ETH035 – Elmers, Are You Doing Your Part?


Hello everybody and welcome back to the Everything Ham Radio Podcast! In this episode we are going to be talking about Elmers


Tech Corner – Elmers

Origin of the term “Elmer”

The term “Elmer”–meaning someone who provides personal guidance and assistance to would-be hams–first appeared in QST in a March 1971 “How’s DX” column by Rod Newkirk, W9BRD (now also VA3ZBB). Newkirk called them “the unsung fathers of Amateur Radio.” While he probably was not trying to coin a term at the time, here’s how Newkirk introduced “Elmer” in his column and, as it turned out, to the rest of the Amateur Radio world:

“Too frequently one hears a sad story in this little nutshell: ‘Oh, I almost got a ticket, too, but Elmer, W9XYZ, moved away and I kind of lost interest.'”

Newkirk went on to say, “We need those Elmers. All the Elmers, including the ham who took the most time and trouble to give you a push toward your license, are the birds who keep this great game young and fresh.”–Rick Lindquist, N1RL

As you can see, the term is not very old. Prior to the first use of Elmer as the one who guided and encouraged us, what were these folks called? We have received a lot of suggestions; teacher, mentor, tutor, guide, helper, sage? All are appropriate, but first and foremost they are called friend.

Elmer Award

Elmer Booklet – for the New or Prospective Radio Amateur – A little old but has some decent information


Amateur Radio Club Spotlight


clubpatch - ElmersCape May County Amateur Radio Club



The Stone Harbor Amateur Radio Klub “SHARK” was formed in March of 1975, having primary objectives of: providing a public service to the nearby shore communities through the development of supplemental emergency communications facilities; to encourage and assist interested individuals in qualifying for an amateur radio operators license; and to promote friendship and cooperation among amateurs who live in or visit the shore area. In 1980 the Stone Harbor Amateur Radio Klub changed its name to the Cape May County Amateur Radio Club to reflect the membership base that had been established.



  • 146.610 – PL 88.5 Cape May County Crest Haven Complex


  • Thursdays @ 8pm – 146.610 PL 88.5
  • Monday @ approx 9:30am – 7.197 LSB


  • Third Wednesday @ 7pm – Operations room at the Cape May County Office of Emergency Management located in the basement of the County Library, 30 W. Mechanic St., Cape May Court House
  • Wednesday @ 10am – Villas Diner & Pizzaria, 2100 Bayshore Road, Villas, NJ


  • Field Day
  • ILLW Lighthouse Lightship weekend
  • Bicycle races
  • Marathons
  • Special Kids Fish For Fun Day Special Event Station
  • Christmas Social



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Upcoming Events


  • 10 GHz and Up
    • Objective –  The objective of 10 GHz and Up is for North American amateurs work as many amateur stations in as many different locations as possible in North America on bands from 10-GHz through Light. Amateurs are encouraged to operate from more than one location during this event. See the detailed rules for restrictions.
    • Dates – Third full weekend of August and September (August 20-21, 2016 and September 17-18, 2016). Operations may take place for 24 hours total on each contest weekend. Each weekend begins at 6:00 AM local Saturday though 12:00 midnight local Sunday.
    • Log Submission Deadline – Logs must be submitted no later than 0000 UTC Tuesday, October 18, 2016.
  • EME Contest
    • Objective: To work as many amateur stations as possible via the earth-moon-earth path on any authorized amateur frequency above 50 MHz.
    • Dates – Three full weekend 48-hour periods (0000 UTC on Saturday through 2359 UTC Sunday). Dates for 2016 are: 2.3 GHz & Up – September 24-25, 50 to 1296 MHz – October 22-23 and November 19-20
    • Log Submission Deadline – All entries must be emailed or postmarked no later than 2359z Wednesday, December 21, 2016.
  • New Jersey QSO Party
    • Objective Contact as many NJ amateurs in as many NJ counties as possible. NJ stations contact as many amateurs in the US, Canada and the world as possible.
    • Dates – September 17 & 18, 2016. Sat. 1200 (noon) EDST (1600 UTC) to 2359 EDST (0359 UTC) and Sun. 1000 EDST (1400 UTC) to Sun. 1600 EDST (2000 UTC)
    • Log Submission Deadline – Only electronic Cabrillo logs will be accepted. All logs must be emailed tonjqp at by October 1.
  • NCCC RTTY Sprint – 0145Z-0215Z, Sep 16
  • NCCC Sprint – 0230Z-0300Z, Sep 16
  • AGB NEMIGA Contest – 2100Z-2400Z, Sep 16
  • SARL VHF/UHF Analogue/Digital Contest – 1000Z, Sep 17 to 1000Z, Sep 18
  • Scandinavian Activity Contest, CW – 1200Z, Sep 17 to 1200Z, Sep 18
  • All Africa International DX Contest – 1200Z, Sep 17 to 1200Z, Sep 18
  • SRT HF Contest SSB – 1300Z, Sep 17 to 1300Z, Sep 18
  • QRP Afield – 1600Z-2200Z, Sep 17
  • New Hampshire QSO Party – 1600Z, Sep 17 to 0400Z, Sep 18 and 1600Z-2200Z, Sep 18
  • Washington State Salmon Run – 1600Z, Sep 17 to 0700Z, Sep 18 and 1600Z-2400Z, Sep 18
  • Feld Hell Sprint – 1800Z-1959Z, Sep 17
  • North American Sprint, RTTY – 0000Z-0400Z, Sep 18
  • BARTG Sprint 75 – 1700Z-2100Z, Sep 18
  • Run for the Bacon QRP Contest – 0100Z-0300Z, Sep 19
  • 144 MHz Fall Sprint – 1900 local – 2300 local, Sep 19
  • Phone Fray – 0230Z-0300Z, Sep 21
  • CWops Mini-CWT Test – 1300Z-1400Z, Sep 21 and 1900Z-2000Z, Sep 21 and  0300Z-0400Z, Sep 22
  • NAQCC CW Sprint – 0030Z-0230Z, Sep 22


*Information taken from the ARRL and WA7BNM Contest Calendar
















Higher Bands Will Pick Up this Fall, Data Suggest Smaller Solar Cycles Lie Ahead


Propagation guru Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA, says that, while conditions on 12 and 10 meters will pick up as they always do in the fall, F2 propagation on those bands will decline thereafter, with only sporadic E during the summer months as a possible saving grace. On the other hand, the lower bands — 160, 80, and 40 meters — should be good going forward, and 20 and 17 meters will be the mainstays of daylight HF propagation. Luetzelschwab made these observations during an August 23 World Wide Radio Operators Foundation (WWROF)-sponsored webinar “Solar Topics — Where We’re Headed.” He said data suggest that Cycle 24, the current solar cycle, will bottom out in 2020, and advised that radio amateurs may need to lower their expectations on the higher bands (and 6 meters) looking beyond that.

“I think the only conclusion we can make with some confidence is that we are headed for some small cycles,” he told his audience. He cited various evidence related to the Sun’s polar fields — which appear to be decreasing in strength, A index trends, and cosmic ray data to support his assertion. Luetzelschwab cautioned, however, that past performance does not necessarily predict future performance.

“There seems to be a good correlation between how long a solar minimum is and the next solar cycle,” said Luetzelschwab. “The longer you spend at solar minimum, the smaller the next cycle.”

He observed that hams active since the 1950s and 1960s have experienced short inter-cycle solar minimums of approximately 2 years, until the one between Cycle 23 and Cycle 24, which lasted about 4 years. He also allowed that the science is not fully understood, and that some things appearing to be patterns may just be coincidences.

On the other hand, he said, it looks like the downward trend of disappearing sunspots has leveled off, suggesting that Cycle 25 may see a lower smoothed sunspot number as opposed to zero or near-zero sunspots.

Counting those sunspots can be a subjective business. “That’s a tough job,” he said of the task, noting that it appears observer bias also has been a factor over the years, affecting historical sunspot data. “We now have new corrected data that are believed to be more accurate.”

Luetzelschwab’s article “The New Sunspot Numbers,” appearing in the October issue of QST, will discuss the new sunspot numbers.

Luetzelschwab cited historical sunspot cycle data going back centuries — including the “Maunder Minimum” of zero and near-zero sunspots between the years 1645 and 1715 and a later, less-drastic “Dalton Minimum.” He pointed out that over the last 11,000 years, 19 notable grand maximums — including Cycle 19 and the cycles around it — and 27 notable grand minimums were recorded. “We’re likely to have more of both grand maximums and grand minimums in the future,” he predicted. The current system of numbering sunspot cycles begins with Cycle 1 in the mid-18th century.

“We don’t fully understand the process inside the Sun that makes solar cycles,” Luetzelschwab said. “Thus, you should exercise caution with statements seen in the news.”


Amateur Radio Sleuthing Pins Down Source of Strange RF Interference


Police in Evanston, Illinois, contacted the ARRL Lab, after an apparent interference source began plaguing wireless vehicle key fobs, cell phones, and other wireless electronics. Key fob owners found they could not open or start their vehicles remotely until their vehicles were towed at least a block away, nor were they able to call for help on their cell phones when problems occurred. The police turned to ARRL for help after striking out with the FCC, which told them it considered key fob malfunctions a problem for automakers, although the interference was affecting not just key fobs but cell phones, which are a licensed radio service. ARRL Lab EMC Specialist Mike Gruber, W1MG, believes the FCC should have paid more attention.

“This situation is indicative of what can happen as a result of insufficient FCC enforcement, especially with regard to electrical noise and noncompliant consumer devices,” Gruber said.

Evanston authorities worried that a serious situation could develop if someone were unable to call 911, putting public safety at risk. They also were concerned that the RFI could be intentional and indicate some nefarious or illegal activity.Given the seriousness of this situation, Gruber contacted Central Division Director Kermit Carlson, W9XA, to ask if he could look into the matter.

On June 2, Carlson met with an Evanston police officer, her sergeant, a local business owner, and the local alderman, and he quickly confirmed that the 600 block of Dempster Avenue in Evanston was plagued with an odd RFI problem. Carlson determined that the problem prevailed along a set of eight on-street parallel parking spots in the downtown commercial district of the North Chicago suburb.

Carlson employed a Radar Engineers 240A Noise Signature Receiver and UHF Yagi antenna to survey the affected block. Since key fobs typically operate at around 315 MHz and 433 MHz, he looked on both frequencies. The survey identified several noise sources in the affected block, but in particular a strong signal in the middle of the block. The interference source turned out to be a recently replaced neon sign switching-mode power supply, which was generating a substantial signal within the on-street parking area just across the sidewalk, between 8 and 40 feet from the sign.

The problematic power supply interference also disabled Carlson’s cell phone when he was within a few feet of the device. Carlson anticipated that further investigation would show that the harmful interference could disrupt licensed radio services in close proximity. The troublesome transformer was not replaced, but the building owner agreed to turn off the sign should problems arise.

Carlson called the Evanston case “a particularly alarming example of radio interference,” especially since local authorities considered it a public safety matter. “This situation demonstrates the electromagnetic compatibility problems that are evolving in an atmosphere of noncompliant, unintentional RF-emitting devices,” he said.

A return visit to the area with calibrated antennas and equipment capable of measuring the radiated signal strength with quasi-peak detection is planned for later this year. Since the initial visit, several other instances of unexplained key fob malfunctions have been reported in the Greater Chicago area. — Thanks to Kermit Carlson, W9XA, and Mike Gruber, W1MG



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