The problem with many Baofeng operators … not all of them… is that many ARE clueless. For instance, the argument that all I can afford is a $30.00 radio. Well, have you ever heard of the concept of saving money for a few months? It’s not that complicated. Drop your _____ habit for a few weeks. (I always find it ironic since these are the same guys belly aching on-air that if you can’t afford something, you don’t do it.)

But in all seriousness, I have tried since this infestation began in 2011 to educate Baofeng operators. No, we don’t call CQ on a 2m repeater. No, the signal meter on your radio indicates the strength of the repeater NOT the person you’re talking to. No, not all repeaters are open. Some listen. Most don’t. Most argue that they’re new to radio or something, and then carry-on with the same behavior as soon as the next person comes along and tells them the same thing. Listen to any wide-coverage repeater on a given weekend. You’ll notice it real quick. Then they sit around online and pontificate why no one returns their call for CQ on the repeater and the like. The problem with many of these guys is they seem to know everything, and aren’t willing to learn.

Look at all the comments about this on QRZ, eHam, Facebook, etc.

Many of the people commenting struggle composing English sentences in proper English.

It seems to me that any ham that owns anything other than a $30.00 radio doesn’t know what he/she is talking about and is an elitist. The biggest comment I’ve received from people is, “It’s all I can afford so please stop being an elitist.” I then reference the comment I made above, and then suggested that radio is possibly not the best hobby for their budget. Or get a second or third job. The second biggest comment (the one that is really telling of how clueless some operators really are) is that I have no way of enforcing this. Excuse me? All I had to do was enable MDC. Baofengs don’t have that capability. In a few weeks, once testing is completed, we’ll be making the switch to P25. That completely wrote off all of the Baofeng-only users out there because their radios aren’t capable of these protocols. Completely enforceable. (And it isn’t an elitist thing… XTS-3000s can be had for $100.00 from a local dealer in Vegas who will program it up for you free of charge.)

These are the people that we decided we were done with. As KY5U stated, these people really are Ham Zombies. (KY5U, thanks for the term – may I borrow it?) They have no Elmer because they don’t “need” one. They have no idea about how radio works. They don’t care to. To them, ham radio is another social network. Now I’m not saying that every ham needs to know how radio works 100%. I still have a hard time grasping some of the concepts. I’m not an engineer. Most of us aren’t, but the ham test was designed to guarantee that there is a basic level of understanding within the amateur ranks. The advent of the Baofeng and other low-cost/low-investment technology has allowed people who really have no true interest in radio or the art to join the ranks. By sharing programming files, many people aren’t even learning the basic terms of 50 MHz and above (ie. Repeater offset, PL/CTCSS, DPL/DCS, wide/narrow, etc.).

Meanwhile, people are defending this behavior and/or promoting it. Yet, they’ll be the same person to tell his/her child or grandchild that “it isn’t about the quantity, but the quality.” It amazes me how many clubs will just program a portable for a newbie without instructing him/her on how to it. Whatever happened to the old adage: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

The best part of this experience has been that I have the satisfaction of knowing I have inspired other repeater owners (primarily in North America) to develop similar policies. I have received dozens of e-mails from independent repeater owners across the United States and Canada telling me that I have inspired them to move their repeater towards _____ (P25, DMR, NXDN, Dstar, Fusion) technology. To me, it seems like my repeater group is just the tip of an iceberg of fed-up repeater owners. All I can say is there are a lot of people that might not agree with my methods, but they definitely agree with the motive.

Next op-ed: How do rectify the situation, and help these “zombie hams?”

(KY5U, seriously, can I borrow this term?)


As an active amateur radio operator in the Las Vegas metro area, Bill N4NJJ can be heard on many of the P25, DMR, and AllStar repeaters scattered throughout the area. He currently owns and operates several repeaters and nodes scattered throughout the country. Bill enjoys all of that Vegas has to offer including world-class entertainment and golf, spectacular vistas, and of course the decadent buffets.