Nasty OT Ham – Reality or Myth?

Every now and then I wander over to eHam. net. And sometimes I wonder why I bother to wander.

It's not uncommon for me to read the articles, and then inevitably, come across some comment by a self-proclaimed "newbie" wherein he or she begins to bemoan the treatment they've received from some "old fart", nasty, mean ol' Ham.

The common scenario seems to be:

"I'm new, bright-eyed, bushy tailed, full of exuberance and spit and vinegar -  but yet somewhat lacking in knowledge and experience. I've gone to WB#XYZ repeater or to the Amateur Radio Club of Greater Podunk, where my inquiries were met with laughter, ridicule, sarcasm and down right meanness from Joe Ham. I am now going to sell all my Amateur Radio equipment because I'm traumatized and I never even want to hear the words "Amateur Radio" again."

I've seen this retold several times, in several different instances. I hate to question the veracity of the people making these claims - but can they be true? This has become a pet peeve of mine.

I've mentioned many times now, that I've been licensed for over 35 years. In all that time, I have never, ever, not even once come across treatment like that from an older Ham. Don't get me wrong, I've had to withstand my share of newbie ribbing, and have received my share of friendly and gentle reprimanding when doing something wrong - but nothing like these guys are describing.

A case in point. Shortly after upgrading to General in 1979, I joined the Old Bridge Amateur Radio Association.  They owned and operated the KB2TX repeater at the time (well actually, it became the KB2TX repeater after Walt, the owner, changed his callsign to KB2TX - I forget what it was before that). Anyway, I had installed a used non-Icom microphone with a DTMF pad on my Icom 2 Meter mobile, so that I could make phone patches if the need came up.  Back in those days, (am I dating myself?) it was rare for a mobile microphone to come with a keypad pre-installed. Unbeknownst to me, the microphone's element wasn't working. The DTMF tones were making it through, but my voice wasn't. So Walt got on the air and in his usual gruff  and no-nosense manner announced, "Hey! Whoever's sending the tones - you've got no audio. Stop it and identify yourself".  I was saying "KA2DOH (my call at the time) testing.", but it wasn't coming through.  I had Walt's phone number and gave him a call, explaining the problem.  After listening to my profuse apology, he got quiet and thought for a few seconds. Instead of giving me a tongue lashing, as technically I was breaking the rules, he suggested that the impedance of the microphone element might not be the proper valuthat the rig was looking for - a mismatch. Sure enough, that's what it turned out to be.

I listened and I learned something (that had never occurred to me) and was able to remedy the situation by going to Radio Shack, where I purchased and soldered into my microphone an element with the proper impedance.  Walt could have dressed me down, and read me the riot act, but he didn't. He was that way to everybody. In fact, in dealing with all the Old Timers throughout my Amateur Radio career (there were many) - they were all like that.  I can't ever remember a time where I received a snotty, snarky or sarcastic reply to a question. In fact, in my dealing with experienced Hams, they have always been helpful, accommodating and educational. And I live in New Jersey, too - supposedly the home of unfriendly, sarcastic, snarky and just plain mean ol' human beings in general!

So where does this curmudgeon live?  DOES this curmudgeon live? Or have we become so hyper-sensitive to any kind of criticism that even helpful criticism is taken as an incidence of ego-shattering reprimand?

Maybe they do exist, and maybe I'm lucky that I've never come across one.  Maybe I just need to go down on bended knee and be grateful that I've never run across the "No kids, no lids, no space cadets" type of Ham.  I can tell you that I have become dear friends with several "Old Timer" Hams who did have very rough and gruff reputations, only to find out after spending some time talking with and listening to them, that they had hearts of pure gold. Sometimes that's all it takes, just listening for a bit instead of always chattering and insisting that we know everything, and that we're always right - when maybe, just perhaps, we're not.

Food for thought.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!
Larry Makoski, W2LJ, is a regular contributor to and writes from New Jersey, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

16 Responses to “Nasty OT Ham – Reality or Myth?”

  • peter kg5wy:

    I’ve seen and heard intimidation directed to new hams.
    In clubs and on the air.
    Not often, but it does exist.

  • W3FIS:

    Had it happen once when I had gotten my Novice ticket while at college. Came home that summer, and looked up the local ARC. I was informed, that it was “by invitation only.” How to put a damper on things….

  • Fred AE2DX:

    I haven’t seen or heard any intimidation but if I had I would go back to that station and try to explain that we all weren’t born with all the knowledge to the proper way to operate a station. I have heard many newbies calling or stating their presence on the repeater only to be met with stone silence even though I knew their were stations just on. I wait for a few seconds then I will go back to him or her. the newbie of today will be the future of tomorrows ham radio give them a break might find them interesting and a friendship might be made. We all have been there at one time or another.

  • Colin GM4JPZ:

    About 35 years ago I was operating for a while in Los Angeles on a reciprocal license as G4JPZ/W6, when one day a well-known older, local ham reprimanded me on 20m by asking why I should be allowed to operate on all available frequencies, while a US ham had to sit the Extra exam to do the same. I was mad, and humiliated, and could only defend myself by saying I had had all these frequencies at home so why not in W6? When I closed down the rig I started thinking how I could give him a more adequate reply, and finally came to the conclusion: Sit the US exams and show him! I did this, ending up with the Extra license (keeping my General callsign N6OET because it was good for CW). Only now do I realise that he actually did me a favor by provoking that reaction, however awful it felt at the time. Was he just being a curmudgeon, or was he doing the right thing for the hobby? The answer is more complicated than I thought:-)

  • Stephen G0PQB:

    I have just come home from the local radio club and we had a few new faces along tonight. We are always pleased to see new faces and do our hardest to ensure they come again. It is my job as chairman to welcome and encourage new people. Normally this meeting close to the end of the summer holidays we have about 8 people along. Tonight we had eighteen and it would have been more but some of the regulars are on holiday. The club is picking up new members because we greet people and talk to them. We have a good many Foundation Licence holders joining as new members because we welcome everyone and try to get people to join in activities. We were all beginners once.

  • Richard KWØU:

    Sadly there seem to be grouches in most large groups. In my hobby of glider flying I’ve run into a few, including instructors. But perhaps somewhat solitary activities like aviation and radio tend to attract a higher than usual percentage of uncomfortable loners. And radio is such that by the very nature of the medium an unpleasant person will stand out. On the other hand in every endeavor I’m doing–the flying, radio, triathlons, foreign travel, etc.–the vast majority of people have been friendly, helpful and willing to go out of their way to lend a hand. Those are the ones who matter, and if somebody is acting like a jerk…turn the dial. They have to live with themselves. The rest of us don’t.

  • Floyd KC3CRQ:

    I am a fairly newbie got my Tech In 2014 and general in 2015 I have not been picked on or abused. I have gotten a lot of help from old timers even some decent equipment cheap.

  • Don AE7QL:

    It’s not just new Hams this happens to. When I got my ticket back in 2007…was living in NW Arizona. I personally had a long time Ham who didn’t have the money for coax…so he traded me some of his coax for some of mine. Come to find out after I moved out of the area that the coax he traded me was shorting out the complete length. In addition to this…wasn’t uncommon for him to get on the repeater and during Nets to start shouting/picking fist fights at anyone who opened the mike. Because of his behavior…I didn’t operate for several years.
    When I moved to Colorado Springs…attended one of the club picnics. Having been in contact with some of the members who knew I was showing up…sat among some other Hams. No one…not one person…came up to me to say “hi” or introduce themselves.
    There are other stories I and others can tell…but the truth of the matter is if you’re not in a certain clique…some Hams will not deal with you and will sabotage what you are doing. Very few do this…but there are some who hold tickets who get off on this behavior.

  • Harry K7ZOV:

    Got my Novice License in 1963. In those days it was crystals and no VFO’s. I was only 16 yrs old… Got ragged at a few times for being too close to someone, or did not hear the other station…Yes I asked if the freq was clear.. At first it hurt and I was about to give up the hobby. I stuck it out. I can say that since 1963 I have noticed that the bands basically have about 95% really good guys and gals. 5%, like some parts of 75 meters and VHF/UHF repeaters still have the same number of LIDS, ego maniacs, jerks, moron, idiots and words I will not write, but you know them. The 5% makes it hard for new people and makes life hard for the rest of us…That said we are not limited by crystals like when I was as a novice. I just blow the idiots off and turn the dial. It always works.

  • ON6UU Frank:

    Licensed 1989, never had a problem with an OT. They all welcomed me and became good friends. Sharing ideas and making projects they surprised many…in a good way.

    I don’t know how it is on the other end of the world but this end it is becoming hilarius…new hams thinking they own the world because they can buy themselves a big rig, install big antennas and make nice dx in ssb …. .., but when you hear them talk they don’t know the difference between a resistor and a capacitor… their excuse…we are novice license, this is not something we needed to know for the exam…I wonder where we go in this hobby…

  • Al N9KXS:

    i was licensed in 1991 as a tech still am 24 years later there were some repeaters in wisconsin that i’d have bad time with old timers usally the well to do ones. but they were the ones that couldnt operate that new rig. but living down here now in florida havent any problems here the repeaters that i use, if u have a question or need help theres always some 1 there to help.

  • Demetre SV1UY:

    Well said Larry!

  • larry VE8NX:

    Has not happened to me but did to my son just after he got licenced. He had a new HT. Was testing it out on an unused frequency in the appropriate part of the band, was giving his call and saying test. Some wanker came on and ordered him to get off and keep the frequency clear. This was on 2m in a small town an hour away from the next one. 2M wasn’t exactly packed from edge to edge.

    Later figured who the guy was. He had a scanner in every room of the house (bathroom included) and was one of those self important clowns that give any endeavour a bad name. He actually showed up at an accident scene with red flashing lights and a siren on his pickup. Police offered him the chance to remove them or get fined.

    So yes the cranky old “back in my day we had to mine and smelt the metal to make our own antennas” is sadly out there.

  • k8gu:

    Nasty, no, but icy, yes. There were a couple OTs on the 2m repeater when I first got licensed (in 1993) who were not particularly friendly. Maybe they just didn’t have anything to say to a zit-faced 13-year-old kid. So, I stayed off the repeater, studied the code hard, and saved my mowing money for a HF radio. When I showed up on the repeater with my new Extra call and a pile of DXCCs under my belt (mostly on CW), I got less respect than before (mostly from Advanced guys). I left the land of VHF/UHF FM and never looked back.

    Really only once have I had a bad experience on HF, and it was in the past year or so. I was talking to two friends on 15-meter SSB and we got harassed by someone who didn’t give his call, mostly commenting on one of the friend’s overprocessed audio (it was, but the interloper was not helpful about it…”you sound like S—!”). I think that was just typical of the access HF SSB gives a small minority of sociopaths (licensed or not) more so than curmudgeonly OT behavior.

  • k8gu:

    One thing I failed to mention: The Internet forums are far more caustic than most local clubs and repeaters, in my experience…and I’ve lived four or five very different places over the span of my amateur career.

  • Charles, AD7UF:

    In any interaction between two people, if even ONE of them is humble and “not easily provoked”, offense will not likely occur. Sure, I’ve encountered some grouchy ol’ coots on occasion, and I’ve heard “newbies” be offended by them. (I’ve also seen the other way plenty of times — in fact, the newbies are usually offended that the ol’ coots are offended by their behavior…) In my estimation, the newcomer is all too often a “know it all” looking to prove himself, and is looking for a fight, rather than being willing to accept and search for the value in any counsel that may be given, sugar coated or not. Yes, sometimes the other person is wrong, and their manners may be below what their mother would hope for, but we all have bad days and suffer misunderstandings, and if we will but tame our pride and set the example by trying to be conciliatory and learning what we can from another person, often we will learn something that we didn’t realize before, and eventually gain a friend in the process — perhaps allowing that person to learn something from us as well. In addition, instead of reinforcing the other’s poor opinion of them, you might help them see that they were too hasty in their judgment, and they might be more tolerant of the next newcomer, making the airwaves a happier place for everyone. Sure, there are truly incurable jerks out there, but I believe that they are few and far between on our bands.

Leave a Comment

Subscribe FREE to's
Amateur Radio Newsletter
News, Opinion, Giveaways & More!

Join over 7,000 subscribers!
We never share your e-mail address.

Also available via RSS feed, Twitter, and Facebook.

Subscribe FREE to's
Amateur Radio Newsletter

We never share your e-mail address.

Do you like to write?
Interesting project to share?
Helpful tips and ideas for other hams?

Submit an article and we will review it for publication on!

Have a ham radio product or service?
Consider advertising on our site.

Are you a reporter covering ham radio?
Find ham radio experts for your story.

How to Set Up a Ham Radio Blog
Get started in less than 15 minutes!

  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor

Sign up for our free
Amateur Radio Newsletter

Enter your e-mail address: