Foundations of Amateur Radio
Leaving the hobby ...
The other day I came across a how to video on becoming a radio amateur. It's a recurring kind of publication, the kind that I've contributed to in the past.
I wondered what it would take to leave the hobby.
First of all, I'd have to let my callsign lapse. That's easy enough, but I paid for five years, so it's going to take a while. When it has finally ceased being mine, have I stopped being an amateur?
For one, my qualifications would still be in the regulator's database, likely well beyond my breathing years. I wonder if they implement the right to be forgotten?
Another thing I'd have to do is stop knowing about how antennas work in day-to-day situations. I'd have to stop noticing the location of free to air television antennas, mobile phone towers, Wi-Fi antennas throughout the community and even the network in my home.
I'd also have to say goodbye to all the friends I've made around the place. There's hundreds of people scattered around the globe who with a single word might lure me back into their world, and with that the risk of being sucked back into the community once again.
At a minimum I'd have to stop using computers, or radios, or electronics really. I'd have to stop wanting gadgets and measuring equipment, not to mention having to mothball my soldering irons and give away all my heat shrink.
I'd have to give back the space I've eked out in the house and return it to the general living space it once was. I'd also have to sell all my radio gear and antennas. I'd have to rip out the coax, fix up any holes, cancel pending orders for new antennas and donate my books and magazines to the local library.
I'd have to stop looking at electronics magazines, cut up my loyalty cards for the local electronics and hardware stores and start an online store to sell all the connectors and adaptors I've amassed over the time I've been part of the community.
I'd have to forget the phonetic alphabet that I use almost daily and start using crazy words to spell things over the phone like a normal person does.
Experimentation would be a thing of the past and would be frowned upon as a fringe activity, one only suited to madmen and amateurs, and I'd have to stop investing my time in software and projects that might one day be used in amateur radio.
One of the hardest things to give away would be my curiosity, the one thing that's innate to my wellness. I'd have to stop asking Why? and How? all the time. I'd have to plead ignorance when someone asks how coax works and what's inside a blob of goop on a random circuit board they found on the side of the road.
Then there's the other things like physics and general science. I'd have to disavow all knowledge of these activities. I'd have to stop looking at the stars and stop wondering which radio frequencies were being emitted from all over the night sky.
I'd have to become ignorant of emergency services and communication, of event management and club life. I'd have to feign interest in anything that wasn't science or technology and I'd have to keep a straight face and my mouth shut when someone extolled the virtues of an irrational belief system.
I would likely have to give up my job as an IT consultant and start on a more manual job. Perhaps I'd take up gardening, though I'm not sure how I'd do in the weather at my age.
Even if I achieved all that, and kept it up for the rest of my life, I'd still be an amateur, just one hiding from the hordes of humanity striving to live on this ball of dirt, hurtling through the heavens on a journey through the stars.
I'm not sure I could do that.
So, for better or worse, as I see it, once an amateur, always an amateur and if you're curious and believe in science and technology, I'm here to say that you're well over halfway towards being an amateur! Welcome to the club!
I'm Onno VK6FLAB
This article is the transcript of the weekly 'Foundations of Amateur Radio' podcast, produced by Onno Benschop, VK6FLAB who was licensed as radio amateur in Perth, Western Australia in 2010. For other episodes, visit http://vk6flab.com/. Feel free to get in touch directly via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you'd like to join a weekly radio net for new and returning amateurs, check out the details at http://ftroop.vk6flab.com/, the net runs every week on Saturday, from 00:00 to 01:00 UTC on Echolink, IRLP, AllStar Link, Brandmeister and 2m FM via various repeaters, all are welcome.