Monday, December 26, 2011

New Year's Eve on 3.916 Mhz

Amateur radio operators are all welcomed to the 3916 Tailgaters & Freewheelers New Year's Eve Party.   The fun will start on 3.916 Mhz Saturday night, December 31st at 8:30 PM with the Tailgaters Net.  The Tailgaters is a 'Ham Radio Game of Tag' with everyone getting a chance to be 'Net Control'.    At 10PM Central, The Freewheelers take over to continue the countdown to 2012.  KC0MQS, Jimmy from Festus, Mo, will be the net control to usher in 2012! 

The 3916 Nets have always welcomed new stations to amateur radio airwaves, ever since being founded by W4FCW (sk), Ken Odom in 1998.  Over the last several years, the net has been a popular destination for young hams, including several as young as 11 years of age. 

For information on The Tailgaters or Freewheelers Nets, contact Pete Thomson, KE5GGY at

Sunday, June 5, 2011

HamCom & Field Day.....June's Blockbuster Ham Radio Events

Summer is high season for ham-fests around the U.S.   And over the next several weeks, two amateur radio events will happen in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

HamCom Flea Market
Ham-Com 2011:   Amateurs from across the country come to Plano for one of the biggest ham shows each year.  The 2 day event, June 10 and 11 is held at the Plano Centre in Plano, Texas.   I love HamCom because it has something valuable for everyone.   All the major equipment manufacturers and vendors will be on hand.  Additionally, there's a very active flea market that gives hams a chance to sell and buy used gear.  And, HamCom especially shines from an education standpoint.  Each year features different speakers as well as training for hams who want to learn more about specialized aspects of amateur radio.   HamCom is an excellent venue to introduce kids to Ham Radio.   And with more digital/computer applications of ham radio being introduced and developed each year, there's lot of exciting new technology that is very kid-friendly.   For more information on HamCom 2011, go to

Field Day Hams 'On The Air'
Field Day 2011:   The weekend of June 25-26, Hams from across the country gather at camp grounds, parks and other remote facilities to demonstrate portable operation skills.   Thousands of ham radio clubs will be participating in the event.   Field Day is an actual roll out of emergency communications.   Many radio operators will be using generator, solar and battery power to simulate operation in an actual emergency.   Field Day is also a contest for hams who work to compete for prizes and recognition for contacting the most stations during the weekend.

Field Day 'Under The Stars'
Field Day is my favorite weekend of the year.  My son Mac and I enjoy stopping at several radio club events throughout Dallas-Ft. Worth.   It's exciting to hear the ham bands totally full of stations doing demonstrations and participating in contesting.    It's also an outstanding promotional event for ham radio.  Because many Ham Clubs hold their Field Day activities in high-visibility parks, the public (and especially young people) get a chance to see ham radio in action.

For more information about Field Day and to find a Ham Club Field Day event near you, go to

-Pete Thomson - KE5GGY
'Voice of Ham Radio'

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Voice of Ham Radio Daily

Hot off the press every day, Voice of Ham Radio Daily features the latest news & views from Ham Radio and beyond.   Equipment to contests to high tech to boat anchors....Voice of Ham Radio Daily has it all.  Edited by Pete Thomson, KE5GGY.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Funny Look at Ham Radio and Marriage

Are you up for a good laugh?  Check out this spoof of what happens when a Ham Radio Operator buys a new radio with his family's rent check.  

Pete Thomson
twitter:  @voiceofhamradio

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ham Radio's Demise.....Greatly Exaggerated!!!

As I was reading a recent article about the 'decline of ham radio' the famous quote from Mark Twain came to mind.  Responding to rumors that had circulated regarding his death, Twain is said to have quipped, "The rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated."  

Read the article below and you'll get the feeling that amateur radio is on life support and that it's just a matter of time until father time unplugs a respirator.

So, fellow hams, what's it going to be....plans for a funeral or a plans to reignite the amateur radio/communications hobby?

Just for fun, let's get back to the Daily Herald article and look at the issues that the writer and even some hams are citing as the 'cause of death'.

Hamfest Attendance is Down:    It's true hamfests are not attended at the level they have been in previous years.  However, attendance declines at hamfests is not a problem unique to ham radio.  Because of audience fragmentation, a number of consumer shows across multiple industries are facing attendance challenges.   Talk to promoters of home, car, outdoor and even gun shows and you'll hear that it's becoming more difficult to attract an attendance like they could in 'the good old days'.   And even though 15%  fewer people might be attending a home show, it doesn't mean that consumers are abandoning the housing market.   What we're seeing is a hyper-competitive marketplace that is requiring promoters to embrace different strategies in order to maintain and grow attendance.   For amateur radio events, this will mean not only promoting differently but also changing the agenda of the event to draw new and younger consumers.   This will mean bringing new technology into shows as well as aggressive outreach to teens and even pre-teens.
Kids & Ham Radio:  Get 'em interested when they're young!

Kids Just Aren't Interested In Ham Radio:   First, see issue of fragmentation above.  If we want to get kids interested we better get off our collective butts and promote to this demographic. Instead of promoting a ham fest by 'word of mouth' or on-the-air, we need to embrace Twitter and other social media.  Instead of promoting ourselves as amateur radio operators, why not position the hobby as amateur and experimental communications?  And let's quit expecting kids to meet us on our turf.  We need to be in the classroom sharing the vision of where ham radio is going in the future.  And, I believe it's essential that we introduce kids to ham radio at a young age.  Instill a interest in amateur communications at a young age and we get a new ham for life.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone:   Many of us have comfort zones in the hobby...areas of operation that consume over 80%  of our time.  Personally, I love 75 meters at night and hang out on 3.916 Mhz 7 nights a week.  However, to take amateur radio 'to the streets' all of us need to make time for learning new aspects of ham radio including new technology that is more likely to be of interest to youth.  Recently, I've been active in Twitter and Facebook and am actually trying to target my blogs, tweets and other communication toward younger people.    Hats off to hams who do demonstrations in schools or are active with Boy Scouts.   More of us need to contribute on this kind of level.

It Starts with Us!   Ham radio's future, to a large degree, will be determined by the rank and file of our membership.  ARRL can lead the way in protecting the spectrum and being a champion of other initiatives, but 'selling' the future of amateur communications to the next generation is our job.   I don't know about you, but I can understand how Mark Twain must have felt when he said, 'The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated."   After making the comment, Twain went on to write some of his best works.  How will we respond?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Ham Radio.....A 'Dying' Hobby?

Is amateur radio a 'dying' hobby?  Read the article below from The Daily Herald below and you might just start planning funeral arrangements.  As for me, I believe amateur radio's best days are still ahead, but only if we change the way we think and promote the hobby.   Stay tuned, more on ham radio's future in an upcoming blog post.


Pete Thomson
Denton, Texas
twitter:  voiceofhamradio

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Inside The KE5GGY Shack!

Here's a shot of KE5GGY in Aubrey, Texas. I'm currently using a 746 Pro into a Heathkit SB 1000 1KW Amp. I've got an 80 m Van Gordon diapole that is fantastic (at 40 feet). Also, I have a G5RV up at 40 feet. My audio chain consists of a Heil PR-40 microphone and the W2IHY Audio Processing (both boxes).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Tailgaters & Freewheelers Nets.....The Friendly Nets on 75 Meters!

75 Meters has a reputation for being 'the wild child' of ham radio bands. Bring up 75 meters with any ham and you'll hear words like 'wild', 'bad taste', 'hard to break into' and 'I don't have an amp'. Indeed, 75 meters can be somewhat intimidating, especially when you consider the the sheer number of operators on 75 at night as well as the vibe that many hams seem to send to newcomers----a message that suggests "Don't come in here, we're not looking for new people."

In spite of all the craziness, 3.916 Mhz has emerged as an exception to the 75 meter stereotypes.

The 3916 Tailgaters & Freewheelers Nets

Every night of the week, you'll hear a 2 very friendly groups on 3916. Starting at 8:30 PM (Central), The Tailgaters is a 'pass it around net' that doesn't have a net control. No Net Control?Sound crazy? Well the format actually works. Instead of one station directing the check ins, The Tailgaters is like a game of 'radio tag'. When a station checks in, he or she is tagged by the calling station and encouraged to take over the net control duties long enough to find another check in. The result is fun and fast-paced net that does an incredible job of including everyone. On any given night, 30-40 stations check in and all have a chance to put out a call as net control.

From 10PM to 12:30 AM, The Tailgaters gives way to The Freewheelers Net. The Freewheelers features a different net control station each night. Net operators call check-in stations from around the country. In the 2 1/2 hour net, there are generally 2-3 rounds. The Freewheelers averages between 50 and 70 check ins each night. The record for one night of check-ins is over 100 stations.

W4FCW-Ken Odom: The 3916 Refugee

The late Ken Odom (W4FCW-sk) is given credit with starting The Freewheelers in 1998. As several senior net members recall, Odom had been trying to check into a 75 meter net when he was rudely asked to leave the frequency and not return. Frustrated, he found 3.916 open and put out a CQ call. The rest, as members say, is history. Odom and several other hams all agreed that 75 meters needed a frequency where 'all are welcome'. Further, Odom and other founders created a net policy of 'no politics, religion or inappropriate topics'. The policy remains in place today and is one of the reasons the nets have found success. Regardless of your background, politics, religion or other traits, 3916 is a frequency that welcomes all.

The Tailgaters & Freewheelers Nets are on the air nightly, Sunday-Friday nights. On Saturday night, the group holds 'The Saturday Night Free-For-All' which is essentially an unstructured rag chew that runs from around 8PM to well after Midnight.


The Freewheelers Net recently passed the 1,000 member mark on Yahoo Groups. And, when you consider that the Club was at around 150 members in 2005, it's clear that this is one of the fastest growing nets in amateur radio.

For more information on The Tailgaters & The Freewheelers, go to 3.916 Mhz or check out the Net's web sites. On Yahoo Groups, search the keyword 'Freewheelersnet'. On do a search for 3916.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Texas Snow Storm

Every year we get at least one...a Texas Snow Storm. It's funny...just before it comes, everyone storms the grocery store as if we'll be trapped inside our homes for weeks...maybe months. Bread...gone. Milk...nowhere to be found. Beer....forget it. It's like a mini-Y2K. And then, as previous years have all shown, life returns to normal.

Here's a picture of a recent snowstorm at our home. This was taken at about 7am just after a fresh blanket of snow.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Winter's Beauty

It's Wintertime in favorite time of year. My wife loves winter because the bugs take a break. I like winter because it's a time when friends and family come inside to be with each other. There's nothing I'd rather do that get a big ol' 'Yule log' in the fire place and watch a movie with the family.
As a Ham Radio operator, wintertime often brings the best band conditions that allow for clear, long-distance communication. As a kid growing up in Iowa, I remember staying up way too late at night during the winter listening to DX (distant) shortwave broadcasts from far-away, exotic places.
Winter's great. Enjoy...and don't forget the feed the deer!