Oldest Amateur Radio Club in Mississippi…

I read this month’s CQ Magazine via my Zinio subscription on my iPad. Great way to read media with lots of interesting links as a click takes you there and back without losing your place!

One article is on the amateur radio history of Dedham MA. Using some historical Radio Service Bulletins from the U.S. Department of Commerce (who originally handled the rampantly growing “radio problem”), the author cross-referenced the early licensees for “Special Land Stations” to 1920 Census records. This created a neat table of data for each initial ham along with street address, occupation, and age. Really cool…if you live near Dedham!

Licensed Amateur Stations, 5th District, May 26, 1913


I thought, hey, who is really the oldest club in the state of Mississippi? I didn’t get much of a response from our Section Manager’s email query recently (but thanks anyway W5XX!).  I had issued a challenge to all clubs in Mississippi to document their year of origin, using the year their club license was granted or the first set of dated club minutes. Nada as far as responses. Well, this isn’t going to be easy, I thought. So looking a various club websites in the state didn’t produce much, with a couple of exceptions.

The Jackson Amateur Radio Club’s brochure on their website, msham.org, states:

The Jackson Amateur Radio Club (JARC), Mississippi’s oldest Amateur Radio club, was founded many years ago to promote Amateur Radio and provide resources to new and experienced radio operators.” (http://www.msham.org/documents/Brochure_front_back.pdf)

OK, that’s a definitive statement. I looked at W5YD, the club at Mississippi State University in Starkville, home of MFJ Enterprises and some other industry. I also looked at the University of Mississippi (commonly known as Ole Miss). Each club’s website suggests that they were issued an “experimental license” around 1920. Hmm. Well, that’s a long time ago!

The first bulletin issued by the Department of Commerce which contained listings of licensees is copied to this URL: http://earlyradiohistory.us/1913list.htm. It shows the following licensees in the 5th District. There was only a signal licensed awarded to anyone in Mississippi, a Mr. Clarence E. Albertson in Tupelo. Unless Mr. Albertson quickly formed what is now the Tupelo Amateur Radio Club, that may rule out Tupelo. I continued reading the Radio Service Bulletins located on the FCC website (http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/radio-service-bulletins-1915-1932). I struck pay-dirt with the February 1, 1920 Bulletin. As shown below, both Mississippi Agricultural & Mechanical College (5YD) and the University of Mississippi (5YE) were awarded “Special Land Station” licenses by the Department of Commerce in January 1920. Well, unless Mr. Albertson is the Godfather of the Tupelo Club, this fairly well settles it. Ole Miss and Mississippi State tie again!

Now, as President Reagan might have said to Premier Gorbachev on that Wall-thing: Jackson ARC, edit that misleading brochure! There are new “oldest clubs” around these here parts!
Have a Happy Fourth of July everyone!

RSB, February 1920


Radio Experimenters Look Here

One of the things that I think is taken for granted outside of amateur radio circles is the lack of recognition for what radio experimentation has provided us as a society. Sure, back in the transistor radio days, there was some marveling Peavey in Meridianat the miniaturization of what was basically already “invented”. But this became commonplace fairly soon and the idea of “playing” with radio equipment became the forlorn stuff of a relatively narrow group of folk called “hams”. Many others have written about the growing image of ham radio operators as a marginalized segment of society so I won’t get further into that here. But many hams know what such experimentation actually gave rise to in terms of today’s ability to communicate.

Just in the state of Mississippi, for instance, there is a growing cellular communications company, CSpire, which is making inroads toward the provision of gigabit-to-the-door Internet access at a rate comparable to what Comcast charges for high-speed cable Internet! Peavey Electronics is a name that every rock-and-roll band and fan knows quite well. Hartley Peavey, a licensed amateur radio operator (KD5WVP), has built a substantial company in Meridian, shown on the left. The Stennis Space Center has built key components to the satellite systems providing global positioning systems and remote sensing capabilities for the U.S. And every ham in the world knows Starkville. Once, during a televised college football game there, the smart-lipped color commentator Beano Cook, said: more people know where Budapest is than Starkville. With a population of about 2M, Budapest is much larger than the small college town of StarkVegas (student nickname) but there may well be 1M hams around the world who recognize Starkville as the home of MFJ Enterprises, the largest manufacturer of ham radio equipment in the world with 2,000 products.

As a means of identifying innovation in radio experimentation, broadly defined, and facilitating more of it, I’ve worked with several amateur radio operators in Mississippi to form a Radio Experimenters Society in the state. Although not a club, the Society will sponsor selected activities aimed at fostering experimentation. Those persons offered membership will be inducted in an annual class. The state’s organization for technological innovation, InnovateMS, is located in Ridgeland along Highland Colony Parkway. Membership in the Society will be identified on a wall in the lobby of this organization. We are most appreciative of Tony Jeff, the Director of InnovateMS, for joining us in this venture. Nominations may be sent, with adequate documentation, to the Radio Experimenters Society of Mississippi at this email address: info (at) radioexperimenters.org. The website for the Society is located at: http://www.radioexperimenters.org.

Go put a radio wave into the air and have fun!

DX Dynasty! (warning: humor ahead)

Like many with a few minutes between tasks, I engage in humorous pursuits…sometimes gigging my friends with modified pictures and so forth. With the recent boom in popularity for the duck hunting empire that is Duck Dynasty, I created a fictitious advertisement for the largest advertiser in QST and CQ Magazine. (You know something is big-time when you’re met with shelves of stuff with bearded images in the local Walmart.) The image below has been shared with a few of my ham radio contacts—including the subjects of the spoof—and several have begged me to offer posters of it for prominent display in their shacks. Well, I’m not really in that business but retain full copyright privileges to the image to ward off others making commercial use. I missed April 1st with this post so consider it a break from national Tax Day to the weary IRS-abiding ham!



How Old a Ham Are Ya?

Most discussions that we hear about “new” hams tend to center around youth. “Well, I’ve been licensed since before diapers were throw-away,” etc. Certainly, the romantic notion of entry into licensed amateur radio operation embraces a young person getting Elmer-ed by an adult who introduces the youngster into the magic of the RF ether. We also hear about how those folk are now graying and fading from the FCC license registration database either by design or default (license expiration). Woe is us if we don’t convince an entire group new youngsters into the fold, right?

Yes, I’d agree, partly. Without going into a full demographic exposition of the Baby Boom and the graying population-by-age curve, it does behoove us to wonder. What happened to those who may have been exposed to amateur radio early (or later) in life but who only availed themselves of actual licensing later in life? Are they just random events that really don’t amount to much (many)? Or are they a largely unrecognized and therefore hidden sector of amateur radio? There is no lack of opinions. Just ask your ham home-boy next time you have a meal together!

One demographic group that we first identified in the 2011 Delta Division Survey were indeed these  late-in-life amateurs: those who are at least 50 years of age but only licensed 10 years or less. I discuss the age and license-tenure results in the 2013 Delta Division Survey of ARRL members in this post.

Median Ages of Hams

Using ARRL membership records provided by the League, coupled with the Survey results, I produced the two comparison histograms shown in Figure 2. (Note: I use the same figure numbers as in the full report to reduce confusion.) What statistical histograms do is represent continuous data—like age in years—along a continuum of age along the bottom by how many people report that age in the dataset. The median of the histogram is exactly where 50% of the number in the histogram occurs among the various ages. It is less resistant to very old or young ages (in this case).

The median age of licensed hams who are League members is 63 years. This is almost two years older than the 2011 Survey analysis showed, each time using actual League membership data. Thus, hams in the Delta Division are aging.

But does this mean that “new” licensees (who obtain League membership) are young or old when they become hams? Not necessarily! This is the “license-tenure” variable, the length of time someone has held a license. By combining age and age-at-first-licensure, Figure 3 illustrates the variation in age-at-licensing. The purple, yellow and red bars at any age-level  are those hams licensed for a decade or longer. Among the three oldest age categories, of 50s, 60s, and 70+, these bars dominate. This reflects the “early in life” group of hams which dominates our commonly held conception of ourselves collectively. But also take into consideration the blue, green and tan bars in these same age groups.


The number of “newbies” licensed for less than a year (blue bar) consistently increase. The tenure of 1-5 years (green bars) represent significant shares of the three age groups. Not as large as the longer-tenure bars, for sure, but they are too large to simply ignore! The tan bars of 5-10 years tenure simply add to this sector of hams. But we hear little about them in League discussions or with fellow hams.

To help make the original point I explored in the 2011 Survey report, Figure 4 is a composite set of graphs designed to illustrate the “late-in-life” hams in this Division. To my knowledge, there is no publicly available data on other Divisions or anywhere else that parallel these analyses, which is unfortunate. I’ve said elsewhere (ICQPodcast editorial) that the ARRL should replicate this survey nationally and with a randomized design to yield Division-level estimates to accompany those at the national scale.

Late-in-Life Identification

A critical statistic for this blog post is in the upper-right graph, a pie-chart. There are fully one-fifth, or 22%, of all League hams in the Delta Division who are late-in-life hams. This figure is simply too large to ignore. The upper-left graph is a bar chart of the age groups of 50 and over by license tenure of 10 years or less. It illustrates that the operational definition of 50 years of age or less than a decade’s tenure doesn’t change the results very much. So this measurement is fairly robust, demographically speaking.

The lower-left panel graph is a bar chart of late-in-life status by license classification. It shows that this group are not just part of the new wave of Technician-only licensees. They are just as likely to be Generals or Extras. Thus they are fully-integrated into the ham license structure.

The lower-right panel is a reproduction of the single pie-chart by state and rural-to-urban location. While there is variation—AR has slightly fewer while LA and MS have slightly more—this graph further illustrates how widespread this demographic group is in the Division’s Sections and population centers.

To close, this largely unrecognized group of amateurs—those who get licensed late-in-life—are a significant part of the amateur hobby. We hope that the League will alter it’s recruitment and outreach programs to realize that while youth incumbents to the hobby may be falling victim to other technologically oriented hobbies (robotics, computer programming, etc.), there is a clear market for amateur radio that is being ignored: those 50 and over. They are retiring, have increased time on their hands, and are at their peak earning years! All things that amateur radio vendors should take note of, as well as the ARRL: the National Association for Amateur Radio.

Hacking with a Hakko…

I guess that a lot of hams give short shrift to soldering irons and equipment. Heck, I’ve still got tools that I’ve had since junior high school. (Hmm…a small crescent wrench has the initials of my high school shop teacher on it. How did THAT get there?) Over the years, I recall a few trips to Radio Shack to buy the cheapest iron that I could find there that looked like it wouldn’t break in two before I got home with it. Now, guns are a different thing, for some reason. I’ve had Weller guns for years. But not with irons.

Perhaps it was buying my first kit with surface mount components (one!) in it. I was going to use an on-sale Heat Gun from Northern Tool ($14) to do that work. Fate, however, intervened. I accidently melted the AC power cord to my RS iron, sparks a-popping! So I just started looking a “official” soldering workstations with digital temperature control. And, my instincts were correct: really good ones can cost a bunch. So I settled for a reasonable one, price- and review-wise.

Shown below is my new Hakko 988D, sitting on my workbench. I just did some mods on a Linksys wifi router to give it external antenna jacks. Worked swell! I paid $90 with extra tips and flux on Amazon (the best price that I found online). I’ll try not to melt the power cord on this one…for a while. Now, gotta get a muffin fan or two to get the bad stuff away!


International Roundtable Celebrating 150th ICQPodcast


ICQ Podcast

It was my honor to be on the international round-table group—Ireland, England, Australia, USA—yesterday for a couple of hours. This recording session was to celebrate the 150th episode of the ICQPodcast established by the father-son team of Martin M1MRB / W9ICQ and Colin Butler. It’s a bit of a rarity for fathers and sons today to do things together but this duo have a harmonious charm about them which I’ve greatly enjoyed. Ed VK2JI in Auzzie-Land fits right in too!

The four of us discussed a wide array of topics, from the future of HF radio, the ARRL QST apps for iOS and Android, digital voice in amateur radio, cheap Chinese radios, and Broadband-Hamnet. You’ll have to download the podcast when it drops but it was amazing to see as much agreement, yet diversity in observations, amongst four hams.

I’m honored to be the US Correspondent for the ICQ Podcast…and hope I can keep up with my editing/writing for Springer Media.

73 de K4FMH

UPDATE: Link for 150th episode here.

ARRL Delta Division Survey Sez….

UPDATE: Complete report in PDF is now available at the ARRL Delta Division website at this URL: http://www.arrldelta.org/2013final.pdf

I’ve completed the report for the semi-annual Delta Division Survey of ARRL members! It should be posted on the Division’s website (arrldelta.org) by Director Norris K5UZ soon. In the meantime, here’s a map of 2013 ARRL (licensed) members, survey respondents, and Affiliated Clubs in the four state Division:

73 de Frank K4FMH Assistant Director

Delta Division Members, Survey Respondents, and Affiliated Clubs

Delta Division Members, Survey Respondents, and Affiliated Clubs