A Time to Grumble About LID Operators

LID Operators!


Why some hams should not be hams!

It is very easy to sit back and criticize others work or speak badly how others conduct themselves on the air. No skill or special expertise is needed to bad mouth another operator. But there are times when that operator is deserving of the derisive term "LID". In the early days of our hobby when one wanted to describe a poor operator (often a CW operator) the term used was that he or she was a LID.
Now I have been an extra class ham since 1977 which says I have been at it for 40 years --now you could argue is that 40 years of experience or one year of experience 40 times over. You have seen my published articles, my website and this blog --so you can make your own decision.
What is driving this posting is something I heard on  40 Meters yesterday afternoon. It was a phone (SSB) QSO between two extra class hams. Ham A was in southern California and ham B was in Colorado. Operator A was mobile at a location about 15 miles from me. He was making QSO's and getting reports of bad audio at times seeming to be FM'ing and at times like RF Feedback. Ham B was trying to assist him in resolving the matter.
Operator A stated he was mobile at rest, running a Kenwood TS-440S with the engine off. Ham B specifically inquired about the working conditions and that is what was reported. Based on that info Ham B who also had a TS440S mobile at one time, suggested that one of the issues may be low battery voltage as he had experienced that very same problem with  low battery voltage and the engine turned off. [That indeed is a good item to check since there are large current swings like maybe 20 Amps on voice peaks.] Ham A then said he turned on the ignition but not had started the car and inquired was there any improvement? The response from Ham B was no change.
Now what would make you think turning the ignition to on without starting the car would improve the battery voltage. Ham B then said start the engine -- Ham A said that caused noise on receive. Ham B then said the Noise Blanker in the TS-440S usually could resolve the noise problem. Boom when he did turn on the engine --his signal was stronger and briefly the signal sounded quite clear. A clue here. That was reported back to Ham A who now reverted back to having the engine off. The next trick attempted by A was to shut off the speech processor --no change. He then thought moving the vehicle might help the signal --it didn't. He next was mobile in motion using PTT -- a new law in 2017 for CA requires VOX operation.
Ham B did inquire about the grounding situation like that might be a  problem with RF Feedback
The QSO ended but I heard him later in other QSO's getting the same signal reports with the engine OFF and the processor ON.
Ok here is my rub and why I think Ham A  should go back to being a Novice Operator. First and foremost no matter what class of license you hold, it is your responsibility to put out a clean signal. Secondly this LID has no clue about the basics of operating mobile.
I would question his physical installation as a starting place. What size cable did he use to connect to the battery --he did connect directly to the battery through a Circuit Breaker. He did look at the ignition systems and install the special spark gap cable and did he install the ferrite core type 30 RF chokes on the spark gap cables and most certainly did he insure that the tail pipe was grounded to the body. Oh by the way he did he install his mobile antenna mount so that it was properly grounded to the frame.
I have serious doubts that any of this was done since his answer was to turn off the engine and at most turn the ignition to on. I even wonder if he had an SWR bridge in line and if his antenna was resonant on the 40 Meter Band. But he is an extra class ham????
At the heart of my beef with this CA Extra Class Ham is that he wasn't listening to what he was told by the other station AND he had no trouble shooting process to isolate and resolve the problem. But hey he is an Extra so why does he need any process.
Were it my mobile installation and my rig, the first thing I would do is separate the rig from the install as the problem area. Step 1 would be to put the rig on an home power supply like 13.8 VDC at 25 amps and a resonant antenna and make contacts with local strong stations from home. If the problem persists you know you have a rig problem.
Given the vintage of the rig -- I would take the covers off and look at all of the screw type grounding connections that mount the individual circuit boards to the main chassis. Backing out the screws and giving a small dab of de-oxit and re-tightening the screws is a good practice. Oxidation can cause poor grounding and result in some of the symptoms being observed at the other end. But this Extra Class Ham probably has never opened up his rig nor even have the service manual. The term plug and play to the LID operator means every time you plug it in it should play. Boy is that a bad assumption.
While this easier than ever to get an Extra Class license and that ease is intended to boost the number of hams so that the off shore manufacturers can sell more radios -- box top radio licenses is no substitute for knowing what you are doing or how to do it. Shame on this ham for actively being a LID.
Now suppose the TS 440S passes the home operation tests that now gives data points for three areas in the mobile installation: 1) condition of the battery and connections to same, 2) resolving the noise issues --the blanker will do its part if you address some of the other required factors and 3) the antenna system install and the resonance on 40 Meters. Operating the rig mobile (unless maybe a 2 watt QRP Rig) with the engine running is necessary to have sufficient voltage AND current to put out 100 watts!
But hey none of this was taught when you studied the 20 questions on the Internet and then took and passed the same 20 questions on the test. [I have been corrected you have to memorize 50 questions and can miss 13 for a score of 74% and still get an Extra. I guess the 13 that he might have missed involved questions about FM'ing and RF Feedback or how to successfully run mobile. Sorry guys but Extra Class licenses were just that in the good old days: extra privileges based on demonstrating the ability to use those privileges.]
So no matter what or how you operate --it is your responsibility to know what you are doing -- turning off the speech processor is a great first step but does not resolve FM'ing or RF feedback. Know what you are doing--LID.
Pete N6QW


  1. N6QW de N1FBZ, ARRL/W5YI Volunteer Examiner

    Just a FYI about the current ARO (Amateur Radio Operator) testing requirements to pass each of the exams:

    Technician License Class and General License Class exams have 35 questions; Extra License Class exams have 50 questions.

    A passing score for the Technician License Class and General License Class exams is 26 correct out of 35 questions (74%). You can miss 9 and still pass the exam.

    A passing score for the Extra License Class exam is 37 correct out of 50 questions (74%). You can miss 13 and still pass the exam.

    LOVE your blog/videos and SolderSmoke podcasts!

    73 de N1FBZ

    1. Hi Michael,

      Thanks for the update. I hope you got the point --if you operate you should know how to address a technical problem made worse by being an Amateur Extra.

      New podcast this Saturday.

      Pete N6QW

  2. I couldn't agree more, Pete. Not every license class needs to be "entry level friendly"; I'd love to see the extra put back into the Extra, and would gladly sit for a requalification exam.

  3. I agree that there are many people holding licenses that passed the multiple choice test and have little practical knowledge on how to recognize and correct problems. What's worse is that the license holders don't even recognize their lack of understanding. When I received my General Class license, I told others that I received a "License to Learn." I passed the test and recognized I did not know as much as I needed to know. I could go on about the limited understanding individuals but it would not help the situation. We need to keep on doing the right things and hope fellow hams are inspired, challenged, encouraged, or otherwise motivated to expand their knowledge and skill.

    And on doing the right things, Thank You for all you are doing with the blog and the articles. While I don't understand it all, I am learning and understanding more.



    1. Hi David,

      Thanks for your post. I got my license when I was 17 years old and my Elmer left me with a clear understanding that getting on the air while a privilege was also a responsibility to have a clean signal. My ire with this person was that he would not take the suggestions/feedback given but went on making contacts like nothing was wrong.

      We are all learning and part of that learning is to have a process when something is wrong to use that process to resolve the issue.

      Stay tuned in 2018 --lots of exciting projects just around the bend.


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