Computer Magazine Touts Ham Radio

Computerworld, a computer trade magazine, is currently running the article, “Want to bone up on wireless tech? Try ham radio,” on its website. It’s saying what I’ve been saying all along that getting a ham radio license is a good thing for computer professionals, especially those involved with networking.

Here’s what the article has to say about innovation in ham radio:

Reviving innovation
Decades ago, amateur radio operators were on the forefront of scores of technological innovations, including television, digital communications, solid-state design and cellular networks. The hobby’s roots trace back to radio pioneers such as Guglielmo Marconi and FM-inventor Edwin Armstrong.

But in recent years, as many potential new hams were attracted to computers, the Internet and other technologies that they could explore without passing a licensing exam, some veteran hams worried that ham radio was at risk of gradually sliding into stagnation and was perhaps even on the road toward technological irrelevance. Over time, many old-timers worried, experimenters would gradually be replaced by hams more focused on the hobby’s operational aspects, such as restoring antique radios and providing communications services for community parades and other charity events.

Other hams, however, believed that the hobby was actually entering a new era of innovation, one driven by the same type of people lured away from ham radio by advancing digital technologies. They reasoned that a streamlined licensing system, capped by the FCC’s elimination of Morse code testing two years ago, would, over time, revitalize the hobby. This would happen by attracting technically skilled innovators who were interested in more than merely tapping a telegraph key.

It goes on to talk about how hams are working on interesting projects, such as new digital communications techniques, and how hams have parlayed their ham radio hobby into lifelong careers. One example they give is Joe Taylor, K1JT, who is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist.

How Many Hams in Your Grid Square?

When I contact other stations on HF, I like to look them up on QRZ.Com. If they’ve added some info on themselves, it’s a good way to get to know the other ham better, and doing this has sparked some good conversations.

Today, I noticed that they’ve added some features to their map. Not only is the other op’s location pinpointed, but now the map tells you what grid square they’re in, how many hams are in that grid square, and you can check a box to show you where those other hams are, too. Very cool.

In my grid square, EN82ch, there are 28 hams:


I guess that’s on the low side. Of the five hams I worked today, my grid square had the second lowest number of hams. Lowest was EN46oh, the grid square of WA9FFV, who’s located in Northern Wisconsin, almost on Lake Superior. He’s the only ham in that grid square.

Of all the hams I worked today, K2GTC lives in the grid square with the highest number of hams. He lives in FN30as, which has 465 hams!


I know New York City is densely populated, but I’m still amazed that there are so many hams there. Where do they put up antennas?

At any rate, I found this fascinating. Thanks to QRZ.Com for doing this. Now, I really need to pay for a subscription to this fine service.

HUMOR: Improper Grounding a Safety Hazard

On the HamRadioHelpGroup someone asked:

I’m in a second floor apartment right now and thus do not have access to an efficient grounding possibility….Does a 100 what radio represent a significant hazard if not grounded properly?

To which, Mark, K5LXP, replied:

Yes. If it fell on the ground improperly it would break. Grounds are for AC shock protection. The rig operates on 12V. No shock hazard there.

Second Arecibo Observatory activation – KP4AO November 1st

This from Angel, WP3GW, via the ARRL PR mailing list:

After the huge success of the first activation, the Arecibo Observatory Radio Club – KP4AO will be on-the-air again this next Sunday November 1st, 2009 to commemorate 46 years of operations of still the single largest radio telescope antenna in the world. Also they will commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Arecibo Message, which was sent on November 16, 1974,in binary code and transmitted to the globular star cluster M13, for if it is received by intelligent life, to let them know about our existence. “We had a such a great response that we had more than 100 hams operating the station in the Control Room taking turns”, said Angel Vazquez – WP3R who works in the Observatory.

The special event will start at 9am-4pm local time (1300 – 2000 UTC) and will be on 20 meters SSB. There will be certificates for those who make contact as well for operators. This is an activity for the whole Amateur Radio Community, so if you are near, or visiting the island you are invited. (Don’t forget your ham license! It’s your free pass). KP4AO will be operated inside the Control Room, and the Visitor Center entrance will be half price.

The Arecibo Observatory, located in the city of Arecibo, Puerto Rico is a radio telescope operated by Cornell University under cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and works as the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC). From it many studies and discoveries from the cosmos has been made by Nobel-Prize winners,as well made studies of the atmosphere and even used in the SETI program.

For More information on the Message

Official Website:

Sounds like fun to me. I just wish I could get down there to actually operate the station.

CQ CQ CQ…Internet?

For some reason, the ARRL website is featuring an article on CQ100 and QSONet, a simulation of ham radio over the Internet. On the fpqrp mailing list, the overwhelming response was overwhelmingly, “Ugh.”

Now, I happen to like EchoLink and IRLP, which I think are great extensions to amateur radio, but I really don’t get this QSONet stuff. If you’re going to chat on a computer, why would you want to use something like QSONet, which is a complete simulation, rather than EchoLink or IRLP, which at least has some radio component? I guess that I don’t understand the desire to cloak computer chatting in amateur radio trappings.

If you’re going to do computer chatting, why not use something really cool like iChat, which has both a video and audio component? (I use iChat frequently for business and personal use.)

The author of the article just gushes about using the program, though. He even talks about working contests on the Internet. (The ARRL editor did, at least, add a note that “contacts made using CQ100 are virtual — not radio —contacts and cannot be used toward any ARRL sponsored contest or award.”)

The best comment, though, was from one of the wags on the mailing list. He said, “It’s like boasting about the medieval warfare skills you learned in World of Warcraft.”

Yet More QSLs

Here are two more that I’ve recently received:


I’ve also recently worked am looking forward to the QSLs of :

  • W7FLY, the club station of the Boeing Amateur Radio Club, and
  • VA2AM, Rejean in Quebec.

A Great Idea for QSLing

On the HamRadioHelpGroup mailing list, someone asked, “How do I ask someone for a QSL card without sounding like I am begging for it.”

Mark, K5LXP, replied, “Send them one first. If you really want one back, send an SASE. If you really want one, include a few green stamps (dollars).

“What I do is send the QSL, a pre-addressed envelope and a stamp. It’s the op’s choice to use my stamp or one of their own. At least half the time they send me my stamp back. I always do. If someone’s willing to invest ~50 cents to get my QSL, I don’t have a problem returning the favor in kind.”

I hope you think this is as good an idea as I do.

Learn Digital Logic on the Web

One topic that a lot of people have some trouble with when taking the Extra Class exam is digital logic. I think one of the reasons for this is that while it is electronics, the logic element is different from the other types of technology we deal with in ham radio.

To help students learn the concepts of digital logic, the Department of Informatics at the University of Hamburg has developed the Hamburg Design System, or HADES for short. HADES is an object-oriented, all-Java, Beans- and Web-based, visual design and simulation environment.

With this system, you can play with digital logic without actually building any circuits or connecting up any test equipment. There are canned demonstrations, such as this digital clock, or you can build your own circuits with HADES’ graphical editor, library of component models, and the discrete-event-based simulation engines.

The Fun Theory

A frequent contributor, Ralph, AA8RK, forwarded to me a link to the Fun Theory website. According to the website, “…something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it’s change for the better.”

The website shows a couple of videos, like the one above, that are examples of how to make good things fun. The Hands-On Museum has a piano staircase, and it is fun!

That got me to thinking about how we can make amateur radio demos more fun. I haven’t come up with any great ideas yet, but if you have one, please comment here. Ham radio has to be fun, or else it’s going to fade into the woodwork.


The C. Crane Company has for many years sold radios that they claim have superior AM band performance. They used to advertise a lot on the Coast to Coast AM radio show, touting how the radio was capable of pulling in the show, even if your local station didn’t carry it. They probably still do, for all I know.

There is, of course, a ham radio connection. Art Bell, the longtime host of the show, is W6OBB.

At any rate, C. Crane is now selling the CC-Radio2, which not only touts it’s AM-band performance, but also includes coverage of the 2m ham band. The website says,

The addition of the 2-Meter Ham band may make the CCRadio-2 a life saver during an emergency like hurricane Katrina. 2-Meter Ham operators are early on the scene and they donate their time while handling perhaps 90% of the emergency coordination efforts. The CCRadio-2 can act like a simple radio scanner and search the five memories for ham operator communications. The sensitivity (squelch) can be adjusted for best results.

The C. Crane website has a whole Web page devoted to the 2m band and ham radio in general.

C. Crane sells a whole bunch of stuff that might be of interest to ham radio operators. It’s a site worth checking out.