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QRP Skill + Comments

QRP With K3WWP - Column # 75 - I received the following response to my last column from Larry, K5JYD:

"John, You hit the nail on the head with your latest column in fists. About a week ago I got fed up with the flame wars on all the reflectors I belonged to and I unsubscribed to everything but the fist group on yahoo. No longer do I spend an hour or two a day on the internet plowing through a bunch of e mails etc. Instead I go out to the shed and fire up my ic718 or mfj9020 and make a cw contact. In the last week I average three contacts on cw a day as compared to 3 a week last month (if that many). I already have noticed an improvement in my cw skills. Instead of talking about cw I am actually doing cw!"

That is simply wonderful. I hope that many other folks can break their Internet Reflector addiction and get back on good old CW.

Personally I find myself on the Internet and my computer a lot. I know I could be spending some of that time on the ham bands. However keeping up 3 web sites - my own, NAQCC, and a local computer club - does require me to be at the keyboard a lot. Then there is the matter of answering a lot of email related to the web sites, much of which takes a good deal of Internet research. Writing these columns also takes time as do many other matters. All that time adds up each day, but it is necessary because in so doing, I'm helping others in some small way, and that is what life is all about. So I don't think I'm being hypocritical. There are good and bad reasons for spending time on the Internet.

Speaking of the NAQCC - which I always like to do - I find that our club activities are encouraging me to spend more time on the bands. I especially like our monthly challenges and find them fascinating. The purpose of the challenges is to get more activity on the CW bands using QRP to both increase the CW presence on the bands and to show just how efficient a mode it is by the great success that can be achieved using just a little bit of power.

As an example of a recent challenge, we wanted our members to find out what the ham they are working does for a living. We gave an award to the one finding the most different professions. We hoped that so doing would encourage longer QSO's and get hams to know each other better. So many QSO's these days never go beyond RST, QTH, Name, WX, and rig. Or often hams are only interested in exchanging some kind of number.

The NAQCC does have a worked members award as do many other clubs, but we feel ours is different. We offer various points for member QSO's. If you worked someone before they become a member, that is one point. A basic QSO of the type I mention in the previous paragraph is also worth one point. A contest or sprint QSO with a member is worth 2 points because we feel that contesting helps a lot in building CW speed and skill. Now here is what I feel is a wonderful feature - a QSO that goes beyond the basic QSO of RST, QTH, name, WX and rig is worth 4 points. That is, if you actually find out something about the ham you work, you earn more points. You might find out that he was on the beaches of Normandy on D-day or that he was a major or minor league baseball player. Things like that. In that way we hope to avoid just swapping numbers in a member QSO. In fact a number exchange is not even necessary as long as you know you're working a club member (or that the ham became a member sometime after the QSO).

We hope that many FISTS will become NAQCC members. You don't have to be a full time QRP operator as I am to become a member. You really don't even have to operate QRP yourself as long as you believe in and support the club goals of promoting CW use at QRP power levels. We already have a good many NAQCC members who are also FISTS. That makes sense since both clubs have similar goals. While we like to have all of our members active in club events, simply having a large membership makes a statement that CW is still very popular. Currently we have just over 1,400 members in the NAQCC.

And now for something completely different (sort of). It was said (or implied) in a recent Keynote article (and I've seen it elsewhere as well) that the skill in a QRP QSO comes not from the QRP operator, but from the one working the QRP station. That is true to some extent. However if it were completely true, then why can't someone simply get on the air using QRP, call a CQ and get an answer right away? If the QRP operator doesn't need any skill, that should work. Right? Well, we all know it doesn't. The QRP operator must possess a variety of skills himself as well.

Those running QRP must be skilled in understanding propagation conditions to know when they have the best chance of making a QSO on a certain band. They must be skilled in sending CW since easy-to-copy CW makes copying their QRP signals much easier. They must know how to radiate their meager amount of RF as efficiently as possible with the skill of building good antennas and antenna couplers. They must be skilled at zero-beating, using procedure signals correctly, knowing when to call a station...... The list goes on and on. The more skills a QRPer has, the more QSOs he will make, and the easier it will be to make them.

To add one more thing. In this day and age with the wonderful technology involved in today's receiving equipment, it is relatively easy to copy a very small amount of RF arriving at the receiving antenna. So there is not as much skill involved copying a QRP signal vs. a QRO signal as there once was. I think largely because of this I have more success now using 5 watts than I did back in the 60's when I ran 75 watts. Or maybe it's because I am a more skilled operator these days?

Well, this column has been fun to write for me, but time to close now. If you want to contact me or the NAQCC, simply do an MSN or Windows Live search for K3WWP or NAQCC. Till next time, 73. -30-