Things To Come – A Cautionary Tale

By LES MITCHELL, G3BHK* (From: Radcom Magazine 1984)

OUR LITTLE GROUP of local ex-service G3 types often meets for a drink in the snug of the old coaching inn down by the riverside. Discussion ranges far and wide, but as one might expect revolves mainly around our wartime experiences and, of course, amateur radio.

Recently someone pointed out that he had not heard Bill on the bands for some time. Bill had obtained his licence immediately after the war and had spent every available moment chasing dx or chatting to his friends on 3•5MHz. Since he retired a few years ago he had spent even more time on the air, and it was very unusual not to hear him working on some band whenever one listened. When we compared notes we suddenly realized that no-one had heard Bill’s signal for over six months. “You live nearest to him,” said Joe, “why don’t you drop in and see what has happened. Let’s hope he is not a silent key, but I am sure we would have heard something if he had passed on.”

A few days later I knocked at Bill’s door rather worried that I might be faced by a tearful and grieving widow. The door swung open to reveal Bill with a big grin on his face and looking fitter than I had ever seen him. Within a short time I was sitting in an armchair with a full glass in my hand and explaining why I had called.

“Well,” said Bill, “it is a long story. You see just after l retired a relative of mine died and left me a useful sum of money. As you know, all my rigs were getting quite old, so I jumped at the chance to completely renew all my station equipment. “First of all l purchased one of those Sky-Gain automatic aperiodic multi-band beams plus the computer controller. This array works on all bands and the computer turns the array to the maximum signal path without any effort on the part of the operator. I mounted this on my old 100 ft. tower and it was fantastic!

“Then I invested in the very latest transceiver, the Fuji Yama FJ 20,001 which covers all bands l•8MHz. to UHF with full legal power and no tuning whatsoever. To supplement this I also bought two computerized attachments-one which enables you to enter all the call prefixes of the countries you have worked already on each band, and then commands the transceiver to hunt each band in turn and only stops when it hears a new prefix. This unit also allows one to program automatic replies – callsign, signal reports, handle, location and requests to QSL etc. It had an additional program which made automatic calls to any of my friends’ callsigns it heard on 3•5 and 7MHz. l had to keep these replies updated with the latest news: you know the sort of thing-the car has gone wrong again. I have just mown the lawn, the rheumatism is painful, the income tax people have overcharged me again, etc.

“The second computer unit was the printout attachment which automatically printed the log entries and produced fully-completed QSL cards. So you see l could just leave the rig on 24h/day and it would work the rare dx and also chat to my mates on 3•5MHz without me going near it except to add more printout paper and blank QSL cards. Apart from a trip to the post office every day to post the QSLs, it left me time for decorating, car cleaning, gardening and after-meal naps. After it had been on the air continuously for about a month I discovered I had worked every dx station which existed, and even my friends on 3•5MHz were not replying to my calls-I expect they did not like the impersonal touch.

Then I suddenly realized that this new rig had utterly and completely destroyed my interest in amateur radio. Even the walk to the post office was boring me, and the parcel post costs were also becoming a strain. So l then made the decision that after nearly 40 years on the air it was time to give up my hobby, I sold the rig, and with the money bought the XYL all the labour saving gadgets I could find – a washing machine, a microwave oven, a food processor, a dishwasher etc. Now she has as much spare time as me so we have taken up golf. It’s very relaxing and gets us out in the fresh air. In fact we are spending more time together than we have done since we were courting!”

Bill and his XYL and l smiled at each other as she refilled the glasses. When I related this story to the others later there were sad faces all around. “But,” I added, “Bill did tell me that he intends to renew his licence every year, so perhaps at some time in the future we shall hear him on again.” But remembering just how those two smiled at each other I have my doubts.

Sign of things to come?

73, Lee ZL2AL (Reprinted from Radcom 1984)