Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Tao of QRPp

I sometimes imagine that milliwatting on the high-frequency bands must be a bit like sailing a dinghy across a busy ocean shipping lane. For long spells it's as though you are alone, bobbing upon a vast sea. Suddenly a huge ship appears from nowhere. Judging from it's course and speed there's little doubt that it hasn't seen you, and it likely never will. Your only option is to get out of the way. Only when it has passed can you return to your intended heading. It's not only the traffic, but weather as well that can upset your hopes for a successful voyage. 

If a man is crossing a river
And an empty boat collides with his own skiff,
Even though he be a bad-tempered man
He will not become very angry.
But if he sees a man in the boat,
He will shout at him to steer clear.
If the shout is not heard, he will shout again,
And yet again, and begin cursing.
And all because there is somebody in the boat.
Yet if the boat were empty.
He would not be shouting, and not be angry.

The challenge of milliwatting involves navigating through both QRN and QRM. The operator knows before he sets out what he's getting himself into. One moment you're sailing on an empty frequency and the next you find yourself 40dB beneath the hull of a leviathan.

Nature made QRN and QRM alike. And whether QRN or QRM, every difficulty that we face adds another line of bumpers to the pin-ball table. One of life's little joys is reflecting on where all the bumpers were when you did something worth remembering.       

Two winters back, while calling a DX station on 80m, another station turned up on frequency with the comment, "PISS WEAK" at the end of several of my transmissions. In a "just so" story the DX station would have picked up my call, allowing me to clench my jaw and send for all to hear, "RIG ONE TRANSISTOR ES 85MW." Of course the DX station didn't hear me that night. In retrospect I'm glad that he didn't. At least not then. 

     Who can free himself from achievement
     And from fame, descend and be lost
Amid the masses of men?
He will flow like Tao, unseen,
His steps leave no trace. He has no power.
He achieves nothing, has no reputation.
Since he judges no one
No one judges him.

Such is the perfect man:
His boat is empty.

Chuang Tzu


  1. This is one of the most interesting posts on the subject of QRP and QRPp. I will save and eventually print it out for myself.
    73 Dick

  2. I'm reminded of Kennedy's space program speech: "We do not do this because it is easy, we do this because it is hard..."