Chapter Four: Technical Specialist
In its continuing effort to fine-tune the League's Field Organization, the ARRL Board of Directors approved the creation of a new appointment called the Technical Specialist (TS). The Directors' first intent was for the TS to assist the TC in responding to correspondence from section members on various technical topics and to help reduce the Technical Information Service (TIS) workload as a duty of the ARRL Headquarters Staff. With the Board's parallel action of transferring the OO/RFI Coordinator's "RFI" function to the Technical Coordinator, TCs then needed additional section support to meet the demands of negotiating the ever-deepening RFI jungle. Briefly, that's how the Technical Specialist appointment was created and, as a result, such TS volunteers are responsible for two critical areas in the local technical arena:
- Perform as a general technical resource to individuals with technical questions.
- Resolve or reduce RFI problems.
The TS is a Station-level official appointment in the ARRL Field Organization. To apply for the TS appointment, contact your ARRL Section Manager or Technical Coordinator. If qualified, you may be appointed as an TS either directly by your SM or, under delegated authority from the SM, by your TC. The name, call, address and telephone number of your SM is listed on page 8 of QST. The call of your section's TC might be listed in the QST Section News for your section, or is available from your SM. When appointed as an TS, you will be registered with Headquarters as an official appointee and receive an attractive certificate.
For the TS function to be effective in ARRL's Section structure, we'll need many TSs. We're searching for qualified candidates in local clubs, repeater groups, the electronics industry, everywhere: individuals that are self-starters, outgoing, yet willing to follow directions from the TC. The role of the TS is a rewarding one. The local ham community looks toward the TS as the local technical oracle-the price of fame. A respected TS soon finds himself or herself with club and hamfest speaking opportunities and possible appointments to local industry and municipal government advisory commit- tees. The job's an important one that takes experience, enthusiasm and expertise.
Here's a list of specific TS job duties:
- Serve as a technical advisor to local hams and clubs. Correspond by telephone and letter on technical topics. Refer correspondence to other sources if a specific topic is outside TS's knowledge.
- Serve as advisor in radio frequency interference issues. RFI can drive a wedge in neighbor and city relations. It will be the TS with a cool head who will resolve problems. Local hams will come to you for guidance in dealing with interference problems.
- Speak at local clubs on popular technical topics. Let local clubs know you're available and willing.
- Represent ARRL at technical symposiums in industry; serve on CATV advisory committees; advise municipal governments on technical matters.
- Work with other ARRL officials and appointees when called upon for technical advice especially in emergency communications situations where technical prowess can mean the difference in getting a communications system up and running; the difference between life and death.
- Handle other miscellaneous technically related tasks assigned by the Technical Coordinator.
4.4 Technical Information
TSs help newcomers and old-timers alike by answering questions ranging from "Is the red wire positive, negative or neutral?" to "Can I use insulated wire for my antenna?" and plenty more. The TS handles written correspondence from local members with technical questions about their antennas, rigs, and so forth. The possibilities for general technical inquiries are almost limitless. Most of the TS's knowledge will likely be drawn from their own study and experience. Some TSs might have expertise in certain areas and may offer to assist the Technical Coordinator with more involved or specialized requests for assistance. Here are a few guidelines for individuals to follow when asking written questions:
- Type or write the question clearly and to the point; adequately describe the problem, action already taken, and question.
- Include name, call, and license class, and provide a business sized SASE.
Here are pointers for TSs to follow when answering questions:
- Reply with a personalized hand-written answer or local phone call prepared from your experience when possible.
- Refer the puzzled ham to a QST article or ARRL publication (the inquirer could have overlooked this resource), then encourage the person to join ARRL, if not already a member, to keep up with technology. QST has frequent articles of general interest for beginners.
- Don't compare commercial products unless you are familiar with them first-hand, instead refer the questioner to the Product Reviews in QST.
- You aren't expected to answer questions about articles in magazines other than QST, since there may have been previous or follow-up reference articles which you might not know about.
- You don't have to answer questions about non-amateur matters or answer more than several questions in one letter.
- You don't have to custom design amateur gear, make repairs to someone else's equipment, provide parts from your supplies or do the work local repair shops should handle. There's always the question that may be just out of your reach to answer, yet too fundamental to bother your Technical Coordinator or a Technical Advisor for advice. The ham you're helping wants to know how to fix his ailing rig or where to get particular information on circuit theory. If nothing is found by checking QST (see the Appendix for QST indices) try various ARRL publications or asking other hams. See the ARRL publications list at the end of this chapter. It takes just a little common sense, but when used properly, asking the local TS for technical information is not only a valuable benefit of being an ARRL member, but also can be a technical information lifesaver.
4.5 Radio Frequency Interference (RFI)
The TS serves as an adviser to hams and clubs having difficulties with neighbors, towns and states in Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) disputes. Every amateur knows the trouble RFI can cause. It can drive an emotional wedge into neighbor relations and causes deep frustration when an innocent ham must fight for his or her rights in front of a technically naive city council. RFI matters are best resolved at the local technical intervention level by someone who knows the RFI game, has a solid working knowledge of RFI and good diplomatic demeanor. Often, both sides of an RFI dispute lose their objectivity as tempers flare. It is the TS with a cool head who will resolve the problem. The TS works with local TVI committees, CATV company and power utility workers, town and city boards, hams, ARRL section leaders and especially the ARRL section Technical Coordinator. There are four important sources of information concerning how to identify and resolve RFI problems:
- Radio Frequency Interference, ARRL.
- The ARRL Handbook, ARRL.
- Interference to Home Electronic Entertainment Equipment Handbook, FCC.
- RFI/EMI information on the ARRLWeb
- or on the Internet at http://www.fcc.gov/eb/Publications/tvibook.html
RFI is a thorny problem that comes in many guises. Not only does it have many causes, but it has an ever-increasing number of electronic entertainment devices to prey upon. Twenty million Americans may be its victims. By reading these books you'll know how to combat RFI, learn the root causes of RFI and how each type can be cured with simple modifications, including specific reasons why RFI exists on certain bands and not on others, and you'll get to know your legal responsibilities under FCC regulations. In resolving RFI the cause will usually be found at the receiver, the transmitter or both. Be prompt, courteous and helpful; Amateur Radio's reputation is at stake, as well as your own.
4.6 The ARRL Technical Information Service (TIS)
The ARRL answers questions of a technical nature for members and nonmembers alike through the Technical Information Service. Questions in the form of e-mail, telephone calls, FAX, and letters, are funneled through the Technical Information Service Coordinator (TISC). Questions of a basic nature or that involve researching articles in QST, etc, are handled by the TISC. Those of a more technical nature are distributed to the various ARRL Hq. Lab Engineers depending on their areas of expertise.
There are also sources for technical information maintained on the ARRL's Web site TIS Page. This area contains many articles from QST, QEX , and other ARRL publications in addition to original articles, and compiled data--all for viewing, downloading and printing. Included also are links to companion software and templates for the ARRL publications and QST-- also links to Product Reviews, and other ARRL Web pages of technical interest.
A search engines for location sources of materials and services of interest to the radio amateur and a search engine for locating QST and QEX articles are also available from the TIS Page.
On occasion, as circumstances require, a member may be referred to a Technical Specialist for help with a local problem.