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An Honest Report

Some may just jump to the conclusion that I’m recycling articles from QST, but I’m not — I promise! Having said that, on with the show…

A few months ago there was a nice two-month series in QST about signal reports. The author concentrated on what the numbers actually mean and how to use the reports. The first installment was about voice signals, the second about digital signals along with a suggestion of a tweaked system for digital signal reports.

I enjoy a nice cross section of our hobby: rag chewing, traffic handling, EmComm, some contesting, DX’ing, nets, and digital work. Of all those aspects there is one thing that stands out that seems pointless. Every signal report is a 5 by 9. Now I understand that during the peak or activity in a contest, it may be easiest to give the same report to everyone, especially if you can have your logging program pre-fill the signal report. But is this helpful? Is it ‘honest’? The signal report system was designed to give a signal report. An honest evaluation of how you can copy the other station. It wasn’t conceived to be an autopilot tool to speed along a contest or QSO.

If someone is stuck in autopilot with 5 by 9 reports, what’s the point of even giving them? There are times where it’s beyond obvious that I was hard to pull out, yet I’m told I’m 5 by 9. If they we’re honest about my report, I could tweak my antenna or processor or if I have an amp, turn up my power a little to improve my signal. If I’m only giving out a 5 by 9 report, the same holds true, it’s of no help whatsoever to the other station.

I refuse to just give 5 by 9 reports. I don’t care if it’s a contest or a rare DX station. If they are not an honest 5 by 9, I will not give them a 5 by 9 report. I’ve made a few contesters mad. One even chewed me out about it. One even tried to ‘teach me’ to only give 5 by 9 reports. But I refuse. I want to use the system properly!

I challenge others to join me, give an honest signal, even when it catches the other station off guard. Maybe if enough of us do that we’ll start getting honest reports back and be able to actually use the reports as they were intended!

Tuning in before tuning up

No, CW doesn’t make bad amateur operators. But tuning over somebody does. Is there a connection between the two? [hint: probably not]

I started thinking about this a few weeks ago when, prior to a net on HF, a few members we’re ragchewing for a bit beforehand. As seems to be all too common, somebody started to tune on top of them. Then came a comment from one of the operators who mentioned how he wished they had never done away with making CW a requirement to get your Amateur Radio license. He connected the two: no CW and bad tuning practice. I was at a loss — thankfully I wasn’t talking then, just listening.

I fail to see how the two are connected. I am grateful that CW is no longer required. Even if I had to, I couldn’t make out any code with the exception of S.O.S. But that doesn’t make me any less of an operator than one who knows code does it?

Does my lack of CW skill/knowledge mean I will disregard common courtesy — and FCC rules — regarding tuning my antenna? Again the answer here is no. Sadly I know many who know CW yet do that very thing. Some of them tune at full legal power.

Common courtesy would be to pre-tune at low power prior to making the final adjustments at the power level you will use for the QSO. Sadly, there’s a large number of Amateur Radio operators out there who disregard that courtesy.

An ideal solution is for all of us to play by the rules. Unfortunately that probably won’t happen. So what can we do? For starters, listen before tuning. Pre-tune. When someone starts overpowering you by tuning, wait for a lull and politely remind the tuner that it isn’t OK to interfere with another operator’s signal. Another thing we can do is keep talking about this problem, and any other problems on the bands. We’re supposed to ‘police’ ourselves. We have a nice code of ethics yet we don’t talk about them much.

Another idea, and this is one that I can’t do, is to find a new way to tune. There are lots of very smart, savvy engineers in our hobby evidenced by the many different modes and protocols, more being added almost daily it seems. What if some of those programmers were to work on a better way to tune?

Maybe a subaudible tone? I’m sure that someone out there could come up with a solution. I’m asking on behalf of all of us on HF who get annoyed by tuners who lack courtesy. Will you help us?

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  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor