Dada? No. VP7DL

In addition to this blog, I also blog on automotive testing at AutoTestNews.Com. This afternoon, I got a phone from a guy in Great Britain inquiring about one of my entries there.

After our conversation, he mentioned that his father was an amateur radio operator. I asked if he remembered his father’s callsign. “VP7DL,” he quickly replied. “Want to know how I remember that,” he asked.

“Sure,” I said.

“Well, when I was little,” he continued, “I used to love watching my father operate, and apparently, VP7DL was the fist thing I ever said!”

How amusing is that?

A New General’s Experience at ARRL HQ

James, K1JMD/AE, posted this early Friday morning to the HamRadioHelpGroup mailing list. I thought it interesting enough to post here:

It is going on 02:45 EST and I just got back to my hotel room after leaving the ARRL HQ midnight test sessions, and a visit to W1AW. I am not sure how many people were in the pre-midnight session, but attendees of the post-midnight session numbered only around 10, of which I was the only one sitting both the General and Extra exams. From what I heard, everyone that attended past, including a young lady who I was very pleased for after she told me it was her third try. For my part I passed the General 100% and had 2 wrong on the Extra!

I stopped into the W1AW building before leaving, it is really nifty, this small brick building on the front lawn of the HQ property is packed with gear, and includes three glass enclosed operating studios. All three studios where occupied by folks who had just earned their ticket/upgrade and were making their contacts from W1AW with some coaching from the League Staff (great bunch of folks). I could have hung around and done so as well, but I was tired and to tell you the truth a little nervous. Do to the weather I had decided to come down here and stay the night and I don’t have to rush anywhere tomorrow, so maybe I will stop by there again before leaving town. Besides I want to get some photos.

Well that’s it, I am pleased as punch, and it was well worth the trip here to test for the added benefit of seeing the station. I am posting this from my laptop using my cell phone as a Bluetooth modem so I hope it makes it through to the list. I will check in the morning, but for right now..sleep.

He followed it up yesterday with this post:

As you guys know if you caught my earlier post I was down to ARRL HQ for upgrade testing Friday 00:01 EST the sessions was part of the Leagues ‘Welcome Weekend’ and ‘W1AW Open House’. Well today my wife Susan and I had to check on a property about 50-minutes north of Hartford, so we decided, or more to the point she conceded to visiting W1AW where the weekend open house was still going on.

Just as we pulled up in the parking lot and stepped out of my truck I noticed pulling up next to us Penny Harts (N1NAG). Penny was the lead VE at my testing session, and she strikes you immediately as a warm and gracious lady. I introduced Susan to Penny and explained how I had been prompting her to study for a Tech license. Penny smiled and took my wife by the arm and told her the story of how she (Penny) for years would tell folks she was not interested in acquiring any type of license, despite folks prompting during here years of service at the League HQ, until one day she relented and went for her Tech. After that she said she was hooked and quickly went on to General and then Extra. She gently urged my wife to give it a shot, saying that she might be surprised how much she would enjoy it. By the way, what was Penny doing there on her day off you might ask? She had come in to run another VE session, this time in the small attic space of the W1AW building. You can read more about Penny here.

We followed Penny into the W1AW building where once again my wife was greeted and made to feel welcome by everyone. She would have been far too nervous to give it a go herself with a control operator, but she did join Harold Kramer (WJ1B) and I in one of the studios. With some Elmering from Harold, he and I took turns operating as W1AW logging contacts with stations in CO, CA and TX on 17-Meters. My wife sat next to use beaming a smile from ear to ear, she said later that at first it was hard for her to decipher the SSB speech but after awhile she caught on. You can read more about Harold our Elmer for the day here.

I was proud of Susan, a naturally very shy woman, for being such a good sport; and I was very proud of my fellow Hams for making her feel so welcome. It was a wonderful day!

Oh and on a purely selfish note, as we were walking back out to the truck to head home she surprised me by out of the blue saying “you know that radio you had been looking at (Icom 746Pro), you should go ahead and buy that”.

Thanks, James!

A One-Tube, Push-Pull Transmitter

Yesterday evening, I was trying to make some WV QSO Party contacts, with the hope of reprising my victory in 2004 (I was the high scorer from the state of MI). Unfortunately, either the skip was too long or there just weren’t any WV stations on 80m CW.

So, I started tuning around and heard Bill, K4JYS, calling CQ. We had a very nice QSO, and it turned out that Bill was using a homebrew, one-tube transmitter using a 6A6 tube. I Googled “6A6 transmitter” and found this circuit. Apparently, it can be made with many different types of dual triode tube types. Here’s another site with information on this type of transmitter.

The transmitter had a very nice note with only a little bit of chirp. Bill said he was using 16, 9-V batteries connected in series for the plate supply. I think that helped keep the plate voltage quite steady and thereby the chirp to a minimum.

Anyway, yet another project to put into the queue.

Programs to Copy CW

Here in Ann Arbor, I’m working to establish a permanent amateur radio station at the Hands-On Museum. As part of this station, I wanted to have some kind of “hands-on” activity. One thing that came to mind is to have a computer set up to let kids type their names in to a computer and then have it spit it out in Morse Code. I’m also thinking of setting up another display that will let kids tap out their names on a key while a computer tries to decipher what’s sent.

The problem, of course is that most computer programs are still not great at copying Morse Code, and what the kids send will probably be very choppy. Even so, I’m thinking about trying it.

Googling around for computers programs that can copy Morse Code, I found the following. Except where noted, these programs run on PCs:

  • CWGet. $30. This program seems to have a lot of users.
  • WD6CNF Morse Decoder. Freeware. Since this one is free, I think I’ll try this one first.
  • MRP40. 50 euros.
  • RadioRaft. There is both a free version and a commercial version of this program. The website includes a simple circuit for interfacing a receiver’s audio output to a computer’s serial interface.
  • MultiMode. $39-up. This program runs on the Mac.

In addition to these programs, I also found this article that describes a stand-alone CW decoder based on a PIC processor.

Quotable

On the HamRadioHelpGroup mailing list, Bob WA7YUL was telling a story about how he and his son were having trouble maintaining a QSO on 75m phone, when he suggested that they switch over to CW. After doing so, his son was amazed at how well they could maintain contact.

The quote came at the end of the story. He noted, “CW may not be for everyone, but it remains good stuff.”

Well said.

Yet More QSLs

On Friday, I received a pack of QSLs from the bureau. The two most notable are from OO175B andn DF0HQ:

  • OO175B. This card commemorates the 175th anniversary of the Belgian nation. The nicely-designed card shows roughly the Flemish-speaking area in the north and the French-speaking area in the south.

    OO175B is a callsign used by the club station of the UBA, which, accoding to the card, is equivalent to our ARRL. One factoid really struck me. The UBA says that 95% of the licensed amateurs in Belgium belong to the UBA. As a point of reference, less than 25% of licensed amateurs here belong to the ARRL.

    OO175B QSL
  • DL0HQ. This is a card from the Ilmenau Contest Club. What struck me about this card is that the club members look so young. A similar card from a club here would look much older.

    DF0HQ QSL

Cell Phones Bills May Curtail Mobile Operation

I am all for banning cell-phone use while driving. What I didn’t think about is that legislation banning cell-phone use might also outlaw mobile amateur radio operation. Legislation is in the works in Georgia, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming. If you live in those states you might want to find out about them.

Over and above that, be careful out there! I haven’t heard of any incidents where an amateur radio operator caused an accident or could not avoid one because he or she was distracted by his or her mobile operation, but the danger is real……..Dan

From the February 16, 2007 ARRL News:

Bills aimed at thwarting “driving while cellular” and “driving while distracted” behavior have been introduced in several states, and most are worded broadly enough to potentially proscribe some Amateur Radio mobile operation. ARRL Regulatory Information Specialist Dan Henderson, N1ND , so far has catalogued 11 active pieces of legislation. Bills introduced in Montana and New Mexico have been sidelined for now, but related measures — more than one in some states — remain alive in Georgia, New Jersey, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming. Henderson reports that ARRL Field Organization volunteers and members called the League’s attention to the various pieces of pending legislation, none of which specifically exempt Amateur Radio mobile operation.

“In most cases we try to work to have language exempting Amateur Radio inserted into the bill, rather than narrowing by definition the behavior or activity the bill seeks to address,” Henderson explains. “It is a far easier approach and removes ambiguity down the road.”

Henderson says that, if requested, the League will advise radio amateurs preparing to testify about a bill before a state legislative committee. “We offer some suggestions regarding what to cover and how to approach their testimony,” he said. “We also will speak with legislators or their aides to try and clarify questions or help them craft language that help accomplish our goal of specifically exempting Amateur Radio operation from these measures.” Most of the measures include exceptions for emergency communication and law enforcement agencies.

[[Details about individual bills deleted.]]

Henderson advises ARRL members to contact their Section Manager to learn about any initiatives under way to address the ham radio implications of a particular state bill.

Why QRP?

On the QRP-L.Org mailing list, there’s been some discussion about why people become QRPers. Here’s the list so far:

  1. High power is too easy. These folks enjoy the challenge of QRP.
  2. There are restrictions on antennas where they live.
  3. They’re tree huggers who want to conserve energy.
  4. They like to build their own equipment.
  5. They’re too cheap to buy high-power gear.
  6. They’re campers or hikers and like to take ham gear along with them.
  7. They blew up their finals and are too lazy to get the rig fixed.

Rick, KC0PET opined, “I am a tree hugger. Every time I climb a tree to hang a QRP antenna, I hug
the tree…keeps me from falling.” I’d add a #8: QRPers are more fun to hang out with than the QRO guys.

W1AW to “Welcome” New Generals

From the ARRL Letter, Februrary 9, 2007:

As new Amateur Radio Service rules phase in Friday, February 23, eliminating the Morse code requirement, Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Station W1AW will mark the milestone with a weekend-long special event. In addition, a number of Central Connecticut volunteer examiners will be on hand at ARRL Headquarters — both before and after the new rules become effective at 12:01 AM EST — to offer Amateur Radio examinations under the current and new rules. ARRL Regulatory Information Specialist Dan Henderson, N1ND, is helping to coordinate the celebration. He says Headquarters staff and other volunteers will keep W1AW active for the “Welcome Weekend” event.

“W1AW will be on the air all weekend for this special event to celebrate the fact that so many amateurs have gained or will earn new privileges as a result of the rule changes,” he said. “The station will operate starting at 12:01 AM Eastern Time on Friday, February 23, continuing into the wee hours and resuming operation during the day. Then W1AW will be on the air on both days of the weekend, from 10 AM until 5 PM — perhaps longer as conditions and enthusiasm dictate.”

Operation will be on both SSB and CW. W1AW operators will concentrate their activities on the Technician and General class HF subbands. On SSB, the station will use its normal phone frequencies — 1.811, 3.990, 7.290, 14.290, 18.160 and 21.390 MHz. On 10 meters, W1AW will operate SSB on or about 28.480 MHz.

Henderson says operating will be casual unless pileups develop. “The purpose is to welcome newcomers to new privileges,” he said.

“First Contact” certificates will be available as part of this event. ARRL invites anyone making a first contact or first HF contact to enter the contact information on the ARRL “Welcome Weekend” Web site and receive a certificate in return. “If the first contact is with W1AW we will also be including a W1AW QSL card for the contact,” Henderson added.

QSLs on the Net

Jim, K8ELR, submitted this link to the DE0BRF QSL Gallery.

The page I like the best is the page of deleted DXCC entities. Being Slovak-American, the Czechoslovakia card was interesting. Perhaps even more topical, though, is a card from the Saudi Arabia/Iraq Neutral Zone. Both are shown below.
CzechoslovakiaSaudi Arabia/Iraq Neutral Zone