Dr. Brian Robert Callahan

academic, developer, with an eye towards a brighter techno-social life


From new ham to QEX author in two months

As mentioned as an update to our previous post, the series on the development of the CW Record Protocol has to be put on hiatus. Reason being, I wrote it up as a complete article so that I could break it down for the blog but I thought it might be nice to submit it as an article for QEX. So I did and I got an acceptance for the article. I look forward to sharing this work with all of you through QEX and I intend to write more QEX articles both exploring the CW Record Protocol futher and diving into any other topics that pique my interest.

But it's also been a month since writing a blog post and I want to do that too. This one will be a bit of self-reflection, returning to the idea of connection that was core theme of the blog post about why I got my amateur radio license.

According to the FCC ULS, I was first licensed on July 23 of this year and upgraded to Amateur Extra one month later. One month after upgrading, I received my QEX acceptance. In between the upgrade and the QEX acceptance, I also received my VE badge from ARRL VEC and began learning CW with The Long Island CW Club. Notably, one thing I have not yet done is make a QSO with any station on any band in any mode. I have yet to even press the PTT button on my UV-5R. And while yes I will eventually get on the air and transmit (especially since I will soon have a publicly documented protocol to put into practice!), I made a joke the other day that if there was a way to do this hobby "wrong," I think I found it.

But of course, it's not wrong for me. This is what I want to do. Since I joined the ARRL after their move to make all their publications available online to members, I have always had the four publications at my fingertips, which is great (though I do get the physical version of QST and I have also subscribed to the physical version of QEX). QST, On the Air, and NCJ do not appeal to me. I understand why they would appeal to large swaths of hams. And I have no qualms when it comes to supporting those publications through my ARRL dues. We need quality magazines that target the beginners (On the Air) and the membership-at-large (QST), and provide space for the businesses that make their livings through the amateur radio hobby to communicate and advertise to their audience. I have read the online complaints about the "dumbing down" of QST in particular, and I just don't buy it. I do have expertise in pedagogy, and from a pedagogical perspective both QST and On the Air are perfectly fine periodicals. I don't know enough about contesting to comment on NCJ but from what I understood from the issues I read it is not entirely a pedagogic exercise.

At the same time, while you don't need a Ph.D. to write articles for QEX (and that's a good thing!), it is obvious that a significant part of the forum is where the Ph.D.s and professionals hang out and chat with each other and share the latest ideas they have floating in their minds. For better or for worse for me, those are my people, and that's exactly what you would find in any academic journal. And so my article is as much for that community as it is for any other audience.

I am also genuinely interested in advancing the theory and especially the practice of protocol development and diversity. That is what I am doing in this article (and yes, I realize I am vaguely describing an article that's at least six months away from publication... but QEX deserves first publication). One of the article's express goals is to inspire people who don't have Ph.D.s to try out protocol design. It's a different way of thinking about how to communicate—how to connect—with others. And it will definitely be exciting to try out a protocol that you designed or helped design.

But I've only been licensed for two months. I cannot honestly say that this is a hobby that has given me so much and the QEX article is a small way to give back. I have other hobbies where that is true—hobbies that have opened tremendous doors for me and introduced me to lifelong friends—but not this one. Not yet, at least.

So perhaps I can consider these articles as a way of announcing who I am to the amateur radio world. These articles, and the discussions that will inevitably arise from them, are my QSOs. It is a different but no less legitimate way of creating connections. I am giving back "up front" so that when ham radio is a hobby that has given me so much, I will be able to say that I too have given.

I am also happy to review articles if others want to submit to any of the ARRL periodicals. I'm not an ARRL editor or anything so I can't guarantee publication, but I do know a thing or two about getting published and how to write. My philosophy has always been that I am not special, just lucky to be in a position where I have been afforded the time and resources to do novel research (after all, conducting and publishing novel research is an actual part of my job description). This can be yet another way we make connections.