Links, Links, Links

Just more links:

  • KC1XX.Com

    This site is a description and chronology of the Amateur Radio Station owned by Matt Strelow. The station is designed for competition in the multi-operator multi-transmitter category of high-frequency DX contests, and makes no compromises for other categories or types of contests. Few will want to duplicate a station like this — there are less than ten such stations in the United States — but we hope that the people involved and the lessons learned are interesting to many.

    This guy has a boatload of antennas.

  • RadioShackCatalogs.Com
    For almost 65 years RadioShack has produced a catalog to rival no other electronics and technology company. Through the years, this catalog expanded to contain a mix of hi-fidelity stereos, amplifiers, radios, phonographs, speakers, televisions & antennas, CBs & communication equipment, computers, electronic components, electronic testing equipment, educational kits, toys, gadgets, batteries, electronic circuitry, and much more. Products from the RadioShack catalog were purchased by the everyday consumer, hobbyist, and professional.

    Now, what I want to see is a site devoted to Allied and Lafayette catalogs. Those are the catalogs that I grew up with.

  • NT7S Code Practice Oscillator. Using Manhattan-style construction, this code practice oscillator fits in an Altoids tin.
  • TenTec Wiki. Lots of good info about choosing and using TenTec gear. A complete section is devoted to the Omni VII.

Yet Another Museum Display Idea

As I was going to the museum yesterday, another idea for a display hit me. Perhaps we could do something with antennas. The display could explain the different types of antennas (dipoles, verticals, beams) and why some are longer and some are shorter (the concept of wavelength).

If we had a computer screen big enough and accessible to the public, all this could be on-screen, and if the display was some kind of touch screen, it could even be made interactive somehow. This is something that could be running when we’re not there.

This is just a partially-baked idea, so please feel free to chime in with other ideas.

This Weekend on the Radio at the Hands-On Museum

This weekend, I spent several hours at the museum getting the station up and running (and playing around a bit. On Saturday:

  • I brought a keyboard, mouse, and power cord and got the computer all hooked up. It seems to be running OK, but since I forgot to bring the password with me, all I could do is to get it to boot up to the log in screen.
  • I made a few phone contacts with the new Omni VII. Once I got the mic gain set properly (18%), I got some very good audio reports. One guy said it could use a litttle more bass, so I’m going to play around with the audio filtering a little bit more. There are some comments about this feature on the TenTec Wiki.
  • The Omni VII’s antenna tuner seems to work as advertised, i.e. being able to handle an SWR of up to 10:1. I don’t remember what SWR I measured last week on the 40m phone band, but the tuner tuned without a problem.
  • I forgot to bring the paddle on Saturday, so I didn’t get a chance to try out the internal keyer. I was surprised, though, to learn that it doesn’t have an memories. That’s really strange for a radio from a company whose radios have always be well though of as CW rigs. So, I’m thinking about buying an external keyer for the station. Any suggestions?
  • There are still no graphics to draw attention to the station, but the AAHOM people are working on that. Hopefully, we’ll have something by December 27, the date that the space station contact is scheduled.
  • On Sunday, I was joined by Jim, K8ELR, and we:

  • installed Ham Radio Deluxe, ACLog (from N3JFP), and MultiPSK on the shack’s computer. Jim used Ham Radio Deluxe to log our single contact for the day.
  • had a QSO with AD5WI on CW using the paddle that I brought with me. AD5WI is in Pea Ridge, AR. Gotta love the name of that town.
  • talked at length with one of the museum’s docents. He expressed an interest in what we were doing and asked about the origin of the term “ham radio.” After noting that it came from the days of telegraphy, we got into a discussion of telegraphy and radiotelegraphy, including the use of abbreviations and Q-signals. He got it right away, noting, “That sounds a lot like instant messaging.”
  • told the docent that we were enjoying the permanent space, but the layout wasn’t very inviting. My XYL, Silvia, said that we should keep the half door at one end of the space open, but it’s spring loaded, so that it automatically closes. That didn’t deter our docent. He got a big roll of tape and taped the door open! That did the trick. We got several visitor to wander in and talk to us. We’re going to have to find a more permanent way of keeping that door open.
  • tried tuning the antenna on 20m, and the radio did indicate that it was able to tune it, but, when I transmitted, the “HIGH CURRENT” light came on. That didn’t seem like a good thing , so we didn’t do that again.

I’m Tired of Pessimism

About a month ago, I wrote a column titled “Let’s Get on the Maker Bandwagon.” Basically, it says that Makers are the kind of people we want in ham radio, and it would be a good thing if ham radio (meaning the ARRL) had a presence at the Maker Faires. Also, I noted that if Dayton wanted to appeal to more than the same old crowd that it would have to be more like the Maker Faire.

A couple of days ago, I got this response:

Thanks for your well thought out column…BUT…

Makers are inner directed people…You can’t make makers make what you want them to make. Nobody can. They aren’t kit builders who only make the designs of others. They are often original craftsmen and artists…Unfortunately there may be little left for Ham makers to make that isn’t now being made in Japan or China using surface mounted microchips. The joy of trying to build stuff with war surplus parts after reading Hugo Gernsback magazines and catalogs is gone. Soon all of us real hams will also be gone…along with the Tesla coils and spark gap transmitters…as well as the CW bugs….and analog instrumentation. I have been taking to writing about the history of radio…especially amateur radio…because unfortunately there is more in our past than there is in our future.

OK on Dayton. The Dayton converntions are attended by fewer hams every year…The hobby is going to survive for some time…but it is gradually fading like a dampened wave. You will see its demise as QST becomes smaller and QSX stops publishing. There is now only the hope that a major national depesssion may save it for a while because the “makers” who are unemployed may resort to making powerless green economy crystal sets again as they did in the 1930s…but I doubt it because they may be too busy trying to reprogram the hard drives of discared refurbished computers, which may cost less than the components of a crystal set and not even need any elaborate antennas.

You can make some people make all kinds of stuff some of the time,
And you can make many people make some kinds of stuff some of the time,
But you can’t make all kinds of people make ham radio stuff none of the time,
Because..Them days are gone forever!

Once the fiber optic cable enters your home…The magic is gone!

AAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!! I am really tired of this kind of pessimism. I e-mailed back:

Boy, if we all were as pessimistic as you, we’d really be up a creek, now wouldn’t we? You’re a VE. If the picture was as grim as you paint it, why even bother with that? And what’s so magical about optical fiber? When anybody can do it, it’s no longer magical.

Fortunately, I think that there will be plenty of “real” hams following along behind us, IF we bring ham radio into the 21st century. And that was the point of the article. You may not be able to make Makers, but we should be trying to attract those with the Maker mentality into amateur radio. They may not be making IC-756PROs or Orion IIs, but they will be making other fun radio gadgets, developing interesting amateur radio software, and moving ham radio into directions we haven’t thought of yet.

They won’t be doing it if guys like you are already writing them off, however.

I don’t know what it’s going to take, but I pledge to counter this kind of negative attitude in any way that I can. I’m open to any and all ideas as to how to do this.

New Ham Mag

Ham-Mag bills itself as “the first e-magazine for amateur radio operators. Better yet, subscriptions are free.

There’s one catch. At the present time, it’s only in French. An English-language version is planned, though. In fact, I’ve just volunteered my service to help out in some way with the English version.

Here’s what the website has to say:


HAM-MAG is a French HAM magazine born in september 2008. Fast, cheap, quick informations and weekly issues made this success. In two months, we have more than 2,500 subscribers all over the world.

Now we have a new challenge. To make this magazine in English version. But this is your magazine and we need you !

Send us all informations, as DX, homebrew, technical, meetings, etc. To share informations is our claim.

The subscription is free and every week, you’ll receive your issue in your Email, without ads or pop-up.
You have just to click on “subscrition”.

Are you ready to play with us?

73, Vincent F5SLD

With the demise of 73 Magazine a couple of years ago, and now World Radio, this might be a nice option.

The Vagaries of My Random Wire

A couple of years ago, my 40m dipole came down when an ice-laden tree branch fell on it and broke one of the elements. Since I didn’t want to be off the air, I threw up an 85-foot random-wire antenna. After playing around with it for a while, I actually got it to tune up on 80m with a small, manual tuner that was designed to tune random wires, and made some contacts.

I wanted to try to get the wire to work with the SGC-239 automatic tuner that I have, but I never got it to work properly. When I asked on the SGC mailing list about this, the consensus was that I needed a counterpoise longer than the driven element.

Well, seeing as how it’s now time to get back on 80m, I thought I’d add some wire to the counterpoise and see if I could get it to work. First off, I had to get the wire back up into the trees. I had hastily thrown the wire up there and secured it with some cheap twine. This summer, the twine gave out, and the wire came down.

What should have taken about five minutes to do, actually took about 45 minutes. The wire snagged on a dead branch, so I had to trim that. Then, I lost the tennis ball that I use to throw ropes up into trees. That took about 15-20 minutes to find. Fortunately, I did get the wire back up in the air before dark.

Unfortunately, the wire didn’t tune up well at all on 80m. About the lowest SWR that I could manage was 2.0:1. This evening, I went out there and disconnected the piece of wire I added on Sunday. Now, it tunes like a champ again.

As I’ve said before, I’m no antenna genius, but this is a result I did not expect, but it obviously affected the tuning. Any theories? Is there any way to predict how long a counterpoise one needs with a random-wire antenna?

I just consulted an old edition of the ARRL Antenna Book, and here’s what they have to say:

When operating with a random wire, it is wise to try different types of grounds on the various bands, to see which will give the best results. In many cases, it will be satisfactory to return to the transmitter chassis for ground, or directly to a convenient water pipe (NOTE: This isn’t legal according to the NEC.). If neither of these works well (or the water pipe is not available), a length of No. 12 or No. 14 wire (approximately a 1/4 wavelength long) can often be used to good advantage…..Run it out and down the side of the house, or support it a few feet above the ground if hte station is on the first floor or in the basement. It should not be connected to actual ground at any point.

Working With the Museum is Great!

It’s such a pleasure to work with the people at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. Here another example—a professionally-done version of the ham class flyer:

12/6/08 Class Flyer


We operated from our new station location yesterday, Saturday, 11/22/08. Thanks to Jim K8ELR, Pat W8LNO (who’s now our head crimper), Michelle KD8GWX, Ovide W1GXE, and Steve WB8WSF for helping out.

Of course, we had some problems. For example, something’s fishy with the antennas. The SWR on the 40m antenna was 3.0:1 at 7.000 MHz and went up from there. The SWR on the 20m antenna was even higher. So, we’re going to have to organize an antenna party to get up on the roof and see what’s going on.

We also don’t have an Internet connection yet, either, and we need more signage as well. But, all of these things are being worked on, and in due course, we’ll be all set up.

Here are a couple of pictures:

Steve, WB8WSF at the HF operating position. That’s our new Ten-Tec Omni VII on the desk.

Jim, K8ELR, holding down the fort.

NASA Tests First Deep-Space Internet

This is from the Association for Computing Machinery’s latest TechNews. You’re not going to be running any cables out to Mars. This link is going to radio….Dan

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) engineers have successfully tested the first deep space communications network based on the Internet, using the Disruption-Tolerant Networking (DTN) protocol to transmit dozens of images to and from a spacecraft more than 20 million miles from Earth. NASA and Google’s Vint Cerf jointly developed the DTN protocol, which replaces the Internet’s TCP/IP protocol for managing data transmissions. “This is the first step in creating a totally new space communications capability, an interplanetary Internet,” says NASA’s Adrian Hooke. An interplanetary Internet needs to be strong enough to withstand delays, disruptions, and lost connections that space can cause. For example, errors can happen when a spacecraft slips behind a planet, or when solar storms or long communication delays occur. Even traveling at the speed of light, communications sent between Mars and Earth take between three-and-a-half minutes to 20 minutes. Unlike TCP/IP, DTN does not assume there will be a constant end-to-end connection. DTN is designed so that if a destination path cannot be found, the data packets are not discarded but are kept in a network node until it can safely communicate with another node. In October, engineers started a month-long series of demonstrations, with data being transmitted using NASA’s Deep Space Network twice a week. Researchers say the interplanetary Internet could allow for new types of complex space missions that involve multiple landed, mobile, and orbiting spacecraft, as well as ensure reliable communications for astronauts on the surface of the moon.

View full article

I Guess I’m a Better Ham Radio Operator Than I Am a Politician

The results have been posted in the Great Lakes Division Vice Director election, and I was defeated again:

1,218 – Gary Johnston, KI4LA
1,205 – Daniel Romanchik, KB6NU
1,155 – John Meyers, NB4K

Oddly enough, there were actually fewer votes cast in this election with three candidates running than three years ago when there were only two of us running. Anyway, thanks to all of you who supported me.