Amateur Radio in the News; CERT, RFI, “magic band”

San Ramon CERTCERT volutneers, amateur radio operators ‘leap’ into action
The San Ramon Valley Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program along with local amateur radio operators participated in a mock communications drill on Saturday. Volunteers placed hundreds of stuffed “CERT green” frogs placed throughout the community to help simulate victims of a major disaster.

Florida resident cited for ham interference
In an unusual case, the FCC cited Ruben Lopez of Pomona Park, Fla. for harmful interference with amateur radio frequencies. He has 30 days to respond to the Enforcement Bureau or risk being fined up to $16,000 for each violation and having his equipment seized. In this case, the subject of the interference is a well pump, according to the agency.

Sweet sound of ham radio
Timaru (New Zealand) radio enthusiast George Boorer is thrilled with the national switchover to digital television. It means after 40 years he can head back out to his “radio shack” and tap into the six-metre international amateur band, otherwise known as “the magic band”.


Think the bands are crowded during contests? You’re right.

While writing a post for on the CQ WPX contest, I ran across this slide in a recorded webinar on rules changes for 2013:


I’m sorry about the quality of the slide, but that’s the best I could do. Even with the poor resolution, you can see that the number of logs that have been submitted for the CQ WPX have just about doubled in the last ten years. Nearly, 5,400 logs were submitted for the CQ WPX SSB contest last year, while more than 4,000 were submitted for the CQ WPX CW contest. These numbers do not include stations who participated in the contest in some way, but did not submit a log.

Want to get in on the action? Well, the RTTY and SSB contests are done for the year, but the CW contest is coming up on May 25-26, 2013.

18/19 get Tech tickets at yesterday’s class

Yesterday, I taught another of my one-day Tech classes at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, and I’m happy to report that 18 out of 19 passed the test. And, the one that did fail missed it by only one question.

One thing that I was really glad to see was the diversity of the group. Four of the students were women, and five of the students were teenagers! There were also a couple of 20-somethings in the group.

Three of the teenagers were part of the “Prestin Gang.” The Prestin Gang included twin brothers Bill and Ed, and three of their sons: Danny, Gilbert, and Matthew. Sounds to me as though they’re going to have a lot of fun as a family with the hobby.

At lunch, Ed Prestin told me that he’d been licensed before, and that he still had the Heathkit HW-5400 (!) that he built back in the 1980s. I hope the rig is still working. Some parts are no longer available.

My one innovation this time was to draw the figures on big sheets of paper and then tape them to the wall before the class. This worked out pretty well. The students didn’t have to make sense of my hastily-drawn figures on the white board.

Overall, this session  was an unqualified success. And a lot of fun, to boot.


Operating Notes: DX @WA2HOM, 4/25/13

The Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum is open Thursday evenings, but from September though April I bowl on Thursday nights, so never get to take advantage of that.  We’ve finished for the year now, though, so yesterday, I walked down to the museum and put WA2HOM on the air for a couple of hours.

One of my first contacts was with Marco, IZ8LJZ. The contact itself was the standard DX contact, i.e. short and kind of boring, but when I looked him up on QRZ.Com, I found this photo below. What a lovely spot!

Marco, IZ8LJZ lives in Praiano, on the beautiful Amalfi Coast.

Marco, IZ8LJZ lives in Praiano, on the beautiful Amalfi Coast.

20m was open to Europe, so I made several more DX contacts before I left for the day. One of them was with Tom, G3HGE. We were both 599, and we had a not-so-normal DX contact, chatting for nearly 30 minutes.

Tom’s QRZ page said that he used to be a manufacturer of amateur radio gear, so earlier today, I Googled him. As it turns out, Tom was the man behind TW Electronics, a manufacturer of VHF gear from 1958 – 2000. There’s a nice history of the company on the TW website.

Now in his 80s, Tom now makes paddles and bugs. I don’t know if he’d like this comparison, but you might call him the “English Begali.” His latest creation, the TW Olympic shown below is a dual-lever bug that uses magnetic tension. He was using this bug for our QSO, and it sounded great. I’m already thinking that maybe I could get the XYL to put that on my Christmas list.

The TW Olympic is a two-lever "bug" that uses magnetic tension and has a speed range of 14 - 28 wpm.

The TW Olympic is a two-lever “bug” that uses magnetic tension and has a speed range of 14 – 28 wpm.

From my Twitter feed: kits, cool transmitter, new CW book

Tim Walford G3PCJ does a nice bunch of radio kits and accessories


This brings new meaning to “having a cool one.”

“A new “Cool Transmitter” from W5IG.” #ARRL #hamradio


The ARRL stole my idea! (just kidding)

NEW book from the @ARRL – Morse Code Operating for Amateur Radio ~ Don’t Just Learn Morse Code, Master It! #hamr


Operating notes: MI QSO Party, Rookie Roundup

I started the weekend off by going to the ARROW monthly breakfast. I don’t know why, but attendance was way down this month. Only eight of us showed up. One notable presence was Sam, KC8QCZ. We hadn’t seen him for quite a while.

After breakfast, I had intended to make a ton of points in the Michigan QSO Party from the Hands-On Museum station. Instead of using WA2HOM, which would have only confused people, we used W8CWN, the former callsign of Dr. Richard Crane, a U-M physicist and the builder of some of the earliest exhibits at the museum.

Ed, AB8OJ, met me down there, but unfortunately, the propagation gods were not with us. 15m and 10m were completely quiet. 20m was a little better, but even there, conditions were only fair to poor. After about three hours, we just gave up with only 74 QSOs in the logbook.

As it turns out, all the activity was on 40m, and we still don’t have the 40m inverted V back up yet at the museum. I really should have made more of an effort to do this last fall. It’s the first thing on my list to do when (if?) the weather here warms up enough to get up on the roof.

Saturday evening, I did operate the MIQP from home for about three hours. Since I don’t have an 80m antenna, I stuck to 40m. I was thinking of trying 20m again, but there was so much activity on 40m, I didn’t bother to listen to 20m.

The propagation was very favorable for MIQP operation. Not only was the propagation long enough to contact the eastern half of the U.S., it was also short enough to make contacts in the neighboring states and many MI counties. I ended up making more than twice as many contacts at home as I did at the museum in roughly the same amount of time. I quit at just after 10pm with just over 40,000 points.

On Sunday, I went down to the museum again for a short time. 20m was still in pretty lousy shape, but I made a couple of CW  contacts, then went looking for the Rotarians on Amateur Radio net. I was again unable to find them, but I did log into the Heathkit Net right at the tail-end of that net.

I then tuned around a bit before pulling the plug. I found a couple of stations working the Rookie Roundup. One of them was working W6YX, the Stanford University Amateur Radio Club station. The other was a husband and wife team working the same station with both their calls. I thought that was pretty cool.

From my inbox: CQ Burger King, BPL, solderless PL-259

Amateur radio plays a big part in this new Burger King ad.


FCC Denies ARRL BPL Petition. As this commentary from TV Technology notes, the FCC denied the ARRL’s that BPL systems include full time notching of amateur radio frequencies and an increase in the required notch depth from 25 dB to 35 dB. They also say, “While the Second MO&O isn’t good news for amateur radio operators, utilities seem to have lost their interest in using BPL to provide residential Internet access…and smart meters so it may have little real impact.” Let’s hope it stays that way.

Solderless PL-259. On the AMRAD mailing list, one ham writes:

Shakespeare has been in the marine antenna business since shortly before the discovery of oceans and they have a couple of bits of kit which you might consider for your ARES or Field Day bug-out box. They make a PL259 and a coax cable spice which go together with nothing but a knife sharp enough to cut the plastics and a pair of pliers. I wouldn’t try running the legal limit through these (the coax they fit wouldn’t like it either) but i have used the PL259 for up to 100-watt service and they have performed admirably.

They are kind of expensive at around $15 a pop, but they do look like quality parts and that they’d work pretty good in a pinch.

From the NIST Tech Beat: emcomm, generators

Here are a couple of items that may be of interest to amateur radio operators from the April 17 issue of the NIST Tech Beat:

tb20130417-nytest_originalNIST Tests in New York City Suggest How to Improve Emergency Radio Communications
Radio communications can be unreliable in underground tunnels and other large, complicated structures, posing a safety hazard for emergency responders. New tests of wireless emergency safety equipment by NIST have defined the challenges more precisely and suggest how emergency communications might be improved.

Prototype Generators Emit Much Less Carbon Monoxide, NIST Finds
Portable electric generators retrofitted with off-the-shelf hardware by the University of Alabama emitted significantly lower levels of carbon monoxide, according to the results of tests conducted by NIST for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Amateur radio in the news: Purdue club

Geoffrey Stewart, son of Andy Stewart of Chelmsford, operates his ham radio. His call sign is KB1USE. COURTESY PHOTO

Ham radio: the original social network
Andy Stewart and his friends could be considered revolutionary. “The jokes that I hear are that ham radio was the original social network,” he said.

Purdue’s ham radio club turns 100.
During open house, members can spend their time however they want. Most of the time, members learn more about ham radio, make new contacts from around the world and fix radios. One time, a few members even made a credit card scanner just for fun.

Volunteers vital to Weather Service during severe storms
With the forecast calling for possible severe weather Thursday, the National Weather Service expects to call on its team of weather spotters. They include Roane County ham radio operator Phil Newman. For 16 years, Newman has communicated to fellow operators around the region and the world….

KB6NU places second for Michigan in the Florida QSO Party

I got this in the mail yesterday:


My first thought was, “Boy, it sure took them a long time to send this to me.” I honestly don’t even remember working this contest.

Then, I saw the info sheet for this year’s contest. The 2013 Florida QSO Party takes place the weekend of April 27-28. They’re just trying to drum up business. I’ll have to try to get #1 this year. If you’re in Florida, listen for me.