Life is a strange journey, and 2021 was stranger than most. It was a rough ride for many people. While my family and I had a relatively smooth trip around the sun, the rest of the world's problems got me thinking more deeply than I have in past years. I could dive into deep discussions about the philosophy of life, the impact of COVID, the paradox of the expanding universe.
But naaah, I'll just talk about some of the ham radio things I've finally figured out.
- There are no new ideas in Amateur Radio. Lots of good old ideas, even great old ideas, but no new ones. The theoretical and practical tools and methods for communicating over the airwaves have all been figured out. So stop looking for the next 'new thing' and instead just get on the air with what you have, and have fun
- The radio industry will never make exactly what I want. That's not a complaint, just a statement of fact. I'm doomed to pass from this life without the perfect radio. But that's OK, because I'll shuffle off this mortal coil without the perfect pickup truck, the perfect computer, the perfect hamburger, the perfect waistline. That's life
- Bigger is better. Bigger antenna. Bigger power supply. Bigger transmit finals. Bigger DSP. Bigger touch screen. If you are just getting into ham radio, don't start small, start big and save yourself the frustration of low power, low sunspot counts, low antennas. Go Big. That said, however...
- Nothing hones your practical skills like QRP
- Don't fear the tuner. The internet is full of ham radio 'experts' pointing their fingers and laughing at others who are seeking advice about tuners. In their minds, real hams use resonant antennas, all others are weak sisters. That's bullshit. If you need a tuner, use a tuner, and don't be ashamed about it
- The era of the sub-$1,000 basic 100 watt HF rig is over. Icom learned a huge lesson with the introduction of the IC-705. The ham radio community griped endlessly about the radio's $1,300 street price, then they lined up in droves to fork over the cash. The same happened with the IC-7300. Five years ago the 7300 re-defined the concept of the basic rig, and Icom still sells them by the truckload at a $1,000 price point. Icom has already announced price hikes in the new year. Yaesu will follow. Chip shortages, supply chain issues, COVID, and escalating design and production costs means we'll soon be paying a kilo-buck or more for our basic rigs. It's the new norm
- I'm too damned old to keep tying to deal with Yaesu's endlessly (and unnecessarily) complex menu structures on their HF rigs
- Life is much better if you know how to solder
- Cheap Chinese radios are worth exactly what you pay for them, and not a penny more
- Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePo) battery chemistry is the future. All else pales in comparison
- You can never have too many antennas. Plus, they are easier than radios to hide from your significant other 😄
- You can fit ham radio into just about any activity. Birthday parties, camping trips, fishing trips, babysitting the grandkids, dog sitting, visiting long lost relatives, memorial services (don't ask me how I know). All you need is a radio and a wire
- And last, the idea of retirement isn't so frightening. I can see it just over the horizon, in a year or two. 2021 was a huge perspective shift for me. After a half century of running on the hamster wheel I'm looking forward to extended navel gazing sessions, hanging out with the grandkids, walking the dogs, chasing the XYL around the camper, fishing, and playing with radios