Interesting WWV Facts

The November issue of High Frequency Electronics includes a short article on WWV with some little-known facts (at least to me!) on the time- and frequency standard station. For exampe:

  • WWV began transmitting in 1923 on frequencies from 75 to 2000 kHz.
  • Telegraphic announcements were added in 1945, with phone announcements beginning in 1950.
  • When it first began broadcasting, the frequency accuracy of the signal was 0.3% or better. Today, the accuracy of the signals is in the range of 5 parts in 10**13.

For the complete article, download this PDF file.

For more information than you’d ever want to know download NIST Special Publication 432, NIST Time and Frequency Services.

Porcine QSLs

Today, I received a QSL from N3HAM. This card complements the card I got from W3HAM several years ago.

BUT, the card I got previous to this was one from KB9BVN, an illustrious member of the Flying Pigs QRP Club. A coincidence? Maybe, but maybe not.

Are You Good at RF Design? Feeling Lucky?

EE Times recently ran an interesting editorial on an RF design contest being run by Tektronix, the leading oscilloscope maker, in conjunction with its 60th anniversary. It reads:

Even with 60 years’ experience, Tektronix and the rest of the industry still need hard-to-find clever RF designers. To that end, it has launched nationwide DesignInsight seminars and is soliciting RF engineers to take a series of quizzes to identify today’s “RF geniuses” on a Web site co-developed with IEEE Communications Magazine. The top prize is round-trip fare and accommodations for the IEEE MTT-S International Microwave Symposium in Honolulu next June. Even 60 years after the development of the triggered oscilloscope, Tektronix continues to innovate in its unique way. Happy anniversary!

Scopes for Hams

On the Elecraft mailling list, Doug KØDXV wrote:

I am interested in learning about oscilloscopes and how to use them. I would like to learn how to trace and debug digital as well as analog radio circuits. Any recommendations on a good used scope? Any thoughts on any books that might provide a useful overview of using a scope to debug RF and digital problems?

Don W3FPR, the Elecraft guru, replied:

Paul Harden N5AN has written good articles on the use of the oscilloscope. One can be found in text format in the QRP-L archives.

If you are doing nothing but observing RF voltages with your ‘scope you
might be able to get by with your 20 MHz ‘scope, but I recommend a 100 MHz
scope.

To make good use of the ‘scope without loading the circuit under test, you
will need some good 10X scope probes. The probes have a frequency rating
too and should be rated for 100 MHz or higher for use in the HF ham band
region.

Regarding frequency ratings of probes and ‘scopes – the rated frequency is
the point where the response drops off by 3 dB, so 100 MHz will provide good
calibrated readings at 1/10th of the frequency rating and is quite usable up
to 1/3 the frequency rating. In other words, the response of a 100 MHz
‘scope will be quite accurate through 10 MHz and reasonably accurate at 30
MHz, but will drop off significantly above 30 MHz. You will still be able
to use the ‘scope up to its frequency limit (and maybe above), but you
should not trust the voltage measurements made with it at those limits (the
waveforms may show some distortion at the limits too).

As for buying an oscilloscope, I highly recommend purchasing one from Bob
Garcia. He is known as ‘Mr. Scope’ and frequents many of the hamfests in
the Southeast (he lives in GA). I have recently have had dealings with him
and can say that he is more than fair both in price and his manner of doing
business. You can email him at mailto:esaronel@bellsouth.net and ask him
what he has available.

Dave G4AON added:

I’m not sure about books to describe how to use a scope, there isn’t much to using one and there’s plenty of information on the web, see Chapter 4P of the online book Design Electronics by W.D. Phillips as an example.

New Band Chart Available

The ARRL has published a band chart detailing the frequency allocations and operating privileges for each license class. These are due to take effect on December 15, 2006. The ARRL is going to try to get some of the allocations changed—especially those in the 75m/80m bands—but it’s doubtful they will have a lot of success doing this. More information on the rules changes can be found on the WT Docket No. 04-140 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.

How Many Hams Are in Your Neighborhood?

The population of the U.S. just passed the 300 million mark. If we guesstimate that there are 650,000 licensed amateur radio operators in the U.S. that means that there is roughly one ham for every 462 people. Now, if we further guesstimate that the population of Ann Arbor (where I live) is 110,000, that means that there should be approximately 240 hams in the city of Ann Arbor.

Where are they, though? They certainly don’t belong to ARROW, our local ham radio club. ARROW currently has a membership of about 120, and many members are from outside the city of Ann Arbor. The answer, of course, is that they are either not active hams or aren’t the type to join clubs.

Even so, you may want to get to know these folks. To make this easier, you can use N4MC’s Ham Locator. This nifty little web application will not only let you search the FCC database by zip code, but will also map the hams it finds there.

First, go to www.vanityhq.com. Then, click on the image below the legend “N4MC’s Ham Locator” on the left-hand side of the page. Type in your zip code and you’ll soon find out where all those hams are hiding.

It also totals the number of hams in each licensed class. In zip code 48103, for example, there are:

  • 6 Novices
  • 53 Techs
  • 4 Tech Pluses
  • 28 Generals
  • 18 Advanceds
  • 52 Extras
  • 1 Club

Three of these guys are withing a quarter mile of me—one is just around the corner. I’ve not heard any of them on the air, though.

Next time I’m out walking, I’m going to go by their house and see if I can spot any antennas. And if I see someone out in the yard, I’ll go up and introduce myself. I like the idea of knowing where the other hams in the neighborhood are.

Some Good Advice on Learning Morse Code

Below, find some great advice from Dee N8UZE, who originally posted this to the KochMorse Yahoo Group in response to someone who has been trying for a long time to learn the code. Thanks, Dee!
…Dan

If you can tell a dit from a dah, you can learn it [Morse Code]. You mention having spent “countless dollars on it.” I suspect that you have fallen for the advertising hype “I learned it in days with xxxxx….” and then when that didn’t happen for you (as it doesn’t for most people) you thought that perhaps you couldn’t learn it. This is one area where the amount of money spent has absolutely no bearing on success in learning.

Anyway here are some things for you to mull over that I’ve observed over the course of the years as to why some people pass and some don’t.

Number 1 reason for failure: Unrealistic expectations. Many people believe that they should be able to learn it in a few days or hours. Only the “wunderkind” can do that. The advertising hype encourages that false notion. Most NORMAL people need 30 hours or more to get to 5wpm. At 1/2 hour per day, that’s two months.

Number 2 reason for failure: Incorrect study habits. It is necessary to study every day. If you don’t, you’ll lose a little bit each day you don’t study. Missing an occasional day isn’t bad but missing more than a day a week makes success take even longer as you will have to repeat some material.

Number 3 reason for failure: They don’t really want to take the code test so they fight themselves subconsciously on learning it and find every excuse possible not to put in the time and effort.

MAKE A COMMITMENT TO YOURSELF THAT YOU WILL LEARN AND NOT ALLOW YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS TO RUN THE SHOW AND SABOTAGE YOUR EFFORTS !!

Other reasons/problems in no particular order plus study guidelines:

  • Incorrect choice of training approach. Some people try to memorize the dits and dahs or use words or phrases to help remember. Bad choice. The best method is to learn solely by sound.
  • Additional poor study habits. Skipping days and practicing too long at once are both counterproductive. The most productive approach is to study 1/2 hr per day, every day and break that 1/2 hour into two or more shorter sessions so that the brain doesn’t get fatigued. As I mentioned above the NORMAL person needs 30 hours of practice to get to 5wpm.
  • Pushing too hard. If you add characters too soon, the brain isn’t ready and starts flubbing the ones they know. That is why in G4FON it gives you a specific target in terms of correct copy to go on.
  • Waiting too long to add characters. Again the target is useful here. If you wait until you get 100% copy it takes too long and is discouraging.
  • Setting the character speed too slow. The brain may end up creating a look up table that, while you may pass the test, creates a barrier to higher speeds that you will have to overcome later if you want to get serious about CW. Plus the tests are given using Farnsworth spacing (i.e. character speed around 15wpm and word speed at 5wpm).

I strongly encourage the use of the G4FON program and following its guidelines exactly. Since you are in the US, set the character speed to 15wpm, the word speed to 5wpm, and the tone to 750hz. This is the general standard used in CW tests in this country.

As a VE, if someone fails the CW test, I take them aside afterwards and provide them with guidelines on how to succeed. In addition, I ask those who fail how long they have studied. Invariably their answers have been on the order of one or two weeks and often they have not practiced every day. Some do answer with longer times but even though longer, they often only practiced once or twice per week. None of them have put in 1/2hr per day for 60 days using a method such as G4FON.

I try to encourage people and help them find ways to learn as I want everyone to succeed.

Another Disturbing Incident

Sunday, I made a bunch of CW contacts and then decided to listen to some phone contacts while I played around with some projects. So, I puttered around and listened to a few QSOs.

After about a half hour or so, I hear a PA stations calling CQ. He had a nice signal in here, so I figured I could work him easily enough, and called back. We gave each other 57 reports and proceeded to have a nice contact.

About ten or fifteen minutes into the contact, though, I hear someone calling CQ on the frequency. The signal wasn’t very strong, though, so I couldn’t really make out the call. The QRM was worse for the other station, though, and he asked if I heard the QRM.

I listened a little more intently, and what was happening, is that someone had recorded the first station calling CQ and was replaying the recording on the air. I was dumbfounded. My friend explained that for some reason some guys had taken a dislike to him, and quite often when he got on 40m, they would maliciously interfere with him.

He wasn’t so concerned about the interference to his operations, but was worried that someone might report this to the FCC, and that he’d get some kind of warning or citation. I said that he should report this to the Official Observers in his state, but he seemed reluctant to do this. I still think that this is the best approach, though. That way, if he really was cited, he could counter that it wasn’t him, rather someone falsely using his callsign.

I’m still dumbfounded by this. I just can’t understand why they feel the need to mess with this guy.

Latest Rule Changes Posted to Federal Register; Will Become Effective December 15

From the ARRL website:

NEWINGTON, CT (November 15, 2006) — Just a little over a month after the Federal Communications Commission released the Report and Order (R&O) in the so-called “Omnibus” Amateur Radio proceeding, WT Docket 04-140 (FCC 06-149) to the public, a revised version appeared today in the Federal Register. The changes in the R&O will take effect Friday, December 15, at 12:01 AM EST, 30 days after its publication.

As expected, the Report & Order as published this morning clarified two items that had raised some concerns when it was first released last month: That the 80/75 meter band split applies to all three IARU Regions, and that FCC licensees in Region 2, which includes North America, can continue to use RTTY/data emissions in the 7.075-7.100 MHz band.

Still to be resolved are three controversial aspects of the Proceeding:

  • Expansion of the 75 meter phone band all the way down to 3600 kHz (thus reducing the privileges of General, Advanced and Amateur Extra class licensees, who had RTTY/data privileges in the 80 meter band, and CW privileges of General and Advanced class licensees).
  • The elimination of J2D emissions, data sent by modulating an SSB transmitter, of more than 500 Hz bandwidth (thus making PACTOR III at full capability illegal), and
  • The elimination of access to the automatic control RTTY/data subband at 3620-3635 kHz.

The ARRL Board is discussing the possibility of a petition to reconsider several items in the R&O.

ARRL Regulatory Information Specialist Dan Henderson, N1ND, commented: “The release of the R&O in the Federal Register has started the countdown clock. We are all looking forward to being able to use the refarmed frequencies starting on December 15. We are still anxiously awaiting the release of the Report and Order for 05-235, the Morse Code Proceeding. We are hopeful that the Commission will be able to move on that petition and address the outstanding issues in the Omnibus R&O soon.”

A Double Double

Yesterday, I got on 30m, tuned around, and heard Fritz, W4PKU calling CQ. He had a decent 559 signal here, so I thought we could make a go of it. He gave me a 579 report, but immediately after the first exchange, the band went dead and we gave up. I tuned around a bit more, but didn’t hear much, so I QSYed to 40m.

I tuned around a bit there, then got distracted with something in the schack and played around with that for about ten minutes, then turned my attention back to the radio. I tuned around again, looking for CQs, but when I heard none, decided to give out a blast on 7030.

It only took one CQ, and who comes back to me but W4PKU. This time, he was booming in with a 599+ signal. We had a real nice QSO this time, and at a relatively high speed. Fritz has a nice fist that’s easy to copy up close to 30 wpm.

I titled this item “Double Double” because something similar happened to me last month. On October 15, George, W2BPI was my last QSO of the day. Then, on October 16, George was my first QSO of the day, so his call appears twice in a row, just as Fritz’ call does.

I just found this to be funny that it happened at all, much less twice in a month.

Update 12/2/06:
Yesterday, my first QSO of the day was with Chuck, NO5W, who was my last contact Friday evening. That makes the third time in just a little more than a month.