The best of ham radio, 2012

While I was first licensed in August 2011, I didn’t get on the air in any capacity until the end of that year, and even then, it was only on the local repeaters. I got my HF station on the air back in February of this year, and the hobby really took off for me.

Here are a few of my favorite contacts and activities from 2012 related to ham radio. These are in no particular order:

  • Field Days! SPAR Winter Field Day was my first experience getting on HF. I made a handful of contacts from one of the shared stations at our FD site. Summer Field Day would see me operating my own QRP digital mode station on the 15 meter band. My partner and I battled extreme temperatures, humidity and poor band conditions to snag 23 contacts on PSK31.
  • Operating portable. I invested in a Yaesu 817ND and a Buddipole antenna system because I’m fascinated with the idea of working “backpack portable.” I tried operating from Little Mountain one weekend, but had no success. Later I hit the beach near Charleston, S.C. and made QSOs with this rig as far west as Texas and as far North as Canada.
  • The Columbia Amateur Radio Club. I started attending meetings of this fine group in January and I haven’t missed one yet. I’ve made a lot of friends, worked a lot of community events as a volunteer, and in December, I was elected treasurer!
  • Dragon*Con. I attended “Up and Down the Dial,” a discussion panel all about the wild stuff you can hear on the airwaves. Not specifically for hams, but most of the folks there were.
  • Good DX! I was very fortunate this year to work some very exciting DX stations. When you can reach Australia, you know you’re doing something right. In late March, I managed to log a QSO from the west coast of Oz. The very next day I logged an even more impressive “long path” contact to Australia. Overall, I have more than 70 DXCC contacts in my log, with about 30 of those confirmed on Logbook of the World.
  • VE sessions. I became an ARRL volunteer examiner back in the spring and I’ve assisted with a handful of testing sessions locally. The most memorable was one back in August, which was exactly a year to the day when I was first licensed.
  • Space communications. Back when I only had a 2m/440 handheld, I decoded SSTV from ARISSat-1. One of my goals in becoming a ham is to make a contact with the ISS. So far, I haven’t made that contact, but the last time I tried, I at least finally heard one of the astronauts onboard — the station commander no less!
  • Best ham radio podcast. I have to give credit to Jerry, KD0BIK, for hosting his Practical Amateur Radio Podcast. I listen to several ham radio podcasts, including a really well-known one hosted by ham radio celebrities. No offense to the famous guys, but Jerry’s podcast is what I listen to when I actually want to learn something. From PARP, I learned how to use JT65, how to QSL, all about Summits on the Air, how to get started with APRS, and much, much more. Highly recommended for those new to the hobby.
  • Best place for ham radio on the Internet. Reddit! I learn something cool every time I go to /r/amateurradio/.
  • Best use of social media. Worked All Twitter is the best marriage of social media and amateur radio I’ve ever experienced. When I came across WAT weekend back in November, it was a revelation. Using Twitter to self-spot and make contacts is brilliant, and it allowed me to speak with some of my favorite bloggers in the hobby. Definitely a much-needed, fresh spin on ham radio, and the most fun of any of the QSO parties I’ve participated in this year.

I’m already counting the activities coming up in January 2013: Club meetings, hamfests, SPAR Winter Field Day and more. Hopefully the new year will be at least half as exciting as 2012!

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