Operating Notes

Here are some miscellaneous observations from my operations over the past week or so:

  • W1MX Turns 100. The MIT Radio Society, whose callsign is W1MX turned 100 on April 30, 2009. There was a great article on the history of the club in the April 2009 issue of QST. I had just read that article last Sunday, when I got an e-mail from KA8WFC, saying that he was going to be operating W1MX that evening. I got him on his cellphone around 8:30, and we made contact a short time later.

    It was a great thrill to work a station with such a cool history. And to think that I used to live in Somerville, MA, probably only five miles from W1MX, and never thought to visit the station.

  • Short Skip. I’ve noticed lately that the skip on 40m can be very short right around sundown. A week ago, I worked WA8JNM, near Cleveland, less than 150 miles away from me at 8:30pm (0030Z). Tonight, I worked KZ9H, near Indianapolis, not more than 230 miles away, at 9:00pm (0100Z). Both stations were 599 here. Can any of you propagation experts explain this to me?
  • Long Skip. I’m also working DX on 40m. Last night, I got on just after 10pm (0200Z). The band was kind of quiet, so I started calling CQ on 7033 kHz. After a couple of CQs, Alex, SP8ERY called. I quickly looked him up on QRZ.Com, and found a very interesting Web page that included a picture of his grandfather (right). Alex writes, “He was a radio operator during I World War. He worked on simple crystal RX and spark TX and in 1960′s when I was a young boy, he taught me first few letters of Morse code.” Since it was apparent that he knew quite a bit of English, we had a nice chat, not the usual 599/599 TU kind of DX contact.
    After working Alex, I heard IY8GM booming at 10 dB over S9. He was an easy catch. I then tuned upband again and called CQ around 7027. There, I got a call from another SP station. When we finished our short QSO, I got a call from OM3CDR. Juraj, as it turned out, also knew some English, so I was able to tell him that I am Slovak-American and had visited his home town, Bratislava.
    All in all, it was quite a good night for DX

Make Magazine Makes it to Dayton

One of Make: magazine’s guest bloggers, is, as it turns out, a ham radio operator. Not only that, she’s female and 22–not your typical ham.

Read her Make: report on Dayton here.

Read her personal blog posting on Dayton here.

Hot Amateur Programs…..To Go!

WD6CNF has a number of cool-looking programs on his website – hotamateurprograms.com. Most of them are Vista-compatible, and they are all available for free, including:

  • CW Decoder
  • Audio Spectrum Analyzer
  • Audio Generator/Audio Spectrum Analyze
  • Digital Voice Keyer
  • Simple Windows Packet Controller
  • DSP Audio Filter
  • Instrument Tuner
  • Dual Channel Oscilloscope
  • Dual Function Generator

I plan to download and try out the CW decoder at the museum. It would be nice to have a program that will display what’s being sent and received while I am working CW there.

If any of you do download and try out some of these programs, please comment below.

A Tale of Two Tubes

A couple of weeks ago, I worked N4QR on 40m CW. I could tell by the tone of his signal that he was operating a homebrew transmitter. There wasn’t any 60 Hz on his signal, and it didn’t chirp exactly, but I could tell it wasn’t the pure tone you get out of today’s radios.

I asked him about his rig, and he told me that it was a one-tube transmitter made with a 6L6. I forgot to ask him where he got the schematic, but a quick Internet search turned up the following:

  • The May 2005 issue of the K9YA Telegraph has an article written by N4QR titled, “The Wonderful One-Tuber,” that contains the schematic for the transmitter. The K9YA folks don’t make issues of The Telegraph available on their website, but I was able to get a copy of the issue by e-mailing them.
  • A 6L6 Classic (shown below)
  • WB2MIC 6L6 Transmitter Project

This one-tube transmitter is made with a 6L6 pentode.

The 6L6 is a pentode that, according to Wikipedia, was introduced by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in July 1936. Apparently, it was used quite a bit in public address systems.

After the tube became successful, tube manufacturers introduced a number of variations, including the venerable 807. The original 6L6 was capable of delivering 19 W; the latest variation, the 6L6GC is rated for 30 W. The 6L6GC is still used in guitar amps, and is still manufactured in Russia, China, and by Groove Tubes in the U.S. They sell a number of different 6L6 variants; the cheapest is $16, the most expensive $180!!

Tube #2
One of the reasons I was interested in the 6L6 is because about a year ago I came across a schematic for a transmitter using 6A6 dual triode. I had just come into possession of a couple hundred tubes, and while I didn’t have a 6A6 (at least I haven’t found one yet), I do have a couple of 6J6 dual triodes. They’re not quite as high power as the 6A6, but I’m still thinking about building a little transmitter with one.

As you might expect, there’s a bunch of information on the Internet about this tube:

One interesting fact about the 6J6 is that IBM used it in the 604 computer. Unfortunately, they found it to be not as reliable as they wanted it to be, but at first none of the tube manufacturers were interested in making a more robust version. This led IBM to set up a tube-making laboratory where they could experiment with designs. They developed a more reliable version of the 6J6 and finally convinced RCA to manufacture the tube. According to the author of the history of the 604, part of the concern is that IBM would decide to get into the tube business.

So, the next time you hear a signal that doesn’t sound so perfect, remember that there just might be a story behind it. Ask the op about his transmitter, and listen to what he or she has to say.

Showcase Your Construction Projects

From Terry, WA0ITP, via the qrp-.org mailing list:

Do you need an enclosure slightly larger than an Altoids tin? Would you like to see your project after building it, instead of hiding it? If so, this enclosure is for you! This is an Altoids tin on steroids. Check it out here.

One of these nifty enclosures is used to house the demo model of our very successful Enhanced Manhattan Islander Audio Amp. It shows off the K8IQY design and K3PEG’s EM Template nicely.

Introduced at OzarkCon 2009 in Branson to gage the acceptance of the clear top, our entire stock sold out! It’s obvious that this enclosure fills a niche in enclosure size and style, so we’ve added to our product line.

The dimensions are: 5.5″W x 3.7″L x .9″H, making it ideal for the many projects that are just a little too large for an Altoids® or Whitmans® Tin. The top is hinged just like the Altoids, and it is a food grade container.

Please place your order soon as these will sell quickly.
I love this radio stuff !
72, 73 Terry, WAØITP

I just ordered three for myself…….Dan

A Petition to Designate a Frequency for GOTA/PR/Educational QSOs During Field Day

On Linked In’s ARRL Ham Radio Operators Group, there’s a discussion about Field Day titled, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.”

In his reply, Rick, W6IFA, notes:

I would remind all the readers of the post to go to the ARRL web site and read what the ARRL intends this day to be.

“Field Day is part educational event, part operating event, part public relations event – and ALL about FUN!”

Don’t forget, if you scroll down the “Rules” page to section 7.3, some of the biggest bonus points are earned for the PR and educational activities.

I am going to write to the League and see if, for future events, a segment of each band can be set aside for PR / Education / Short QSOs. This will allow hardcore contesters to operate without distraction and provide a place for mutual first time QSO’s in a relaxed environment. I urge you to voice your support or opposition to the League too.

I think that this is a great idea. Let’s make this blog post a petition to get the League to do this in 2010. If you agree that the ARRL should designate a small portion of each band for GOTA, PR, and educational QSOs during Field Day, please enter a comment below. If you don’t want to enter any extra text, just enter your name and callsign.

I will submit this item and all the responses to the appropriate ARRL person after Field Day 2009 is over.

Digital TV?

For our Ham Radio at the Hands-On Museum project, we want to set up a television station. My first thought was to buy a transmitter from PC Electronics that sends standard-scan analog TV. Then, I got to thinking, why bother with that? If our goal is to show that we’re at least up with current technology, then shouldn’t we be doing digital TV?

I have found a bunch of European hams doing digital TV using the European standard and one page of links on DXZone:

So far, though, I haven’t seen anything on ATV using the new US standard. Is anyone out there experimenting with this or even making gear that I can purchase?

Wired Wiki Helps Hams-to-Be

There is a section of the Wired magazine website devoted to how-to topics. There you’ll find information on how to compile software, photograph the stars, and a bunch of other things, including how to become a radio amateur.

The interesting thing is that this site is actually a wiki, and your contributions are not only accepted, but also welcome. The Become an Ham Radio Operator wiki could use a little help. I just played around with it myself, but it could use more. Please feel free to hack on it a bit. I’ll be checking in myself from time to time and doing some editing and writing.

FCC Resumes Enforcement

On May 13, the FCC posted the first list of enforcement actions since Laura Smith took over as FCC Special Counsel. The 11 RFI-related letters to energy providers were sent between February 18 and April 1, 2009, and the 7 warning letters to individuals were sent between February 18 and March
30, 2009.

The seven warning letters include five letters to people operating high-powered CB radios. Theses people are not licensed radio amateurs. The other two letters were issued to licensed radio amateurs for using repeaters after they were requested not to do so.

PR-101 Course Introduced at ARRL National Convention

Seems to me that this should be free, but I guess the ARRL is trying to recoup some costs of providing the course. I guess 20 bucks isn’t so bad…..Dan

Press release from the ARRL on Saturday, May 16, 2009:

Assembled by a team of public relations experts, ARRL’s PR-101 will provide volunteer Public Information Officers (PIOs) with the basic skills and expectations that a every PIO needs.

A December 2008 study showed that almost 50 percent of ARRL PIOs had no public relations training, while others had little or some training.
The ARRL Public Relations Committee unveiled the new ARRL’s PR-101 course today at the 2009 ARRL National Convention at the Dayton Hamvention. The course — designed to give hams a quick course in public relations activities — was quickly snapped up by ARRL Section Managers, Public Information Coordinators (PIC) and Public Information Officers (PIO) to bring home to their home sections.

According to ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager Allen Pitts, W1AGP, the ARRL Public Relations Committee conducted a formal survey in December 2008 that confirmed what had long been suspected: Almost half of the people acting as PIOs have no training at all; others had “some training” or “very little training.” Because of the importance of public relations to the future of Amateur Radio, Pitts said that the PR Committee felt it needed to do something to raise the level of skills and training of these volunteers.

Using the skills of experts in various aspects of public relations, Pitts, assembled a team to create a basic course that will provide volunteer PIOs with the basic skills and expectations that a PIO needs to know. While remaining a basic level course, PR-101 covers everything from the basic news release to Web sites and video work.

“This course is geared toward PIOs and others interested in Public Relations,” Pitts said. “While the course is voluntary, all ARRL PIOs are strongly encouraged to take the course.”

Overall goals for the course are:

  • To clarify the role of the PIO in the Field Organization.
  • To establish a base set of expectations (job description) for a PIO to fulfill, and peer pressure to do the job well.
  • To establish, teach and verify that course graduates have the common basic skill set needed to accomplish expectations set forth in the PIO job description.
  • To create a pool of trained PIOs who can be confidently called upon to represent Amateur Radio in their region during breaking news events.
  • To create a spirit of pride in being a trained and active PIO.
  • To increase the productivity of PIOs and resultant positive media coverage.

“There is a critical need to offer public relations training that addresses the 21st century media landscape,” said ARRL Public Relations Committee Chairman Bill Morine, N2COP. “Since the last revision of the ARRL PIO Handbook in the mid 1990s, domination of coverage has shifted from newspapers, magazines and broadcast stations to cable, satellite and Internet media outlets. The decentralization of media means there are many more ways and formats from which the public can access information. The PR-101 course will point ARRL PIOs in the direction where they can best take advantage of opportunities in both traditional and emerging media.”

The course is available on CD-ROM. People can complete it on their own schedule; when finished, it guides them to the Web for the final exam. “Participants who successfully complete the exam will be directed to a special area where they can create, print and save a certificate of completion,” Pitts said. “It also automatically notifies ARRL staff with the name and call sign of the graduating student, allowing a list to be kept of PIOs with known skills.”

PR-101 course contributors include Bill Morine, N2COP; Don Carlson, KQ6FM; Walt Palmer , W4ALT; Kevin O’Dell, N0IRW; Jim McDonald, KB9LEI; Ted Randall, WB8PUM; Harold Kramer, WJ1B; Jeff Beiermann, WB0M; Brennan Price, N4QX; Pat Mullet, KC8RTW; Mike Langner, K5MGR, and Kent Sievers.

PR-101 is available on the ARRL Web site for a cost of $19.95.