My head hertz

Field day is a lot of fun, even if you can’t go out in the field. This year between work schedule and getting Whooping cough (I am not kidding), I was trapped inside. Lucky for me, I was trapped inside my house where my radio is.

So I participated in Field Day as a 1D– a 1-person operation in a base station with regular power. In other words, the “I want to play on field day but I want to keep effort to a minimum” class. Not only did this allow me to join in, it allowed me to work in bursts between coughing fits, choose my pace, and not have to worry about messing up anyone else’s goals. I figured that while I couldn’t go out and play, I could still help other people get contacts and make some of my own. After all, the bands would be active.

I did say it was fun. And it was. But I also aged quite a bit. I am only 50 years old. Some of you think that is old. Others know it is not old yet. But boy did playing Field Day bring out the grumpy old man in me in several situations, particularly because:

Element 3: General
Subelement G2 – Operating Procedures
Group G2B – Operating courtesy; band plans, emergencies, including drills and emergency communications

Question G2B05
What is the customary minimum frequency separation between SSB signals under normal conditions?
A. Between 150 and 500 Hz
B. Approximately 3 kHz
C. Approximately 6 kHz
D. Approximately 10 kHz

Correct Answer: B

A SSB signal is just under 3kHz wide. About 2.8kHz, really. When you study for your license, if you study the material and not just the question pool answers, you know this well. But even if you memorized just the questions and answers, you should know this 3kHz guideline from memorizing the above question.

Field day is a busy and crowded situation. Everyone operating SSB 3kHz from everyone else is probably an unrealistic goal, especially on the congested 20 and 40 meter bands. Fine. But even if you find yourself skimming the bandwidth, you should know this 3kHz guideline from memorizing the above question.

However, that is assuming you actually know what a Kilohertz *IS*, and what one looks like on your radio display.

For example, 14.268 Megahertz is also 14,268 kilohertz. If you know this, you know that 14.259 MHz is only 1 kHz away from that. Adjusting your display from 14.268.000 14.268.003 is only 3 Hz. Adjusting to 14.268.3 is only 300 Hz.

This is where I got grumpy. If people were trying to get away with 2.5 or 2 kHz, or even 1.5 kHz knowing there would be some interference but that communication could probably be achieved, I would write it off as people trying to squeeze the most out of congested bands. People who know they aren’t fully in their lane, but trying to squeeze through with everyone else.

But I don’t know how many times it turned out the loud splatter interference I heard was coming from a station EXACTLY 3Hz, 30Hz, or 300Hz away from the one I was trying to respond on. This is basically driving in the same lane but a little closer to the line. There’s going to be a collision.

The ‘3’ was right, and yet the result was so wrong. The only way I can think to explain this is knowing the answer to the above question while not actually understanding what it means. For crying out loud, learn your decimal places, people! Or more to the point, memorizing the question pool is like bringing the answer key with you to the test. You’ll pass, but that won’t mean you’ve learned anything.

Moral: Ok, I am old now. Get off my lawn.