A New Ham’s Perspective on Amateur Radio

In a message to the University of Michigan Amateur Radio Club’s mailing list, Vishal KD8DTF offered the following:

Hi everyone,

You may be aware of flood situation in India, especially in southern Gujarat, which is my home state. Until yesterday 70% of my home town, Surat, was flooded with water. In fact, there was 4 ft water level on the first floor of my house and about 10 ft water level on the streets of Surat. It is estimated that the water that flowed in 3 days through the city amounted to be the water required by the whole state for 3 years! This estimate is sufficient to give us idea of enormity of flood. There was no power, communications, and in some areas, no drinking water for three consecutive days. The situation is improving but there is still no electricity in major areas and phone lines are down. I still cannot call home on land-line, but cell phones are working on and off. This would’ve been the best time to make use of our favorite hobby of amateur radio and I really wish I could help people.

What inspired me to write this is the fact that there are indeed three ham stations set up in Surat, and they have been really helpful in saving hundreds of people from drowning, hunger and thirst. We all are pursuing such a wonderful hobby that can really make us proud. My association with this hobby has made me feel proud one more time, so I thought of sharing my thoughts with you all. To get more clear idea of the situation, please check the following links. These links are provided by a regional newspaper, which is in Gujarati. You wouldn’t need to know the language, because a picture is worth a thousand words.

Finally, the good news is that water is receding and situation is improving.

73, Vishal

Two Interesting Items from the 6/21/06 ARRL Letter

The June 21, 2006 ARRL Letter had two items that seemed worthy of comment. The first, “FCC SUSPENDS HAM LICENSES FOR FAILURE TO MAINTAIN MAILING ADDRESS” reported on the suspension of five licenses for failing to maintain a valid mailing address in the FCC database.

Part 97.23 of the Amateur Radio Service regulations require licensees to notify the FCC when they change addresses. The rule also says that “revocation of the station license or suspension of the operator license may result when correspondence from the FCC is returned as undeliverable because the grantee failed to provide the correct mailing address.”

In all cases, the FCC was trying to contact the licensees about allegations of harmful interference, and in most of the cases, the licensees failed to responded to warning notices. In one case, the licensee simply turned in his license rather than respond to the warnings.

All of this is very puzzling to me. The report did not make the incidents sound all that serious, and the alleged interference could have been incidental and not malicious. Why didn’t these guys simply respond, say “I’m sorry,” and learn from the experience.

The second item is “FBI’S “INFRAGARD” PROGRAM COURTS AMATEUR RADIO AS ALLY.” InfraGard is an FBI program whose goal is to promote dialogue between the private sector and the FBI “concerning critical infrastructure protection issues.”

If you go to the InfraGard website, the first thing you note is that it’s really not clear what InfraGard really does. Their mission statement reads:

It is our goal to improve and extend information sharing between private industry and the government, particularly the FBI, when it comes to critical national infrastructures.

Does this sound like Big Brotherism or what?

Secondly, how is amateur radio supposed to fit into this mission? Amateur radio is, undoubtedly, valuable in providing communications during an emergency, but I don’t see where InfraGard is involved with emergency response. Rather, InfraGard’s goal is to prevent emergencies from happening in the first place.

Not only that, InfraGard is soliciting private companies to become members. and that “InfraGard members gain access to information that enables them to protect their assets…” Should amateur radio be used to protect the assets of corporations?

I hate to be skeptical, but it seems to me that there are already plenty of other organizations out there that we should serve before we get involved with something like InfraGard. Let’s concentrate our efforts on serving groups like the Red Cross and local emergency management departments—where we can really make an impact— rather than some amorphous federal program with vague goals.

Ham Radio Video Corps

This from Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF:

Hi All,

At the recent Dayton Hamvention the newly formed Ham Radio Video Corps (HRVC) was unveiled to the ham radio public. As previously mentioned on this remailer, the HRVC, conceived by TV/Film Producer Dave Bell, W6AQ, following lengthy talks with Al Kaul, W6RCL, and others including Gary Pearce, KN4AQ, and this writer.

The HRVC is a group dedicated to the acquisition, post production, library and distribution of video related to all aspects of the hobby of Amateur Radio. It is hoped that eventually the HRVC will be a one stop world-wide repository and resource of video related to Amateur Radio in times of emergency, emergency preparation, operator training, education resources to educators as well as providing stock footage of every aspect of this global wireless hobby and public service.

One of the first tasks that HRVC will undertake is to provide additional video for Allen, W1AGP, and the ARRL to use in the “Hello” campaign. The preferable format is Mini-DV (or DV Cam), but any high quality or broadcast quality video format will be accepted. Analog broadcast formats like Betacam or DVC-PRO would be great, but the Min-DV has proven to be a less expensive alternative. (Super VHS recorded in SP mode is also OK, but please regular VHS at any play speed.)

To help kick off the HRVC a remailer has been established on Yahoogroups for the organization. (Before anyone asks, Yahoogroups was chosen because it is free of charge.)

If you are a video professional or believe that you can assist this project in other ways, you are invited to join. To subscribe, simply send an e-mail to subscribe-thehrvc@yahoogroups.com. The group is un-moderated and you can begin posting to it as soon as your confirmation e-mail arrives. All that’s asked is that discussions be kept on topic as noted in the purpose for creating the group and the remailer.

Dave Bell, Alan Kaul and I hope that some of you will find the concept of a Ham Radio Video Corps interesting and will become a part of it. We believe that it will go a long way in assisting dedicated folks like Allen W1AGP and others who are trying to publicize the good works of the ham radio community by providing them with the one tool that is always lacking: Good quality up to date video of ham radio in action.

If you have any questions about the group or its objective(s) please send them to w6aq@aol.com. Questions regarding the operation of the remailer itself go to me to wa6itf@arnewsline.org. (I seem to have been elected as “webmaster” for this one.)

As we said at Dayton 2 1/2 weeks ago: “Welcome to the Ham Radio Video Corps. You and your camera are needed to make it happen”

Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF

My Op-Ed Piece to Finally Appear

It looks as though the Op-Ed piece I submitted more than a year ago, “No Ham Left Behind,” is finally going to appear in QST. Look for it in the July 2006 issue.

If you want a sneak preview, it’s here on the blog.

World Radio Readership

About a month ago, I commented on the graying of amateur radio. I got the data from a subscriber survey done by World Radio magazine. Below, is all of the data they sent me.

The data was tabulated in November 2005 by Applied Analysis, an independent firm. This company mailed the survey to 1,600 random subscribers. 1,237 (77.3%) responded.

License class

  • Novice: 0.25%
  • Technician: 6.24%
  • General 21.6%
  • Advanced: 13.2%
  • Extra: 58.6%

Years licensed

  • 4 or less: 3.2%
  • 5-9: 7.8%
  • 10-19: 18.4%
  • 20-29: 17.9%
  • 30-39: 12.8%
  • 40 or more: 39.8%

Age

  • 24 or younger: 0.2%
  • 25-34: 0.4%
  • 35-44: 3.9%
  • 45-54: 13.4%
  • 55-64: 29.3%
  • 65 and older: 52.8%

Education

  • Doctorate: 6.2%
  • Masters: 16.4%
  • Bachelor: 26.7%
  • Associate: 18.7%
  • HS graduate: 31.9%

Total household income

  • $100,000 or more: 228%
  • $75k-$99.999k: 17.6%
  • $50k-$74.999k: 20.5%
  • less than $50k: 39.1%

Hours devoted to amateur radio each month

  • 30 or more: 19.4%
  • 25-30: 8.2%
  • 20-25: 10.5%
  • 15-19: 15.3%
  • 10-15: 24.5%
  • less than 10: 22.1%

Active on

  • SSB: 76.3%
  • CW: 40.9%
  • FM: 58.8%
  • Packet: 11.1%
  • HF digital: 19.0%
  • FS or SSTV: 4.6%

Interests

  • HF DX: 57.7%
  • HF contests: 24.7%
  • VHF DX: 12.9%
  • VHF contests: 8.0%
  • Repeaters: 38.0%
  • IOTA: 8.8%
  • Emergency communications: 42.2%
  • Public service: 35.3%
  • MARS: 6.2%
  • Field Day: 35.9%
  • Construction: 37.4%
  • Satellites: 10.4%
  • Teaching license classes: 11.4%
  • Traffic handling: 9.5%
  • County hunting: 5.5%
  • HF mobile: 32.1%
  • VHF mobile: 38.4%
  • QSL manager: 2.0%
  • Fox hunting: 6.1%
  • QRP: 23.7%

Member of

  • Local radio club: 66.4%
  • QCWA: 16.1%
  • ARES: 22.9%
  • RACES: 15.7%
  • DXCC: 19.2%

In the past three years, attended Dayton Hamvention: 17.9%
In the past three years, attended a division convention: 30.1%

The Graying of Ham Radio

If you need more evidence that ham radio is becoming an old man’s hobby, you need look no further than the latest WorldRadio Subscriber Survey. The magazine polled 1,600 readers; 1,237 replied.

The first thing that jumps out at me is that less than 5% (4.5%, to be exact) of the respondents are less than 45 years old, and more than half (52.8%) are more than 65 years old! No wonder a friend of mine always seems to confuse the ARRL with AARP.

The problem, of course, is not that there are so many seniors in ham radio. I think that’s a good thing. The problem is that there are so few kids.

Why is this a problem? Well, I’m not sure of the demographics of the ARRL membership, but I’d bet it’s pretty much the same as in this survey. Being a membership organization, they do have to provide services to their members, BUT this shouldn’t be at the expense of looking out for the future of amateur radio. And it’s my opinion that this is exactly what’s happening.

I’m not sure what the answer is, but we really do need to start working on this. Ham radio has a lot to offer. We have to get it in front of kids again and make it an option for them.

This Weekend in Ham Radio at KB6NU

It was a busy weekend here at KB6NU.

The first order of business was the Fists Sprint. Although the contest started 1:00 pm, I got started with preparations a bit earlier. I had taken down my 20m ground plane antenna a couple of weeks ago, so that I could try it in a different–and hopefully more effective spot. Well, of course, I never got around to doing it earlier, so I did it Saturday morning.

Not wanting to goof around too much, I hung it from the same branch that it hang from earlier. It always seemed to be pretty effective there, but when I had it there before, I did not have the 40m/30m dipole. I was kind of worried that there would be some interaction between the two antennas.

Fortunately, that did not seem to be the case. Neither antenna seemed to be affected, and I was able to make contacts on all three bands.

Unfortunately, neither 20m or 40m seemed to be in very good condition, and while there were stations on the air, I wasn’t having a lot of luck working them. After almost two hours and 30 contacts, I pulled the plug.

After a disappointing contest, a cool contact. After giving up on the Sprint, I tuned around a bit and worked K6KPH on 14.050. K6KPH is the station of the Maritime Radio Historical Society. According to their QRZ.Com page,

The Maritime Radio Historical Society is dedicated to the preservation and documentation of the history of maritime radio communications with special emphasis on the stations and companies of the Pacific coast of the United States. The call sign of the amateur station of the Society, K6KPH, is intended as a tribute the greatest of those stations, the “wireless giant of the Pacific”, KPH.

K6KPH on-the-air operations use only the original transmitters, receivers and antennas of KPH. No amateur equipment is employed. At this writing K6KPH operating frequencies are 3545kc, 7050kc, 14050kc and 21050kc. The transmitters for most of these frequencies are 1950s vintage RCA commercial units known as “K” and “L” sets.

The antennas used are double extended Zepps for frequencies below 12Mc and H over 2 for 12Mc and above. All antennas are fed with open wire line.

The KPH receiving station is 18 miles north of Bolinas on the Pt. Reyes peninsula. The operators work from this location, keying the transmitters in Bolinas remotely, just as was done when the station was in daily service.

KPH is activated at least once a year for the “Night of Nights” event that commemorates the last commercial Morse transmission in the US on 12 July 1999. KPH operates on HF frequencies in the 4, 6, 8, 12, 16 and 22Mc marine bands and on 500 and 426kc in the MF band.

K6KPH is typically activated for International Marconi Day in April and for Straight Key Night on New Year’s Eve.

It was very cool to work them. There is more information on the history and operation of KPH and K6KPH on the Maritime Radio Historical Society website.

Lots of old junk and some campaigning in Kalamazoo. On Sunday, I drove out to Kalamazoo for the Kalamazoo Hamfest. One reason for going was to continue my campaign for Vice Director. Another was to meet with the organizers, with a view to having them host the 2006 ARRL Michigan Section Convention. Third, I wanted to see some radio junk. :)

For some strange reason, this hamfest had a lot of old test equipment. There were lots of old VOMs, and some VTVMs and one guy even had an L&N precision potentiometer. What caught my eye, though, was a 1938 Weston Industrial Circuit Tester. It looked to be in good condition, and it was a real beauty in its wooden case. The guy only wanted $22 for it, too. I really was thinking of buying it, but I resisted the temptation.

I did make one purchase–an external speaker for $2. It’s kind of old and a bit beat up, but I hooked it up to my rig yesterday, and it seems to work pretty well. So if I don’t factor in the $30 in gas it cost me to get there and back, I got a pretty good deal.

While one of my reasons for attending was to do some campaigning, at first I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’m getting kind of burned out on campaigning. It didn’t take long to make a couple of circuits around the hamfest, though, so I stationed myself at an empty table and began working the crowd.

I actually got into it once I got started. It’s fun to talk to hams and find out their concerns and get their views on how to make ham radio better. I also talked to some guys who were just getting started in the hobby and hopefully I gave them some good advice.

Jumping into the fray on eHam. Another thing I’ve been doing all weekend is monitoring the response to my latest article on eHam. I don’t know what possessed me to do it, but I submitted the article on Friday morning, and by that evening, it had been posted on the website.

I knew that both I and the ARRL would get a lot of criticism–and the boys didn’t disappoint me–but I also got a lot of positive comments and support. That was heartening.

One of the reasons I posted my article was to see how I’d react to criticism. I am happy to report that if all they can come up with is illogical rants about the ARRL using disaster funds for new office furniture and that I have a 6-land call and not an 8-land call, then I think I’ll be OK.

Down to the Wire

Voting in the 2005 election for Director and Vice Director of the Great Lakes Division is just about to begin. Overall, it’s been both an interesting and enlightening experience for me.

The most interesting part of my experience has been the campaigning, or to put it more accurately, the reaction to my campaign. Some people are so hostile towards the ARRL! At Findlay, I even had one guy throw my flyer onto the table and tell me, “I won’t have anything to do with that commie organization.”

I’ve gotten many positive responses, too, though. That’s been very heartening. I told my wife after one club meeting that if I don’t win, it will be because I didn’t get out and speak to enough clubs. Listening to and working with people is what this is all about. If you can do that, then you’ll get their support.

And you need that support, not only to get elected, but to put programs in place and have them succeed. I always knew that to be the case from a theoretical point of view, but now I know it from a practical point of view. This is where I’ve been most enlightened.

The ballots should be in the hands of ARRL members this week, and experience shows that those most likely to vote will do so in the next week or two. Consequently, I won’t be campaigning so hard this month as last. I’ll be attending a few club meetings, but the election is really in the hands of the voters now.

If you already support me, I thank you for your vote. If you’re undecided about who to vote for, please read the candidate’s statements carefully and then choose the one who you think will best represent you and Amateur Radio. If you have any questions about where I stand, phone me 734-930-6564 or send and e-mail to kb6nu@arrl.net.

Whatever you do, don’t throw away that ballot. It’s important that you vote.

Amateur Radio Antenna “CC&R Bill” Reintroduced in Congress

A lot of hams think that the biggest challenge amateur radio operators face are the restrictive deed covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) that are in effect in many new housing developments. Basically, these CC&Rs prevent residents from erecting an outdoor antenna. This, of course, limits how effective our stations can be.

In 1985, the FCC issued a memorandum opinion and order commonly referred to as PRB-1. This order limits the power that local governments have in putting restrictive antenna ordinances into effect. It says that because amateur radio operators are licensed by the federal government, local governments must make reasonable accomodation when amateur radio operators apply to erect antenna structures. Time and time again this memorandum has held up in court.

Unfortunately, this memorandum does not apply to private agreements, such as the CC&Rs mentioned previously. Many amateurs are, therefore, limited to using antennas that can be built in an attic or a very small antenna on the outside of their house. Needless to say this is not a good situation, and often discourages people from getting an amateur radio license.

The article below describes an effort to treat restrictive provisions in CC&Rs in the same way that restrictive ordinances are treated. I’d encourage you to read this article from the ARRL website and then write your Congressional representative and ask him or her to support this bill. You can send your rep an e-mail by going to http://www.house.gov/writerep/. To send snail mail, the address is U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515.

From the ARRL:

NEWINGTON, CT, Sep 23, 2005–New York Congressman Steve Israel has reintroduced legislation that could make it easier for radio amateurs living in communities with deed covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) to erect suitable antennas. Arkansas Congressman Mike Ross, WD5DVR, signed aboard as an original cosponsor of the “Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Consistency Act” (HR 3876). ARRL Hudson Division Director Frank Fallon, N2FF, who attended Israel’s public announcement of the bill September 19 on Long Island, pointed out the Amateur Radio volunteers always fill the gap after other communication systems fail in an emergency or disaster. He notes the bill’s introduction comes in the immediate aftermath of positive media coverage of Amateur Radio’s response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

“Unfortunately if all new housing developments contain deed restrictions forbidding outside antennas there will probably come a time when there will not be enough ham radio operators to help their neighbors and countrymen,” said Fallon. He believes Israel’s bill will help to ensure that Amateur Radio will continue to be able to provide emergency communication should a disaster occur.

Fallon, who head up the League’s grassroots lobbying initiative, was on hand for Israel’s announcement, which took place at the home of ARRL New York City-Long Island Emergency Coordinator Tom Carrubba, KA2D.

A reporter for WLNY-TV (Channel 55) interviews Rep Israel about the Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Consistency Act of 2005. [Frank Fallon, N2FF, Photo]

The one-sentence measure is identical to the text of the CC&R bill that has been introduced in the last two sessions of Congress: “For purposes of the Federal Communications Commission’s regulation relating to station antenna structures in the Amateur Radio Service (47 CFR 97.15), any private land use rules applicable to such structures shall be treated as a state or local regulation and shall be subject to the same requirements and limitations as a state or local regulation.”

The measure would put private land-use regulations, such as homeowners’ association rules, on the same legal plane as state or local zoning regulations under the FCC’s PRB-1 limited federal preemption regarding antenna structures–§97.15 of the Amateur Service rules. PRB-1 now applies only to states and municipalities.

ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP, is encouraging League members to write their elected representative and ask that they cosponsor and support the bill, especially given two hurricane emergencies in short order.

ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP (right), during an earlier visit to Rep Israel’s Washington office.

“I think it’s time now that we, as amateurs, really band together and see what we can do about writing our congressional representatives and explaining to them that Amateur Radio is certainly a part of this nation’s communications infrastructure,” Haynie said. “What we’re asking for is just a fair shake so we can put up antennas and help our fellow citizens.”

While the League has ramped up its efforts to educate members of Congress about Amateur Radio, Haynie said lawmakers respond best to individual members.

HR 3876 has been assigned to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Information about the bill and a sample letter to use when contacting your representative are available on the ARRL Web site.

In his formal announcement this week, Israel said that “often unsung” Amateur Radio volunteers were instrumental in helping residents in the hardest hit areas in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, including saving stranded flood victims in Louisiana and Mississippi.

“State and local governments, as well as disaster relief agencies, could not possibly afford to replace the services that radio amateurs dependably provide for free,” said a statement from Israel’s office. “However, the hundreds of thousands of Amateur Radio licensees face burdensome regulations that make it extremely difficult to provide their public services.”

In past statements, Israel has said that the growth of developed communities has put a growing number of hams under an “array of inconsistent regulations” that make it harder and harder–or altogether impossible–to erect the necessary antennas.

I Don’t Know If We Raised Awareness, but We Did Have Fun

Yesterday, Bruce KD8APB and I had a fine time at Gallup Park operating our Amateur Radio Awareness Day / Emergency Power Operating Event station. 40m was in fine form, and over a period of about five hours we made 27 contacts.

We almost decided not to set up at all. We met at the park about noon, and a fine drizzle was falling. We chatted for a while to see if it would let up, and then wandered around in the drizzle to scout for a good location. As we finished our reconnoiter, the drizzle quit, and Bruce convinced me that we should give it a go.

Bruce had really come prepared. I was planning to use one of the picnic tables there, but Bruce had brought with him not only his antenna and radio, but a card table and chairs. This was a good thing because even though it had stopped raining, the picnic tables were a bit soggy.

We set up on a small rise just south of the first parking lot and just before you get to the bridge. His antenna went up very easily–he’s had a lot of practice–and we were on the air in about 20 minutes. While Bruce got his radio set up, connected the antenna to my KX1, tuned around a bit, and quickly contacted W9EE in Carthage, IL. He gave me a 599 report(!), so I guess we had that Elecraft mojo working.

I made another contact before Bruce got his IC-706 ready to roll. We then we connected the antenna to his rig and made a couple of phone contacts. The band was open, and there was lots of activity.

We had a good laugh over a couple of the contacts we made. The first was with K4B, a special event station in Bardstown, KY at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. We tried to get them to send us some samples, but weren’t very successful.

The other notable contact was with Rose, K8VFR. Part of what I was trying to do is to make contacts in the QRP Afield Contest. I heard Rose call CQ TEST, and called her. She replied right away, but when she sent the exchange, I was confused. I asked her to send again, but I still couldn’t fit what she was sending into the QRP Afield exchange format.

Then it dawned on me–she was working a different contest! She was working the QCWA contest. I told her this, and she asked what info I needed. I told her that I needed RST, state, and power level, which she graciously sent to me. She needed the year I was licensed, state, and my name. I sent this info to her, and after a hearty CW laugh, we said 73.

At one point or another, three different ARROW members showed up. The first was Bruce KD8AON, who rode up on his bicycle. Later, Ralph KB8ZOY made an appearance, and made eight contacts in about 45 minutes. Shortly after Ralph appeared, we spotted Clay W8JNZ and waved him over. He had a woman friend with him, and we enjoyed a nice conversation while Ralph was making Qs.

We not only had fun operating, we did do a little to raise awareness of amateur radio. We were located in a spot that many people enjoying the park passed. While only a few of them actually approached us, many waved or nodded. And Bruce had made up some big signs to inform people what we were doing.

At one point, Bruce went down and grabbed a couple walking along and brought them up to the station and explained in more detail about ham radio. They seemed mildly interested.

Right at the end, we had a guy in his late 20s/early 30s come up with his young son and talk to us about what we were doing. He talked to us for about a half hour, while his son played with his toy truck. He was really interested in ham radio, so I gave him a brochure and invited him to our club meetings and to call me if he wanted to get his license. I hope we’ll be seeing him again.

About 5:20, Bruce and I decided to call it a day. It had never really cleared up, and the clouds were looking threatening again. Good thing we started tearing down when we did. Just as we finished, it did start raining.