A QSL and a Funny Story

I finally confirmed Cuba with the receipt today of a card from CO6RD, via his QSL manager AD4C. I hadn’t had much luck going through the QSL bureau, so when I saw that CO6RD had a U.S. QSL manager, I shipped off a card and an SASE and received a quick reply. Thanks!

I got more than I bargained for, though. AD4C tells a great story about how he fired up his father’s ham station when he was 13 years old and unlicensed. To read the story, go to QRZ.Com and search for AD4C.

You Learn Something New Every Day

On the Elecraft mailing list, there was some talk about the term “Elmer,” which in amateur radio parlance is someone’s mentor. I thought that the term was of ancient vintage, but apparently, it was coined as recently as 1971.

According to Norm Fusaro, W3IZ, The term first appeared in QST in a March 1971 “How’s DX” column by Rod Newkirk, W9BRD (now also VA3ZBB):

Too frequently one hears a sad story in this little nutshell: ‘Oh, I almost got a ticket, too, but Elmer, W9XYZ, moved away and I kind of lost interest.’ We need those Elmers. All the Elmers, including the ham who took the most time and trouble to give you a push toward your license, are the birds who keep this great game young and fresh.

So, not only is the term of fairly recent coinage, but the original Elmer was fictitious. Even so, I beam proudly whenever someone calls me that.

Microwave Hacking, Anyone?

I’m not much of a microwave guy, but the article “Mattel makes a real radar gun, on the cheap” on RF Design Line looked intriguing to me. Designed to measure the speeds of Hot Wheels model cars zipping around a track, it emits and detects a pulsed 10.5 GHz microwave signal. It seems to me that you could buy two of them (they cost $30 each) and with a little hacking get them to send and receive CW at the very least.

The article has a lot more technical detail. Perhaps someone with more microwave experience could take a look and tell us what they think.

RF Design With Op Amps?

If you’ve been around electronics for any length of time, you don’t think of op amps as RF devices, but the times they are a changing. The RF Design Line article, “RF Design with Operational Amplifiers” shows which op amps to use and how to use them.

Getting Ready for Field Day!

Field Day 2007 is tomorrow!

I really love Field Day. It’s like the perfect amateur radio event. You do, however, have to prepare for it. I actually work on it all year ’round, mostly finding and recruiting CW ops for the station I captain.

The week before the event, I start getting the equipment ready. I take antennas, radios, power supplies, etc. My philosophy is to take anything that might be useful. If it actually does get used, great. If not, well, that’s OK, too.

One thing that I think I’m going to bring this year is a first aid kit. Fortunately, we’ve never needed one, but you never know. Again, it’s better to have it and not use it than to need it and not have one handy.

Finally, take (and use) sun screen! You don’t want to get burnt.

CQ FD? No, CQ GOTA!

Here’s another great idea for GOTA stations that’s gaining traction on the ARRL PR mailing list—instead of calling “CQ Field Day,” call “CQ GOTA.” Maybe, just maybe, hams answering that call will take the time to speak slowly and use plain language, giving the GOTA station operator every opportunity to have a great experience.

Dennis, KG4RUL, who originated the idea, says, “Listen for N4EE calling “CQ GOTA STATIONS” and we WILL take the time to talk with you.”

Other stations who have also signed up to do this include:
W8PGW – Ann Arbor, MI
W5TSA – Waco, TX
W5DLP – Van Zandt County, TX
W9FCC – Onalaska, WI

Email me or respond to this post, and I’ll add your call and location to this list.

Two Good Ideas for the GOTA Station

I think one of the good things about Field Day is the Get on the Air (GOTA) station. Its purpose is to introduce newcomers to HF and get those that have been off the air for a while back on the air. At the ARROW Field Day, we try to get as many people to make a contact as possible.

Unfortunately, the rules don’t always encourage this. Last year, for example, one operator had to make at least 50 contacts to get 50 bonus points. That doesn’t encourage sharing. This year, the rules say that to get a 20-point bonus, one operator has to make at least 20 contacts. This is an improvement, but recently on the ARRL PR mailing list, Terry, KB9YXV, had a couple of suggestions on how to make the GOTA station even better:

I have watched some of the public in the past as they watch a special event station working a pile-up and the operator says, “W9B, QRZed? Again? QSL. QSL K9ZOF, W9B. Your 5/8 in Wisconsin with a little QRMary QSL? Roger! 73′s W9B, QRZed?… This will go on for awhile and if the observer does not walk away they will ask “Is he done testing yet? When will he talk to someone?” So for demonstration purposes the members of the MVARA are going to operate the W9FCC G.O.T.A. station using plain, no radio jargon, english.

Another idea for the Field Day organizers. How about an incentive for working a G.O.T.A. station? Many times while operating the G.O.T.A. explaining how to make a contact or while a guest operator is operating the station that you are contacting will not communicate with the G.O.T.A. station because it takes too much valuable time out of their “contest”. They can work 5 “normal” stations in the time that they work one G.O.T.A. station. My proposal for the ARRL Field Day rule makers is to make G.O.T.A. contacts worth 5 points. This would make it worthwhile to take the time to make a contact with a guest G.O.T.A. station operator. Then if one G.O.T.A. station worked another G.O.T.A. station it would be worth 10 points.

I like both ideas. The first will make the operation more understandable for both newbies and observers. The second will encourage GOTA operation.

Anyone else have any good ideas?

More on the Belgian Ham Society

A while back, I commented on a QSL I’d received from the club station of the UBA, the Belgian equivalent of the ARRL. I noted:

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.

A Belgian ham recently read this and sent me the following comment:

In Belgium, there is only one IARU society (UBA) that has access to the IARU QSL “buro”. This means that as a Belgian ham you need to be a member of the UBA in order to use the in/out buro. This is a free and unlimited service comprised in the UBA membership fee (abt. 34 US$ per year).

While this is in fact a QSL monopoly, there is no one really opposing the situation. Except for a handful of people who’d rather see an exclusively Flemish organization, as part of two societies based on linguistic factors and following the structure of our governments. Yes, plural: “Flemish”, “Walloon”, and a national federal government, plus a special statuts for Brussels Capitol.

That equals 4 governments, each with a parliament and a president (prime minister). There is a German part in there too somewhere, yet this is only a small community in Belgium. Then there’s the monarchy, though our king has an almost exclusive ceremonial function – he only has to sign the laws made by each of the governments. Complex, ues, but it rules out the option of a civil war in order to gain independence. But I get carried away.

The UBA does a lot for its members like dealing with the telecom regulators to get more privileges and the UBA QSL buro is working flawlessly. So that is why the vast majority of Belgian hams are member of the UBA (currently 3000 members). But the UBA is perfectly aware of the fact that the number of members will be reduced should the QSL monopoly cease to exist.

So I hope the 95% figure makes some more sense now.

Well, here in the U.S. hams can receive QSLs from the bureau, but still must be ARRL members to send them via the bureau. That being the case, I think the 95% figure is still outstanding.

What Are Those Strange Sounds, Anyway?

On the HamRadioHelpGroup, a new ham asked:

I was wondering if there are any .wav files out there that can help one identify different kinds of noise and interference. I get all kinds of crazy sounds of my radio. Some sound like they may be data, others sound like someone is broadcasting a truck engine. Any ideas?

Of course, answers were quickly proferred:

I believe I’ve written before about the Digital Modes Sample page, but the RFI Noise Identification page was a new one for me. The page has 20 or more .mp3 files of various types of noise in the following categories:

  • Household appliances and electrical equipment
  • Computers and related equipment
  • Transmitters and intentional RF emitters
  • Electric Utilities , BPL and industrial equipment
  • Miscellaneous Equipment

There are also a bunch of unidentified noises. Have a go and see if you can id them.

Come and Get It!

The June 2007 issue of the Flying Pigs’ Bacon Bits Quarterly (BBQ) is now online. Articles include:

  • Harbor Freight 45W Solar Panel “Kit” — By Rich Arland, W3OSS
  • Hams Are Cheap! by yours truly, FP #1171
  • Hamming It Off the Grid – By Dennis Ponsness, WB0WAO, FP #347
  • Building the SW-40+ — By Dan Lautenschleger, AB9ME FP#1570
  • Run For the Bacon Roundup – By Larry Makoski, W2LJ FP#612

Oink Oink!