Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Handiham World for 21 September 2011

Welcome to Handiham World!

Cartoon guy carring stack of ham radio books = all about ham radio.
A week from tomorrow (on Thursday, September  29) I will have the opportunity to do what I value most in amateur radio:  teach a class for my local radio club.  The topic will be the rules and regulations for the General Class, so it's not really either a "fun" or "technical" topic.  As the old saying goes, "it is what it is", and that means that:
1.  There is going to be a lot of memorization involved, and...
2.  It's not the most interesting stuff in the world.  
Nonetheless, I will try to keep the class awake for the two hours we will have to hit the high points related to legal and courteous operation. I plan to take advantage of the LCD projector and use PowerPoint to make sure that I stay on subject and on time.  If you have endured really boring PowerPoint presentations, you are probably stifling the urge to yawn even thinking about the prospect.  As a teacher, I can use some amusing graphics and tell a few stories to break the tedium.  Some instructors bring along small bags of candy - wrapped hard candies are great - and toss them out to the students as a reward for answering a question. When I talk about the rules, especially the frequency allocations, I like to emphasize the fun my students are going to have when they get on HF and start working those distant stations.  Remember, most of the students will be Technician Class operators whose only experience is getting on repeater systems.  Most will never have tried EchoLink or IRLP operation, either. The prospect of a new, more complicated radio and larger antenna might seem daunting, but why not present it instead as an exciting opportunity?  As marketing people know, it is all in how you tell the story.  It can pay off to tell a few stories about your first DX contact or your Field Day operations. The best one are the memorable ones where you were surprised by really great band conditions and worked some amazing DX or when you were able to pass a message that made a difference to a disaster victim.  
Everyone has an interference story.  When you talk about that part of the regulations, personalize it by saying a few words about what happened to you.  My story is that I was a young operator, living with my parents, when I passed my own General exam and was finally able to get on the phone bands.  All I had was a really basic transmitter, a Knight-Kit T-60.  It used a really lame circuit that they called "screen grid modulation", and it more or less (but mostly less) allowed for AM phone operation.  My antenna was a vertical mounted in the back yard, fed by 50 ohm coax with a tapped coil at the feedpoint.  It was pretty basic, to say the least.
Knight T-60 transmitter
Image:  Knight-Kit T-60 transmitter
Anyway, I had my new General ticket taped to the wall in my bedroom and was really excited to get on the air.  I found an open frequency and called CQ.  Now that I have been a ham for decades I know that it would have been better to listen and join a QSO in progress or listen for someone else's CQ, but I was really a newbie back then and didn't know any better.  Imagine my surprise when one day I was out fiddling with the tapped coil at the base of the vertical antenna, when our neighbor lady across the back fence got my attention and asked me if I was a ham radio operator.  She explained that she was hearing my transmissions on top on her favorite AM broadcast station, WCCO. I was apologizing for the interference, but she stopped me and told me that it was perfectly all right and that she was interested in learning about ham radio herself!  It didn't take her long to get her ticket and for many years afterward she enjoyed getting on the air herself.  Not every interference complaint is bad, it seems!  Telling a story like that can add a bit of interest to an otherwise dull topic.  Use your imagination and keep your students engaged!
For Handiham World, I'm...
Patrick Tice
Handiham Manager