CQ Mars

A couple of nights ago I was puttering around the shack and came across my July 1971 issue of QST. (July 1971 is the month I was first licensed.) Just for kicks, I picked it up and started leafing through it.

One of the strays happened to mention the Elser-Mathes Cup, a cup donated to the League that is to go to the first ham to make a QSO from the planet Mars. How very strange, I thought, so I Googled “Elser-Mathes.” Here’s what an item on the ARRL website has to say about the Elser-Mathes Cup:

Visitors to ARRL HQ may recall having seen the unusual trophy on display. It’s intended to mark the occasion of the first two-way Amateur Radio contact between Earth and Mars. (The actual bowl of the cup is borne by images of beings that only coincidentally resemble the large-eyed hominids of alien abduction lore–although that was not the intention.–Ed) The story of the Elser-Mathes cup appeared in the November 1969 issue of QST. In his article, “That Planet Mars QSO Cup,” Col Fred Johnson Elser, W6FB, recalled meeting League founder Hiram Percy Maxim, W1AW, in the 1920s. He learned that Maxim had an interest in Mars and even owned a globe of “The Red Planet.” Later, back in The Philippines–in 1928 under US jurisdiction–Elser was inspired by a visit with Philippines SCM Lt Cmdr Stanley Mathes, K1CY, to offer “a unique trophy” for the first two-way communication with Maxim’s “pet planet,” Mars. The actual trophy selected by Elser and Mathes during a trip to Baguio is an example of Igorot native woodcarving. “The base symbolizes Earth and the seated figures are its inhabitants,” Elser explained in QST. “The bowl is Mars, and the standing men are the amateurs who bridge the gap of space.” The plate fastened to the cup includes space for the names, call signs, and dates of those who will fulfill the cup’s eventual destiny.

How very strange, eh? Here are a couple of pictures of the cup:

Making Basic Audio Measurements

Audio DesignLine is running a two-part article titled “Introduction to the Six Basic Audio Measurements”:

  • Part 1 discusses basic test setup and how to make level measurements.
  • Part 2 discusses the other five basic measurements, including:
    • frequency response,
    • THD+N,
    • phase,
    • crosstalk, and
    • signal-to-noise ratio

National Weather Service Honors Ham Radio Dec 1

This is a fun event. A couple of years ago, I logged several NWS offices on 40m…..Dan

From the ARRL:

Newington, CT Nov 21, 2007 — The ninth annual SKYWARN Recognition special event will take place Saturday, December 1. This celebration of a lifesaving partnership is cosponsored by the National Weather Service (NWS) and ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio. SKYWARN Recognition Day is the National Weather Service’s way of expressing its appreciation to Amateur Radio operators for their commitment to help keep communities safe. During the 24-hour special event, Amateur Radio operators, working together with their local National Weather Service (NWS) offices, will activate Amateur Radio stations and work as a team to contact other hams across the world.

“This is a fun event,” said Allen Pitts, spokesperson for the ARRL. “For 364 days of the year, hams aid in providing the NWS offices with real-time information on severe weather when people and property are at risk. But this one day is for fun, friendship and recognition of the critical services given to communities by the hams.”

“Radio amateurs are a tremendous resource for the National Weather Service”, says Scott Mentzer (N0QE), organizer of the event and Meteorologist-In-Charge at the NWS office in Goodland, Kansas. “These folks are dedicated, and the assistance they provide throughout the year is invaluable. Skywarn Recognition Day is our way of saying thank you”.

Last year, 90 NWS offices across the country participated and logged 16,209 radio contacts according to David Floyd (N5DBZ), the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at Goodland. In typical SKYWARN operations during severe weather, direct communication between mobile spotters and local NWS offices provides critical “ground truth” information for forecasters. In summer, spotter reports of hail size, wind damage and storm rotation in real time greatly assist the radar warning operator since that information can be correlated with Doppler radar displays. In winter, snow nets are held, in which reports of snow totals, ice accumulations and whiteout conditions in blowing snow help NWS forecasters assess the extent and severity of winter storms. In recent years during wildfire situations, amateur radio operators have reported the precise locations of thick smoke and zero visibility, which allowed forecasters to provide crucial weather updates to fire fighters.

“NWS offices utilize the real-time reporting of weather events to assist in warning operations, but certainly hurricanes Katrina and Rita have shown us that ham radio operators are equally important during the recovery phase of large-scale natural disasters,” Floyd pointed out. Floyd also cited the example of the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN). He notes that the HWN, which organized in 1965 during Hurricane Betsy, started out as an informal group of amateurs but has since developed a formal relationship with the National Hurricane Center in Miami via its Amateur Radio station WX4NHC. Ham radio operators and volunteers at Miami work together when hurricanes threaten to provide real-time weather data and damage reports to the Hurricane Center’s forecasters.


Amateur Radio Stations at Science Museums

I’ve written many times about our efforts to set up an amateur radio station at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. Well, recently on the HamRadioHelpGroup mailing list, Jeremy, N2BUF, noted, “I am trying to compile a list of other Science Centers that have Amateur Radio clubs or Amateur Radio displays for kids.”

Below is a list of clubs that others mentioned and some that I know about:

  • New York Hall of Science, Flushing, NY
    Club: Hall of Science Amateur Radio Club
    Callsign: WB2JSM
  • Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, Ann Arbor, MI
    Club: ARROW
    Callsign: WA2HOM
  • Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Portland, Oregon
    Club: Blueback Submarine Radio Club, info on QRZ.Com
    Callsign: W7SUB
    This station is located inside the sub, which is on display at the museum.
  • Museum of Science and Technology, Flushing, NY
    Club: Hall of Science Amateur Radio Club
    Callsign: WB2JSM
  • Arizona Science Center, Phoenix, AZ
    Club: Center for Amateur Radio Learning
    Callsign: W7ASC
  • Ontario Science Center, Toronto, ON
    Club: Ontario Science Center Amateur Radio Club, info on QRZ.Com
    Callsign: VE3OSC
  • Canada Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa, ON
    Club: Amateur Radio Exhibit Group
    Callsign: VE3JW
  • Discovery Place, Charlotte, NC
    Club: Mecklenburg Amateur Radio Society, www.w4bfb.org/dplace1.htm
    Callsign: W4BFB
  • Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC
    Club: no club, web info
    Callsign: NN3SI

Apparently, there will be one in India, too. The Hindu, a paper in Kerala, ran the story, “Ham radio station at science museum” recently. This is all very cool stuff.

Will Printed ICs Bring Back the Electronic Experimenter?

EE Times has an article on their website, “Printed ICs aim to make mark on mainstream,” that describes advances in

thin-film transistor circuits–and the broader category of printed or plastic electronics–as the next step beyond wafer-based ICs. The technology uses inkjet printers and polymer inks to print cheap, low-density ICs on a system, display or just about anything else. As such, it promises to make the IC ubiquitous, opening a host of new applications.

I can envision a time when we’ll design circuits on a computer, print them out on relatively inexpensive printers, and then test them and play with them. The ease with which we’ll be able to do this will make experimenting easy and fun again.

Not only will we be putting circuits together, but playing around with the transistors themselves. Don’t like the characteristics of the transistors in your component library? Well, then, change them! This should be a lot of fun.

I’m Thankful for Ham Radio

It seems kind of trite to write something like this at this time of year, but I am truly thankful for ham radio:

  • First of all, I’m thankful that my parents encouraged me when I took up radio as a hobby (or at least looked the other way when I did some of the crazy things that I did).
  • I’m thankful for all the challenges that ham radio has presented me and all the enjoyment I’ve gotten from it for the last 36 years.
  • I’m thankful for the Elmers I’ve had along the way that have helped me achieve things in ham radio.
  • I’m thankful for all the men and women in my club, who make being a member so much fun.
  • I’m thankful for the folks that participate in the amateur radio mailing lists that I subscribe to. They’ve made my life easier for sure.
  • I’m thankful for the reviews section of eHam.net. The reviews give me a bit more peace of mind when purchasing something via the Internet.
  • I’m thankful for all the interesting and friendly folks I’ve met on the air. Ham radio is about communicating with other people, after all.

I’m sure I’ve missed something. What else should I be thankful for? What are you thankful for?

Adventures in PSK31

Last weekend, I took my laptop to the Hands-On Museum, with the idea of perhaps trying to work some PSK 31. I’d downloaded and installed CocoaModem, a freeware package for the Mac, and I brought along the Buxcom Rascal interface that I purchased several months ago. I didn’t’ have a USB-RS232 adapter, but I guessed that I could buy one at the computer store downtown.

Not having a serial adapter proved not to be a problem, though. The only audio input on my iBook is the built-in microphone! So, unless I wanted to hold the speaker up to the microphone—or the computer up to the speaker—I wasn’t going to be operating any PSK31 anyway.

When I got home, I figured out what I needed to purchase. First of all, I needed the audio interface. The solution to this is the Griffin iMic. This device adds a stereo input and a stereo output to Macs that don’t have them.

I also still needed a USB-RS232 adapter. The folks on the Ham-Mac mailing list seemed to favor the Keyspan adapter.

I surfed around a bit for the best prices on these devices, and was able to snag both of them for $72, including shipping, from NewEgg. They arrived Wednesday, and yesterday I finally got around to playing with them. As you can imagine, when you get it all together, it’s a real jumble of wires:

Hooking up the audio input and output was easy enough, as was the RS-232 interface. I wanted to be careful about hooking up to my IC-746PRO’s accessory connector, though. The Rascal that I purchased supposedly came with a cable to connect it to that connector, but I couldn’t find any mention of the particular cable on the Buxcomm website. I finally resorted to buzzing it out.

When I was sure it had all the right connections, I plugged it in to the back of the rig. Then panicked. The moment I plugged it in, the rig went into transmit mode. Hastily unplugging it, I consulted the manual again.

The problem turned out to be the PTT configuration. CocoaModem uses a separate program to operate the PTT line. I dowloaded CocoaPTT, configured it, and marked that problem solved.

I spent the rest of the evening copying Latin American stations work Europeans on 7036 kHz. I could only hear the Latin Americans, though—HP1AVS in Panama, KP4ED in Puerto Rico, and a Venezuelan whose callsign I don’t remember.

This morning, I printed out the PSK portion of the CocoaModem user’s guide and read about how to adjust the transmitter. To do this, CocoaModem has a test tone function. The user guide says to adjust the audio output so that there’s just barely an indication on the ALC meter and then back off until it’s gone.

I don’t think the IC-746PRO works that way, though. Instead, you need to adjust the output level so that the ALC indicator stays within the brackets on the display. I did this, then set the output power to around 20W, and then tuned around for someone calling CQ.

I found KB3CVQ. Nervously, I answered his call. When he came back to me, I felt a little giddy. Not as giddy as I did when I made my first contact as a Novice, but along those lines.

I mentioned that this was my first PSK31 QSO and wasn’t sure I had things set up right. He replied that everything sounded just fine. We had a very nice QSO.

After lunch, I gave it another go. Not hearing anyone, I called CQ. After three calls, Marc, N4DR came back to me. Very cool. We had a nice QSO, lasting about a half hour.

I didn’t think that I’d like PSK31 so much, but there are some differences that I do like. For one thing, you don’t have to copy the QSO to actually have a copy of the other ham’s remarks. They are right there on the computer.

Another thing that I like is that you can start responding right away. By that I mean that you can reply to a comment while the other guy is making another comment. You just type it in to the transmit buffer, and it’s ready to go when it’s your turn to transmit. That’s pretty cool.

I’m not going to abandon CW and become a heavy-duty PSK op, but I don’t think, but it is fun, and I think I’ll be doing more of it in the future.

Got an Old CRT Laying Around?

Do you have a small CRT in your junk box? Then, make an oscilloscope! Just be careful with the high voltage supply.

It’s Only Words……

I was getting a little concerned. I hadn’t worked any stations whose callsigns spell words in quite a while, but about a month ago I got back on track. Since then, I’ve worked:

  • K2BE
  • N3BUD
  • WB4DAD
  • K3IF
  • K2SIT
  • W8TOW

I have cards from the first three, and am waiting for cards from the last three. I have about 75 total now, with five of them from DX stations.

ARLX007 Motorola buys Yaesu

This from the ARRL:

Special Bulletin 7 ARLX007
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT November 5, 2007
To all radio amateurs

ARLX007 Motorola buys Yaesu

Motorola USA has announced its intention to launch a tender offer to acquire a controlling interest in Vertex Standard Co, Ltd. Vertex Standard is the parent company of Yaesu. Motorola will own 80 percent of Vertex Standard; Tokogiken, a privately held Japanese company, controlled by current president and CEO of Vertex Standard Jun Hasegawa, will retain 20 percent, forming a joint venture. The total purchase price for 80 percent of the outstanding shares on a fully diluted basis will be approximately US $108 million.

What’s been most amusing about this is not the news itself, but all the speculation about what’s going to happen to Yaesu’s amateur radio line. It will be interesting to see what happens. I doubt very much that Motorola really wants to get into the amateur radio business, so the division will undoubtedly get sold off sooner or later. One would hope it would get sold to some people who really care about and know the amateur radio market, but the size of that market is really insignificant compared with other markets that I’m not hopeful about that.