Gene Zimmerman, W3ZZ, to Retire from “The World Above 50 MHz”


If you’re a VHF+ fan, you probably read “The World Above 50 MHz,” written by Gene Zimmerman, W3ZZ, of Gaithersburg, Maryland. For the last nine years, Zimmerman -- an ARRL Life Member -- has written this popular QST column, but the July 2011 issue will be his last. “When I accepted the duties of VHF Editor in 2002, I did so well knowing that my tenure would be circumscribed and likely not to exceed a decade in time,” he wrote in his farewell column. “There are many reasons for this, most importantly that an individual begins to run out of new ideas after a given amount of time and that the position -- and the readership -- would benefit from fresh viewpoints.”

Zimmerman told the ARRL that “it has been a pleasure to write ‘The World Above 50 MHz’ for almost the last decade. As I said in my July 2011 column, fresh blood is always a good idea in any such endeavor, and I had decided that 2011 would be my last year. Some health issues made me leave a few months early, but 2011 would have been it in any case. I feel privileged to have followed in the footsteps of outstanding previous authors of ‘The World Above 50 MHz,’ such as Ed Tilton, W1HDQ (SK) and Sam Harris, W1FZJ (SK). Ed and Sam were legends in their own times.”

Zimmerman was a shortwave listener before becoming a ham. After he got his ticket when he was a freshman at Yale University, Zimmerman became interested in weak signal VHF due to his friendship with Paul Doane, W1HAD, who at the time was a college student at Brown. “I remained active on the VHF bands until I left Connecticut in 1964, but I also developed an interest in HF and VHF contesting,” he said. “When I moved to Washington, DC, I became involved in HF contesting in a serious way, particularly building multi-op contest stations with Tom Peruzzi, W4BVV (SK). I returned to weak signal VHF in 1981 and built a pretty decent VHF station, which I have expanded to 10 GHz.”

Unlike HF where some band is open for long distance communications all the time, Zimmerman said that openings on VHF are few and far between -- and extremely exciting when they happen. “I guess I don’t like things that are easy, so I chose to do VHF+,” he explained. “Over the years, I have worked more than 140 DXCC entities on 6 meters, 38 states and 9 DXCC terrestrially on 2 meters, 36 states on 222 MHz and VUCC on 50-1296 MHz. In contests, I have also been in the Top 10 nationally several times from my home station, and have won the multi-unlimited category four times with K8GP, the Delmarva VHF and Microwave Society. I think once you have built an interest in the VHF+ bands, it never goes away. The VHF+ bands have been good to me and I hope to continue operating them for a long time.”

Beginning with the August 2011 issue of QST, Jon Jones, N0JK, of Wichita, Kansas, will take over the column. Jones, an ARRL Life Member and an Emergency/Trauma physician, also became interested in Amateur Radio after listening to shortwave radio -- and with the encouragement of his father William, W0FN. As WN0JVF, Jones earned his Worked All States and Worked All Continents awards. In 1970 at the age of 14, he upgraded to General and then Advanced. “I made my first VHF DX contact during a geomagnetic storm in November 1970 with K8ZJR in Michigan,” he told the ARRL. “It was a 6 meter QSO on E-skip using my Heathkit Sixer and a ground plane antenna.”

During college and medical school, Jones put Amateur Radio on the back burner, but as Solar Cycle 21 was winding down, he rediscovered how much fun getting on the air can be. During the last part of medical school and during his residency, he operated VHF with his friend John Lock, KF0M.

“I still didn’t have a lot of time for radio until the late 1980s,” Jones told the ARRL. “When I got back into it, I focused on 6 and 160 meters. I operated VHF contests with Alan Sias, N0OY (ex WB0DRL), and Dean Lewis, K9ZV (ex WA0TKJ), and had several top four finishes.” Jones has operated 6 meters from Guadalupe, Barbados, Bermuda, American Samoa and Hawaii. He was also a part of the HC8N contest team from the Galapagos that has placed first in several contests. Jones is also active on the bands up to 3456 MHz, as well as satellite. Jones is married to Pat, N0KHT. Kevin, N0TZZ, is the oldest of their four children; their youngest son Kegan is entering medical school this summer.

“I’ve been working with Gene for nearly a decade and it has always been a pleasure,” said QST Editor Steve Ford, WB8IMY. “He’s a modern day ‘Renaissance Man’ who stays informed on a broad range of topics and isn’t afraid to express his opinion. Those are two key qualities of a good magazine columnist. Jon is familiar to National Contest Journal readers for his enthusiasm for VHF+ operating. I’ll look forward to seeing that same enthusiasm in the pages of QST.”

Calling V/U/SHF an “exciting place,” Zimmerman said he is now looking forward to doing a little more operating. “I might even pick up a few more DXCC entities on 6 meters, and maybe some additional grids on the other bands,” he said. “And of course, I will enjoy collecting more stories about the VHF+ world.”