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Tips from a QSL Guru

Here's how to make your card count. Roamin' Romania

Part 1: Timisoara, home of the revolution.

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Neuer srv die

Wayne Green W2NSD/1

Mea Culpa

Good heavens, here it is June already! Of course, magazine deadlines being what they are, I'm writing this in early April. We had an early spring here in New Hampshire, with two days in late March of 80° weather! Thanks, El Nino. But there are still some small patches of snow out there in the woods, and the crocuses are just now blooming.

After 60 years as a ham — sixty years in which I've done about everything there has been to do in the hobby — I have to admit that I need some new aspect of the hobby to get my juices flowing. I've rag-chewed, DXed, DXpeditioned, pioneered VHF, NBFM, RTTY, SSTV, 10 GHz, aero mobile, computers, hi-fi, SSB, satellites, and so on. Am I burnt out, or is there a shortage of as yet unexplored ham territory?

My work with the New Hampshire Economic Development Commission got me interested in politics, education, health, and ecology, so I've been researching these fields — as you know from my editorials, if your memory hasn't been destroyed by a lack of trace minerals in your diet.

My pioneering instincts have led me into learning all I can about how we can be healthy, and into the paranormal, with things like dowsing, past lives, precognition of the future, those pesky ETs, and stuff like that.

It was this pioneering drive that got me so deeply involved with repeaters and 2m FM, which has given the world cellular telephones. Hey guys, we hams did that!

We did it first and the hams at Motorola and G.E. pushed their companies to get involved.

Alas, not so much has come of our pioneering in RTTY, SSTV, and packet radio.

Anyway, as I find new areas of interest to learn about I'll do my best to stir what few embers of pioneering fire may be left in your breast — and blow some hot air on them to try and kindle new flames.

I hope I'm not boring you with my enthusiasm for health. There's so much baloney out there, both from our medical establishment and the alternative health field, that it's discouraging. Worse, I see almost all of you held prisoner of your habits — which are making you fat and sick, and are cutting 20-30 years or more off your lives. You should be like Norman Vaughn, climbing Mt. McKinley at 95, and not worried about breaking a hip if you slip. If you take care of your body it'll bounce when you're 95, not break.

I do appreciate hearing from you, and love it when you find a newspaper or magazine clipping about something I should know about. I'm not a big fan of E-mail — it's too slow to use and there's too much garbage to sort through. That 320 filter for snail-mail works best for me, so please use the US mule.

If you're into something new and exciting in amateur radio, I want to hear about it. I keep asking you to write about any ham adventures you've had, but nothing happens. As I keep telling you, my life has been full of adventure, and most of it hap pened because of amateur radio. If you haven't had adventures, that's your fault. They're there — if you dare!

Like I used to talk with Robbie 5Z4ERR in Nairobi a lot. He kept pushing me to come over for a visit. Then Jim K20RS got me a wonderful cookbook by Herter. Fabulous! Herter had also written a book on how to go on a real inexpensive African hunting safari, so I wrote about it in my editorials, lined up some hams to go with me on the safari, and we had the time of our lives. I also got to operate from Robbie's station in Nairobi and work a ton of DX from there. Wow! That was worth two!!

We hunted and brought back all sorts of great trophies. We visited game parks to photograph the animals. We even got up into northern Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The adventure is out there waiting for you, so what's your problem?

When I started 73 in 1960 1 moved it as quickly as I could from Brooklyn to New Hampshire and hired on a half dozen ham college dropouts for $20 a week, plus room and board. We were living in a 40-room 250-year old house, with me doing the cooking. We had a great time. We bought a house halfway up Mt. Monadnock and set up a bunch of towers and huge antenna arrays on all the UHF and VHF bands. Like 336 elements on 2m, with a kilowatt rig (which I built myself). We had a ball! We had a humongous signal, all the way down to North Carolina.

If you haven't managed to have any adventures, at least you could review the next piece of new ham equipment you buy (if you like it). When you have fun with some new gear, share your excitement and help reward the manufacturer with more sales. If you can think of any new ham horizons for me to get excited about, let me know. Otherwise I'll keep pushing cold fusion, making money, health, and fixing America's problems.

Those License Numbers

As our HF bands are gradually getting less clogged with QRM I'm hearing many amateurs saying that after all, why do we need more hams? Let's keep our bands as a private club for those of us who are left.

In looking at the FCC numbers I see that expirations, either physical (Silent Key) or mental (dropped out), are running around 5% per year for Advanced, General and Tech-Plus, near 10% for Novices, and about zero for Techs. Well, since the Tech license only started in 1991, we won't be seeing those dropout numbers reflected until 2003 (there's a two-year grace period).

The 5% expirations are half offset by new licensees, so our net loss is only around 2.5% per year. That's 25% in 10 years.

I see that the new Tech licenses have dropped in half this year as compared to 1997, so that well seems to be drying up, giving us a net loss of total hams this year. It's only a 0.5% loss so far, but there's no good reason to expect the drop not to escalate.

It's interesting that the same thing has happened in Japan! Their number of new amateur licenses was less than half that of just three years ago. Their total number of stations peaked in 1995. I expect we can thank the Internet for most of this loss of interest.

Do we have any reason to expect Tech licensees to renew their licenses? How many years does it take to get bored with talking to the same small group over the local repeater?

I doubt it will take 12 years, even for Chief Wiggam's kid. Look at how fast CB came and went! And it was a lot of fun while it was here. I had a great time with it — for a couple of years. I even took a CB rig with me when I flew to other cities and had a wonderful time talking with people.

Two meter repeaters were a blast in the 1970s, but then I found myself getting on the air mostly when I was visiting other cities, just as I had previously with CB. Now I seldom take an HT with me on trips. Burnout, I guess. So, circa 2003, if some major catastrophe hasn't wiped us all out by then, I expect we'll see monumental drops in the number of licensees. Unless, of course, the ARRL decides it's time to actually do something. Never happen.

Should we worry? Why? Does anyone much care?

Rumor

According to an ARRL letter there has been a rumor going around the bands that Cushcraft may be going out of business soon. Well, I know they cut their ads in 73 several years ago, and that has to have hurt their sales. Apparently they've had to cut back even further on their advertising and lay off workers. Back when Les Cushman W1BX was running the company Cushcraft had a reputation for making excellent antennas. Well, with the exception of the Ringo Ranger, which I found disappointing. But I did put up a 336-ele-ment 2m beam of theirs at my QTH up on Mt. Monadnock which gave me one whale of a signal for about 600 miles. But I haven't seen any signs of new developments from the company in years, so I'm not really surprised to hear about the rumor.

One other factor — they've largely been advertising in QST, but, as you know, the new hams (almost all Techs) are not joining the ARRL, which they see as the enemy. So, with the sunspots still weak, and their ads reaching an older, gradually disappear ing audience, it's no wonder sales are way off. Thirty years ago I watched almost the entire ham industry die, advertising away loyally in QST until bankruptcy killed them. Is history about to repeat itself?

The Fun of Building

With parts so difficult to get these days, most of our newer hams are missing out on the thrill of building their own equipment. When I started out I was living in New York City, so I had a choice of a bunch of stores with endless tables full of parts. Tubes, sockets, pots, capacitors, switches — anything you could think of was available, and relatively cheap. So I bought parts. If I needed a variable capacitor I'd buy a dozen so I'd have what I needed the next time.

I built receivers, transmitters, amplifiers, test equipment and all kinds of gadgets. Then, after World War II, when stores filled up with war surplus stuff, so did my cellar, then my garage. Then three neighbors' garages. I spent many years at my work bench building stuff and modifying surplus.

When I moved from New York to New Hampshire in 1962 it took four van loads to get all my stuff up here. But by 1965 I saw that transistors were winning, so I had a huge auction and got rid of almost everything I had. I rented the local armory and filled dozens of tables with my stuff. I hated seeing boxes of hundreds of tubes going for $5, but I wanted good homes for my parts and equipment more than the money.

Every now and then I need something and sort of wish I'd kept maybe one ton of the old parts. Antenna relays haven't gone out of style yet.

One of the reasons I publish so many simple construction projects in 73 is my wish to share the fun of building with as many readers as I can. It's one of those indescribable thrills. English is a lousy language for expressing feelings, so all I can do is hope you'll give it a try and see what I'm trying to communicate.

These days it's impractical to try and find the parts for many projects, so we turn to our kit catalogs. To buy parts now you usually have to buy in bulk, and there aren't the bargains of my younger days. Back then we had thousands of American electronics firms building things. It was a lot cheaper for them to buy more parts than they needed for a production run than to run out, so there were always a bunch of parts left over which were sold off for peanuts, just to get rid of them. Old-timers will remember the dollar Poly Paks™ bags of parts.

Looking through the latest Ramsey catalog got my build-i ing juices going again. John has some great kits in there. They look like a lot of fun. His FM transmitters could have the FCC upset with you, though they've pretty much been ignoring most of the micro-broadcasters so far. But then you could build Ramsey's amplifier and start pushing things.

There's lots of great video stuff, motion detectors, light beam communicators, and so on. Call (800) 446-2295 and get the 32-page catalog and see if it doesn't get to you too. Then get out your soldering gun, clean the tip, and let's see what you can do.

One more thing: if I do suck you in on building, I'm going to be really upset if you don't drop me a note and let me know how much fun you've had. Hey, I need some feedback!

Yes, Ramsey has plenty of ham gear — eight pages of it. Heathkit may be dead and buried, but we still have some great kits available to us.

For that matter you ought to look into all those great MFJ kits too.

You have been letting me down by not reporting on the

Continued on page 39

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