About contesting and CW

In yesterday’s blog entry I said that "it might take quite some time until the next one". Einstein would agree that time is relative so here I am less than 24h later. I’ve been with my head into a programmer’s textbook trying to learn the basics of database programming. That’s what "holidays at home" are to me: preparing stuff for work (I’m a teacher). After six hours with only a short lunch break, it was time do flush the memory stack – no better way than some ham related reading.  Which in turn inspires me to do some ham related writing.

One of the blogs I read almost daily is John K3WWP’s. I discovered John’s web site a looooong time ago (2001?) when I just started as a freshman HF operator. The word ‘blog‘ wasn’t even invented yet and the Internet wasn’t way as common or accepted in ham radio as it is today. BTW I am an autodidact when it comes to ham radio and John’s site taught me a lot about CW and contesting, among other sites and reflectors. I profoundly respect K3WWP’s way of operating: 100% CW, QRP, modest and small stealthy antennas. I wouldn’t trade my setup for his and that’s exactly why I respect his accomplishments. I’m far too impatient and restless for QRP. You should MOST DEFINITELY read all about his QRP CW streak which I have followed all these years. John, if you read this: PSE DON’T STOP AT #5000. I imagine it can be a burden because you must be QRV every day but you’ve come this far! I’m sure you’ll regret on day 5002 that there is a blank line on day 5001.

Anyway today’s issue was about the joy of CW contesting and why the bands are empty on weekdays. There are a few reasons for that – but this is my personal opinion. First off: with the hectic schedule most people have to deal with on weekdays (work, study, family, chores around the house etc) it is simply impossible to spend much time in the shack. During the day people are at work so they can’t be QRV. And if I want to work JA or USA at night, that’s the time that I’m preparing work or spend time with the XYL or just go to sleep. So I focus my operating on the weekends. I know that in a contest I’m sure to make plenty contacts, meet friends and work DX or a new one for DXCC.

Second: I read and hear that contesters are a minority in ham radio. I have no view and I plea guilty on being biased but what else is there? If it weren’t for contesting I wouldn’t be in this hobby anymore. Contesters are the most active ham radio folks around. If you look at this or this or my own +23k QSO in 2007. If I look at my fellow club members who almost never operate in a contest… well they hardly operate at all! Nuff said?

And finally: contesting is so much fun. I’ve never understood why you could be against it. I admit: the bands are crowded and it’s not the time to elaborate on your shoe size or the cat’s name, and I admit that things get rough but that’s part of the game. Granted: if you despise contesting you won’t refer to it as a game. Another issue is that contesting is just ’59’ or ‘5NN’ business. Not so, you always give at least some extra information (serial number, state, province, age, name etc). People who use this point to bash contesting are usually the ones messing around in a DX pile up to give a true ’59 / 5NN’ – period. What’s the use of that? And the most controversial of my opinions: contest operators are just better operators. I’m not defining a contester as a kW + stacked beam aim-and-shoot guy. Quite the contrary. I mean that Small Pistol guys running barefoot with wire antennas but with lots of experience in contests are just better operators compared to the guys who discuss shoe sizes and pet names.

Now back to work – QRU / 73.

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