HAM Radio 101

Staying at Home? There’s No Reason Why Amateur Radio Operators Can’t Stay Connected

While the COVID-19 outbreak gives Hams a chance to work on their stations alone and contemplate future projects in the solitude of the shack, there are still plenty of ways to keep your distance but still keep in touch with what’s happening in the Ham Radio community. Here are a few suggestions:

Care for a Rag-chew?

Our hobby was made for social distancing. While we can’t gather in person at hamfests and club meetings (yet), reaching out to Hams who may be isolated is as easy as finding a solid signal and responding to a CQ, or calling CQ and waiting to see who jumps in for a friendly conversation.

Right now everyone has a story to share about the pandemic. You could be there for an operator who needs a welcoming ear. Not into drawn-out exchanges? Making even the briefest of contacts with Hams in our communities, throughout the U.S., and around the world connects us all. In light of the many peripatetic DXers who are temporarily homebound, a popular DXpedition calendar (mostly vacant for April) said it best with this message: “MAKE BAND ALIVE. REDISCOVER THE PLEASURE OF QSOING EACH OTHER! #stayhome.”

Participate in a Contest

As the wide world of college and pro sports grinds to a virtual standstill, Amateur Radio contesting continues to flourish. For those new to the contesting game, now’s a great chance to get your feet wet. If you’re using this time to hone your Morse code skills, take a moment to read these OnAllBands articles: CW Contesting: Getting Started and Making QSOs for Real and Tips on Better Scores. You’ll find many CW contests—like the “Get Your Feet Wet Day” hosted by the CW FISTS Club—waiting for you, along with State QSO Parties and the Hamvention® QSO Party on May 16. Seasoned operators will want to take note of the CQ World Wide WPX Contest, CW, on May 30-31.

Take Part in Social Media

Visit DX Engineering’s Facebook page and hit the “like” button to join the tens of thousands of Hams from around the world who regularly view DX Engineering posts on new products, Facebook Live feeds on digital Ham Radio and other topics, links to educational articles, and humorous memes that only Hams will understand. And when there’s a hot topic or antenna/station/mobile radio photo worthy of comment, don’t hold back. Be sure to add your opinion to the conversation. Remember, we’re all friends here.

Join an Amateur Radio Club

Your local Amateur Radio club wants you! And even though they’re likely not meeting in person at the moment, many still hold online presentations (via Skype, Zoom, etc.) on Ham Radio topics you may find useful. Best of all, when it’s time again to gather, you’ll have a welcome group of kindred spirits to share the hobby with and ask questions. Here are a few more reasons to pursue club membership. Looking for a local club to contact? Click here to find one near you from the more than 2,500 ARRL-affiliated clubs.

Join the ARRL: The American Radio Relay League is the largest membership association of Amateur Radio enthusiasts in the U.S. When you become a member, you’re supporting a non-profit organization that has been working on behalf of Ham operators since its founding in 1914. In addition to publishing numerous reference books, QST magazine, and On The Air magazine for new Hams, ARRL gives voice to the concerns of Hams through lobbying the U.S. Congress and the Federal Communications Commission.

Stay Active and Think Forward

Take a good look at your station. Have your coaxial cables and connectors seen better days? Do you have the right tools to prep your coax for installation of connectors? Are you itching to add a UHF/VHF rig as you suffer through the less-than-stellar demise of Solar Cycle 24? Is this the year you finally buy that HF linear amplifier? Has the pandemic made you think more about upgrading your emergency preparedness with an HF or digital Go-Kit?

If you’re a contester, check out this article from Ward Silver, N0AX, on small station upgrades that will make a big difference in performance, including adding INRAD and Heil headsets, antennas, radial systems, audio processors, voice keyers, and more.

Reach Out to a Friendly Voice

The DX Engineering team reports that during the COVID-19 outbreak, many customers—from newly licensed operators to DX veterans—have appreciated the opportunity to simply talk with another Ham. Feel free to reach out to DX Engineering’s Elmers. Ask questions. Tell them about your plans for your dream station. Rest assured, they’ll be available for you today and long after the crisis is over. After all, they’re Hams, just like you.

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