You Can't Win if You Don't Play
That's a motto often seen on lottery advertising. But it's equally applicable to QEX as an experimenters' exchange. Probably the most typical letter an editor gets is "Why don't you...," then it goes on to identify what someone else should do to satisfy the needs or preferences of the writer.
Of course, the simplest answer is "We can't print what we don't receive" in the case of a publication that's dependent upon reader-authored articles. While true, that's only part of the story. Editors, to be successful, have to get the word out on what kind of manuscripts they want, and QEX initiates contact with authors who should have something to say on topic X. Often, the author of choice on a given subject is deeply engrossed in his or her subject and given a choice between doing something or writing about it will choose the former.
A case in point is digital signal processing (DSP). There is a small number of Amateur Radio experimenters active in DSP design work, either hardware or software. Even fewer are skilled in both disciplines. ARRL has had some success in getting some good DSP overview manuscripts for QST. We'd like to have a series of theoretical and practical tutorials on DSP for QEX. If you'd like to work with us on developing such manuscripts, please phone, fax or write.
QEX serves a number of interests. Some people want to have information about the "cutting edge" of technology. Their definition of experimentation is doing something that no one has done before. More likely than not, their technology is digital. Another group does not feel "at home" with digital technology and would prefer to see RF/analog subjects get the emphasis. Amateur Radio is a bastion of RF/analog technology, as many in the industry will attest. Amateur Radio still serves as a valuable training ground for this discipline. QEX is interested in both analog and digital subjects. And there is room for both cutting-edge subjects and revisitations of technologies that have been around for a while.
Besides technical articles, we would also welcome articles describing new projects being undertaken by the authors as well as progress reports on those projects. Results of on-the-air testing of new systems are not often enough documented. Articles on carefully crafted propagation observations could contribute to the technical literature.
How do we get up-to-date technical manuscripts from the people working on the cutting-edge stuff? One way is to show a continuing interest. As a reader, a nice note of thanks to the author may be encouragement enough to evoke another article. If the individual is never going to write an article, then it may be possible to tape-record a talk and lift a set of overhead transparencies when the author gives a presentation. If there is no presentation, then maybe it's possible for a scribe to look over the experimenter's shoulder and document the good work. It seems that experimenters have a tendency to build something, make it work (once), then lose interest because something really neat is next in the queue.
At minimum, it would be useful for each experimenter to have a clean-up person, someone who would let the world know what had been achieved and possibly how to duplicate it. In itself, that doesn't get the idea or product into being except for the few who might want to replicate the work for their own use or to boost the technology yet another notch. Many have learned that some marketing skills are needed to drum up interest, get beta test models made, coordinate testing, and interest someone in making production models. Obviously, publication of technical design and testing information is an important part of any such effort.
Letters for the QEX Correspondence column are also welcome. This column is available for items that are not manuscript length and can be on any subject of interest to QEX readers. Bits may be used for short announcements. These columns have rather short lead times, particularly when you have something with a time element.
This is your experimenters' exchange. If you aren't familiar with how to prepare manuscripts, please ask for the ARRL Author's Kit.—W4RI
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