Saturday, August 12, 2006

Are you current on QRZ? 

If you are reading this blog you are obviously computer literate or you know someone who is. I hear a great deal of bemoaning of the computer on the bands especially when used as a form of communications. Some view the computer and its interconnectivity particularly interfacing with the Internet and the World Wide Web as a threat to the hobby of amateur radio and many of its traditions. I find it fascinating that I hear many of the same arguments, some stated with slightly different wording, about the “problem” of computers in amateur radio that I hear about the move to various license classes that do not require mores code to obtain them.

While not quite the polarizing issue that “code / no code” is or was, I think that argument is waning at least from my point of view, I find it interesting that there is no counter point or flip side of the coin in this particular dog fight. I don't hear anyone insisting that computers being integral with todays modern amateur radio station that some base level of knowledge of this new technology be a requirement for licensing. Unlike solid state electronic devices like the transistor and the integrated circuit which were accepted slowly by the ham community but were eventually embraced and put into wide spread use even in home brew construction. The computer on the other hand is still viewed by many with skepticisms and distrust. Rather than another tool in the chest of the amateur radio operator to be used in conjunction with transmitters, receivers, antennas, tuners and other devices that make up the modern amateur radio station many still decry it as the potential downfall of the hobby. I have to admit that if we hams don't “get with the program” now in a few years as more and more spectrum is allocated to low power license free devices like the current crop of 802.11g routers and switches we may indeed find ourselves at some future point faced with a younger generation asking “What do we need amateur radio for?” as they will be able to connect anywhere in the world with a low power device without wires.

I did not mean to get on my soap box nor this long winded with the above. So I will return to my original point for writing this blog entry that being the web site QRZ. Again I'm reasonably sure that if you are reading this you have used QRZ on more than one occasion. Most think of it as a call sign look up database and I'm sure that is what a great deal of the sites use consists of. It has also grown into a “portal” or information source for ham radio operators. You can find a number of interesting and thought provoking articles written and posted at QRZ. If all you ever do is go to QRZ and look up and address for a given call sign you are missing a lot of good information.

When you do look up a call sign you will notice that some of the entries that you look up have additional information on the operator beyond what can be found in the FCC database. Some include photographs of the operator so that you can see who you have been talking with. What I would like you to think about is the biography section of your call sign. I am somewhat disappointed when I look up a call sign and find nothing more than the information that I could have looked up in the FCC database. With just a little effort you can tell the world about yourself. How long have you been licensed? What drew you into the hobby of amateur radio? What are your other interests when you are not on the air operating? Are you the only ham in the house or is it a family affair? What clubs do you belong to and support? Do you have a web site of your own? All of this and you can supply a picture of yourself to go with the text. Some hams get VERY creative with the pictures showing their favorite vacation or field day spot or themselves with the family pet.

So the next time you are on QRZ take a moment to see what is involved in uploading a picture and writing a short biography telling the world about yourself and your activities. Oh, and don't forget to support the web site. I think they are good for the ham community.

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