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Field Day, the EASY bands.



FD Ops,
Here is a blasphemous Perspective on FD... No complaint, just a
totally new perspective (at least I never thought of it this way
before...) <grin>
 
As you can guess, I show up at FD with nothing but VHF/UHF rigs
and a few Laptops and handhelds and lots of enthusiasm, determined
to communiate with the "world" via PACKET, APRS and Satellites, SSTV
and ATV..  I have a great time, get the special points, and serve
as the freak side-show for the evening's entertainment.
 
But after the sound and the fury and my 15 minutes of "fame", and
the 100 points, I am always secretly and quietly embarrassed  at
the fact that the total number of contacts I can often count on
my fingers.  Yet, my APRS map shows HUNDREDS of stations on the
air (most of them light's-on, but nobody home).  ANd my Satellite
laptop shows that I had 14 different satellites and a total of 56 PASS
opportunities... yet only scored one "countable" full exchange.
 
Not only are my contacts low, but it was HARD, DARNED HARD to get
them.  I had a 30 foot push-up fiberglass pole, on top of a 30 
foot homemade one-man pull-up irrigation pipe mast for a total 
55 foot high J-pole.  I had many VHF and UHF beams and satellite  
antennas.  THe area is just normal terrain within
16 miles of Baltimore and 30 miles of Wash DC.  We are surrounded
by VHF packet networks and have comms with APRS all the time
both mobile, fixed, handheld and SSTV, ATV....  You'd think
I could make hundreds of exchanges, not just a dozen...
 
POINT:  My point is, VHF communications in-the-field is NOT trivial
and easy.  Murphy's law thrives.  You either establish a link or
you don't.  It is HARD.  Every dB counts.  What I just realized 
by comparison is that HF is EASY!
 
I never thought of it that way before, but "anyone" with an HF radio
and a wet noodle lying on the GROUND can make a contact with "someone".
In fact many contacts!  Yes, that is why we often justify our "emergency 
preparedness" on HF...  because we can "always get through".
HF really works!  IT'S EASY.  ANYONE CAN DO IT!  IT'S GREAT!
 
But is  the EASY way, the way to test our ability to communicate 
in times of emergency?  How many local emergencies will HF be the
saving link between the field and the County EOC?  Conversly, how 
much do we depend on VHF and UHF for our local preparedness exercises 
and how badly do we suffer when the "repeater" goes down..
 
WOW,  What if everyone at all Field Days were required to operate
like we are with VHF and digital?  No repeaters, no relays.  Then I bet
we would really see the difference between the men and the boys..
 
Don't get me wrong, I love our field days and this is NOT the usual
complaint about the Field Day rules.  In the past, we viewed the
Field Day rules as justifiably penalizing VHF, FM, Packet and
digipeaters, because we viewed VHF, FM, PACKET and RELAYS as TOO EASY.
 
WHAT I JUST WOKE UP TO IS THAT IT IS THE OPPOSITE!  VHF, FM, PACKET
and RELAYS ARE HARD!  It is a *** CHALLENGE ***.  Yes, it is trivial
to make the first dozen contacts with the other local clubs via VHF
FM... BUT THEN WHAT DO YOU DO?   Even with NO RULES... HOW do you 
get any more contacts or extend your range?
 
WOW, I can see it now.  DUH....
 
You might say that is what VHF contests are all about.  But I would
say that fewer than 5% of the HAM population has all-mode weak
signal VHF gear.  If you want to see how we can do in the field
locally, then you must include "everyone" and FM..
 
Imagine this, a VHF,FM,PACKET,SSTV,ATV,UHF,MICROWAVE Field Day
where NOTHING below 30 MHz (the EASY BANDS) was permitted?!
AND you had to operate from AVERAGE TERRAIN!

Now THAT would be a real challenge....!  (Of course, the variety 
of demographics and topology would make it IMPOSSIBLE to have
any meaningful nationwide scoring system).  But I dont care about
scores, just get out there and do it!
 
P.S.  CONVERSLY, I also realized that if I REALLY want to have an
emergency radio, usable anytime! anywhere! then it should be HF!
and a small spool of wire...  its so "EASY"!.  <GRIN>

Just a thought as I lick my wounds driving home from FD-2000!

de WB4APR, Bob
P.S.  Im sure other VHF'ers and Satellite ops did much better, but I was
trying to do it all with only my 4 assistants... Murphy, Murphie, Murfy
and Myrfie and my usual poor planning and lack of time...




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