Noun: an Elmer
1. a person who helps would-be, new and practiced amateur radio operators with technical and operating questions
2. an inspiration, a role model for good technical and operating practice
Verb: to Elmer, Elmering
1. to help someone with amateur radio technical and operating questions
2. to demonstrate and share exemplary technical and operating knowledge, skill and practice
Amateur radio involves a little or a lot of a mix of two things - communications and technology. Some become involved for the enjoyment of communications with or for others, some for the immersion into various technologies, some a little bit of both. Balance is good in all things.
Although dubbed amateur radio, one cannot deny that a LOT of excellent science and professional-grade technology has been a hallmark of this unique hobby - as new innovations and inventions, as resulting careers, and in the results of the communications made possible by it.
Self-study and tinkering/experimentation are most certainly a part of learning about amateur radio and its technologies, and we also tend to reach out to at least observe, if not ask or participate in more involved aspects to acquire more knowledge and experience.
If you are not technically inclined you needn't be shy about amateur radio because the activity needs as many people to actually use the technology to communicate as it does knowledgable people to make it work.
Good people skills helps you be open to and sharing amateur radio with new people, places and knowledge. One thing we have often heard and need to remind ourselves of is that some of the best contacts in ham radio start by listening more and talking less.
Listening more allows us to observe and absorb the context of things around us and how we might interact with them. Most importantly listening also tells us if someone else is on-the-air so we can avoid interfering with them. Similar regard applied to technical discussions also expands our learning.
The breadth and depth of the early and subsequent exposure to and practice of amateur radio can distinctly shape the progress, success and growth of individuals and the hobby itself.
There can be no denying that amateur radio involves a lot of technology. Radio and electronics are science, in very basic and approachable implementations.
If you are technically inclined, at any level, beginner or degreed professional, do keep an open mind about what others around you know and need to know, and how they can best learn it. Almost every question has a well-documented answer absent any interpretation, opinion, bias, language, culture, age or gender.
Amateur radio is also the only hobby provide for and regulated by the governments in most countries. This provides it a level of unique recognition as well as responsibility - locally, within a host nation, and internationally.
Among ourselves we are a highly visible million or so people with unique and diverse interests, skills and interactions. We were global long before 'Internet' was a word, and we can be the only available critical link between cities, states, countries and continents when the Internet is compromised for any number of reasons.
This may or may not be important to any one of us but it sure comes up alot as an excuse, an entitlement, an authorization of sorts to be or behave as something or someone other than who and what we really are - people who get to take unique advantage of sciences and privilege and communicate with anyone, anywhere, almost any way we want about anything anytime. Few things in this world are as democratic as that.
Elmers respond well to invitations, to questions, and like new helpful information as well.
Elmers have a preference for good, accurate, true, correct, measurable, verifiable things.
Elmers *love* equipment that works properly, safely, does 'cool' stuff and lasts a long time.
Things that Elmers like and work with aren't simply 'great' or "the only thing worth having" or "the best color" they are things that meet a specific need, operate a specific way.
Things that Elmers do not like or don't use are't simply things that 'suck' or "look funny" but instead do not function well or properly according to their intended operating parameters.
Elmers also dis-like and avoid junk-science, myths, lies, magic, trolls, sarcasm, rudeness, insults, drama, emotion - just about anything and everything anyone else can do to block others from getting the information, help, confidence, results and success they need and want from this hobby.
Good radio is good discussion. Radio is science and facts.
The science, the measurements, the known good and bad results and ways things actually do work based on the laws of nature should be enough to help keep our mutual interests and interactions fair and objective.
Unfortunately the objectivity of science, the rules of nature, aren't always enough to get or keep a good discussion in a positive direction to help one or many people understand and get more out of this hobby. Junk-science, low-information, lack of objectivity will undermine this hobby for everyone. It's not fair to everyone else for you to be the Anti-Elmer.
While there are always the "I don't know how it works but watch this..." and "I think it works this way, so it must!" realms, we hope most of that turns into "I heard about/saw this thing... can you tell me how it really works?" and "I think it works this way but I'm not really sure. Can you help?"
Hams do a lot of very brilliant and ingeneous things. We do a lot of crazy even outrageous and stupid things too, and some are excused as experimentation. The claim, the umbrella of experimentation implies that you are open to finding out how or if something works one way or the other, and if not - how it really does work.
If you're not open to how things really work, then you're not really experimenting, or qualifying what it is you are doing, hoping to accomplish or learn. Mostly then you're just screwing-around with a bunch of parts, perhaps a dangerous amount of electrons, bragging mostly about how entertaining the activity was to you without really being effective or educational for anyone, and lucky not to hurt yourself or someone else.
If you really want to know something - state a fair question and an Elmer will appear and help a discussion along the way to a good power supply, good radio, good audio, matched and resonant antenna, non-interference...
If you really do know something - help out the inquisitive. Find out what they are working on, what they want and expect to happen. If they have the right stuff guide them to make it work right. If they have the wrong stuff guide them to the right stuff.
Remember - it's all science. It's not your science. It's not my science. It is our science. It either works according to the known laws of science or it doesn't. Getting all personal about science won't change science but obviously it changes you. Radio's about science. Let's work on that part!
For those on Facebook who'd rather engage Elmers and in Elmering than be "schooled by trolls"...
© 2015 de Jim Aspinwall, No1PC