Archive for the ‘young hams’ Category

One Aspect of Amateur Radio: Good Will Ambassadors to the World

This article is part two of the series taking a look at band plans and gentlemen agreements.
See part one, here: Land (er, FREQUENCY) Grab.  See part three, here: In Response — Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Displaced and Marginalized

There are some unhappy amateur radio operators in the world of shortwave operations. Users of Morse code, and digital modes other than the highly-popular modes engineered by Joe Taylor, K1JT, feel displaced on the many amateur radio bands where Joe’s wildly-popular mode FT8 has erupted.

Joe (born March 29, 1941), is a friend of hams everywhere, and is an American astrophysicist and Nobel Prize in Physics laureate ( for his discovery with Russell Alan Hulse of a “new type of pulsar, a discovery that has opened up new possibilities for the study of gravitation.”

Many have asked questions like, “Did Joe Taylor K1JT Destroy Amateur Radio? Did Joe Taylor K1JT, Nobel Laureate and noted friend of hams everywhere, accidentally destroy amateur radio?” This question remains relevant, even as more and more FT8 operators take to the HF bands to chase wallpaper and awards.

FT8 Has Validity and Usefulness

Full disclosure: I administer a Facebook group for FT8 and FT8-related modes, because I believe that the mode has a valid place in our amateur radio technology portfolio.  Here is the Facebook group URL, if you would like to join the fun: Understand, I have used and will continue to use FT8.

Because it has a place, it stands to reason that everyone should become more aware of the impact of using FT8 on the bands. It also stands to reason that it should be used ethically, and in the best spirit of amateur radio.

Many amateur operators use the FT8 digital mode as a novelty when there isn’t much else happening on amateur radio shortwave bands. One of the great things about it is that you can tell when a band is open–even though you don’t hear any other signals of other modes on the band in question, you very well may hear the roar of FT8 on the band where propagation actually exists to somewhere else than your QTH.

Others use it to finally get their DXCC, or WAS, or other award and wallpaper. This is especially popular during this season of the sunspot cycle where there are no sunspots–propagation is limited to lower-HF amateur bands because there’s just not enough solar activity to energize the ionosphere enough to open up the higher segment of shortwave.

FT8 Has Limitations

Can FT8 be used for two-way conversations? No. However, the JS8CALL digital mode is designed from the FT8 mode, by changing the protocol in a way that allows free text. It is designed for ragchewing and the new version 2.0 offers three modes of chat with 50 Hz and 16 wpm, 80 Hz and 24 wpm, and the turbo mode at 160hz and 40wpm with turbo only having a 6-second turn around time. The designated frequency is 7.078, which many find much nicer to use.

However, many find JS8CALL combersome, and non-intuitive.  How fast and how reliably can it handle critical messages, say, during an emergency?  I’m sure the software will improve, but how good is the protocol?

A mode such as Olivia has been field proven, and time tested.  It can reliably handle traffic.

The Rant

During the early days of widespread FT8 operation that came with the first public non-Beta release of FT8-equipped WSJT-X software, I tried to reason with the FT8 development leadership team. I made a polite attempt at explaining how incredibly rude they were in purposefully programming into the software the default operating frequencies such as 7.075, 14.075, and so on.

One of the main leaders of that team slammed me and stated that “we only suggested those frequencies; the operator is free to change them.” Additionally, he stated that the team used a common QSO/Mode spotting website to see what digital modes or other operations (like CW) were sparser. They perceived that the frequencies they proposed where no longer active because they saw few if any spots. They thought that no one would care.

I explained that a single website-spotting strategy was illogical and very lazy. This is true for several reasons, at least.

I guess you have to have a Ph.D. to know better than any average ham who went by gentleman’s agreements. I have an extremely dim view of JT and his disciples. CW is not the only operating group he’s engineered out of traditional slices of spectrum. Olivia, and other modes, now have been pushed down into PSK subbands, and everyone is feeling the crowding. As far as my thinking of FT8, well, it is radio, but it doesn’t foster goodwill and building serious communications skill. IMHO.

Play Nice, Be Positive and Polite. Smile.

I’ve received wise counsel from a number of fellow amateur radio operators.  They implore us to not promote hostility between “us and them.”  That even though the WSJT team is playing the playground bully, we should not be vengeful, but polite and willing to negotiate in good faith.

If we don’t play nice with the bully then the bully won’t play with us.  And, the general public will side with the bully because the bully has the nice toys…

Good negotiations, though, take a willingness by both sides, so that conversation evolves,  resulting in positive, cooperative actions embraced by both parties. There are other amateur radio operators who have made attempts to open up talks with Joe and crew.  What are the results, so far?

We can hope that Joe Taylor and his group of developers and leadership take a proactive role and join a conversation that is with a wider group of amateurs than just the WSJT enthusiasts.  We hope that they will play fairly, and cooperatively, with the rest of the amateur radio community.



Tomas, NW7US

Tomas Hood, NW7US, is a regular contributor to and writes from Nebraska, USA. Tomas is the Space Weather and Radio Propagation Contributing Editor to ‘CQ Amateur Radio Magazine’, and ‘The Spectrum Monitor’ magazine.

Yet in Quarantine, Life Blossoms!

About a month ago, I asked,

What is going on with you during this challenging situation?” and, “How do you use amateur radio, now that we are all stuck at home?  Are you using ham radio more, now?  Less?

I am moved to say, “Thank you, to each of you who commented and even those who made a video response. I sure appreciate it!

During that video blog (or, Vlog), back a month ago (link: Chat From a Quarantined Software Engineer – Welfare Check!), I mentioned my need for dental surgery. 

I did have to have the tooth removed.  It was completely split down the middle (top to bottom), down to the root.  There was no justifiable way to save the tooth. 

I now am missing two bottom back-most teeth, and one bottom, back-most tooth.  I can report that I have healed up nicely.  I am starting to enjoy a hamburger or two.

Through all of this, I’ve still been working. Also, I’ve been involved with a LOT more ham radio–especially with Morse code activities.

How has the last month treated you?  After watching this new video (below), please leave a comment or two, or three; let hear from you, okay?

More than anything, please leave a comment to let me know how you are doing.  I hope to hear from you.

Here’s the video:

73 de NW7US dit dit


Chat From a Quarantined Software Engineer – Welfare Check!

This is a welfare check on you. Please leave a comment on how you are faring, what is happening in your situation with the lock-down.

Are you quarantined? Working from home? Did you lose your job? How are you doing during this crazy time?

What is going on with you during this challenging situation?

I talk about what I’m doing, too.  I’m quarantined at home.  I can work from home, as I am a senior software engineer.  I can do my job by remote access to a virtual workstation, through a secure VPN connection.  I’m blessed that I still can work during this lock-down.

But, I have a medical emergency – a dental problem – and trying to be seen by a dentist is difficult, because all of the local dentists were told to shut down their daily business and quarantine.  Only emergency appointments are being made!  I was finally, after two days of phone calls, able to schedule an emergency visit to my dentist!

I want to know: How do you use amateur radio, now that we are all stuck at home?  Are you using ham radio more, now?  Less?

Please leave a comment to let me know how you are doing, and answer the other questions, too.  I hope to hear from you.

I hope to meet you on the shortwave amateur radio bands.  I am usually using Olivia, or Morse code CW.  More information about Olivia:

Be healthy, be safe, stay sane!



Meme: Car and Woman Arguing, 73

Meme: Car and Woman Arguing, 73

“Best regardses” and “Best regards’s”

That’s silly, of course. We who speak and write in the English language know that you should not pluralize a word that is already in its plural form. “Best regards” means, “I wish you the best of regards.” It is implied that there is more than one regard. Perhaps there are a few, perhaps many more. It then is clear that we wouldn’t normally pluralize “regards,” into, “regardses.”

It is also silly to say that the best of regards owns something.  How can a regard let alone a group of regards own anything?  So, why “73’s” when written?

Old SWLer QSL Card With 73's

Old SWLer QSL Card With 73’s

The usage of “73” comes from early landline telegraph (typically railroad telegraphy landlines). Originally devised in the era of telegraphs, 73 and other numbers were used to speed up the transmission of common messages over landlines by mapping common messages to these specific numbers.  And, numbers were quicker to send than the longer messages the numbers replaced.

QST, April 1935, on page 60, contains a short article on the origin of the amateur radio vernacular, 73. This article was a summation of another article that appeared in the “December Bulletin from the Navy Department Office of the Chief of Naval Operations,” published December of 1934.

Landline (Railroad) Morse Code

A skilled landline Morse code operator, in action.

Here’s a quotation from that Navy article:

“It appears from a research of telegraph histories that in 1859 the [land-line] telegraph people held a convention, and one of its features was a discussion as to the saving of ‘line time.’

A committee was appointed to devise a code to reduce standard expressions to symbols or figures. This committee worked out a figure code, from figure 1 to 92.

Most of these figure symbols became obsolescent, but a few remain to this date, such as 4, which means “Where shall I go ahead?’. Figure 9 means ‘wire,’ the wire chief being on the wire and that everyone should close their keys. Symbol 13 means ‘I don’t understand’; 22 is ‘love and a kiss’; 30 means ‘good night’ or ‘the end.’

The symbol most often used now is 73, which means ‘my compliments’ and 92 is for the word ‘deliver.’ The other figures in between the forgoing have fallen into almost complete disuse.”

We can see, then, that “73” mapped to “best regards” or “my compliments” and was intended as a general valediction for transmitted messages.  That’s why it is silly to say, “73s,” as that maps to, “best regardses” – 73s adds the plural to a plural.  (And, don’t make it possessive, as in using, “73’s” – a regard cannot own something).

Jeeves, there's no plural for 73

Cartoon: Jeeves, there is no plural for 73…

For reference and some more interesting background on this, see

An example of on-the-air conversation (or, QSO—“QSO” is the shorthand Q-code for, “two-way exchange of communications”) illustrates proper usage of 73. When saying your goodbye, you would tap out the Morse code as follows:


That is interpreted as, “Thanks for the fine-business chat. I hope to see you again for another chat. Best regards and happy new year.”

This, if you choose to throw around shorthand Morse code number codes when you are speaking, you wouldn’t say, “73s.” You would say, “73.”

Old Man Hiram Percy Maxim 1AW QSL Card with 73's

The Old Man Hiram Percy Maxim 1AW used 73’s on his QSL cards.

My friend, David Edenfield, opined, “This idea is beyond turning into glue from the dead horse it’s beating again. This is so petty to be concerned with this. Even the Old Man Hiram Percy Maxim 1AW used 73s on his QSL cards.”

Well, even Hiram Percy Maxim has been incorrect and incorrectly used grammar. (chuckle)

There is something to be said about teaching new amateur radio operators the best of our traditions, history, skills, procedures, protocols, ethics, and culture. There’s no rational argument that can make a case that allowing these aspects of our service and hobby to degrade over time (by the lack of Elmering) is a good way to see our service and hobby thrive and progress.

I don’t see any slippage from high standards as being a good strategy for nurturing growth, progress, and effectiveness of our service and hobby. Keeping some level of excellence in every aspect of our hobby can only be beneficial.

In this case, how many new hams that learn to repeat ham lingo know anything of the history behind the common “73?” My dead horse turned glue is educational and it is my belief that educating about origins elevates the current.

73 – NW7US

NW7US QSL Card (circa 2019)

NW7US QSL Card (circa 2019)



About That (Expletive) ARRL Proposal to Give Technicians The Whole World

It is my observation that by enabling someone a taste of what can be accomplished on HF (shortwave) spectrum, especially using one of the newer digital modes, that someone has an opportunity for inspiration, perhaps enough to catch the HF fever that is required to move that someone from entry-level to experienced, skilled expert. Right now, the regulations limit the Technician-level license holder to digital operation only on bands that barely propagate (if at all!) during the weak solar cycles. It is a far stretch to postulate that having privileges on dead bands will inspire exploration and tempt the operator to upgrade to a higher license class.

I believe that Technician-class priveledges should be expanded so that entry-level amateur radio operators can get a practical taste of effectively-propagating HF signals on lower frequencies than those frequencies currently available to them for digital operation. And, the allowed mode on these subbands should include digital modes. This “would encourage a sustained interest in Amateur Radio and encourage further development of knowledge and operating skills,” a concept already proven by General-class operators that get enough of a taste that they then pursue the Amateur Extra license.

Comments to me are below the following video section. I also include my response.

In the following video, I share my opinion regarding the ARRL asking the FCC to grant more operating privileges across the many amateur radio allocations on shortwave (HF, or, High Frequencies). The video is my brief takeaway of ARRL’s petition: What is the issue, as a whole, and what the ARRL is addressing–the lack of desire by most current Techs to upgrade. The logic of my perspective concludes that if you give them a taste of lower-shortwave propagation and excitement, then they will want to upgrade. This logic is already proven as applicable by the fact that the General class exists. All this proposal will do is allow the tech to experience what could be very attractive. Just like for the General.

The next two videos are addendums to the first video:

I made a few technical mistakes in the first video. The last video contains corrections and further comments.

Comments Received, and My Response

I have received many responses–some in opposition, some in support. Here are example contrarian responses along with my reply:

[Dear] Tomas David Hood[:] Something for absolutely nothing has never taught anyone anything good, but to want another free lunch. 35 multiple guess easy questions was all that was asked to get general class privileges, but that’s just too hard for the current class. Something for nothing is what sell today, and the ARRL, and probably half the country thinks socialism is the way to reach the new hams I guess. But the ARRL will never get another dime from me. You want a trophy or additional privileges, Get them as everyone else did,, Work for them, study, just a little is all that was asked. Remember, If it didn’t cost anything, it probably isn’t worth anything!

If they are not willing to take a simple test, and yet they want to upgrade, then yes they are the same as saying that we are asking too much, but would participate, you are suggesting, as long as it didn’t require any work or effort on their part, Its a shame.. And I am embarrassed on their behalf… Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez could pass that test, but she would probably agree with you, that people are asking them to be smart and study, and that’s somehow probably racist and just over the line for you.

At this point the ARRL should just say, we are not protecting the spectrum, but about selling the ham radio spectrum to the highest bidders. In this case, they be;live that will be the techs who will purchase HF gear, and of course, the ARRL will benefit hugely from the equipment makers desire to market to the group.

My response is:

What the heck is wrong with selling radios?

But, seriously, which of the many Technicians say that they want to upgrade? That’s the point: the majority of Technician-class amateur radio operators are not upgrading. They get on VHF and above, and are stationary, with few realizing that there’s so much more than the aspect of the hobby evident in their local community.

With little to no exposure to other aspects of the hobby, the typical ham in the current ham-radio culture settles for what is presented by local mentors. Weather spotting, DMR, etc.

Because they have current HF privileges that have so little practical use (CW only on lower frequencies; voice on 10 meters which doesn’t propagate well during this period of no sunspot activity…), they see no incentive to delve into what appears like a waste of time.

The proposal is not giving away the farm. It simply adds a small slice on a limited set of HF bands (but where a signal has a better chance of propagation), allowing for Technician-class operators to get a real sense of the potential waiting for them if they pursue the General.

Then, once upgraded to General, they get even more exposure, and hopefully, see why it is great to be an Amateur Extra.

Tomas David Hood what’s wrong with selling radios. Nothing at all, but if I removed the test that drivers take to show they understand the rules and how to drive, then I can sell more cars and more insurance to poor drivers. Do you or anyone else think that’s a good idea. A few tech’s putting their hands on the plate of those high voltage amps, and maybe, just maybe, someone will believe me when I say some basic testing should be required for HF privileges. Now, all they will have is a cereal box license in my book, and in the opinion of many of my friends, so it;s not just me. If I am wrong, then there are a lot of people that are wrong like me, and they will fight for there hobby. I am a ARRL VE, but I will never test another Ham if this goes through, and I will spend the rest of my days making sure any newcomers realize what the ARRL did to what once was a good hobby, and how a few people didn’t seem to understand why giving away free privileges is always bad for our society, and always bad for our hobby.

Actually I have a real case study that is local,, and yes the guy doid put his hand on the plate, and yes he hit the floor.. and yes, after I found out he was ok,, I think it’s plenty funny,, Yes, they need to study more than that.


Your argument that Technician-class operators will kill themselves because the test is so easy that they will end up electrocuting themselves is yet another Red Herring. Technicians play with dangerous VHF, UHF, SHF equipment, with ominous dangerous aspects deserving respect. If you really think that the General test is the difference between life and death, why even worry? The number of technicians will be nicely reduced to a more acceptable, comfortable number.

I’ve seen Amateur Extra-class operators do the same sort of dangerous, life-threatening stunts.

The issue you are highlighting is a different problem that must be solved separately from the idea of creating a more practical incentive; all tests should be improved in such a way as to foster greater technical knowledge and awareness of all aspects of the hobby.

Better mentoring. Less us-vs-them. More education. More community. All of these should be explored and enhanced. Solve the problem, instead of ostracizing. And, realize that this proposed change is NOT a dumbing-down maneuver to give away the ham radio hobby to the unclean.

My Rebuttal Regarding the Petition by ARRL to the FCC to Expand Technician-Class Privileges

This is my reply to many responses that I have been receiving on my original blog entry, located at this website,(my shortened URL: as well as to the original video, posted in that blog entry.

I wish to reply to all of those who are against the idea of expanding the privileges of the Technician-class licensee, the expansions including the ability to operate Voice and Digital in limited slices in a subset of lower-than-Ten-Meter amateur radio shortwave allocations.

It seems to me, that…

…the issue is not one of Technician-class licensees wanting more privileges, as a whole. What the ARRL is addressing is the *lack* of desire by most current Techs to upgrade.

The logic behind the idea of expanding privileges concludes that if you give them a taste of lower-shortwave propagation and excitement (by moving past the CW-only restriction on the lower tech allocations), then they *will* want to upgrade.

This logic is already proven as applicable by the fact that the General class exists! All that this proposal will do is allow the Tech to experience what could be very attractive–just like for the General.  If it worked in the past with Novice, Technician, General, Advanced, and Amateur Extra (exposing to all of HF, even if by way of a CW-only requirement), then it will work, now.  The difference is that the CW-only requirement on lower HF bands is highly restrictive because the mode is no longer needed to operate on any frequency, and, most will not take the time to learn it just to see if they WANT to explore the lower HF bands, or ever upgrade.

The bottom line is that we should make the Tech ticket more relevant. The expansion is not dumbing down, nor does it give away the farm.

I discuss this original point in the two videos that were lower down in the original post:


Thanks for reading, watching the videos, and having a useful dialog about this very important change to the amateur radio regulations in the USA.


That aside: This may, in the long term, reveal one of two possible truths:

1. There is no real need for three license classes. Two would suffice. General and Amateur Extra, or Technician (merged with General) and Amateur Extra.

2. There is no real need for three license classes. One would suffice. Make the test hard enough to cover the Extra-class material, and all material under that class, and merge everyone into one tested class. I believe that this has been tried in other countries, and it appears to work well.

I’ll be crucified for stating those ideas, but, hey, this is just a hobby.

73 de NW7US dit dit

What? ARRL Petitions FCC to Expand Privileges of Technician-Class Amateur Radio Operators

I have my opinion on ARRL asking FCC to grant more HF privileges to Technician-class licensees.

I verbalize them in this video:

After you hear my comments, please leave your comments.

Thanks, 73 de NW7US dit dit

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