The Amateur Amateur: Let Me Give You My Card
By Gary Ross Hoffman, KB0H
My first business card
My second business card
Front of the St. Louis Metro ARES business card
Front of the Skywarn business card
Front of my The Amateur Amateur business card
Back of my The Amateur Amateur business card
I knew that Amateur Radio operators exchanged QSL cards long before I
became one myself. What I was not aware of was that sometimes they
also exchanged business cards. I was first made aware of this
practice several years ago, while I was helping to man the St. Louis
County Amateur Radio Emergency Service table at a hamfest. (It has
since become St. Louis Metro ARES).
Our Emergency Coordinator, Steve Wooten, KC0QMU, was chatting with
another ham who was also involved in emergency communications. Just
before their conversation ended, they both handed each other a
I initially thought that perhaps
they were both employed in the same field and were exchanging cards
related to their profession. Later, though, I caught a glimpse of
Steve's card and realized that I was wrong. He'd had cards made up
specifically to hand out in his capacity as an ARES Emergency
I was impressed. It had never
occurred to me that it might be a good idea to carry around such
cards, especially while attending hamfests. I decided to have some
made for myself.
A quick look on the Internet
showed me that Amateur Radio business cards were fairly common. There
were lots of places that made them, and the styles ran from simple to
I ordered a box of simple ones.
Well, my cards came, and I wanted to rush out and hand them out to
everyone. I managed to restrain myself, though, and only gave them
out when appropriate (mostly). After a while, though, I became
dissatisfied with my bland, simple card. Looking at some of the
others that I'd seen on the Internet, I wanted a new
card, one with more pizzazz. One with more style. One with my call
sign larger and in color.
And without my phone number.
I can't remember which company
I'd ordered my first round of cards from, but for the second ones I
switched to a company that would allow me to make my own design and
upload it. I was more or less satisfied with the resulting cards that
I received, and carried both them and the older cards around with me
for a while.
I did, after all, want some people to know my phone number.
Having spent a lot of time behind
the St. Louis Metro ARES table at hamfests, I was always on the
lookout for eye-catching elements to draw people in our direction.
The ARRL, ARES, and Skywarn brochures were okay, but the things that
people noticed the most were the “When All Else Fails”
buttons I'd had made up. They were simple, easy to pick up, and free.
They often got a smile, and some people did linger and start scanning
the other things we had on the table.
That got me thinking. Should we put our business cards on the table?
Or better still, could I come up
with cards specifically for our organization?
My initial attempts were with
postcard size promotional cards, which I not only designed, but
printed myself. I was never completely happy with them, and making
them was tedious. So, I decided to go back to the idea of business
cards, which someone else could print, and would be more convenient
for people to pick up and stick in their pockets at hamfests.
I made a card for our ARES/RACES
group, which was double sided. It had the organization logos on the
front and information on the back. If nothing else, it was colorful.
The one I really liked, though, was our Skywarn card. I put a picture
of a dark storm cloud on the front and text on the back. I had taken
the photo of the storm cloud myself, as it rolled over the condo in
Hermann, Missouri, where my wife and I were vacationing. It was
pretty much the most threatening, evil-looking thing I had ever seen. The
picture doesn't do it justice.
And looking at the card now, I
realize that both sides of it need updating.
If you are reading this column, you'll know that I, well, write a
column, obviously. But not everyone does. I had a rather significant
readership when the ARRL published The
Amateur Amateur on its website. I don't claim that everyone liked
it, but at least they looked
at it. Then the League decided to drop some columns from its site,
including mine. So, I set up my own website here so that I could
continue writing it. I definitely can't claim that it's a how-to or
Just call it Gary's personal therapy.
Most of my former readers don't know that I've continued to crank out the
column or where to find it. To that end I've used what venues I can
to make it visible again. And one of those was to make a business
card specifically for The Amateur Amateur itself.
Okay, if I was going to create a
business card for the column, it would have to have something
special. Perhaps I could commission one of those really snazzy
business cards with a glittery face, a tactile surface, sound
much. Too gaudy. And way
too expensive. And moreover, people would just use it to clean their
I came up with another double-sided card, as much information as I
could pack on the back, and a graphic on the front. For that I fell
back to a cartoon character I'd created while back. I call it a Glitch,
a beastie that resides inside your radio, waiting for an opportune moment to
wreak havoc on it (see Glitches
in the System).
I'm much more readily associated with disasters than with technical
I can't say whether or not the
business cards I've created have garnered any interest, either in our
emergency communications group or with my column. All I can say is
that's the best I can do.
Putting the message on the side of a Zeppelin is beyond my means.
(Email = [email protected])