The GERATOL Net

75 Meter Extra Class WAS Net

I’M JUST SAYIN’

On occasion we will post some “opinion” oriented articles on the GERATOL Website, to spur discussion and thought regarding a variety of topics, germane to the hobby of Amateur Radio.

This article discusses, “The lost art of rag-chewing”

Based on GERATOL Net participants, the majority of GERATOLers have quite a few years as licensed operators under their belts. The success of our 50/50 Award is proof of that fact. Luckily, for the survival of the net going forward, we also have a good cadre of fairly new operators, who also join the net in search of their basic award qualifications, and for the comradery experienced on our net. While I realize, our GERATOL Net is not conducive to lengthy Rag Chewing, but rather is dedicated to a specific activity, we can, none the less, look at our hobby from another, non-Worked All States perspective.

I’d like to pose a question to both groups, namely, the old timers as well as the newer members of the fraternity of Ham Radio. Whatever happened to the age-old Ham Radio tradition of Rag Chewing ??? For those not familiar with the term, RAG CHEWING means to have a fairly lengthy conversation with another amateur operator. I think the Rag Chewers Club (RCC) was the first Amateur Radio award for which I qualified. To qualify, one need only provide evidence of having made a single QSO that lasted more than 30 minutes. The implication being that such a contact involves interacting with another Ham to cover more than the abbreviated signal report and location contact.

EXAMPLE of RCC Certificate

Such lengthy conversations were prevalent on all bands, not just the HF bands at one time. I recall having rag chew round tables on Six Meters back in the 60’s, with as many as 20 stations participating, that would last for two hours or more. I remember putting up omni-directional stacked Cushcraft Squalo antennas, so I could hear the stations from all directions… My RCC Award was initiated by a fellow ham in the same state, on six meters, where we had chatted for over an hour.

Cushcraft ASQ-15 - Cushcraft Squalo Antennas
Cushcraft Squalo

Seems today, the norm is more like, “Your 5-9, state is MA, 73’s” Along this same trend, is the loss of VHF Repeater activity. I also recall, as do many of you, no doubt, the 2 Meter daily “round tables” with fellow sufferers headed into the salt mines each day. A one hour commute, was shortened in scope, by interacting with fellow travelers along the asphalt jungle, via 2 Meter or even 440 repeater activity.

In addition to the “5-9, see you later” QSO’s, we can now add in the newest modes of communication, via digital exchanges. Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in new and exciting modes of operating. It is clearly one of Ham Radio’s greatest contributions to communications. Namely, the adoption, development and use of new modes of communication. Heck, I am not only a believer, but a user of them as well. On the plus side, it allows communications via using much lower power, with more simple antenna arrangements, and under poor band conditions, which of course, we have been subjected to the last several years. However, with the advent of modes such as FT-8, two ops don’t even need to be at their respective radios when the exchanges are made. It’s all mechanized, without the personal touch that comes from legacy-mode human-to-human contacts and conversation.

The good news about our net, the GERATOL net, is that we are lucky to have Net Control Operators who not only promote the original mission of the net, namely, to allow two stations to confirm QSO’s in the effort to obtain working all 50 states, but they also promote a friendly, and cordial dialogue, not only between check-ins and NCS, but from one operator to another. We ALWAYS, exchange names along with QSO’s. Some WAS nets, don’t even bother with that. We get to know each other, and our interests as well. If you need proof, check into the net on Wednesday evenings, and listen to how cordial, friendly, welcoming and down right FUN the net can be when Bob, AI4IL runs the net.

Beyond our net though, “I’m Just Sayin’ “ let’s take the time to reach out to new Hams and have a real conversation with them. If you are into CW, jump down to the slower speed areas of 80 and 40 meters, typically around 3.535-40 and 7.035-40 respectively, and have a nice QSO with a chap learning the code. Or, jump on to any of the HF bands and put out a CQ !! Or, fire up the 2meter rig for something other than a local net, and say, Your call sign, followed by “Listening” and have a QSO with someone….

Let’s not lose our ability to communicate human-to-human with our fellow Ham operators, but above all, HAVE FUN !!

Feel free to weigh in, and make a “Comment” on this opinion POST. Am I right, or am I wrong ? Let’s hear from our fellow GERATOLers about this.

I’m Just Sayin’ – Kevin N1KL

posted by Kevin in GERATOL NET NEWS and have Comment (1)

One Response to “I’M JUST SAYIN’”

  1. Barry K2MF says:

    This is a fascinating topic. Thank you for bringing it up, Kevin!

    I received my Rag Chewers Club certificate after my 2nd “real” CW QSO as a Novice in 1964 (from K8QYG, now SK). Apparently, I was much more of a conversationalist on the air, even on CW, at the tender age of 14 than I am now almost at the age of 71.

    Back when I was first licensed, radio was a brand new hobby for me. Every time I turned the big dial (on the receiver) it was an adventure. Never knowing what or who I would hear had a magical quality that made me want to reach out and talk to other people who had the same passion that I did.

    Over the years, I certainly made a good number of friends in ham radio by the simple act of having a really good rag chew with them on a first meeting. There is nothing better at starting a lifetime amateur radio friendship than having a casual conversation on the air about similar interests and “comparing notes”.

    But Kevin, I think you’re right. I believe that in general, there has been a major shift away from rag chewing on amateur radio.

    Some of this may be due to a different pace of life and the exposure to more alternatives for interpersonal communications with each other that we have in 2021 than we did only just 30 years ago. The world is certainly “smaller” today than it was back then, when it seemed to hold the possibility of making new discoveries about people and places. I believe this is likely a major factor in what drove my own interests during my early years in this hobby.

    And then some of this may simply be due to how we personally transform in our personal lives and how our interests may change over the years.

    A little about me…

    I first found the Geratol Net in 1978 when I was 28 and I was very active on it for a period of about 7 years until 1985 when I was 35. The Geratol Net was my first real introduction to SSB Net operation and I remember being so impressed with the skills of the operators who participated in the Net and the Net Controls who could run it so efficiently, that I believe I was actually somewhat awestruck by this Net. I was so smitten with it that I couldn’t get enough of it and spending time on the air with a core group of the same other folks who were on this Net night after night.

    I immersed myself in the Net during those years. I had fun editing and publishing a Geratol Net newsletter and chasing endorsements, all the while “racing” against other Geratolers to earn them before they did and vice-versa. It was all in good fun as we were all great friends, but this was likely my first personal baby step away from rag chewing. And I think that as a general principle, the more you are interested in earning awards the less you will be interested in rag chewing. Perhaps a reverse comparison can also be made.

    Overlapping with this, in 1981 I found county hunting as an activity of interest and slowly, over the many years during which there were long periods of time when I was completely inactive from operating on HF, I became obsessed with that, too.

    I often joke that it takes longer to log a county hunting contact than it does to actually make the contact itself. And obviously, this became a more significant step for me away from rag chewing as well. Generally, a county hunting contact takes about 5-10 seconds, usually with a running mobile station in a county you need, and then you spend the next minute or so logging that contact and doing the record keeping.

    Obviously, being focused on activity like that also takes hobby time away from rag chewing.

    Today, what little operating time I have I spend almost entirely on CW and although I am still active with county hunting, the number of contacts I have been having has been significantly reduced in recent years as I am attempting to “wind down” from this activity and only complete some very specific lifetime achievements I have been working toward for a very long time.

    So overall, I haven’t utilized amateur radio as a hobby to “to pass the time” in a very many years and commensurate with that, my personal interest in rag chewing on HF is at an all time low.

    Are there possibly some other factors? Perhaps.

    I have been retired for about 8.5 years now and I have oddly found more to do in retirement than I ever did when I was working! It seems that for me, the more that time travels forward, the busier I get, which intuitively, is the exact opposite from what any reasonable person might surmise.

    I believe that I am also suffering from what might be called “old man syndrome”. I no longer seem to have the patience to take the time to rag chew as I once had. I’m not entirely sure I know why that is, except that while I am still actively interested in the amateur radio hobby, most of the ham radio-related things which occupy my time now are not specifically related to on-the-air operating activities.

    My interest in computers has a lot to do with that.

    I was originally introduced to personal computing in 1983. My computer workstation is now co-located with my amateur radio HF operating position, and I find that for a very many years, the amount of time I have been spending on the computer has increased and the amount of time I have been operating on HF has decreased, both significantly enough so that today they are in an approximate 95% to 5% ratio.

    In closing, this is what my own experiences have been in this wonderful hobby that we all share, and I hope I have been able to offer some insight as to why and how my own amateur radio interests have changed as I approach my “twilight” years.

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