Welcome to the future Elmer

If you’re active at all on the HF bands you’ve likely struggled with configuring popular software programs like Writelog or N1MM. Maybe the complexities of the computer to rig interfaces have been frustrating? How about how to erect a vertical antenna for 160 meters?

Back in the “old” days newcomers to amateur radio would team up with an “Elmer”.

I don’t know for sure where I first heard ham radio mentors called Elmers but it was a long time ago. I can remember going to “Uncle Ray” Hunter’s (VE3UR SK) Etobicoke, Ontario shack as a wide-eyed 13-year-old. Ray took great delight in showing my Dad (who would later be licensed as VE3FWR) and I the wonders of DX. I was especially enthralled by the big black box that sat on its own stand at the end of the operating table. It might have been a Model 19 as shown. Fifty years ago, this was “high technology” at its best. Big, noisy as heck and smelled of machine oil. But it worked. Uncle Ray had over a couple of hundred confirmed RTTY DX QSOs back then.

These days, it seems to me, that there aren’t that many Elmers kicking around. So where do you go to get technical help if you’re new? Well online of course! Many organizations (RAC and the ARRL) have tons of information available on their websites. And with the availability of virtually no-cost bandwidth it’s now possible to post audio and video files.

The Northern California Contest Club has posted almost a dozen webinars online for you to download. Subjects include “How to set up a Microham keyer” (It’s easy if you read the manual but if you’re like me it took me weeks to get it running just right. This would have been so helpful.) or how to set up and configure Writelog (which I use) or the free and very popular N1NN contesting software. There’s a webinar on RTTY and several on antennas.

We’re going to see many more clubs and associations offering tons of online help.

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