ad: 5B4AOF-1
ad: L-HROutlet
ad: l-rl
ad: abrind-2
ad: Left-2
ad: Left-3
ad: L-MFJ
Latest Awards
United States Awards Issued
United States Awards Issued
United States Awards Issued
United States Awards Issued
United States Awards Issued
United States Awards Issued
United States Awards Issued
United States Awards Issued
United States Awards Issued
United States Awards Issued
United States Awards Issued
United States Awards Issued
United States Awards Issued
United States Awards Issued
United States Awards Issued

Short Takes #27: Costco Ham Shack Item, Remote Testing, and a Hero Code Warrior

By Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

Online Ham License Testing is Booming


I'm an old-school VE. I am called on to help a local club for a testing session, and sometimes asked to help out at a Hamfest event. While I knew that there was a growing ham license testing effort on the Internet, I had no idea that it was quite as active as it is. Recently, I had the chance to interview Stephen Hutchings (WM7X) in order to learn more about this growing phenomenon.


"It was the COVID pandemic which brought us the online amateur radio testing process. Most in-person testing sessions were cancelled at the time," Stephen said. I remember when I upgraded to Extra during this time frame -- it was hard to find a testing time and location!


"While online testing was a bit complex and disjointed in the beginning, the bugs have now been ironed out and there are literally dozens of organizations that pull these online sessions together," said Stephen. His organization is the largest of it's type, however -- his team numbers over 200 volunteer examiners (VE's).


I asked him what the reason was for the explosion of interest in online testing. I'm the kind of person who does best in an environment where others are sitting in the same room doing their tests . . . I guess it's the sense of competition that drives me. But his answer made a great deal of sense.


"As you know, we are an instant gratification society. People want what they want and they want it now! For some folks, traveling an hour or two to reach a session that’s only held once or twice a month . . . that just doesn't compute. After all, if you can get a college degree online, you certainly should be able to pick up a ham license in the same way," WM7X told me. His organization runs under two VEC's, both the ARRL and W5YI out of Texas.


"We will often schedule up to six or seven sessions a day, sometimes a dozen sessions a day. Each prospect has provided us with their FRN confirmation and filled out the required detail on Wm7x.net. I reach out so that they have an idea of what to expect. Of course, it requires a computer with camera. (However, they also administer VERBAL exams and often test applicants using only their cellular phones). They must join our Zoom meeting where we'll have a minimum of four VEs and observers watching the applicants," he said.


I asked Stephen if he was concered about cheating, as it seems so easy to have a chart of notes on the wall or a phone in your pocket.


"Yes, there has been some gaming of the system, but they have been caught by our team. We have experts on hand at detecting cheating. We watch reflections in eyes and glasses, we study body language and more. We turn the cheaters in to the FCC and they are then denied the option of remote exams in the future."


After the online exam completes (one that isn't timed, but which generally lasts about 20 minutes) the team processes the paperwork for the new licensee. They close with a certificate of testing completion, and the test results are turned over to the FCC. 


"The new ham receives an email just an hour later with instructions on how they pay the $35 application fee. From there, they'll have their new call sign the next day," advised WM7X.


After my discussion with Stephen, I wonder why any local club would want to spend time and money to pull a location and VE's together when a collaboration with an online partner would be easy and with no expense whatsoever? 



Great Amateur Radio Accessory Spotted at Costco

My wife and I were cruising Costco the other day. I went in to buy a single bottle of a supplement and by the time I got out of the store we had a load of stuff from clothing to sandwiches. I swore that I wouldn't add anything else to my cart, but as I was moving past the hardware aisle I spotted a nice ham shack item and bought it.

You know all that miscellaneous junk you've accumulated -- the small accessories, cables and so on? Costco has a storage set (see photos) in which four very secure containers the size of war surplus ammo boxes come riding in a carry-all which you can pick up and move, or stack, to organize your shack or workshop. Sure, you can buy real ammo boxes at a Hamfest for $8-10 each, but these are new and a lot better looking!

The construction quality is superb -- these babies are meant to last. The carry-all they come in is made of a thinner gauge material, but still perfectly usable. I like the tight and secure SNAP these make when you close them up. They are also lockable as well.

Right now, I've got wire antennas in one, a few of my not-currently-in-use CW keys and paddles in another, Coax connectors of every kind in a third, and the fourth has several shorter coax lengths stored. I can see how you might grab one of these and throw it in the car for your next POTA outing!

If you are out shopping and spot a nice accessory for the shack or for ham outings, email me at my QRZ address and I'll include it in a future Short Takes.







100-Years Anniversary for a Morse Code Hero

On July 15, 2024, it will be 100 years since the birth of war hero and Morse Code warrior, Jeremiah A. Denton. Denton served as a US Senator from the State of Alabama from 1981 to 1987. and was earlier a US Navy rear admiral. But he's best known as one of the first naval aviators to be taken captive during the Vietnam War (and who later showed the world that Morse Code was alive and well). Denton's A-6 Intruder suffered severe damage due to a bomb that detonated as it was leaving the plane over hostile territory, and upon landing he was immediately captured by the North Vietnamese.

During his years in captivity, he was held in irons in a cell measuring 3' by 9'. In 1965, he became one of the highest-ranking USA prisoners to be held by the North and as a result he was paraded to the world media. On May 17, 1966, Denton was forced to participate in a televised propaganda interview under the glaring television lights set up by North Vietnam.

After the journalist recited a number of alleged U.S. war atrocities, Denton was asked about his support of U.S. policy concerning the war. Instead of what they had primed him to say, his response was: "I don't know what is happening now in Vietnam, because the only news sources I have are North Vietnamese, but whatever the position of my government is, I believe in it, I support it, and I will support it as long as I live."

In this televised interview, Denton was apparently having trouble with the glare of the lights. Feigning eye issues, he was able to send Morse Code by blinking his eyes and spelling out the word T-O-R-T-U-R-E repeatedly. This confirmed to the world's intelligence services (and to anyone code-knowledgeable watching the broadcast) that American POWs were being tortured by the North Vietnamese.

Next year on July 15th, it would be fun to see a Ham Radio Special Event station set up to remember this aviator and hero. If anyone is interested in managing this with me, please write my QRZ email address.  


The Pursuit of Perfection

As I close this issue of Short Takes, I'd like to bring up an analogy that came to me when I was watching one of my favorite TV shows the other night. Are you familiar with the award-winning show on Hulu called The Bear? It's about a Chicagoland restaurant, run by a group of young people who are driven forward by a Chef who lives and breathes his work. As they strive to earn a Michelin Star, we watch as Chef carefully assembles each dish, pouring his passion onto the plate -- using tweezers to pick off the perfect rose pedal or the ideal grape.

That show is not about food. It's about the pursuit of perfection. It's about using one's skills at 100% of our capabilities. How many of us get to do that before we pass on? We've each been gifted with something that can benefit others. For the Chef on this show, it's the taste and enjoyment of the dishes he puts in front of his customers. But the pursuit of perfection could just as easily come from an RF engineer and his or her development of an amateur radio product. In my talk at Hamcon Zion on July 12, I will be talking about where we might find people like this in our community.

I know a person who gives it his "all" as in The Bear . . . Kenny Martinez (KM3KM). Martinez follows that same pursuit of perfection in the way he builds his amplifiers. Each of his Mercury line, whether it's the classic IIIS or the newer LUX, are hand built with the same passion that The Bear puts onto his dinner plates. My guess is that my audience knows many others in the Amateur Radio Services across the globe who have the same drive for perfection. While we do not have a Michelin Star to pass out here at QRZ, I'd like to propose to our owner and publisher that we establish a similar kind of award for Ham Radio Product Innovation. I'll let you know how I do in that quest, but in the meantime please offer up your ideas in the attached forum discussion. Recognition like this is reserved for the person or persons who have designed products for sale to amateur radio operators.

73 for now,

Dave W7DGJ

Have a comment? See what others are saying now in our Forum discussion! CLICK HERE and JUMP INTO THE CONVERSATION


Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

Dave Jensen, W7DGJ, was first licensed in 1966. Originally WN7VDY (and later WA7VDY), Dave operated on 40 and 80 meter CW with a shack that consisted primarily of Heathkit equipment. Dave loved radio so much he went off to college to study broadcasting and came out with a BS in Communications from Ohio University (Athens, OH). He worked his way through a number of audio electronics companies after graduation, including the professional microphone business for Audio-Technica.  He was later licensed as W7DGJ out of Scottsdale, Arizona, where he ran an executive recruitment practice (CareerTrax Inc.) for several decades. Jensen has published articles in magazines dealing with science and engineering. His column “Tooling Up” ran for 20 years in the website of the leading science journal, SCIENCE, and his column called “Managing Your Career” continues to be a popular read each month for the Pharmaceutical and Household Products industries in two journals published by Rodman Publishing.

Articles Written by Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

This page was last updated July 10, 2024 22:51