FREE Propagation Software

Here’s a great resource for amateur radio operators. The best thing about it is that it’s free! Unfortunately, it only runs on PCs, but since the FORTRAN source code is also free, perhaps I can figure out a way to adapt it to the Mac.

VOACAP is a free professional HF prediction program from NTIA/ITS, originally developed for Voice of America (VOA) and is the result of 50+ years of U.S. HF research and development. Considered by many to be the most professional HF system performance prediction tool available, VOA and a number of other international HF broadcasters and institutions all over the world currently use it for HF frequency planning.

Features include:

  • Easy to use graphical user interface and, for advanced users, powerful command line options
  • Detailed Point-to-Point graphs and Area Coverage maps for 22 parameters of circuit quality such as:
    • SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio)
    • Reliability
    • Required Power Gain
    • Signal Power
    • MUF
    • Takeoff/Arrival Angle, and more
  • Accurate predictions of the distribution of Worldwide Atmospheric and Man-made radio noise using the latest ITU-R recommendations and a unique combination methodology developed by the late A. D. Spaulding, a world authority in the modeling of noise distributions
  • Detailed hourly and 24-hour predictions for the entire HF spectrum [2 to 30 MHz] with user assigned frequencies, such as:
    • Point-to-Point Performance vs Distance at the given hour for the given parameter at one or all user assigned frequencies
    • Point-to-Point Performance vs Time for the given parameter at one or all user assigned frequencies on the 24-hour scale
  • User defined circuit databases for repeated or batch calculations
  • Thirty calculation Methods for:
    • ionograms
    • antenna patterns
    • complete system performance
  • Versatile coverage maps: one transmitter to many receivers [VOAAREA], or many transmitters to one receiver [VOAAREA Inverse] for bi-directional circuit studies
  • Freely adjustable geographical maps to be plotted on
  • Adjustable precision in coverage map calculations
  • Huge databases of more than 35,000 U.S. and world locations, including DXCC, NCDXF beacons, and HF broadcasting stations, to name a few
  • Accepts unlimited number of user defined location databases
    Database of hundreds of transmit and receive antennas, with ability to user adjustments using HFANT, for:
    • amateur radio
    • broadcasting
    • SWL, and more
  • Accepts unlimited number of user defined antenna files (HFANT and Type 11 & 13)
  • Comprehensive, user-community supported online VOACAP Quick Guide available for beginners and advanced users
  • FORTRAN source code freely available for the prediction module of VOACAP [VOACAPW]
  • Not subject to copyright protection in the U.S.
  • Available for free downloading from the U.S. Department of Commerce (NTIA/Institute for Telecommunication Sciences; Boulder, Colorado).

A Tale of Two Meters

I am an amateur radio operator and subscribe to several mailing lists that discuss building and testing amateur radio equipment, including the Elecraft mailing list and Flying Pigs QRP Club mailing list. I love these lists because they’re chock full of practical information from amateurs who are actively building stuff.

AADE LC Meter IIB KitOne item that is frequently discussed on these lists is the AADE L/C Meter IIB Kit. Many hams like it because it’s inexpensive ($100), easy to build, and apparently, accurate and useful.

Agilent E4980AThe other day, I got a press release for a similar instrument–the Agilent E4980A Precision LCR Meter. Being an Agilent product, I would guess that it’s also accurate and useful. At $13,000, the Agilent E4980A certainly costs a lot more, though.

Of course, there are other differences. For example, AADE specifies an accuracy of “1% typical,” while the “basic accuracy” of the E4980A is 0.05%. The AADE meter uses a fixed test signal, while the Agilent meter can make measurements with a test frequency betweeen 20 Hz and 2 MHz. The AADE meter measures inductance from .001 mHy (1 nHy) to 100 mHy and capacitance from .010 pF to 1 mFd. The Agilent instrument measures these parameters over a much wider range in addition to resistance, complex impedance, Q, and other related parameters.

The Agilent is, of course, a much more capable instrument, but is it worth $12,900 more than the AADE meter? For some applications, of course, but for many applications, and certainly most amateur radio applications, the AADE meter more than meets the need.

World Radio Readership

About a month ago, I commented on the graying of amateur radio. I got the data from a subscriber survey done by World Radio magazine. Below, is all of the data they sent me.

The data was tabulated in November 2005 by Applied Analysis, an independent firm. This company mailed the survey to 1,600 random subscribers. 1,237 (77.3%) responded.

License class

  • Novice: 0.25%
  • Technician: 6.24%
  • General 21.6%
  • Advanced: 13.2%
  • Extra: 58.6%

Years licensed

  • 4 or less: 3.2%
  • 5-9: 7.8%
  • 10-19: 18.4%
  • 20-29: 17.9%
  • 30-39: 12.8%
  • 40 or more: 39.8%


  • 24 or younger: 0.2%
  • 25-34: 0.4%
  • 35-44: 3.9%
  • 45-54: 13.4%
  • 55-64: 29.3%
  • 65 and older: 52.8%


  • Doctorate: 6.2%
  • Masters: 16.4%
  • Bachelor: 26.7%
  • Associate: 18.7%
  • HS graduate: 31.9%

Total household income

  • $100,000 or more: 228%
  • $75k-$99.999k: 17.6%
  • $50k-$74.999k: 20.5%
  • less than $50k: 39.1%

Hours devoted to amateur radio each month

  • 30 or more: 19.4%
  • 25-30: 8.2%
  • 20-25: 10.5%
  • 15-19: 15.3%
  • 10-15: 24.5%
  • less than 10: 22.1%

Active on

  • SSB: 76.3%
  • CW: 40.9%
  • FM: 58.8%
  • Packet: 11.1%
  • HF digital: 19.0%
  • FS or SSTV: 4.6%


  • HF DX: 57.7%
  • HF contests: 24.7%
  • VHF DX: 12.9%
  • VHF contests: 8.0%
  • Repeaters: 38.0%
  • IOTA: 8.8%
  • Emergency communications: 42.2%
  • Public service: 35.3%
  • MARS: 6.2%
  • Field Day: 35.9%
  • Construction: 37.4%
  • Satellites: 10.4%
  • Teaching license classes: 11.4%
  • Traffic handling: 9.5%
  • County hunting: 5.5%
  • HF mobile: 32.1%
  • VHF mobile: 38.4%
  • QSL manager: 2.0%
  • Fox hunting: 6.1%
  • QRP: 23.7%

Member of

  • Local radio club: 66.4%
  • QCWA: 16.1%
  • ARES: 22.9%
  • RACES: 15.7%
  • DXCC: 19.2%

In the past three years, attended Dayton Hamvention: 17.9%
In the past three years, attended a division convention: 30.1%

A Great Heathkit Resource

I recently had the opportunity to play around with the innards of my Heathkit MicroMatic Keyer. I couldn’t find the manual for it, but fortunately, I was able to locate the schematic on the Net.

Unfortunately, Heathkit schematics only call out the Heathkit part number and not the generic part number. For example, U7 of the keyer is labelled on the schematic as 443-897, and without the parts list, you’d never know what it was. You could guess the function of the chip from the symbol, but that only goes so far.

To the rescue is Technology Systems’ Heathkit Parts Cross Reference”. Using this page, I was able to determine that the 443-897 is actually a 74LS174. Cool!

Classic Icom Site Back in Business

Adrian, EA5/G0KOM writes to the IC-735 mailing list:

Just for everyone’s info I have resurrected the old Icom Classic site and its slowly being built up at the moment, I am preparing some new articles for it and am still looking for any content any of you might have that we could include on the site, there is a forum as well, I am working on restoring my IC-735 and that will eventually go there as a project radio

If you get a few minutes pop by and have a look, as I say its in the early stages yet but were getting there. The URL is

Find Hams in Your Area

When I first used this map page, I couldn’t believe how many hams there actually are in this area. Now, I’m wondering why more of them aren’t in our amateur radio club?

WWII Era Q-Signals

This from Scott KD7PJQ, via the SolidCpyCW mailing list in response to a thread on the reasoning behind Q signals:

Although this doesn’t explain a rhyme or reason to the Q signals, I thought the following was very intersting. From Bill Neutzling’s B-24 Liberator Site. The site includes training manual for radio operators–the Radio Operators’ Information File (ROIF). It has two pages explaining Q signals. (To view the pages, you have to go to the website by clicking on the link above, click on the link to the “Radio Operator’s Information File,” the page down to “Page 15-1″ and “Page 15-2,” and click on those links….Dan)

There are a few I recognize. I’m going to see if I can dig up an old copy of FM 24-13.

This list is missing a few that are common in amateur use, such as QRP and QRO, but there are others that are useful for use in aviation. For example, QAA means, “I expect to arrrive at …..(time).” QAL means, “I am going to land at ……… (or …………).”

There’s even a QLF! According to this manual, QLF does not mean, “I’m sending with my left foot,” but rather, “Your frequency is slightly (or ………. kcs) low.”

I did a Google search for “FM 24-13,” and found a reference to The Able Baker Story. This page noted the full name, “Basic Field Manual FM 24-13.” When I plugged that into Google, I got a second reference to the Travis Air Museum, aka the Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum. On their book references page, they list FM 24-13 as being in their library. Perhaps we could get them to photocopy the Q signals pages from the manual.

January BBQ Hot off the Fire

Brian Murrey, KB9BVN, the esteemed editor of the Flying Pigs reports:

I have just uploaded the latest and greatest issue of the BBQ (Bacon Bits Quarterly).

Thanks to everyone that made a contribution this quarter! All in all it’s a pretty good issue if I do say so myself. I am now accepting articles for the April BBQ. Don’t be shy, we print almost

In this issue:

  • Build your own Z-Match
  • Build your own Heavy Duty Junk Box Dipole Thingie
  • Build your own Flying Pig Dip
  • Build your own VNA
  • QRPing from Pike’s Peak
  • Excellent QRPp QSL Cards
  • Tribute to Michael Hopkins FP-820 AB5L SK
  • And more!

E-mailing Affiliated Clubs

As the Michigan Section Affiliated Club Coordinator, I need to send e-mail to all the clubs in Michigan from time to time. To do this, I need to generate a list of all the clubs with an e-mail address. To generate this list, I have been going to the affiliated clubs search page on the ARRL website, generating a list of clubs in Michigan, and then picking through that list manually for e-mail addresses. As you can imagine, this is a pain.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was asked by our Section Manager to se what I could do about getting inactive clubs back into the fold. “Inactive clubs?” I asked him. “How do I find a list of inactive clubs”?

He replied that I could get this information from a page on the ARRL website. I had never heard of such a page, so he got Rose-Ann Lawrence at ARRL HQ to send me the URL to the Big Club list page.

Cool! Not only will this page give you a list of active clubs and inactive clubs, it will also feed this information to you in comma-delimited, ASCII format. That feature lets you feed the data into a spreadsheet or database and slice it and dice it any way you want.

Since my immediate need is to generate a list of e-mail addresses for club contacts, I developed a program to do just that. At first, I thought I’d just feed the data into a spreadsheet and write a macro to get e-mails, but then it occurred to me that with a touch of programming, I could make this useful for all ACCs. Click here to generate an email list for clubs in your section.

Each club record actually contains four email addresses, a club address, a club contact address, the club president’s address, and the club’s newsletter editor’s address. What my program does is find the first e-mail address from a record and then add it to the generated list. If a club record has no e-mail addresses, then nothing is added to the list.

Anyway, try it out, and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your suggestion for making it better.

This Weekend on the Radio at KB6NU

First off – HAPPY NEW YEAR!

This weekend started out with the monthly ARROW breakfast. As it was on a holiday weekend, I wasn’t expecting much of a turnout, but there were at least 20 of us. Jack, AB8RK, and I were “encouraging” one of our members who got her General license last spring to get on HF. We even offered to come over and drill some holes in her house for her (so that she can run some coax into her shack).

Every club should have social events like this. It helps build camaraderie, and it’s just plain fun.

I didn’t get a lot of time to operate this weekend, but I was able to put in a couple of hours working Straight Key Night.. As I did last year, I used my J-37 with leg clamp. Man, that clamp is tight! My leg gave out just about the time my arm did. :)

I made seven contacts, all on 40m, including a nice one with Sam W5WAX. I hope to add his card to my collection soon.