Category Archives: History

Reflecting Upon a 33-year-old Written Logbook, Now Completed

A couple days ago I made my last entry in the logbook I’ve been using for 33 years. The log has grown up with me and is a bit battered, much like its owner. The first entry I made was on 9/10/78, back when I was a 10-year-old Novice with the call KAØCEM.

It’s a trip down memory lane to page through this logbook, not only to read the entries and the notes I made about changes in my equipment and QTH, but even to see how my handwriting changed over the years. But it’s full now, so it is time to start another logbook.

The first page of my logbook when I was KAØCEM.

I happen to have a nice, new logbook just waiting for the next hand-written entry. Somewhere along the line I acquired it and it’s been on my shelf waiting for the day my first logbook filled up. But now I’m not so sure I want to use it. Things are different now. Back in the day we relied exclusively on QSL cards to confirm our contacts, but now some folks rely on the Logbook of the World — as a courtesy to them I started entering my contacts there this year. But double-logging is as prone to error as it is time-consuming. And as much as I love the nostalgia of the hand-written log, I have to admit that logbook in Ham Radio Deluxe is mighty slick.

So I’ve ordered the chips to upgrade my Kenwood TS-440S, a CAT cable to hook it up to my computer, and from now on it’s a computerized logbook for me.

But one thing is nagging me. There are unanticipated consequences of “progress” like this. For instance, this computerized logbook has a window with constantly-updated DX spots. Nice, huh? But with this instantaneous feedback-loop that we’ve created, it has become harder and harder to have meaningful QSOs with DX stations — as soon as one is spotted there’s a massive pile-up that turns subsequent QSOs into rapid-fire exchanges that consist of nothing more than NØIP 599 TU.

I’m glad my ol’ logbook ended with a better QSO than that. I called CQ DX on 20m and LU1MA responded from Argentina. We didn’t exactly have a ragchew, but at least it lasted for six whole minutes. The second I signed off with him, though, a horde descended upon him like a swarm of thirsty mosquitoes.

I don’t remember that ever happening in the old days, even though there were more CW operators on the air back then. Back at the peak of the third-to-last sunspot cycle I had DX QSOs that routinely lasted 10-15 minutes, sometimes longer. That wasn’t because my CW was slow. Back then I was around 20 WPM; now I’m down to 15 WPM (it’s coming back, though!). It was simply different back then, and I would say it was better. I loved how the DX stations used to call me DR TODD; I’d hear it from more than one country, but never from the USA. We talked with each other back then, no matter how far away the DX station was.

So I’m not sure I’ll keep that DX spot window open in my new computerized logbook. I’m not even sure I’ll enter pile-ups all that much. I’ve learned how to do it, but it’s tedious and not nearly as rewarding as the contacts I used to have with these DX stations. Maybe I’ll call CQ DX more often and hope the fellow on the other end is willing to spend a few more minutes in QSO than he’s used to.

But when I do, he’ll go into my computer. Along with the old days, my written logbook is a thing of the past.



Filed under History, Operating Practice & Procedure

Old Articles on Ham Radio in Popular Mechanics

While homeschooling my son this morning and researching something completely unrelated to ham radio, I stumbled across an old article on ham radio in Popular Mechanics. A quick search yielded lots of other articles like this:

Click here to find old articles on ham radio in Popular Mechanics.

While you probably won’t find much in the way of technical help in these articles, they are still helpful as snapshots of what ham radio has looked like over the years. For instance, the article I first stumbled upon began by quoting a ham calling CQ back in 1949: “This is K4USA — King Four Uncle Sugar Able — calling CQ, CQ, CQ. Come in for a rag chew.” That taught me something. Had I heard that on the air yesterday, I probably would have chalked up the goofy phonetics and the words “Come in” to the erosion of operating procedures in the last few decades (contemptuously attributed by many old-timers to the influx of “CB’ers” since Morse Code was dropped as a requirement for an amateur radio license). But apparently this is nothing new.

This doesn’t mean that operating procedures haven’t suffered in the last few decade; it’s pretty obvious to me that they have. Nor does it mean that we should be sloppy just because sloppiness has always been with us. But it does mean that old-timers should at least give new hams a break (no pun intended). If operating procedures aren’t what they should be, we have only ourselves to blame.

But I suppose I sound a bit cranky. My purpose in pointing to these old articles really isn’t to find things to pick on. On the contrary, I’m pretty sure that some of these old articles could be inspiring. I’m also pretty sure I won’t have time to look at them any time soon! If you find something noteworthy, you’d do me a favor by sharing it with me in a comment below.

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Filed under History