Getting People to Work CW (Yet Another Take)

On the Elecraft mailing list a couple of months ago, there was a thread about commenting on the NPRM that proposes to eliminate the Morse Code requirement. I opined that it was a done deal no matter how many commented that it should remain, and that instead of wasting time on the NPRM, we should start working on recruiting and training more CW ops. Steve, AA4AK replied:

I agree that in all likelihood the FCC will drop the CW requirement for all classes, and Western Civilization will not collapse as a consequence. However, I think it is useful to file comments, in the unlikely case that the FCC just might listen.

Nevertheless, as several people including you have mentioned, the real issue for us CW jocks is peopling the bands and encouraging non-CW hams to take up the mode.

I see several specific steps that could help:

  1. The idea that Wayne brought up half in jest, of having an award for lots of CW contacts might be useful. I wonder if maybe some respected institution like QCWA might sponsor such an activity. In fact, I may bounce it off some of my friends in QCWA.
  2. KX-1 owners (I’m not one now, but expect to be soon) could show off (i.e., actually demonstrate) their rigs in club meeting programs, hamfest forums, field days, SETs and so on. Nothing is quite as impressive as showing people that you can do effective communications with a rig you can fit into a shirt pocket.
  3. I think it would be especially useful to have KX-1 owners participate in organized emergency drills. Here in Maine, emergency communications is extremely popular. It occurs to me that having several KX-1s in a drill is a dramatic demonstration of “here’s how we do it when the repeater goes down.”
  4. I’ve been discussing with some colleagues of mine in the UNE Psych department a radical new strategy for teaching the code by harnessing the brain’s natural synesthetic abilities. If I get the kinks worked out, I may try it on some of the local club members who have expressed an interest in learning the code. If I get it right, it will make learning the code far easier than conventional strategies.

I like these ideas a lot, especially the one about using KX1s for emergency communications demonstrations. As for the CW awards, FISTS already has a bunch of them, but if Steve can get the QCWA to sponsor some more, all the better.

Another suggestion is to have “open shack nights.” Invite guys over to your shack and teach them some of the finer points of CW operation. Last night, three guys came over my shack, and we talked about keyers, paddles, iambic modes (and the Ultimatic mode), CW abbreviations, and all kinds of things. One of them even made his first CW contact!

This was very cool, and I expect it did a lot more to promote the use of CW than my comment on the NPRM will. It certainly was a lot more fun to do.

Update 11/2/05:
This morning, I received an e-mail from one of the guys who came over Sunday night. Here’s what he had to say:

Thanks for your hospitality on Sunday, it was fun to see the maestro in action. It was, to be honest, the first time I could see that CW might actually be fun, rather than a painful rite of passage to get the General. So…would you be able to give me some information on how I can get set up?

Showing guys how much fun CW can be will do way more to promote the use of CW than any amount of complaining about the elimination of the Morse Code test.

Elmering is So Cool

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of helping Colin KD8CCQ, a new ham, get set up. He had purchased an IC-706 and an SG-239 Smartuner, but was having some trouble figuring out how to hook it up. I didn’t see the manual, but according to this guy, it wasn’t much help anyway–at least not to the new ham.

Over the course of an hour or so, we discussed various antennas that he could set up, using the tuner, such as a long wire and a doublet (center-fed Zepp). He has a great setup in that he lives in an older neighborhood, and has two big trees more than 100 feet apart that he could use to support the doublet at 40 feet or more. He wasn’t sure that his wife was going to go for that, but I suggested that this really would be his best bet, and after a couple of months, she won’t even notice it.

It didn’t occur to me to search for information on the SG-239 on the Web. (Why I don’t know–there’s almost always a ton of info on just about any topic on the Web.) I did so this morning and found the SG-239 Antenna Coupler Tutorial.

What a great site! The site contains original material by Dave N9ZRT as well as links to other sites that describe applications of the SG-239. There are discussions of the various types of antennas to use with the tuner as well as how to build an inexpensive weatherproof case for the tuner.

Unfortunately, Colin does not yet have his General Class license, so he can’t do any transmitting, but he did set up the tuner and rig to do some listening. I got an enthusiast e-mail titled “Wow!” from him this morning, in which he exclaimed,

I wired things up upstairs last night while I was watching the game, threw a piece of wire onto the antenna tuner, switched the radio on 5 minutes ago and immediately picked up FM5BH who, as far as I can tell, is operating out of Martinique, South America! This is so cool!

Cool indeed–for him and for me.

Morse Code on the Web

I recently came across two fun Web pages with a Morse Code theme.

The first page is courtesy of the Flying Pigs QRP Club mailing list. The Sparks Telegraph Key Review describes all kinds of early keys, including the original Vibroplex and keys used to key submarine cables. One of the pages, Try Sending Morse Code with the Key!, includes a Java applet that lets you operate a straight key with your mouse. You can also type in a message, and the applet will play it back to you in Morse Code.

The second page is courtesy of the Solid Copy CW mailing list. This page is on the Hidden Mickeys website, a site devoted to inside information on the Disney theme parks. The page, “Decoding the Disneyland Telegraph,” contains a reprint of an October 2000 QST article about the telegraph message in the New Orleans Train Station. There’s also a Media Player version of the message so that you can listen to it for your self.

The article tells the story of how a radio amateur discovered that somewhere along the line the message got truncated and how Disney corrected the problem. This was interesting to me as I recently visited the Henry Ford Museum to see “Behind the Magic,” an exhibit on the history of the Disney theme parks. Disney’s attention to detail is amazing, and it didn’t surprise me at all that the Disney “imagineers” would go to great lengths to fix an error that so few people would pick up on.

Unusual Units Conversions

Mike, WM4B, posted this to the Second Class Operator’s Club mailing list. Truly second class, Mike!

  • 106 bicycles = 2 megacycles
  • 500 millinaries = 1 seminary
  • 2000 mockingbirds = 2 kilomockingbirds
  • 10 cards = 1 decacards
  • 1/2 lavatory = 1 demijohn
  • 10-6 fish = 1 microfiche
  • 454 graham crackers = 1 pound cake
  • 1012 pins = 1 terrapin
  • 1021 picolos = 1 gigolo
  • 10 rations = 1 decoration
  • 100 rations = 1 C-ration
  • 10 millipedes = 1 centipede
  • 3-1/3 tridents = 1 decadent
  • 10 monologs = 5 dialogues
  • 5 dialogues = 1 decalogue
  • 2 monograms = 1 diagram
  • 8 nickels = 2 paradigms
  • 2 snake eyes = 1 paradise
  • 2 wharves = 1 paradox
  • 10-6 phones = 1 microphone
  • 106 phones = 1 megaphone
  • 10-2 mental = 1 centimental
  • 10-1 mate = 1 decimate
  • 1012 bulls = 1 terabull
  • 10-12 boos = 1 picoboo

This Weekend in Ham Radio at KB6NU

I got an early start to the weekend on Saturday, leaving the house at 6 am to get to the Holland Hamfest (about 2.5 hours away). At the hamfest, I gave my ABCs of Strong Clubs seminar. The seminar was sparsely attended, but the quality of the participants more than made up for the quantity. We had a nice discussion of clubs and what seems to work and what doesn’t.

At the hamfest, I purchased some stuff to help me finally build the Icom serial interface kit that I bought. It’s all surface mount parts, so I figured I better get some tweezers to help me handle the parts.

Fortunately, there was a vendor there who had a selection of them for three bucks a pop. Since I was kind of stumped as to which to buy, I asked the guy selling them for some advice. He said that I should probably get one with points that are not too fine, as the points tend to deform easily. With that in mind, I chose an appropriate set. I also picked up a couple of fine point Weller soldering iron tips and a new pad for my iron.

One of the exhibitors there was FISTS, the CW Preservation Society. They were giving out CDs with the K7QO CW Course. I picked up four of them to pass out here in Ann Arbor. They were a good deal too–they were free.

On Sunday, I had a family event to attend, but even so, I managed to make 40 contacts (in about two and a half hours) in the QRP ARCI Fall QSO Party. For a while there, I was even able to camp out on 7.042 and run stations. Then, the sun set, the band changed, and QSOs were as rare as hen’s teeth.

This was really a fun event; there was a lot more activity than I thought there would be. Almost makes me want to send in my dues to join.

Two of my contacts were notable:

  • 8P6BX. This was my first DX contact with the KX-1.
  • KE4RUN. Yet another to add to my collection of QSLs from stations whose callsigns spell words.

Headphones as a Sending Aid?

A couple of weeks ago at the Kalamazoo Hamfest, I bought an external speaker for two bucks. I hooked it up to the IC-746PRO, and was so pleased with the way it sounded that I started not wearing headphones when operating CW.

After a while, though, I noticed that I wasn’t sending as well as I usually do. I was making a lot more mistakes than normal. I plugged in the headphones, and my sending went back to normal.

I thought this kind of odd at first, but after thinking about it, I guess it makes sense. With the headphones on, I don’t get distracted very easily, and when trying to send at 25 wpm, it doesn’t take much of a distraction to slip in an extra dit.

I guess I’m either going to have to stick with the headphones or practice sending listening to the speaker.

Parts Places….for weird stuff

On the Flying Pigs QRP Club mailing list, Brian KB9BVN posted the following list of parts suppliers:

All Electronics
P.O. Box 567
Van Nuys, CA 91408
Ph: 818-904-0524
Fax: 818-781-2653
Web: http://www.allcorp.com
Surplus and new electronic components including semi,
electro-mechanical, etc.

Alltronics
PO BOX 730
Morgan Hill, CA 95038-0730
Ph: (408) 778-3868
Fax: (408) 779-2608
Web: http://www.alltronics.com
Chips and components.

American Science & Surplus
P.O. Box 1030
Skokie, IL 60076
Ph: (847) 647-0011
Fax: (800) 934-0722
Web: http://www.sciplus.com
Electronics, chemistry, physics, optics, and more.

B.G. Micro
555 N. 5th St. Suite #125
Garland, Texas 75040
Ph: (972) 205-9447
Web: http://www.bgmicro.com
Electronic components

C&H Sales Company
P.O. Box 5356
Pasadena, CA 91117-9988
Ph: (213) 681-4925
Fax: (818) 796-4875
Web: http://aaaim.com/CandH/
Motors, test equip, semiconductors, power supplies, pumps, etc.

Circuit Specialists
P.O. Box 3047
Scottsdale, AZ 85271-3047
Ph: (800) 528-1417
Fax: (602) 464-5824
Web: http://www.cir.com
Electronic components, very good pricing.

DC Electronics
P.O. Box 3203
Scottsdale, AZ 85271-3203
Ph: (602) 945-7736
Fax: (602) 994-1707
Web: http://www.dckits.com
Kits, Electronics, capacitors, resistors, meters, IC’s.

Electronic Goldmine
P.O. Box 5408
Scottsdale Arizona
Ph: (602)451-7454
Fax:(602)661-8259
Web: http://www.goldmine-elec.com
Major Electronic Surplus Supplier. Web site at:goldmine-elec.com.

Herbach and Rademan Company (H&R)
353 Crider Ave
Moorestown, NJ 08057
Ph: (215) 788-5583
Fax: (215) 788-9577
Web: http://www.Herbach.com
Catalog describes electronic items including switches, motors, kits,
solar cells, tools, optics, lasers, batteries, power supplies, pneumatics,
etc.

Hoffman Industries
853 Dundee Ave.
Elgin, IL 60120
Phone: 847-622-8201
Fax: 847-622-8202
E-mail: hoffmanind@worldnet.att.net
Web: http://www.hoffind.com
Electronic components

Hosfelt Electronics
2700 Sunset Boulevard
Steubenville, OH 43952-1158
Ph: (800) 524-6464
Fax: (800) 524-5414
Books, Capacitors, enclosures, fans, kits, tools and more.
Email: catalog@hosfelt.com
Web: http://www.hosfelt.com
Electronic components

Marlin P. Jones & Assoc. Inc.
P.O. Box 12685
Lake Park, FL 33403-0685
Ph: (407) 848-8236
Fax: (800) 4FAXYES
Web: http://www.mpja.com
Electronic parts, motors, test equipment, DC-DC converters, LCD panels

MECI
340 E. First St.
Dayton, OH 45402
Ph: (800) 344-4465
Email: meci@meci.com
Web: http://www.meci.com
Large catalog of surplus, closeouts, overstock, and new electronic items.

RA Enterprises
2260 De La Cruz Blvd.
Santa Clara, CA 95050
Ph: (408) 986-8286
Fax: (408) 986-1009
Web: http://www.angelfire.com/free/proto.html
Surplus electronic, mechanical, computers, test equipment, etc.

ElectronicSurplus.com
5363 Broadway
Cleveland, OH 44127
Ph: (216) 441-8500
Fax: (216) 441-8503
Web: http://www.ElectronicSurplus.com
Misc Electronic parts.

Surplus Sales of Nebraska
1315 Jones St.
Omaha, NE 68012
Ph: (402) 346-4750
Fax: (402) 346-2939
Web: http://www.surplussales.com
Ham radio equipment, components, tools, etc.

Weird Stuff Warehouse
384 W. Caribbean Dr.
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Ph: (408) 743-5650
Web: http://www.weirdstuff.com
Computer and electronic gear.

Neil WA6OCP adds the following:

HSC Electronics
3500 Ryder Street
Santa Clara, California 95051
Ph: 800-442-5833
Web: http://www.halted.com
E-mail: sales@halted.com

Dan’s Small Parts and Kits
BOX 3634
Missoula, MT 59806-3634
Ph: 406-258-2782
Web: http://www.danssmallpartsandkits.net/

Jay AJ4AY added one more:

Ocean State Electronics
PO Box 1458
6 Industrial Drive
Westerly RI 02891
800-866-6626
Ph: 401-596-3080
Fax: 401-596-3590
Web: http://www.oselectronics.com/

This is a nice list and includes a couple that I never heard of. Thanks, guys!

ARROW Outdoes Itself in FD 2005

Well, the results are in folks, and ARROW, my club, seems to have really done a job in this year’s Field Day. Here’s the gist of it:

  • We placed #82 overall (out of 2,206 total entries)/
  • We were #10 overall in Category 4A (out of 127 total entries).
  • We were #3 in the state (behind USECA, who operated category 11A, and the Kalamazoo ARC, which was in category 7A).
  • We were #1 in Michigan in Category 4A.

I sent an e-mail to the club mailing list, and told them to all pat themselves on the back.

How to Raise Funds for Your Club

On the arrl_prez mailing list, Ruth KB9VDG wrote:

Hi, my name is Ruth Powell, KB9VDG, and I am the Secretary for the Vermilion County Amateur Radio Association in Danville, IL. We are in need of raising big money ASAP. Our repeater antenna is in need of being replaced, and unfortunately we don’t have that kind of money in our funds. I was wondering if you give send me some information on types of grants that we might apply for and/or ideas for major fund raisers. I am also the Chairperson for our fundraiser committee.

Here are some of the responses:

It depends on your particular group and the size of the need. In one of the local clubs here, special needs such as what you describe are communicated to the club with a request for financial help. Usually the result is that sufficient funds are generated by the response that nothing else is needed. Now, your club may not be large enough or “flush enough” to do this. But you could try it to see what happens….73, Duane AC5AA

We are wrestling with this issue as well and are about to ask for a special campaign to ask people just to donate money to the club. There may be some grant money running around, if you are tied to some other public service/ESDA groups. We have almost given up on traditional ham fest or outright fundraising gimmicks, like food. We have resorted to begging! (just kidding)…Rob K9RST

A local club here in Southern CA is holding an AUCTION this Friday. Most items are outright donations (club gets 100%), but others have a minimum bid set by the seller (club gets 10%). You do NOT need to be a club member to participate! I may stop in myself! The club website is at http://www.w6ze.org/ and the auction rules are at http://www.w6ze.org/Auction_Rules_2005.pdf…Dino K6RIX

Here in Michigan, the Grand Rapids club was able to obtain a $10,000 grant to update their repeater system. There are many community foundations that grant money for community improvement or community service projects. The problem is that writing grant proposals can be difficult, and because amateur radio clubs generally do not rely on this source of funding, they are not experienced in proposal writing.

Another idea for clubs that are within driving distance of Dayton is to sponsor a bus trip to the Dayton Hamvention. Here in Ann Arbor, we are 4-1/2 to 5 hours from Dayton so it’s perfect for us. Last year, our Dayton bus trip netted us almost $1,000.

What does your club do to raise funds?

A Tale of WOE (G3WOE, that is)

Well, I made four contacts tonight–two on 20m and two on 40m. (I called CQ on 30m for a while, but without success.)

The two QSOs on 20 were with stations in FL and TX. The two Qs on 40m, though, were with two Europeans: G3WOE and IK5SRD. And in both cases, they responded to my CQ.

The G3 QSO is a cool one because his callsign spells word, and I can hopefully add his card to my collection. The IK5 QSO was cool because he was running a K1 or K2 (I didn’t quite copy the number) at only 5W.