[AMRadio] Getting back on AM

Rob Atkinson ranchorobbo at gmail.com
Sat Aug 2 07:35:27 EDT 2014

I will or course work someone operating a plastic radio on AM--I
currently operate a plastic radio on AM after all--but if they are new
to AM, I will inform them that no, they are not "done with AM" as
certain a know-it-all on eHam will say (every chance he gets) but
rather, there is much much more than the plastic radio/leenyar
paradigm, and anyone who tells them they can sit back now and just
operate is in my opinion, doing them and AM, an injustice.
I will encourage them to:

Start collecting old radio technical resources such as old handbooks,
magazines (QST, Radio News etc.), the Navpers Basic Electronics volume
1 book, radio books by Sterling, LaPorte, and Terman, and of course a
subscription to ER and more important, the back issues...in other
words begin assembling and using a technical library that is fully AM

Modify his equipment to better handle the AM duty cycle, and start
using an oscilloscope to monitor his transmit signal,

Begin assembling the tools and constructing a metal workshop and
test/repair bench,

Begin looking for and acquiring test equipment,

Work on making antenna improvements like Bob plans to do,

And of course, start looking for vintage gear  to fix, restore and
return to operating condition.

Why all this--because as you all surely know but may have forgotten
since many of you did all of this years ago, any true AM operator who
neglects this aspect of vintage radio (yes all of this applies to CW
as well as AM) is missing out of over 50% of what it means to be an AM
operator.  It is immensely satisfying to bring a piece of vintage gear
into operation, and better yet, punch a chassis and homebrew
something, even if it is only a power supply.

No one, at least not me, is stating that they have to get into vacuum
tube gear--the above can be accomplished with solid state equipment,
IF they know what they are doing with it, however most hams seem to
gravitate to tube gear because frankly, it is easier to figure out,
and (subjectivity here) more fun to use.
One sign that a new AM op is advancing is the shedding of his
"technological bigotry," the idea that radio communication is
essentially impossible without the latest fad boxes being shown
indoors at Dayton.   They are amazed that gear 60, 70 years old works
perfectly well for having an AM ragchew QSO.  It is quite a

I mentioned CW above.  Sadly, CW is in the grip of this technology
bigotry for few CW ops bother to operate vintage gear, and CW is a
mode that even more than AM, is the original vintage mode.   What
happened?  What happened is what is now festering in the AM community,
the idea that pushing a mode button on a plastic radio is enough, and
the old ways can be left behind.  We now have CW ops who don't know
how to run a separate transmitter and receiver, don't know how to
achieve QSK without a plastic radio, and have no idea how to tune a
class C final.  They think homebrewing is making a balun and
restoration is getting an old bug cleaned up and polished.  Instead of
doing real radio they pass their time arguing on line about which
plastic fad box is better, sounding like a bunch of appliance
consumers in an audio forum.  And I'm speaking of hams who have been
licensed for 20+ years, not noobs.  It is exceedingly sad to see what
has become of the CW community.  Is this what we want for AM?  I
surely hope not.

This is why I will go to my grave exhorting AM operators to not let
the old ways be forgotten--we are actually the last pool of knowledge
for the old CW marine radiotelegraph ops are aging with no one to pass
their knowledge on to, and the same is true for the broadcast
professionals as those two fields are driven by economic factors.  As
a hobby, we are not so we are obliged to keep the old knowledge alive.
Sure radio will probably be entirely gone in 50 to 100 years but I see
no reason why the practice of maintaining and running vintage gear
can't be continued.  After all, the old gear is dong fine after 70
some odd years and there's no reason why it won't be doing fine years
from now when today's highly expensive plastic fad radios are in



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