So sad

I was browsing Facebook today when I saw this sad post (not verbatim) in the Amateur Radio group. "I am leaving the hobby after 10 years. I am tired of having people tell me that unless I have thousands of dollars of equipment, and lots of land for antennas that I am not a "real Ham" (I hate that phrase!).  Have a nice life."

I feel badly for this individual, and I suspect there's more going on here under the surface.  But, if that's the definition of a "real Ham" then I'm not one, either ...... and I've been at this "Ham Radio thing" for 38 years now.

I am not going to insult anyone's intelligence by feigning that I don't own expensive Amateur Radio equipment.  I do.  But when you look at my shack compared to a lot of others out there, mine is relatively modest.  No, I'm way beyond two tin cans and a wire, but I'm also do not own enough equipment that would equal the GDP of a small nation.

In the same breath, let me say that I do NOT begrudge anyone from owning enough equipment that would equal the GDP of a small nation. Hey, if you are wealthy enough, and you're not ignoring the basic needs of yourself or your family in order to fund your hobby - more power to you.

The second part of his definition is nearer and dearer to my heart, though.  I have never been in a situation where I felt I could put up the kind of antennas that I would like to have.  At both my QTHs, the one in East Brunswick, where I grew up, and the one in South Plainfield where I currently live - both are typical NJ suburban lots that are 50 feet wide by 100 feet long. (15M X 30M).

I had a G5RV here in South Plainfield that took so may twists and turns that it looked like I was playing the three dimensional chess board from Star Trek. Everything I have has to fit on my property, even the radials under by Butternut have twists and angles to them.  I'm not complaining, just stating the facts. Do I wish I had plenty of land where I could lay out a classic Beverage antenna for 160 Meters - or even put up a half wave dipole for 160 Meters?  You're darn tootin' I would.  But I don't, so I'm not going to shed tears over it. As bad as my case is, at least I can have outdoor antennas. A lot of people have to live with a lot less than I have, and I think about that every time I am tempted to complain or feel sorry for myself.

In the end, you make do with what you have.  I'll probably never make DXCC Honor Roll, but I am closing in on 200 countries worked. Given the antennas that I have (and had), I think that's a pretty fair accomplishment.

The bottom line is that you can't let another person dictate to you what something as wide in scope as Amateur Radio..... is. Amateur Radio is many things to many people.  My excitement over working Australia with 5 Watts might make you yawn.  Your excitement over having your 100th message passed this month might earn just a shrug of my shoulders from me.  Are either of us wrong?  No, both of us are enjoying what we like best in a hobby that has enough room for everyone!

So the next time someone tells you that you're not a "real Ham", just smile and walk away. Anyone who truly thinks they know what a "real Ham' is, is just kidding themselves, anyway.

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].

22 Responses to “So sad”

  • Pete Henderson NS0D:

    Right on Larry – 42 years and counting here. Never had anything but wire antennas, although I was finally able to put up a Hex on a mast this year. 200+ countries, have won the NAQP RTTY for MO a couple of times, and worked all W1AW/x ops last year to the tune of 1000+ Q’s. 1000% “real ham” here, and never much worried about what anyone else said or did. I say do what you want, freedom is the real juice that runs Ham Radio! 73, Pete NS0D

  • Joel KB6QVI:

    Good Post Larry, I feel the same way. Who cares what they think. I operate almost 100% QRP even though I do have QRO equipment also, and it just incenses me when I hear other Hams say “life is too short for QRP” and won’t talk to me even though I know they can hear me fine, like we can or want to all run legal limit amps. but after 30 years in Ham radio I’m certainly not going to get out of the hobby anytime soon because of what others say or think of me. This hobby is many things to many people.


  • James Murphy KJ6FXA:

    Right on Larry. I have a 897D and a 450d. I have a G5RV,Jr and an MFJ verical. I live in a 1 bedroom apartment downstairs. I had to put up my antennas secretly 5 years ago in a gas and electric walkway between 2 buildings. Is it the best? No. Does it work? Yes. Maybe not ideal UT it is “ham radio”. Am I going to quit? No. It does what I expect. No one should ever dictate what another person can or cannot do. End of story

  • Stephen G0PQB:

    Sounds a bit of a weak individual to have been influenced like that. Amateur Radio is surely a hobby where you cut your cloth accordingly where you have rsstrictions due to money or lack of it or lack of real estate. There are so many different aspects of this hobby. It seems a shame but maybe his heart just wasn’t in it. Simple as that. But I wouldn’t let anyone dictate to me about the way I can out MY activities.

  • James Broden KE5OO:

    I use only QRP and wire antennas. With CW and digital modes I have worked the world. A friend of mine uses a K2 and loads his gutter because of restrictions.
    Small QRP kits are cheap and readily available. I have 10 acres with no nearby trees. So I put up a pole and built a 40meter delta loop. I worked Chatham Is. CW With 4 watts from Louisiana. The hobby is what ever you want to make of it. I have friends with towers, beams and big amps, good for them, just not my thing

  • Jeff KE7ACY:

    If you operate your life in a manner where you put down and denigrate others that are less fortunate than you are, then I submit that YOU are not a REAL ham either!

    The vast majority of hams are great people and will go out of their way to help newer hams get established.

    Snobs and snobbery are not needed in this hobby and it’s unfortunate that some manage to sneak in anyway!

  • Chris VK2UW:

    Hi Larry,
    to me after reading your experience with such a small lot and what you achieved in setti9ng up your antennas, tells me that you are the real ham.

    It is easy to setup with such a large lot but a different situation in your location.

    You have proved that is can be dome.

    73’s des Chris vk2uw

  • Alan G4TMV:

    Sadly you get these ‘equipment snobs’ in all hobbies (photography being a good example), and as they say about motor cars, owning an expensive one doesn’t make you a better driver. Just try visiting one of the QRP Conventions, you can have a hell of a lot of fun with very simple equipment.

    It’s the people with such attitudes about equipment that I feel sorry for, they probably missing out on the great satisfaction that you can get by doing it with very cheap radios and aerials, or low power. What you choose to use is no one else’s business anyway, so such small minded attitudes should always be ignored.

  • Don N4KC:

    As do you, Larry, I suspect more is going on with this fellow than simply this “real ham” stuff. This hobby is not for everyone and not all are going to catch the bug as we have. If that was all that chased this fellow away…

    On the other hand, if you passed a license test and you are not bootlegging a fake call sign then I say you are a REAL ham.


    Don N4KC

  • Chuck K4RGN:

    I don’t play the mine-is-bigger-than-yours game. I’m in the hobby because (a) I enjoy connecting with people, (b) I enjoy the inherent unpredictability of RF, and (c) the hobby offers me learning opportunities constantly. If someone else considers me to be deficient, I could not care less.

  • Steve KE8BQS:

    I’m a new Ham guy with a Tech license on a budget. So I started with a Baofeng UV5 Handheld for my first radio. I am fortunate to have a half dozen repeaters I can call up, including a Link Repeater. There are several of us “Green Hams” in the area using the UV5 and we’re having a great time taking with each other and on the local Nets, which we are very welcome. I bought a few extras, mag antenna, 1/2 wave antenna, mic and extra battery. So, for less than $125.00 I have a Base, Mobile and Portable Radio and am having alot of fun. So there it is, Ham Radio on a budget.

  • Joe KB3PHL:

    I don’t have alot of room either, I’d say barely 1/10 of an acre where I’m at here in the city and most of that is taken up buy the house and garage. What’s left is an L shaped yard where I have an Alpha Delta DX Ultra dipole set up as an inverted V, an Eagle One vertical configured as an inverted L and a KU4AB 2 meter combo loop/vertical antenna. Also I’m kind of down in a little bit of a hole and I managed to make contact with the Antarctic south pole station with just 100 watts. Alot of the older Hams like to say that we new Hams aren’t true Hams either because we didn’t have to past a Morse code test, referring to us as no coders. I just ignore it and let it go in one ear and out the other and turn the tuning dial.

  • Robert VA3AOD:


    Can you communicate with the amateur who has given up
    because of negative comments? If you can, would you tell
    him that he has been listening to the wrong people. Ask
    him to sign up for and read the reactions
    to your post.

    Also Larry, are you the author of the Christmas search and
    rescue involving the amateur and his rescue dog. The story
    is beautiful. Maybe the discouraged amateur would find some
    inspiration in it.

  • jerry w5kaw:

    well I own an alnico dx-sr8t and I really like it but I was told to get a higher dollar radio or they wouldn’t talk to me!! well that wasn’t nice and infact I even bought the ems-14 desk mic as it did sound much better than the stock handmike but even that wasn’t enough and that if I wasn’t running the big three then I should get off the air I was like wow what a sad situation!!

  • Chuck K7SQD:

    You hear all the big power stations out there bragging about what they have and put down many of the 100W or less folks. This just drags the hobby and the art to a new low that make many folks wonder why they even participate.
    I started out running QRP and honestly go tired of getting stomped on by the “big guys” and moved up to a 100W rig with a simple Ultimax-100 wire antenna hanging in a tree in the back yard, and sometimes still get a little flack.
    I recommend you work what you can afford, enjoy the contacts you can make and if you’re getting crap from other stations, move off the frequency.
    Same goes for the guys running without licenses or refusing to give station ID, I know you’ve all heard them, the language alone should make it pretty easy to figure out.
    Sorry this guy feels this way, hopefully after a while he reconsiders and comes back on the air!

  • Joseph VK6AAO:

    The question has to asked . Who are the “real hams” Those with a large antenna farm and kw plus linears . Or those who can make contacts from lesser equipment and restricted space antennas .
    Perhaps the real challenge today is to be able to operate successfully from the dwellings in our cities and suburbs . It can make a field day look easy !

    Joseph VK6AAO

  • Kd4gnx:

    Nice comments! I’m sorry to hear that a new ham is getting beat down like that. I wished this guy would reconsider and not pay attention to the bs like this. It’s a shame that there are still hams out there that have the “holier than thou” attitude.
    I still hear the old hams that HAD to do code to get to extra bad mouth the “no-codes”.
    Times evolve unfortunately. I started as no-code too, got the 5 wpm tech plus. All my local hams encouraged each other in one form or another. Nice to have the support! As stated above, there are the die hard that still belittle new hams, this is NOT what we need, keep it up and no one replaces the ones that go SK, then we start loosing spectrum, then there is the dependency on the Internet et al. When that goes down, where do we go? You have to make due with what you have and make the most of it.
    We need to educate and encourage new hams. Keep up the good fight guys and gals.
    And this is a great site to a part of, I love all the experience brought forth..
    Thanks for the soapbox time.

  • Brian ve3bwp:

    I have never heard anyone say this to another ham. Maybe in jest to those that never fo beyond a dual band hand held so this guy is likely exagerating and fighting other deamons. We have a ham in our group like that that is high maintainance, does not do change well and is always stressing about the smallest things and he has threaten to leave the hobby. He hasnt yet so its just a way to het attention. I wish he would. There’s been a few of those over the years. Best to let just let these types move on.

  • Tom, KA4CSG:

    It is a shame to confuse “bright shiny objects” with anything real. Yes, there are plenty of equipment snobs, all clubs have them. there are even operating snobs, where if you don’t do it their way, you are just wrong. Current in our club, there is an individual who doesn’t sit or run for any office, but still wants to run everybody.
    I have my current HF radio, only because my wife insisted on me buying it. Nice radio, but I do little HF.
    Jut my take on the human condition.

  • mark booth W5PYN:

    Well said. I have little experience in this area ( first lic. WN0PYN) when I was 13 years old.Now at the age of 64 I have only 50+years in this occupation of ours.
    This “hobby” has grown to be the backbone of electronics and innovation in communication.How many of us remember making phone calls through our local repeaters?
    What a thrill to see our friends look amazed as we spoke over the telephone lines by way of a hand held radio. I operated as a USMC MARS station and the guys were astounded that they could “call home” for free. I could go on and on, the point is, each of us is “Ham radio”, we will keep experimenting, keep helping the public and always find a way to get a signal out to our Fellows.
    Nothing to do with money at all. Get in touch with this individual, and let ’em know that they are not alone at all, there are legions of us and we are not going away.

  • David WB4ONA:

    I was browsing Facebook today when I saw this sad post (not verbatim) in the Amateur Radio group. “I am leaving the hobby after 10 years. I am tired of having people tell me that unless I have thousands of dollars of equipment, and lots of land for antennas that I am not a “real Ham” (I hate that phrase!). Have a nice life.”

    That person on Facebook is pathetic. And I’ll bet when some Terrorist shows up in his neighborhood he’ll just whine like a sissy and run away with his tail between his legs. Good riddance. We don’t need you.

  • KG7OWO:

    Sounds like oh could pick up his equipment on the cheap, and upgrade your station.

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