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Rarely does an individual simply learn of, find and join the ranks of hundreds of thousands of worldwide amateur radio operators by themselves.  Typically a person is or becomes acquainted with a family member, friend, teacher, co-worker, or neighbor who is involved in amateur radio and realizes an interest for the technical or communications aspects of the avocation, or both.  Contained within the ranks of the hobby of amateur radio, is an unofficial group of people that help would-be hams to amateur radio.  Members of this unofficial group are sometimes called “Elmers”.   This help often comes in the form of teaching or tutoring the new Ham, although this is not the only function that an “Elmer” might perform.  Sometimes “Elmers” help the new-comer to understand the rules, or help new and old amateur radio operators learn new skills.  This may be as simple as encouraging someone to “press-the-button” and get his Technician license, or maybe helping the new Ham in designing and building that first antenna, or helping a Brother Ham into the world of CW and learning Morse code, or assisting a new Ham through the confusing menus and settings of his brand new transceiver.

 An "Elmer" is a mentor to the hobby.  But most importantly an “Elmer” is a friend in the world of amateur radio that you can call on when you have a question.
 One important thing to keep in mind is that “Elmers” are learning too, and sometimes the “Elmer” has an “Elmer” that they go to.  That's the magic of an "Elmer".  If he doesn't know the answer, he usually knows the guy who does know the answer.

In reality, almost everyone that is an amateur radio operator is an “Elmer”, because we are all friends and we all help each other.  




Origin of the term "Elmer"...


The term “Elmer“, meaning someone who provides personal guidance and assistance to would-be hams, first appeared in QST Magazine in a March 1971 “How’s DX” column by Rod Newkirk, W9BRD:

Too frequently one hears a sad story in this little nutshell: ‘Oh, I almost got a ticket, too, but Elmer, W9XYZ, moved away and I kind of lost interest.'”  Newkirk went on to say, “We need those Elmers.  All the Elmers, including the Ham who took the most time and trouble to give you a push toward your license, are the birds who keep this great game young and fresh.”

Mr. Newkirk called them “the unsung fathers of Amateur Radio.” While he probably was not trying to coin a term at the time, Mr. Newkirk introduced the "Elmer" to the rest of the Amateur Radio world.





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