An EC for ARROW

Last Saturday–a week after Blackout 2003–the board of directors of our ham radio club held a meeting to discuss what, if anything, we should do to be prepared for the next emergency. One of the members showed us how he had set up a store-and-forward repeater by connecting the 2m antenna on his tower to an HT. Connected to the HT was a Radio Shack device that recorded up to 20s of speech and then spit it back out. Being battery-powered, this system is immune to power blackouts.

Unfortunately, our repeater is not. Apparently, the fire codes forbid any batteries up in the space where our repeater resides, leaving it vulnerable to power outages.

In addition to the store-and-forward scheme, we discussed another option for emergency communications. Using the cross-band capabilities of modern dual-band rigs, it’s possible to set up a rudimentary repeater with two of them. As I live near the highest point in the city of Ann Arbor, I suggested that these radios be positioned somewhere up near me and offered the use of my IC-207.

To be honest, I’m not that hot on emergency communications and fail to see that we would have that much to offer. The last time our capabilities were needed was, according to one member, 15 years ago, when we had a big snowstorm. In addition, there is an ARES/RACES group here in Washtenaw County that has its own repeater, which has its own generator and can be used when the power goes out.

Still, I think it’s probably a good idea for ARROW to appoint an Emergency Communications Coordinator, who would keep us up-to-date on emergency preparedness around here. It would also be his or her job to coordinate our efforts with those of the county and the Red Cross. One possible scenario is that should a problem arise with the county repeater, the emergency crews could use our store-and-forward repeater system. Emergencies happen so infrequently here, however, that I doubt the system would see much use.

Strange Stuff Near 10 MHz

The 30 meter band is pretty dead right now, so I thought I’d use the general coverage capability of my ICOM IC-735 to do a little shortwave listening. The first thing I did was tune down to 10 MHz to get the time from WWV. Not only did I hear WWV, but some SSB station with the operator saying over and over, “Mirando, mirando.”

Then, in tuning back up to the 30m band, I came across some music on 10.085 MHz. I listened to ragtime piano music for about 15 minutes until 0130Z, when an announcer came on and in English gave a station ID. Unfortunately, the station was not strong enough to actually copy the ID.

Now, they’re giving some news, but the noise is so bad, that I can’t really copy it. I’m just getting snippets. For example, they gave a weather report, but before I could figure out the location, the signal faded out again. Even Google searches on 10085 kHz and 10.085 MHz don’t turn up any information.

The Yin-Yang of Ham Radio

Yesterday, I seemed to have the big signal on the band. The first station I worked was SP2EBG in Poland, who gave me a 579 report. Later that evening, I worked a station in Florida who said I was “booming in.”

Well, tonight, it’s just the opposite. I must have called CQ 15 times without a responses, and all around me other stations are calling CQ and making contacts. I guess it’s just the yin-yang of ham radio.

Let’s All Help CW Newbies

As you can imagine, there’s been much consternation on the FISTS mailling list about the move towards eliminating the CW requirement. After beating this around for a while, the list then started focusing on the number of current operators who send poorly. While I’m not sure that there are more poor operators now than in the past, one theory is that the reason one finds so many slow operators and operators with poor fists is that there is no longer a Novice class.

In the past, the first license that most hams got was the Novice class license. For a while, Novices had some phone priviledges on the 2m band, but for the most part, they were restricted to CW on 80m, 40m, 15m, and 10m. They were able to hone their CW skills there, and by the time they upgraded, they had some solid CW experience.

Now, however, General class licensees need only pass a 5 wpm code test and then have almost full run of the CW bands. Many, if not most, of these new General class licensees have little or no CW experience. Is it any wonder, then, that these operators are not as polished as some?

Some of the guys mentioned that they simply were not answering calls from these inexperienced operators anymore. It just wasn’t “fun” to work these guys, they said. I certainly sympathize. I, too, have shunned contacts with these operators in the past. BUT, I now feel that we should do all we can to help these folks have fun and become good CW ops.

One reason for this is that we’re going to need all the CW ops we can muster in order to keep at least part of the shortwave bands devoted to CW. There’s going to be increasing pressure to reallocate these sub-bands to phone operators when no-code licensing becomes a reality.

Then, the question becomes how do we help these operators become better operators. Well, one way is to set a good example. Pay attention to how you operate and try to be the best you can at all times.

One fellow mentioned that early in his ham career, a guy sent him a copy of the article, “Your Novice Accent, and What to Do About It” by Keith S. Williams, W6DTY. Originally published in November 1956, it’s become somewhat of a classic. You can find it on at least two websites:

  • http://home.satx.rr.com/kcomm/Article.html
  • http://www.qsl.net/wb7rht/novice_accent.htm

What I might suggest is that when you work a ham whose operating technique could use some improvement, you find out his or her email address and send one or both of these URLs. To be diplomatic, you might want to say, “I read this back when I was a Novice (and when they actually had Novices!) and found it to be a big help. Also, offer to answer any questions that they may have.

You may p*ss off some guys doing this, but I think that most will respond favorably, and we’ll get a better group of CW ops out of it.

Calls That Spell Out Words

Lately, I’ve been amused by calls whose suffixes are short words or common abbreviations. For example, about a month ago I worked W8GND (ground), and on the FISTS mailing list, W8FAX is a frequent contributor. Scanning my log, I also find TA3AX and K4IR(infrared).

I kinda think I’d like to have a call like that, maybe K8HAM or W8ANT or the call that my wife would probably give me: W8BUM.

I ran across a call the other day while perusing the QRZ.Com database that I definitely would NOT like to have: KD6UMB.