A recent news story on the ARRL website, “ARRL Official Observers Team with FCC to Solve Rogue Keyer Problem on 17 Meters” caught my eye. It reads:
On July 15, Walt Bilous, K3DQB — an Official Observer (OO) in ARRL’s Eastern Pennsylvania Section — notified ARRL Headquarters of a keyer continuously sending a series of dits on 18.0855 MHz. According to ARRL Field Regulatory Correspondent Chuck Skolaut, K0BOG, Bilous kept hearing the dits throughout the night.
Skolaut asked Bilous to alert other OOs to monitor the frequency, but the signal was proving hard to locate via direction finding due to changing propagation and fading conditions on the band. “We alerted OOs across the country to monitor and collect additional information for us including bearings and signal strength reports,” Skolaut said. “We had a great response from quite a number of Official Observers.” But the signal was still proving elusive, so Skolaut contacted the FCC for assistance.
“By Monday evening, July 18, the FCC indicated that the dits were originating in California, ruling out speculation that it might even be coming from outside the United States,” Skolaut explained. “On Tuesday, we received word that the FCC had pinpointed the exact location of the dits. They visited the radio amateur’s home, found the cause and the transmitter was immediately shut off.” According to the FCC, an amateur in Northern California had unintentionally left his keyboard too close to his keyer paddle, and the paddle somehow got pushed against the keyboard, making it send continuous dits.
“We appreciate the efforts of all the involved Official Observers and the prompt follow up by the FCC in pinpointing the source of the transmissions and getting them stopped to prevent further interference on the band,” Skoluat said. “Since signals on 17 meters may travel long distances, we received a number of reports from stations overseas who supplied signal strength reports along with bearings. This incident prompts a very important reminder to all amateurs to always be vigilant when operating and if leaving your operating position, to turn off or secure your transmitters to avoid situations like this from happening.”
I heard this signal over at least a 24-hour period, and was kind of amazed that it went on for so long. I learned two ham radio lessons from this story:
- If I hear something like this again—and I have heard transmissions like this before—contact the MI section Official Observers.
- Make sure that my own transmitter is secure when I’m done operating for the day.