The Proof is in the Pudding – Why We Do Field Day in the First Place


Off to Field Day?

Off to Field Day, circa 1930



My local club, Mancorad W9DK, in all respects had an excellent 2008 Field Day – stations were set up, commissioned, manned, and torn down by a wide range of club members.

Contacts made, technical glitches discovered and overcome, all while much experienced was gained.

This is what Field Day is about!  

It is the learning, testing and doing that comes from actually putting equipment, systems, interoperability, and most of all the people to task.

One big lesson learned by the Mancorad ARES/RACES side of our club has centered on Digital Systems.

Digital Mode Systems are the most complex system-wise and software-wise of the systems we deployed at Field Day.

I’ve written before about using Screen Shots and Cheat Sheets to keep track of the myriad of system settings – each software program and system setting.

We’ve discovered that mischievous software, software designed to use primitive trouble-shooting logic-tables to fix common faults, made one of our systems fail.  Not fail at field day, but fail by being nearly impossible to repeat its original set up as one of our Emcomm Stand-By stations at the club shack.

While annoying, it is in fact a fantastic lesson.

We had been putting unwarranted faith in a Digital Set Up that lacked the robustness, repeatability and deployability to be counted upon.

Field Day had done its magic – it had helped us to discover a serious weakness in our Emcomm station capabilities.

All the designs we had, the “cheat sheets” we thought had the right information, and the training we had done were shown, in this one aspect, as inadequate to consider the Mancorad ARES/RACES Digital Mode station as a “done deal.”

We hadn’t realized how much we had “tinkered” together our system, how the software & computer were really previously brought into a state of “truce” but were actually fighting us, and how we had a major capability failure hiding behind a gloss of working “ok” under very limited ideal conditions.

We were in no way in Mastery of this system, and it taught us that lesson with our failure to be able to reset the software & hardware quickly.

Field Day put this system to the test and showed us that this Digital Mode set up was fragile, the depth of understanding how to set it up again was limited, and that correction would be many hours of work.

Field Day let us find this out in “practice” rather than during an actual Field Deployment.

Of course we have voices who said “If you hadn’t taken the gear out of the club shack, none of this would have happened,” but they are words of frustration that after deeper consideration hopefully will realize that discovery of this sort of problem is why we test the gear.  

I should mention that in previous years we’d had a similar denial of problem, complaint of discovery of problems and after reflection effective correction of problems.  The club’s band-pass filtering, antenna systems and station networking all stem from past Field Day experiences that exposed significant short comings.

Apparently this is just human nature.

What did your club discover during Field Day?





Previous Articles of Use of Screen Shots:

Making a List & Checking it Twice – Checklists & Screen Shots for Amateur Radio

Rebuilding the Macbook – Lessons to Apply to the Ham Shack

Snap Snap – Photographing Your Shack & Setup

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