How much do you trivialize your fellow ham?


An excerpt from one of my e-mails from a reader:

I will not forget how excited I was to work a few new countries only to be belittled at the local DX Club meeting about how common and insignificant my QSO’s were. This message coming from guys at the top of the honor role. If we want the hobby to continue well into the future we need to encourage and applaud rather than trivialize.

I would suggest that this is not an isolated instance, though not just about DX’ing and Honor Roll members. I remember the first meeting I went to at my local club — and was totally ignored. I went to the meetings four different times and almost gave up on joining a club — a club that I went on to be President of later in my ham career.

The strength of our hobby is the diversity of activities that we can do as part of the hobby. Whether it is public service policy, digital modes, contesting or DX’ing, we can learn something new, become an expert in that area, get bored and move on to learning something new — all in the same hobby.

Yet, too often, the experts in that sub-segment of the hobby trivialize where that person is at, trying to learn a new area of the hobby, with their learning curve. I’ve seen it in DX’ing, contesting — and even heard quite often that you won’t be a “real” ham until you learn Morse Code. Right.

And I’m not being purist here; I’ve done this type of trivialization over the course of my 24-year ham career.

This behavior does not encourage people to join our hobby. We intentionally or unintentionally become exclusionary. We don’t, as my reader notes in the e-mail, “applaud” the accomplishment.

My first contact as a ham was on Morse Code with a ham in California. I don’t remember the call. But I remember the event. As a teenager, I had worked long and hard to get a radio, antenna and accessories to get to the point of getting on the air. All the magazines I read said the most important thing to do was get on the air and start making contacts. So I did. When I first heard my call coming back to me out of the ether, I was pumped. And nervous. The ham was most gracious on being part of my first contact.

Yet, imagine that same contact where the ham would have instead trivialized what I had done. First contacts are nothing…wait until you get to 10,000. Your Morse Code is crappy…didn’t you learn how to send?

Makes you want to crawl into a hole and die. Or, at least sheepishly walk away from the hobby. Or, tell the person to get a life and tell them to shove it and then walk away from the hobby.

Yet, we callously condemn fellow hams who came in the hobby with a no-code license as not being “real hams.” Or trivialize working Germany (the first ham radio contact I ever heard was with a US ham using Morse Code to talk to a ham in Germany — and I was astonished at the thought as a non-ham) as being “garden-variety” DX. Or condemn fellow contesters for not knowing the exchange.

When you are learning something new, no one is perfect. And to berate someone for their imperfection trivializes the work they are doing to become proficient at what they are doing in the hobby. We should be teaching and applauding the effort because life is about learning.

As my Elmer once told me, “every country is hard to get until you work and confirm  it. Then, of course, it’s a piece of cake.”

Are you trivializing the work of fellow hams?

  • Well said Scot. What you have pointed out is something observed across life and is one of mankind’s least endearing attributes.

    You see it when you play in music groups – “Joe Cool” tells you what a dawdle the altissimmo range is to play, while they keep secret the fact that they studied daily with a master for four years to learn any of it themselves.

    Or at the Airport where someone is always claiming to have landed/taken-off shorter, flown in worse weather and flown their approaches tighter than everyone else.

    I’m in the midst of mentoring my middle son as he learns to drive. Very interesting and very humbling, as he brings up what he has learned while we are out. I had been retaught to drive differently than the common on-the-road courses teach, so I am making special effort to “hold up” the way he is being taught and support each learning step, no matter how little or matter of fact they are to my driving.

    In amateur radio my good friend Paul went from being an SWL to Amateur Extra in one test session after working very hard on the material. I’ve had the distinct pleasure of making several QSOs with him over the 1000 miles that separate us. It is so neat to see each thing as new to him!

    Good post Scot and hopefully a reminder to all to help build up those around us in all aspects of life.



  • Wow. That would stink to be made to feel “this high” at a club meeting.

    After running weekly 2m nets on the club repeater faithfully for 4 years, I had an “Extra” tell me it “he’d never bother with it… didn’t have an HT… he’d never turned on the 2m mode on his rig ” (which costs more than my truck) . Talk about supportive club members and recruitment….

    I’m sure I’ll drift through HF DX and paperchasing like I did APRS, Foxhunts, balloon chasing, etc. And probably I’ll revisit it from time to time like I’ve done the modes I’ve mentioned. But to call someone out in a volunteer organization seems a little shaky.

    Keep up the good work.


  • Quite the opposite in my club. Last week I made a “trivial” JA contact on RTTY at 0530 Sunday. I mentioned this at breakfast on Saturday, and several of the club members were appreciative – what time?, what band?, which antenna?, which mode? OK, maybe they wouldn’t be as enthusiastic for a 20m phone contact to DL (from Eastern Massachusetts, hi), but they’ve always been supportive. I got into this club because I introduced myself on the local reflector when I was new, and I was invited to the weekly breakfast. I’ve been going ever since.

  • Never have I heard this truth spoken so well about ham radio. I went through this several times at the club I initially started attending when I first got my license. I would go to events outside of the normal club meeting and feel like I had stepped into a different group of people. I, too, remember being ignored for the longest time and thinking that this did not reflect positively on the hobby, especially a hobby that touts itself as wanting to further communications.

    Ham Radio “people” need to realize that there are “in-person” social skills that need to be developed in order to keep people coming back. I enjoy the hobby but hate the club meetings.

    Right now, I am sitting on the sidelines when it comes to ham radio. Maybe I will get back into it, maybe I won’t. I like the gadgets and gizmos and the fun associated with this but find that it may be difficult to start into a club again. I hope I can because many of the friends I have had for a long time and still talk to are amateurs.

    Thanks for the blog,

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