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“Numbers (Starting With 75)”


*Email: w2vu@cq-amateur-radio.com


– 73, Rich W2VU

Ham radio is a hobby dominated by numbers ... the bands on which we’re allowed to operate, whether described in terms of frequency or wavelength; how many watts of power our transmitters are sending to our antennas, how many elements our antennas have and how many feet (or meters) above the ground they are; how many countries, zones or prefixes we’ve contacted; how many miles per watt our signals have traveled; how many points we made in the last contest; component values in our latest project, or how many words a minute we can copy in Morse code. The list goes on and on.

There are three numbers bouncing around my head at the moment: 75, 900, and 240. This is CQ’s 75th anniversary issue. Over those 75 years of publication, there have been 900 issues of this magazine, and an equal number of editorials, of which I have now written approximately 240, or just over 25%. Some come easily, others are a struggle. In those latter cases, the problem is generally resolved by spending a couple of hours on the radio.

I was reminded of that just a few nights ago, when I was working on something in my shack and had my 2-meter FM rig on in the background, scanning for activity on local repeaters. It stopped on 146.55 simplex, with a very loud signal coming through the speaker. Obviously, it was someone nearby, but I didn’t recognize his voice or callsign, and I could only hear his half of the conversation. After a while, when I’d finished doing whatever I was doing, I broke in to say hi and see just how close a neighbor he was. His signal sounded like he was just a couple of blocks away, but it turned out he was actually a couple of towns away. And while we’d never met before, the ham to whom he was talking (and who I couldn’t hear) was an old friend of mine who I hadn’t seen or talked with in a couple of years. We each relayed our greetings through our mutual QSO partner, and it occurred to me that ham radio is a very small world … and that even within that small world, we often aren’t very far from our many radio friends, even if we can’t hear them at the moment.

It also reminded me that, even in a hobby so consumed with numbers, it isn’t really about numbers, it’s about people. Nearly everything we do in ham radio is in pursuit of connecting with other people, making friends around the world and realizing that those friends are never too far away, even if we can’t hear them at the moment.

Nearly everything we do in CQ, and everything we’ve done in these pages for the past 75 years, is in pursuit of making your pursuits more successful, more educational, more exciting, more fun. No agendas, no organizational reports, just practical, informative, interesting articles to help you get the most out of our shared pastime.

Looking back through those 900 issues, there is a remarkable consistency — information on the latest advances in technology and how to put that technology to work in your station; information on operating adventures and expeditions, and how to increase your chances of success in making contact with stations in rare locations; how to build radios and accessories with which to make those contacts, and be able to say, when someone asks about your setup, “I built it myself.”

Another consistent theme has been promoting new modes, bands and activities, and welcoming newcomers to the hobby or to sub-hobbies under the ham radio umbrella. From the first Novice column in any ham magazine back in the early 1950s to the only MF/LF Operating column today, CQ has always focused on providing practical tips and encouragement for trying something new and celebrating successes. While many of our authors and columnists over the years have been leading experts in their fields, their goal has never been to impress you with how much they know, but rather to share their knowledge in ways that are helpful to the average ham.

We also have a habit of simultaneously looking back into our history and ahead into our future (particularly in January, which is named for Janus, the Roman god of transitions, and is often portrayed with two faces —one looking into the past and one into the future). This is in line with CQ’s mission statement, published in our very first issue (and republished in full as part of our history article on page 22 of this issue), “… we shall follow up tradition (with which every ham must be familiar) with all the vital news of amateur radio today and tomorrow.” This issue continues that tradition, with several articles looking back over the past 75 years, plus an article looking forward to the first Youth On The Air (YOTA) camp to be held in the Americas later this year, and how you can help assure its success (see page 10).

My first direct involvement with CQ magazine itself, even after working here for several years on producing videos and getting us onto the internet, was 25 years ago, as CQ’s 50th Anniversary Coordinator. Little did I imagine at the time that I would be presiding over the magazine’s 75th anniversary a quarter-century later.

I had the opportunity then to talk with some members of CQ’s founding generation and recount their first-hand recollections of this magazine’s birth and early years. Those reminiscences were shared in our 50th anniversary issue in January 1995, and some are republished in this issue as well. More will follow later this year. Virtually all of the people who oversaw those early years are gone now, so it’s great that we have their stories as part of our collective history, not only of CQ but of amateur radio itself in the post- World War II era. It is an incredible history, and there is much more yet to be written as a new generation of young hams and emerging leaders make their presence felt.

Happy New Year, Happy Birthday to us, and let’s raise an 807 (if you remember either reference, and yet another number1) to the next 75 years and beyond! – 73

Note: 1. For those of you who don’t remember, an 807 was a vacuum tube with a plate cap commonly used in power amplifiers (actually still available for tube enthusiasts). Over time, since it was shaped like a bottle with a cap on top, it also came to be used by hams as a reference to a bottle of beer!
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