A friend recently wrote to ask me a few details on an article I posted to eHam almost a decade ago. I had to go back and re-read it, and having done so, I am amazed at the changes that have taken place.
Back then ham radio was at its most fulfilling when I took one of my built-from-a-kit rigs out on a hiking or camping trip. Those days seem long ago now, in part because of all the changes that have occurred.
When I wrote that article, QRP-L was alive with real content. People were talking about the latest kit they built and what they were doing with it. The QRP contests and events were well attended, providing further topics for discussion on QRP-L. Norcal 40A’s, SST’s, great rigs from Small Wonder Labs and Oak Hills Research could be heard, worked and talked about.
There was diversity among QRPers too – the hang-a-wire-in-a-tree gang and the QRP DXers all rubbed shoulders on QRP-L. As a result, all QRPers were exposed to various aspects of the 5-watt realm.
Things are a bit different now, in both a positive way and a negative.
On the good side, QRP rigs have gotten even smaller and better. Back then, a QRPer had to pack rig, batteries, tuner and paddles in addition to the antenna. Today, batteries, tuner and paddles are built in/onto certain rigs. One box is a complete station. And those Altoid-y rigs from KD1JV – just amazing. A new one from Steve for 80/160 meters is in the works even as I write.
In 2003, my DSW20 was considered small. Nowadays, an ATS-3 is much smaller, much lighter, operates on 5 bands and puts out twice the power as a DSW, Norcal 40, etc.
Going portable was never easier.
QRP DXers 10 years ago had the K2 as their best option. The K2 is still around (for good reason) but so is the KX3 and a QRP version of the K3.
On the negative side, QRP-L is little more than a small circle of the same dozen people making 90% of the posts that occur there with the real meat of QRP technical discussion taking place on a specific rig’s dedicated YahooGroup. Ditto for the operational aspects of QRP: SOTA and IOTA have their own forums, leaving QRP-L relegated to sharing space in the dusty bins with newsgroups.
I am more thankful than I can describe at the exposure I received to ideas, techniques and equipment on the old QRP-L. That doesn’t happen anymore with the real brain power having been sucked away to specific forums.
QRP DXers are mostly non-entities today – and I mean among QRPers! Look at the results in CQWW, ARRL DX contests or the DXCC/Zone status among QRP ops – you’ll see callsigns you’ve never heard of or seen on QRP-L. I think QRP DXers have come to think of themselves as DXers first, QRPers second.
Even QRP ARCI is a watered-down version of what it once was: a real go-to place for all things QRP…exactly what it should be, but no longer is.
Sorry to sound jaded – the fact is, I’m not. The recent coming-to-life of my ATS-4 along with periodic readings of excursions afield by W1PID and VA3SIE have re-awakened in me the desire to do the same. I intend to add an MTR and Steve’s upcoming 80/160 kit to the collection as soon as they’re available.