The Amateur Amateur: Thanks for the Megahertz!

By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
Contributing Editor
November 20, 2003

This is a column about Thanksgiving. Every married man knows that he had better thank his wife first. My wife didn't just tolerate my hobby, she joined me in it.

Life's been a little bumpy this month. On top of everything else I seem to have picked up a virus that makes my head feel like a ripe watermelon. (Don't worry. You can't catch it over the Internet.) I kept putting off doing my column, but a subject eluded me.

Nancy, N0NJ

Nancy, N0NJ. Married men know that they'd better thank their wives first. Why? Because they deserve it.

Looking around desperately, my bloodshot eyes rested on the calendar, which reminded me that Thanksgiving is just ahead. "Yeah, I'm sick, I've got sick computers at work, my head is so clogged that I can't think straight, and I haven't written my column. I should be really thankful," I thought, feeling dreadfully sorry for myself.

"You do have a lot for which you should be thankful," a little voice in my head piped up. "You should be really thankful for Amateur Radio."

For a moment I was simply stunned (I think they call this "the moment of inspiration"). The little voice was right! Amateur Radio was one of the best things that ever happened to me. And so, appropriately, I dedicate this Thanksgiving column to Amateur Radio.

Whom should I thank first? Well, that's obvious. Every married man knows that he had better thank his wife first. In my case, my wife Nancy didn't just tolerate my hobby, she joined me in it. That's really saying something, because she was something of a technophobe when we started. Amateur Radio was her own way to build self-confidence.

I'm not sure how far I would have gotten in Amateur Radio without Nancy. I didn't really know how to study for the exams until she showed me. She also was my study partner through the various upgrades. That helped a lot. More recently, we've done a few of the ARRL Certification and Continuing Education courses together.

I could go on (and on). Nancy has been more than helpful and supportive, she's also kept me well-grounded. Many are the times she's said, "Don't get on the roof unless I'm here" or "That's nice fan mail. Don't let it go to your head." Thank you, Babe, for everything.

The second person I need to thank is Michael Redman, KA0YXU. Mike and I became acquainted many years ago because of our mutual interest in police scanners. In 1994 Mike offered a class to get a Technician license. He arranged for a volunteer examiner team to come on the last day of class to give exams. Nancy and I were in that first class and were two of Mike's first graduates. So in a very real sense, he introduced us to ham radio. He's brought many more people into the hobby since then.

There's more. Mike also talked me into becoming a VE, introduced me to emergency communication, and got me interested in teaching. For all that and more, thank you Mike.

On The Air! magazine

On the Air! magazine

The next person I should thank is Perry Joseph, KB0ZUZ. Perry edited the newsletter of our local police scanner club and published my Amateur Radio ramblings and foibles in its pages. I called my column The Amateur Amateur. Sound familiar? The SABRE Newsletter is where it all started, back in 1995. Thanks, Perry.

In 1997 very nice fellow up in Ontario named Dave Hamilton, VE3KIU (then VA3UE), started up a new Amateur Radio magazine called On the Air! I submitted my column to him, he accepted, and The Amateur Amateur went international. (It was at this point that Nancy first said, "Don't let it go to your head.") Dave always had sage advice such as, "It should always be fun!" Sadly, the magazine did not last. But I'll always be grateful to Dave for his support and his good cheer.

Do you know Rick Lindquist, N1RL? [Who, me?--Ed.] He's the reason you're reading The Amateur Amateur right now. He's ARRL Senior News Editor, and in 2001 he accepted my column as a feature for this Web page. This new, wider audience is much more likely to catch any mistakes I make. Rick helps to keep me on track, corrects my grammar and punctuation and throws me a lifeline when I wind up in quicksand. For all that and for laughing when no one else thinks it's funny, thank you, Rick. [You're most welcome, Gary.--Ed.]

Chris, K1KC

My brother Chris, K1KC. "The Junkman" will always give me an answer, even if it is incomprehensible.

Then there is Ron Ochu, KO0Z, president of the St Charles Amateur Radio Club. In the midst of a storm of e-mail telling me that my car wouldn't have caught fire if I'd used properly installed fuses, I received an invitation from Ron to speak at one of his club's meetings. Thanks Ron. I desperately needed a lift right then. (Immediately after, Nancy once again warned me not to let it go to my head. She was right. It turned out that although I can write a humorous column, I'm a bust as a stand-up comedian.)

Of course I have to mention The Junkman, my brother Chris, K1KC. He's my number one source of information regarding Amateur Radio. Although we still have some difficulty with the translation stage (Techno-to-English), Chris has never let me down. If he doesn't know the answer (which is rare), he'll keep looking until he finds it. Humble Grasshopper says thank you, Oh Wise Junkman.

I also have to give a big thank-you to you, the readers. More than 400 of you have written to me, the first being Dana Joines, W0AIA, and the most prolific being Rick Maestas, KD5HVU. Almost all of your messages have been positive and friendly. You've shown an old cynic that there are still many, many good people still out there. Thank you very much.

My last expression of gratitude is to Amateur Radio itself. It has brought my family closer together. It has taught me so much, and it has shown me that I can still learn things. It has given me literally hundreds of new friends. And it has shown me that I have talents and abilities I didn't know I had. (I know, dear, "Don't let it go to your head").

Editor's note: ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, lives in Florissant, Missouri. He's been a ham since 1995. Hoffman says his column's name -- "The Amateur Amateur" -- suggests the explorations of a rank amateur, not those of an experienced or knowledgeable ham. His wife, Nancy, is N0NJ. Hoffman has a ham-related Web page. Readers are invited to contact the author via email.

© 2003 American Radio Relay League


E-mail Gary Ross Hoffman

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