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Inspired

The evidence suggests we’re surrounded with inspiration, perhaps without realizing it

Steve, K9ZW recently wrote about inspiration on his With Varying Frequency blog.

Got me thinking about what kinds of things inspire me. The actions of others often inspire me to try new things or to work harder, but we seldom would learn of these without it being in some written format. My interest in amateur radio was actually kindled when I read a book that had been published ten years before I was even born. To be certain, I would have never approached this hobby, and my life would have turned out much differently had I never found that old book in the high school library.

Yesterday, I read the obituary of Dale Strieter, W4QM and was immediately inspired by his amazing life. The words that briefly told his story were reason enough to hope that at the end of our days, something equally inspiring can be said about us.

Harmon D. Strieter, W4QM passed away on January 6. Born in Unionville, Michigan in August of 1927, he was the 9th of 11 children. He graduated from Unionville High School in June 1944 and joined the US Maritime Service. He attended boot camp and a 6-month course in Radio Technology and sailed as a 3rd Radio Officer on board a vessel in the Pacific Theater during WW2. He attended Michigan State College in 1947 through 1951 and received a BS in Electrical Engineering. He worked his way through college by sailing as a Radio Officer in the Merchant Marines or working in construction during the summer months as well as part time jobs during the school year. He obtained his Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering in 1954 and was a Graduate Assistant at MSU during that time.

Harmon worked in the Lansing, Michigan area as an Audio Engineer and moved to Cocoa Beach, Florida in 1958 to work as a Missile Guidance Engineer with General Electric and was the Guidance Engineer on the Mercury and Gemini manned spaced programs. After 20 years, the contract was terminated and in 1979, he returned to sea as a Radio Electronics Officer in the Merchant Marines. He retired in 2002 at the age of 75 after 23 years sailing on various vessels.

Since 1947 he was an avid amateur radio operator and served on the board of directors for Southeastern Division of the Amateur Radio Relay League for the period of 1969-1972. Strieter was a prolific DXpeditioner. After 20 years with GE, he returned to sea in 1979 as a radio officer in the US Merchant Marine on a ship generally anchored at Chagos. As VQ9QM, Strieter logged more than 200,000 contacts from nearby Diego Garcia, between 1986 and 2001. He retired in 2002.

He was a good neighbor and mowed 3 to 4 lawns until he gave it up at 91 ½. He liked to stay busy picking up yards or blowing off driveways in the neighborhood and was still pruning and climbing trees at 89 much to the dismay of his kids. He was big help to many of his neighbors after the hurricanes.

Every year without fail I re-read the seminal DXers inspiration, The Complete DXer written by Bob Locher, W9KNI. It’s packed with inspiration and written in way that makes it feel like an action thriller, but with enough tips for better operating results that the reader is unaware that they’ve been learning the DX game while enjoying the prose. Here’s a sample of Bob’s writing from a 1977 magazine article titled, The Far Horizon, An Evening of DX.

I start carefully tuning the receiver. A few dying signals from Europe are coming in; the band has been open to Europe all afternoon, but now the path is fading out. I tune on. There — there’s a nice signal calling CQ (looking for a contact). I recognize it immediately as a DX station. The tone of the signals carries the quirks of a propagation path thousands of miles long,

CQ CQ CQ CQ DX DE UI8KDA
UI8KDA CQ CQ DX CQ DE
UI8KDA UI8KDA

As I first read his call, I hit the switch on the 800-watt amplifier. I bring my transmitter to his frequency, and call him.

UI8KDA UI8KDA DE W9KNI
W9KNI W9KNI AR K

I listen — yes, there he is.

W9KNI W9KNI DE UI8KDA R R
TNX OM ES GE BT UR RST 579
579 BT QTH HR SAMARKAND
SAMARKAND BT NAME IS
BORIS BORIS BT HW CPY?
W9KNI DE UI8KDA AR KN

Samarkand! Sun drenched city in Soviet Uzbekistan where Marco Polo found an already ancient city, where caravans from East and West met to trade rare spices and costly silks for Toledo steel and Western gold. City of spectacular Mosques, where Tamerlane held forth. I’ve worked Samarkand a number of times, but it never fails to excite my imagination. Boris is like most Soviet hams — very brief in the contacts — partly due to lack of English, and partly due to the regulations of their licenses.

The band is now practically dead. A few South and Central Americans are coming in quite well, but it’s nearly midnight, so I decide to hit the sack. I turn off the switches, and clean up the table. Not a bad evening; one rare new country worked, several interesting contacts. Better than a lot of evenings, and maybe tomorrow night I’ll catch the Andamans, or even Wallis Island.

Books and stories about DXing can really get the blood flowing, but for the home-brewer, inspiration can also be derived in the pages of design books. Just recently I re-read parts of Solid State Design for the Radio Amateur and was surprised to discover this magically delicious inspiration for the non-appliance operator in a classic tech manual. It’s right there, in the opening chapter where the author details the intended audience for the book:

A third and important stimulus has been the amateur’s quest for knowledge of how circuits operate. Individual creative needs lure still others into the field of design, where the pride of achievement comes from the act of doing. Generally speaking, communication is for these fellows a means to an end – not an end in itself. This volume is aimed at those amateurs who are not disposed to sitting in front of store-bought equipment and simply communicating with others who are so inspired.

The evidence suggests we’re surrounded with inspiration, perhaps without realizing it.