Why don’t we have a Spanish-language QSO party?

I think that this is an idea whose time has come. What do we need to do to get this started?……Dan

Several days ago I ran the idea of an annual Spanish language QSO party by the PR reflector. An ARRL Spanish language annual QSO party brings many benefits to Amateur Radio, to the League, and to those of us who look for PR opportunities for Amateur Radio.

Let’s look at the benefits!
For the League to reach out by incorporating Spanish would, in my observation —

  • further globalize US Amateur Radio,
  • make US hams more useful and valuable when events like hurricanes, typhoons, and earthquakes hit Spanish speaking areas,
  • demonstrate by action that we are truly an international community of communicators,
  • bring more Spanish speaking DX into US sub-bands, making stations in many countries easier for US Amateurs to talk with,
  • strengthen Amateur Radio in Spanish speaking countries, which gives Amateur Radio better standing at the ITU when frequency allocations are handed out,
  • and be an electronic person-to-person ambassadorship that’s priceless for making friends and building relationships people-to-people, culture-to-culture, and nation-to-nation.

Hispanics are the fastest growing components of our American population.  According to the US census, the U.S. Hispanic population surged 43%, rising to 50.5 million in 2010 from 35.3 million in 2000. Latinos now constitute 16% of the nation’s total population of 308.7 million

A Spanish QSO party would be a great annual PR event, tied in with either cinco de mayo (although that’s an American-adopted Mexican holiday) or tied in with national Hispanic Heritage Month which takes place every year from September 15 to October 15.

My experience in broadcasting shows well that Spanish language TV station intensely serve their core markets – a great PR opportunity for PIO/PIC’s to spread Amateur Radio’s story to a part of our population that is both growing in number and gaining political strength every day. I guarantee great Spanish language and local TV coverage of a Spanish QSO party that also incorporates some field-day-like operation from public spaces (parks, malls, etc.)

The League could publish a handbook of Spanish Amateur Radio phrases that would help us all work Spanish speaking DX.  Exchanges during a Spanish language QSO party could be in Spanish, Spanglish, mixed Spanish and English, or in EnglishMultipliers would be given based on the number – or percent – or whatever – of conversations conducted at least partly in Spanish.

As some of us dust off or begin to practice our beginning Spanish language vocabulary, I expect Spanish speaking foreign stations will begin to spend more time in the US Phone Band Segments of our HF allocations, making them easier for the casual DXer to work!

Particularly for those of us in border states and other states with burgeoning Hispanic populations, an annual Spanish QSO party is the perfect PR, public-serving, new-ham-generating, all-inclusive event promoting the growth of Amateur Radio.

Listen for a few minutes to the Citizen’s Band along our southern border and in many other places.  Many of the truckers’ conversations are now in Spanish.  We’ve benefited by bring a number of CB operators through the years into Amateur Radio’s “Big Tent.”  Let’s keep up the momentum!

If you’ll give it a moment’s thoughts, I’m sure you’ll come up with additional benefits for Amateur Radio, for the League, and for our PIO/PRC participants. I’m sure I’ve just scratched the surface. I hope this Spanish language annual QSO party idea will catch hold, and will be a real “plus” for Amateur Radio and for being one more step in making the world of Spanish and English speakers together.

A short bit of personal background
Here in New Mexico, the “border state” where I live  we have two official languages.  You can speak only Spanish and participate in state court proceedings, follow legislative initiatives, vote, read bus schedules, subscribe to city and council notices of meetings and their contents, and choose from several Spanish over-the-air TV channels and many Spanish language radio stations.

Nearly a third of our state’s residents speak Spanish (although perhaps not exclusively) at home.

My QSL card says, on its front, “New Mexico – where the sun shines on three cultures, two official languages, and the greatest scenic beauty in the southwest.”

My first job at age 19 in commercial radio engineering was at a “bilingue” radio station.  Every weekday night, movie tickets and other prizes were given away to listeners who could answer “Preguntas de la noche.”  I usually had no problem knowing the answer – but I had no idea what the question was.  Once a week or so one of the non-English speaking announcers (Jesus Buenrostro) and I would go to lunch, determined to talk with each other.  I learned some Spanish; he learned some English.  We’d end up scribbling on napkins and gesturing to each other, and frequently would attract the attention of folks at nearby lunch tables who spoke Spanish and English – and we’d all end up in roundtable conversation with smiles and grins at each other’s attempts to use a language we were just beginning to learn!

Our daughter, Susan (bear in mind that my wife and I are purely of northern European descent) teaches English as a Second Language to high school students from predominantly Spanish speaking households in Albuquerque’s most centrally downtown located high school in the mornings, and is a certified legal interpreter English/Spanish – Spanish English in the State and Municipal Courts in the afternoons. Not bad for a German-Irish gringa (young white woman)!

Yes, Spanish is an integral part of our community, and of our family’s lives.  And more and more, it’s becoming an integral part of yours!  Language shouldn’t be a barrier between neighbors.  And I hope the League will commit to spearheading a thrust to make Amateur Radio here in the US even more inclusive than it is today!

It would be great if the answer to the question “Can we (hams) talk” would be both a resounding  “Yes!” and ¡Si!

I would love to be part of whatever group forms to spearhead an exchange with Board members of the League and with League headquarters staff to create an annual Spanish language QSO party, with all the improvements that I expect you can and will offer.  It will be a big plus for Amateur Radio!

Let’s carry this message, to all interested parties!  We can make it happen for the good of Amateur Radio!

Siete tres a todos
73, everyone!

From my Twitter feed: Ontario Science Center demos ham radio

Ontario Science Centre Demonstrates Ham Radio Digitally Remastered http://t.co/sU2HgoYO

My catch-phrase! RT @K5KVN: New meme! @K5PO says: Put A Ferrite On It! http://t.co/CxrqFIMY

Amateur Radio Quiz: A Log of dBs: By H. Ward Silver, N0AXn0ax@arrl.netI f there is a single unit of measurement b…http://t.co/lkdKX9cb

Operating Notes: “?” is not a proper response to QRL?

Random notes about my recent operations:

  1. “?” is not a proper response to QRL?

    Last night, someone responded to my call of QRL? with a question mark.  This is not the first time that this has happened. This is not a proper response. Let me repeat that. This is not a proper response. How the heck is the station sending QRL? supposed to respond to that?

  2. “?” is a proper response to a CQ.

    I also got that last night. Generally, that means that I’m sending too fast for the station to copy my call. (Hopefully, they were able to understand the CQ part.) When I hear a question mark after my CQ, I slow down so that the other station can copy my call. Doing so has resulted in several nice QSOs, including the one with N0JTE last night.

  3. EAs on 30m.
    On the evening of January 25, I worked 3 EAs in a row on 30m:

    • EA8BLV
    • EA2SS
    • EA2DPA

    It’s really not all that unusual for me to work EAs on 30m, but it was unusual to work three in a row. Also, I didn’t really hear any other Europeans on that night, and it’s been a while since 30m has been open to Europe.

  4. Dit, W8IX.
    A couple of days later, I worked Dit, W8IX. First of all, it was remarkable because of his nickname. It isn’t a result of his affinity for Morse Code, but because his last name is Ditmer. The second remarkable thing about the QSO is that Dit now has the callsign W8IX because it’s the call of his Elmer, the original W8IX. The original W8IX worked a spark-gap transmitter back in the day! You can read the story on W8IX’s QRZ.Com page.

Two Vintage Photos

This morning, I found two links to vintage amateur radio photos in my inbox this morning. The first one if from Wystan Stevens’ Flickr photostream. Stevens is a local historian here in Ann Arbor, MI.

W8ZRF 1953 QSL

W8ZRF is still alive and kicking and an active member of our local amateur radio club, ARROW.

The second one comes by way of the Glowbugs Google Group:

It comes from an article titled, “The Weirdest Photo Research of 2012.” The caption reads, “Sam Harris, of Medfield, MA, trims his beard with electronic scissors controlled by moon bounce signals. Bettmann/Corbis” Glowbug members quickly identified the ham in the photo as Sam Harris, W1FZJ, who is famous for the first 1296 MHz moonbounce contact.

Not only that, they identified the receiver as the Lafayette HE-10 (fully assembled) or KT-200 (kit). Says, Bob, W9RAN, “Really a nice receiver with and RF stage and transformer isolated power supply – definitely a cut or two above the S-38 that the dial was borrowed from.  I like receivers like this for casual listening, as you can just spin the dial and always find something interesting to listen to.  It certainly would have been usable by Novices and on AM, although tuning SSB on receivers like this or my Hallicrafters SX-110 kept the operator busy, tuning to compensate for drift and controlling the audio with the RF gain, but this soon became second nature.”


From Father to Son

Tom, W1PDI, sent me this story a couple of days ago. I love stories like this, and I hope that you will, too…….Dan

Tom W1PDI in 1967

The author in 1967, copying Morse out of his Dad’s Heathkit HR-20. The rest of the station consisted of a DX- 40 transmitter, an AM-2 SWR bridge and an SB-600 speaker.

If I was a little older at the time, I might have guessed what my dad was up to. The signs were there: a Knight- Kit Span Master shortwave radio for Christmas in 1962, followed by a pair of Knight-Kit walkie talkies the following year and a CB radio–yes, another Knight-Kit– as a Christmas gift in 1964. To this day I can still remember my CB call sign, KKB1757.

It was early in 1966 that my dad had something else to share with me–a Morse code practice oscillator he had built. That’s when things started to become a little clearer and make sense. He suggested that if I learned both the code and some basic technical information that I could take a test to move up from my CB radio status to obtaining a ham “ticket,” just like he had.

Growing up, I can remember all kinds of radio equipment around the house. My dad’s ham gear was set up in an attic loft, along with many years’ worth of QST magazines neatly organized by year. And how could I forget his framed Amateur Radio license, which he’d had as long as I could remember?

I studied the ARRL How to Become a Radio Amateur handbook, learned the required 5 WPM code requirement, took my test and received my Novice license, WN1GLS, in the spring of 1966. Even before my license arrived, Dad excitedly began to assemble and set up the necessary Novice equipment in my bedroom. It included his Heathkit HR-20 receiver, a DX-40 transmitter that he brought home from work one day and a matching Heathkit AM-2 SWR bridge. We re- routed the Lattin Radio Labs 5-band dipole lead into my “shack” and now I was ready to operate. All I needed was my license.

Two Hams for the Price of One
For me, one of the great byproducts of becoming a ham was that it renewed my father’s interest in the hobby. My dad, who was a long time engineer at radio station WELI in Hamden, Connecticut, even started a local ham radio club that was sponsored by the station and he was trustee of the club’s license, WA1HRC.

During the next few years we held our club meetings in the radio station’s remote building, where the emergency on-air studio was housed. It was there that we built and operated our club station of Heathkit equipment. I recall how we built other equipment, including a 15 meter Yagi one Saturday at the radio station after my dad convinced the broadcast station to purchase and erect a 50-foot crank-up tower. We participated in several Field Day adventures and even made a few trips to ARRL Headquarters.

My interest in Amateur Radio faded when I went to college in 1972 and my dad lost interest soon thereafter. He soon left his position with the radio station to start a two-way radio sales and service company that eventually led to a very successful commercial mobile/cellular

In 1981 I returned to the air and was active for a few years, and again this renewed my father’s interest in returning to the hobby. As a birthday gift in 1982, I presented him with the exact same equipment I was using at the time: a Kenwood TS-520SE transceiver and matching AT200 antenna tuner.

By 1983 my level of activity waned once again and I sold my equipment. My father kept his gear and was active until around 1988. During his “active” period I helped him put up a 160-meter long wire. Dad constructed some RTTY equipment and wrote an article about the experience that appeared in the June 1985 issue of 73 magazine.

QST–Calling All Amateurs
After my dad retired and he and Mom moved to Sarasota, Florida in 1991, I always assumed that he sold his equipment, among other things, prior to the move. My father passed away in August 2002. Shortly after, I made it a point to notify the ARRL and requested that he be remembered among other silent keys in QST.

John, W1PDI

John Miller, W1PDI (SK), at his operating position in 1984, with a Kenwood TS- 520SE transceiver and some homebrew RTTY gear.

Later that year I received in the mail the December 2002 issue of QST, which surprised me because I hadn’t been a member of the ARRL in well over 30 years and I hadn’t seen a copy of QST since the early 1980s. But in that issue my father’s listing appeared in the silent keys column. To this day I am not sure who sent me that issue of QST.

For several weeks I found myself going through that issue of QST over and over again, looking at the advertisements, reading articles and trying to understand some of the unfamiliar terms that were nonexistent 20 years earlier. All the while I asked myself, “Why was it that I hadn’t thought about getting back into the hobby again? If I had done so earlier, maybe I could have renewed my father’s interest for a third time.” We could have scheduled contacts and my children would have loved the opportunity of “getting on the radio” with their grandfather.

In early December 2002 my mom came to stay with us for a few weeks. One day she noticed the issue of QST that I had been thumbing through and said something to me that seemed to make time stand still. She said that my father had kept a lot of his ham equipment and asked if I wanted what he saved. When I asked why he kept the equipment, her reply was simply, “He wanted you to have all of it because he had hoped someday you would become interested in ham radio again.”

Because of that December 2002 issue of QST, my interest in returning to the air was already there. But now, learning that I had access to some equipment and that it was kept with the hope that I might someday want to return to the hobby, well, the timing was right. Arrangements were made to have the equipment shipped to me in January 2003 and I was back on the air by early February.

The Final Courtesy
Not only did my father keep the Kenwood equipment I had given him as a birthday gift 20 years earlier, but to my surprise the packages of equipment that arrived that day included more than I ever could have imagined.

That shipment also included nearly all of the original equipment that my dad had set up for me when I first received my Novice ticket: the Heathkit HR-20 receiver, my DX-40 transmitter, matching SWR bridge, my first code key–with his call sign and mine still on the

mounting board–and even the SB-600 Heathkit speaker that I bought while still a novice. Also included were QSL cards my dad received over the years, all of his logbooks, his original Vibroplex bug from 1947 and a handful of his own original QSL cards from 1946. What a treasure.

Life is full of odd circumstances. If it were not for the unexpected December 2002 QST showing up in the mail, plus the fact that unknown to me Dad had kept his ham equipment, I seriously doubt that I would be back on the air today enjoying Amateur Radio like it was 1966 all over again. Well, maybe not exactly like 1966, since Amateur Radio certainly has changed since then.

As a way to remember my dad, in April 2003 I applied for and was granted the amateur call he held from 1946 to 2002, W1PDI. I just had to keep my dad’s call sign in the family. It’s good to be back in ham radio, but I just wish I had the chance to once again renew my dad’s interest in the hobby that he first introduced to me nearly 40 years ago.

Tom Miller, W1PDI, was first licensed in 1966 as WN1GLS, and upgraded to General a year later at the age of 13 with WA1GLS. He continues to operate the equipment he inherited from his father and is very active on a number of nets, including the 3905 Century Club and OMISS. He enjoys contesting, QSO parties and paper chasing. Miller’s other interests include spending time with his children, sports car racing and baseball. He lives in Bay Village, Ohio, and can be reached via e-mail at w1pdi@arrl.net.

Two generations of W1PDI
W1PDI QSLsAlso included with the equipment my dad kept were a dozen or so old QSTs from the 1950s and ’60s. In one issue, January 1965, on page 74, was the announcement of the commemorative Amateur Radio stamp, first released in Alaska. It was in this issue that I found a block of the commemorative stamps my father must have placed there to preserve them. That, along with it being the stamp’s 40th anniversary, is what prompted me to design my current QSL card. On the back of my new card, I’ve included a tiny version of the lightning-throwing baby in the corner and a note that my dad held my current call sign from 1946 through 2002.

Amateur Radio in the News: Michigan, Kansas, Colorado

Central Middle School radio club students work on projects
The future of amateur radio in Midland was in room 127 of Central Middle School on Wednesday afternoon.Bill Albe brought kits to build the FET crystal radios he designed, along with tools sure to excite middle schoolers — drills, solder, means to measure electrical resistance across their bodies — plus ample adult supervision.

I’m trying to find out more about this project so that I can do something similar at the Hands-On Museum….Dan

Back to the Future — amateur radio enthusiasts bring transmitter back to life
The wait – four weeks short term and 40 years and counting long term – was well worth it when the 75-year-old transmitter built by amateur radio pioneer Marshall Ensor was reactivated Saturday evening at Ensor Park and Museum south of Olathe.

Ham radio alive and well in Boulder County
This is a nice profile of the Boulder Amateur Radio Club (BARC). BARC Juniors is a program of the club, which encourages kids to get involved in amateur radio. Great club, great program.

Having trouble finding tube sockets?

If you’re having trouble finding tube sockets, Hack a Day recently ran a story on a guy who uses a 3D printer to make his own tube sockets. How cool is that?

Here’s the video that shows how he did it:

There’s also an cool post on Hack a Day showing how to build a tube prototyping station.

ARRL News: Board holds annual meeting, scholarship deadline nears

From the January 24, 2013 edition of the ARRL Letter:

ARRL Board Holds 2013 Annual Meeting
The ARRL Board of Directors held its 2013 Annual Meeting January 18-19 in New Orleans, Louisiana. At the meeting, the Board set its legislative objectives for the 113th Congress, bestowed awards, approved the organization’s amended financial plan, elected members to the Executive Committee and ARRL Foundation, and more. A detailed look at all the Board’s actions, including the official minutes from the meeting, is forthcoming.

ARRL Scholarship Deadline is February 1
The application deadline for ARRL Foundation Scholarships is fast approaching. The deadline for applications is February 1, 2013. According to ARRL Foundation Secretary Mary Hobart, K1MMH, the 2013 collection of scholarship awards is bigger than ever, with eight new scholarships added in 2012. “The annual awards range from $500 to $2500, while the Goldfarb Scholarship can total upwards of $10,000 each year,” Hobart explained. “The estimated total dollar amount of all awards in excess of $80,000.” Scholarship recipients will be announced in May 2013 via letter and on the ARRL website.

How do you choose an antenna analyzer?

A reader recently e-mailed me:

In the past you told me you started with the Autek RF-1, and later moved to the Palstar ZM-30. I am finally getting around to thinking about purchasing an antenna analyzer, but I am stumped by the choices. In order of increasing purchase price this is what I’ve turned up:

How does one decide? Where does one go to find out the differences? Other than asking a fellow ham, how does one find out which one is the best antenna analyzer without paying an arm and a leg (unless the feature(s) so purchased are deemed worth the cost)?

Thanks! 73

He actually missed several other good choices:

  • Autek VA1 – $199. This is actually the antenna analyzer that I first purchased.
  • MFJ 259B - $240. This is arguably the most popular antenna analyzer on the market. MFJ has several other models with different feature sets.
  • YouKits FG-01 – $250. This is a very cute, little analyzer with a small graphical display. It seems kind of expensive, but the graphical display might be worth it.
  • Comet CAA500 – $450.

So, how do you choose just one from this list? Well, I think the first thing that you have to ask yourself is how you’re going to use the analyzer. If all you’re going to do is to check the SWR of your HF dipoles, then buy the Autek RF-1. It’s the least expensive unit, is reasonably accurate, and is small and lightweight, making it easy to use outside where your antennas are located.

Autek RF-1

The Autek RF-1 is inexpensive, and its small size makes it easy to use outdoors where your antennas are.

If you want to do some more serious frequency analysis, then you should be looking at the W4RT miniVNA or, if you have more cash, the Timewave TZ-900s. These instruments can help you do a lot more in-depth analysis of your antenna system. The figure below, for example, shows a plot generated by the miniVNA software. It shows the SWR of a multi-band vertical antenna from 3 – 33 MHz.

miniVNa display

For more sophisticated frequency analysis, consider the miniVNA. It uses a computer to generate graphs like this.

Some antenna analyzers do more than just SWR. For example, what sold me first on the Autek VA1 and then on the Palstar was that they also measured reactance. So, you can use the antenna analyzer as an LC meter as well. Palstar also says that you can use the ZM-3 as a low-level signal source.

Next, you need to consider what bands you’ll be using it on. Many antenna analyzers only cover the HF bands. That’s a bummer if you like operating 6m, or like to experiment with VHF/UHF antennas. A friend of mine bought the Palstar antenna analyzer after talking to the company at Dayton. At the time, they said that they were planning to come out with a model that covered 6m, as well as the HF bands.

Unfortunately, they never did come out with a 6m version, and he was sorely disappointed. He ended up buying a miniVNA instead.

Asking your fellow hams about the antenna analyzers they have is actually a good way to figure out what’s best for you. If you ask nicely, they might even let you borrow their analyzers or come over and show you how it works on your antennas.

Reading the reviews on eHam is also a good way to gather information before making a purchase like this. You certainly have to take the reviews there with a grain of salt, but if several reviewers mention a particularly good or particularly bad feature of a product, then it’s certainly something worth taking a hard look at.

If you’re new to the hobby, starting out small and working your way up might be a good strategy. You could buy one of the less expensive models and get used to how they work,  then sell it and make the leap to a more sophisticated unit. The way things are going, you should be able to sell your first antenna analyzer for at least 80% of what you paid for it.

Whatever you do, don’t fall victim to “paralysis by analysis.” Go ahead and buy one and start using it. This is a learn by doing hobby after all.

This makes me feel good


One of the nice things about writing my “No-Nonsense” study guides is that I get e-mail all the time from folks  who have used them to get their first license or upgrade to General or Extra. This is very gratifying to me. Yesterday, I found two in my inbox, one right after the other:

Mike writes:

Thank you for your license study guides!  I have been studying the Technician guide and took and passed the test today.

After passing the Technician test, they said I could try the General test without having to pay more, so I took it.  Somehow (luck), I passed it even though I hadn’t cracked open your General guide yet.  I’m still going to go through it, though, to make sure I know all the important stuff.

I’m starting to learn Morse code.  I think I want to mainly operate in CW.

I love it that he wants to operate CW. Austin, wrote:

This is just a short note to let you know I took the Extra exam today and passed with a perfect score. Thanks for your Study Guide.  I loaded the PDF on my Kindle and read each night for a couple weeks.  Today was the result.

Congratulations, Mike and Austin!  I hope to hear you on the bands one of these days.