A Remarkable Evening on the Air at KB6NU

I try to make three QSOs every day, and for the most part, I’m successful. Some days, I only make one or two, but I more than make up for it during contests, when it’s easy to make 50-100 Qs or more.

There are also evenings when I just seem to rack them up. Yesterday was one of those days. All told, I made eight contacts yesterday, and almost all of them were remarkable.

My first contact came at 6:50 pm. I was waiting for my wife to get home from work (she usually arrives a little after 7:00 pm), when I got it into my head to go down to the shack and turn the radio on, even though I knew she’d be home soon. I punched the 20m button, tuned around a bit, and happened to find W6BNB.

As I often do, I search for him on QRZ.Com and found out quite a bit about him. He was first licensed in 1931, became a shipboard radio operator in 1933, a deputy sheriff in 1939, and then a radio instructor during WW II. If you figure that he was 18 when he went to sea that would make him 90 years old.

Apparently being a radio instructor agreed with him. He authored several books on electronics and radio and many articles as well.

One of the more remarkable things about him is that he’s had the call W6BNB for the whole time he’s been licensed. That’s 75 years! It was a great QSO, and I hope I get the chance to work him again soon.

A Little DX
After signing, I went upstairs to eat dinner with my wife. After dinner, I went back down to the shack and decided to see what was happening on 30m. The band seemed relatively dead, but if you operate 30m at all, you know that’s not unusual. Down around 10.107, though, I hear a station calling CQ.

I didn’t catch the call right away, but after he worked a couple of stations, it turns out that I’ve stumbled across TY5MR, a DXpedition to Benin. This DXpedition organizers is Andrea, IK1PMR, who appears to be a very active DXer and regular DXpedition participant.

He had a very good signal here – at least a 559, which, I think, is a tribute to the Spider beams they were using. Amazingly, I worked him on my first call. I think I got lucky by finding him before he was listed on the DX spots. Later, when I tuned him in, there was a small pileup.

After a short QSO with KQ0A (conditions weren’t very good) on 30m, I tuned down to 40m. The first station I heard on 40 was I1MMR in Genoa. He replied right away to my call, and while signals weren’t strong, the copy was Q5. When I signed with Mauro, I got a call right away from OK1MRZ in Prague. I always love it when DX stations call.

Tuning up the band, I heard K0MLF calling CQ. I had worked Don several times on 30m, but this was our first contact on 40m. Don now lives in Utah, and his QSL card is the one I’m using for my WAS award.

In one of our previous QSOs, Don told me about how he was a police CW net operator in the early 60s. Apparently, police groups used CW nets to exchange information back then. I”d never heard that before and found it quite interesting. Now, of course, they use computer networks.

I topped off the evening with a rag chew with KB1CL. He was booming in and it was armchair copy all the way. It was a pleasant QSO to end a remarkable evening on the air.

ARISS Video

Here’s a cool video of an International Space Station contact at the Bradley Bourbonnais Community High School in Illinois.

Thanks to Charlie Sufana, AJ9N, the ARISS mentor for the high school.

NOTE: If you’re using a Mac, you may have to jump through some hoops to get this WMV file to open up.

You Can Now Use LOTW for WAS

From the ARRL Letter of 3/24/06:

==>LOGBOOK OF THE WORLD NOW SUPPORTS WORKED ALL STATES AWARD

Users of the ARRL’s Logbook of the World (LoTW) now may apply their LoTW credits to applications for the League’s Worked All States (WAS) award. Once registered and logged in, users may set up a WAS account on the Logbook Awards page, configuring the account to automatically select QSLs to use or selecting them manually via the Your QSOs page.

LoTW is a repository of logbook records submitted by users from around the world. When both participants in a contact submit matching QSO records to LoTW, the result is an electronic “QSL” that can be used for award credit.

As part of this addition, administration and maintenance of all WAS awards is now perfomed using an LoTW module. US Amateur Radio licensees must be ARRL members to apply for the WAS award. In addition to WAS, LoTW supports the ARRL DX Century Club (DXCC) award.

Since its inauguration in September 2005, LoTW has more than 95 million QSO records on file, with nearly 5.15 million QSL records resulting. The system boasts just over 12,000 registered users, and there are more than 18,100 certificates–each representing a particular user call sign–on file.

It’s about time. This may even spur me to sign up for LOTW.

QSLs Received 3/24/06

I got my hopes up when I collected the mail from the mailbox just now. In the pile was an SASE, meaning that there was probably a QSL card inside. I was hoping it would be the South Dakota QSL I’ve been waiting for to complete my Worked All States. Instead, though, it was a card from J79RV (Dominica). Usually, I’d prefer to receive a DX card instead of a domestic one, but I’m hot to finally get WAS.

I also got an envelope from the fine folks at the FISTS QSL Bureau. This package included a couple of notable cards, including:

  • WW2DDM. This card is from the station honoring the D-Day Memorial. It has a nice photo of the memorial on it.
  • KG2HG. Rich’s card has a nice mountain scene.
  • KI4FW. This card has a photo of the sun setting behind the KI4FW QTH.

Inexpensive Schematic Capture Software

On the Design News Forum, there is a thread on inexpensive schematic capture software. They list the following:

  • DesignWorks. At $500, this hardly qualifies as “low cost,” at least not for radio amateurs.
  • Smartdraw. At $200, this package is still pretty expensive.
  • pcb123. This package is freeware. You can’t get any cheaper than that.
  • TinyCAD. This package is open source, so it’s not only free, but if you really wanted to modify the code for your own purposes, you could do so.
  • For Linux/Unix users, bpaddock listed the following:

One guy also noted that he uses the drawing tools that come with Microsoft Word to draw schematics.

This Weekend in Radio at KB6NU

This Weekend in Radio at KB6NU

This weekend was a bit of a busy one here at KB6NU. I got an early start, getting up at 6:30 Saturday morning to meet some guys and carpool to the Marshall Hamfest. Marshall is about an hour away, so we wanted to be on the road by 7 am.

The Marshall hamfest is a good one. The reason is that it’s in a great location. It draws hams from southwest Michigan, southeast Michigan, northeast Indiana, and northwest Ohio.

There were lots of goodies there. Some guys had transceivers for sale, and there were several dealers selling components, something you don’t find at every hamfest anymore.

I got a couple of great deals. The first was a Bencher BY-1 paddle for only $40. I feel kind of bad about it because I pretty much snatched it away from a guy who was talking to the seller when I walked up to the table. He was a bit hesitant about buying it, but at $40, how could I pass it up? I had a nice chat about CW with the guy after I purchased it, though.

I also purchased an Autek RF-1 antenna analyzer for $85. This is the little brother of the Autek antenna analyzer that I have. It doesn’t have as many functions as mine, but for basic antenna measurements, it will more than do the job. It even came with the manual and precision resistors for checking it out.

I plan to pass these two items on to the hams that I teach. Everyone can use an antenna analyzer, and a cheap paddle might just be the thing to get a new guy on CW.

I also purchased a couple of cheap keys that the middle school kids can use with their no-solder code practice oscillators. I got four of them for $30, which isn’t as cheap as I would have liked, but not bad, considering that the mail order stores are selling them for $10 apiece.

Saturday afternoon, I worked the VA QSO Party for an hour or so. I’d almost forgotten about this contest. Last year, I managed to win a certificate for having the highest score from the state of Michigan on a single band (40m) with 36 QSOs (24 CW, 12 phone) with 24 counties. Sunday afternoon, I put in another hour and a half, and all told, I made 51 QSOs in 33 counties. So, I’m fairly confident that I’ve successfully defended my title.

My last contact was with W4IM in Essex County. He was to be #50, and after the QSO, I was going to pull the plug. In the middle of the contact, though, he just disappeared, even though he was 599 here. I tuned around a bit and found another station for #50, but instead of shutting off the radio, I tuned back up the band, looking for W4IM, and lo and behold, I heard him calling me!

We had a nice chat right in the middle of the contest. It turns out that W4IM needed to take a break, and that’s why he suddenly disappeared. It also turns out that Essex County is very sparsely populated, and that W4IM was probably the only station operating from there. So, I bagged a rare one.

Another thing I managed to do is figure out how to configure the IC-746PRO to receive RTTY. This is kind of an amusing feature. I was only able to receive stations working some RTTY contest, so there wasn’t much in the way of conversation, but I’m looking forward to monitoring some more RTTY QSOs.

All in all, a great weekend in radio here at KB6NU.

More Kids and Ham Radio

For the last couple of months, I’ve been working on getting kids more involved with ham radio. I’ve started teaching some kids at a local middle school and have given talks at several schools here in Southeastern Michigan. I’ve also talked to some of the local ham clubs. Here’s the outline of talk I’m giving Tuesday evening to the General Motors Amateur Radio Club.

As always, comments are appreciated.

Getting Kids Into Ham Radio

  • Some recent events
    • Summer 2005: Part of my platform is getting more kids involved in ham radio.
    • Fall 2005: I lose the election.
    • December 2005: At the invitation of Ig, N0EXF, I speak at Scarlett Middle School. Ig is trying to arrange a QSO with NA1SS, the Intl. Space Station.
    • February 8: At the invitation of a science teacher, Sam KC8QCZ and I give a talk on ham radio to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders at the Ann Arbor Learning Community, a charter school in Ann Arbor.
  • A2 Learning Community
    • Feb. 15: We’re invited back to discuss setting up an amateur radio club.
    • March 1: We hold first club meeting.
    • Different than normal Tech classes:
      • More electronics: these kids want to learn how to build stuff.
      • They’re hot to learn Morse Code.
      • First project: no-solder code practice oscillator (http://www.arrl.org/news/features/2003/10/30/1/).
      • Second project: regen SW receiver.
  • Random Thoughts
    • I think it’s hogwash that kids are no longer interested in ham radio.
    • Somehow, ham radio has lost the ability or the will to relate to kids.
    • There is more competition, but we just have to be more proactive.
    • We need courses tailored to kids.
    • Kids want to do things, not learn things.
    • We need to work with parents and teachers as well as kids.
    • I think targeting our efforts at middle schools, rather than high schools, will be more productive.
    • Charter schools and private schools might afford better opportunities than public schools.
  • Web Resources
    • HamKids – www.hamkids.com
      Site run by Gordie, KD8CDP, and his father, Mike, KD8BUS.
    • AARC Jr. – www.ki3ds.org
    • K3ASK – www.kidshamradio.com
    • Tuesday night net on EchoLink. Connect to KD8BUS.
    • ICOM Kids Section – http://www.icomamerica.com/amateur/kids/
    • ham_instructor Yahoo Group – http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ham_instructor/

I really don’t know where all this is going. When I’ve talked this up, at clubs or on the air, I get a lot of people nodding their heads, but what we really need is to get more people interested in working with kids. If that’s you, get in touch.

Radio Celebrates 100 Years of Voices

From your ARRL:

Newington, CT Mar 17, 2006 — “Hello!” -the first spoken word to be heard over the radio a century ago. The ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio, is celebrating 100 years of voice over the airwaves in 2006.

As a boy, Reginald Fessenden heard his uncle describe Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. The 10 year-old asked, “Why do they need wires?” He then spent much of his life trying to figure it out.

His early attempts at voice transmission were unintelligible. Then, on December 23, 1900, he was able to pass a voice message by radio to his assistant. His first word was “Hello.”

Later, while working to improve wireless Morse code type communication between land stations and ships at sea, he continued his voice experiments. Working in secrecy, he planned a surprise for a 9 p.m. broadcast on Christmas Eve in 1906. Shipboard radio operators had been tipped to listen for something special during the December 24 transmission, but no one could have anticipated what happened. At the appointed hour, radio operators across the North Atlantic were surprised to hear, not the expected Morse code tapping, but a voice coming from their radios, calling “CQ, CQ”. It was Fessenden beginning the very first “radio program.” After a brief introduction, he played music. The planned Bible readings by Mrs. Fessenden and his secretary had to be quickly covered by the inventor as the first cases of microphone fright occurred when both women froze.

While commercial broadcasting didn’t begin for another 14 years after Fessenden’s historic first broadcast in 1906, thousands of inquisitive amateur hobbyists began to experiment with this new fangled technology. They were, and are still, called “Amateur Radio” operators. They labored in attics, barns, garages and cellars to perfect what we now call radio. In the USA, they formed the American Radio Relay League (ARRL).

These Amateur Radio operators, also known as “hams”, continue to be at the forefront of developing technologies years in advance of when they are rolled out to the public. FM, television, and even our small mobile telephones were all used by Amateur Radio operators many years ahead of the public.

You can find Amateur Radio groups in your area at http://www.hello-radio.org . Visit one and say, “Hello!”

The purpose of this site is to introduce the public to amateur radio, so I’m not really sure about the premise of “celebrating 100 years of voices,” but it does have a lot of good information about ham radio, presented in a way that most non-hams will find interesting.

“Smoke is Never Good”

I heard two guys today on a local repeater talking about a project one of them was working on. The first said that he hooked up the power supply, and when he turned it on, it started to smoke. He said he quickly turned it off and reversed the power leads, and now everything seems to be running fine.

The second guy replied, “Well, smoke is never good.”

No truer words were ever spoken, about amateur radio equipment at any rate.

Elmering Pays Off

On Feb 10, 2006, Greg wrote:

I have just decided to get my tech license at age 51 after a lifetime of interest. I have no technical aptitude to speak of. How long do you think it would take me to acquire a license after getting the ARRL materials? I am reasonably well educated, so while my aptitude doesn’t lean toward electronics, I can read and retain what I have read, I understand any answer you can provide would only be general. Also, while my first radio would probably by a 2-meter, what else would you recommend that might be of interest from a standpoint of long-range communications that license would allow? Thanks for any information you can provide.

Greg

I replied:

Well, the way the exams are now set up, you certainly don’t have to be an electronics engineer to get the no-code Technician Class license. My guess is that you will be able to pass the test with less than a month of study.

Today, Greg sent me this message:

Just thought I’d drop you a note to let you know that I took my test Friday and passed, and already received my license call letters. So it was exactly a month. One of the other guys there was taking his General exam and loaned me his book, so I’ll take that as soon as I can. I also need to learn Code, but I want to anyway. Thanks for your advice and encouragement early on. 73, KI4OBM.

How about that, eh? Greg’s message certainly made my day. And I’m very encouraged that he’s going to pursue the General Class license right away as well.