Rediscovering Ham Radio

After years of infrequent use, my radios finally wound up in boxes when I moved from the Twin Cities out to Granite Falls, MN a couple years ago. But recently, I got the itch to set them up again. This time the itch started when I had to renew my license, about a month ago. Something about getting that renewed license in the mail brought back fond memories of soft static from my old Hammarlund HQ-170A, hearing CW while tuning up the Heathkit DX-100 for another evening in a world that few of my friends could understand.

Suddenly, I wanted to feel the straight key and the paddles moving under my fingertips again, with my finger on the dial of my Kenwood TS-430S. But until I got an antenna set up, that would have to wait — and there wouldn’t be any antenna-work until the snow melted. In the meantime, I’ve been savoring the process of preparation for that day. It’s been a treat mulling over  an antenna design while tracking down the boxes with my equipment in them.

While chafing at the wait I even bent to the task of studying for the Extra Class exam, and last week made the trip to the Twin Cities to take it. It all happened so fast that I’m still a bit astonished; it’s hard to believe that after all these years, I finally hold an Extra Class license. The first person I called was my father, NØARQ. If it weren’t for him, I probably would never have become a ham 33 years ago at the tender age of 10. I only wish I could have shared the news with my Elmer, Joe McDonald, WØIYT. I lost touch with him years ago, and now he’s a silent key.

But that brings me to the point of this blog. I want to do for some budding ham what Joe did for me. I want to be an Elmer, not only because I want to give something back, not only because I feel like I owe it to my fellow hams, not only because I fear that my beloved CW is dying out, but because I want to do everything I can to rescue ham radio from what it has become. That may sound a bit grandiose to some, and perhaps more than a bit quixotic to others, but there it is. Frankly, it is as much selfish as it is selfless.

You see, I don’t just want to rediscover ham radio. I want to rediscover the ham radio that once was, but is now hard to find. The only way that’s going to happen is if we have a significant culture change on the airwaves — and the only way I can think of to do that is to help one ham at a time. I want to do my best to start new hams in the right direction, to help them imagine ham radio for what it could be, not for what it is.

This blog will be about my journey to get back on the air, get my skills polished up, and find someone to Elmer. Along the way, I’ll reminisce about my own experience in ham radio, and I’ll critique the state of ham radio today. I’ll also venture an opinion on how we got here, and what it will take to improve the hobby.

Comments are welcome from all who deport themselves as ladies and gentlemen. May we converse here the way we ought to be having our QSO’s — charitably, humbly, thoughtfully, and constructively.





Filed under Elmering

4 responses to “Rediscovering Ham Radio

  1. Harold Mitchell, NØARQ

    Thank you, Todd. Good for Joe McDonald and your Mother. Joe went to sea during the depression as a teenager on a merchant ship and became its radio operator. You found Joe, and your Mother took you to him. It was only after you had a Novice license that I got busy and got a technician’s license. You raced ahead at 10 and could soon read code at over 20 words per minute. As an electrical engineer I could do the technical side but it was a struggle to eventually reach 13 wpm for an advanced license; Extra class code was out of the question. GREAT that you peaked and got 100% on your Extra class license test last week. Love, —Dad


  2. Harold Mitchell, NØARQ

    Todd, I talked with your Mother and she can’t pull it back. She thought I got you together with Joe.
    I do not think so, as I remember the surprise of coming home from work and
    you had passed a test for your Novice license, and I had nothing.
    Perhaps it is like the surprise of me coming home and finding a hang glider on top of the station wagon. Your Mom and you had gone out and bought a hang glider. Were you 12 or was it 14? You wanted to fly and were too young for an FAA license. So you and Mom have a track record of doing surprising things.

  3. Todd Mitchell, NIØL

    I wish I had better power of recall. My memory is pretty patchy — not dim, but patchy. Certain patches are fairly clear, but the rest is blank.

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