Placing Hams into ‘little boxes’…


Are you a Sagittarius with Mars on the cusp of Libra?

Damned if I know – I think the whole thing is a bit of foolish nonsense, but it does highlight a cognitive flaw in our design where we recognize vague generalized self-aggrandizing characteristics as our special very own positive attributes.

We love to put people into neat little boxes and thereby assume that we are all much simpler and easier to understand as are our motivations and actions.

Let’s play that game with us Amateur Radio Operators!

First, let’s split us in twain, or even better, thrice!?

There are many among us who are primarily motivated in this hobby by making contacts. Be it time limited contests, games of tag DX “Worked All Universes”, Emergency Communications or just rag chewing. Some further disparage this group or a segment within this group as “so called appliance operators”, but I think that this is counterproductive and divisive. Some of us are just more interested in the “end” rather than the “means to an end”.

Then there are the guys who are really interested in the “means to an end”. The “magic of radio”. The mystery of how you talk in Poughkeepsie and get heard in Azerbaijan. Invisible, magic “chats at a distance”.

I can further divide these guys and gals into three subgroups – The Technician, The Engineer, and The Scientist, although I will admit no one is 100% of one and none of the other – they are all bit of a Chimera – made up of aspects of one another, in different percentages.

The way I see it, the Technician is the guy with A LOT of practical experience that has received some mentoring from their elders. Full of sage advice, cookbook recipes and quick and dirty tricks that solve problems and get those gadgets that aren’t working right and get them working pronto!

The Engineers have a foundation of theory that they use to leverage their own practical experiences to try to understand what’s going wrong and how it can be made to work. They are just as interested in whipping something, brand new, up themselves rather than fixing some other guy’s creation. Their solutions aren’t always as quick and dirty as a Technician’s can be, but in a pinch they will use them as well. They know that the devil is in the details, but they also know that in the real world some details are less important than others, and not to allow themselves to get lost in the details that won’t matter for a given situation.

Then there are The Scientists. The guys that are way too much theory, at times, and not quite enough practical experience. They have a great grasp of the equations and may even have a good sense what the mathematics fundamentally might mean, and they tend to like precision, almost to extremes. They are the theorists, although experimental Scientists may not seem quite as theoretical – trying to understand a device, even better an overall principle, much more than wanting to design one (as The Engineer might) or fix one (as The Technician might).

I have happened upon a crude instrument for measuring who is who, which is anecdotal, and may be utterly wrong, but I will share it with the audience:

When I ask these people what ‘pi’ is, there are usually three kinds of answers offered…

One group will tell you that it Is an irrational number, a number that cannot be expressed as a simple fraction. They might go on to describe it as a transcendental number – a number that isn’t the root of any non-zero polynomial having rational coefficients. A number that goes on forever and never repeats and never stops. A small bit of magic in and of itself…

Another group would tell you that it is an infinitely long non-repeating number that can be approximated according to the significant digits of the values of the other variables in the necessary equations needed to be solved for the job at hand.

The third will say that it is 22/7th
Is one better than the other? Hell no! We need to be a bit of each of these archetypes, to make the best of our amazing hobby. Contacts are great, contests are great, playing “radio” is great…

But hold on to that wonder and that magic that drew you to this hobby so many years ago.

Aspire to be your own Technician/Engineer/Scientist!

And remember to have fun!