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Amateur Radio Still Valid

I have to take issue with a statement made in the editorial in Issue-5 2020 (All Dressed Up and Nowhere To Go). You said that ham radio service is no longer necessary because smartphones are simply better.

In an emergency, the cell phone network can become clogged and unresponsive. This total communication breakdown happened during the Camp Fire that wiped out Paradise, CA and other towns a couple of years ago and caused the death of more than 80 of the residents. It was later determined that quite a few of those lives could have been saved if communications hadn’t broken down.

Radio communications aren’t dependent on the cellular infrastructure. Our local amateur radio club (El Dorado County Amateur Radio Club at http://edcarc.net/) is setting up several Neighborhood Radio Watch units in our area, which is also heavily wooded. We’re using GMRS radios rather than the ham frequencies, so users don’t have to pass a test. We have weekly check-ins to give folks practice in using their radios.

During the nearby Caldor Fire this year, the radios were used extensively, and were quite beneficial. So don’t write amateur radio off yet! It still has its place in emergencies.

Gary Rathbun K7GXR

That’s what I love to hear! I wish your model could be replicated throughout the US. Thanks for bringing your work to our attention.

Bryan Bergeron

Knobbing Off

As a guitar player, I’m often amused at the number of knobs some amplifiers have, given the amp is just one component of the sound (also instrument, space, player, effects ...). It all seems excessive to the point of gratuitous.

I designed myself a preamp for my bass guitar for a power amplifier given to me by a friend. I chose the Fender Princeton dual triode topology primarily due to its low parts count and junk box availability. I breadboarded it so I could try different tone stacks, but I wasn’t happy with the results.

Remembering a joking conversation with another guitar player about “proper knob settings” (full or off), I removed the tone stack and volume control completely and let the preamp run wide open. I mean, the bass has volume and tone controls built in, and the power amp has a volume control, why did I need more? My hunch was correct! Ten components including the 12AU7 and nothing muddying up the sound. I even left out the on-off switch in my last act of minimalism. It unplugs from the wall ... what?

Sometimes one adds features because they can, and sometimes, like with portable equipment, it’s a good thing. However, I think we owe it to ourselves to ask as we head down that road of increasing functionality, “Is this knob really necessary?”

Thank you for the thought-provoking editorial by Bryan Bergeron in Issue-4 2020!