One night I am tuning around on 75 meters and I hear a piece of a ragchew QSO.
“Roger, Roger OM. I am a Real Ham too.” After a minute, I wondered, what other kinds of hams could there be? Unreal hams, imaginary hams, weird hams or phantom hams? I didn’t know.
Puzzled, I grabbed my FCC license and scrutinized it carefully. I was stunned. Right there in the middle of the license, under Special Conditions/Endorsements it says, “None”. Is that a mistake or a typo perhaps? Maybe I am a Non-Ham? I broke out into a cold sweat.
In a panic, I called my old buddy Ralph. Ralph knows everything about ham radio. He has been a ham so long that he says Marconi was his Elmer. Ralph calmed me down and assured me that I was a real ham. Ralph said that all hams are real hams if the FCC says so. Even though some claim only they are the real deal, anybody with a valid license is a real ham. What a relief!
With my fear arrested and my curiosity aroused, I wanted to learn more about the Real Ham phenomenon. Who are they? Are Real Hams like real men, who don’t eat quiche and don’t like change? Well, maybe they eat quiche in secret but they still don’t like change.
Since change is an essential facet of technology and amateur radio is a technology based hobby, then Real Hams should embrace change. Right? Apparently not; instead Real Hams complain about those that did not have to pass a code test, incentive licensing and the ARRL. I don’t get it.
What about the code thing? I’ve heard Real Hams say we should bring back the code requirement. I kept asking myself, what purpose it would serve other than to erect an artificial barrier to entry into our hobby. CW is a challenging and fun operating mode. It is a skill one could acquire if they wanted but is it any longer a core competency for a license?
My old buddy Ralph looks back on his CW days as a golden era. His radio lineage goes way back to the days of spark. Back in that day, that is all there was but even Ralph says the radio art has moved on.
“You mean it has progressed?” I asked.
“Sure”, says Ralph. “Listen kid (everyone’s a kid to Ralph), I got my first car in ‘08(that would be 1908). Back then you had to be a pretty good mechanic to just drive to town. You had to know about radiators, magnetos and manual shifting and you couldn’t call triple A either. Now you just jump in the car and turn the key.”
“We don’t have to rely on CW, like we did back then. With all the digital operating modes, VHF repeaters and the like we have lots of other choices. I haven’t tried it myself yet but I hear that you can even send e-mail by amateur radio.”
I began to feel better after my conversations with Ralph. Maybe I was a real ham after all. I’ll have to try CW after I finish my moon bounce project.