A Nice Note…

A couple of weeks ago, I worked John, VE3IZM from WA2HOM, our club station at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum. As it turns out, John had only recent obtained his license, and while he had made contacts from other stations, this contact was John’s first from his own shack. What a kick that was!

Of course, I sent him a QSL card, and this morning, I received this e-mail from him:

Hi Dan,
Well, Sir, you have to know you have made this old dude a very happy camper. I received your QSL card today and have it mounted in a double sided frame for permanent display in the shack!!!

I will be sending you one of mine, just as soon as they arrive from the printer.

73 and Best Wishes for a very Merry Christmas

John VE3IZM

He included this photo of his shack. You can see the QSL card mounted in the frame in the upper left-hand corner of the photo.

ve3izm_shack

Thanks for the note, John. I hope we work again soon.

Operating Notes

Last week, I didn’t operate very much. I made no contacts at all Wednesday or Thursday, and I hoppened to notice that, for 2009, my number of contacts per day actually fell to below three per day. Of course, this does not include all of the contacts I’ve made ate the museum, but even so, I feel like I’m slacking off.

Friday, I did make a bunch of contacts, though; nine to be exact. One of the contacts was with Doug, NJ1T. We had a nice, long QSO. One thing we discussed was his cap (see right). I commented on it because I sometimes wear a cap while operating during the winter. I do it because it gets cold down in my basement. Doug wears one because he’s bald!

Another thing that we have in common is that we both have websites. Doug’s website is called The Deaf DXer. As the name implies, he has a lot of information to help hams who are hard of hearing. There are also pages describing his antenna experiments and other aspects of his hamming.

Unfortunately, it looks as though I may have lost the log file containing those contacts. The hard disk in my Mac laptop finally bit the dust, and I’m not sure that the log file is going to be recoverable. I made a backup of the log file about a week ago, but those nine QSOs will be lost if they can’t recover the file.

I debated about whether or not have a new hard drive installed, but $200 for a new hard drive is certainly cheaper than buying another laptop. I was thinking about doing it myself, so I Googled for instructions. I found some excellent-looking instructions on ifixit.com, but after reading through them, I decided to have someone else do it. The Web page noted above lists 42 different steps—and that’s just for disassembly! To put it all back together, you have to perform all 42 steps in reverse order.

On Saturday, I operated WA2HOM at the Hands-On Museum for a couple of hours. Saturday was Skywarn Recognition Day, and since we’re big on special event stations, I tried to work as many of them as I could. Although I managed to hear quite a few of them, not all of them could hear me. All told, I worked six:

  • K5LCW – Lake Charles, LA
  • WX9ILX – Lincoln, IL
  • KX4MLB – Melbourne, FL
  • K0MPX – Burnsville, MN
  • K0DMX – Des Moines, IA
  • WX4HUN – Huntsville, AL

On Sunday night, I checked into the University of Michigan Amateur Radio Club net. The net control station, Pat, WA4DSR, asked me if it was true that American Morse was more efficient than International Morse Code. Now, I’d always heard this, but didn’t know how true it was. After the net, I Googled around for more information.

One resource I found was Chapter 20 of the book The Art & Skill of Radio-Telegraphy. This book claims that messages are “handled at a rate about 45% faster on the Morse line than on the International channel.” One reason for this is that dahs in American Morse are generally shorter than dahs in International Morse. It also notes that letters are 73% shorter and numbers 65% shorter in American Morse than they are in International Morse.

After the Sunday night net, Stuart, KD8LWR, and I had a 40m QSO. This has become regular sked for us, and I enjoy cranking it up to 35 wpm and blasting code at one another.

All in all, it was quite a busy weekend in ham radio.

Who Do You Talk To?

When I tell people that I am a ham radio operator, people often ask, “Who do you talk to”? When one of my friends, Ovide, K8EV, was asked this question, he answered:

You asked whom I might talk to on ham radio…

See Who Do You Think is A Ham Radio Operator? Notable Ham Radio Operators Around the World. I was not included in this list–must be an oversight.

I haven’t talked to anyone on the list but I have had interesting conversations with navy captains, civil emergency radio installers, radar operators, and airline pilots as well as the more usual run of engineers, scientists, computer specialists, farmers and ranchers, long-distance commuters, and lot’s of retired rag-chewers, asocial curmudgeons, codger-ranters (I consider myself a proud member of this last category!).

A more zany listing is available on the N1MAA website. Note article in left column on Princeton’s Nobelist Joe Taylor of pulsar fame bouncing amateur radio signals off the moon. The feat of sending radio waves into space and back was first accomplished by Cindy’s (Ovide’s XYL’s) dad (also a ham radio operator) in 1946 using the most powerful radar transmitter built at the time.

BTW: the most recent Nobel Prize to a ham was just awarded to George Smith at Bell Labs for the CCD (charge capture device in our cell phones, cameras, Hubble telescope, etc.)

Unfortunately, the Notable list is rather out of date. There are lots of SKs on the list, including many that aren’t noted as being SKs. Sorry to say but JY1, K7UGA, FO5GJ, and KB2GSD are all now no longer with us.

CQ Serenade

I thought this YouTube video was kind of cute. It’s a collage of ham radio photos accompanied by the tune “CQ Serenade.” There’s even a French version.

Atlanta Station Invites First Chief Engineer to Throw Digital TV Switch

WAGA, Atlanta, GA, invited its first chief engineer, Paul Cram, K4IO, to throw the switch that cut the station over to digital TV. Cram will be 100 this year.

WAGA began broadcasting in 1949. See a short video of the switchover, which includes some history of the station.

Hams Added to the QRP Hall of Fame

Hank, K8DD reports from Dayton:

The following people have been inducted into QRP-ARCI QRP Hall of Fame 2009

Hans Summers, G0UPL
This man is an inspiration to many QRP home builders said Rev George
Dobbs. He has produced a whole series of novel and innovative designs
for the QRP constructor.

Another said “He is an Elmer in the finest tradition of the term”

His “Pound Shop” radio articles let to a flurry of UK QRPers building
something from almost nothing Perhaps his greatest contribution has
been promoting QRSS equipment using simple circuits and very
reproducible ideas His novel ideas for simple QRSS beacons have been
taken up my QRPers worldwide.

Younger than many of the others in HOF, He offers us a future for
amateur QRP design and home construction

Tony Parks, KB9YIG
The next recipient has brought innovation to the QRP and radio world
by creating and offering specialised kits to the radio community.

More elaborate and expensive versions of his kits have been available
for a while, but with his kits now every ham can have access to an
affordable one. By putting inexpensive, high quality kits in the
hands of experimenters this will advance his technology, as seen by
the activity on the QRP email lists and Yahoo groups.

He has kitted thousands of kits and throughout all of this has had an
incredible attitude and willingness to help other hams.

Martin Jue, K5FLU
A commercial vendor in Ham Radio, While his products benefit amateur
radio in general, his impact on the QRP community is major both in
terms of the products his company produces and his personal
contributions to QRP and to this organisation.

His products are not strictly QRP, but it is clear that QRP has always
been a major focus of his endeavours.

He has been an active supporter of QRP, and QRP ARCI in particular but
not exclusively, as evidenced by his recent collaboration with the
GQRP club’s India project. His donations to QRP in general and QRP
organizations have always been generous and without “strings
attached”.

Last year, he was approached while at Dayton to thank him for his
support of QRP. His first words were, “What can we do to help your
club?”

I could expand his nomination petition to a much greater extent,
citing examples and instances of his contributions to QRP. Many of us
probably have our own supporting experiences, so we really just need
to focus on the fact that this man has indeed touched QRP on an
ongoing basis to our benefit.

Rick Campbell, KK7B
The next induction is for a man who has the ability to convey
complicated material by using simple analogies and practical examples,
allowing his students to more easily learn.

He has also been the designer or involved in the design of several
transverters, receivers and transmitters. He is a well known author
and several of his projects have appeared in print. He continues to
publish articles pertinent to QRP that are easily understood by
average hams

He has been a speaker at FDIM on more than just the one occasion
enlightening and entertaining us all.

“I think this Ham Radio nonsense might have finally paid off!”

Here’s an interesting post to the GlowBugs e-mail list from Jason, KF6PQT. The subject is, “I think this Ham Radio nonsense might have finally paid off!”

In my 13 years since graduating college, (mind you, I have a Liberal Arts degree in Philosophy, um, yeah, one of those… It cost a lot more than it was worth!) my career has been IT stuff—tech support, Systems Administration. All computer related, as that and the Internet was the sexy new “high tech” back then. I later specialized within the Entertainment Industry, mainly with Disney. Which, as you may have heard, isn’t really the happiest place on earth to work.

I’ve been on their “revolving door” program, full time employee laid off after 3 years, then returning for various stints as a non-benefitted, expendable contractor

I’ve been out of work since last August, part of that was due to slacking off, some more due to the crummy economy, and the remainder: I simply came to hate my career after a while, and especially the industry I was in. I recently realized that a big reason why I was still unemployed was that I simply didn’t want to do this sort of work anymore, and therefore I was simply not pursuing it at all. Likely a lot of the reason I was let go (aside from making way more $ then they wanted to pay me) was that I knew exactly how much of a POS my project was, and there was absolutely no way I could ever be a cheerleader for it, under any circumstances, even though the only reason it worked at all was my 2-1/2 years of hard work.

What else to do? Why can’t I get work doing what I do for a hobby? No one wants to give me a job building CW transmitters out of discarded TV sets. ;) Finding a gig as a babysitter for a broadcast transmitter would be awesome, but those jobs are extremely scarce. Even if they still needed CW capable radio offices on ships, I don’t think my girlfriend nor family would be too fond of it. (Even if I was issued my own AK-47 with handy clip-on grenade launcher.) I’ve even pondered applying for a Lineman position with my municipality’s electric Co. 12kV? Heights? Not a problem. Sun damage or skin cancer from working outside all day? Might be a problem.

So I got up late this morning, and over my morning coffee looked through Craigslist, saw a job for an electronic testing technician. Sent ‘em an email with my resume, saying why I’d be a good fit even though I have absolutely no career experience doing this—I’ve got the highest-level Amateur Radio license, like to tinker with electronics and troubleshoot, etc.

I got an email back pretty quick asking when’s the soonest today they could meet me! I spent almost two hours chatting with them, and seeing what the testing techs do.

Got a phone call earlier this evening offering me the job! Of course I accepted, got them to bump the pay rate up a tad too, and got them to let me take the vacations in May and June I’ve been planning since last year, also. I won’t make as much as I used to at my last IT job, but its not bad for pretty much a total career change with no formal experience. And it sure beats the unemployment check and hustling scrap metal!

This company makes 100% accurate reproductions of airplane cockpit instruments for flight trainer/simulator systems. Most of it all are LCD displays, but there were a couple of little CRTs being worked on as well! ;)

That, and getting my CA state income tax refund, (miracle in and of itself!) has made for a pretty good day!

73, Jason kf6pqt

Go to the Next Hamfest!

Don, KB9UMT, the moderator of the HamRadioHelpGroup mailing list recently asked the following questions:

Do you support or go to your local area Hamfest(s)?

If you go then why do you go?

If you don’t then why don’t you?

If you go what do you see at them?

What kind of equipment?

What kind of prices?

Do you buy that $5 hotdog or take your own….

Here’s my reply…

There are quite a few hamfests within an hour or so drive from Ann Arbor–there were two last weekend alone! Since that’s the case, I can’t say that I get to all of them every year. I do try to make as many as I can, though.

Why do I go? Well, mostly because they are fun!

Meeting people is the most fun. At most hamfests nowadays, I always meet someone I know, either because I’ve spoken to their ham club, or they were in a ham class of mine. I also try to organize carpools, and it’s a blast to talk ham radio to and from the event.

I also go to check out the gear for sale. At a recent hamfest, I picked up a Lafayette HA-600 shortwave receiver, a radio that I bought as a kid with $100 I earned delivering newspapers. And there’s always supplies to buy. My friend Ralph, AA8RK, says that you should never leave a hamfest without a handful of connectors and adapters.

The hamfest I attended Saturday—the Crosssroads Hamfest in Marshall, MI—had a great assortment of radios for sale. There was a lot of vintage gear as well as more modern radios. There were also a couple of bugs for sale. I should have snapped up that Speed-X bug for $75, but by the time I had decided to do it, it had already been sold.

I never buy the $5 hot dog, but I do often buy a donut and coffee.

I think everyone on this list should go to at least one hamfest this year, even if it’s a bit of a hike. Find people that are near you to carpool with to keep down expenses. When you get there, make an effort to speak to the hams selling stuff about the stuff they’re selling. Make an effort to speak to the other hams while you’re having a coffee or while you’re wandering the aisles. If the hamfest has an ARRL table, check out and pick up some of the literature. Do all this, and you’ll not only have a lot of fun, but learn something in the process.

Yet Another Heathkit Site

I have just discovered Bill Wilkerson’s Heath Company website. The table of contents reads:

  • Introduction
  • History
  • Other Heathkit Sites
  • People
  • Related Publications
  • Usenet Newsgroups
  • Troubleshooting and Repair
    • Fixing It Yourself
    • Sales and Service

One of the cooler things on the site is this collection of stories about Heathkit by employees and suppliers.

RIP Uncle Tom

I’ve written before about Tom Kneitel, K2AES, known to some Electronics Illustrated readers as “Uncle Tom.” I’m sorry to report that he’s passed. His stuff was always a lot of fun to read.

The Orlando Sentinel article points out that, ‘He was the grandson of Max Fleischer, the cartoonist who had a Miami animation studio that created Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons.” You learn something new every day.

Here’s the ARRL story on Kneitel.