Logging, HF Contesting and Proposed HF Privileges for Technicians

Monday, 9. April 2018

Is contesting really important to the hobby?

That question comes up a lot when talking to new hams. Although discussed in some detail in the ARRL Technician’s Handbook, the actual Technician test (at the time of this writing) has very few questions that mention contesting. Many General and Extra class operators don’t seem to get ‘the whole contest thing’ as well.

So why are contests important? Why should we care about radio sport at all? And what does this have to do with the new proposal put forward by ARRL to the FCC to grant additional HF privileges to Technicians?

New Privileges for Technicians.

Full disclosure… I am for the new privileges. I believe that new hams need to be able to ‘taste’ HF Phone and HF Data to encourage them to upgrade to General. I think it’s time we realize that limiting Technicians to Data and SSB on 10m and just CW on 15m, 40m and 80m is too restrictive.

Don’t get me wrong, CW is a valid and important part of our hobby. There are many operators out there working to learn CW simply because they want to. However, the FCC no longer requires CW for any class of license, yet they require Technicians to learn CW just to get on HF bands below 10m? That seems wrong to me.

Giving a Technician the ability to work limited phone and data on HF bands longer then 10m will hopefully inspire them to invest the time and money required to put together an HF rig and antenna system.

Most arguments I’ve heard have seemed to center on having untrained and inexperienced operators on the bands. My answer to this is that you are absolutely right! Boy you should have heard me the first time I keyed up on 40m. I was tongue twisted and used every ‘Q’ code except the one I should have been using. Boy did I make a mess of things those first 10 or so QSOs. Oh, and by the way, I was a General at the time… Did I get yelled at? No! I got laughed at a couple times… But everyone seemed to realize I was totally new at this, and like most good hams, they helped me work through it.

Why is Radio Sport important and good for the Hobby?

Because, it gets Amateurs on the Air! I can not tell you how many times I’ve turned the rig on and checked out the activity on the bands, only to find nothing happening. Sure, I call CQ a few times (more like several times over and over), but a lot of times, no reply… I’m told that it’s band conditions and the solar cycle, and that the witch doctors in the south pacific are cursing us… Wait, strike that last one. But for whatever reason, there is just no activity to speak of.

Now, turn the radio on during a contest, and WOW! There are people to connect with. What a difference. Admittedly there is not a lot of rag chewing going on, and the QSOs are pretty much a limited exchange, but there are quite a few pay offs for new hams.

  • Gaining confidence
  • Learning to use the radio and all the filters
  • Learning to listen and copy weak signals
  • Better understanding of propagation and conditions

All and all, these attributes make us all better operators.

Rule Changes Regarding Logging.

It used to be that every contact, regardless of band, needed to be logged and kept for review in case the FCC wanted more information regarding your activity on the air. On June 9th, 1983 the requirements for logging were virtually eliminated. Although there was much speculation, the consensus was that Amateur Operator logs would not provide useful information to the FCC, and that the requirement was an unnecessary burden on Amateurs.

For me, it’s hard to imagine having to log every contact I made on a VHF or UHF repeater, let alone do it while driving. But before the change in 1983, that was the rule.

As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to log contest contacts if you don’t want to… Although that can be considered poor radio sport, it isn’t required.

So, if we don’t have to log at all, why is it that most Amateurs still do?

Why we still log our contacts.

The FCC no longer requires us to log our contacts. Why is the common belief that we should all still log our QSOs (at least our HR QSOs)?

Well, I’m sure some of you reading have your own opinions on this, but here is my short list:

  • Seeing if you talked to someone before
    • It’s neat to look at your history when in a QSO with someone and see that you spoke with them before.
    • Referencing a previous contact during the contact also makes the person on the other side feel good that you remembered them.
  • Documenting a contact with what many experienced ham’s call a ‘Rare DX Station’
    • Have you ever talked to Brazil? How about Russia or Australia? I have, and I can tell you when, on what frequency and to who because I have a Log.
  • Qualifying for wall paper (Awards)
    • By uploading your logs to services like Logbook of The World or QRZ.com you can qualify for Awards like ‘Worked all States’ or ‘DX Century Club’.
  • Justifying to the FCC that we amateurs actually use all the bands and frequencies we are licensed to use…
    • WAIT… WHAT?

Spectrum Equals Revenue to the Feds.

Anybody catch what the FCC spectrum auction brought in? How about over 19 Billion Dollars! What was once considered useless bands, now brings huge revenue to the US government.

With all the gadgets and other things that are eating up current spectrum allocations, it is no surprise that many commercial companies are questioning the need for Amateur Radio to have access to such a broad range of bands.

This is why Spectrum Protection is such an important thing for us. Whatever you may think about the current politics of ARRL, you still must concede that they are still Amateur Radio’s lobbying organization, and are still working to protect our bands.

But if we can’t prove that we are using the bands, we will face huge obstacles in keeping and expanding our spectrum in the future.

If there was only a way to show some sort of report on band usage across the country and the world… Some way to demonstrate that Amateur Radio Operators actually used these bands…

I think you can see where I’m going here…

OK, let me try to pull this all together.

So… I’m sure you all got the logic here, but if not, let me summarize.

  • The proposed changes to the Technician License allocations should result in more HF operators in the future.
  • Spectrum has monetary value and we must help protect ours.
  • Logging is important, and uploading those logs helps us prove that we use the spectrum.
  • Contesting vastly increases the number of operators at a given time, and allows for real world practice and skill development on all the bands.
  • If you compete in a contest, you most likely will upload a log. This again adds to our ‘body of proof’ that we are using the bands we have allocated to us.

Closing Thoughts…

I know I over simplified a lot of the subject matter. But I believe for the most part, my points are accurate. And, I also realize that many of the points easily stand on their own without associating the others.

Radio Sport is a great part of our hobby. It’s not for everyone, but it can be an excellent training tool for new hams. Oh, and did I mention it’s FUN!!!

Most VHF / UHF contacts never see a log. Heck, most of them are on a repeater. Very few new Technician level hams experiment with simplex. VHF / UHF contests are all about simplex, and should be part of the new ham’s induction into the hobby.

Will the FCC add the new privileges to the Technician License? I don’t know, but if it does get to a Request for Comment state, I’ll go on record as supporting it as proposed by the ARRL. I think it’s good for the hobby. I believe we need to insure that HF has lots of new operators. I also believe it will increase the number of upgrades to General and beyond.

— Stu (AG6AG)



One Response to “Logging, HF Contesting and Proposed HF Privileges for Technicians”

  1. Norm Campbell Says:

    You Want Change? Make Meaningful Change!

    Forget the reasons why there aren’t a lot of new hams and why current hams aren’t getting on the air. The fact is, there aren’t a lot of new hams and a lot of current hams aren’t getting on the air.

    Instead of giving Technicians part of the HF bands to get them on the air, make changes that will get all hams on the air.

    In the mid 1960s a program called Incentive Licensing cut up the bands for everyone
    leaving many hams with previous full operating privileges forced off certain frequencies
    until they upgraded again and again or moved on or out of ham radio. I’m not sure how well that worked, but it left a
    lot of unhappy hams which translated into fewer hams, fewer radios sold, and fewer club members. That program went on for many years and remnants of that disaster are still with us. Fixes were tried but nothing quite fixed everything.

    Remember when computers hit the market? It was shortly after Incentive Licensing and many of the old hams who gave us Incentive Licensing were not ready for the major changes that took place. Those with talent gave us the internet, email, cell phones, and digital communications. Some were hams, many were not. How could that be licensed and turned into radio buying ham club members? It couldn’t.

    Now the proposal is a type of reversal of Incentive Licensing, maybe Dis-Incentive Licensing?

    At one time, the Novice license was a true entry level license with very limited privileges and a CW Morse Code requirement of 5 WPM. There wasn’t much difference in the testing between Technician and General except the Morse Code requirement of 5 WPM for Technician and 13 WPM for General. There wasn’t much difference between testing for Advanced and Extra except the code requirement of 13 WPM for Advanced and 20 WPM for Extra.

    Now that there is no CW requirement there should be no reason not to reinstate privileges for all hams since code was basically the dividing line. Give Advanced the same privileges as Extra. There is no Advanced license anymore anyway except those previously licensed. Give Generals as much band as currently allocated for Advanced. And finally, let the Technicians have limited access and limited power levels on HF. They have full privileges above 50 MHz as it always was. There is no Novice license so everyone has to start with Technician.

    Maybe changes like this will truly create an incentive to upgrade or just to get on the air. Band activity will prevent loss of frequencies. Change? Make it meaningful.

    — Norm (AB6ET)

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