QSLs received this past week

I just received two batches of QSLs: one from the ARRL Bureau and one from the FISTS QSL Bureau. Both contained a few goodies:

  • One card in the batch from Fists was from AA4NO. In addition to being an interesting caricature of Bill at his operating position, it adds to my collection of card from stations whose calls spell words.
  • Two cards from Europe--F6EVN and HB9CRO–featured cartoons of gentlemen at the controls. They are quite amusing.
  • I got two cards from Japan–JA1LZR and JG2LGM/QRP. JG2LGM notes that he was running only 5W from a homebrew transmitter into a two-element quad.
  • The package from Fists contained a card from EI7GW, which is the Fists club station in Ireland.
  • I also received two cards from Finland. The QSLs from Finland, Ireland, and Japan are the first cards from those countries since I got back on the air two years ago.
  • K8HBI QSLed a contact we had on January 13, 2004. Since he lives in FL, he couldn’t help but rub it in that the weather was so much better down there. This card is also interesting in that his son, K9HBI, recently got his ticket and just joined our club. Now, we’ve got to work on the son to get him on CW.

These cards are really starting to pile up, and I’m going to have to get one of those organizers to keep them all straight.

I guess a career in electronics service is out for me…

After last week’s meeting, Al, KC8RNQ came up to me and asked me if I could help him troubleshoot a problem with one of his rigs, a Kenwood all-mode, 2m radio. I asked him what was wrong, and he told me that it would “cut out” intermittently and that someone he was talking to thought it was “just” a bad connection in the microphone. Furthermore, the reason he wanted to fix this was so that he could give the radio to a new club member (and recent Tech licensee) who did not yet have a rig.

Well, I certainly couldn’t turn him down, especially after he said he was going to give the radio away. So, I told him to come over one evening the following week.

Tuesday evening Al brought the radio over, and we plugged it in and started playing with it. Sure enough, it worked great for a while, then nothing. Pushing on the mike cable, I was able to get it to transmit, and to transmit repeatably, so it did indeed look like “just” a bad connection in the microphone connector.

I say “just” because there is, of course, more to any repair than at first meets the eye. The first problem we encountered was disassembling the connector in the first place. I removed the strain relief and the set screw, but the connector still wouldn’t pull apart. It took us about 15 minutes to figure out that you had to unscrew the plastic part from the metal shell.

Once we were past that hurdle, the fun began. After poking each of the wires, it looked as though the mike element ground wire was the loose wire, and that all I had to do was add some more solder. But of course that didn’t work, so we decided to start from scratch.

We cut all of the wires and then removed as much of the solder as we could from the connector’s four solder cups. Next, I stripped back some of the cable jacket, and stripped the three wires with insulation. (The fourth conductor was a stranded, bare-wire shield around the mike wire.)

At that point, it hit me that I hadn’t written down which wires went to which contacts. Fortunately, I remembered that the push-to-talk (PTT) switch connect to the two contacts opposite the connector’s key. Then, using a needle nose pliers, I was able to figure out which contact was ground by alternately grounding the two contacts. The one that caused the radio to transmit had to be the contact for the white wire.

Having figured that out, it was back to soldering the wires back to the connector. I had already stripped the wires, but each had some fiber inside it that had to be cut off before I could tin the wires. At this point, I had to put on my reading glasses so I could see the fine strands to cut them off.

Finally, after getting the wires tinned, I started soldering them to the connector. I got two of them soldered and was starting on the third, when I made a bad mistake. I trimmed one of the two remaining wires too short. No amount of pulling and prodding would get it to where I wanted it, so I had to cut the two wires I’d already soldered and start all over again.

All this wouldn’t have been so bad, but for all the harassment I was getting from Al. He wondered how this “simple” repair could have already taken me more than an hour to complete. I can’t complain too much, though. He did help by holding the connector as I was soldering the wires to it, risking burnt fingers every time I brought the soldering iron close to the connector.

Finally, nearly two hours after we’d started, I got everything back together again. If I was running a radio repair shop, I could have perhaps charged $10-15 bucks for that repair. That’s why I say I guess that a career in electronics service is out for me.

Maryland QSO Party

I don’t know exactly why I’m doing this, but I’m trying to drum up QSOs on 40m in the Maryland/DC QSO Party. And, boy, are they few and far between. At times, there have been more out-of-state stations calling CQ MDQP than Maryland stations.

And if that weren’t bad enough, there’s some Canadian SSB net on 7063.5, just 3.5 kHz up from the nominal contest frequency. Sounds like most of them are running a full gallon (or maybe a full four liters because they’re in Canada), because some of them are splattering quite a bit.

I don’t know why there are so few stations on. Maybe Hurricane Charlie is keeping some of them off the air. Maybe they’re all working the European CW contest. I did hear one station down around 7030 giving the exchange for both contests. Maybe because it’s a Saturday summer evening. Who knows?

There is one guy–K4MUT–who is making this contest more fun. He’s mobile, and out of the 19 contacts I have so far, he’s been 7 of them, all in different counties, of course. Thanks, Bob!

Bits and Pieces

Here are some ideas floating around in my mind that aren’t big enough for their own items. or would be too much work to make into their own item:

  • 30 guys showed up for the ARROW meeting last night. Not bad for a meeting in the middle of August.
  • Club activity continues to pick up. I’m actually getting people to volunteer to give presentations at meetings, and members other than board members are actually initiating club events. For example, Steve, WB8WSF, organized a club station for the ARRL UHF Contest last weekend and is planning to do the same for the VHF Contest next month.
  • One thing I’d like to see our club do is get more involved with kids and middle schools and high schools. On the ARRL Club Presidents mailing list, one guy mentioned that his club mentors a student group in a robotics competition. I’m going to have to see if we can’t do something like that, too. Another idea would be to get involved with the Detroit Science Fair.
  • At the meeting last night, a guy mentioned to me that he reads my blog every day. Whoa! That means I not only should I post here more often, but that I have to post something interesting as well. (Well, OK, I’ll shoot for semi-interesting. :)
  • The presentation was on Logbook of the World, a repository of log records submitted by users from around the world. The idea is for operators to submit their electronic logs and let LOTW electronically generate QSLs. You don’t actually get the card, but then again, you don’t have to wait years for a card to arrive, either. I think LOTW is great if all you’re after is a high DXCC listing, but I wouldn’t want to see it completely replace the QSL card.
  • I just received another QSL for my collection of cards from stations whose calls spell words. Thanks, Al, KA3FAD!

North American CW QSO Party

I worked a little of the North American CW QSO Party last night, making 50 contacts in an hour and 40 minutes. Not great, but not bad. I scored 32 multipliers, including 3 Canadian provinces and Mexico.

I mostly hunted and pounced, but tried calling CQ for a little while with not much success. I guess I didn’t have a big enough signal last night.

I wonder if hunting and pouncing wasn’t the best strategy, anyway. I heard a lot of stations just calling CQ over and over, and not making many contacts. Some of them didn’t even seem to be listening for calls. They’d pause for just a second–barely enough time to hear a station calling–before calling CQ again.

As usual, there were stations who had strong signals here, but who just didn’t seem to hear me. I’m not sure what the deal is with that. I worked many stations who were rather weak here. I don’t know if the stronger stations were just ignoring me or if they were just deaf or what.

Another thing I was confused about is the timing of the event. The rules say that the contest was to last from 1800Z August 7 to 0600Z August 8, 2004, or 2 pm EDT Saturday to 2 am EDT Sunday. When I tried to find some activity on 40m on Saturday afternoon, though, I didn’t hear a single station working the contest. There was plenty of activity when I got home from the movies later in the evening, though.

Overall, though, it was fun. And to top it all off, I did work a station whose call spells a word: W4ARM in Miami.

A Small Step for CW

About a week ago, my Elmer-ee, Zoltan, KD8ABX, e-mailed me and asked if he could come over some evening and watch me operate HF. He came over Monday evening. After participating in the ARROW Monday Night, I fired up the IC-735 and tuned around on 40m.

One of the things he was curious about was why someone would choose a particular band or a particular mode over another. The answer to that, of course, is not an easy one. A variety of factors come into play: the time of day, band conditions in general, and personal preference.

I explained to Zoltan that one reason for choosing 40m that evening was that 40m is kind of the “all purpose” band. It’s almost always open to somewhere, and at that time of night I knew I could find someone to have a QSO with to demonstrate how it’s done.

After finishing that contact, I suggested that we tune up to 30m, and see what was happening. I explained that 30m was kind of a cross between 40m and 20m. That is, it was often open for DX like 20m, but, like 40m, it was often open later at night than 20m.

The ham radio gods were smililng on me Monday. Not only was 30m open, but there was a huge pileup trying to contact the YV0D DXpedition. That gave me a chance to explain DXpeditions and pileups to Zoltan. YV0D was operating on 10.104 and the pileup extended up past 10.110. That also gave me a chance to explain split-frequency operation.

I tired of listening to the pileup, I tuned up the band a ways, where I heard ER1DA calling CQ. A quick call netted my first DX QSO of the night. Tuning up a little higher, I worked YZ80AA, a special event station celebrating 80 years of amateur radio in Serbia and Montenegro. (The first ham station there was YU1AFS, a club station, that went on the air in 1924).

Finally, I heard Tony OE5GYL calling CQ. I’ve worked OE5GYL several times, the first two being while he was on vacation at a “naturist” beach near Sarajevo. He came back to my first call, and we had a nice, though short contact. I told Tony that I was giving a CW demo to a friend and he passed on his regards to Zoltan.

Overall, I think it was quite a successful demo, and one small step for CW. About a week or so earlier, Zoltan asked what might be a good microphone to purchase for use with the IC-735 he bought at Dayton (at my suggestion). I mentioned that I’d be happy to lend him the hand microphone that came with my rig. I have never used it, as I bought the desk mike, and I hardly ever operate SSB anyway.

Well, after watching me operate CW for a bit, he said something to the effect, “I can see where somebody might not need a microphone at all.” Bingo! I think I might have another potential CW operator on the hook, and I plan on reeling him in.

All of us CW ops should do this at least once or twice a year. If anyone at all shows any interest in CW offer to have them come to your house and watch you do what you do. It really is a special experience, isn’t it? If you can convey that magic to them then just maybe we’ve made another small step for CW.