Amateur radio in the news: Art Bell, Vietnam vet, amateur radio “Olympics”

Art Bell to make comeback with Sirius show about the paranormal. Art Bell, W6OBB, radio’s master of the paranormal and outward edges of science, will return to the microphone on Sept. 16 with a new nighttime show on Sirius XM Radio. Bell was one of radio’s top syndicated voices in the 1990s before walking away from his nightly show in 2002 due to family issues. He worked occasionally after that but hasn’t been on the air since Halloween 2010.

Learning on the fly: Kent’s Sealfon recalls the skills he learned in Vietnam after Army training. Life rarely goes as planned, and even the best training doesn’t prepare us for everything. If there’s one lesson Michael Sealfon learned during his yearlong tour in the Vietnam War, and the 40 years since, it’s that.

Operators prepare to host amateur ham radio ‘Olympics’. The World Championship of amateur ham radio is coming to Massachusetts next year, and local ham-radio operators were helping prepare for it by testing sites around the region this past weekend. “This is big international stuff, and Massachusetts is the one that’s hosting it,” said local ham radio operator Bob Reif. He helped set up a radio tower in Heald Street Orchard Friday morning to test the site for the competition. “It’s the Olympics of amateur radio.”

Amateur radio in the news: Bob Heil K9EID, HSMM-Mesh wins award, teens help win WWII

Bob_HeilThe sound of Heil. He saved tours of the Grateful Dead and The Who, and is credited with the birth of modern live sound by revolutionizing the equipment that bands used, starting in the 1960s. In fact, Bob Heil, ham radio operator, sound equipment inventor, and founder of Heil Sound, is the only manufacturer to have equipment on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Ham ops win iAEM-Global technology & innovation award. Broadband HamnetTM, developed by amateur radio operators to provide a high speed digital wireless communications mesh network, has won the IAEM-Global Technology & Innovation Award, Division 2.. The firmware is available at no charge via the project website at

The teenage radio enthusiasts who helped win World War II. There were about 1,500 so-called voluntary interceptors during WWII – civilians helping to intercept secret Nazi code. To mark the centenary of the Radio Society of Great Britain, one of its members recalls how the amateur organisation played a key role in a covert operation to safeguard the country’s independence.

Operating Notes: VEs, YVs, and the 13 colonies

I”m certainly no history scholar, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this time of year is a good one for independence struggles. Our own Independence Day is, of course, celebrated on July 4, even though I recently learned that the Continental Congress actually decided to declare independence on July 2, and Samuel Adams always thought that it should be celebrated on that date. Canada Day, the day they celebrate their independence is on July 1, and Venezuelan Independence Day is on July 6.

These events are being celebrated by amateur operators in these countries by either special operating events or contests.

U.S. independence is being commemorated with the Thirteen Colonies Special Event.  Since I’m mostly a CW operator, it’s more difficult for me to work all thirteen than it is for the phone ops, but even so, this year I bagged six of them. K2H was actually QSO #13,000 in my computer log.

On Monday, July 1, I got sucked into operating the RAC Canada Day contest. This year, I made 59 contacts in an hour and a half, and quit when my score exceeded 1,000. (My final score was 1,032.)

Tonight, I got sucked into the Independence of Venezuela contest, when I first the first station, 4M5IR on 7027 kHz. Not hearing any other YV stations on CW, I actually went up to the phone band and worked some stations on SSB. After working five on phone, I did manage to work another on CW, so I’m up to seven at this point. It’s getting late, though, and I might just call it a night after I finish this blog post. Seven is respectable, I think.

LOTW update
This afternoon, I uploaded my contacts from the last three months. The file was processed pretty quickly, and I was please to find that I’ve added two more entities to my DXCC total. I’m now at 120 total, with 117 on CW. On 30m, my best band, I’m up to 88 total confirmed.

From my Twitter feed: meteors, hollow-state, ISS SSTV

Interesting stuff on Twitter this morning…….Dan

RadioGeek's avatarKKØHF @RadioGeek
Everything you need to know: Perseid meteor shower #SpaceWeather


ke9v's avatarJeff Davis @ke9v
Hollow-State Design blog —> #hamr


UB4UAD's avatar

??????? @UB4UAD
ISS Ham Radio Slow Scan TV Active ? ??????? @AMSAT_UK

Over the weekend at KB6NU/WA2HOM: poor propagation and a jammed copier

Last Saturday was a real bust down at WA2HOM.

First of all, the weather’s been really overcast and rainy around here the past week or so. Saturday was no exception. We didn’t get a lot of rain, but it was overcast and dark all day.

Second, when I got down to the museum, I found that the relatively new keyer wouldn’t key the radio. I tried resetting the keyer, changing the keyer output (the WKUSB keyer has two different outputs), and some other things, all to no avail. Then, it occurred to me to change the batteries. I hadn’t thought about that right off because I could hear the sidetone OK. Anyway, changing the batteries worked like a charm, but I wasted at least 45 minutes goofing around with it.

As it turned out, I needn’t have bothered. The bands were so bad on Saturday, due to some kind of solar disturbance, I guess, that I only managed to eke out one contact.

Then, Tim, KT8K, showed up. No, that wasn’t a bad thing, but the weekend before, I’d been bragging about what a great station we had, with our three-element Yagi and all, and that he should come down and visit sometime. Well, of course, when he does make it down there, that bands were so dead, it wouldn’t have mattered much what kind of antenna we had.

Finally, just to add insult to injury, when I tried making copies of the brochure that I hand out, Getting Into Ham Radio, the copy machine jammed on me! This is only the second time that this has ever happened to me down at the museum.

Sunday, I fared much better. I pointed the beam southwest and made three really nice CW QSOs  with N5KY, KB5GXD, and KB0KIE. All three of them were just a few degrees of the beam heading, and all three had good signals. Morgan, KB0KIE, is just getting back into amateur radio and was a bit apologetic about his fist, but I told him not to worry. We need all the CW ops we can muster.

Sunday night, I got sucked into the RAC Canada Day contest. I got started late, and by that time, many of the contestants already had hundreds of contacts. That didn’t stop me from claiming and running a frequency for a while. I pulled the plug about 0315Z, with just over 1,000 points.

From the ARRL Letter 6/27/13: Intruder Watch, 13 Colonies special event

Here are two items from today’s ARRL Letter. I include the first one because you’ll notice that there is no report for Region 2. The ARRL is responsible for the Intruder Watch in Region 2 and seems to be behind our brothers in Regions 1 and 3 when it comes to reporting on intruders. I’ve included the item on the 13 Colonies Special Event because I like working this event and would encourage all of you to do so as well…..Dan

IARU(1)International: Intruder Watch Documents Odd Bursts, Beeps and Buzzes on the Bands
The International Amateur Radio Union Monitoring System (IARUMS) continues to observe and log suspect and apparently unauthorized operations that intrude on Amateur Radio allocations. For example, the

TheMay 2013 IARUMS Region 1 (Europe) Newsletterreports an over-the-horizon (OTH) radar operating in Iran daily on 10 meters (26 to 30 MHz), transmitting bursts with 307 and 870 sweeps per second, 60 kHz wide and often jumping, covering 700 kHz and more. IARUMS Region 3 (Oceania) volunteers also have reported hearing the OTH interference from Iran. Regulatory agencies in Switzerland and Germany have filed complaints without effect.

IARUMS volunteers in Region 1 also report BPSK daily military traffic from Ukraine on 15 meters. German authorities have formally complained. DGØJBJ reports having observed 11 OTH radars on 20 meters, 65 OTH radars on 15 meters and 30 OTH radars on 10 meters — not including the OTH radars from Iran.

IARUMS Region 3 volunteers further report ongoing “illegal use of 10 meters for local short-range communications in a number of Asian countries.” Radio Amateurs in IARU Region 2 (the Americas) may report suspected intruders on exclusive Amateur Radio allocations to the ARRL.

On the Air: 13 Colonies Special Event Set
The annual 13 Colonies Special Event will take place during the first week of July, with participating 13 colonies’ stations on the air from 1300 UTC July 1 until 0400 UTC July 6. Event sponsors say at least two special event stations will operate from each colony state. The theme for 2014 is “Banners of the Revolution,” and the certificate — available to all participants regardless of the number of stations worked — will reflect that theme.

Those working all 13 colonies qualify for a “Clean Sweep” certificate designation, and a special endorsement will be attached for stations working WM3PEN in Philadelphia. The suggested exchange is call sign, name, signal report and state/province/country. The event’s sponsors report that more than 62,000 contacts were logged in last year’s 13 Colonies Special Event.

Field Day 2013: A low-key, high-Q affair

This year, Field Day was a low-key affair. One of the reasons for this—and I hate to admit this—is that I just wasn’t motivated to put all that much effort into it. So, when Tim, KT8K, suggested a two-man operation, I thought I’d give it a try.

We swapped several e-mails, trying to figure out how exactly to approach this. For example, one question was where to do this, his house or mine? Since Tim’s house is higher up than mine, and he has a better crop of antennas, we decided to do it at his house.

The next question was whether or not we’d run QRP (class 1B) or a more conventional class 1E. To run 1E, Tim would have to get his generator up and running. To operate class 1B QRP, we’d have to find some batteries and figure out a way to charge them with alternative power. (This year, the rules were changed so that to the the 5x multiplier for QRP contacts, you have to use some kind of alternative power.)

Even as late as Friday, we weren’t sure what source of power we were going to use. One of Tim’s co-workers volunteered to see if he could get the generator running. I took the small solar panel that Tim had and tried to charge a gel-cell with it.

I had no success with the small solar panel. If I’d been more motivated, and had thought twice about this, I could have probably found a more suitable solar panel. Indeed, after describing my travails, someone did volunteer a solar panel for next year, should we want it. This year, it was not to be, though.

Fortunately, Tim had more success with the generator. His co-worker cleaned out the gummy generator, and Saturday morning, Tim re-assembled it. The thing ran like a charm, and we were class 1E.

fd-2013-at-kt8k-450x360One order of business for me Saturday morning was to get acquainted with Tim’s Orion. That’s me above getting set up and finding my way around the rig’s controls.

The Orion is waaaay more transceiver than I’m used to operating. For one thing, it has two receivers. It’s a little quirky, too. Tim noted, for example, that the RIT never did work. After Tim’s instructions, I hooked up my Begali Simplex and Winkeyer, and racked up a bunch of QSOs. I was good to go.

For the first five hours, we swapped in and out every hour to hour and a half. About 7pm, I headed home for dinner, and to get some sleep. I returned about 2am to take the night shift, while Tim hit the sack. When he got up around 7:30, he once again took the controls, while I sacked out on his couch for a couple of hours. After that, we switched in and out again.

Overall, we made about 870 QSOs. While that’s pretty good, it was a little bit unsatisfying. We thought that we’d do better. We never really found the sweet spot, though. That is to say, we rarely found a frequency that we could run for very long.

Overall, though, it was a lot of fun, and I learned something about operating a radio with two receivers and the value of having two antennas that you can switch between while operating. It is kind of amazing, but with one antenna, a band can seem dead, while with another, it’s much more lively. Switching between Tim’s inverted vee and his vertical dipole allowed us to choose the better antenna for the operating conditions.

Next year, if we do this again, we really need to do more planning. If we had done a few more things beforehand, instead of just operating, we could have improved both our number of QSOs and our overall score, I think. These include:

  • Make a more concerted effort to charge a set of batteries with solar power. Like I noted above, we’ve already identified a beefier solar panel that we could use.
  • Do a little antenna work to improve the antennas. While the antennas we had worked well, Tim also had a loop antenna that had recently incurred some damage. If we could have gotten that up a little higher, that could have proved a valuable asset.
  • Invite more operators. In addition to Tim and I, Joe, N8OY, stopped over to operate some. He operated for a couple of hours or so, and made about 100 contacts. We would have been fresher, if we’d invited some other guys to join us. Might have had even more fun, too!
  • Work on some of the other bonus point opportunities. We didn’t even copy the fricking ARRL bulletin, for example.

Amateur radio in the news: Hurricanes, North Korea, advanced communications

hurricane_symbol_blueHam radio still part of hurricane center arsenal. Amid the high-tech computers, satellite dishes and sophisticated equipment at the National Hurricane Center is a HAM radio operator station, somewhat hidden in a back office. It might seem like it’s akin to placing a teletype on a space shuttle. But when hurricanes form, the amateur radio station cranks up and receives weather information from HAM operators in the affected areas. Their observations help the forecasters in Miami-Dade County better judge a storm’s strength or position and issue more precise warnings.

ARRRRGHHHH. Someone please tell this reporter that “ham” is not capitalized!!

Ham radio operators hope to put North Korea on the air. A group of amateur radio operators are hoping to get permission from the North Korean government for a month-long trip to the country during which they’ll set up a ham radio operation. If they manage to pull off the plan, they’ll have succeeded where few have before. North Korea has no amateur radio operators and government-sanctioned transmissions by foreigners in the country are extremely rare. This makes North Korea the rarest country for contacts in the amateur radio world.

Can you imagine what a pileup this operation–if they can get permission–is going to generate?? 

NIST and NTIA announce plans for new advanced communications center. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today announced plans to establish a national Center for Advanced Communications in Boulder, Colo. The new center will implement a key provision of a memorandum President Obama issued earlier today on “Expanding America’s Leadership in Wireless Innovation.”

This sounds like something that the ARRL should keep an eye on.

From my Twitter feed: no code test, Contest U, iPhone sig gen

NO CODE TEST! If that don’t grab ‘em, I argue MIGHT AS WELL! Outreach according to  #hamr #qrp

Matt MaszczakMatt Maszczak @rocknrollriter
For the new or newer op looking into contesting: …

Jacob BeningoJacob Beningo @Jacob_Beningo
Turn a Smart Phone into a Signal Generator | EDN … via @edncom

Amateur radio tip of the day: DXers have their own set of phonetics

While it’s always appropriate to use the standard NATO phonetics, DXers have their own set of phonetics. For example, you will often here “Mexico” instead of “Mike” or “Honolulu” instead of “Hotel.” This is especially true in DX contests. So, if a DX station doesn’t seem to understand the NATO phonetics, give the “DXer phonetics” a try.

Tips like this one are sent out every day by e-mail. To subscribe to the list, simply click here and fill out the form. Every week, I’ll select a random subscriber and give them one of my books.

Do  you have a tip that you’d like to share with other radio amateurs? E-mail it to me. If I use your tip, I’ll send you one of my books.