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Amateur Radio Forum Help needed EA8BYG SM0TQX helping D44AC Mindelo, Cape Verde

An old photograph from November 2000. Left: Manolo, EA8BYG and right: Waldemar, SM0TQX work together helping Pulu, D44AC to erect an antenna tower at his new home in Mindelo, Cape Verde. An example of help given by visitors. We need more such actions.

The original idea of Amateur Radio was to experiment, communicate and self-educate. It seems to me that the contemporary Amateur Radio has lost all of these goals. We are focused on DXpeditions, entities, points and commercially made equipment. DXpeditions are popular, but they usually leave trace only in the LoTW or shoeboxes, filled with colourful postcards, routinely printed in Ukraine or Bulgaria. Communication is limited to "five-nine" or "5NN". DXpeditions are usually very efficient but they last for several days and the propagation conditions might be at ebb just then. One local active radio operator is better than several short-time visitors because he or she can be active 365 days a year.

Having visited many Amateur Radio enthusiasts on all continents, I have come to a conclusion that we need better co-operation between those living in remote places with those living in industrialized countries. In countries with high ham population, the equipment and spare parts, as well as service points, are usually abundant. On the other hand, the most attractive DX stations are located in places without this technology infrastructure. There is a need for information exchange regarding the needs of those radio enthusiasts living in so called DX-countries and those who travel for fun or business to such places.

I am convinced that the DX News portal is a perfect place for such a forum where people can solicit and offer help in order to keep as many as possible local radio amateurs on the air. Each day hundreds or even thousands of DX-interested people from all over the world visit this website. Many of them have junk boxes with good but obsolete items they no longer need, while someone somewhere on a small island needs a small item in order to get back on the air. I imagine a simple "help needed" department at the DX News portal would do the job. It can deal with small spare parts or the know-how. Sometimes the fault is easy to be fixed, sometimes it can be a small component that will do the trick. Most radio amateurs in DX countries use rather old equipment which can be repaired on site providing one has the knowledge and the replacement. Shipping a spare part to a remote island is sometimes very expensive and will not solve the problem without the necessary skills.

I recall a few cases when I was able to rectify relatively simple malfunctions of radio transceivers. While on Borneo, at 9M6AAC, I was told that the main HF transceiver was out of order because of a surge in the power generator. I opened up the rig and saw that the protective varistor was blown and short-circuited. Luckily, there was a local TV-store that had such varistors and I could replace it. However, the owners of the station were helpless being almost totally non-technical. Another time, at 3V8SS, I noticed that there was a problem with the power supply connector at the HF transceiver. They had no tools at the station but I always carry a Swiss army knife in my camera bag. I found out that the power connector was clogged with loose wires which I could slowly extract and the problem disappeared.

I do not recommend to give away equipment to local people who claim they want to be radio amateurs. I recall when 25 years ago I was getting a licence at the Gamtel office in The Gambia and the clerk said he would like to get a transceiver to set up a station at home. It does not work. Never met a local person in Africa who was truly interested in Amateur Radio. Every time the native people at the hotel saw me setting up an antenna and giving explanations about our hobby, they were only interested in how much money I make on this business. I am sure they are all convinced that we earn money on Amateur Radio and that's why some countries raise the licence fee.

I do not recommend to give away a piece of equipment that is not working properly. The chances of fixing it in The Third World are none. I have seen many radios gathering dust in Africa just because the owner did not how to use it properly or was unable to get it working.

My idea is to let people in DX locations to advertise their needs. These needs must be specific, for instance: I need a driver tube 12BYA for my Kenwood transceiver, or, the front end amplifier in my ICOM transceiver is blown and I need a spare transistor and instructions on how to replace it.

People who are planning to travel to a specific location can look for the needed item at home or among friends and club members. Bringing a small item in the suitcase does not cost any extra. Postal service today is not reliable and very expensive. Besides, many active DX operators are not technical and will not be able to do the repair on their own.

Please leave a comment below. Do you think it is a good idea? Have you any experience of helping out a DX operator?
We might convince Alexander, 4L5A to create a "Help Needed Department of The DX News".

Henryk Kotowski, SM0JHF
May 2017

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  • Callsign: PY2KNK
  • 2017-05-15 03:05:02