Get S.M.A.R.T. @ the Library

Agent 86 in the 1965 NBC Television comedy, Get Smart, was a raging success during the years it was on network television. The phrase, Get Smart, became a water cooler slogan in the United States. While it was a comedy of errors on the part of the “smart” agents, the phrase has continued on for a half century.

Agent 86 in Get Smart

We are reviving that phrase but it’s no comedy! As part of the Plant the Seed, Sow the Future initiative with the ARRL, I have resurrected an acronym that I created some years ago. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Saturday Morning Amateur Radio Time. Saturday morning is a time when many amateur operators and the public are away from their weekly schedules and attend to other matters. Like hobbies.

David KC5AAW used that phrase to organize a couple of outings in local parks in Madison MS before the ARRL’s National Parks on the Air program was created and, of course, prior to POTA(tm) becoming popular. It fizzled out after a few highly enjoyable outings due to KC56AAW entering graduate school while maintain his professional career but I had not forgotten the acronym.

My resurrection of S.M.A.R.T. is this. The Gallup organization has found that women and youth frequent public libraries twice as often as they do movie theaters. It’s the most common cultural crossroads for these two demographic groups in the United States. Supporting the newly-approved program by the ARRL to assist affiliated clubs to partner with local public libraries, the concept is for a local club to organize periodic ham radio activities at area public libraries on Saturday mornings. These programs are not directed at fellow amateur radio operators but to the general public. Patrons can thus Get S.M.A.R.T. at the library!

To kick this off locally, I’ve been working with the Jackson Amateur Radio Club to implement a formal partnership with the Madison County (MS) Public Library System. The JARC is securing funds to donate material and equipment to help build-out the MCLS “maker spaces” for STEM programming. JARC recently donated $2,000 of books and posters to the MCLS as described on the ARRL News feed. They are attempting to secure funds to donate the first of several 3D printers to the system, among other “maker” equipment.

A Get S.M.A.R.T. at the Library series will begin on March 2, 2024 with an introduction to patrons about today’s world of amateur radio. In May, when the weather is more predictable, a live activation of the Madison MS Branch Library is planned. It will be in a garden area behind the building, containing a gazebo and several permanent picnic tables. There are large, tall oak trees for antenna placement! We will setup portable stations so patrons can see and participate in today’s amateur radio action. (I’m looking for a hotdog vendor…) All of the Library System Administrators are anxious to attend and get a turn operating a radio. The flyer I’ve developed for the first event is shown at the end of this post.

Activities like these are planned to continue. The JARC will gauge the interest for a Technician Class during the year. The STEM programming from these activities will significantly enhance the Library system’s offerings to the public. We expect that new hams will become minted as a result.

Here is the standardized logo for branding the concept. It’s designed to be reusable with new dates, times and places. This will help build logo recognition for the program over time. If you’d like to use this concept at your local club, just drop me a note at my QRZ.com email address for permission to use the copyrighted logo. I’ll send you a blank one for your artwork and non-commercial use.

Amateur radio clubs should consider “getting smart” at their local libraries as an educational outreach program. The future viability of the hobby may just depend on it. Plus, it’s fun to share what you do in amateur radio with others who are already at a place because they want to learn stuff.

The Get S.M.A.R.T. at the Library concept has now gone international. The Sutton & Cheam Radio Society in South London has adopted the program (with express permission). Martin M1MRB and Chris M0TCH will lead an eight-week series at a local library, teaching the public about today’s amateur radio scene. Martin has created a website for “smart radio” in the UK to support the efforts. It’s exciting to see this idea gain traction across the pond!

This program concept can easily be replicated wherever there are ham radio groups and public libraries. It is far, far easier to get into libraries, who actively seek outside groups to provide content programing, than it is schools. Both are important for training a new generation of hams. Public libraries are the place where “home schooled” children frequent to get educational resources. So “schools” are not the only place where children are getting “schooled” as the home-schooling movement is significant in terms of size. A Washington Post article claimed it is the fastest-growing form of education outside of a conventional school setting in the U.S. Most estimates of the total numbers range from 3-4 million children nationwide.

See my previous blog articles on engaging with public libraries as another “served agency” for amateur radio. Libraries want ham radio clubs there for STEM programming. Just build a relationship with the Library System Director, much like an Emergency Operations Center relationship. Similarly, this is not a “drive by” donation to a library but a served agency relationship that is built over time.

The ball is in your court. We are already dribbling here in Central Mississippi!

CHOTA 2023

Recently I ran across an intriguing notice on the RSGB website. It was a notice to “prepare for CHOTA” back in 2021. CHOTA is Churches and Chapels on the Air, a product of the World Association of Christian Radio Amateurs and Listeners (wacral.org). That organization began in 1957 in England by the Huddersfield South Methodist Radio Club. It’s been ecumenical since 1978. Intriguing! Another institutional space for using amateur radio as outreach to the public. If you are a church member, it reaches out to the public who may be unaware of your existence.

I wrote to John G3XYF (jhwresdell (at) gmail.com), asking him about the prospects of my assembling a team to activate my own church in order to get the US involved in this long standing event. He quickly replied and encouraged me to do so. John only asks for activators to merely drop him a line with the call sign being used and the location of the church or chapel (or other religious institution) being activated. John will be using the call GB0LOW from his local church in the East Riding of Yorkshire. If you’re in England, contact John ahead of time for an SES callsign. And don’t forget to obtain your church leaders’ permission!

This year CHOTA is on Saturday, September 9, 2023. After contacting John G3XYF, who manages CHOTA, I learned that there has been no participation from the States in this unique event. With the dramatic rise in Parks OTA participation, getting churches on the air in a similar “non-contest” style would be enjoyable.

From the WACRAL website: There is an award available for working any CHOTA stations on the Saturday of the event – . Let’s hope the conditions are good! Those claiming the award must contact eight (8) or more CHOTA stations. Copies of the logs must include date, time, frequency, call sign of station and operators name and call sign. To claim your award, send this information to Alistair McGoff (2E0TGF) amcgoff4 @ gmail.com

This year CHOTA is on Saturday, September 9, 2023.

It’s not a contest but more of a POTA-style event.

Consider putting your church (or any church) on the air in September from here in the US. Not every one will be blessed with the space that my church has (see below) but we hams are creative in fitting our operations into the space that is available. Don’t forget to drop John G3XYF (jhwresdell (at) gmail.com) a note letting him know of your activation.


My moderate-sized church, Highlands Presbyterian Church in Ridgeland MS, sits on a 16 acre campus. In the Southwest corner, there is a small meadow with full oak and pine trees on a small ridge. It is directly across from the Township at Colony Park retail and residential complex. After doing a walk around, my church administrator and I saw it as a very useful space, both for CHOTA as well as future outdoor youth and young adult social events (think concerts, movies, and so forth). An aerial photograph illustrates the layout.

Campus of Highlands Presbyterian Church, Ridgeland MS USA

But would RF noise make it impossible on HF? I took my Icom IC-705 and a 40-10M EFHW antenna with me and threw the far end of the antenna up in a tree. There was almost no RFI detected on 20, 17 or 10 meters. That doesn’t mean that none might not suddenly appear but it’s a good omen, nonetheless. Here’s a snippet of the low noise floor I heard on 20 meters. It was very similar on 17 and 10 meters.

20 Meters

If we stage four tents with stations, that will give us one each for SSB, CW and Digital modes. A fourth would be a Visitor tent for those who stop by. The Jackson ARC has agreed to attend and manage the Visitor tent. The Vicksburg ARC has agreed to have Eddie N5JGK and Chris AF5OQ on hand to work satellites. Eddie is an old hand at working the Sats. He will provide us with anticipated passes in view of the ISS and other birds workable by a handheld with an Arrow dual band antenna so we can advertise the estimated times. Chris AF5OQ is President of VARC who will drive some of their members over to this event. This spot is a great spot for our planned activation with plenty of room for visitors.

My church administrator mentioned having a food truck on hand for the event. The JARC is now working with the Madison County Library System. Their adult and youth services director is dying to talk to the ISS. She can drive library patrons to the event. The options for wire and vertical antennas in the pictures below are readily available (even if we wanted to put up an antenna for 160M). See the pan-around video beneath them for a better view. Can you spot the bonus item we discovered in this video? Some of our young people are making the rounds on the recent disc golf course established on the church campus. One of them designed the course.

Did you spot the electrical meter and service panel left from a previous construction staging site? My church administrator is getting it reactivated. It will not only assist our CHOTA 2023 (and beyond) activation but be critical for other outdoor activities held in this beautiful space. While we operate battery and solar powered on our portable ops, having mains power will just make things easier for the whole event.

Food. Retail shopping across the street. Public officials. Library staff. Entire church invited, especially the young adult and youth groups. Get a successful satellite activation or two with area club members dropping by to participate and this could be an event!

LiOTA: Libraries On The Air

As readers of my blog have likely observed, I’ve been promoting a “served agency” partnership between the ARRL-affiliated clubs and local public libraries. I’m told by my Division Director, David K5UZ, that the Plant the Seed, Sow the Future Initiative was formally adopted by the ARRL Board of Directors in a recent meeting. I’ve had virtual meetings with ARRL HQ staff on advising them regarding technical details of adding maps, databases, and other material to the arrl.org website pages pertaining to clubs. The entire website was recently revised (again) so this is taking some time. Need I say, LoTW?

Locally, I’ve been working with the Jackson ARC in their recent formal partnership with the Madison County (MS) Public Library System to enhance the emergent “maker spaces” in that library system. Over this year in my role as Delta Division Assistant Director, I’ve been doing club development work with the Vicksburg ARC who is refocusing their activities and initiatives, including some discussions with the Warren County Public Library System, whose slogan is “We’re more than just books!” VARC is interested in partnering with them on creating maker space activities. These meetings and conversations have universally been met with a very strong desire by the library administrators there to welcome amateur radio into their programming. How can this be effected in ways that allow amateur radio to reach the two key demographic audiences of women and youth that visit public libraries at twice the rate that they visit movie theaters?

I’ve created a new but common proposed activity to be just one of several such ways to operationalize this “served agency” relationship: holding periodic “on the air” events at public libraries. LiOTA, short for Libraries On The Air, is outlined in a concept memo I’ve submitted to my Division Director, David K5UZ. I’ve posted it here for transparency. We will see if the ARRL Board of Directors takes advantage of the concept. If not, there may be other groups who wish to implement it.

Below is the spatial distribution of the 9,215 libraries in the current (2021) public library database. Not surprisingly, they follow population settlements which generally reflect the spatial distribution of amateur radio licensee locations. It’s also not a shock to know that they are not dissimilar to the pattern of ARRL-affiliated clubs. In other work for Plant the Seed, I’ve created spreadsheets by club for each Division showing for which public libraries the club is the nearest one to that library. These market areas can be used to easily identify potential nearby LiOTA sites. And, yes, POTA participants, I’ve already created an exhaustive list of public library entity numbers in spreadsheet and map format, ready for the League to use on their website for LiOTA, should they adopt the program.

Because of the targeted-marketing concept driving this prospective program, the logo I created includes a female radio operator at a library. Using control operators, getting women and young people on the air at libraries is the key metric of outreach in this program. Passive options, such as planned programs, displays or kiosks, books donated on amateur radio, club meetings, at public libraries are further means to reach this audience. But getting non-hams on the air will likely be a key. (If not, why do we use GOTA stations at Field Day?)

Targeted marketing starts with defining “who” specifically is a good fit for a product or service and delivering personalized messages directly to that targeted audience.

Dun & Bradstreet

Here is the logo that I’ve created for the LiOTA Program. Hmm. It might look good on a spiffy tee shirt.

Here’s the brief memo that I submitted to David K5UZ. Time will tell as to it’s fate. Contact your ARRL Division Director if you support the program!

A recommended strategy for planting the seed…

My two blog articles here from 2020 about the role that the Public Library System can play in reaching young people and women—two demographics that the ARRL says it wants to reach—have not fallen on deaf ears in Newington, CT. It has moved forward it seems. I’m told that the ARRL Board of Directors has embraced the concepts and directed the staff at HQ to implement it very soon.

My Division Director, David K5UZ, his Vice Director, Ed WB4RHQ, and Mike Walters W8ZY, Field Services Manager at ARRL, organized a video call with me last week to discuss steps to move forward with the Plant the Seed, Sow the Future program. I’ve been involved with program design and implementation for several decades via the US Department of Agriculture and state or local government. It’s a good sign that the BoD has issued a directive to the CEO in favor of this program. With all that’s been going on at the Board, I’m delighted that targeted actions like this are moving toward being implemented.

Mike W8ZY and I agreed that a map display would be a good tool to add to the ARRL-affiliated club search page. (They are re-thinking that page, too.) I’ll supply their IT staff with a file of public libraries in the U.S. and some attributes that are useful. Contact info for the Director, number of programs for youth and young adults, and so forth would allow clubs to target libraries that already have active programming in place and are near their location. But there’s more than just setting the table to ensure a meal that is well-enjoyed by all in attendance. Getting guests to the dinner table in the first place is one step! Engaging local clubs is that first step but they have to have access to the tools to make it efficient and effective for a longer term pay-off.

I prepared a memo some time ago to my Division Director, for whom I serve as an Assistant Director for the Delta Division. This memo recommends specific steps and stages for engaging affiliated clubs in this initiative. The Vice Director, Ed WB4RHQ, told us on the Zoom call how successful the Plant the Seed initiative has been in Tennessee already. Library Directors asked local ham club representatives if they would give programs at the library BEFORE hams could even bring it up! That’s a good sign.

It’s because programming for the public is the “new cheese” for library directors. I learned this while at the Board of Regents Office in Atlanta. The Public Library System reports to the college board in Georgia. I was tasked to work with the PLS and learned quite a bit about how local public libraries view their mission and operations. Programs are the key “cheese” that will move public library directors today.

Here are the steps I outlined in my member to my Director for implementing the ARRL program:


This is a recommended game plan to engage public libraries in the United States as a portal for education and outreach regarding amateur radio. Here are my bullet-point steps:

  • ARRL Board declare public libraries as new “served agencies” like Red Cross, not for emergency communication but for education and outreach. This makes it an official program with a League commitment. It also means it will not simply go away when some ARRL staffer decides s/he doesn’t want to deal with it anymore. Note to the skeptic: did you realize that for years the annual affiliated clubs forms that many club officers (including me) completed and submitted to HQ simply went into a file cabinet? And that the staffer who was leaving that position intended to put them in the trash dumpster out back when he retired, saying that “nobody cares about clubs anymore”? I didn’t think you did. It appears that the HQ Field Services Staff does care about clubs now. Board action can have that effect.
  • Re-introduce the $200 ARRL Library Book Set to the ARRL website. It was removed by Bob Interbitzen NQ1R, ARRL Product Development Manager, a couple of years ago as being irrelevant, right after my blog post was being circulated. It has yet to be returned as a product. Perhaps the CEO David Minster NA2AA can change that. He wants members to write him with ideas such as this so fire away: [email protected].
  • ARRL make presentation at American Library Association conference in the Public Libraries Division (https://www.ala.org/pla) to point out how the League can provide a national network of STEM-related activities to local public libraries via ARRL-affiliated clubs. The ARRL should also have an Exhibitor Booth. The League’s national network of local groups and proven outreach can greatly assist libraries in the provision of STEM-related programming and activities to children and adults.
  • ARRL negotiate an MOU with ALA-Public Library Division that parallels the one with Red Cross (and others) regarding emergency communications. This brokers an official organizational relationship between the League and its parallel organization for libraries in the United States. It also means that the Leagues means business in this educational outreach enterprise.
  • Roll-out the Plant the Seed, Sow the Future program through Divisions (BoD members) and Sections (Section Managers) but with Field Services Staff providing technical assistance. This should be a one-year targeted effort to prevent a languishing promise to the ALA. A spreadsheet identifying area public libraries nearest each affiliated club with name, address, contact information, and so forth will be provided through the existing ARRL Field Services communication channels.
  • Specific Objectives: each affiliated club create a standing written relationship with at least ONE public library in their area, negotiated through the Director of that library. This relationship must include: (1) donation of the set of ARRL books to the library that must be placed in their official holdings; (2) delivery of at least a quarterly program on some STEM-related subject at the local library by one or more club members; and (3) a display or kiosk in the library illustrating some aspect of amateur radio. This display should be changed out twice yearly.
  • To maintain Special Service Club status, a club must meet these goals within two reporting years.
  • Clubs that meet these goals within one reporting year will receive some reward from ARRL, to be determined. This will enhance the incentive for local affiliated clubs to engage with their local public libraries.

Imagine that if only 25 percent of the 2,850 clubs listed in the ARRL Club Search database were to negotiate a continuing relationship with at least one local public library, that would be some 712 libraries offering both books and programs on amateur radio to two key demographic groups: women and young children and adults. The 25 percent figure should actually be a lower bound of what all clubs should attain. But it would be leaps-and-bounds greater potential exposure than what the Teacher Institute can reach in a single year with class sizes in the 25-student range.

In the spirit of radio sport, avid contester David K5UZ asked, “Which Section can get the most libraries served by constituent ARRL Affiliated Clubs donating the League’s 10-book Library Set to libraries near them?” That would be a national contest indeed. One yielding a greater common good than a plaque for a single radio contest.

Now, to be sure, there are alternative versions of these recommended steps that better dove-tail with the League’s operation, the Divisions and Sections themselves. Some will say it’s too fast. But the thrust should be consistent with these ideas.

Not every ham thinks that public libraries would be an effective organization for amateur radio education and outreach. My own Section Manager, Malcolm W5XX, said that “no one” goes to libraries any more. My fellow podcast Presenter on the ICQ Podcast, Dan KB6NU, says he is skeptical. About ten years ago, he asked a staff member at a local public library in Ann Abor, MI where he lives about donating ham radio books. According to Dan, the staff member said something to the effect that if they took book donations from the local ham club, they’d have to take books from organizations that they’d prefer not to have in the library. I guess, think neo-Nazi hate material or something of that nature.

There may be others who disagree with the thrust of this Plant the Seed Initiative. But it may well be that there is a disconnect between the source of information that I’m using and what others are basing their opinion on. I’m using very high quality national data collected by the Gallup survey organization. I’m a professional survey researcher analyzing their raw data. I’ve done this a few times over my career so I think that I’ve got a very good handle on the national picture of reaching targeted audience groups. (Years ago, I designed the evaluations of the Smoky the Bear and the 4-H Programs.)

I love my Section Manager and respect his service greatly but the demographics of the Gallup Organization’s survey show that he himself is in a demographic (80 plus years of age and a man) that truly does not visit public libraries. Mal W5XX also has mobility issues and is retired from the US Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg MS, their hub of management. There are things you do not see if you are not in a position to look.

Now, Dan KB6NU does visit public libraries. In fact, he teaches ham radio licensing classes at one in Ann Arbor. I like and respect Dan as I’ve gotten to know him on the ICQ Podcast team. But there are a couple of things I can point out here about the basis of his stated skepticism.

One is that it’s a single library in Ann Arbor, not a state or the whole country. Moreover, asking a staff member who is not the Director is always more likely to yield a “no” to most questions. A Director is the go-to person in the public library space for any inquiries about donating books or other materials or coming in to give programs. Why? They have the authority to say “yes” without checking with anyone with the possible exception of the Library Board. It’s a relationship that a ham should seek, not just the act of dropping off a set of books.

A second thing is that the Ann Arbor library already has a number of amateur radio books and a magazine in their online catalog so they have already passed judgment on the content and sources of these holdings. Here’s a link for a search there for the term “amateur radio.” They have the current issue of CQ Magazine as well as the British magazine, Radio User (now part of Practical Wireless). They have several of Dan’s popular No Nonsense study guides, popular titles by Ward Silver, and the ARRL Operating Manual. Getting the ARRL Book Bundle would give them the latest and more depth to the content they already have in their holdings. So I do not know why the library staff member replied to Dan’s kind offer that way about ten years ago. But I’m not sure that that one experience is strong evidence that public libraries are not viable outlets for outreach and education about technology like amateur radio.

In fact, the Gallup report shows with national data that the library is the single most commonly visited public space to find young people and women. Should we ignore this critical fact? I certainly don’t. This is just an example of why it is critical to approach this “seed planting” as a relationship not a simple donation, just like we do with any other served agency in the EmComm arena of service. For instance, imagine your ARES team NOT having a relationship with the local EOC or other emergency management agency. Then just “show up” with HT in hand saying I’m a ham operator and heard you could use some help in the tornado, flood, fire, recovery effort. You’d be asked to vacate the premises very quickly because they are busy with their demanding work and they do not know you or your group! That’s what just dropping off a set of books might be like for a public library. At least, this is my take on it.

Work with ARRL Field Services and IT staff is scheduled to continue. I’ll see how this progresses and report further on the project. In the mean time, (re)read my two original blog posts on this concept. More than ever, we need to Plant the Seed of amateur radio. And use something more efficient than a screwdriver antenna (apologies to hams who use these antennas as I did some years ago). Keep up the Teacher Institute but expand into where the desired market audience can demonstrably be found. That just makes sense if we are serious about addressing the Baby Boom population exodus with a rational, data-driven plan to do what the ARRL has promised the IRS that they will do in exchange for not paying taxes on donations: education and outreach.

There are almost as many GMRS licenses as Techs…

At a recent local hamfest, my ARRL Section Manager, Malcolm W5XX, held the annual ARRL Forum. As Division Director David Norris K5UZ was giving his update on the recent Board of Directors meeting. W5XX commented that a club in North Georgia had begun reaching out to licensees of the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS). Why? There are some 8,000 of them in surrounding counties! Give a statistician a number like that and it’s catnip to a cat.

I had heard of GMRS and the lighter-weight Family Radio Service (FRS) as additional radio frequencies to the famous Citizen’s Band (CB) that I used as a teen. But I didn’t really know much about it. So, I spent parts of a week doing some searching, reading, and, inevitably, database building. I saw the wisdom of the club in question reaching out to this audience. Let’s do a thought experiment to flesh this out.

GMRS licensees use radios up to 50 watts on mobile stations and 15 watts in fixed stations in the mid-400 mhz region. There are limitations on the type of one-way communications (no whistling which would rule out most anyone in amateur radio tuning up an amplifier, lol). But in general, there are parallels to GMRS operators to those holding a Technician license in the Amateur Radio Service with the latter having much greater frequency access, power usage, and other aspects of the radio arts.

The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) is a licensed radio service that uses channels around 462 MHz and 467 MHz. The most common use of GMRS channels is for short-distance, two-way voice communications using hand-held radios, mobile radios and repeater systems. In 2017, the FCC expanded GMRS to also allow short data messaging applications including text messaging and GPS location information.
FCC: https://www.fcc.gov/wireless/bureau-divisions/mobility-division/general-mobile-radio-service-gmrs

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After doing some reading, I checked the FCC ULS GMRS license data. There’s an interesting comparison: the ARRL February 2023 numbers show 386,122 Technicians while individual GMRS licenses total 336, 513 after APO addresses and one Canadian are removed. Organizations and some other groups can obtain GMRS licenses. Roughly, there are about as many individual GMRS licensees as there are Technicians, give or take 50,000. Ok, I thought, this is surprising but how do they operate? Are they communicating amongst themselves as ham operators do? How many GMRS repeaters are there? The surprises just kept on coming!

The popular site, RepeaterBook.com, does list some GMRS repeaters. But the mother ship is the myGMRS.com website. One has to have a GMRS license to register but there ‘s enough information available to the public to show just how organized parts of the GMRS community already is. I’ve taken a screenshot of the map display, nicely done with clustering repeaters until a certain zoom level is reached, showing the GMRS repeaters in the U.S. Note those in Puerto Rico: I had recommended that the ARRL assist in getting a permanent repeater on the westernmost mountains near Mayaguez after a devastating hurricane. Perhaps even an HF ALE type station directed at Florida or North Carolina. Looks like the GMRS community has done some work here, too.

The map below illustrates the set of repeater hubs and their links around the U.S. There are national and regional Nets held regularly. An audio stream can be monitored using the website for each hub, not unlike Hoseline for the Brandmeister DMR Network. Hmm. If ham radio were only this organized, so quickly.

Linked Repeaters from the myGMRS.com website illustrating hubs and links around the U.S.

After downloading the February 2023 GMRS data from the FCC ULS ftp site, I processed it and filtered out the overseas military licenses. These records were then georeferenced to street addresses, with some that did not have street addresses geocoded to zip codes and a few to city centroids. The map below illustrates this: the GMRS individual license IS a compelling market for amateur radio recruitment.

It’s easy to see that the North Georgia region is part of the Appalachian Mountain range that is covered with GMRS licensees But so is most of the region east of the Mississippi River, the West Coast and the mountainous areas of the Southwest. Here’s another view zoomed in to the ARRL Delta Division where I live. Licensees in GMRS tend to follow population centers but note the areas, like Nashville, where the topography gives more height-above-ground than others. Northwest Arkansas is another such location. Interesting patterns!

We know little to nothing about the age distribution of GMRS licensees as year of birth is not contained in the ULS database released to the public (only 18 or over). But it stands to reason that GMRS licensees are likely to have a broader age range of adoption. From perusing the names on the licenses — license holders can authorize other family members to use additional radios in this Service — there are gendered-naming patterns. More women in GMRS than ham radio? Possibly.

Some interactive maps of these data are now available over at FoxMikeHotel.com under the Maps tab.

An important note is that an unknown number of those holding GMRS licenses today also hold licenses in the Amateur Radio Service. The FRN is not contained in the GMRS data so it would take “fuzzy matching” with less than perfect results to examine this idea.

Should the GMRS licensees be viewed as another direct marketing opportunity by the ARRL?

Only if they are serious about wanting to grow the ranks of amateur radio…

The ARRL has taken an interest in my proposed initiative to treat public libraries in the U.S. as “new served agencies” for recruitment strategies, according to Division Director David Norris K5UZ. See my two blog posts here and here. Should the GMRS licensees be viewed as another direct marketing opportunity by the ARRL?

I’ve taken the GMRS data and spatially joined the ARRL Division and Section fields to the license record using GIS. These files were then split into separate spreadsheets by Division with the Section as a separate field. I’ve put them on my public folder in Dropbox for all to retrieve should they desire. This would make it easy for a direct-mailing to GMRS licensees. In a cover letter identifying the contact info for their ARRL Section Manager, a brochure should be inserted describing the much greater options available by adding the Technician license through a VE exam. It works for some yield rates for other membership services. (Check today’s mail if you doubt this isn’t used frequently.)

Click HERE for the Dropbox folder.

It would not be inexpensive with USPS rates. But it would be directed at a market that is already known to have some interested in operating radios for communication. Perhaps it should begin with GMRS licensees in areas where there are existing repeater operations. This would be a good test case to see the yield from such a direct mailing.

What won’t work is to simply send the information “down stream,” expecting SMs to do all the heavy lifting. It simply won’t happen. The League already conducts a commercial mailing operation which is where this activity should be situated.

This would be a third recruiting rail for the ARRL, including the Teacher Institute (getting in schools), the pending (I’m told) Plant the Seed initiative for public libraries, and the direct mailing to known radio communication licensees in the GMRS arena. Recruit the Generals, anyone?

Avoid the Loopy-ness of HF Loops

In reworking a wire antenna around the edge of my shingled roofline that was installed 10 years ago as a (mostly) horizontal HF loop, I discovered a couple of things. After applying them successfully and preparing a draft of the principles, procedures and results, Don G3XTT decided to publish my work in the March issue of Practical Wireless magazine. Thomas K4SWL, Kirk NT0Z, and Scott K0MD gave me valuable advice on this journey.

One is that the current ARRL Antenna Book mainly parrots the wisdom of “just use 450-ohm ladder line and you’ll be fine.” Usually. OK, that’s the Cliff Notes version and they do have more to say than that. But they repeat that Philosopher of Knoxville, Larry Cebik, in his well done set of antenna models for HF loops as the main source of this wisdom. L.E. Cebik, to the surprise of many hams, was not an engineering faculty member at the University of Tennessee but a Professor of Philosophy. A good one at that.

The new English translation of Rothamel’s Antenna Book had references! It’s a more thorough and deep-dive treatment of HF loop antennas. It’s “grounded” in the published literature which “bonds” things together in terms of the reader’s comprehensive of what has been published about these HF antennas. (Sorry for the Ward Silver puns here!)

A second is that the problem with doing what most antenna texts say, measure the impedance of an antenna at the feed point, is that the loop needs to be up in the air where it’s going to be installed. This is a far climb on a ladder with an antenna analyzer!

Frank K4FMH checking bluetooth connection to RE Stick Pro on bare loop wire

It dawned on me that the new era analyzers with bluetooth connectivity that are light weight offer a way to measure the feed point impedance at the “bare wire” ends of the loop while keeping one’s feet on the ground. Here I am on a step ladder with my Rig Expert Stick Pro with a banana plug adapter to the bare wire ends of a loop being installed at Clay AC5Z’s house among four tall pine trees. I’m making sure that my iPhone has a good bluetooth connection to the analyzer before I attached the second bare wire end to the banana plug and let AC5Z hoist it up to it’s intended height above ground.

We used Clay’s IC-7300 set at the lowest power output (5w) to run a WSPR beacon for 12 hours on most HF bands. Below are displays from WSPR.Rocks for the fundamental 80M band (pounding Eastern Europe over night!), 20M (Europe, Australia and vicinity, Hawaii) and the 10 & 12M bands (getting to Australia and Japan).

This particular loop is nearing our final optimization. It can be optimized a bit more by raising the balun wind from 4:1 to 6:1 and taking about 3 feet off of the bare wire. This should situate the 80M band to Clay’s liking and bring the higher harmonics more into line with those bands, too. It seems to be working from the test phase.

I’ll cover it and perhaps another one being planned for Mike N5DU’s house soon. Read about the process I’m using in the March issue of Practical Wireless magazine. I cover it in detail for the loop at my HOA-based residence that didn’t just follow the conventional wisdom. It got a much improved optimization. Even being matched to 160 meters for an 80 meter fundamental design frequency!

CQ Magazine Article on Sherwood Tools

In the January 2023 issue of CQ Magazine, there is an article I wrote introducing my Sherwood Tools page over at FoxMikeHotel.com. Didn’t make the cover but it is on page 50! It will introduce the reader to these new tools to further utilize Rob Sherwood NC0B’s test suite of bench measurements on over 50 years of radios. I appreciate Rich Moseson (CQ Editor) for wanting to further publicize these online tools that I’ve created with the significant assistance of Rob Sherwood NC0B. He is an international treasure to the amateur radio community!

I update this webpage as I’m able to digest and process new data from Rob’s Table. It does take some time for me to reanalyze these data segments, as even one new entry alters the patterns and analysis from the previous dataset. If I am in the midst of other matters, it can take me a month or more to get to this update. (Amateur radio is a hobby, not a lifestyle, for me, lol.)

This work on price, performance and satisfaction with HF radios has been very popular over the past couple of years as I’ve given many talks to groups via Zoom on the studies and results. The first results from this line of research was published by (then) Editor Scott Wright K0MD at the National Contesting Journal. I’ll be adding the latest Yaesu HF radios (FTDX10 and FT-710) to the mix soon.

Stay tuned because I’m completing the analysis of a subset of these modern transceivers that includes composite transmit noise base upon data from a group of European amateurs complemented with measurements by Rob Sherwood NC0B. I’m completing that work and associated manuscript in the coming weeks.


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  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor