My 50th year as a radio amateur

It all started after joining the SARL in January 1974 as a short wave listener number ZS6-102, a young high school student in standard eight starting at a new high school in Alberton. A year later, after writing the November 1974 written RAE in Johannesburg and doing a 12 word per minute Morse code test at the Johannesburg post office in January 1975 I was allocated the call sign ZS6BNE. My licence was stamped on the 17th of February 1975. The rest is history……

Fast forward to February 2024……

Only a few days to go and I’ll be in my 50th year as a radio amateur. I want this to be a special year. I want to leave something behind that may change the way we practice amateur radio and that is in the form of “The COOL”.

Much publicity has been given to this rather unique concept. Another first for South Africa. RaDAR was a first for South Africa too but that has its own history, actually as far as South Africans are concerned it IS history!

What an uphill battle it has been so far trying to promote The COOL. In the meantime “The COOL CW Operator’s club” was formed and we’ve been trying to get the club off its feet for quite a few weeks / months now. We are slowly finding success but people have become so sensitive to the slightest remark and run off to continue doing what they do best. Their best is boycotting an initiative they should rather be supporting for it has value for everyone.

“Good to hear your CW again!”. “Thanks for the contact Eddie”. “First time I’ve had a contact with your new callsign!”. “Yup, please confirm on SARL QSL.”. “I will.”. “Thanks.”. “Confirmed.”.

“Hi Eddie. Please stop sending me all this stuff. I have absolutely no interest in signing up on your system and the information it supposedly provides. Thanks.”. I confirmed our CW QSO adding to his WAZS credit, what about my QSL? I don’t chase WAZS, I never have…..

I will be doing a presentation on “The COOL” at the virtual online technical symposium and it has been well received. The AGM will see The COOL mentioned, hopefully. If it becomes more of an “official” process then I may get less of the above style of negative remarks.

I’ll be turning 66 this year, next month in fact, and find it more difficult to motivate people. It used to be relatively easy to do that. Certainly one of the highlights in my ham radio career were the RTA’s presented by the SARL throughout the country. I could inspire people to do outdoor radio and to tackle the satellites. Even Hamnet found these things useful. I did presentations for Hamnet as well.

Now, we only want to start an official CW Club in South Africa of which we believe to be a first but some people are hell bent in popping our bubble! There was apparently once a CW Interest group and I have some vague memory of it but I have browsed the Internet and various Radio ZS’s from years gone by and haven’t seen any concrete evidence of the CWIG. Other countries have CW groups that have members world wide. Why can’t South Africa do the same? It’s very cool to be part of “The COOL CW Operators club” and its supporting infrastructure, “The COOL”.

Early in February 2024 I queried the almost twelve thousand logs stored on The COOL to determine how many South African CW stations had been worked by registered COOL CW operators. The results were astounding. Mike, ZS6MSW took the data and neatly presented the census on an excel spreadsheet. The updated census can always be seen on The COOL’s landing page at www.radarops.co.za

At the time of writing, the census showed the following: ZS1 = 24, ZS2 = 8, ZS3 = 3, ZS4 = 11, ZS5 = 14 and ZS6 = 52 CW Operators. According to my calculator that is 112 CW CAPABLE radio amateurs in South Africa. Yet a relative few are active on The COOL and a few choosing not to be. The statement from my CW friend above, “…. and the information it SUPPOSEDLY provides” makes no sense? The COOL has the data and it doesn’t just provide a simple thumb suck result.

The COOL has come a long way. Those almost twelve thousand logs didn’t come from nowhere. At the time of writing there have been 63 PIN allocations. Around 14 operators use the online logger and around 7 use the ADIF uploader. This isn’t thumb suck either, this is information provided by The COOL. So where are the others?

I have spent months developing the system. In 2021 I suggested writing something similar for RaDAR when I wanted to introduce it as a sport. I continued developing The COOL and the companion Evaluator. I’ve demonstrated on a number of occasions how The COOL can be beneficial in evaluating contests. I’m still wondering how on earth another station was sitting at 89 contacts while I was at 15 in the same time frame. With The COOL everything is an open book and maybe that is why many shy away from the idea of such open information.

Now why would I want to battle like this in my 50th year as a radio amateur you may ask? Well I believe in The COOL and its uniqueness. I see value in it bringing radio amateurs together so we can have fun again. Believe me, I’ve tried FT8, that is not ham radio, CW IS ham radio and it’s COOL! I will be spending this year mainly on CW because THAT is ham radio!

One comment

  1. It’s not every day one reads a testimony like this. 50yrs is massive, wish I was there too in my Ham Radio adventures.

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