Have you ever written to another Ham via email? You find their email address on something like QRZ.com. You write something non confrontational, just some trivial question, and then you send it out into the aether! Sometimes you get back a Server Error from the domain’s mail server informing you that this email address does not exist? Sometimes you don’t get any error message, but in fact it is an orphaned email address, that was used many years ago, but the individual moved on to another email address and hasn’t bothered to update his posted email address at major Ham websites on the Internet. Sometimes you hit a notice that your intended recipient only allows predetermined email accounts to get through to them, all others are not wanted and will not be forwarded. Then there are times that you don’t get any kind of an error, you just never get a reply, and if you see the guy in real life he invariably tells you that “it must have gone directly into my Spam file bucket”!
My record with emails to fellow Hams is abysmal. About 90% fall into the email black hole category, no response of any kind. Roughly 8% fall into the once and only once category – they respond in a very friendly manner, but if you ask for any further clarification you’re back in the old black hole! Two percent of the time you can develop a nice dialog with the Ham at the other end, but those are not great odds! Of course commercial emails to Hams offering business services is an entirely different matter – most of the time you get a prompt response.
My initial experience with email, in general, was with fellow computer hobbyists on shared mainframe services like Compuserve, a large, national commercial Bulletin Board System. You could correspond with Arab Sheiks, noted authors, white collar professionals and tradesmen. Kind of like the ultimate text based repeater system! Responses were rarely dropped, unless one side stated that they were done with the subject, and the response time was at most in hours, not days, weeks, or months. I suppose I got spoiled from those days, and when non-computer enthusiasts were attracted to these services and email especially, I noticed that the response rate and response times began to suffer. I erroneously thought that the Hams that I had read about in the pages of QST in my youth were technophiles like myself, curious about all nascent technology and they would pounce upon a received email as my fellow computer enthusiast do. I was wrong.
I was wrong about my generalization that ALL Hams are interested in all technology and race to use it all as soon as it becomes available. I guess I was projecting my traits onto others, a common mistake. The only consistent trait I found among operating Hams is the interest to play with radios! Although many will carry a large number of HTs hanging from their belts, they might not even consider owning one Smart Phone! Perhaps it is the joy of not being that easily reachable, or it is a serious doubt that its technology is worth the expense and the trouble. To me it is the mating of a duplex wireless HT with a computer, enormously more powerful than my older personal computers from the 1980’s and 1990’s. It’s like Haagen-Dazs Cookies and Cream Ice Cream – how could that combination go wrong?
Yet we have technophobic Amateur Radio Operators among our numbers. Guys that would still never consider having a computer cohabit in their Radio Shacks! Many Hams, that have finally relented to dragging their grandkids old retired PC to operate as a log book, are still running WindowsXP! I have a picture in my mind’s eyes of them still using VCRs that have 12:00 blinking perpetually because they didn’t have the patients to learn how to set the time on it!
Come on people! New technology won’t bite you. Give all this new stuff a chance!
The point of this particular article is meant to focus on many Ham’s attitudes that almost ALL email, is unnecessary SPAM and should be avoided at all cost. They are wary to ever give out their email address, if they fess up to having one, like there’s no such thing as Spam filters, and their Spam filters seem to have a hairpin trigger – almost anything sends the received email off into the trashcan Bitbucket!
Those people that do admit to an active email existence sound a bit like those cranky guys that tell anyone that will listen how they had to trudge uphill in the mud (both ways) 200 miles to get back and forth from grade school! These days you hear them complain that they often get thousands of emails that they must review. I seriously doubt that people who are not famous get thousands of legitimate emails any day – perhaps multiple copies of sales notices and offers to cure that E.D., that seems to be a lucrative scam. All this crud can be handled with Spam filters, and often is!
So, my parting advice is that we should not hold on so tightly to our email addresses as though they are the tribe’s anointed virgins meant for a big ceremonial sacrifice. Share it with your fellow Hams and try to be a bit more responsive to them. After all, part of this hobby is about communicating. Why not communicate with email too!
So guys (and gals)… loosen up on the email taboos, eh? Being open to other forms of communication won’t kill you – if communicating shortened life spans none of us Hams would have made it to this age!
-The (Cranky) Editor-