I had initially “skim-read” Roy’s December News, and have since been dipping back in to read individual articles with more attention. One of these was the recollections of David G3RDQ, which I found very interesting. David has been a very regular caller to my 80m CW activations.
Considering the persepective we have now, it was quite eye-opening to read of one of SOTA’s early HF CW exponents - Jon GM4ZFZ - failing to qualify an activation by not getting the requisite 4 contacts. But that is indeed how it could be then, as I know from conversations with Richard G3CWI.
I was licensed in 2001, when 12wpm CW was still an entry requirement to the HF bands. Access to HF was no incentive at all for me to learn CW, and I didn’t! When this barrier was eventually removed, I tried the occasional HF activation, but had only very limited success on SSB. Either I made zero contacts, or had to rely on a benevolent base station like John GW4BVE or Richard G3CWI to “blast a hole” for me in the crowded 40m band, and help me keep the frequency clear thereafter. The assistance was greatly appreciated, but the natural desire was to be more independent!
Like many, I became increasingly envious of the fun, and the international activation logs that HF SOTA stations, particularly those on CW were having. A lot of my friends from the early days of SOTA, while still active on VHF FM, were adding other bands and modes to their activations. With a 40m dipole antenna for portable HF, I had three options - move to Scotland, buy a Yaesu FT-857 or learn CW. Here was that previous missing incentive.
Now my friend Sean M0GIA here in Macclesfield is taking his first steps on CW for more or less the same reasons. Additionally, Sean is a keen aerial experimenter and wants to see what DX he can work QRP on the higher bands. Hence his wish to get involved in SOTA (for the locations) and CW (for the efficiency).
Not many predicted that CW would still be going strong in years to come when it was removed as an entry requirement for HF. But, counter-intuitively, could that be the very reason? Now, anyone who does CW does so because they want to, not because they have to. Certainly for me, it has helped in a big way. My debut CW SOTA activation was on The Cloud G/SP-015 (where else?) in 2007, and it was a very positive experience. It was at 10wpm. I wouldn’t have been allowed on HF with a capability of less than 12wpm in 2001. Being on the air doing what I wanted to do (SOTA activating) really helped me progress in the mode. Not having to be up to a certain speed before I did, therefore, was significant.
I wonder what developments in operating habits and styles we will see in the next 7/8 years of SOTA? Anyone care to take a guess? Maybe we will all be out on the hills playing portable HF if the BT Powerline adaptors continue to be installed unchallenged.