MCW with the FT-857/897

ARROW is getting ready to build a bunch of PicoKeyers and then get on 2m FM and work MCW. The PicoKeyers have an MCW mode that makes this very simple to accomplish. This promises to be a lot of fun.

At our monthly breakfast this morning, Jon, KG6URI, noted that if you have a Yaesu FT-857/897, you don’t need a PicoKeyer. It has a built-in MCW mode. I asked him to send me the particulars, and here’s his e-mail:

The Yaesu FT-857/897 is capable of MCW operation, although it is well hidden. The only mention I could find is on page 100 of my FT-857D manual where it says “FM Mode: F2″.

It’s easy to set up. Enter menu set mode by holding down FUNC. Just scroll to “22 CW AUTO MODE” and set to on. Now, the CW key is operational under both SSB and FM as well. Using the VFO or memory, select an FM channel or repeater, and use the key to send just like you were in CW mode.

Other interesting features in the menu are “31 CW TRAINING” which plays random characters through the sidetone and “26 CW PADDLE” which lets you use the up/down keys on the mic instead of a paddle.

Now, all I gotta do is get him on the air so that he can get some CW practice in. Right, Jon?? :)

This Weekend on the Radio at KB6NU

This weekend, the big event was ARROW’s special event station at the Saline Depot Museum. The website notes,

The Saline Railroad Depot, with its freight house, telegraph, and passenger facilities, served as a crucial link in the economic transformation that took place between Saline’s rural hinterlands and the outside world.

Without the access the Depot afforded, Saline probably would have gone the way of thousands of small midwestern towns. The story of our Depot is not only the story of village growth, it is the story of Saline’s integration into the larger economy of the country.

Although all the original surrounding buildings have been removed, the Depot still stands on its original site. During its heyday, the complex consisted of a depot building, storage barn, wool barn, livestock pens, loading facilities, water storage tank and outdoor bathroom. The museum has a caboose on display next to the depot.

Up to six scheduled steam trains a day moved 20 to 30 miles per hour. At stops, trainmen sometimes took the time to pick strawberries or flowers along the tracks. Nothing but the best for the dining car!

For the special event station, we set up on 20m and 40m. The bands were incredibly bad, however, and we failed to make a single contact on 20m. We did manage–with considerable difficulty–to make 15 contacts on 40m. One thing I noted was that the noise level was incredibly high. All day long the noise was around S7 on the Icom 746PRO.

We also set up a packet radio station so that we could take radiograms and then send them via packet to WB8TKL. This was the first time that I actually operated packet radio, and to be honest, it was kind of underwhelming. The baud rate on 2m is limited to 1200 baud, and since we had to use a digipeater, the over all data rate was even less. Having said that, it was effective. We were able to transfer the messages to Jay, who then moved them onto the NTS nets.

I think the traffic handling was a very cool thing. I made up a sign that said, “SEND A TELEGRAM BY HAM RADIO…ASK ME HOW” And several people did. From that point of view, it was great PR, and it taught me some things about handling traffic.

We not only operated from our trailer, but we also helped them get their telegraph set on the air. Al K8WXQ, who is also a member of the Morse Telegraph Club rigged up a device to drive their telegraph sounder, and was playing American Morse all during the event. He also brought an old bug and demonstrated sending techniques.

Aside from the bands being so lousy, it was a good event. We performed some public service, got some good PR, and passed out some club literature.

One gentleman in particular stands out in my mind. He came up to the trailer and jokingly asked if I could send a message to the military base in Guam. I was pretty sure that we could do it, so I picked up the radiogram pad and said, “Sure. Who’s it going to”?

He was a bit taken aback, and said, “Oh, I wasn’t really serious, but could you really do it”? When I said yes, he said that he’d had an uncle who served in WWII or the Korean War and was stationed there for a while. They’d received a radiogram from him many years ago, and it had stuck in his mind.

We then got to talking about amateur radio, and when he seemed interested, I mentioned our Tech classes in the fall, and that there was no longer a Morse code requirement. His eyes lit up a little then, so I gave him one of our info sheets. He probably won’t sign up for the class, but you never know. At any rate, he has our contact info should he or someone else want to get involved.

Now, we have to find some other venues and do this again. The Ypsilanti Heritage Festival and Dexter Daze seem to be two good candidates. We may be too late to get in this year, but there’s always next year.

ARLB018 FCC proposes dropping Morse code requirement

From ARRL Headquarters Newington CT July 21, 2005

To all radio amateurs,

The FCC has proposed dropping the 5 WPM Morse code element as a requirement to obtain an Amateur Radio license of any class. The Commission included the recommendation in a July 19 Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) in WT Docket 05-235, but it declined to go along with any other proposed changes to Amateur Service licensing rules or operating privileges. Changes to Part 97 that the FCC proposed in the NPRM would not become final until the Commission gathers additional public comments, formally adopts any new rules and concludes the proceeding with a Report and Order specifying the changes and an effective date. That’s not likely to happen for several months.

“Based upon the petitions and comments, we propose to amend our amateur service rules to eliminate the requirement that individuals pass a telegraphy examination in order to qualify for any amateur radio operator license,” the FCC said. The NPRM consolidated 18 petitions for rule making from the amateur community–including one from the ARRL–that had proposed a wide range of additional changes to the amateur rules. The FCC said the various petitions had attracted 6200 comments from the amateur community, which soon will have the opportunity to comment again–this time on the FCC’s NPRM.

The Commission said it believes dropping the 5 WPM Morse examination would encourage more people to become Amateur Radio operators and would eliminate a requirement that’s “now unnecessary” and may discourage current licensees from advancing their skills. It also said the change would “promote more efficient use” of amateur spectrum.

To support dropping the code requirement, the FCC cited changes in Article 25 of the international Radio Regulations adopted at World Radiocommunication Conference 2003. WRC-03 deleted the Morse testing requirement for amateur applicants seeking HF privileges and left it up to individual countries to determine whether or not they want to mandate Morse testing. Several countries already have dropped their Morse requirements for HF access.

ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, said he was not surprised to see the FCC propose scrapping the Morse requirement altogether, although the League had called for retaining the 5 WPM requirement only for Amateur Extra class applicants. Sumner expressed dismay, however, that the FCC turned away proposals from the League and other petitioners to create a new entry-level Amateur Radio license class.

“We’re disappointed that the Commission prefers to deny an opportunity to give Amateur Radio the restructuring it needs for the 21st century,” he said. “It appears that the Commission is taking the easy road, but the easy road is seldom the right road.”

Sumner said ARRL officials and the Board of Directors will closely study the 30-page NPRM and comment further once they’ve had an opportunity to consider the Commission’s stated rationales for its proposals.

In 2004, the League called on the FCC to create a new entry-level license, reduce the number of actual license classes to three and drop the Morse code testing requirement for all classes except for Amateur Extra. Among other recommendations, the League asked the FCC to automatically upgrade Technician licensees to General and Advanced licensees to Amateur Extra. In this week’s NPRM, the FCC said it was not persuaded such automatic upgrades were in the public interest.

The FCC said it did not believe a new entry-level license class was warranted because current Novice and Tech Plus licensees will easily be able upgrade to General once the code requirement goes away. The Commission also said its “Phone Band Expansion” (or “Omnibus”) NPRM in WT Docket 04-140 already addresses some of the other issues petitioners raised.

A 60-day period for the public to comment on the NPRM in WT 05-235 will begin once the notice appears in the Federal Register. Reply comments will be due within 75 days.

============================================

Editor’s Notes

  1. I think that even more what this portends for day-to-day amateur radio activities, this is an important NPRM because it practically ignores all of the ARRL’s recommendations. Is this a slap on the wrist from the FCC for all the fuss we’ve kicked up about BPL, or is it an indication of how far the ARRL’s clout has slipped in Washington?
  2. It’s too bad that the FCC has decided not to create a beginner’s class license. I think the beginner’s class license was a good idea and would have been good for amateur radio. Amateur radio operators, as a whole, are now going to have to work harder to integrate new hams into the fold.
  3. From a personal point of view I’m dismayed as it appears that I’m not going to be grandfathered into the Extra class after all. I’m actually going to have to study and take the test! :)

Speed, More Speed!

Tonight, I worked a couple of stations at 28 wpm, a new high for me. The first was W2XS. I had just turned on the rig when I heard him calling CQ. I gauged his speed to be around 28 wpm, and when I heard no one reply to his second CQ, I thought I’d give it a go.

Surprisingly, I did pretty well. We chatted for almost a half hour, and only towards the end of the contact did I start making more mistakes than I should have.

After I signed with W2XS, I got a call from K9UT, again at 28 wpm. I was already a bit tired by this time, so I made more mistakes during this QSO. Even so, I think I did an OK job, and this contact ended a lot sooner than the first.

Both operators were very gracioius and courteous to me. Thanks, guys, for putting up with my mistakes. HPE CU AGN SN…at 28 wpm!

A Meeting of Like Minds

Yesterday evening I met with Neil K8IT, who’s running for Great Lakes Division Director. It’s almost amazing how similarly our ideas are about how we would do things differently.

Perhaps Neil’s biggest hot button is the low percentage of amateurs that are ARRL members. This currently stands at about 23%. Despite this low percentage, Neil and I both agree that the ARRL has done little to increase the percentage.

Not only that, because the ARRL represents such a low percentage of hams, it diminishes our influence with the FCC and politicians. Doesn’t it seem that more and more the FCC is ignoring ARRL petitions? Case in point: the latest Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) from the FCC proposes to drop the 5 wpm code requirement entirely (the ARRL wanted to keep this requirement for obtaining the Amateur Extra class license) and completely ignores the ARRL’s request to create a beginner license class.

We both agree that while we’ve done a fairly good job of getting people into amateur radio, we’ve done a poor job of helping them improve their skills and become more active hams. The theory is that if we can activate the licensees that we do have, then a good percentage of them will join the ARRL. That will be good for the ARRL, but even more importantly, good for amateur radio.

Unfortunately, we’re both novices (no pun intended) when it comes to politics at this level. In discussing our campaign strategies, it became evident to me that we really should have been out campaigning months ago. Oh well, we still have a couple of months to go, and, with a little luck, who knows what could happen?

At any rate, neither of us is going to go away even if we don’t win. We’ll be working on the local and sectional levels, and making a difference in this way. Then, three years from now, we’ll take another whack at it.

Mobile Installation Guidance from the Horse’s Mouth

At Dayton, I picked up a copy of 10-10 International‘s newsletter. Here’s a nugget from there:

Got Noise?
Got a problem with too much noise in your mobile HF radio? Try these websites. Seems that even the Customer Service reps for thes ecompanies don’t know about them.

The Ford document looks like it’s the best, but they all have some good info in them. Anyone have links for foreign automakers?

AMATEUR RADIO: A VOICE IN THE STORM

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo
(first Published in The Hill, July 13, 2005)

Communication has taken many forms: beacon fires alerting assassins to Agamemnon’s return to Mycenae; a lone Athenian runner covering 150 miles in two days to request help from Sparta; Genghis Khan’s invention of the “Pony Express;” Morse Code, the telegraph, telephone, radio, television; and now the Internet and increasing types of wireless communications. Perhaps most striking are the massive and complex changes that communication has undergone in the past century. It boggles the mind to consider that 100 years ago, radio experimentation was in its infancy, and now we have the ability to send digital information via electromagnetic waves across the world or into outer space.

Yet, as anyone knows who has had a cell call dropped or simply experienced radio interference while driving, the invisible waves that carry our vastly-increased communications load are not limitless. Years ago, the federal government deemed it appropriate to regulate usage of electromagnetic spectrum to ensure that those who use particular portions of spectrum have the right to do so free of interference. It is a scarce but renewable natural resource. Therefore, regulation is necessary in order to create “highest and best use” allocations for radio frequencies. The need for national regulation is further reinforced by the fact that spectrum is a national asset bound by international rules and regulations. It is impossible to “own” frequencies, but the federal government has determined that a system of allocation and auction will produce a climate in which the “highest and best use of spectrum domestically and internationally” can prosper in terms of innovation, efficiency, and rapid deployment. In an era of increasing demand for spectrum, there is a small but vital group of users whose allocations must be preserved.

One of the pioneers of modern communications was amateur radio. Amateur radio operators explored ionospheric propogation for world wide radio, developed early mobile gear for automobiles and aircraft, created the first civilian communications satellite, developed early linked repeaters, established wireless Local Area Networks (LAN), developed the use of frequencies well beyond high frequency bands, and created new antenna configurations. Today, amateur radio still serves a vital purpose, especially in our post-9/11 world. Acting as volunteers, amateur radio operators provide assistance in numerous disaster relief efforts from the terror attacks in New York and Washington, to floods in Texas, hurricanes in Florida, earthquakes in Seattle and California, and fires in the West, and in my home state of Idaho. Amateur radio operators assist in search and rescue efforts and even place calls to Santa Claus on behalf of terminally-ill children! Many of the 650,000 operators in the United States take part in emergency preparedness exercises.

In the era of modern communications, we tend to forget that cell phone usage is dependent upon the viability of communications towers. Any smart military invasion strategy includes eliminating communications, and cell towers are primary targets. When the World Trade Center collapsed along with the cell tower atop the building, mobile phones were rendered useless in the area. Amateur radio operators stepped in and, from as far away as California, provided communication lifelines for rescue workers and aid agencies. A number of amateur radio operators’ organizations have Memorandums of Understanding with the National Weather Service, FEMA, National Communications System, the Associated Public Safety Communications Officers, Inc., and the American National Red Cross.

Since 1982, this vital and reliable communication information source has lost 107 MHz (the equivalent of 18 television channels, and 145 MHz is in danger of being re-allocated. The 1997 Balanced Budget Act authorized spectrum auctions, but amateur radio operators cannot participate in such auctions. In light of increasing numbers of new technologies requiring spectrum bandwidth and the ensuing competition by sources with larger financial resources, bandwidth allocations must be preserved.

The Amateur Radio Spectrum Protection Act will ensure the success of this vital link in our security communications infrastructure while continuing to encourage the innovation and creativity that is the historical hallmark of this field. The Act requires replacement of any amateur radio spectrum that is reallocated by the Federal Communications Commission or National Telecommunications and Information Administration. It maintains spectrum allocation flexibility by only requiring that the basic amount of spectrum allocated to amateur radio operators be maintained.

Together with my colleagues Senators Akaka, Bond, Baucus and Burns, I look forward to working toward this bipartisan solution to the problem of lost spectrum for amateur radio operators.


Note from KB6NU: This is something all radio amateurs also need to get behind. Please write your senators and representative and ask them to get behind this bill!

Another One Bites the Dust

It’s very sad–but understandable, I guess–that countries around the world are cutting back on their foreign-language broadcasting. The latest to bite the dust is the foreign service of Radio Slovakia. Being a Slovak-American, this one hits home.

I listen to their broadcasts via the Web all the time, and apparently that service is also to be terminated. Here’s what their latest news report has to say:

Slovak Radio, the public broadcaster has announced its intentions to close down its short-wave foreign language broadcasting. The Slovak Radio public relations consultant Jozef Bednar stated that the management of the radio decided to take this radical step to cut costs. Thus the radio hopes to compensate revenue shortfalls in concession payments and payments from the state budget. Within the rationalization measures 84 employees will also be made redundant as of July 31, 2005.

Out of 84 planned redundancies a quarter represent the staff of Radio Slovakia International – the 6th station of the public broadcaster. In their open letter, the team of RSI has expressed concerns that due to these radical cuts the foreign service will not be able to continue fulfilling its mission sufficiently. RSI is considered to be an important, unique and in many cases the only source of information about Slovakia in 6 languages (English, French, German, Russian, Slovak and Spanish).

Despite the efforts of the Slovak Radio management to sustain the foreign broadcast services the Slovak government has not financially supported its existence for this year. Nevertheless, for the period until June 2006, the Economy Ministry has allocated EUR 67 million from the operational program Industry and services. This budget includes EUR 18 million for promoting Slovakia abroad. The annual broadcast of RSI, a well established form of promotion of this country abroad, represents less than EUR 1.4 million a year.

Pretty soon, the only thing you’ll be able to hear on the shortwave bands are the evangelicals.

This Weekend OFF the Radio at KB6NU

This weekend, I actually spent more time off the radio than on it, as I attended the 2005 Michigan Section Campout. This event, started seven years ago as a “retreat” for the Michigan Section leadership, but has been open to all radio amateurs for several years now. Ably organized by John Freeman, N8ZE, it’s a fun event for hams and their families.

I arrived Friday night, just in time for karaoke. Fortunately, I managed to avoid having to sing by staying outside of the pole barn, but those inside sounded like they were having fun.

Saturday morning, Dale WA8EFK and I, who actually were staying at a nearby hotel instead of camping, got up bright and early to get to the camp by 7 am so we could help prepare and serve breakfast. All of the section leadership pitched in and put on a nice breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausages, pancakes, biscuits and gravy.

After breakfast, there were a series of forums, including sessions on ARES/RACES, the National Traffic System (NTS), ARRL issues, and fox hunting. They were all very interesting and worthwhile. I came away with a number of ideas, some good, some perhaps not so good. In no particular order, they are:

  • Perhaps one way to increase the amount of real traffic on NTS and create some good PR for ham radio is to offer to send radiograms at special event stations.
  • I gotta get moving on the Michigan clubs website.
  • It’s probably a good idea to start collecting data on who’s offering amateur radio classes, what types of classes they’re offering, and what types of success rate they’re having.
  • It might be a good idea to somehow offer ham radio class teachers some training, in addition to the leadership training I’m planning.
  • I gotta do something about recruiting people to help me work on some of these crazy projects.
  • It might be fruitful to recruit new hams from groups that are already civic-minded, such as neighborhood watch groups.
  • We need to go after homeland security money more aggressively. This money could possibly be used for training new hams.

Of course, if you really didn’t want to sit on your butt on a summer’s day you could take advantage of the amenities that the campgrounds had to offer. There was a small lake on the property, for example, and canoes were available to take out on it.

There were also a couple of radio stations set up at the campgrounds, and you could operate them if you liked. I almost sat down to work a little CW at one point, but then decided against it to enjoy the beautiful weather.

All in all, the event was fun and I got to meet a lot of great people. I would encourage all hams–and certainly those in Michigan–to think about attending next summer. For more information as it becomes available, watch the MI section webpage on the ARRL website.

Ernest Lehman, K6DXK and Screenwriter of “The Sound of Music,” Dead at 89

I was listening to NPR’s All Things Considered while eating dinner this evening and heard an obituary for Ernest Lehman, the man who wrote the screenplays for “The Sound of Music,” “North by Northwest,” and “West Side Story.” The host was interviewing Jeffrey Hayden, a long time friend, who happened to mention that Lehman was an amateur radio operator. Hayden seemed surprised that Lehman loved to ragchew with anybody and everybody.

Here’s what Playbill reported today:

by Kenneth Jones, Robert Simonson Playbill On-Line Wed Jul 6, 3:21 PM ET

Ernest Lehman, the screenwriter to helped expand The Sound of Music and West Side Story to the big screen, died July 2 in Los Angeles at the age of 89, according to The New York Times.

His wife Laurie said the apparent cause of death was a heart attack.

Among Mr. Lehman’s screenplay credits were “North by Northwest” and (with Clifford Odets) “Sweet Smell of Success.” The latter was drawn from a novella (“Tell Me About It Tomorrow,” 1950) he had written based on his experience working for famed press agent Irving Hoffman in Depression-era Manhattan. When the story was published in Cosmopolitan, people wildly assumed the tale of vengeful columnist J.J. Hunsecker and his toadying sidekick, press agent Sidney Falco, was about Walter Winchell. Lehman told Neal Gabler, author of a biography of Winchell, that his fellow press agents avoided him after that, for fear of Winchell’s retribution. Hoffman, meanwhile, thought Falco was meant to be an unflattering portrait of him. Asked by the offended Hoffman why he had written the story, Lehman replied, “You made me write all those goddamned paragraphs for the Hollywood Reporter when all I had was time and what was left of my brain to write short stories.”

The movie and novella also inspired a 2002 Broadway musical of the same name. He was one of the producers of the stage show.

Mr. Lehman was respected for his ability to adapt plays and musicals for the screen. Fans seem to agree that “The Sound of Music” is a more shapely piece of storytelling than its stage version, although the changes from stage to screen were surely also due to the fact that Richard Rodgers was still alive for its making and that director Robert Wiseworked on the project.

Wise also directed Mr. Lehman’s screenplay of “West Side Story,” the storytelling of which is also slightly different than on stage (the order of musical numbers is changed, and one ballet was excised).

Mr. Lehman also wrote screenplays of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I” and Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (which he also produced).

For director Billy Wilder, he wrote the screenplay of “Sabrina.” He also produced the films “Hello, Dolly!” and “Portnoy’s Complaint” (which he directed).

In 2001, Mr. Lehman was the first screenwriter to receive a lifetime achievement award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

As a screenwriter, Mr. Lehman was nominated for four Academy Awards- for “Sabrina,” “North by Northwest,” “West Side Story” and “Who’s Afraid Virginia Woolf?” He was Oscar nominated as a producer for “Virginia Woolf” and “Hello, Dolly!”

Mr. Lehman was a Manhattan native raised in Woodmere, NY. After earning a bachelor’s degree from City College, he was a freelance fiction writer.

According to The Times, Mr. Lehman’s first wife, the former Jacqueline Shapiro, died in 1994. He is survived by his second wife, the former Laurie Sherman; two children from his first marriage: Roger, of Ho Chi Minh City, and Alan, of Manhattan; a son from his second marriage, Jonathan, of Los Angeles; and two grandchildren.