No-Code in 1934?

short-wave-radio-jan-1934As a result of sending out a column (nearly) every month to about 350 ham radio club newsletter editors, I get copies of many newsletters from around the country. The following appeared in the August 2014 issue of the Merrymeeting Amateur Radio Association (MARA) Squelch Tales. It originally appeared in the January 1934 issue of the magazine Short Wave Radio. PDFs of Short Wave Radio as well as many more magazines from the early days of radio can be found on the American Radio History website.

A Codeless Amateur License ? No !

ALTHOUGH we doubt if anyone in Government circles is giving the matter any serious thought, there seems to be a lot of noise at the present time about creating a special class of amateur license that will not involve a code test. Considering the numerous and unmatched privileges already enjoyed by the American amateur, it seems to us that any demands for a license class of this kind are ridiculous. Many honest amateurs admit that even the present test is too easy, and is bringing many irresponsible persons on the air. Of course, everyone has to begin some time, so we must forgive the beginner his rotten fist or his hoarse modulation, as long as he stays within band, uses d.c. for plate supply and otherwise conforms to the spirit, as well as the letter, of the Federal Radio Commission regulations.

When you stop to consider that the American amateur is not even required to pay a cent in the way of license fees, that he is permitted to operate absolutely unhampered, and that the Army and the Navy defend him at international conferences while the highly military governments of other nations try to wipe him off the map, we think it is time to stop biting the hand that feeds us, so to speak.

The recent federal economy wave was responsible for a serious reduction in the technical administrative staff of the F.R.C. You can just about imagine the mess that would be created by a lot of unchecked so-called “amateurs” who are willing to jeopardize their own freedom by their unwillingness to learn the code, which, after all, is the real language of radio.

Why do some people consider the code a stumbling -block? It is really very easy to learn, as 10 -year old children and 75 -year old patriarchs have discovered. Besides, a knowledge of the code greatly increases the enjoyment that you can obtain from a short -wave receiver, even if you have no intention of applying for an amateur license.

To many people not familiar with the code, the host of mysterious dots and dashes that sometimes interrupts music are things which should be eliminated by law; but to those with even a slight knowledge of the code, these mysterious interruptions are highly interesting.

Airplane, coastal and naval stations, all transmitting information that really makes sense, may easily provide hours and hours of entertainment, especially when you want to get away from the beaten path.

–R. H.

CW Geek’s Guide to Having Fun with Morse Code: Learning the Code

My next book is going to be about having fun with CW. Below is the chapter on learning CW. Comments welcome….Dan

Learning CW

Of course, before you can make a CW contact, you are going to have to learn to send and receive Morse Code. This may seem like a daunting task, but remember, thousands of amateur radio operators and millions of commercial operators have learned to send and receive Morse Code. There’s no reason you can’t learn it, too.

The first step in learning Morse Code is simply to get started. You’ll never learn it if you don’t start.

If you have a PC, I suggest starting by downloading the G4FON CW Trainer from http://www.g4fon.net. There is no charge for the program. The program teaches Morse Code a character at a time, using what is called the Koch Method. The Koch Method teaches you to recognize characters by sound and not by counting the dots and dashes.

If you don’t have a PC, but do have an Apple computer, or a CD player capable of playing MP3 files, you can obtain the K7QO Code Course from FISTS, the International Morse Preservation Society. This course is also free of charge. To get a copy, send an SASE big enough to hold a CD and with enough return postage to Fists, PO Box 47, Hadley MI 48440. [[correct this!]]

Is everbody ‘appy?
These days, everyone seems to be using a cellphone or a tablet. I’ve never used any, so I asked my followers on Twitter what they would recommend. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Matthew Williams @W2MDW – @kb6nu Ham Morse is the most flexible, feature packed. Morse Coach is simple & clean.
  • David Pechey @KD2BMU – @kb6nu I’ve been using Koch Trainer – $0.99 and Morse Code Trainer – Free. @W2MDW told me about Learn CW Online, which I really like.
  • M0TEF – Alistair@M0TEF – @kb6nu I really liked using dah dit on the iPhone for drilling through the alphabet as well as training modes. It has worked for me.
  • Chris Kelling @n1wko – @kb6nu I’m using “dah dit”
  • g4tny @classicfibre – @kb6nu I’ve used ‘morse trainer’ on iphone with some success curing my rustiness ;))
  • Richard Daily@rdaily – @kb6nu Morse-it, Ham Morse, CWSpeed and Codeman are good. Codeman is free.
  • D. Robinson KK4PWE @DRobinson6268 – @kb6nu I second the Dah-Dit app on iPhone. That’s all I’ve ever used and it’s fun.

If you have a favorite, let me know, and I’ll include it in a future edition of this book

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
There’s an old joke that goes something like this: Two tourists are walking around New York City, when they spot someone carrying a music case. Thinking that the musician might know, they ask, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” He replies, “Practice, practice, practice.”

It’s the same way with Morse Code. Once you get one of these apps or courses, you’ll have to practice. Many hams advise newcomers to practice daily, but not to overdo it. Too much practice and you’ll burn out. A good suggestion is to limit yourself to two, fifteen-minute sessions per day.

What some people do is to use idle moments to go over the sounds of Morse Code in their heads. Say that you’re in your car and you notice that the car ahead of you has the license plate number ABC 123. Sound that out in your head (di-dah dah-di-di-dit dah-di-dah-dit di-dah-dah-dah-dah di-di-dah-dah-dah di-di-di-dah-dah). You can use this technique with traffic signs, signs, and billboards.

Another suggestion is to use the “buddy system.” Get a friend or spouse to learn the code with you. If you’re a member of an amateur radio club, ask around and see if there are any other guys who’d like to learn with you. If you can, find an “Elmer” who is an experienced CW operator.

If no one in your club currently operates CW, consider joining the SolidCopyCW mailing list. On this list, you’ll find many CW operators, including yours truly, who are willing and able to help out in any way they can.

Don’t do it
There are several code courses out there that purport to teach you the code by using various catchphrases that sound like the character. For example, one of the courses, uses the catchphrase “dog did it” for the letter D. That sounds very much like dah-di-dit, which is the sound for the letter D.

In general, most Morse Code teachers do not recommend learning the code this way. The reason for this is that while they are effective in learning the sounds of the letters and numbers, they are a hindrance when it comes to improving your code speed. The theory is that translating back and forth from the mnemonic to the actual character slows you down. You want to be able to recognize a character by its sound alone, not some crazy image that gets conjured up in your mind.

Stick with it
Don’t be discouraged if it takes you a while to master the code. Learning the code has a steep learning curve, but if you stick with it, you’ll master it. Also don’t get discouraged if you don’t copy 100%. Just as you don’t need to hear every word when conversing with someone, you don’t need to copy every single character to take part in a QSO.

If you do miss a character, just ignore it and listen for the next one. Don’t let missing a character bog you down. If you like, you can write an underscore or just leave a space to denote a character that you missed, but even that’s not really necessary. When you look over what you’ve written down, you’ll be able to get the gist of what was sent by characters that you did copy correctly.

Learning to send
Learning to receive is by far the hardest part about learning Morse Code. When you start out, you’ll be able to send much faster than you can receive, so learning to send is not a big deal when you’re just starting out.
Even so, I think it’s helpful to practice sending as you’re learning to receive. I’m not a cognitive scientist, but I think that there’s something about thinking about what sounds to make and then using a key to make those sounds that helps solidify that sound in the mind.

To practice your sending, you’ll need a key and some kind of code practice oscillator to produce the sound. As for the key, I usually suggest that even newcomers use a paddle instead of a straight key. I’ll write more about this in the chapter, “Choosing a Key,” but the two biggest reasons that I suggest using a paddle is that you’ll send better code right away with a paddle and using a paddle is easier on the arm and wrist.

To use a paddle, you’ll need to have some kind of keyer. Most modern HF transceivers have built-in keyers and a way to disable the transmitter so you can use that rig as an expensive code practice oscillator. On Icom radios, for example, you set the break-in function to no break-in.

You can also use an external keyer for this. To use the keyer as a code practice oscillator, simply set it so that the internal speaker is enabled and the keying output is disabled, so that you don’t key your transmitter while practicing. You can, of course, also unplug the cable connecting the keyer to your radio.

To get some feedback on how well you’re sending, you could pipe the audio into a program like fldigi or  CW Skimmer. These programs do a decent job of decoding CW, especially with a solid signal, and you can compare what the program receives with what you sent. Another way is to send to your “code buddy.” If he or she can copy what you’re sending, then you know you’re doing a good job.

Ditch the pencil and paper to get faster
When operating Morse Code, there’s always a debate over how fast one should go. Many hams are happy to plod along at 16 – 20 wpm, or sometimes even slower. The FISTS CW Club even uses the slogan, “Accuracy transcends speed.” While there is some truth to this, There’s no reason that you can’t have both accuracy and speed, and I would encourage you to work at operating as fast as you can.

One reason for this is that at somewhere around 25 wpm, operating Morse Code becomes nearly as conversational as phone. And the more conversational a QSO is, the more fun it is for me. I can get beyond signal reports and equipment descriptions and actually learn something about the other operator or the town he or she lives in.

When I got back on the air, I was one of those operators who was stuck somewhere 15 – 16 wpm, but I wasn’t happy about it. Then, I read an article in QST or CQ that the biggest obstacle to getting faster is copying on paper. According to the article, you can’t really write any faster than 20 wpm, and most people can’t even write that fast. So, if you insist on copying down each individual character, then the fastest that you’ll be able to copy is 20 wpm.

That made sense to me, but also I think it’s also a multitasking issue. I don’t know about you, but I have a limited amount of brain power. If I have to use a portion of that brain power to write letters on paper, then it’s brain power that I can’t devote to decoding Morse Code.
After reading that article, I decided that I needed to learn to just copy in my head. I went cold turkey. I put away the pen and the paper, and aside from giving demos to visitors to my shack, I only copy code in my head.
I immediately started getting faster and can now copy at 35+ wpm. I don’t know if the cold turkey method will work for you, but undoubtedly, the key to getting faster is to ditch the pencil and paper and start copying in your head. And remember: practice, practice, practice.

Stretch
Another way to get faster is to stretch. I don’t mean getting up out of your chair and stretching your arms above your head (although it’s not a bad idea to do that once in a while while operating Morse Code), but rather your code-copying muscles.

You do this by having a contact with someone who’s sending just a little faster than what you’re comfortable copying. With a little bit of concentration, you should be able to copy that operator and next time it will be a little easier.

Another tip for getting faster is to participate in contests. You don’t have to get serious about winning just to participate. Often, I’ll work a contest for a couple of hours just for the fun of it.

How does contesting help you get faster? The key is that in a contest what is sent is very well,-defined. For most contests, only call signs, a signal report (almost always “599”), and a state, ARRL section, or zone number. Because this information is so well-defined, it’s easier to anticipate what is being sent, and you’ll therefore be able to copy it more easily, even if it’s being sent at a speed higher than what you can normally copy. It’s just another way of stretching.

Night of Nights XV: July 12, 2014

From the Point Reyes National park website:

rca-radio-operatr-285x190

July 12th every year
from 3 pm to midnight
at the Historic RCA Coast Station KPH

In the annual “Night of Nights”, historic Morse code radio station KPH returns to the air in commemoration of the closing of commercial Morse operation in the USA.

Frequency and reception report information for all stations appear at the Maritime Radio Historical Society website.

KPH, the ex-RCA coast station located north of San Francisco, returns to the air for commemorative broadcasts every year on July 12 at 5:01 pm PDT (13 July at 0001 GMT). On July 12, 1999, the last commercial Morse transmission in the U.S. was thought to have been broadcast at 5 pm PDT (13 July at 0000 GMT). Now the Maritime Radio Historical Society’s own KSM carries on the tradition of commercial Morse. Transmissions are expected to continue until at least midnight PDT (0700 GMT).

Members of the public are invited to visit the receiving station for this event. The station will be open to visitors beginning at 3 pm PDT. The station is located at 17400 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and is on the route to the Point Reyes lighthouse. Watch for a cypress lined driveway on the right about a mile past the entry to Coast Guard station NMC.
Directions to Bear Valley Visitor Center
Directions from Bear Valley Visitor Center to Historic RCA Coast Station KPH

Operating Notes: 7/3/14 – 7/6/14

I’ve had an enjoyable Fourth of July weekend from an operating point of view and thought I’d share it with you.

Thursday, 7/3:
Thursday evening, after considerable internal debate, I got over my laziness and walked down to the Hands-On Museum to work WA2HOM. As it turns out, I was glad I did.

Thursday evenings are usually pretty slow there, meaning that the ambient noise level is such that I can actually hear myself think. I rarely get visitors in shack, but this week, I had two families visit with me for a while.

The first was a complete family: father, mother, two daughters (ages 10 and 12, I’m guessing), and grandma! I don’t know if they were just being polite, or were actually interested, but they endured about 15 mins of my babbling on about amateur radio. I tried to find someone calling CQ, and actually called CQ myself a couple of times, but was unable to make a contact to get the kids on the air. I gave them a WA2HOM QSL card, and they seemed pretty happy about the visit in spite of not being able to talk to someone.

After they left, I struck up a CW QSO with a fellow in Findlay, OH. In the middle of the contact, an older women poked her head over the railing and asked, “Are you talking to someone in outer space?” I told her no, but that we had indeed talked to someone in outer space before and pointed out our QSL card from the International Space Station.

About that time, she was joined by three people that I’m guessing were here daughter and two grandsons, Michael and Vernon, who are eleven-year-old twins. They seemed a little interested in what I was telling them about ham radio, and how I could actually copy Morse Code (I was copying on paper for their benefit), so I told them to come around into the shack.

The ham I was in contact with said hello to the twins, and they seemed pleased by that. When the contact ended, I sent them away with the paper that I used to copy the code on. Both of these encounters were a lot of fun, even though I wasn’t able to get any kids on the air.

Saturday, 7/5:
On Saturday, I once again headed down to the museum. Around 10:30 am, Ed, KD8OQG, joined me for a bit. He mentioned that he’d been playing around with a website he’d discovered that lets users communicate with one another by Morse Code – morsecode.me.

When you access the website, you’re assigned a random, four-character “callsign.” You can then send code to other users online by using the “.” key or the mouse button as a straight key.  It takes a while to get used to sending, and it’s a bit slow at about 15 wpm, but it’s amusing, and if it gets people interested in Morse Code, I’m all for it.

After we quit playing around with MorseCode.me, we got on 15m, where we heard ER4DX booming in. I put Ed in front of the microphone, and we worked him. It was like working someone local, and after looking at his QRZ.Com page, you’ll see why. He has a serious antenna farm!

This is the ER4DX antenna farm. No wonder he sounded like a local here.

Sunday 7/6:
Sunday, we had guests over for dinner, but after they left, I headed down to the shack to get on the University of Michigan Amateur Radio Club Net. It meets every Sunday at 8pm Eastern time on the 145.23 repeater. You can also check in via W8UM-R on Echolink.

I guess our usual net control, Chris, KA8WFC, was enjoying some holiday festivities, so in his absence I took over as net control. Despite it being a holiday, we had a pretty good turnout, with checkins from KD8OQG, N8PMG, WS8U, W8SRC, WD8DPA, KD8PIJ, WD0BCF, and WA4CJX. Larry, WD0BCF was checking in from Houston, while Bruce, WA4CJX  checked in from Honolulu. Topics of discussion included the 6m opening that day and the upcoming UMARC fox hunt.

After the net, I fired up the HF rig and had some fun on 30m and 40m. I hadn’t been trying to work the Original Thirteen Colonies Special Event this weekend, but nevertheless, I managed to work  K2J, K2C, and K2H in quick succession on 40m CW.

Then, I moved up to 30m. My first contact there was with SN0LOT, a special event station commemorating the flight of two Lithuanian airmen, Steponas Darius and Stasys Gir?nas. They crashed after flying 6,411 kilometers from New York, only 650 km short of their destination, Kaunas. At the time, it was the second longest flight over Atlantic Ocean without landing. 

After that contact, I called CQ and got a reply from W1DIG. How about that? Two QSOs with stations whose callsigns spell words in a row! Not only that, I have neither “LOT” or “DIG” in my collection. That was a great way to end the weekend.

Kindess of Strangers

In the closing moments of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Name Desire, Blanche DuBois utters her most memorable line, “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Amateur radio operators are sometimes like that.

hk-5aI recently came into possession of a HamKey HK-5A keyer (see right). HamKey has been out of business for many years, so I had to depend on the kindness of strangers to find any kind of documentation for the unit.

Fortunately, Google and the hams out there came through. I Googled “HamKey HK-5A” and found a thread on an eHam forum. In the thread, N5RDN offered to make a copy of his manual for KW4MM. I emailed Rob, N5RDN, and a PDF of the manual appeared in my inbox this morning.

Thanks, Rob!  I now offer the HK-5A-manual here for anyone who needs it.

FCC to reinstate Morse Code test

This just in…

Washington, D.C. – April 1, 2014 – Today, the Federal Communications Commission (Commission or FCC) approved Report and Order 14-987af which reinstates the Morse Code test for General Class and Amateur Extra Class licensees. “It was a big mistake eliminating the Morse Code test,” admits Dotty Dasher, the FCC’s director of examinations. “We now realize that being able to send and receive Morse Code is an essential skill for radio amateurs. As they say, it really does get through when other modes can’t.”

Not only will new applicants have to take the test, but General Class licensees who have never passed a code test will have one year to pass a 5-wpm code test. Similarly, Amateur Extra class licensees that never passed a code test will have one year to pass a 13-wpm test. Those amateurs that fail to pass the test will face revocation of their operating privileges. Materials for administering the examinations will be distributed to Volunteer Examiner Coordinators by the end of April, so that they can begin the testing on May 1, 2014.

“This isn’t going to be one of those silly multiple-choice type tests,” noted Dasher. “We’re going to be sending five-character random code groups, just like we did in the old days. And, applicants will have to prove that they can send, too, using a poorly adjusted straight key.”

Technician Class licensees will not be required to take a Morse Code test, nor will a test be required for new applicants. “We discussed it,” said Dasher, “but decided that since most Techs can’t even figure out how to program their HTs, requiring them to learn Morse Code seemed like cruel and unusual punishment.”

When asked what other actions we might see from the FCC, Dasher hinted that in the future applicants taking the written exam may be required to draw circuit diagrams, such as Colpitts oscillators and diode ring mixers, once again. “We’re beginning to think that if an applicant passes an amateur radio license exam it  should mean that he or she actually knows something,” she said.

For further information, contact James X. Shorts, Assistant Liaison to the Deputy Chief of Public Relations for the FCC at (202) 555-1212 or jim.shorts@fcc.gov. For more news and information about the FCC, please visit www.fcc.gov.

Station Activities: Paddle repair, Iambic A vs. B, first dipole

A couple of weeks ago, I purchased a highly-modified Vibroplex Standard paddle. Apparently, in making the modification, the previous owner had lost one of the trunnion screws and decorative red dots. As you can see in the photo below, the previous owner found a brass screw to use in place of the missing trunnion screw.

While the paddle worked just fine, I wanted to use the correct parts. Fortunately, these parts are still available from Vibroplex, and I purchased them from Vibroplex. Each part cost $5. I can see charging five bucks for the screw, but I think that $5 for the little piece of plastic is a bit much. Not only was it expensive, it doesn’t even match the dot on the other paddle lever.

At any rate, the parts arrived Friday, and it was relatively simple to install the trunnion screw and get it all adjusted and working properly. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do about the red dot. At the very least, I’m going to complain to Vibroplex about it.

Iambic A vs Iambic B
After getting the paddle back together, I connected it to my WinKeyer and started playing around with it. I was getting some odd behavior, though. It didn’t occur to me at first, but the problem was that the batteries in the keyer were getting weak. Before I figured that out, I’d done a factory reset and tried reprogramming it. Only when all that didn’t work, did it occur to me that the batteries needed replacement.

Even after I’d replaced the batteries, I was getting some odd behavior. When sending CQ or my callsign, I wasn’t getting the final “dah.” After puzzling about this for a while, I figured out that the problem was that I’d programmed the keyer to operate in iambic mode A, and previously I’d been using mode B.

Chuck Olson, WB9KZY, describes the difference between modes A and B in his article, What’s all this iambic keyer mode A and B stuff, anyhow? He says,

The difference between mode A and B lies in what the keyer does when both paddles are released. The mode A keyer completes the element being sent when the paddles are released. The mode B keyer sends an additional element opposite to the one being sent when the paddles are released.

In mode A, to make the K or Q, you actually have to hold the dah lever down until the dah actually starts being sent. Since I’d been operating in mode B, I guess I got a little sloppy about doing so. In mode B, the keyer automatically sends the dah, but in mode A, it doesn’t, and that’s why that last dah would sometimes get dropped whiles sending a K or Q. I now have the keyer programmed to operate in mode B, and everything is working just fine.

A new ham’s first dipole
Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours helping a new ham set up his first dipole. Last weekend, he actually got the dipole up in the air, but when he connected it to the rig, it just wouldn’t load up. After swapping some e-mail about the problem, we decided that it would be best if I came over and had a first-hand look. So, yesterday morning, I threw my box of antenna goodies into my car and headed over there.

Taking my advice, he’d purchased a spool of coax and crimp-on connectors. I didn’t ask him where he’d purchased the crimper, but the first thing I noticed is that his crimps didn’t look right. They were much too tight. He got out his multimeter, and sure enough, the coax was shorted. We cut off one connector and measured again. The coax was still shorted. We cut off the other one and measured both connectors. Both were shorted.

I had brought my crimper and compared mine to his. His crimper had two dies for crimping coax – .213-in. and .255-in. My crimper also has two dies: .213-in. and .235-in. The instructions say to use the .235-in. die for crimping RG-8X connectors. He had used the .213-in. die, which really squeezed the coax. While I can’t actually see the short, my conclusion is that somewhere along the crimp, the shield became shorted to the center conductor, perhaps aided by the heat of soldering the center conductor to the connectors center pin.

Fortunately, he’d bought spare connectors. We put those on, using the .235-in. die on my crimper, buzzed out the cable, and we were in business. We connected the cable to the antenna, connected my antenna analyzer to the other end, and found that the antenna was resonant at 6.9 MHz. After taking about a foot off either end, we pretty much centered the resonant point of the antenna, and as one former president once said, “Mission Accomplished!”

The moral of the story is that you really need to use the right crimper and the right die for crimping coax connectors. My friend certainly had a quality crimper, but didn’t use the right die. He may have been able to use the .255-in die, but I don’t think that would have made a secure enough crimp. .235-in. is just the right size for RG-8X coax.

From my Twitter feed: Edinburgh Morse, hams hear old spacecraft,

G7AGI's avatarDavid De Silva @G7AGI
I’ve just discovered @edinburghmorse. Looking forward to seeing the new web site go live.

exploreplanets's avatarPlanetary Society @exploreplanets
Amateur radio enthusiasts were able to detect the carrier signal of a decades-old NASA spacecraft: planetary.org/blogs/emily-la…

ke9v's avatarJeff Davis @ke9vObject of Interest: Aereo’s Tiny Antennas newyorker.com/online/blogs/e… via @NewYorker

M0PZT's avatarCharlie – M0PZT @M0PZT
Blog updated: What Makes A Real Ham? m0pzt.com/?blog #hamradio

My new (to me) key

Last Saturday, I added to my collection of Morse Code instruments. I bought a modified Vibroplex Standard from a guy who was selling it from an SK estate sale.

Whoever owned this key took all the parts off a Vibroplex Standard paddle and mounted them on this slab of steel.

Whoever owned this key took all the parts off a Vibroplex Standard paddle and mounted them on this hunk of steel.

It’s amusing for a couple of reasons:

  • Whoever owned it before I did, took all the parts off the original base and mounted them on a hunk of steel. Presumably, this made the base more stable.
  • You can’t really see it in this picture, but the guy who did it, didn’t center the mechanism very well. You have to screw in the contact on the right side much more than you do the contact on the left.
  • When the guy modified the paddle, he must have lost the trunion screw that the left paddle arm pivots on. Instead of buying a new one, he simply used a screw he had around the shack. I didn’t notice this until I purchased it. Oh well.

Fortunately, Vibroplex still sells this part, as they do with the overwhelming majority of parts for their keys, and I’ve already placed an order for one. I just hope that the guy didn’t rethread the hole to make that machine screw fit.

How does it play? Well, like a Vibroplex. I’ve been using the key for the past couple of days, and while I still prefer my Begali Simplex, I do like this key.

Amateur radio in the news: School Club Roundup, Berkeley ARC turns 100, Morse Code wall

For Two Rivers School students, amateur transmission brings a window on a wider world. Two Rivers School in North Bend (WA) became a ham radio station for a day, Feb. 12 during the nationwide School Club Roundup event. Middle school teacher Joe Burgener, with assistance and equipment from parent volunteer Stephen Kangas, introduced students to the world of amateur radio, from the science of radio waves, to the regulations for amateur operators, to the hands-on work of hanging antennae, and finally, to the actual operation of the radio equipment. Students spoke with several operators in California and one at the North Pole during the day.

Students at Two Rivers School in North Bend, WA participate in the School Club Roundup.

UC Berkeley Radio Club going strong at 100The Bay Area might be a hotbed of high technology, but low technology has its fans, too. Just ask the UC Berkeley Amateur Radio Club. It’s been around 100 years, and its members don’t mind a little dust and rust on their tech. “I think the old equipment is really cool and retro,” says club member and electrical-engineering major Andy Hu. “I’m still fascinated by the profundity that an electrical signal can leave the radio in front of me, travel up a wire to an antenna outside, and someone halfway around the world with an antenna outside connected to their radio can hear my voice and talk with me,” says club member Bill Mitchell, a chemistry graduate student.
Union Station Wall Represents Song Lyrics in Morse Code. An interesting-looking bumpy, yellow structure inside Union Station in D.C. represents a lot more than the naked eye might notice. As it turns out, the bumps are morse code representations of the lyrics from Death Cab for Cutie tune “Soul Meets Body.”