By Stuart – G4IYK

I haven’t had a chance to use that phrase for a long time but it sums up the situation as I find it, but what does it actually mean?

According to the Collins online Dictionary it means to English people, to outdo or defeat, while for Americans it means to damage or spoil completely.

If you are the type of person who likes to study ionospheric propagation from the comfort of your own back yard, but find the type of signal you want to listen to unavailable because it is being drowned out by mush, iether the american or English meaning will do.

Why am I asking this?

Because the current situation whereby the internet is seen as a replacement for all things, is not always a good thing. Take amateur radio, CB and shortwave listening for example. Like many I suppose, I am reluctant to want to switch off several thousand pounds worth of equipment accumulated after studying for a licence and teaching others the same, only to find it no longer works and whats left is to take up a subscription service for a digital internet radio instead. For one thing digital internet radio (like Zello) may well provide world wide chat nets for people to use and is probably great fun, and a valuable safety tool, but it also involves paying a subscription and very little skill – no more than you would need to operate a mobile phone.

Famously, President John F Kennedy said “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are difficult.”.

Thats right, our community enjoys a challenge and a chin wag afterwards, drawing satisfaction from how we set up and operate our radio’s. Thats good for our mental health and wellbeing and enhances our social lives.

The kind of cocked hat I am thinking about is one where there is little or no challenge left.

Designing your own radio station and using it effectively to cast and collect information across the globe is a huge source of satisfaction and a great sense of achievement, as is the ability to select the right frequency or channel at the right time of day for the desired result – a contact with another community member in any given country of the world.

Less appealing therefore is the situation where all contacts are made via single data channels on one of the many amateur band that everyone used to use. This leaves all the other frequency space available to be sold on, or wasted by big business. Fine, you may be able to contact the whole world in a week (my estimate) and don’t even have to listen or exchange anything other than a signal report but what happens when you’ve done all that? I am sure the numbers will be impressive but won’t it all be over in a flash? You could always go back to listening to the high powered stations, those that can lift their signals above your local noise level.

But wait – isn’t the art of radio operating to use as little power as possible to avoid interfering with other services (Radio\TV\Internet)? Won’t that encourage an “arms race” as people feel obliged to put up their power simply to get over the local noise they hear in their receivers? (because they think the noise is due to band conditions)..

There are shed loads of advice on the topic of interference jamming your radio receiver (AKA QRM). The best reads I find are that of QRM.Guru and the UKQRM Website but I have been racking my brains thinking how it is we got here and how we can get back to a state resembling the good old days? And is it really necessary to do that? Why don’t I just sit back and let the computer do all the work? After all now that HF is fast becoming a graveyard for junked receivers, I can always recycle or up-cycle my defunct equipment at the local tip ( Who is going to want to buy it if it doesn’t work?). (its OK, I realise that’s not sustainable).

How did we get here?

The theory here is that austerity is to blame. As thousands of local government and civil service jobs were dropped like a hot brick, to pay for the corporate losses caused when the stock market last crashed, this introduced a well known phenomena to government services called Gatekeeping. This practice (a form of rationing ) occurs when what’s left of the employees struggle to protect themselves from an excessive workload. They limit the services they provide, only taking on what they have the brains for, and what they can physically do.

It follows that when the Radio Interference Services tell a service user that they can only deal with it, if it is causing HARM, and add “lets face it, you are in a minority of people who like listening to radio – (where’s the harm in that now”?)

See here for the OFCOM definition of Harm.

Where does that leave us?

Whats left is self help, guided self help or giving up. There’s a lot to be said for pulling out all the wall warts and protecting the wiring in your own home – that might reduce the noise, but you can’t control the inaudible noise coming from the neighbours stuff. (Good if it were audible.)

Approaching your neighbours these days may be a risky and fruitless affair, but if you can get them to do the same you are on a winner.

Where does all this stuff come from?

Next in the blame chain are unscrupulous Telco’s and pedlers of sub standard devices, taking advantage of the lack of control (government used to provide,) to omit settings and components from their wares, thereby maximising profits etc. It follows that with interference services that don’t respond and an open playing field for manufacturers of faulty goods things can only get worse without action.

So what harm has been caused?

To answer that question you have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. The community I am a part of has been seriously weakened and people are leaving. It cannot grow, because it has lost the challenges provided by talking or signalling in morse, either in one to one contacts or in nets. Global contacts are a lot less likely because the ionosphere has become locally polluted. A knock on effect is that these skills and challenges won’t be available for others to use for their own satisfaction and wellbeing in the future. Basically this has been lost to austerity.

(Moreover at a time when the military are calling for HF Systems due to limitations of digital radio systems finding people with the skills or training them will more problematic.)

So what do we want and how do we achieve it?

Well for a start we want the situation put back to one where the only noise we hear on HF, other than our own transmissions, is generated by atmospherics and cosmic radiation instead of solar grid tie invertors, wall warts and power line transformers etc.

Yes, that will mean neighbours unplugging these so that you can enjoy the challenge once more. (As I found out this week some of the interfering devices are actually good to get rid of because they are consuming power and are long obsolete\no longer required, old technology etc.)

This week we have asked the RSGB to look again at its strategy and offered support. Here we think the RSGB are absolutely the right people to deal with this. Its their job, and a difficult one but hey, why do we choose to go to the moon?

We think to save our community from being knocked into a cocked hat, the RSGB must lead on the development of an interference service that is capable of resolving all cases of interference and at the expense of the consumer and suppliers of dirty devices.

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