More Interesting Stuff from the Mailling Lists

As the title implies, here are a few more interesting items I’ve gleaned from all the mailling lists I’m on:

  • Defense Scrapyard Handbook, DoD 4160.21 H. On the GO-Tech list, Keith Mc. (not a ham….yet) says, “This is a scan of an interesting government document on identifying and processing scrapyard materials and metals. Chapter 4 contains field tests to ID materials (which could be very useful for all of the “material scavengers” among us).”
  • A discussion of RFI generated by wireless devices prompted Steve, NN4X, to post these two links:

    I believe I’ve written about the second, but the first is a new one on me. Both are interesting reading.

  • Tom, K8TB reports, “After seventy years of broadcasting Canada’s official time, NRC’s shortwave station CHU will move the transmission frequency for the 7335 kHz transmitter to 7850 kHz. The change goes into effect on 01 January 2009 at 00:00 UTC. We also have a leap second right then.

Recruiting (and Retaining) ARRL Members

I recently blogged about the difference between recruiting new hams and recruiting new ARRL members. I went on to describe the various ways that we could do more to recruit more people into ham radio. Today, I want to discuss how the ARRL might turn more of those hams into ARRL members.

Currently, less than 25% of licensed amateurs are ARRL members. There are probably many reasons for this, but whatever the reason, I think this is something that the ARRL needs to work on. More members would mean more money and more support for all of the good work that the ARRL does. As I said during my recent campaign for Great Lakes Division Vice Director, we need to set a goal of at least 30%, and then develop the programs necessary to get there.

There are probably many reasons why hams aren’t ARRL members. One of them, surprisingly enough, is that there are still a lot of old-timers who are upset that the ARRL supported incentive licensing 40 years ago. They blame the ARRL for their losing priviledges.

I think the biggest reason, though, is that the ARRL has really failed to get amateurs involved in its programs. The ARRL is either doing a poor job of publicizing its programs or doesn’t have the right programs. The result is that many members view the ARRL as a publishing house and their membership dues as simply a subscription fee to get QST.

So, what can the ARRL do to boost membership? Here are some ideas:

  • Give ARRL name badges to all new members or returning members. Wouldn’t you think about joining (or re-joining) if a sizable percentage of the hams wandering around a hamfest or other amateur radio activity were wearing these badges?
  • Offer a membership discount on ARRL books. This is a no-brainer to me. All of the professional organizations I belong to offer member discounts. Why doesn’t the ARRL?
  • Show some member appreciation. I joined the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) a little over a year ago. On my first anniversary, they sent me an ACM coffee cup. I thought that was a nice touch. I can’t recall the last time I got anything from the ARRL saying that they appreciated me being a member. All I seem to get are solicitations for the Spectrum Defense Fund, the W1AW fund, etc., etc. etc.
  • Revamp the lifetime membership fee structure. With the current fee structure, it makes sense for young members to sign up, but there’s less incentive for older members to sign up.
  • Develop some programs that members really want or need. There has been, for example, talk about the ARRL getting more involved in technical development. As it is now, it seems that the ARRL has ceded this to organizations like AMSAT or TAPR. I think it would be a good idea for the ARRL to get back on this horse.

    Another good idea would be to develop some programs to get new hams involved in the hobby. As far as I can see, the ARRL really has no programs for getting new hams involved and on the air. Something like this would grab new hams just as they’re getting into the hobby and make lifelong members out of them.

If I had the time, I could probably come up with a half dozen more ideas.

Why the ARRL isn’t doing more to recruit new members I don’t know. Perhaps the new membership manager will have more of a chance to do this than the outgoing membership manager did. All I know is that having more members means more funds for programs and more hands willing to work on these programs, and ultimately, ham radio will benefit.

Space Station QSO a Success

Thanks to Ig, N0EFT, and his crew:

  • Tim, WA8VTD, back up radio operator;
  • Steve, KB9UPS, ARISS mentor and antenna and az/el rotor operator;
  • Olivia, KC8VGH, who handled the microphone and kids; and
  • Candy. KD8IPC, who made the initial contact and helped with the kids;

yesterday’s Space Station contact from the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum was a success. Despite the low orbit (21 degrees), the contact lasted nearly nine minutes and they were able to ask 14 questions.

I hope to post video later, but in the meantime, here are a couple of news stories:

900 MHz??

Someone recently offered to give our club a 900 MHz repeater. 900 MHz?? Who uses that band Well, apparently, there is a lot of activity up there, and maybe the least of it amateur activity.

I got to thinking about how we might use it. The first thing to cross my mind was digital TV. Other kinds of digital apps, such as some kind of instant messaging, might also be interesting.

Here are some resources:

  • Exploring 900 MHz by KB9MWR. Some good basic information on the band and equipment you can use there.
  • AR902MHz Yahoo Groups Mailing List. This list has more than 1,400 subscribers and is relatively active.
  • San Diego 900 MHz ARC. General info on 900 MHz as well as specific info on what’s going on around San Diego.
  • GEMoto.Com. This is a networking group made up of mostly New England hams interested in converting and using GE and Motorola commercial radios. According to Ben, N1WBV, there’s a fair amount of 900 MHz activity around Boston because their use of 440 MHz is fairly restricted.

My Latest Kit – WinKeyer USB

While I love the Omni VII that we’ve purchased for use at the museum, I’m very disappointed that the rig’s internal keyer has no memories. That seems almost inexcusable in a $3,000 radio.

Since memories make operating CW so much easier, I started scouting around for an external keyer. What I finally purchased was the K1EL WinKeyer USB. This is looking like it’s a good choice.

The kit costs $64, which seems high when you compare it to the $16 PicoKeyer, but the extra features make it worth it. For one thing, the WinKeyer comes with an enclosure. After you’ve completed the kit, you don’t have to mess with Altoid tins or other makeshift enclosures.

The other cool thing is the USB interface. This makes the keyer controllable from a computer. And not only does the USB interface control the keyer, it also supplies the power.

Another big difference between the WinKeyer and the PicoKeyer are the manual controls. The PicoKeyer has a single pushbutton that an operator must use for all programming and operation. This includes setting the keying speed and sending strings from memories.

The WinKeyer has four buttons and a speed control. The speed control pot makes changing speeds much faster than is possible with the PicoKeyer. The four pushbuttons allow quick access to any of the four memories.

It took me about an hour and a half to build the kit. The instructions aren’t all that detailed—one of the instructions reads, “Mount all 18 resistors on the PC board.”—but they’re sufficient. One thing that made building the kit easier than it might have been is that K1EL supplies the PC board with the surface-mount USB interface IC already installed.

Another minor shortcoming is that the instructions assume that you’ll be using Windows software to test the keyer. Since I only have Macs here, that wasn’t an option for me. After a little initial confusion, I got it to work with KB for Mac OSX by W6EET.

Since completing the kit, I’ve made several QSOs with the keyer. It seems to work well with both my Begali Simplex paddle and an old Bencher that I have. I’m taking this one to the museum, but I think I’ll buy one for myself as well.

Merry Christmas from N8XMS

I got this QSL from Paul, N8XMS a couple of days ago. He says that a lot of hams interpret the XMS suffix as short for “Christmas” so he came up with this special holiday QSL card. Happy holidays, everyone!

Two More for the Collection

Just bagged two more for my collection of QSLs from stations whose callsigns spell words:

  • K1PUB. Chas got a kick out of it when I mentioned my collection. He said most people say they get thirsty when they work him.
  • AF4AT. Jim’s signal wasn’t strong, but he was Q5. Jim is the third “AT” that I’ve worked.

UPDATE 12/25/08: Worked K3SEW earlier today. Quick QSO, but should be good for the collection.

UPDATE 12/27/08: Worked K5TAG this afternoon and K1PUB’s QSL card arrived today!


Here’s something different. I’m not sure that I’m thrilled about being called a “hamster,” but some seem to think it’s cute.

From the press release:

Over two years in the making, Jerry Spring takes a look at the more humorous aspects of ham radio. Check out the stories, riddles, one liners, limericks, jokes, nursery rhymes and more. Find out what’s for dinner at Elmer’s Diner and why the ham operator refused to buy the used triband beam. Got some tough technical questions? Then ask “Dear Liddy” for straight answers. This book definitely proves that Jerry had too much time on his hands in order to come up with this kind of stuff. If you’re among the group that thinks hams take themselves too seriously, then get a copy of Hogwash for Hamsters and spread the fun. For more information, and to order your copy, go to

All I Want for Christmas

Here’s the column I’m sending out for December……..Dan

When I was a kid, we had an album (remember records on vinyl?) that had a bunch of Christmas songs for kids. The song I remember most goes:

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth,
My two front teeth, my two front teeth.

Gee, if I could only have my two front teeth,
Then I could wish you Merry Chrith-math (sang with a lisp).

Seeing as how I’ve had my two front teeth for nearly 50 years now, and I pretty much have everything I want, I got to thinking about what I want for ham radio for Christmas this year. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. In no particular order, I want:

  • the median age for ham radio operators to actually decrease this year. This means not only recruiting kids, but also younger adults.
  • the pessimists who are continually talking down ham radio to find new joy in the hobby and begin working to make it great.
  • the FCC to appoint someone as effective as Riley Hollingsworth to take over as the enforcer of the amateur radio service regulations.
  • the FCC to pay a little more attention to amateur radio regulations and not treat them as an afterthought.
  • the silliness on 75m phone and 14.275 MHz to go QRT.
  • the ARRL to work harder on making itself truly the “national association for amateur radio” and on increasing the percentage of licensed hams that are ARRL members.
  • to be able to brag about all of ham radio’s “purposes,” not only providing emergency and public service communications. According to Part 97, these are:
    • advancing the state of the radio art;
    • improving our technical and operating skills;
    • expanding the number of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts; and
    • enhancing international goodwill.
  • ham radio clubs to grow and thrive even in these tough economic times.

When I asked this question on Twitter, I got a couple of answers that were versions of a couple of wishes above, but I also got a few more:

  • WORMT wants “all of us to get on the air more and act as good ambassadors for the hobby,” and
  • NT7S wants the hearts of ham grinches to grow a couple of sizes.
  • N1WBV wants redesigns for most ham radio websites.

Sounds good to me. Happy New Year!
When not waiting for Santa to decided if he’s been naughty or nice, Dan, KB6NU, teaches ham classes and blogs about ham radio (

FCC Gets New Chief Technologist

In October, Professor Jon Peha, of Carnegie Mellon University was appointed FCC Chief Technologist. In addition to working with the FCC, he is part of CMU’s Department of Engineering and Public Policy, served as the Chief Technical Officer of three high-tech start-ups, and as a member of the technical staff at such communications giants as SRI International, AT&T Bell Laboratories, and Microsoft.

This profile of Dr. Peha concludes:

Asked what he hopes to accomplish with his new position, Peha replies, “I hope I can help the Commission make good informed decisions, even on policy issues where non-engineers sometimes get lost in the technical complexity.”

I’m sure that we all hope so, too.