

As a communications medium? Meh. I find nothing interesting about contesting or ragchews. Having a 1:1 conversation with someone than anybody can eavesdrop on is not exciting. The emergency communications angle was also overplayed in the US: public agencies now have better radios (digital, secure P25) than hams and don't need your help.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: Bud on May 22, 2020, 05:28:45 pm
Public agencies can go fck themselves. In an emergency they would not give shit to providing updates to the public.  As the blackout that happened in Toronto in the early 2000s shown, the people who provided information were Hams.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: bd139 on May 22, 2020, 05:54:26 pm
Most hams couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery, including Raynet here. They’d make good crackling if the world went to shit though.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: M0HZH on May 22, 2020, 10:21:37 pm
If you're looking to chat to people, it's mediocre.

Most over-the-air traffic is digimodes, empty exchanges or very personal problems of old people. There is also digital voice traffic (partly on VHF/UHF but really mostly over the internet) which might be more interesting as more technical people seem to be involved.

If you're looking to experiment with RF, it's a hoot !

Technology has never been more accessible; it's easier than ever to build, test, experiment. There's a geostationary satellite that reaches 5 continents and you can work it with an old satellite dish and some cheap WiFi equipment. There are programmes like SOTA or POTA that mix going outdoors with Amateur Radio and they're immensely popular. An engineer from India is selling this cheap highly moddable transceiver kit that covers all the HF bands in SSB/CW and tens of thousands have built it. High-power RF transistors? Leaps and bounds over the last decade. There's a huge list of learning & development plaforms available to make anything you want, all with online communities to help you along the way. These are golden times.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: TheMG on May 23, 2020, 12:31:02 am
Even on the frequencies of the local relays, all that ever gets transmitted is related to housekeeping, i.e. automated messages.

I assume by "relays" you mean repeaters?

The problem in many areas is that there are far too many repeaters around relative to the number of actual users. End result: most repeaters have very little traffic on them.

Personally, I am much more interested in HF bands, rather than always talking to same two people on a local VHF/UHF repeater (if anyone is listening at all).

However, partly due to where we are at in the solar cycle, HF can be a bit challenging these days. There's always activity, but you might not be able to hear it. Ideally you want to have a good beam antenna at a good height above ground for the best chance of hearing something, and hopefully you don't have too much EMI in your neighborhood, as it can really hinder reception of weak signals on HF. Some of the digital modes these days such as FT8 are really good at picking out signals in mediocre conditions.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: xrunner on May 23, 2020, 12:36:50 am
Most hams couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery, including Raynet here. They’d make good crackling if the world went to shit though.

Agree. I'm a ham (so is bd139) and I (we) know to fix electronics (a rarity these days). Most hams don't have a clue about what's inside a radio at all. All they know is answers to test questions. If you want to talk to people on 2 meters you can, but you may find it unappealing after a while.

If you want to work DX on HF bands and try to see how far you can get a signal out and back from a DX station that might be more fun. Try FT8 mode and you won't have to talk to anyone LOL.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: james_s on May 23, 2020, 12:45:05 am
It's alive and well, although if you're looking for the same experience as it was 30-60 years ago you'll be disappointed. Listening to the local HF bands I mostly hear what sound like cranky old geezers moaning about the state of the world and talking about medical problems and politics, it's pretty dull. There are a couple of repeaters near me that occasionally have younger guys, mostly outdoorsy and 4x4 offroader types. Personally I find most of that to be a bit boring, if I want to talk to someone I've got a mobile phone in my pocket and can call up anyone I want without having to hope the person I'm looking for happens to have their radio on.

There's loads of other ham stuff to do though, experimenting with antennas and propagation is fun, lately I've been building some low power unlicensed beacons, dxing aviation NDBs and WiFi, playing with my SDR and spectrum analyzer just seeing what's out there. I also make use of my license to legally operate a video transmitter I can put in one of my RC airplanes to get a cockpit view, it's the closest thing I can get to actually flying without spending a whole lot more money. Also while not technically ham, I still have a collection of scanners and enjoy listening to the local business frequencies, emergency services, aviation and pagers, there's all kinds of stuff on the air.

Regarding the emergency thing I hear brought up a lot, I don't think ham is all that useful in emergencies anymore. If you really want to utilize your RF knowledge in an emergency it would be better spent setting up an ad hoc WiFi network in the neighborhood. I mean I suppose it's possible we could have some kind of major catastrophe but if it gets so bad that broadcast and satellite radio, television, internet, mobile phones and landline phones are all out of commission and ham is all we've got left, I'm not sure I'm going to care about communication. 50 years ago it probably had a lot of potential to be useful in emergencies but time marches on, I view ham as a purely recreational/educational pastime. You buy a ham radio for the same reason you buy a fishing rod, because it's fun, not to be prepared in case the grocery stores stop selling fish.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: Electro Fan on May 23, 2020, 02:33:14 am
If you're looking to chat to people, it's mediocre.

Most over-the-air traffic is digimodes, empty exchanges or very personal problems of old people. There is also digital voice traffic (partly on VHF/UHF but really mostly over the internet) which might be more interesting as more technical people seem to be involved.

If you're looking to experiment with RF, it's a hoot !

Technology has never been more accessible; it's easier than ever to build, test, experiment. There's a geostationary satellite that reaches 5 continents and you can work it with an old satellite dish and some cheap WiFi equipment. There are programmes like SOTA or POTA that mix going outdoors with Amateur Radio and they're immensely popular. An engineer from India is selling this cheap highly moddable transceiver kit that covers all the HF bands in SSB/CW and tens of thousands have built it. High-power RF transistors? Leaps and bounds over the last decade. There's a huge list of learning & development plaforms available to make anything you want, all with online communities to help you along the way. These are golden times.

This ^ is pretty much my view.

To expand, there are some pluses and minuses with amateur radio but mostly a lot of pluses if you look at them with a healthy perspective.

Learning what you need to learn to pass the exam(s) will give you the opportunity to transmit and in the process no matter what you learned previously, you will learn more.  I think you will find there are many practical as well as theoretical aspects to ham radio both in terms of science/technology and in terms of the opportunity for human communications.

If you do local VHF/UHF work it might depend on the repeaters in your area.  I think you will find that many of the repeater operators use VHF/UHF as a party-line (an old telephone term) to talk with other hams about the same stuff they would discuss at a bar or at Home Depot.  However, in local radio clubs you will find a spectrum of interests from the social to the technical and some of the technically minded people (and some of the social too) can be outstanding teachers/Elmers.

In my case, I found that moving from VHF/UHF to HF was a significant threshold.  I'm sure there are lots of uses for VHF/UHF beyond repeaters (such as working satellites - and all the way to EME) but when you get to HF things become much more interesting.  If you can develop the skill CW is cool.  But even if Morse code isn't your thing SSB voice, and some aspects of digital data are more interesting (at least to me versus local VHF/UHF) in that you can get out of town, out of the state/region, and out of the country.  There is something almost magical about being able to send and receive signals thousands of miles around the world.  What you have to learn to get the license, build up (even it's just buying) a station (including radio, antenna, and various accessories) will grow your understanding and appreciation for physics, electricity, electronics, analog and digital, RF, and more.  Along the way, while many of your QSOs (contacts) will just want to exchange a few seconds or maybe a few minutes worth of information so they can log the call, you also will “meet” many interesting people who will take the time to share useful insights into still more aspects of the endeavor.  And likewise you will be able to help others who adopt amateur radio later than you.  Both the learning and teaching opportunities are large.

Today in ham radio we do have one very unfortunate situation:  solar conditions.  We are finishing an 11 year cycle with poor conditions and we appear to be headed into another cycle with comparably poor conditions.  This makes propagation and therefore QSOs much more difficult than in many other cycles.  I've heard older hams say that in the 1950s/60s they could make contacts around the world with ease with relatively smaller antennas and much less advanced radio technology than we have today.  The good news is that with SDR and other developments we can overcome some of this.  In fact, it amazes me when I think of older operators who had to retune their tube amps when changing bands and who had to run their VFO up and down a dial while listening for signals.  Today, with an ICOM 7300 or other radios with a panadapter you can visually see all the signals across a band and you can jump from band to band (if you have the right antenna/s set up), and you can zoom in on individual signals to find the exact edges.  On top of that, the operators of old had to exchange post cards with people around the world via mail while keeping paper logs - versus today our electronic/PC logs are connected to the radio and can update almost automatically or with a few keys strokes after a QSO and then kick off a QSO confirmation via LoTW or eQSL, etc.  So, yes, the older hams had some great advantages (mostly solar - which is huge) but new hams have some advantages too. 

To deal with poor solar conditions many hams, in addition to SSB or CW will use FT8 which can get a signal through very poor solar conditions and enable the signal to be picked out of relatively large amounts of noise.  While this might not be appealing to some - especially those who prefer free form dialog-like communications - it can be a very interesting way to determine where your rig's signal is reaching.  Using PSKreporter you can see where your signal is landing, with what signal strength, around the world.  And you can "see who is calling" and from where.  Some hams love it, some get tired of it but for a new ham figuring out how digital and RF technology works, it's pretty interesting. 

Overall, there are some great synergies between ham radio and many of the electronics topics discussed in these forums.  More experience with one (radio or the rest of electronics) will only help with the other.  When you set up your first antenna with an antenna analyzer it will be insightful and exciting, and it might be a gateway drug to a spectrum analyzer or maybe a VNA on your bench (or in the field - new inexpensive VNAs are starting to proliferate).

Long story short, study for the exams, work hard to get at least the General license (or whatever the equivalent is in your country that will give you HF/DX privileges), and give it a go.  For U.S. operators there is a great site called HamStudy.org (http://HamStudy.org) – the site learns what you need help with and it adjusts to help you learn that – it’s the fastest way to prepare for the exams.)  In the U.S. once you have the license it's good for 10 years and really forever if you keep renewing.  I think regardless of what country you live in what you learn will be interesting and useful, you will meet (in person and via radio) some very interesting people, and you will be adding very practical as well as theoretical RF knowledge to your electronics tool bag.  It would be hard in this day and age to think that we aren't headed for more uses of RF, so why not undertake the challenge and opportunity.  Being able to transmit around the world is kinda/very neat.  Go for it.  73
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: BreakingOhmsLaw on May 23, 2020, 08:57:18 am
Thanks for that verbose answer. I am a communications engineer, so the technical part of the exam is not a big issue, even in the extended license. Looking at the exam questions, a couple of days to fresh up some RF topics that have left my braincells in the past 25 years will do.  It's mostly chewing through the regulatory stuff that would take some effort.
As i am interested more in the technical side of of it, so the issue that there is hardly any voice communication is not a problem.
As soon as they start taking exams again, i'll start on that. Thanks everyone!
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: bd139 on May 23, 2020, 09:01:15 am
Most hams couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery, including Raynet here. They’d make good crackling if the world went to shit though.

Agree. I'm a ham (so is bd139) and I (we) know to fix electronics (a rarity these days). Most hams don't have a clue about what's inside a radio at all. All they know is answers to test questions. If you want to talk to people on 2 meters you can, but you may find it unappealing after a while.

If you want to work DX on HF bands and try to see how far you can get a signal out and back from a DX station that might be more fun. Try FT8 mode and you won't have to talk to anyone LOL.

I think the thing that is really depressing is that there are a lot of hams who think the license implicitly includes the ability to repair stuff. I see a lot of old SK sales at hamfests and some of the stuff that was put together by the older generations was remarkably good. Nice neat scratch build doohickeys etc. However who is around now, not so much. From them I see mostly stuff which has been thoroughly buggered up, destroyed and knackered while crowing about impossible DX contacts. This includes my local club who consist mostly of sheep who know nothing and a wolf who thinks using Jesus’ very own soldering iron on an FTDX3000’s LPF is a good idea.

Technical interest is all online.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: BreakingOhmsLaw on May 23, 2020, 10:59:22 am
I get the same in the local repair cafés. While in am very happy that younger people pick up the fight against electronic waste, a lot of the people that come from the maker scene lack a lot of basics.  It usually ends up with me stopping them from doing something really outlandish ("We gotta reflow the entire board, dude! Heat up the oven!" sic) instead of just putting a probe on the power rail and tapping the PCB to check for a hairline crack in a trace. I don't blame them though, it was a lot easier to learn when all this stuff was built up from discrete parts.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: xrunner on May 23, 2020, 11:24:11 am

I think the thing that is really depressing is that there are a lot of hams who think the license implicitly includes the ability to repair stuff. I see a lot of old SK sales at hamfests and some of the stuff that was put together by the older generations was remarkably good. Nice neat scratch build doohickeys etc. However who is around now, not so much. From them I see mostly stuff which has been thoroughly buggered up, destroyed and knackered while crowing about impossible DX contacts. This includes my local club who consist mostly of sheep who know nothing and a wolf who thinks using Jesus’ very own soldering iron on an FTDX3000’s LPF is a good idea.

Technical interest is all online.

As you read in the TEA thread I am fixing a Heathkit IG-18 sine-square wave generator for another ham. He does repair old radios but he doesn't always seem to use the most efficient methods. He complained that the IG-18's output amplitude meter wouldn't go higher than half way now. I said I would be happy to look at it.

When I got the IG-18 to my house I, of course, immediately wanted to observe the output on my scope. The IG-18 had a very distorted output sine wave. I asked him if he had looked at the output of the IG-18. He said no. I asked him "I thought you had a scope?". He said, "I do, but I never turn it on." I said "I think you should use it more often ..."  :wtf:

That's what I'm dealing with on this side of the pond.  :-BROKE

Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: m3vuv on May 23, 2020, 12:36:27 pm
i use ham radio a lot,the thing that total pisses me off and makes me pull the plug is contests,they are all over like dogshit most weekends! 73 m3vuv
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: veedub565 on May 23, 2020, 12:45:40 pm
Quote
As soon as they start taking exams again, i'll start on that.

If you are in the UK then the RSGB has relaxed the rules somewhat due to the current situation. They have waived the practical part, and you can take the theory exam online now. I did it a couple of weeks ago, pleasant and easy process.

I don't think HAM is dead, although a couple of older operators tell me it isnt what it used to be. I find it interesting from a technical perspective, I want to have a go at some of the data modes.

I think you can spend as much or as little as you like in the hobby. I have a borrowed VHF set, a homemade wire dipole in the loft and I'm on the air. The only thing I spent a bit of money on was my HF set, but that was my choice. With 10w and a bit of wire I can certainly make a reasonable qso around most of Europe and into Russia.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: Alex Eisenhut on May 23, 2020, 12:48:33 pm
If you get a license it lets you use some more powerful transmitters if you're into long-distance RC flying.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: joeqsmith on May 23, 2020, 03:26:08 pm
I had a lot of fun with it when I was kid and thought it may be fun to get a license.  I bought this old radio that needed some work.    After some repairs I spent some time listening.  It was basically what CB was in the 70s.  Guys with sound effects trying to jump on top of people trying to have a conversation.   My linear is bigger than yours sort of thing.   I decided not to spend any more time with it.

After your post, I took apart the old radio in order to inspect, clean and lube it.   This thing still has all the original caps but it all seemed fine so I fired it up.   Been listing for an hour or so.  Things are actually civil.   People just talking about radios, power supplies and antennas.    Something about 2KV and some oil cooled caps in a foot locker....  If you're gonna be a ham, be a ham and be the best you can....     I will say, that smell of tubes cooking is bringing back some memories.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: Electro Fan on May 23, 2020, 05:58:59 pm
Thanks for that verbose answer. I am a communications engineer, so the technical part of the exam is not a big issue, even in the extended license. Looking at the exam questions, a couple of days to fresh up some RF topics that have left my braincells in the past 25 years will do.  It's mostly chewing through the regulatory stuff that would take some effort.
As i am interested more in the technical side of of it, so the issue that there is hardly any voice communication is not a problem.
As soon as they start taking exams again, i'll start on that. Thanks everyone!

Sorry for the too many words, I didn't know your background as a coms engr.  So, yes the exam(s) should be easy enough, mostly just a need to learn the regs plus some ham nomenclature and operating procedures.

Maybe the question really was/is "is it worth the time and money to experience something that might or might not be worth the time and money to experience?"  My answer was probably more for people who have relatively less experience with electronics.  For people who can design and build electronics, I'm not so sure what the answer is - but I think there are a lot of electronics veterans here who have their license so I think there is a lot of appeal even for electronics pros.  Depends on what floats a person's boat - and like everything else, circumstances change and interests ebb and flow over time.

Assuming you are going to get a license, the next thing I'd look down the road toward to make sure this is going to be worth your time and money is antenna design and placement.  If you can envision an antenna that will work for you (and for your wife/family and neighbors) then you are a long way toward quickly finding out if ham radio is worth experiencing.  If for example you have room to put up an effective but low cost dipole or some other feasible wire antenna you will be able to get some good HF/DX experience on any of the modes (CW, SSB, digital).  If however you live somewhere with significant constraints (ie, if you live in an urban area or a suburb with extremely limited physical space or you live with tough homeowners regulations) then the antenna can be more problematic. Usually there is a way to deploy a good enough antenna (there are many possibilities). Net, net:  once you can envision the antenna and an overall acceptable rig budget you are on the downhill slope toward finding out if the whole thing was worthwhile.

I predict that not long after you get your antenna up and your radio making contacts you will know if it was worth it.  I'm guessing most people will find it pretty cool the first time they make a voice or any other contact with another operator outside their country.  How far you go beyond that with the technicals or socials is hard to predict.  But even if you shut it down and sell your rig shortly after that I think most people here will say it was something worth at least putting on and then crossing off their bucket list.  My guess is that getting the license to transmit will remain something you are very happy you did.  73
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: BreakingOhmsLaw on May 23, 2020, 10:14:44 pm
Oh, i meant "verbose" in a positive way. Thanks for taking the time to write all that up.
I have been thinking to get the license for about 20 years, but for the exact reasons you have listed, mainly no possibility to place an antenna, i never came through.
I now have the possibility, and there even is a 100m high hill directly behind my house. (An ex spoil heap from an old coal mine) I might even  be able to get permission to install an antenna up there and run some 1/2inch cellflex cable to it with acceptable losses. 
But for now, it is not possible in Germany to take the exam so i have to see how that develops. 
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: Electro Fan on May 24, 2020, 03:13:25 am
Oh, i meant "verbose" in a positive way. Thanks for taking the time to write all that up.
I have been thinking to get the license for about 20 years, but for the exact reasons you have listed, mainly no possibility to place an antenna, i never came through.
I now have the possibility, and there even is a 100m high hill directly behind my house. (An ex spoil heap from an old coal mine) I might even  be able to get permission to install an antenna up there and run some 1/2inch cellflex cable to it with acceptable losses. 
But for now, it is not possible in Germany to take the exam so i have to see how that develops.

Understand and happy to hear.

fwiw, the biggest hold up I had starting many years ago was I didn't think I could pass the technical parts of the test. Then I discovered this site (which helped me tackle learning by steadily building a bench and doing a lot of measuring, hypothesizing/testing, continually reading threads and doing Q&A here, and then one day it dawned on me (after having learned Ohms Law and other stuff here) that maybe I could pass the amateur radio test(s). Sure enough, with what I learned here and some test study I was able to get the license - but only then did I realize that my situation was very HF antenna constrained. Once I figured out how to solve for the antenna all the rest of station building and QSO-making became a lot easier, which brought more learning and a ton of fun. Long story short, if you have an antenna strategy that will work for you definitely go for it. 73
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: vk4ffab on May 24, 2020, 10:16:49 am
Oh, i meant "verbose" in a positive way. Thanks for taking the time to write all that up.
I have been thinking to get the license for about 20 years, but for the exact reasons you have listed, mainly no possibility to place an antenna, i never came through.
I now have the possibility, and there even is a 100m high hill directly behind my house. (An ex spoil heap from an old coal mine) I might even  be able to get permission to install an antenna up there and run some 1/2inch cellflex cable to it with acceptable losses. 
But for now, it is not possible in Germany to take the exam so i have to see how that develops.

Do it. You wont be disapointed. I do a lot of ham radio and have not spoken to anyone in 6 months or more. I build stuff, i test it on air and use online sdr receivers to listen for myself, digital mode mapping tools, rbn and others. Ham radio has never been better for me. I can do without hams, but i love doing radio.

I do have radio friends though, the key to ham radio is build your own community of people you get along with and fuck the rest of them. Talking on the radio is MEH. Doing radio, ie having a point to using it is great. Find your niche and just do it.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: RoGeorge on May 24, 2020, 11:07:17 am
For a comm engineer the technical exam is peanuts, however you should still google for exam simulation software specific to your country.  A few years ago I have had the surprise to find a few obviously wrong answers were counted as the correct ones, and if you answer correctly you will lose points.   :-//  No idea how this was possible, maybe something was lost in translation.  I didn't check if today those wrong answers are still considered the correct ones.

Other reasons that put me down:
- the obligation to make public some personal data like phone, name, location, HAM license
- a HAM license will automatically put one on in the upper half of any 3 letter agency list
- once registered, a HAM can be fined for various reasons, no idea how often this happens in real life
- recently here it was introduced a new law, and the HAM must keep an audio record of all traffic that was done remotely in the last year on the owned station(s)
- the HAM license must be periodically renewed
- inside a big city there is not much space for antennas

- and the most important one:  I don't really need HAM radio communications, and if I want to experiment with an idea I would most probably experiment indoors, in the free bands and at very low power, so no need for a license.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: TheMG on May 24, 2020, 03:28:32 pm
i use ham radio a lot,the thing that total pisses me off and makes me pull the plug is contests,they are all over like dogshit most weekends! 73 m3vuv

Contests are not exactly my cup of tea either. The only contest I usually bother participating in is Field Day, but mostly due to the activity itself more so than the contest part of it. Setting up temporary antennas, solar panels, etc in a different location and the process of experimenting with what works best and what doesn't, as well as the group effort and socializing that comes along with it.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: DC1MC on May 24, 2020, 04:31:42 pm
For a comm engineer the technical exam is peanuts, however you should still google for exam simulation software specific to your country.  A few years ago I have had the surprise to find a few obviously wrong answers were counted as the correct ones, and if you answer correctly you will lose points.   :-//  No idea how this was possible, maybe something was lost in translation.  I didn't check if today those wrong answers are still considered the correct ones.

Other reasons that put me down:
- the obligation to make public some personal data like phone, name, location, HAM license
- a HAM license will automatically put one on in the upper half of any 3 letter agency list
- once registered, a HAM can be fined for various reasons, no idea how often this happens in real life
- recently here it was introduced a new law, and the HAM must keep an audio record of all traffic that was done remotely in the last year on the owned station(s)
- the HAM license must be periodically renewed
- inside a big city there is not much space for antennas

- and the most important one:  I don't really need HAM radio communications, and if I want to experiment with an idea I would most probably experiment indoors, in the free bands and at very low power, so no need for a license.

I've taken my first HAM license in the '80s and some years ago (2016 I think), out of boredom, I've learned the German exam material for class A and got the German exam with zero penalty points at all 3 topics, so if an old foreigner can do it, a bio-German  ;D with an engineering degree will have no issues taking it, the traffic rules are really just fun to learn and you can always listen to this air traffic song to exercise :-DD

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLvL_9HQQoE (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLvL_9HQQoE)


Now I've got the certificate and no chance to use it, as a condition to start transmitting one needs to have a (professionally installed) antenna and a fill a German specific document showing your radiation pattern in relation with the surrounding buildings, also pay a moderate fee for usage of the spectrum, but that is the last of the problems.
Of course, I live in a "Flachdach", that means an apartment block, surrounded by other apartment blocks, so the radiated power * antenna gain has to be minimal to not go over the maximum accepted levels and trying to install it on the roof, man, that was a ride, the geriatric owners of the surrounding apartments flat out refused to allow me even a miserable wire (I live at the top floor), much less a mast or anything else, the good guys got almost apoplectic telling me about "Strahlung" & "Elektrosmog" and how dangerous is, they were way ahead of 5G hysteria of now.

So so being a renter and owner and having less time than they have, I've shelved my finely tuned Kenwood transceivers that will most likely go for sale soon  :'(.

So, summary: if you don't have your own house and non cretin neighbors, forget about doing some serious traffic or experiments, and without this 50% of the joy is sadly gone. I can still go with my FT-817ND in the hills, but this sucks.

Regarding the Romanian law quoted by @RoGeorge, they didn't go full retard, it seems that the obligation is to record the traffic only when the station is operated from remote or you allow another HAM to use it, that kind of make sense:

http://yo3hjv.blogspot.com/2019/01/legea-nr-3562018-privind-unele-masuri.html (http://yo3hjv.blogspot.com/2019/01/legea-nr-3562018-privind-unele-masuri.html) (Romanian link, don't bother if you're not)

 Cheers,
 DC1MC
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: jonovid on May 24, 2020, 04:40:18 pm
youtube channel for Aussie amateurs
that like be Club'ed to death  :-DD
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPq1gvGVjjU (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPq1gvGVjjU)

Bevan Daniel channel youtube
This is a visual adaptation of the VK1WIA Wireless Institute of Australia's weekly news broadcast,
that is aimed at amateur radio operators or those interested in ham radio.
each to their own, My assessment of this WIA youtube ch is that it is 90% ham club news with still images
of mostly of club competitions & organized advents.
  ;D ... :=\
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: cdev on May 24, 2020, 05:09:01 pm
This transceiver kit looks interesting, what is its name, how do I find it?

If you're looking to experiment with RF, it's a hoot !

Technology has never been more accessible; it's easier than ever to build, test, experiment. There's a geostationary satellite that reaches 5 continents and you can work it with an old satellite dish and some cheap WiFi equipment. There are programmes like SOTA or POTA that mix going outdoors with Amateur Radio and they're immensely popular. An engineer from India is selling this cheap highly moddable transceiver kit that covers all the HF bands in SSB/CW and tens of thousands have built it. High-power RF transistors? Leaps and bounds over the last decade. There's a huge list of learning & development plaforms available to make anything you want, all with online communities to help you along the way. These are golden times.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: DC1MC on May 24, 2020, 05:16:20 pm
This transceiver kit looks interesting, what is its name, how do I find it?


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRYAvHJSq7M (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRYAvHJSq7M)
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: cdev on May 24, 2020, 05:16:42 pm
The contests should be limited to say, half of the band for each license class so people can still QSO away from it.

i use ham radio a lot,the thing that total pisses me off and makes me pull the plug is contests,they are all over like dogshit most weekends! 73 m3vuv

The cost of modern HF equipment is way too high considering how much the parts cost has likely fallen..
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: bd139 on May 24, 2020, 06:10:57 pm
It's not that expensive really. My desktop PC cost more than the average radio and that is made of parts that ship in orders of magnitude more volume.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: 0culus on May 24, 2020, 07:58:47 pm
Pedantic note: it's "ham" not "HAM". Thank you.  :-DD
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: joeqsmith on May 24, 2020, 08:22:52 pm
Pedantic note: it's "ham" not "HAM". Thank you.  :-DD

Being pedantic as you say, I expect you have data outside of Wiki.   :-\
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: Alex Eisenhut on May 24, 2020, 08:36:21 pm
Pedantic note: it's "ham" not "HAM". Thank you.  :-DD

Being pedantic as you say, I expect you have data outside of Wiki.   :-\

The name of this group. It is in "Headline Caps", implying that it would be lower case normally.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: joeqsmith on May 24, 2020, 08:47:22 pm
A good story at best...  Seems like it's a group that doesn't know what to call itself.
http://www.rfcafe.com/references/electrical/origin-of-ham.htm (http://www.rfcafe.com/references/electrical/origin-of-ham.htm)
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: RoGeorge on May 24, 2020, 09:05:29 pm
Quote from: http://www.rfcafe.com/references/electrical/origin-of-ham.htm
At first they called their station "HYMAN-ALMY-MURRAY". Tapping out such a long name in code soon became tiresome and called for a revision. They changed it to "HY-AL-MU," using the first two letters of each of their names. Early in 1901 some confusion resulted between signals from amateur wireless station "HYALMU" and a Mexican ship named "HYALMO." They then decided to use only the first letter of each name, and the station CALL became "HAM."

So, there was some confusion between HYALMU and HYALMO the ship, but no confusion between HAM and ham, as in ham and eggs?   ;D
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: 0culus on May 24, 2020, 09:08:55 pm
Pedantic note: it's "ham" not "HAM". Thank you.  :-DD

Being pedantic as you say, I expect you have data outside of Wiki.   :-\

 ::)

This is a forum, not a research journal. I expect that the majority folks here are perfectly capable of searching around for something as elementary as correct English capitalization and seeing that I'm correct.  :palm:
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: bd139 on May 24, 2020, 09:20:07 pm
Indeed.

Also while we're on pedantry, it's Wikipedia. "Wiki" is the technology it is based on which came out of Ward Cunningham. A comedically meta URL for more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: joeqsmith on May 24, 2020, 09:31:23 pm
Pedantic note: it's "ham" not "HAM". Thank you.  :-DD

Being pedantic as you say, I expect you have data outside of Wiki.   :-\

 ::)

This is a forum, not a research journal. I expect that the majority folks here are perfectly capable of searching around for something as elementary as correct English capitalization and seeing that I'm correct.  :palm:

Another interesting article on it.
https://www.kb6nu.com/ham-ham-radio-ham-radio-amateur-radio/ (https://www.kb6nu.com/ham-ham-radio-ham-radio-amateur-radio/)

Get your "HAM" stickers from the arrl. 
http://www.arrl.org/shop/HAM-Oval-Sticker (http://www.arrl.org/shop/HAM-Oval-Sticker)


Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: nuclearcat on May 24, 2020, 09:46:31 pm
Thought to rejoin ham recently, but faced some legal obstacles and some disappointment on current state.
Expectations: Building state-of-art algorithms that are laughing on Shannon-Hartley theorem by tricking it and radios that are capable to talk with other planets on 1db antenna, syncing time from pulsars on 90cm satellite dish, and etc.
Reality: People are relaying digital radio over raspberry and IP, using ready-made images, and buying ready-made hardware for all that, and even their soldering irons are eating dust.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: vk4ffab on May 24, 2020, 10:51:43 pm
The contests should be limited to say, half of the band for each license class so people can still QSO away from it.

The cost of modern HF equipment is way too high considering how much the parts cost has likely fallen..

They are. During an SSB contest, the CW and Digital portions are unused. During a CW contest the SSB and Digital portions are unused. During a Digital contest, the SSB and CW portions are unused. A real ham is flexible and can find a QSO even when one part of a band is chockers full of 59 tu 73 in the contest. And then there are WARC bands where there are no contests allowed. If one does not like contests that is fine, but to say one cannot find a clear space to have a qso is UTTER BULLSHIT. Only CBers are stuck with 1 mode and 1 band.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: vk4ffab on May 24, 2020, 11:01:14 pm
Thought to rejoin ham recently, but faced some legal obstacles and some disappointment on current state.
Expectations: Building state-of-art algorithms that are laughing on Shannon-Hartley theorem by tricking it and radios that are capable to talk with other planets on 1db antenna, syncing time from pulsars on 90cm satellite dish, and etc.
Reality: People are relaying digital radio over raspberry and IP, using ready-made images, and buying ready-made hardware for all that, and even their soldering irons are eating dust.

Actually, there are plenty of people working on different things, sure it might not be state of the art, but they are working on stuff none the less. I am a postal worker, not an EE. 6 years ago i did not know what a resistor was, let alone how to use it. Now I am close to having built a homebrew station worth using more than once. The picture is my radio shack, well the part i actually use almost daily. There are plenty of guys out there just like me, you wont hear them on the radio, you wont see them making lots of noise or complying that some dx pedo touched them on the frequency, but they are out there in small groups who stay among themselves or on their own doing their own things. Its a much bigger group than people give credit for.

[attach=1]
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: bob91343 on May 25, 2020, 01:34:00 am
I enjoy ham radio almost daily.  I agree with some of the criticism but I recognize that I can't change the system so I work with it.

My on the air focus these days is on DX.  I have worked some of the exotic stations so many times that we are on a very comfortable conversational basis.

I like repairing and testing as well.  I keep changing the configuration of my station just to make it better for me.  It's gratifying to break through a pileup and have the other guy say 'wow' or something similar.  I am not one of the 'big boys' but I hold my own nicely.

Bob K6DDX
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: nuclearcat on May 25, 2020, 02:03:31 am
Actually, there are plenty of people working on different things, sure it might not be state of the art, but they are working on stuff none the less. I am a postal worker, not an EE. 6 years ago i did not know what a resistor was, let alone how to use it. Now I am close to having built a homebrew station worth using more than once. The picture is my radio shack, well the part i actually use almost daily. There are plenty of guys out there just like me, you wont hear them on the radio, you wont see them making lots of noise or complying that some dx pedo touched them on the frequency, but they are out there in small groups who stay among themselves or on their own doing their own things. Its a much bigger group than people give credit for.
As long as you are doing magic on your level and your soldering iron stay hot - in my eyes you are true ham!
I just don’t like it when ham only buying ready-made devices and connecting them.. to internet, without any tinkering. They are not better than toddler with walkie talkie.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: vk4ffab on May 25, 2020, 02:44:24 am
Actually, there are plenty of people working on different things, sure it might not be state of the art, but they are working on stuff none the less. I am a postal worker, not an EE. 6 years ago i did not know what a resistor was, let alone how to use it. Now I am close to having built a homebrew station worth using more than once. The picture is my radio shack, well the part i actually use almost daily. There are plenty of guys out there just like me, you wont hear them on the radio, you wont see them making lots of noise or complying that some dx pedo touched them on the frequency, but they are out there in small groups who stay among themselves or on their own doing their own things. Its a much bigger group than people give credit for.
As long as you are doing magic on your level and your soldering iron stay hot - in my eyes you are true ham!
I just don’t like it when ham only buying ready-made devices and connecting them.. to internet, without any tinkering. They are not better than toddler with walkie talkie.

I tend to agree, but I am not so absolute about it. I have friends and people who i respect in ham radio that are never going to solder anything together, ever. This does not make them any less of a ham than say someone developing the next big thing. People who go out and do SOTA or IOTA or WWFF, in other words, people doing ham radio with a distinct point to it are doing ham radio and are within the ham radio spirit as the guy with his soldering iron and pile of parts. Its a horses for courses kind of thing for me.

If all you are doing is playing talkie walkies with your hotpot or talking rubbish with the same group of morons everyday, then yeah I agree with you, that is pointless and something you can do on the telephone. I do not see talking to someone as a skill to be proud of, but learning morse to use CW well that is keeping history alive and is the ham radio spirit as much as building your own radios also.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: vk6zgo on May 25, 2020, 03:56:29 am
Actually, there are plenty of people working on different things, sure it might not be state of the art, but they are working on stuff none the less. I am a postal worker, not an EE. 6 years ago i did not know what a resistor was, let alone how to use it. Now I am close to having built a homebrew station worth using more than once. The picture is my radio shack, well the part i actually use almost daily. There are plenty of guys out there just like me, you wont hear them on the radio, you wont see them making lots of noise or complying that some dx pedo touched them on the frequency, but they are out there in small groups who stay among themselves or on their own doing their own things. Its a much bigger group than people give credit for.
As long as you are doing magic on your level and your soldering iron stay hot - in my eyes you are true ham!
I just don’t like it when ham only buying ready-made devices and connecting them.. to internet, without any tinkering. They are not better than toddler with walkie talkie.

I tend to agree, but I am not so absolute about it. I have friends and people who i respect in ham radio that are never going to solder anything together, ever. This does not make them any less of a ham than say someone developing the next big thing. People who go out and do SOTA or IOTA or WWFF, in other words, people doing ham radio with a distinct point to it are doing ham radio and are within the ham radio spirit as the guy with his soldering iron and pile of parts. Its a horses for courses kind of thing for me.

If all you are doing is playing talkie walkies with your hotpot or talking rubbish with the same group of morons everyday, then yeah I agree with you, that is pointless and something you can do on the telephone. I do not see talking to someone as a skill to be proud of, but learning morse to use CW well that is keeping history alive and is the ham radio spirit as much as building your own radios also.

Egad! It's the artist also known as VK4HAT!-------How are you, Rob?

But, mate, the morons I talk to are friendly old morons, & I can talk to two or more at a time.
Can't do that with the phone without a lot of drama.

I like using old gear that I maintain myself to talk to people who are, mostly, into Electronics outside of just ham radio.

Back in the day, Techs at Radio & TV stations were, to a large extent the mainstay of Amateur radio, as there were a lot of us.
Not so much now,  -----"Suits" don't like us, because we tend to say nasty things like "you can't do that!", so they simply dispensed with us.
They still "can't do that",but they can waste their. own time finding out!

Thankfully, Computer people still have them bluffed!

Now, to  get our radio/electronics fix, we have to do ham radio,  play with old test equipment, & frequent websites like  eevblog or QRZ.com.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: vk4ffab on May 25, 2020, 04:22:39 am
Actually, there are plenty of people working on different things, sure it might not be state of the art, but they are working on stuff none the less. I am a postal worker, not an EE. 6 years ago i did not know what a resistor was, let alone how to use it. Now I am close to having built a homebrew station worth using more than once. The picture is my radio shack, well the part i actually use almost daily. There are plenty of guys out there just like me, you wont hear them on the radio, you wont see them making lots of noise or complying that some dx pedo touched them on the frequency, but they are out there in small groups who stay among themselves or on their own doing their own things. Its a much bigger group than people give credit for.
As long as you are doing magic on your level and your soldering iron stay hot - in my eyes you are true ham!
I just don’t like it when ham only buying ready-made devices and connecting them.. to internet, without any tinkering. They are not better than toddler with walkie talkie.

I tend to agree, but I am not so absolute about it. I have friends and people who i respect in ham radio that are never going to solder anything together, ever. This does not make them any less of a ham than say someone developing the next big thing. People who go out and do SOTA or IOTA or WWFF, in other words, people doing ham radio with a distinct point to it are doing ham radio and are within the ham radio spirit as the guy with his soldering iron and pile of parts. Its a horses for courses kind of thing for me.

If all you are doing is playing talkie walkies with your hotpot or talking rubbish with the same group of morons everyday, then yeah I agree with you, that is pointless and something you can do on the telephone. I do not see talking to someone as a skill to be proud of, but learning morse to use CW well that is keeping history alive and is the ham radio spirit as much as building your own radios also.

Egad! It's the artist also known as VK4HAT!-------How are you, Rob?

But, mate, the morons I talk to are friendly old morons, & I can talk to two or more at a time.
Can't do that with the phone without a lot of drama.

I like using old gear that I maintain myself to talk to people who are, mostly, into Electronics outside of just ham radio.

Back in the day, Techs at Radio & TV stations were, to a large extent the mainstay of Amateur radio, as there were a lot of us.
Not so much now,  -----"Suits" don't like us, because we tend to say nasty things like "you can't do that!", so they simply dispensed with us.
They still "can't do that",but they can waste their. own time finding out!

Thankfully, Computer people still have them bluffed!

Now, to  get our radio/electronics fix, we have to do ham radio,  play with old test equipment, & frequent websites like  eevblog or QRZ.com.

LOL I am good, how about yourself? Keeping well in lockdown? and yeah I lurk here now and again to, reading mostly, not posting.

Actually you bring up a very good point, I do not begrudge the older or retired guy his afternoon net. Ham radio is, if anything a hobby for all seasons and when I have retired, or built everything that I ever want to built, or built a station that I am proud of that could replace the Icom, then I would probably want to retire to the afternoon net also and enjoy my hard won gains.

There are a lot of ex industry guys like yourself who are doing that very thing, maintaining old gear and getting on for the afternoon chat with other such guys to chew the fat and relive the good old days, whatever or whenever they were. That is as very much ham radio as my desire to understand the fundamentals of rf electronics.

I think a lot of us newer type hams forget that. The old guys have done their time, they built their stuff, the learned the technology of their day and now they just want to sit around and enjoy it. More power to them I say,
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: Electro Fan on May 25, 2020, 06:11:44 am

But, mate, the morons I talk to are friendly old morons, & I can talk to two or more at a time.
Can't do that with the phone without a lot of drama.

LOL :)
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: Electro Fan on May 25, 2020, 06:14:28 am
I think a lot of us newer type hams forget that. The old guys have done their time, they built their stuff, the learned the technology of their day and now they just want to sit around and enjoy it. More power to them I say,

Amen
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: Alex Eisenhut on May 25, 2020, 05:36:23 pm
Oh and when you get the license you get to have a cool plate for your car.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: arno on May 25, 2020, 08:39:06 pm
Hello,

luckily I could get my license in March this year, a couple of days before the lockdown here. And it was the best thing that could have happened, got a lot of time to do experiments now. I am not doing ham radio for competitions/contests but because there are so many interesting topics, so I strongly recommend it to everyone.

73 de Arno, DL2SSB
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: vk6zgo on May 26, 2020, 01:45:38 am
For a comm engineer the technical exam is peanuts, however you should still google for exam simulation software specific to your country.  A few years ago I have had the surprise to find a few obviously wrong answers were counted as the correct ones, and if you answer correctly you will lose points.   :-//  No idea how this was possible, maybe something was lost in translation.  I didn't check if today those wrong answers are still considered the correct ones.

Other reasons that put me down:
- the obligation to make public some personal data like phone, name, location, HAM license

Your Ham callsign, name  & station location, but not your phone number, are indeed publicly available from Amateur Radio records.

The phone number is already available along with your name and address in the "phone book", or its online equivalent.
The local council you pay rates to has your name & address, as has the electricity company, the University you obtained your Degree from, & so on.
Quote

- a HAM license will automatically put one on in the upper half of any 3 letter agency list
Why would they really give a damn about a hobbyist?
If you were a spy or terrorist, you wouldn't care whether you are licenced or not.

Quote
- once registered, a HAM can be fined for various reasons, no idea how often this happens in real life
It happens very rarely, indeed, & you have to break the rules repeatedly for it to even come to the notice of authorities.
Licencing authorities have been radically destaffed in recent years, & are more concerned with commercial work----hams are just a bloody nuisance!
Quote
]

- recently here it was introduced a new law, and the HAM must keep an audio record of all traffic that was done remotely in the last year on the owned station(s)

Hardly a draconian ruling!
Most hams don't have remote stations, so it doesn't apply to them.
Even for those who do, recording equipment that can do such a job is pretty easy to obtain these days.
It's not as if you have to install a massive reel to reel recorder!

In the end, it probably protects you.
If someone hacks your remote station, swears their heads off, slanders prominent people, & so on, the recording will show it wasn't you.
Quote

- the HAM license must be periodically renewed

This is common in most countries.
"Renewed" doen't imply resitting the exam, it just means you have to pay the authority some money, just like you pay for your car registration & driver's  licence.(some countries have longer periods, & others no fee)

Quote
- inside a big city there is not much space for antennas

A valid reason, but many hams find ways to work around this.
Quote

- and the most important one:  I don't really need HAM radio communications, and if I want to experiment with an idea I would most probably experiment indoors, in the free bands and at very low power, so no need for a license.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: cdev on May 26, 2020, 11:56:08 pm
I live in the NYC metro area and I want to hear some ham activity above the 430-450 MHz band. I not infrequently go to where its my understanding there are ham bands and look as best as I can with a broadband antenna hooked right up to a good LNA. And either RTLSDR or hackRF - what do I hear, nothing. I am in kind of a valley without a direct view of NYC but I do hear a fair amount of stuff (non ham) on other bands such as public service bands from what seems to be far away, including lots of stff from NYC.  I want to hear hams talking on the high UHF bands. Do I need to get my antenna much much higher up (its on my second floor but unfortunately still inside a wood frame building with asphalt roofing)  The way it is now I dont hear anything at all from hams up there. Ever.  Actually, the roofing cant be that bad because I often can see Doppler curves from various satellites, I can receive APT at 137 MHz etc. My best radio directions are due south and kind of northish and eastish, but there there is a ridge which prevents me from seeing the NYC skyline unless i hike a bit to get a bit more elevation.  Id need a big tower to get a clear shot but it might be doable with 60 feet or more. It might be possible with a big fiberglass pole. . West is hopeless.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: tkamiya on May 27, 2020, 01:42:43 am
Well, I am alive, but my ham station isn't.  I was active in 70s and 80s, mostly on 15 meters band.  Now, I have a long wire antenna and few radios but hasn't been turned on for quite sometime.

I enjoy having an ability to transmit, though I almost never do.  I enjoy buying up old radios from my days and repair them/restore them.  Once that's done, I lose interest and move on to a next piece.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: cdev on May 27, 2020, 02:03:11 am
Once i a while when I am listening to hams I'll hear an interesting converation and wish I could join it. I can relate to the puzzle of fixing the radio. Also making antennas is fun. The higher you go in frequency the more gain you can get in a small space :)
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: james_s on May 27, 2020, 05:30:49 am
I think ham would have been really amazing prior to the 90s, especially a decade or so before that. I remember even in the 80s making a long distance phone call to talk to grandma was a special thing we got to do once in a while, talking to someone overseas would have been really exotic and very expensive. Making contacts over the air has a bit of "magic" to it even now, but it would have been so much cooler back then. Today I can hop on a forum such as this one and effortlessly talk to people all over the world, doing so by radio is a lot more effort.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: vk6zgo on May 27, 2020, 07:07:53 am
I live in the NYC metro area and I want to hear some ham activity above the 430-450 MHz band. I not infrequently go to where its my understanding there are ham bands and look as best as I can with a broadband antenna hooked right up to a good LNA. And either RTLSDR or hackRF - what do I hear, nothing. I am in kind of a valley without a direct view of NYC but I do hear a fair amount of stuff (non ham) on other bands such as public service bands from what seems to be far away, including lots of stff from NYC.  I want to hear hams talking on the high UHF bands. Do I need to get my antenna much much higher up (its on my second floor but unfortunately still inside a wood frame building with asphalt roofing)  The way it is now I dont hear anything at all from hams up there. Ever.  Actually, the roofing cant be that bad because I often can see Doppler curves from va rious satellites, I can receive APT at 137 MHz etc. My best radio directions are due south and kind of northish and eastish, but there there is a ridge which prevents me from seeing the NYC skyline unless i hike a bit to get a bit more elevation.  Id need a big tower to get a clear shot but it might be doable with 60 feet or more. It might be possible with a big fiberglass pole. . West is hopeless.

One good reason for not hearing much ham activity on the bands above 430-450MHz, is because there isn't much!

Most work at these higher frequencies is done by interested groups who set themselves up to try to extend distance records & the like.
"Ad hoc" contacts as we are used to on HF, & even 2 metres, are already fairly rare on 70cm, & pretty much non-existent on 23cm & above.
Even though mainstream manufacturers have made equipment for 23cm, the "take up" is very small, indeed.

At the end of the day, hams  can only do so much, within their bugetary & time constraints.
The commercial activity on the other hand, is available 24/7, as it is meant to make a profit.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: vk6zgo on May 27, 2020, 07:53:26 am
I think ham would have been really amazing prior to the 90s, especially a decade or so before that. I remember even in the 80s making a long distance phone call to talk to grandma was a special thing we got to do once in a while, talking to someone overseas would have been really exotic and very expensive. Making contacts over the air has a bit of "magic" to it even now, but it would have been so much cooler back then. Today I can hop on a forum such as this one and effortlessly talk to people all over the world, doing so by radio is a lot more effort.

Self dialled long distance (STD) & International calls (ISD) were mainstream in Australia by the late 1960s, except in fairly remote areas.
They came at a price premium over local calls, hence were not an everyday activity of individuals, except for calling "Granny" on a special occasion.
Many people used STD & ISD daily in their jobs, as businesses have bigger budgets, so talking to someone overseas was not at all "exotic" to such folk.

I think the appeal of calling CQ on a HF band has more of the Forrest Gump effect: "like a box of chocolates-----you never know what you'll get!"
Even if, say, you have a "sched" with a given overseas station in one country, another station from another country may "break in" & join the conversation.

On one occasion, I joined a conversation on 20m between another Australian (VK) station, a South African (ZS) station & one from New Zealand (ZL).
This was a very enjoyable contact.

Could anyone try to do anything like that with a cellphone?
The nearest thing to that is a forum like this one, or QRZ.com.-----& HF radio is "real time!"
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: vk4ffab on May 27, 2020, 09:02:33 am
I live in the NYC metro area and I want to hear some ham activity above the 430-450 MHz band. I not infrequently go to where its my understanding there are ham bands and look as best as I can with a broadband antenna hooked right up to a good LNA. And either RTLSDR or hackRF - what do I hear, nothing. I am in kind of a valley without a direct view of NYC but I do hear a fair amount of stuff (non ham) on other bands such as public service bands from what seems to be far away, including lots of stff from NYC.  I want to hear hams talking on the high UHF bands. Do I need to get my antenna much much higher up (its on my second floor but unfortunately still inside a wood frame building with asphalt roofing)  The way it is now I dont hear anything at all from hams up there. Ever.  Actually, the roofing cant be that bad because I often can see Doppler curves from va rious satellites, I can receive APT at 137 MHz etc. My best radio directions are due south and kind of northish and eastish, but there there is a ridge which prevents me from seeing the NYC skyline unless i hike a bit to get a bit more elevation.  Id need a big tower to get a clear shot but it might be doable with 60 feet or more. It might be possible with a big fiberglass pole. . West is hopeless.

One good reason for not hearing much ham activity on the bands above 430-450MHz, is because there isn't much!

Most work at these higher frequencies is done by interested groups who set themselves up to try to extend distance records & the like.
"Ad hoc" contacts as we are used to on HF, & even 2 metres, are already fairly rare on 70cm, & pretty much non-existent on 23cm & above.
Even though mainstream manufacturers have made equipment for 23cm, the "take up" is very small, indeed.

At the end of the day, hams  can only do so much, within their bugetary & time constraints.
The commercial activity on the other hand, is available 24/7, as it is meant to make a profit.

The other issue with VHF and up is the workable distance. On 2m with a 30w FM tranceiver and a vertical antenna mounted on the roof of the house, i might have workable simplex range of about 10km. 10km not bad, but not good either. So draw a circle around my house with a diameter of 20km and there might be 30 hams in that circle, again not bad, l live in a city where there are lots of hams. But out of those 30 people, I know none of them and have had a qso with 4 of them and out of that only 1 of them more than a few times and a sum total of 0 contacts on 2m simplex.

This is not because people are not active, we are just active with very different things. So start making those workable distances shorter and shorter with higher frequencies and the chances of having someone to talk to become less and less. And to take your forest gump analogy, HF is a much bigger box of chocolates and its all about time verses effort. If i have an hour to play radio, will i play it where I have a couple of % chance or where I have 50% chance? This is why 40m and 20m are the go to bands for most people, the chances of success are greater than anywhere else.

And where you live and what the hams there are into really matters. If I wanted to play local, and I could play local if I wanted to, I would join the local club and do TV with them, or repeaters or Boy Scouts or microwaves, all things the local club is into that do not interest me at all. Oh and fox hunting, that is also a big thing at the local club. All good ham radio things, just not my things.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: imo on May 27, 2020, 09:49:11 am
On 2m/70cm band with a 4W handheld and 2 el. yagi you may easily make 200+km QSOs. It requires to go to an elevated QTH, however. For example the SOTA activity is your friend then (and good for your health as well)  :D

https://www.sota.org.uk/ (https://www.sota.org.uk/)

And there are many 2m/70cm satellites flying around you may work with el cheapo equipment. And with 2.4GHz/10.5GHz equipment you may make QO-100 QSOs over the half of the globe..

https://amsat-uk.org/satellites/geo/eshail-2/ (https://amsat-uk.org/satellites/geo/eshail-2/)
websdr QO-100: https://eshail.batc.org.uk/nb/ (https://eshail.batc.org.uk/nb/)

PS: the new digital modes are extremely popular today, especially among younger hams. For example the FT8 mode - with 5-20W into a crappy antenna you can make DX QSOs even under poor propagation conditions..

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WSJT_(amateur_radio_software) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WSJT_(amateur_radio_software))
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: imo on May 27, 2020, 10:00:09 am
..
The other issue with VHF and up is the workable distance. On 2m with a 30w FM tranceiver and a vertical antenna mounted on the roof of the house, i might have workable simplex range of about 10km. 10km not bad, but not good either.
It is something wrong with your setup (or your QTH is really a poor one). With ~30W FM on 2m with a vertical on a roof (ie. X50 dual band antenna) and good cabling 5x longer range is pretty common in rather flat areas. With a 3-5 el. yagi on the roof and 50-100W people work over repeaters in ~150km distance.

PS: try with an yagi on your roof. Even a simple 2el yagi is better than a vertical.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: m3vuv on May 27, 2020, 11:11:00 am
man after my own heart,most of my pleasure comes from restoring/repairing radios,it gives me more enjoyment than uswing them on air.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: bd139 on May 27, 2020, 11:16:40 am
Exactly. That was the most interesting bit :)
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: vk4ffab on May 27, 2020, 11:35:15 am
..
The other issue with VHF and up is the workable distance. On 2m with a 30w FM tranceiver and a vertical antenna mounted on the roof of the house, i might have workable simplex range of about 10km. 10km not bad, but not good either.
It is something wrong with your setup (or your QTH is really a poor one). With ~30W FM on 2m with a vertical on a roof (ie. X50 dual band antenna) and good cabling 5x longer range is pretty common in rather flat areas. With a 3-5 el. yagi on the roof and 50-100W people work over repeaters in ~150km distance.

PS: try with an yagi on your roof. Even a simple 2el yagi is better than a vertical.

Sure i can get 50 to 100km plus to some repeaters on mountain tops, but i was talking useable simplex in all directions, not just one narrow path that is optimal. I also live on the side of a hill in the shadow of mountains, so 10km west of me are mountains and 10km east is the ocean, 10km south is another mountain, mt cootha where the tv broadcasters are and 30km north of me are the glasshouse mountains. The east cost of Australia is not flat, its dominated by the largest mountain range in the world, the great dividing range. LOS range, Its all about geography.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: imo on May 27, 2020, 12:17:48 pm
..The east cost of Australia is not flat, its dominated by the largest mountain range in the world, the great dividing range. LOS range, Its all about geography.
Indeed VHF/UHF is about altitude.. With mountains around you may try with SOTA activity, many hams I know are possessed with that activity, activating hills every weekend..
PS: in country I live the top 7 activators are with 1000-4000 points :)
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: cdev on May 27, 2020, 12:57:17 pm
Ahh.. okay, that means that I won't be able to listen on a calling frequency and have much luck.  That answers my question, I'm not hearing people because there are't the kinds of QSOS there are on lower bands.

Okay so at least my equipment is okay. I think an investment in a NanoVNA will be a good one in terms of being able to make antennas work well. Then if QSOs exist, I'll likely have a better chance. It will pay for itself in savings. 

I may be able to improve my luck with some extra height. I can hear VHF weather stations a very long distance to my east away sometimes, depending on the antenna, (NOAA weather radio is 162 MHz here in the US) I may have even heard some from Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The ridge to my east isnt that high and its ridgeline is all trees, and the real ridge is quite a bit lower than the treetops. So I think that if I went up a bit, I might luck out.

It's certainly worth trying with some kind of temporary pole mounted omnidirectional antenna.

I'd like to try my luck with temporary setups. (cheaper!)

One good reason for not hearing much ham activity on the bands above 430-450MHz, is because there isn't much!

Most work at these higher frequencies is done by interested groups who set themselves up to try to extend distance records & the like.
"Ad hoc" contacts as we are used to on HF, & even 2 metres, are already fairly rare on 70cm, & pretty much non-existent on 23cm & above. Even though mainstream manufacturers have made equipment for 23cm, the "take up" is very small, indeed.

At the end of the day, hams  can only do so much, within their bugetary & time constraints.
The commercial activity on the other hand, is available 24/7, as it is meant to make a profit.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: vk6zgo on May 27, 2020, 01:23:35 pm
..
The other issue with VHF and up is the workable distance. On 2m with a 30w FM tranceiver and a vertical antenna mounted on the roof of the house, i might have workable simplex range of about 10km. 10km not bad, but not good either.
It is something wrong with your setup (or your QTH is really a poor one). With ~30W FM on 2m with a vertical on a roof (ie. X50 dual band antenna) and good cabling 5x longer range is pretty common in rather flat areas. With a 3-5 el. yagi on the roof and 50-100W people work over repeaters in ~150km distance.

PS: try with an yagi on your roof. Even a simple 2el yagi is better than a vertical.

Sure i can get 50 to 100km plus to some repeaters on mountain tops, but i was talking useable simplex in all directions, not just one narrow path that is optimal. I also live on the side of a hill in the shadow of mountains, so 10km west of me are mountains and 10km east is the ocean, 10km south is another mountain, mt cootha where the tv broadcasters are and 30km north of me are the glasshouse mountains. The east cost of Australia is not flat, its dominated by the largest mountain range in the world, the great dividing range. LOS range, Its all about geography.

Still, Rob, there is damn all between you & New Zealand!
During the tropospheric ducting season, "all bets are off", so you may, if you are there at just the right time,  work a ZL on 2m!

You are not in the good position of many of us in VK6, where  there is a very long coastal plain, with the Escarpment running parallel to the coast, for a long way.

I can usually communicate simplex out to around 25-30km.
I sometimes log into the 2m SSB net here in Perth, & even with the 20dB penalty from cross polarisation, (I am using my vertical) I can work most of the stations involved.

Of course, a couple of stations are up on the Escarpment, so they "romp" in!
I haven't done this for a while, as I had a break from most stuff after I was fitted with a "pretend knee"! ;D

Ducting is the big winner on 2m, though.

Each Summer, stations trigger repeaters very long distances away, sometimes followed by simplex contacts, but, sadly, sometimes followed by nothing----- the one or two hams in a town are at work, on another band, or "having a life outside ham radio".

When TV was all analog, at the Bunbury caravan park, I remember watching Perth TV stations from ch2, up to & including SBS on 528MHz one Summer, using the TV set "rabbit's ears.
Bunbury is about 200km from Bickley where the TV Stations were.

In the very early 60s, when the only TV stations in WA were in Perth, people in Southwest towns would invest in horrifically complex & expensive "phased arrays" mounted on 50ft popup masts, in the hope of seeing a noisy signal from the city stations.

They did get usable signals a lot of the time, & great ones in the Summer!




Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: cdev on May 27, 2020, 01:54:45 pm
I just remembered I have the program 'splat' installed. (under Linux) I had this working great a long time ago.

https://www.qsl.net/kd2bd/splat.html (https://www.qsl.net/kd2bd/splat.html) also, this looks interesting!

https://onetransistor.blogspot.com/search/label/SPLAT (https://onetransistor.blogspot.com/search/label/SPLAT)

I have to find the various files it needs which are scattered around my hard drive .


This should be exactly what I need

My situation is a bit like your situation, vk6zgo where I am kind of in a bit of a valley.  I should double check the elevation of the actual stone ridgeline that is blocking me with a good GPS.


 a telescoping pole might be affordable?

$ splat

       --==[ SPLAT! v1.4.0 Available Options... ]==--

       -t txsite(s).qth (max of 4 with -c, max of 30 with -L)
       -r rxsite.qth
       -c plot coverage of TX(s) with an RX antenna at X feet/meters AGL
       -L plot path loss map of TX based on an RX at X feet/meters AGL
       -s filename(s) of city/site file(s) to import (5 max)
       -b filename(s) of cartographic boundary file(s) to import (5 max)
       -p filename of terrain profile graph to plot
       -e filename of terrain elevation graph to plot
       -h filename of terrain height graph to plot
       -H filename of normalized terrain height graph to plot
       -l filename of path loss graph to plot
       -o filename of topographic map to generate (.ppm)
       -u filename of user-defined terrain file to import
       -d sdf file directory path (overrides path in ~/.splat_path file)
       -m earth radius multiplier
       -n do not plot LOS paths in .ppm maps
       -N do not produce unnecessary site or obstruction reports
       -f frequency for Fresnel zone calculation (MHz)
       -R modify default range for -c or -L (miles/kilometers)
      -sc display smooth rather than quantized contour levels
      -db threshold beyond which contours will not be displayed
      -nf do not plot Fresnel zones in height plots
      -fz Fresnel zone clearance percentage (default = 60)
      -gc ground clutter height (feet/meters)
     -ngs display greyscale topography as white in .ppm files
     -erp override ERP in .lrp file (Watts)
     -ano name of alphanumeric output file
     -ani name of alphanumeric input file
     -udt name of user defined terrain input file
     -kml generate Google Earth (.kml) compatible output
     -geo generate an Xastir .geo georeference file (with .ppm output)
     -dbm plot signal power level contours rather than field strength
   -gpsav preserve gnuplot temporary working files after SPLAT! execution
  -metric employ metric rather than imperial units for all user I/O
  -olditm invoke older ITM propagation model rather than the newer ITWOM

Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: imo on May 27, 2020, 02:02:36 pm
Try 50MHz these days. There are openings and you can make 1500-2000km SSB QSOs (first hop) with a dipole and 20-50W. With FT8 on 6m people are DXing almost every day (EU here).
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: cdev on May 27, 2020, 03:05:34 pm
Really?

Arggh..  I have two receivers and it seems as if both are so very noisy at 50-54 MHz. with so very many birdies.

Time for an upgrade, perhaps.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: imo on May 27, 2020, 04:57:16 pm
Really?

Arggh..  I have two receivers and it seems as if both are so very noisy at 50-54 MHz. with so very many birdies.

Time for an upgrade, perhaps.

You may tune your rig to 50.313 or 50.323 USB and run the FT8 WSJT-X (https://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/K1JT/wsjtx.html), with an external mic close to the rig's speaker you will get the messages. When you enable the "pskreporter" you will see all stations you've received on a map.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: cdev on May 27, 2020, 06:00:05 pm
After a little experimentation, its obvious to me that I need a better antenna, one thats cut for the 6M band.. and I need to make a little band pass filter using RFSIM99. It doesn't have to be super fancy.

I have no right to whine until after ive done that and failed. It's also high time to get a ham license and then a better radio.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: vk6zgo on May 28, 2020, 05:19:27 am
Perhaps folks will find this interesting, particularly page 24 on.

http://brisbanevhfgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Qld-VHFer-Issue03.pdf (http://brisbanevhfgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Qld-VHFer-Issue03.pdf)
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: vk4ffab on May 29, 2020, 03:56:22 am
..
The other issue with VHF and up is the workable distance. On 2m with a 30w FM tranceiver and a vertical antenna mounted on the roof of the house, i might have workable simplex range of about 10km. 10km not bad, but not good either.
It is something wrong with your setup (or your QTH is really a poor one). With ~30W FM on 2m with a vertical on a roof (ie. X50 dual band antenna) and good cabling 5x longer range is pretty common in rather flat areas. With a 3-5 el. yagi on the roof and 50-100W people work over repeaters in ~150km distance.

PS: try with an yagi on your roof. Even a simple 2el yagi is better than a vertical.

Sure i can get 50 to 100km plus to some repeaters on mountain tops, but i was talking useable simplex in all directions, not just one narrow path that is optimal. I also live on the side of a hill in the shadow of mountains, so 10km west of me are mountains and 10km east is the ocean, 10km south is another mountain, mt cootha where the tv broadcasters are and 30km north of me are the glasshouse mountains. The east cost of Australia is not flat, its dominated by the largest mountain range in the world, the great dividing range. LOS range, Its all about geography.

Still, Rob, there is damn all between you & New Zealand!
During the tropospheric ducting season, "all bets are off", so you may, if you are there at just the right time,  work a ZL on 2m!

You are not in the good position of many of us in VK6, where  there is a very long coastal plain, with the Escarpment running parallel to the coast, for a long way.

I can usually communicate simplex out to around 25-30km.
I sometimes log into the 2m SSB net here in Perth, & even with the 20dB penalty from cross polarisation, (I am using my vertical) I can work most of the stations involved.

Of course, a couple of stations are up on the Escarpment, so they "romp" in!
I haven't done this for a while, as I had a break from most stuff after I was fitted with a "pretend knee"! ;D

Ducting is the big winner on 2m, though.

Each Summer, stations trigger repeaters very long distances away, sometimes followed by simplex contacts, but, sadly, sometimes followed by nothing----- the one or two hams in a town are at work, on another band, or "having a life outside ham radio".

When TV was all analog, at the Bunbury caravan park, I remember watching Perth TV stations from ch2, up to & including SBS on 528MHz one Summer, using the TV set "rabbit's ears.
Bunbury is about 200km from Bickley where the TV Stations were.

In the very early 60s, when the only TV stations in WA were in Perth, people in Southwest towns would invest in horrifically complex & expensive "phased arrays" mounted on 50ft popup masts, in the hope of seeing a noisy signal from the city stations.

They did get usable signals a lot of the time, & great ones in the Summer!

Actually that is true, ZL is certainly an option as is up and down the coast when conditions allow. Here is a little secret, I am working on a 2m WSPR transmitter/ Beacon to add to my things to do though summer. Do not tell anyone I have gone and done such a thing HAHAHA. I would add 6m as well, actually it will have 6m capability, its just my license does not allow me to use that part of 6m and will have to wait until I have upgraded. I am looking at say 5 to 10w into a low gain vertical, so I don't expect to see great results, but it will give me something to do and give that antenna some use.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: vk4ffab on May 29, 2020, 04:04:46 am
..The east cost of Australia is not flat, its dominated by the largest mountain range in the world, the great dividing range. LOS range, Its all about geography.
Indeed VHF/UHF is about altitude.. With mountains around you may try with SOTA activity, many hams I know are possessed with that activity, activating hills every weekend..
PS: in country I live the top 7 activators are with 1000-4000 points :)

I actually used to participate in WWFF quite a lot. SOTA is not really a thing in VK4. The summit points are low and the difficulty of doing many of these 1 and 2 point summits are very high. So the effort and reward are quite low. I have done a few of the more drive up and short walk peaks, but as for locals answering on VHF, even with a lot of self promotion the only person I ever spoke with was Rick 4RF and i dont think he is even doing radio anymore. Even with the WWFF, very few VK4's took any interest, so i would time my activation's for openings to VK2, 3 and 5 on 40m to try and have some success.

For the last year, i have pretty much been homebrewing non stop and not doing much radio at all. I now have some stuff built that I want to put on air and now the lockdowns are stopping, I will start getting out with some of the gear I made and do some WWFF activation's. Oh and I am not fit enough to do any real SOTA climbing, I have arthritis and walking on uneven ground is difficult.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: Lord of nothing on May 29, 2020, 07:54:13 am
Quote
As a communications medium? Meh.
Well here the like to talk about there nasty decease and where the doc put there finger where...  :--
Quote
public agencies now have better radios (digital, secure P25) than hams and don't need your help.
:-DD... sure when the Cell Service fail the have just there DMO Mode and no long range communication.
Quote
or very personal problems of old people.
you are right!
Quote
I assume by "relays" you mean repeaters?
the stupid germans talk about that stuff:
(https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/24/Relais.JPG)

Quote
HF can be a bit challenging these days.
with my cheap antenna i receive a lot.
Quote
I can put in one of my RC airplanes to get a cockpit view
well in europe the law about that get more restricted about that!
Quote
I still have a collection of scanners and enjoy listening to the local business frequencies, emergency services, aviation and pagers, there's all kinds of stuff on the air.
Well when you want risk your amateur radio licence... With that you are on the Radar of the Gov. at least here...
Quote
In the U.S. once you have the license it's good for 10 years and really forever if you keep renewing.
Here you have to pay a lot of money for the licence every year when you want do HF.
Quote
I get the same in the local repair cafés. While in am very happy that younger people pick up the fight against electronic waste, a lot of the people that come from the maker scene lack a lot of basics.
Well the problem as a Company with repair anything is the Customer call a lawyer about anything what happen with the device and you must proof you repair that 100% with in the standards. That cost and nobody want pay for that...
Quote
- the obligation to make public some personal data like phone, name, location, HAM license
here you can choose if it should be public or not.
Quote
in the free bands
there arent any...
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: RoGeorge on May 29, 2020, 08:58:36 am
The relays in the pic are also repeaters, just that they electro-mechanically repeat e logic level  :)
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: cdev on May 29, 2020, 01:07:03 pm
Why arent there some (small) portions of ham bands, especially above 30 MHz,  where unlicensed operation, at very low power levels (under 1 watt) is legal?  Maybe they could issue an identifier via a web site - simply taking down their name, address, etc. No fee. No test.

That also makes it easier for people who are unable to travel far to take tests.

(A group of people who would likely benefit from ham radio a lot more than the average person)

This all to facilitate more people's entry into the hobby.

It would be great if the unlicensed bands included some both at very high (UHF and above) and very low frequencies (low enough that the most common and cheap everyday parts could be used making cost of entry very low)

The contests should be limited to say, half of the band for each license class so people can still QSO away from it.

The cost of modern HF equipment is way too high considering how much the parts cost has likely fallen..



They are. During an SSB contest, the CW and Digital portions are unused. During a CW contest the SSB and Digital portions are unused. During a Digital contest, the SSB and CW portions are unused. A real ham is flexible and can find a QSO even when one part of a band is chockers full of 59 tu 73 in the contest. And then there are WARC bands where there are no contests allowed. If one does not like contests that is fine, but to say one cannot find a clear space to have a qso is UTTER BULLSHIT. Only CBers are stuck with 1 mode and 1 band.

Thats good to keep in mind, and I'm sure that its true for most people. Still The contests shouldn't occupy the entire voice or CW bands, on weekends which is the only time many hams have to QSO, however. (at least during normal times when they are not stuck at home)

 QSOs made in other parts of the bands should count, if they are the right mode, but people should behave normally, in that portion, not rapid fire "CQ contest" only.  Do you get what I am saying? That does drive other kinds of users out.

As (currently) a SWL only, I often go to ham bands wanting to hear "conversations" and just find contesting.

I think that it would be reasonable to leave just a little bit of spectrum contest free.

-----

Most of the spectrum where I live is so incredibly noisy! Arrgh..  badly made  E-junk, I am sure.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: Lord of nothing on May 29, 2020, 01:34:06 pm
Quote
where unlicensed operation, at very low power levels (under 1 watt) is legal?
there arent...
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: vk4ffab on May 29, 2020, 10:04:08 pm
Why arent there some (small) portions of ham bands, especially above 30 MHz,  where unlicensed operation, at very low power levels (under 1 watt) is legal?  Maybe they could issue an identifier via a web site - simply taking down their name, address, etc. No fee. No test.

That also makes it easier for people who are unable to travel far to take tests.

(A group of people who would likely benefit from ham radio a lot more than the average person)

This all to facilitate more people's entry into the hobby.

It would be great if the unlicensed bands included some both at very high (UHF and above) and very low frequencies (low enough that the most common and cheap everyday parts could be used making cost of entry very low)

The contests should be limited to say, half of the band for each license class so people can still QSO away from it.

The cost of modern HF equipment is way too high considering how much the parts cost has likely fallen..



They are. During an SSB contest, the CW and Digital portions are unused. During a CW contest the SSB and Digital portions are unused. During a Digital contest, the SSB and CW portions are unused. A real ham is flexible and can find a QSO even when one part of a band is chockers full of 59 tu 73 in the contest. And then there are WARC bands where there are no contests allowed. If one does not like contests that is fine, but to say one cannot find a clear space to have a qso is UTTER BULLSHIT. Only CBers are stuck with 1 mode and 1 band.

Thats good to keep in mind, and I'm sure that its true for most people. Still The contests shouldn't occupy the entire voice or CW bands, on weekends which is the only time many hams have to QSO, however. (at least during normal times when they are not stuck at home)

 QSOs made in other parts of the bands should count, if they are the right mode, but people should behave normally, in that portion, not rapid fire "CQ contest" only.  Do you get what I am saying? That does drive other kinds of users out.

As (currently) a SWL only, I often go to ham bands wanting to hear "conversations" and just find contesting.

I think that it would be reasonable to leave just a little bit of spectrum contest free.

-----

Most of the spectrum where I live is so incredibly noisy! Arrgh..  badly made  E-junk, I am sure.

To answer both your questions in two words, there are. There are the LIPD and Scientific Bands which are low power Class License band allocations to allow tinkerers and companies access to rf spectrum for free. They include HF, VHF, UHF and Ghz allocations. I have been working on a beacon project with a friend for 13Mhz.

To your 2nd point, the rules of ham radio are simple first come, first go, IS THIS FREQUENCY IN USE. If its not then the frequency is not in use, then its yours for as long as you want to keep talking. Its a simple and effective way of sharing a finite resource among competing interests. To say that some part of some band needs to be reserved for one interest only IE rag chewers, is not the ham radio spirit, its selfish and exclusive, no one owns any band space in ham radio.

Further, there are bands that contests, by convention, do not operate on. So for the 5 or 6 times a year that one special interest group in impacted by a contest, and yes, its like a handful of weekends where a few bands are crowed, people have other bands, free from contests to operate on. The reality is, we are talking 3 bands at most that are impacted out of all the ham bands, 80, 40 and 20m. That still leaves 60, 30, 17, 12m on HF to operate in with no contest activity, 15 and 10m have plenty of space that even contests never fill them up, 6m, 2m and 70cm have plenty of space also.

I am not a contester,  but any hams that claim they cannot find a space to operate during the biggest contests in the world are just not trying, but mostly, I seem them as narcissists who think only their use of spectrum matters. And if using another band is not something they can do, they can operate a different mode. Real hams are flexible in the modes they can use, and agile in the bands they can use. If a ham only uses one band and one mode, he is not a ham, he is a CBer.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: Lord of nothing on May 29, 2020, 10:16:13 pm
Quote
and Scientific Bands
No  there are not.
Quote
are low power Class License band allocations to allow tinkerers and companies access to rf spectrum for free. They include HF, VHF, UHF and Ghz allocations.
There are some Bands, Freq for professional Equipment. But the duty Circle and so on is horrible.

Well my legal CB Radio make more fun and cost me 0€ Monthly.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: cdev on May 31, 2020, 01:44:00 am
That sounds reasonable to me. Thanks for your thoughtful response.


They are. During an SSB contest, the CW and Digital portions are unused. During a CW contest the SSB and Digital portions are unused. During a Digital contest, the SSB and CW portions are unused. A real ham is flexible and can find a QSO even when one part of a band is chockers full of 59 tu 73 in the contest. And then there are WARC bands where there are no contests allowed. If one does not like contests that is fine, but to say one cannot find a clear space to have a qso is UTTER BULLSHIT. Only CBers are stuck with 1 mode and 1 band.
.......


To answer both your questions in two words, there are. There are the LIPD and Scientific Bands which are low power Class License band allocations to allow tinkerers and companies access to rf spectrum for free. They include HF, VHF, UHF and Ghz allocations. I have been working on a beacon project with a friend for 13Mhz.

To your 2nd point, the rules of ham radio are simple first come, first go, IS THIS FREQUENCY IN USE. If its not then the frequency is not in use, then its yours for as long as you want to keep talking. Its a simple and effective way of sharing a finite resource among competing interests. To say that some part of some band needs to be reserved for one interest only IE rag chewers, is not the ham radio spirit, its selfish and exclusive, no one owns any band space in ham radio.

Further, there are bands that contests, by convention, do not operate on. So for the 5 or 6 times a year that one special interest group in impacted by a contest, and yes, its like a handful of weekends where a few bands are crowed, people have other bands, free from contests to operate on. The reality is, we are talking 3 bands at most that are impacted out of all the ham bands, 80, 40 and 20m. That still leaves 60, 30, 17, 12m on HF to operate in with no contest activity, 15 and 10m have plenty of space that even contests never fill them up, 6m, 2m and 70cm have plenty of space also.

I am not a contester,  but any hams that claim they cannot find a space to operate during the biggest contests in the world are just not trying, but mostly, I seem them as narcissists who think only their use of spectrum matters. And if using another band is not something they can do, they can operate a different mode. Real hams are flexible in the modes they can use, and agile in the bands they can use. If a ham only uses one band and one mode, he is not a ham, he is a CBer.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: El Rubio on June 07, 2020, 02:05:13 pm
Most hams couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery, including Raynet here. They’d make good crackling if the world went to shit though.
As a licensed ham radio operator for the past 20 years, I beg to differ. I live in South Louisiana. 15 years ago we had a storm named Katrina that devastated New Orleans. The flooding destroyed the wireline communications network, something like 8 million people in the surrounding area lost electricity. Over 50,000 utility poles were down. Over 1500 people were killed in La. and nearly 1000 in MS. I live north of the city and our local emergency operations counted on hams for almost all communications initially. This included relaying med-evac from another isolated smaller town to the local Air National Guard. They sent a helicopter to get that person to a functioning hospital. Hams were the only communications up and running at all of the local hospitals including the one where the guard delivered a critical patient thanks to those old men that some here want to mock about discussing their “ ailments”. When it hit the fan, hams came through. There are other stories from the city and other affected areas.

Typically, an evacuation shelter would be opened at a school or other facility. Guess who goes out and erects a working station usually on 2 meters? Yeah, those same old men. They were the only comms at places like that. They train to pass msgs accurately and did so by accounting for how many at a shelter, supply needs, medical needs, etc. They practice for this regularly. Our local group had an over the air net every week and practiced forwarding msgs, etc. This may sound boring to some of the self absorbed types without patience. It can be boring monitoring a radio, but when it counts, its a very valuable and maybe you should ask the folks whose are living now because of a ham’s communications. Thankfully, our locally government has enough sense to support a group of technical volunteers who are offering to help for free. I am going to stop my reply to you here because your comments are starting piss me off and I may type something inappropriate.

Regarding ham radio in general, it’s not expensive hobby. You can make it expensive, just like any hobby. It is good for older people who aren’t as physical or even disabled . I got my first license in 1999. Not long after that I had a 2mtr/70cm mobile rig in my vehicle. I had about 40 minute commute and was scanjing the bands just listening. I came upon a transmission that sounded odd. I initially thought the person talking was unlicensed since they were not using their callsign. I locked on and eventually was rewarded with the source. The guy signed and said he was Commander Jim Voss on the Space Shuttle Discovery. There were just crossing the eastern coast of Mexico over the GOM. I didn’t have the uplink freq linked to attempt to contact, but it was exciting just listening to one side of the conversation. I know other hams that worked satellites and space stations regularly-without a fortunes spent on hardware. It’s an awesome hobby that you can make it what you want. There are many facets including digital modes, voice, CW, soundcard digital modes, etc. you don’t have to have an engineering degree either.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: aristarchus on June 07, 2020, 03:36:27 pm
Seen quite a few comments.
Please allow me to express my opinion.

In my view, a person who has the =real= ham radio spirit does not care if there are 10, 100 or a 1000 others on the bands.
The real radioamateur wants to get the ticket and be on the bands regardless of what others do or say.
A real radioamateur is not just an operator.
Wants to learn, wants to communicate (even though that is a generic human need), wants to make things by himself and enjoy the feeling of creating something useful.

He/She is doing this just because it has that spark.

Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: tkamiya on June 07, 2020, 03:51:00 pm
When I was active in 70s and 80s, I did everything.  Talk late into night, wake up middle of the night to work US stations (from Japan), home brew, rig updates, antennas, etc, etc, etc,.  I used to build new antennas or new something every weekend.  When I came to US, I was shocked with abundance and price of surplus business radios.  Convert high VHF radio for 2 meter band and hit repeaters, joined club, etc, etc, etc. 

After initial excitement of talking to far away people faded, technical side of amateur radio stuck.  These days, I buy 70s and 80s dream radio and refurbish.  I don't even put it on the air.  FR101D is my favorite, then 101, then 820, etc, etc, etc....  All for far less than price of one new radio.  Then I got into time-nutting, test equipment collecting, etc, etc, etc.... I have a home lab my friend nicknamed WWII bunker.  It's full of 80s and 90s HP and Tektronics, again pennies on the dollar.

While I may no longer quality for an active "ham", the spirit of ham lives on.  Curiosity, experiment, and passion for knowledge.  Being on the air is just one aspect of ham, as far as I'm concerned.  In that sense, I'm very much alive.  Microphones and keys are not even plugged in.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: DH1AKF_Wolfgang on June 07, 2020, 04:33:04 pm
New impulse: QO100
The new geostationary satellite QO100, with which India, South America, South Africa and Iceland can be easily reached from Europe, will give new impetus to amateur radio. Today I have put my system into operation and I am very happy that everything works out.  (Adalm Pluto, WiFi power amplifier 2 Watt, 60 cm dish with helix and normal LNB- nothing more is needed).
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: bson on June 07, 2020, 06:12:05 pm
If all you are doing is playing talkie walkies with your hotpot or talking rubbish with the same group of morons everyday, then yeah I agree with you, that is pointless and something you can do on the telephone.
I'm not sure what a hotpot refers to in this context, but my wife has a technician class license and we often carry HTs when we go skiing and such.  The radio works better than phones on a mountain, and by using it in a variety of terrain you get a good sense of what blocks VHF, how to get around it, how to use blind spots to localize the other party (they're not going to be calling from where you can't get signal at the observed strength) - and much more.  I'd recommend it.  Same when on road trips, we usually toss them in the car since I often like to hike places where she doesn't, or bicycle through a park - she'll drive the car down the road and meet up 60-100 miles ahead.  I'll call her when in range, but of course range limitations apply (but generally if she were to come looking for me I'd be near the road). Phone service is often iffy.

Other than walkie-talkie use, I'm personally more interested HF and doing my own stuff. The license is just a necessity to gain band access; I don't really care so much for chatting or operations.  The license also isn't supposed to be some kind of lifetime achievement award or proof of expertise, its purpose is to enable us to use the bands in an orderly fashion.  I actually think in the U.S. the EE portions of the extra license test, while simple for a trained EE, are just about right - they require just enough understanding to be able to get into simple equipment design and construction, which is a good initial trajectory.  We can't reasonably set the bar so high only MSEE's can possibly pass it, that's not what the licensing is for.  It really only reflects the minimum required knowledge and understanding to be granted band access without causing mayhem.

As for contests, meh.  Amateur radio is dying because the bands are crowded on weekends?
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: Lord of nothing on June 07, 2020, 07:53:45 pm
Quote
Amateur radio is dying because the bands are crowded on weekends?
I  would say i ts because the old angry people are so angry because the dont want use mordern stuff like drm.
Its typical Austrian to hate new thinks.
Title: Re: How alive is HAM these days?
Post by: frogg on June 08, 2020, 04:23:09 pm
Is classic HAM still worthwhile?

Yes. Although I have no idea what "classic" HAM is as opposed to amateur radio.