Friday, November 22, 2019

Elmer's To All

When You Know Stuff, You Can Do Stuff!!!





Are you an Elmer?

Long standing in our hobby has been the concept of the Elmer. No, we are not talking about Elmer Fudd the cartoon character who always was ouwitted by the irascible Wabbit!

The Ham Radio  Elmer is a ham with a few solder burns on his hands; but most importantly a vast knowledge base on "How to do stuff". He was the "turn to guy or gal" when you wanted to know how to do things in amateur radio.

An Elmer knows how to do this...




[With special acknowledgement to N2CQR who shared this design on the soldersmoke blog. See Bill I still know how to read a schematic. 

This is a single JFET (J310) Regen receiver. I did add an audio amp so I could drive a speaker. What was critical is the "tickler" coil, sometimes called a variometer. 

Initially I had the tickler too close to the tuned winding -- read over coupled. Like an Alex Bell moment, the coil slipped off the main winding and fell to the bottom of the coil and suddenly it came alive. A bit of work with the hot glue gun will keep it welded to its current position. ]

The often asked questions such as how to build a dipole for 40M or how to wire a three wire electrical cord are in the wheel house of our Elmer. More complex skills like soldering without welding parts and how to test rigs were the mainstay of the amateur radio Elmer.

Today the Elmer's are dimishing in numbers as that knoweldge base no longer is the purview of a live subject matter expert; but now rests with the Internet, you tube videos and even blogs like this.

But there is a danger to this approach as the information sharing bypasses the learning so often evident of the one on one experience  such as with the student and teacher.

In an earlier blog post I took DX Engineering to task about their endless possibilities and their bold statement on the front cover of their latest catalog "We're All Elmers" and then quickly limiting that to the DX Engineering Staff. But maybe that is a point when taken to a larger ham population. Maybe many of us are indeed Elmer's!

I did receive one lengthy email in response to that email to DX Engineering and I am not certain that was an official response, since K3LR, (Tim) was on distro or that it was an inidividual response and K3LR was copied.

Firstly  I appreciate the thoughts that were shared in that email and the fact that a response was sent  to me.

Basically the response shared this individual's ham journey and that he did indeed have solder burns on his hands. He also shared that in the course of actually teaching ham radio CW courses that he ran across many hams who started with simple gear and were frustrated that they made no contacts and thus were discouraged and disappointed. 

His suggested solution was that new hams should BUY a radio such as the IC7300 ($1K) so that they would would have a good first time experience and that would negate any negative feelings. 

But he identfied and I heartily agree that many of these hams were using poor antennas and their actual station setup was marginal. Guess what? Adding a good experience IC7300 without addressing the antenna or station set up will not be any better than the situation with low cost CW transceivers. Guys it is the whole system that makes it all work. 

Another critical piece is that you have to know some things so you can do some things. Often the poor experience with the low cost low power rigs has nothing to do with the hardware. The operators often went from no license to an amateur extra without ever being on the air. Often many do not even understand basic operating skills or how their rigs should be adjusted. That adds a level of problems when your first rig is a Good Experience IC7300. Thank You ARRL!

A related problem is something I saw on a popular reflector. A ham was asking where he could purchase a pre-wired cool blue 16X2 LCD. Seems like he purchased a bare display and had to solder 16 wires so that it could plug into a board on one of the currently popular rigs from India. It seems like in the process of soldering the wires to the LCD he physically burned the circuit board. 

So instead of taking this as an opportunity to ask can someone help me to learn some soldering skills -- his ask: where can I buy one pre-wired. My first thought is imagine if he had an IC7300 and had to wire up a microphone.

It is very easy for me to bash these individuals by saying that time must be invested to learn about the hobby and gain some basic skills like learning to solder or how to build a dipole. But instead the credit card warrior mentality prevails -- just buy it.

So maybe some of us who have a few skills and have 60 years experience (not one year of experience 60 times over) should endeavor to help those who are just starting the journey. BUT I also say RTFM!

Am happy to report that IDE 1.8.5 is back working on my main computer. It was a corrupted Adafruit_GFX.h file. But as I said I did have a back up on another computer. An Elmer would know and do that as a matter of good practice.

73's
Pete N6QW

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