I’ve observed a wide variety of changes to Amateur Radio since I was last active nearly 20 years ago. A return to the air this Spring opened my eyes wide to the evolution of our wonderful hobby these past two decades.
QSL cards, while still a passion for some, have been swallowed to a large extent by the digital revolution. Factor in the not-insignificant cost to mail a card these days, and it’s no surprise that online services have proliferated and thrive. And with the ARRL honoring electronic cards for DXCC and other major awards, this option is a no-brainer for many.
And QRP, while an important niche since the very beginning of Amateur Radio, has now assumed what appears to be an even more significant role in the lives of many. I attribute that, in no small measure, to the wealth of wonderful factory-available low power rigs now on the market. If I had a nickle for every KX3 I’ve worked, I could buy one of those beauties for myself.
And finally, I swear that I’ve worked as many period stations as I worked when they were new. Vintage really is the new modern.
A huge tide of baby boomer hams is now retiring, and in record numbers too. And this new found leisure brings with it opportunity to revive childhood memories, and resurrect the rigs that business and family forced into neglect. And when we seniors reflect on the hobby that has meant so much to us, we naturally visualize the wonderful early gear that made it all possible. And what’s better than just daydreaming about those old Hammarlund, Heathkit and Johnson rigs? Restoring them and putting them back on the air – that’s what!
I had the pleasure of encountering one such vintage station recently when I met W3DF on 40 CW. Coincidentally, I was running my freshly aligned Heathkit HW-8, so Dan and I shared a rare Heathkit-to-Heathkit contact. You see, Dan was running a DX60 and Hammarland HQ-170-A. But these classic beauties were modernized too, the DX-60 with a DDS (direct digital synthesized) VFO, and the HQ-170 with an assist from an Ameco PT-3 Preamplifier. Justifiably proud of his vintage station, Dan shared a photo along with his QSL, the real, paper kind.
And as I studied the photo that Dan had sent, I couldn’t help but imagine the operator behind the key, with a broad smile of satisfaction across his face .
Anyone who says time travel is impossible just doesn’t know about Amateur Radio.