FM – no static at all

Somewhere back in my long ago, I spent considerable time on VHF FM simplex. Often chatting with a local group of friends though the occasional interloper would occasionally cast their lot with us. Without doubt I’ve enjoyed more hours in casual conversation on FM simplex than I have on any other band or mode, including the high frequencies. And yet, I haven’t even listened to FM simplex in two decades or more.

So why did I quit hanging out on FM?

Best excuse I can come up with is that I’m a product of 20th century incentive licensing. When I entered the hobby the way it was supposed to work was you got your Novice license and played around a little on HF CW. Then as soon as you could upgrade to Technician, you bought a handy-scratchy and started hanging out on FM and got to know the locals via repeater. The bump to General and above was the ‘open sesame’ to HF DX and what every real ham lusted after — HF phone privileges.

That experience caused me to assume that FM and repeaters were set aside for those who couldn’t pass a Morse test — training wheels for radio amateurs. Or something like that. At least that’s what got stuck in my head. Once I moved to General, Advanced, and eventually Extra class (yes, I’ve had them all) I never looked back at FM operation.

Then somewhere along that line, things changed. FM got linked via the Internet and before long repeater systems in California were connected to other systems in places like Australia and DX became a more complex concept to define. Not long ago, some FM operation began to be replaced by digital voice and the lines were blurred even more.

Is it really radio if I use a one-watt UHF handheld transceiver to enjoy a conversation with someone in South Africa? You can go all Taliban about it and loudly proclaim that only HF is real radio — but that means diddly squat to those whose intent is the enjoyment of casual conversation via radio.

It would be easy enough to put a Ringo Ranger back on the roof, hook up an old VHF transceiver that’s been loitering in the garage for ages, plop it on 146.52 mHz and wait for the action. But from what I’m told, that territory has become something of a barren wasteland in these parts. Probably for the reasons enumerated above.

A directional antenna with a three hundred watt afterburner would embiggen the simplex circle and provide a better approach. Have added the necessary new items to the Dayton shopping list — I’m getting back to FM – no static at all.

Author: Jeff Davis