Posts Tagged ‘n4kc’

As I ponder the CME aftermath…

Guess my ears are too old and mummified from all those years as a broadcast personality (our favored term for “disk jockey”), but all that hiss and sizzle from the CME and local thunderstorms this weekend sent me in a different direction. I did give some guys Alabama for their QSO parties, and I always enjoy doing that. But the band noise, generally yucky conditions, and my continued depression over not working VK9CZ had me doing other stuff I’ve been putting off. And with all that rain, that stuff did not include antenna maintenance or yard work. I’ve successfully postponed that for a few more days.

What it did involve was my next adventure with self-publishing. I make my living writing books and finally got around to doing one on my favorite hobby for the past 52 years…ham radio! RIDING THE SHORTWAVES: EXPLORING THE MAGIC OF AMATEUR RADIO ( No big-time publishing house was interested in doing the book. Neither was the ARRL. They say non-technical books don”t sell well for them, and I understand. They’ve been kind enough to sell the book in their online bookstore, so bless them!

Anyway, I went a different route and published the book myself. It has been available for a while in paperback as well as for the Kindle e-book reader. But this weekend…while the bands hissed at me like an audience does a villain…I busied myself getting it formatted and uploaded for every other conceivable e-book reader out there. That includes the Apple iPad, Barnes & Nobles’s Nook, and the free-to-download Adobe Digital Editions reader. Success! After a couple of false starts, of course. Man, the technology around book publishing is changing quickly, just as it is in all media and our wonderful hobby. (By the way, I blog on such stuff at and sometimes here on I also finally got around to designing and setting up a store where I can make available shirts, sweatshirts, coffee mugs and other items to help people promote our hobby with the message: “I ride the shortwaves. Ask me about amateur radio.”. It’s at

Another bit of good news helped through the CME aftermath, too. I got word from the ARRL that not only will the League be selling my book at Dayton, but they asked me to do some signing events. I look forward to it! Please drop by and say hello if you make the pilgrimage…no purchase necessary!

I’m already going to be hanging around the QRP ARCI “Four Days in May” event on Thursday, May 16. It’s at the Holiday Inn in Fairborn, not far from Wright-Patterson AFB. I’m there with Rich Arland K7SZ, author of the ARRL’s QRP book. Rich has been shoving and pushing me to get deeper into QRP, and I think I may finally be catching the bug. Or maybe it is just the ragweed. I do occasionally turn down the power to 5 watts and see what I can do. The challenge is something of a thrill.

Just not when the A-index is 45!

Don N4KC

That downward “ham radio” trend line

There’s an interesting discussion ongoing on some of the amateur radio blogs (including this one) about how an analysis of the number of searches in Google using the term “ham radio” is trending. No doubt about it, if you simply look at the graph, it shows the hobby I love so much–and that I fully credit for getting me into a career in media–is trending more and more southward:

This could mean a number of things:

— People are getting their info about ham radio in other ways besides searching for that specific term on Google.
— They are searching for info on the hobby using other keywords, such as “amateur radio.”
— Nowadays, people search initially for information on a subject and then, if they find what they seek, they bookmark it/make it a favorite and don’t search anymore on Google.
— As we have gotten more sophisticated in how we use the search engines–often merely using the address bar in our browsers to type in odd terms that more closely match what we are seeking–the big, all-inclusive search terms are not used so often.
— Interest really is declining.

You know what my heart tells me. Licensing backs me up in that belief. We have more licensed amateurs in the country now than ever before in the 100-year history of the hobby. My sense is that the hobby is vibrant and growing, and, before you slap on me me that “rose-colored glasses” brand, be aware that I am pretty good at looking at things such as reliable research data realistically.

On the other hand, I still believe it behooves those of us active in the hobby, those who want to see it continue to grow, expand, and become even more exciting and diverse, to be evangelistic about it. We have to do what we can to recruit potential hams into our little “cult of the airwaves.”

That was one reason I wrote the book RIDING THE SHORTWAVES: EXPLORING THE MAGIC OF AMATEUR RADIO. I want people to understand that the hobby can be much more than sitting in a basement sending Morse code or trying futilely to hit repeaters with a handheld and a rubber-ducky antenna. As with most technology, our avocation has dramatically changed, and for the better. It offers so much to younger people who have grown up with cable, satellites, computers, and smart phones. True, those folks might think amateur radio is still what their weird uncle used to do in his back room with all that spittin’ and sparkin’ radio junk. We need to make them more aware of what the hobby is these days. And make sure they know that it absolutely can lead to a career in a technical field, including computers, communications, engineering, meteorology, media and more.

We won’t panic about that trend line. We will continue to do what we should be able to do best: COMMUNICATE!

Don Keith N4KC

Where did I find those other 60 hours a week?

So I finally pulled the plug on the day job six weeks ago. For the first time since I was 18 years old, I don’t have a regular pay check coming in. Unless you count that Social Security thing, which is hardly enough to call a “paycheck.”  I had big plans for all the new spare time I was going to have in retirement, including actually getting on the air more, seeking out long, rambling ragchews, working more PSK31 and RTTY, doing some QRP, maybe even building a kit or two and trying out an antenna idea I’ve been contemplating.  Contemplating for a dozen years.

Truth is, I only retired from one of my several jobs.  For some reason, I quit the only one that actually paid me a regular wage, which automatically brings my sanity into question.  But like a gas occupying a vacuum, the other things I do quickly expanded to take up all my available time, including what the day job once took.  I have no idea how I was able to work those sixty hours a week at the old vocation!

Some of you may be aware that I am a writer, too, and just published my 24th book.  I’ve also finally gotten around to putting one of my novels–my second book, published way back in 1997–up on as an eBook.  (I hope it finds a bigger audience this time because it is near to my heart, the story of a young man who falls in love with the magic of radio, goes on to a career in broadcasting as a deejay, and eventually his best friend, who just happens to be a ham, saves his bacon…using a trick many of you will recognize.  It’s titled WIZARD OF THE WIND and, yes, there is a lot of me in that story!)

I’m also finishing up an amateur radio book, one that has been in the works for a while, too.  It will include some of the articles and short stories I’ve put up on and more.  I want it to not only entice those who develop an interest in ham radio to go ahead and take the plunge but to also encourage those already in the hobby to explore other aspects and become true evangelists for it.

When I was writing WIZARD OF THE WIND, I actually took a weekend job at an oldies radio station for a year, working a weekend deejay shift,  just to get that old feeling back.  It really helped me put it into words as I worked on the novel.  Maybe now is the time that I should be getting on the ham bands more, broadening my own horizons so I can capture the magic of the hobby as I work on the new book.

I think I just talked myself into getting off this blog and seeing what the DX clusters are saying.  Or watching the waterfall for a bit on 20M PSK31.  Time’s wasting!

Don Keith N4KC

(A blog about rapid technological change and its

effect on society, media, and ham radio)

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