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QRP Discouragement

QRP With K3WWP - Column # 72 - I occasionally get a letter or email from someone who has visited my web site or read one of these columns in the Keynote wondering why they are not having any success with their QRP setup. I can sense their air of discouragement and would like to address that issue in this column.

It is easy to become discouraged when using QRP at times especially if you are the impatient sort. Using QRP does require patience since it is a fact that it is not as easy to make contacts when you are using only 5 watts or less of output power.

Although I have made at least one QSO using QRP, CW, and simple wire antennas every day since August 5, 1994, some days it was quite hard to get that QSO. Admittedly not many days, but when such a day did come along I did feel some discouragement. It didn't stop me from using QRP though.

Back in the 1960's and 1970's I was running 60-75 watts input power which was considered QRP at the time as was anything under 100 watts input power. My antennas were similar to what I use today. I really became discouraged when I couldn't work some DX station that seemingly everyone else was working easily. I even pretty much gave up DXing because of that. I was younger then and didn't have the wisdom to realize that those stations had much better antenna systems and locations than I did.

If you do take the time to analyze your results (or lack of results) with QRP, it is easy to dispel that discouragement so let's look at some reasons why things may not be working.

One really discouraging thing is calling a station and having him not hear you at all. This sometimes happens even when the station you are calling is quite strong and the path between you and him should be good enough to support your QRP signals.

Well, consider these things. The other fellow may be a new ham (or even an older ham - it happens to all of us) who is not using his rig correctly. He may have it set up for split frequency operation (unintentionally) or have his RIT or XIT turned on so that he is listening on some frequency other than the one on which he is calling CQ. This is quite likely if you also hear other stations calling him and he is not hearing them either.

The ham you are calling may live in an area that produces a very high local noise level and he is unable to copy any but the very strongest signals. Ouch, that hits home quite hard since I have that situation here. My noise level is at S9 or higher most all the time here. My 40 plus years experience of copying CW under all kinds of conditions does help me pull out signals well below the noise, but I know I do at times miss stations that answer my CQ's.

There are hams who for one reason or other (legitimate such as a hearing problem or not legitimate like being just too lazy to put in a little effort to copy a weaker signal) do not deal with weak signals. They only answer the very strongest signals.

I believe there is such a thing as one-way skip, although its existence has not been proved and is a subject of debate. The other ham's signal may be propagating to you very well, but not vice-versa.

If you're working DX, the DX station may intentionally be operating split frequency, transmitting on one frequency and listening on another. If you transmit on his transmitting frequency he will never hear you. So always try to be aware of what a DX station is doing before you call him.

If you're in a contest, remember many participants will be running kilowatts and big beam antennas so their signals will be quite strong to you while yours may not be strong to them. However contest stations do have the best receiving equipment possible because 'you can't work them if you don't hear them' and every QSO counts for them toward that final big score. Your QSO may be the difference between first and second place for them. The best contest operators will make the effort to copy you.

It's very discouraging when you go all out in a contest and still fall far short of achieving the results that X3XXX did in that contest also using QRP. Well that one is easy to analyze. If you know your contesting skills are as good as his, then it's virtually certain he has a better antenna system, better and/or quieter location, or some other such physical factor that aids him. That's one thing I like about our NAQCC I talked about in my last column. In all our results, we publish what kind of antenna system a ham used to get those results. So you can compare your results against those in a similar situation to yours. If someone beat you badly but has a much better antenna system it is logical that he would have beaten you and you shouldn't feel any discouragement in that.

This column is not a cure all for discouragement, but it does point out that you should analyze your failures, and not just give up on QRP after a few unsuccessful attempts to make a QRP QSO. After all, I've made around 45,000 QRP QSO's with my simple wire antennas. And I'm certainly no one special. If I can do it, you can too.

Till next column (probably Keynote #2 for 2006) when we'll talk about some methods to make sure you succeed with QRP, 73. Stop by my web site for a visit when you get a chance. It's at http://home.windstream.net/johnshan/. If you have comments or questions on these columns, email me at johnshan@windstream.net. -30-