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Mar 27 2011

Amateur Radio & PR. by Tim Ki6BGE

love Amateur Radio for so many reasons. I grew up in a Los Angeles suburb and I had several friends that had fathers that were Hams. I loved seeing their Shacks and the antennas on their cars. This was in the 1950s and I remember seeing Collins, Drakes, Swans and Hallicrafters radios.

My father was an Engineer for North American Aviation so I grew up building and soldering and all of the things that a Ham needs to pursue his hobby. Unfortunately I didn’t get my license until I was 55 years old. Between 7 years of age and 55 years of age I kept thinking “I want to be a Ham”. Finally on my 55th birthday I said it’s now or never and took the Tech test and passed it on the first try. I now hold a General class and will test again for my Extra soon.

The point of all of this background is to make a simple point. Even with the lifelong desire to become a Ham and having the knowledge and skills required (including 25 WPM code) I, like a lot of others, just didn’t know just how to take that first step. I got into CB during the 1970s because all you had to do was buy a radio and send in the form to the FCC (although I know many didn’t bother to even do that much) but always wanted to be a Ham.

One of the problems was that all I ever heard about Hams was complaints about “Interference problems, Ugly antennas, too weird or geeky”. I would only here about the good things about Amateur Radio was from my friends that were Hams. The Media and the General Public had no idea what the hobby really did. They reaped the benefits that Hams provided but had no idea that the reason they have so many communication devices including the Cell Phone were developed and perfected by Hams. Why when a disaster befell them the communications was usually handled by Hams.

I know you all realize these things because you are Hams, but that’s my point. We are the best when it comes to providing all kinds of technical expertise and emergency communications but when it comes to Public Relations we really suck. I know that the ARRL has a lot of material to enlist the Public into the hobby, but what we really need to do is change the perceived image of what Amateur Radio and Hams really are all about. Each of us needs to show the people we see and talk to everyday that we are normal people and not the Nerds or freaks that most perceive Hams to be. Be enthusiastic but not fanatical about the hobby. Show them the value of a communication system that doesn’t fail during a disaster. Show them how cool it is to be able to talk to the ISS or AO51 or whatever your favorite niche of the hobby is.

For a group of such technically savvy and giving individuals why we can’t come up with a better Public image is a mystery to me. As I said in the first sentence of this article “I love Amateur Radio for so many reasons.” and I want others at least have a glimpse of what I see in this wonderful hobby with all its facets. The brotherhood / fellowship, the spirit of volunteerism, the innate curiosity and desire to learn and experiment, the concern for the well being of others, attention to family as well as community are all things that I see in this hobby. The willingness of Hams to Elmer is not seen to the extent is in Amateur Radio in any other hobby that I’m aware of. We are not elitists but instead try to aid all. We are not in it for profit other than the feeling of accomplishment of what we do. We don’t discriminate on any level whether Politically, Racially, Sexually, Age or you name it. We love our hobby and although we are called Amateur Radio operators I know of no other group that is as professional as a group than we are.

Hopefully, with all this combined intellect we can come up with a way to get the public to take another more informed look at us and in the process maybe decide that Hams aren’t what they thought we were. Any comments, ideas suggestions and criticisms are always welcome. 73.

Tim Sutton KI6BGE
ki6bge@gmail.com

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