for straight key night 2007, i combined my brand new ten tec jupiter with my old faithful brown brothers ctl-b. i was able to work almost from coast to coast on all my favorite bands — 40, 80 and 160 meters. [steve schmitz, w0sjs, photo]
there are two arrl events each year that, for me, are the cornerstones of what it means to be a licensed amateur radio operator: field day and straight key night.
i enjoy field day because it is a time when you can get together with your friends and use every piece of knowledge, skill and equipment you have gathered over the years for a single purpose. straight key night represents, in a single evening, all of the history, ingenuity and excitement that radio can offer to those who make the effort and gain the license. in this single event, we come together as a community and celebrate not only where we have come from, but also who we are and where we are going. straight key night brings us all together, even though we may come from completely different ends of the radio spectrum, to a single meeting place to enjoy a common historical practice — talking in morse code.
a part of history
it really doesn’t matter if i meet and chat with someone who has been licensed longer that i have been alive, or someone brand new — it is the meeting and connection that morse code brings that binds us all together. even if you only operate the mode once a year, it still connects you to the whole of our history.
personally, i love the code because it’s fun to make and fun to be able to use effectively. it allows you to find and use that special key that is just perfect and represents who you are. i appreciate all of the aspects of our service and believe that we should always be forward looking, but it’s nice to have some constant that identifies you, rather than you operated in 1920 or 2007, and morse code makes that connection.
i made only 17 contacts this year, but i spent the better part of 3.5 hours in pure enjoyment. i combined my brand new ten tec jupiter with my old faithful brown brothers ctl-b, working almost from coast to coast and on all my favorite bands — 40, 80 and 160 meters.
friends near and far
i had decided to call it a day a little early when i ran across a very good friend, al hunterson, w8gej, who now lives in ohio. we meet some years ago on 40 meters and have been good friends ever since. not only do we share a common interest in cw and 40 meters, but also a common history. al used to live in missouri and we have mutual friends; we have been to the same places and events, so a strong friendship was natural.
but, as amateur radio often does, our common interest in cw and 40 meters led us to find new mutual friends and one is bob booher, k8jpm. bob lives near al, but just a bit too close for good cw chats. i often catch bob as he is operating cw in his car to and from work; i pass along hellos from al to him, and he sends the same back to al via me. i act as the repository of what’s new, trading that information back and forth between us friends.
“a common denominator”
this is probably nothing new to most of you reading this, but it is a hallmark of what this service and the privileges our unique licensing means and can provide. we all can find our niche in amateur radio, whether it be chasing dx, providing public service or just talking on hf, vhf/uhf or via the internet radio linking project (irlp). the most important thing is that amateur radio offers a diverse group of individuals a common denominator and a way of making that most important of all contacts — human contact. it is what makes us unique and what makes our hobby unique.
another straight key night has passed, and i have another set of wonderful memories that few other ventures that i do could match. i hope to see you on the air for straight key night 2008.
editor’s note: straight key night 2008 will begin at 7 pm est december 31, 2007, and run for 24 hours through 7 pm est january 1, 2008 (0000-2400 utc january 1, 2008). for more information on straight key night 2007, please see the december 2006 issue of qst (page 98) and the april 2007 issue (page 101).
stephen schmitz, w0sjs, has been licensed for more than 30 years. his radio interests have all centered on operating cw and public service, helping out with communications during hurricanes, floods and local events in the st louis area. recently retired after 36 years from teaching high school science, stephen had a school radio club in his classroom, and several of his students went on to get their tickets. he is involved in the national traffic system and serves as an arrl official relay station. stephen is a member of the arrl, qcwa, fists, north american qrp club and ares, as well as serving as a net control station for both arrl’s missouri section and region ten nts cycle 4 cw traffic net; he is also involved with the st louis area skywarn. stephen works part-time for the greater st louis science fair and as a grant writer/manager for his former school district.