What happened to charity?

Not long ago, some frustrated ham posted a packet message complaining about new hams asking for (and needing) help. I didn't save that message, but I did save my reply, which appears below. I hope you can pick up the thread of the discussion. -- Brad, VE3RHJ


No, getting your licence is not enough. As your friend has learned, there is a wealth of practical knowledge not taught by the Basic exam. Another thing the Basic doesn't teach, apparently, is charity.

Whatever happened to the grand tradition of Elmers? In our local club, we try to help the new ham through those first crucial steps after the licence. Sure, I might be swamped with work, and I might not be ready to fix someone's rig for them. But "sorry, I can't help, why don't you try so-and-so" is a warmer response than "go read a book." At the very least, try something like "the Handbook has a section on that. Want to borrow my copy?"

What is this nonsense about "feeding off" someone else's knowledge? Do you lose it if you share it with someone else? And what is reading a book, if not feeding off someone else's hard-won knowledge? I recently taught an Advanced course so seven Basic hams could "feed off" my knowledge. My experience with them and with other students is that the overwhelming majority of new hams are eager to learn, and willing to work at it...but they need a few tips. Such as what book to read.

I'm wondering, what book taught you not to put 360 watts into a 150-watt meter? Have you never "fried" a piece of equipment? I fried a lot of components while earning my degree -- it's part of "applying what you have learned by experimenting." To the wayward ham, simply say, "You put in too much power for that meter setting. It's fried. You need to buy a new one." After buying his second meter, he'll be more careful about power ratings.

Was it, perhaps, a very old book that suggested using a lamp as a dummy load? Tell him, "you could do that in the 1930s, but not with modern equipment." Then point him to a modern book with a dummy load project. As long as you hoard your knowledge, your friend is going to get bad advice.

At least someone told him to use a dummy load for tuning up. Has someone else told him that -- assuming he has 5 wpm code -- he can legally own a Swan 500, but that he has to reduce its power? (According to my reading, the Swan 500 is rated 360 watts CW, 500 watts PEP SSB.) Has someone told him how to reduce its power? (Many older manuals omit this useful information.)

I'll apply my own advice, and recommend this passage from the ARRL Operating Manual (page 17-49 in my edition, or look in the index for "The Amateur's Code"):

"The Radio Amateur is: FRIENDLY... slow and patient operating when requested; friendly advice and counsel to the beginner; kindly assistance, cooperation and consideration for the interests of others. These are the hallmarks of the amateur spirit."

73, Brad Rodriguez VE3RHJ