Re: I use to be a QRPer BUT..

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From: rflight@vnet.IBM.COM
Date: Tue Mar 11 1997 - 09:07:47 EST


Quoting Bill's (WB0CLD) post relating the behavior of some QRO stations:

    "We seem surprised when a qro op takes a 'standby for the qrp station'.
The op who does this has the tools and has developed the receiving skills we
should all strive for."

     I reacted to this comment with a sudden sense that perhaps our self
inflicted high opinion of the virtues of QRP are reserved for those of us who
are energy conscious.

     We all freely acknowledge that the "skill" associated with our little
corner of hamdom lies squarely with the receiving operator. Bills comment
(which puts some QRO ops in a more favorable light) is infrequently heard in
most QRO/QRP debates.

     An interesting antidote (if I may digress for a moment) relates to my
own QRP experiences. I have owned my ICOM IC-735 since "Dayton '86", and I
have rarely used it above minimum power (previously 8 watts... now 2.5 thanks
to the "adjustment" mod I discovered in a posting on this list). Not until
about 2 years ago did I become aware of QRP-L, QRP-ARCI, etc., and I was only
aware that unique "QRP" calling frequencies were allocated to most bands... I
had no idea what these were, and assumed I would soon stumble upon them... I
made no special effort to find out what they were... Why??? Well... I'm glad
you asked that question... Because of my ignorance about these little clusters
of QRP "groupies", I made the silly assumption that QRP simply meant minimum
power... nothing more... nothing less... Silly me :-) Anyway... to get to my
point here... I simply set the rig at 8 watts and enjoyed 9 years of just
plain ham radio...

     It worked fine... Yes I would come across a QRP operator once in awhile,
but never thought there was anything special about him/her. I simply enjoyed
the QSO like all the others... Most were QRO ops. Only during "generic" QSO's
where for lack of meaningful topics of conversation would I even mention my
output power.

     I never even signed /QRP but thought it was a clever idea when I first
heard it. I never quite developed this habit either. It sort of makes a short
call like N3GO long again like my original WA8LBQ. It just seemed counter-
productive. If while engaged in QSO the subject of power was discussed, it
often perked up the conversation... Kind of a pleasant surprise to ops on both
ends :-) It always seemed to me that "WE" were operating QRP. It never crossed
my mind to differentiate myself from the QRO folks. In my younger years while
aboard an obsolescing minesweeper in the Navy, I became a regular "novelty" to
some of the 75 meter AM guns in the Northeast. I used to fire up our TCS and
chat with them running a scant 10 watts on AM. I can't imagine how brutal that
must have been for them... They lapped it up though, and for the first time in
my then short lifetime as a ham... I became welcome into the old farts domain
of "75 Phone".... That was in the "No Lids No Kids" days of the mid 60's. BTW
10 watts was QRO for that rig... I tuned it to the max :-)

     Returning from my digression.... Thank you for your tolerance of same!!

     QRP has never changed for me... I simply find that this list QRP-ARCI,
the NorCalowinians, and on and on... are only extensions and variations of
the same theme. QRP here is defined as "limit TX power to 5 watts... or 10
watts PEP" and is a convention that has been established here by majority
if not unanimous agreement. It is 10 watts in the UK if my understanding is
correct. Nonetheless... it is a hard and fixed limit and as such has relegated
the original meaning to a a tidbit of historical trivia.

     This list is also a source of QRP over-indulgence. It has taken me to
new lows... in my hobby. QRPp was invented here... at least for me... I never
heard such a Q-signal before... nor had I ever heard of 72... In any event...
I now run QRO only when NCS for the KnightLites net... QRO in my definition is
1 watt and above :-)... I kick the rust off the antenna insulators with a
whopping 5 watts as NCS... Boy... do I feel in control!!!

     Not unlike other "aholics", we can become unaware of our QRP addiction.
If we ban together on this, we can control this problem, and nobody will bug
us with well meaning attempts toward rehabilitation. We must hide our addition
by attempting to behave like the so called "normal" people. Ha... If they only
knew!!!

     But the real message of this post is... let's not ignore the fact that
many folks who operate QRO rigs are just as eager to chat with us on the air
as we are with each other. "Even the dull and the ignorant... They too have
their story." When we put our hand to our key, we are but one in a very large
population of folks who share a common interest. What brings us all together
in QSO is the sharing of our diverse and endless differences. Even within our
"QRP" ranks... our interests diverge... To name but a few:

         Antennas (Loops, Zepps, wirebeams, backpack-ables, etc.)
         Glowbugs (Antiques, replications, and resurrections)
         Construction (Homebrews, kits, ugly, Altoids, group projects/buys)
         Operating (FOXes, KnightLites, FYBO's, etc.)
         History (Q-signals, 73, QRPp, keys and bugs, rigs, ops., etc.)
         Internetworking (extending rather than replacing ham radio)

     In the words of a (I will let him remain nameless here) hard core QRO op..
"When I turn the beam toward a DX station who will only be present for a short
and finite period in my lifetime, I want to know when I call him he is going
to hear me." I will offer that for somebody with limited time to invest in his
hobby, and a strong drive toward trophy hunting... his success toward achieving
his reward is optimized by max power and max antenna performance. In his own
minds eye... he is operating QRP.... If he were allowed more... he would use
more... I dare say that he listens hard for that rare DX station to appear
across his headband... His weak signal receiving skills would compare with the
skill of many of us on this list. He even confessed having a QSO with a QRP
station recently :-)

     A local repeater net operator in our area can pick out signals barely
cracking the repeater squelch and identify them by the sound of their voices.
She doesn't even catch enough of a burst to capture a callsign. She does this
with astonishing precision, so it can only be attributed to operator skill.

     And finally... How many are involved in EME activities?... Many of us
view this work as the epitome of QRP... But are you also aware that there
are folks pushing the envelope in that arena as well and attempting QRP EME
QSO's using simple and somewhat crude signal processing. Talk about weird!!!
These folks are using their eyes rather than their ears to pull out the weak
signals. A not so new (at least not to Navy Sonar and Radar Ops) but rather
bizarre twist to QRP operating. If you're interested in this work, check out:

              http://www.webcom.com/~af9y/

     So while our little corner of this wide world of amateur radio seems
profound and exotic... there "are" other equally exotic activities one can
pursue in the context of amateur radio. They deserve equal billing or at least
equal respect for their contributions as science and technology continues to
expand. In the meantime... indulge and enjoy QRP however you define it... Take
comfort in knowing that if and/or when you find that you just don't seem to be
getting much out of the hobby... there are many other horizons to follow.

     The knowledge that we don't "have" to know everything about everything
before we can become a "ham" is fortuitous... We didn't start out as experts...
and some of us never quite reach that level. We should be careful when we
attempt to dictate the requirements of those joining our ranks today.

     I struggled to copy code at 5 WPM and memorized the ARRL Q and A manual
to get my novice ticket. I became an electronics engineer (after being told to
pursue something less because electronics was too hard), and now easily copy
code at 30 WPM plus ???(28 with a pencil). I didn't have to know a whole lot
to get started. I have always appreciated having had to earn the privilege
though. Even memorizing dots and dashes, and a list of 50 questions and answers
was a daunting task for a sophomore high school student trying hard to keep his
grades, chores, and hormones in check. That effort gave the "ticket" its
value... established its worth... empowered me with credibility... set me
apart from my peers. I had desire and tenacity to keep with the program... I
didn't have the knowledge... even after passing the tests. I have always
contributed the successful "self policing" of the amateur radio spectrum to
this requirement of earning the privilege.

     A simple observation reveals that our testing program has passed the test
of time. It is the singular difference that sets us apart from the CB crowd.
Even charging monetary fees for CB privileges failed to encourage policing of
this band. The licensing structure failed to provide a technical appreciation
for the boundaries and capabilities of the technology. I think allowing
immediate and unlimited "retries" when applicants fail a particular element
undermines the inducement of the sense of ham radio being an earned privilege.
I think it's less important what the test is... It is imperative that the test
be administered equitably and appropriately. I support a recall of the "30 day
go back to the books" philosophy. It is an inducement for the applicant to
study hard if he/she doesn't want to encounter a delay. I think allowing an
applicant more than one chance to pass each element at a given session makes
mockery of the testing program, and causes me to challenge the integrity of
the VE program... I know some of these folks, and I often find myself asking
the question "What is their motivation". The FCC has given us a great deal of
freedom and latitude with many of the new rules. We may have been given just
enough rope to hang ourselves if we don't handle it responsibly.

     The knowledge that we "can" learn a lot about a lot of things is what
keeps our hobby strong and vibrant. It is a resource which the FCC will
continue to support (and yes even protect) if only for the selfish reason that
new technologies will surely be borne out of our ranks for free.

     Just some thoughts and opinions from deep in the soul of a die hard
amateur radio operator... that just happens to be indulging in this little
diversion of QRPp and all the many tangential diversions of its own.

72, 73... Thanks for reading, thanks for listening, thanks for contributing,
          and many many thanks for adding to the richness of this hobby and
          keeping my experiences exhilarating.

Gary, N3GO Raleigh, NC

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     Only I am capable of offering such absurdities, and must assume all
credit for my opinions and suggestions. They are mine and mine alone. My
employer will graciously disavow any knowledge of my existence and laugh
heartily at the mere suggestion of such a preposterous notion.

  //// / * / / / //// //// * //// //// / * //// //// ////


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