Homebrew Points

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From: CamQRP@aol.com
Date: Mon Dec 19 1994 - 09:22:28 EST


Happy Holidays, Y'all -

Finally got my hands on some Oak Hills manuals for a look-see. They are quite
detailed and Heathkit-esque, right down to the pictorial detail of how to
prepare a length of RG-174. Hmmm, seems like I've seen that one somewhere
before...

But the part I was interested in was whether or not there was a step for
every part, as in the old Heath manual. And there is not. There are steps
which say "Install all of the resistors." or "Install all of the inductors."
This requires the builder to be able to discern one from the other, and
requires him (or her) to be able to juggle the resistor color code. Heath
said "Pick up a 220 ohm resistor (red-red-brown) and put it in slot B." Not
much knowledge needed for that. For this reason I consider the Explorer and
Classic (and any other Oak Hills radio, up to the present) to qualify for
homebrew credit in the ARCI contests.

I realize this is pushing the limit of the Homebrew definition as it is
currently published, but it is the way I judge the Sierra, and that has a
similarly detailed manual. We're scraping the bottom side or the line, as it
were, but not without reason.

Ask any ten hams what they consider to be "homebrew", and you would probably
get about nine different answers. The variation comes primarily from our
differing levels of technical expertise. Here on qrp-l we have everything
from rocket scientists to tutu-makers, with every level of skill represented.
The techno-wizards would consider that "homebrew" means starting with a clean
sheet of paper, designing a rig from scratch, etching the boards, scrounging
the parts, building it, debugging it, and finalizing construction. A newer,
not-so-technically oriented ham might think that "homebrew" meant buying a
kit that had good instructions so he could have a fighting chance to get it
working, at which time he would have a radio he could take backpacking and
have some fun with.

Which to consider "homebrew"? I lean toward the side of leniency, for the
following reasons:

     1) To build is to learn. There are many people in this hobby who are not
involved in electronics or radio in their work, and have no technical
education. I fall heavily into this category. A great amount of what I know
came from building stuff, mostly Heathkits in the early years. Of course in
the later years Heath provided a tremendous education in the form of the
HW-9, but that's another story. For many of us, building provided the
cornerstone of our knowledge, and back then it was Heath. They are gone, but
there are a number of new ones out there, filling the void, and hopefully the
newer hams will benefit from these newer kit manufacturers.

     2) Building grows the ranks of QRPers. Homebrewing is often said to be a
lost or dying art, but those who say these things are most likely not QRPers.
Where is homebrewing and building taking place in Ham Radio? Primarily inside
the ranks of the QRPers. What is available to builders these days? QRP gear.
If a new ham takes the time to set down his 2M HT long enough to pick up a
soldering iron, chances are he is going to build a piece of QRP gear. We need
to support and encourage both those who build the kits, and those who
manufacture the kits. It strengthens our ranks.

     3) We need to support kit manufacturers. I don't want someone to make a
purchase decision based on whether a particular kit qualifies for bonus
points. If a guy decides that a particular kit has the right combination of
features and price for him, I'd hope he would be able to buy it without
making the quality of the manual a consideration. If this happens, we are in
effect punishing manufacturers who are striving to make a better product. A
similar argument applies to a seasoned homebrewer, who because of
circumstances of time or whatever, decides to buy a particular kit instead of
"rolling his own." He clearly does not need all the help the manual gives,
but would still not be given bonus points if the rig were deemed not to
qualify for said points. (It has been suggested that this builder could
promise to keep his eyes closed while reading the manual, which I would
support as long as he also promised to open his eyes before picking up the
soldering iron!)

This might sound like heresy to the veteran homebrewer who doesn't need the
benefit of a kit in the first place. Several schemes have surfaced to address
the issue, such as: Have two levels of bonus points, one for "Homebrewed" and
one for "Kit Built"; or score and report "Homebrewed", Kit Built" and
"Commercial" in separate categories; or do away with all distinctions. The
first two would complicate scoring, and almost all of the correspondence I
have had regarding scoring has been along the lines of "Keep it Simple -
Stupid."

The third proposal - do away with distinctions (homebrew bonus points) -
bears some examination.


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