My New QSL Card

While we’re on the subject of QSL cards, doesn’t it seem that nearly all of the QSL cards you get from European stations have a cathedral or castle or some similarly grand—and very old—structure? Unfortunately, we’re disadvantaged in that respect here in the U.S. Unless you happen to live in New York City, or maybe Boston, most of the really old bulidings are not very awe-inspiring.

So, what’s a ham to do? Well, in thinking about this with regard to my QTH, I asked myself, “What’s the closest thing we have to a cathedral here in Ann Arbor”? My answer, Michignan Stadium! Every fall, more than 100,000 acolytes come to worship there on selected Saturdays. With a capacity of 107,501, it is the biggest American football stadium in the world.

So, here’s a draft of my new QSL card:

Big House QSL

To be honest, I’m not even that big of a football fan, but it is an impressive structure, with or without fans.

Amateur Radio and Lighthouses

I’m not sure why exactly, but lighthouses and amateur radio seem a good fit. There’s even an Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society. Founded in 2000 by Jim Weidner, K2JXW, the ARLHS claims to be the only society devoted exclusively to Maritime Communications and Ham Radio, Lighthouses and Lightships.

I comment on this because this past week, I received two QSL cards featuring QSL cards. The first one was from W1VRY. It features the Portland Head Light (ME).

w1vryqsl.jpg

The second, from W1ACT, features the Gay Head Light in Acquinnah, MA.

W1ACT QSL

I probably have one or two more. I’ll have to dig through my collection and see if I can find them.

Kenwood Confirms Joint Business Development Program with JVC

I have no idea if this has any bearing on Kenwood’s ham radio business, but who knows? Maybe we’ll see a high-def SSB rig. …….Dan

LONG BEACH, Calif. –(Business Wire)– Jul. 25, 2007 Kenwood and JVC have announced plans to start working together in the car and home electronics business in an effort to pool development resources and save costs. Although the merging of both operations under a holding company is presently under discussion, there is no confirmation as of this date.

As part of the alliance, JVC will issue a total of 35 billion yen ($290 million) worth of new shares to Kenwood and Kenwood’s top shareholder, Sparx Group. Kenwood will pay 20 billion yen ($167 million) for a 17% stake in JVC while Sparx will buy 15 billion yen ($125 million) worth of shares, acquiring a 12.8% stake.

Kenwood USA Corporation President Shoichiro Eguchi said: “Digital merchandise that requires large-scale investment for production and extensive software development is now the centerpiece of the consumer electronics industry. The overwhelming trend of digital merchandise is shorter product development cycles and fiercely aggressive pricing. This trend has made the consumer electronics market extremely competitive, however Japan Victor and Kenwood agree that a strategic alliance in car electronics and home/portable audio, as well as the unification of both companies’ management, would bring opportunities for success in a challenging AV market.”

In the car electronics business, the total of both companies’ business size currently reaches 160 billion yen ($1.4 billion). There are several advantages of a larger business scale and management alliance in R&D, purchasing, and production through effective sharing of common resources.

“A unification of resources offers added value and competitiveness in the market, and we look forward to new opportunities in the consumer electronics markets,” said Eguchi.

These Aren’t Your Father’s Digital Scopes

Digital oscilloscopes have sure come a long way since I was writing about them more than 20 years ago. Now, RF DesignLine has posted Part One of a two-part article, Tradeoffs and the Evolution of the Digital Oscilloscope, that argues that most, if not all, the limitations that plagued digital scopes have now been overcome. The author, Phil Stearns of Agilent Technologies writes:

In the last 35 years the industry has witnessed a transition of the most fundamental tool on the electrical engineers bench — the oscilloscope. Since 1971, the time of Hiro Moriyasu’s first digital oscilloscope, there has been a steady transition from analog scope technology. While the benefits of digital technology were immediately apparent, the limitations of this technology required changes in debugging techniques that are in many cases not necessary today.

This article will focus on the “final few” tradeoffs and how new technologies have eliminated them. As a result, we’ll rediscover a few older techniques that you can now use with confidence.

I must admit that I haven’t used any of the new scopes, so can’t comment on this from personal experience, but what Stearns says about how these limitations have been overcome makes a lot of sense. As with all electronics products, it’s the implementation that will make all the difference. I don’t doubt, though, that the fine engineers at Agilent, Tek, LeCroy, and other scope companies have come up with digital scopes that are more useful than ever.

At the end of the article—at the bottom of page 2—don’t miss the list of related articles.

Sending Pictures by CW?

Rob, KC8RCO, sent me an article from the July 2007 issue of Popular Communications in which Bill, N3AVY, proposes to send pictures via CW. CW is the original digital mode after all, isn’t it?

It is an amusing idea. I would suggest, though, that he start with a small image, such as the small ARRL icon. The .ico format uses only 16 colors, meaning that the colors require only four bits, and that each byte contains the information for two pixels.

The ARRL icon is only 766 bytes, meaning he’ll have to send 1,532 characters after encoding the binary data as ASCII. After he’s successfully sent and received the .ico image, then he could move on to something more complex.

Not Just Another Online Test Site

There are a bunch of websites where you can take practice tests online. I’ve just learned about another one, although the guy behind this site, KB0MGA, is quick to point out that this is NOT “just another exam site.” He’s right, it isn’t.

The difference between KB0MGA Practice Exams and the practice tests on QRZ.Com and AA9PW.Com is that this site site keeps track of the questions you answered correctly and which ones you need help with. It then uses that information when composing a practice exam.

HamTest Online does something similar, but it costs $50. KB0MGA’s site is free, although you do have to register so that the site can keep track of your test results.

Operating Notes 7/10/07

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of operating. As I’ve said before, I try to make at least three contacts per day, but lately, it’s been more like four or five. Last night, I made seven.

I started out on 10m. I don’t really have a 10m antenna, but my 30m dipole loads up on 10m, with the help of the IC-746PRO’s internal antenna tuner.

Being the CW guy I am, I started out tuning around down in the CW band, but only heard one station calling CQ. He heard me, but I was too weak to make the contact.

I switched to the phone portion of the band and made a couple of contacts. One guy, K2GV, had the strongest signal on the band, so I figured I could work him, and indeed I did. It turns out that he had a six-element log periodic antenna. With that antenna, he probably could have worked me with the proverbial wet noodle.

It’s kind of cool making contacts on 10m at the bottom of the sunspot cycle. I can only guess at how much fun it will be when we’re at the peak of the cycle. I do know one thing. I’m going to need a better antenna. I still have the PVC pipe I bought to make the 10m full-wave loop antenna, so I think I’ll give that a try.

After 10m started to fade, I switched to 30m and made five more contacts. I worked a station in Colombia, and then had a DL call me after that QSO. I always like it when DX stations call me.

I’ve been working a lot of DX lately, on both 30m and 40m, including both South America and Europe.

Bypass Caps, 60 Emerging Electronics Startups

Here are links to a couple more articles on the Internet. These two are courtesy of the CMP publications EE Times Europe and Planet Analog.

The first is more for the young hams out there, the ones that are still interested in making a living in electronics. “EE Times updates list of emerging startups” list the top 60 electronics startups. Startups are kind of boom and bust, but if you can take a flyer by working for one of these companies, you might just be able to make a lot of money. It will certainly be an interesting experience, at any rate.

The second article, Choosing and using bypass capacitors, is a tutorial on the subject. Written by a couple of engineers from Intersil, a company known for its prowess in analog electronics, this looks like a great introduction to the subject. Its knowledge about stuff like this that will really help you make practical circuits work.