A Man After My Own Heart

In addition to the first packet of QSL cards from the W2 bureau (see previous post), I received a card from Hugh, NT5O. Hugh writes, “Hello, and thank you very much for the ‘wrong number’ QSO in the 2009 Texas QSO Party.” That confused me for a second. I thought, “Did we send him the wrong serial number? And, if we did, why was he thanking me?”

Well, he went on to say,

You are my first 2-call from the 8-state of Michigan. I am trying to work and confirm all the ten numbers from each state—no mobiles or portables. I have 253 of the 500 confirmed so far, and a wrong number from every state except Wyoming. (I guess nobody ever moves there.)

Once I figure out what he meant by “wrong number QSO,” I smiled. I’m not the only one who has a weird QSL collection. In fact, after figuring out what it is that he was trying to do, I asked myself why didn’t I think of that! Hugh is certainly a man after my own heart.

WA2HOM Gets First Pack of QSLs from Buro

WA2HOM, the club station at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, of which I am station manager, received its first pack of DX QSLs from the W2 incoming bureau. There was one card from the Bahamas (C6AGU), one from Spain (EE5E), and two from Germany (DL7ON, DL3YM). EE5E claims to have the “shortest CW callsign in the world!”

By the way, WA2HOM now has its own website. Go to WA2HOM.Org or look in the right-hand column of this blog to see the latest posts there.

Born Too Late?

On the Glowbugs mailing list—a mailing list devoted to the discussion of vacuum tubes and tube circuits—Jason, W6IEE, lamented:

Having worked the better part of this year as an electronics technician for a not-so-great (and not-so-great-paying) little company who makes mostly LCD, but some CRT displays for flight simulator systems… I think I can finally say I think I fully understand how an analog TV set works from end to end.

With that (on-the-surface-worthless and obsolete) knowledge, its too bad its not 1963 or somesuch. I could have been my own boss, have my own (rather successful) storefront TV-repair business, with some sort of funky delivery vehicle with the company logo on the side. Probably back then, such a business would bankroll a nice house up on a hill somewhere, along with some pretty nice vacations.

Think of all the replacement parts you could order, tubes, and even transformers! All the stuff we have to scrounge for under the swap meet tables. Think of how much extra dough one could make on the side selling sweep-tube linears to the 11m crowd out the back door! ;)

Now we just trash our Chinese consumer electronics when they fail, any business based on repairing any sort of consumer device is just a losing proposition… sigh. (even fixing computers today is a lose-lose, IMHO.)

There was a 32″ monster CRT TV out by the dumpster in the alley today, I grabbed it and I hope it doesnt work, so one of these days that I have off this week, I hope to be able to identify the fault that sent it to the alley, just to prove to myself I could have done the job (and done so well) back in the day. Hey, at the very least, its got a few good parts in there…

Win the lottery, then open up a shop that fixes rich people’s old guitar amps, I guess thats as close as we can get today.

Dave, W9OCM, repllied:

I, too, think of this every so often when I am reading some of my old ’50s and ’60s radio-tv service magazines. It’s an era we’ll nevber see again…kind of similiar to the young people today who’ll never get to work in the old service station down at the corner. [SIGH!]

My take on this is that every time has its challenges and its opportunities. The other day I was looking at an early wireless magazine on the Net. It must have been from the 1920s or even earlier. It included ads for telegraphy schools and help-wanted ads for telegraphers. I thought to myself, “Man, that would have been cool to make my living as a telegrapher.”

Then, I got to thinking about my current employment situation. I’m a self-employed website developer. I mostly do PHP coding for database-driven websites. I work from home and probably make more money than the typical telegrapher or TV repairman did back in the day. There’s no way I could have done this in the 1920s or the 1950s.

So, maybe I wasn’t born too late after all. :)

Spaceweather.Com Wants You!

Brad, KG6IOE, spotted this recently on SpaceWeather.Com and posted it to the Glow Bugs mailing list:

*CALLING ALL HAMS:* No hobby is more sensitive to solar activity and space weather than ham radio. So here is a call to ham radio operators: Is spaceweather.com meeting your needs? We welcome your suggestions to improve our website. Submit ham-friendly ideas here: webmaster@spaceweather.com.

Wanna Work for the ARRL?

This came from the ARRL PR Mailing List:

Manager, Emergency Preparedness and Response

Primary Objective of Position:
Develop and maintain ARRL’s Emergency Communications and Emergency Preparedness functions, both internally and externally.

The Manager, Emergency Preparedness and Response reports to the Manager of the Membership and Volunteer Programs Department.


  1. At least five years experience with amateur radio emergency communications in ARES or equivalent and completion of ARRL EmComm Level I course
  2. Experience as emergency communications professional and/or first responder desired, including knowledge of and experience with ICS and NIMS. Completion of FEMA Courses IC-100, IC-200, IC-700, IC-800 and IC-802 highly recommended
  3. General Class or higher Amateur Radio license required
  4. Ability to interface effectively with all levels of emergency management professionals.
  5. Experience managing volunteers
  6. Currently or previously staff member or volunteer for and/or knowledge of governmental and NGO emergency and disaster relief agencies
  7. High level presentation, verbal and writing skills
  8. Strong organizational ability
  9. Bachelor’s degree

Areas of Responsibility:

  1. Represent the ARRL with governmental and non-governmental emergency and disaster response organizations and partners, primarily at the National level, for planning, continuity and operational purposes.
  2. Develop plans, protocols, and procedures to address amateur radio’s role in emergency communications operations at the multi-section, regional, and national level.
  3. Lead and train ARRL Headquarters Incident Management Team to provide support and coordination for multi-section, regional or national incidents in the planning, mitigation and response phases.
  4. Maintain and report situational awareness through disaster intelligence collection during large disaster and emergency circumstances that require a multi-section, regional, or national response.
  5. Improve existing and create new operational solutions and processes for the ARES program including training and operational standards consistent with NIMS/ICS, response protocols in conjunction with ARRL staff and members of the Field Organization.
  6. Maintain and update EPR content on the ARRL Website.
  7. Represent ARRL at National (and regional, when requested) Amateur Radio organizations, served agency partner meetings, conventions and exercises.
  8. Review and assure compliance with existing MOUs with government and non-government agencies and served agency partners.
  9. Monitor ARES and nationwide Emcomm status and provide reports to management, Field leadership and to ARRL governance bodies, when requested.
  10. Provide assistance and guidance to Section Managers and Section Emergency Coordinators regarding emergency preparedness and response.
  11. Create original content and assure accuracy and timeliness of other content for QST articles, the ARES-E Newsletter and other media, as required.
  12. Establish annual plans and budgets for the EP&R branch and manage to those goals in conjunction with the MVP Manager.
  13. Other duties as assigned.

To apply, please e-mail your cover letter and resume to:
Monique Levesque
225 Main Street
Newington, CT 06111
fax: 860-594-0298
email: mlevesque@arrl.org

Please include your salary history and/or requirements. ARRL is an equal opportunity employer.

What Every Ham Should Have in the Shack

Previously, I blogged about what every ham should know how to do. On a related note, the HamRadioHelpGroup now has a thread on what every ham should have in the shack. This is actually a revival of an older thread; the original poster, Jean, W4TYU, is now an SK.

Jean wrote:

There are basic tools that a HAM needs:

  • small screwdrivers – both straight and phillips,
  • cheap set of jeweler’s screwdrivers for the very small screws in microphone plugs,
  • soldering iron- one pencil type and one heavy one,
  • resin (or rosin) core solder,
  • small pliers and diagonal cutters,
  • 6″ slip joint pliers,
  • sharp knife for cutting insulation
  • small scissors,
  • an inexpensive volt-ohm meter,
  • black electrical tape to waterproof outdoor connectors, etc., and
  • cable ties of various lengths.

Bill, AB9BC replied:

I’d add an SWR meter, and be sure to check that it’s appropriate for the bands you are using.

Tim, N9PUZ, adds:

  • A nice long tape measure to measure wire antennas, map out your yard, etc. I have one of those roll up style 250′ long ones that makes a lot of tasks easy. They don’t have to cost a fortune. Buy an inexpensive one at Harbor Freight or somewhere similar. You are going to use it a few times a year to play with antennas NOT try to earn a living with it.
  • Safety goggles. Wear them, don’t store them in your toolbox. You only have one set of eyes and a blob of hot solder, sliver of wire, or a metal filing or wood chip while cutting or drilling can really ruin your day.
  • A decent pair of wire strippers for wire up to about 12 ga. Yes, you can use a knife or carefully held side cutters (DON’T use your teeth) but a wire stripper will be so much easier. I like the style with fixed sizes rather than the adjustable ones. Any home center type store will have them.
  • A pair of “Vise-Grip” type adjustable, locking pliers. You can use them to
    hold coax connectors while soldering, etc. as well as all of the normal things you’d use them for.

I would add some kind of adjustable, bench power supply. This is NOT the supply you use to power your transceiver. If you have such a supply handy, you’ll find yourself more willing and able to play around with circuits. If you don’t have one, I guarantee that you won’t ever do any experimentation.

What else should every shack have? A selection of different fuses, perhaps? Different kinds of connectors and wire so that you can make up a cable when you need it?

Bill Would Add Engineer to Commissioners’ Staffs

This item is from RadioWorld:

Snowe Introduces Bill to Add Tech Experts to FCC Commissioners Staffs


Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, has introduced a bill that would potentially add one electrical engineer or computer scientist to the staffs of each commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission.

This would be an additional position; the bill does not seek to replace any of the current three authorized staff assistants in each commissioner’s office.

Co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., S. 2881, the new position of “staff engineer” would require that the person have a degree in electrical engineering or be a computer scientist. If eventually passed, the new authorization would effectively undo a loosening of requirements for technical staff at the highest level of the FCC that began more than 25 years ago, according to the Society of Broadcast Engineers.

SBE President Vinny Lopez said the bill will go a long way toward returning technical expertise to the FCC commissioners’ offices. SBE will seek to get a companion bill introduced in the House.

The previous attempt to add technical expertise to the FCC commissioner’s offices was in 1991, when Rep. Don Ritter introduced HR. 3501, which would have required that at least one member of the commission be skilled in the engineering sciences, according to the SBE.

Like Mr. Lopez, I’m all for this. This looks like another bill we should contact our legislators to support.

Ham Radio Bill Passes Senate, Moves to House

At first, I wasn’t going to blog about this, but one of my readers persuaded me that it was noteworthy. This is a condensation of a news item on the ARRL website. Read the complete article, then contact your representative and tell him or her that you support this bill……Dan

On Monday, December 14, S 1755 — The Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Enhancement Act of 2009 — passed the Senate by unanimous consent; the bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Sponsored by Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), S 1755, if passed, would direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to undertake a study on emergency communications. S 1755 points out that “There is a strong Federal interest in the effective performance of Amateur Radio Service stations, and that performance must be given — (A) support at all levels of government; and (B) protection against unreasonable regulation and impediments to the provision of the valuable communications provided by such stations.”

Similar in language to HR 2160 (also called The Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Enhancement Act of 2009 that was introduced this past April by Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee [D-TX-18]), S 1755 calls on DHS to undertake a study on the uses and capabilities of Amateur Radio Service communications in emergencies and disaster relief and then to submit a report to Congress no more than 180 days after the bill becomes law. The study shall:

  • Include a review of the importance of Amateur Radio emergency communications in furtherance of homeland security missions relating to disasters, severe weather and other threats to lives and property in the United States, as well as recommendations for enhancements in the voluntary deployment of Amateur Radio licensees in disaster and emergency communications and disaster relief efforts and improved integration of Amateur Radio operators in planning and furtherance of the Department of Homeland Security initiatives.
  • Identify impediments to enhanced Amateur Radio Service communications, such as the effects of unreasonable or unnecessary private land use regulations on residential antenna installations; and make recommendations regarding such impediments for consideration by other federal departments, agencies and Congress.

National Electronics Museum Includes Ham Radio Station

From the 12/9/09 issue of IEEE-USA’s Today’s Engineer

Electronic Marvels on Display at National Electronics Museum

By George F. McClure

A valuable, but little known, resource tracing the development of electronics for defense, space, and other applications is located near the Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport and the BWI Rail station.

The National Electronics Museum (NEM), renamed in 2009 from the Historical Electronics Museum, is a treasure trove of radar, sonar and other electronic technology, with an emphasis on phased array antennas and countermeasures. It also operates an annual two-day Pioneer Camp program for school children between the ages of 8 and 11 to help them appreciate the role electronics plays in our lives.

There is a complete amateur radio station, K3NEM/W3GR, fully equipped with vintage and modern communications systems. A temporary exhibit last year, called “Hallicrafters and Heathkit – the H in Ham Radio,” chronicled the history of these two companies and their contributions to amateur radio.

Read the complete story.

Demonstration Network Planned for Public Safety 700 MHz Broadband

This is from the 12/15/09 edition of NIST Tech Beat, a publication of the National Institute of Technology. Shouldn’t hams be doing something like this?…..Dan

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) have announced plans to create a demonstration broadband communications network for the nation’s emergency services agencies using a portion of the radiofrequency spectrum freed up by the recent transition of U.S. broadcast television from analog to digital technologies. The new system will provide a common demonstration site for manufacturers, carriers, and public safety agencies to test and evaluate advanced broadband communications equipment and software tailored specifically to the needs of emergency first responders.

Public safety agencies are looking to make use of the 700 MHz broadband spectrum cleared by the switch to digital TV. A unified broadband system would allow public safety agencies to communicate with nationwide roaming and enhanced interoperability. However, there are currently no government or independent laboratory facilities in the United States to test and demonstrate the public safety specific behaviors of this yet-to-be-deployed 700 MHz network and the applications that could run on top of it.

To address this critical gap, NIST and NTIA, through their Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program, will begin building a Public Safety Broadband Demonstration Network to provide manufacturers with a site for early deployment of their systems, an opportunity to evaluate them in a multi-vendor environment, and create integration opportunities for commercial service providers. A national broadband network could offer public safety groups around the country access to advanced communications technologies including video, mapping and GPS applications and more. Emergency responders, vendors, carriers, academia and other pertinent stakeholders also will able to access the demonstration network.

“This is an excellent opportunity for NIST and the PSCR to leverage our skills and assets to ensure the successful adoption and deployment of a new, nationwide communications system for public safety,” says Dereck Orr, PSCR program manager. “The demonstration of these new technologies, implementations and services is a critical step in successfully deploying the next generation of mission-critical systems.”

This demonstration network is currently in the preliminary planning stages and is expected to go live in mid-2010. Interested industry and public safety representatives can contact Orr at (303) 497-5400, dereck.orr@nist.gov, or Jeff Bratcher at (303) 497-4610, jbratcher@its.bldrdoc.gov, for information on how to get involved.

The PSCR program is a partnership of the NIST Office of Law Enforcement Standards and the NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (NTIA ITS). PSCR provides objective technical support—research, development, testing and evaluation—in order to foster nationwide public safety communications interoperability. More information is available on the PSCR Web site.