Amateur Radio in the News – 10/18/12


Sunita Williams, KD5PLB

Sunita Williams, KD5PLB, is currently the commander aboard the International Space Station.

Ahmedabad students to make ‘space call’ to Sunita Williams. Sunita Williams, an Indian-American (right), will speak to students in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India at some point between November 12 and November 16. The article says that Williams, KD5PLB, is an avid ham radio operator and “has talked to a number of groups from around the world during both her space travels.”

Qatar to host amateur radio festival. An amateur radio festival will be held in Doha, Qatar, sometime in Decembler. According to The Penninsula, “This festival will include a contest between amateur radios from all over the world. The event dubbed the first of its kind in Middle East will take place in conjunction with the National Day celebrations. About 100 amateur radios (sic) from across the globe will be invited to the festival and the competition, besides a host of officials and experts.”

Amateur weather spotter recalls chasing destructive Dexter tornado. Last spring, a tornado tore through Dexter, a town not ten miles from me. Jeff, KN8A, the amateur profiled in this article, took part in the SkyWarn activity. It’s a good article on how one ham does his part.

Whitby Amateur Radio Club does double duty as road crew. Now this is really a public service! More amateur radio clubs should consider pitching in like this.


KB6NU is now a columnist for World Radio Online

Amateur LicensingYours truly is now the “Amateur Licensing” columnist for World Radio Online. My first column appears in the November 2012 issue.

Each column contains three or four related questions from each of the three tests. As you might expect, I take this material from my No-Nonsense License Study Guides. I write a little intro about why you want or need to know this stuff, and voila, there’s a column.

My first column appears on page 42 of the November 2012 issue. This month, I cover  questions about repeater operation from the Tech test, digital logic questions from the General test, and questions about the RC time constant from the Extra exam.

If you’re a WRO subscriber, take a look. I’d love to hear your feedback.

On the Internet: $100 supercomputer, 13 yo reviews his HT, HackRF covers 100 MHz – 6 GHz

Here are  a couple more interesting tidbits gleaned from the Internet over the past week or so:

  • Personal supercomputer for only $100! This blog post describes reports on a company called Adapteva, which sounds like it’s still basically a basement operation, that’s developed a low-power, high-Gflops processor chip. Their current project is to develop a very low-cost supercomputer using this chip. One of the possible applications they’re targeting is software-defined radio.
  • 13-year-old reviews the Quansheng dual-band HT. A new ham reviews his dual-band HT. Bottom line: he likes it!
  • HackSDR to rule the airwavesHackRF is a software-defined radio (SDR) that will potentially receive and transmit any radio frequency from 100 MHz to 6 GHz. HackRF is intended to hit the sweet spot between versatility and cost – around the size of a USB hard drive and with a $300 price tag,

Sun to cause problems for contest this weekend?

The Washington Post reported yesterday that there was a X-class solar flare, the most powerful type of solar flare, on Monday, and that more might be on the way. The article notes,

The X-class flare was not directed at Earth. But space weather forecasters caution the very active sunspot region – known as AR1598 – responsible for these flares is slowly rotating towards Earth in the coming days.

Activate rare grid squares with the Michigan 6m Group

A friend of mine, Bruce, KT8TD, has started a Yahoo Group—the Michigan Six Meter Group—to organize “DXpeditions” to activate rare northern Michigan grid squares on 6m. The plan is to get a small group togethere sometime in the near future to operate from these sparsely-populated areas.

I’m not a big 6m operator, but it sounds like a good idea to me. Do  you know of any other groups or websites or mailing lists promoting this type of operation? If so, please comment here.

Operating Notes – 10/23/12

  1. 10m has been open for the past couple of days. Last night, I worked Hiro, JH0INP from here at my home QTH, using only my loop antenna. He gave me a 559 report. Of course, I’m sure that his seven-element tribander had something to do with that report. :)
  2. I seem to work DX in bunches. Of my last nine QSOs here at home, seven have been DX contacts. W4UTI and W3PX are the two rare domestic QSOs. This evening, I worked I8SAT on 30m. My last contact with him was way back in May 2003.
  3. Pet peeve: stations that respond to my CQ with only their callsigns. I know that this has become standard operating procedure for contests and even DX operation these days, but I’m not having any part of it when it comes to normal operation. If a station sends only his call sign, I either reply with QRZ? or with just a question mark. It’s not just the new ops doing it, either. Some of the guys who are starting to do this are old-timers.

Interesting tidbits from the Internet – Homemade tools, more kits, a CMOS replacement

This set of links include a website for homemade tools, another source of kits, and a report on an electronic technology to replace CMOS.

Manual pick-and-place station

This manual pick-and-place station is one of many that you’ll find on HomemadeTools.Net that are useful for amateur radio operators.

Home-made tools. This is a new site from the founder of, established to organize all of the homemade tools posted on forums and websites around the net. The site currently has nearly 3,000 different homemade tools, with new tools added regularly. Be sure to check out the electrical section, which has many tools that you can use around the ham shack. It includes a $3 battery charger, a low-cost 12 V benchtop power supply, and a manual pick-and-place station to use when building with surface-mount components.

Kits by K5BCQ, K5JHF, and the Austin QRP Club. Kees, K5BCQ; John, K5JHF; and other members of the Austin QRP Club are making available some useful kits at reasonable prices to encourage kit building and homebrewing. The kits are all based around readily available, low-cost microcontrollers, flash memory, and LCD displays. I’m thinking about buying the The Si570 Controller and Frequency Generator Kit #2. At $54 or less, I think it’s a steal.

NRI to lead new five-year effort to develop post-CMOS electronics. This article from the NIST Tech Beat describes a project to develop a next-generation electronics technology to replace the venerable CMOS technology. According to the article, new technology is needed because pretty soon IC manufacturers won’t be able to make transistors any smaller.

Amateur Radio Videos – 10/19/12

Here are some more videos for your amateur radio viewing pleasure.

History of the transistor radio. The PBS show History Detectives featured a segment on the Regency TR-1 transistor radio, the first transistor radio ever made, and some of the other early transistor radio models. The website says the show will air on October 28, 2012. (I know it’s only October 19, but the PBS website says this show will air on October 28.)  Look for the segment at the 28:45 mark.

K6BBQ at Pacificon 2012. Rem, K6BBQ, ask some amateur radio celebrities, including Dave Sumner, K1ZZ, and Gordon West, WB6NOA, some amusing questions.

Ham Amateur Radio Doing Illegal Crap.  Want to get your hackles up? Watch this video. I’m not sure what the author’s motivation was in making this video, but it’s sure to get a few of  you worked up.

25, 50, and 75 Years Ago in QST

QST publishes a column every month towards the back of the magazine that highlights from issues 25, 50, and 75 years ago. Now that the QST archive is online, it’s really worth taking a look at these articles. Here are a few that were interesting to me this month:

  • October 1937
    • Modernizing the Simple Regenerative Receiver by Vernon Chambers, W1JEQ. This a nicely-designed and built regen using two tubes, a 6K5 pentode and 6C5 triode. I’m going to keep this design in mind if I ever get around to playing with all the tubes I have. As an aside, W1JEQ wrote 87 articles for QST from 1936 through February 1958. This was his third article.
    • Concentrated Directional Antennas for Transmission and Reception by John L. Reinartz, W1QP, and Burton T. Simpson, W8CPC. This article describes two different antennas. The first is a  half-wave loop antenna that the author says works on 2-1/2, 5, 10, and 20m. The second is a square loop antenna called a “signal squirter” for 14 Mc.
  • October 1962
    • In the “New Apparatus” item on page 27, a key made by J. A. Hills, W8FYO, of Dayton, OH is shown under the heading, “New Key Mechanism for Electronic Keyers.” The photo clearly shows a key whose design was adopted by whoever designed the Bencher BY-1 paddle.
    • The Towering Problem by Jay Kay Klein, WA2LII clearly shows that putting up towers have always been a problem for amateur radio operators. This is a humorous take on the problem. What’s notable is that this type of humorous article almost never appears in QST anymore. Amateur radio seems to have lost its sense of humor.
  • October 1987
    • Stalking Those Fugitive Components by Doug DeMaw, W1FB. We often complain about the demise of local parts suppliers, but this article shows that this was a problem 25 years ago as well. W1FB gives some advice that I gave not long ago–stock up on parts, especially when you find a good deal on them, and you won’t have to scrounge around for them when you want them.

11 New Amateur Radio Operators

Last Saturday, I taught another session of my one-day Tech class. Their callsigns finally made it into the FCC database today:

  • Joe,  KD8TGZ
  • Kieran, KD8THA
  • Reginald, KD8THB
  • Richard, KD8THD
  • Curtis, KD8THE
  • Judith, KD8THF
  • Robert, KD8THG
  • Ulysses. KD8THH
  • Chris, KD8THI
  • Lizabeth, KD8THJ
  • Richard, KD8THK

Eleven out of twelve passed. The twelfth was a teenage girl who really was just in the class because her father “encouraged” her to do so. As with the teenager from my last class, I’m not going to count her as part of the total and claim a 100% pass rate this time.