From my Twitter feed: NASA, ARRL, SDR

OK1RIG
NASA Communications via Hams:http://t.co/6FnwFq9d via @youtube#hamradio

K5KVN
Leaders in our hobby should embrace those that self identify as willing to help. Listen to their ideas, support their enthsiasm.#hamr

K9ZW
Thoughts on the new FlexRadio Systems SmartSDR Slices Video http://t.co/l8mQbj4w

From Father to Son

Tom, W1PDI, sent me this story a couple of days ago. I love stories like this, and I hope that you will, too…….Dan

Tom W1PDI in 1967

The author in 1967, copying Morse out of his Dad’s Heathkit HR-20. The rest of the station consisted of a DX- 40 transmitter, an AM-2 SWR bridge and an SB-600 speaker.

If I was a little older at the time, I might have guessed what my dad was up to. The signs were there: a Knight- Kit Span Master shortwave radio for Christmas in 1962, followed by a pair of Knight-Kit walkie talkies the following year and a CB radio–yes, another Knight-Kit– as a Christmas gift in 1964. To this day I can still remember my CB call sign, KKB1757.

It was early in 1966 that my dad had something else to share with me–a Morse code practice oscillator he had built. That’s when things started to become a little clearer and make sense. He suggested that if I learned both the code and some basic technical information that I could take a test to move up from my CB radio status to obtaining a ham “ticket,” just like he had.

Growing up, I can remember all kinds of radio equipment around the house. My dad’s ham gear was set up in an attic loft, along with many years’ worth of QST magazines neatly organized by year. And how could I forget his framed Amateur Radio license, which he’d had as long as I could remember?

I studied the ARRL How to Become a Radio Amateur handbook, learned the required 5 WPM code requirement, took my test and received my Novice license, WN1GLS, in the spring of 1966. Even before my license arrived, Dad excitedly began to assemble and set up the necessary Novice equipment in my bedroom. It included his Heathkit HR-20 receiver, a DX-40 transmitter that he brought home from work one day and a matching Heathkit AM-2 SWR bridge. We re- routed the Lattin Radio Labs 5-band dipole lead into my “shack” and now I was ready to operate. All I needed was my license.

Two Hams for the Price of One
For me, one of the great byproducts of becoming a ham was that it renewed my father’s interest in the hobby. My dad, who was a long time engineer at radio station WELI in Hamden, Connecticut, even started a local ham radio club that was sponsored by the station and he was trustee of the club’s license, WA1HRC.

During the next few years we held our club meetings in the radio station’s remote building, where the emergency on-air studio was housed. It was there that we built and operated our club station of Heathkit equipment. I recall how we built other equipment, including a 15 meter Yagi one Saturday at the radio station after my dad convinced the broadcast station to purchase and erect a 50-foot crank-up tower. We participated in several Field Day adventures and even made a few trips to ARRL Headquarters.

My interest in Amateur Radio faded when I went to college in 1972 and my dad lost interest soon thereafter. He soon left his position with the radio station to start a two-way radio sales and service company that eventually led to a very successful commercial mobile/cellular

In 1981 I returned to the air and was active for a few years, and again this renewed my father’s interest in returning to the hobby. As a birthday gift in 1982, I presented him with the exact same equipment I was using at the time: a Kenwood TS-520SE transceiver and matching AT200 antenna tuner.

By 1983 my level of activity waned once again and I sold my equipment. My father kept his gear and was active until around 1988. During his “active” period I helped him put up a 160-meter long wire. Dad constructed some RTTY equipment and wrote an article about the experience that appeared in the June 1985 issue of 73 magazine.

QST–Calling All Amateurs
After my dad retired and he and Mom moved to Sarasota, Florida in 1991, I always assumed that he sold his equipment, among other things, prior to the move. My father passed away in August 2002. Shortly after, I made it a point to notify the ARRL and requested that he be remembered among other silent keys in QST.

John, W1PDI

John Miller, W1PDI (SK), at his operating position in 1984, with a Kenwood TS- 520SE transceiver and some homebrew RTTY gear.

Later that year I received in the mail the December 2002 issue of QST, which surprised me because I hadn’t been a member of the ARRL in well over 30 years and I hadn’t seen a copy of QST since the early 1980s. But in that issue my father’s listing appeared in the silent keys column. To this day I am not sure who sent me that issue of QST.

For several weeks I found myself going through that issue of QST over and over again, looking at the advertisements, reading articles and trying to understand some of the unfamiliar terms that were nonexistent 20 years earlier. All the while I asked myself, “Why was it that I hadn’t thought about getting back into the hobby again? If I had done so earlier, maybe I could have renewed my father’s interest for a third time.” We could have scheduled contacts and my children would have loved the opportunity of “getting on the radio” with their grandfather.

In early December 2002 my mom came to stay with us for a few weeks. One day she noticed the issue of QST that I had been thumbing through and said something to me that seemed to make time stand still. She said that my father had kept a lot of his ham equipment and asked if I wanted what he saved. When I asked why he kept the equipment, her reply was simply, “He wanted you to have all of it because he had hoped someday you would become interested in ham radio again.”

Because of that December 2002 issue of QST, my interest in returning to the air was already there. But now, learning that I had access to some equipment and that it was kept with the hope that I might someday want to return to the hobby, well, the timing was right. Arrangements were made to have the equipment shipped to me in January 2003 and I was back on the air by early February.

The Final Courtesy
Not only did my father keep the Kenwood equipment I had given him as a birthday gift 20 years earlier, but to my surprise the packages of equipment that arrived that day included more than I ever could have imagined.

That shipment also included nearly all of the original equipment that my dad had set up for me when I first received my Novice ticket: the Heathkit HR-20 receiver, my DX-40 transmitter, matching SWR bridge, my first code key–with his call sign and mine still on the

mounting board–and even the SB-600 Heathkit speaker that I bought while still a novice. Also included were QSL cards my dad received over the years, all of his logbooks, his original Vibroplex bug from 1947 and a handful of his own original QSL cards from 1946. What a treasure.

Life is full of odd circumstances. If it were not for the unexpected December 2002 QST showing up in the mail, plus the fact that unknown to me Dad had kept his ham equipment, I seriously doubt that I would be back on the air today enjoying Amateur Radio like it was 1966 all over again. Well, maybe not exactly like 1966, since Amateur Radio certainly has changed since then.

As a way to remember my dad, in April 2003 I applied for and was granted the amateur call he held from 1946 to 2002, W1PDI. I just had to keep my dad’s call sign in the family. It’s good to be back in ham radio, but I just wish I had the chance to once again renew my dad’s interest in the hobby that he first introduced to me nearly 40 years ago.

Tom Miller, W1PDI, was first licensed in 1966 as WN1GLS, and upgraded to General a year later at the age of 13 with WA1GLS. He continues to operate the equipment he inherited from his father and is very active on a number of nets, including the 3905 Century Club and OMISS. He enjoys contesting, QSO parties and paper chasing. Miller’s other interests include spending time with his children, sports car racing and baseball. He lives in Bay Village, Ohio, and can be reached via e-mail at w1pdi@arrl.net.

Two generations of W1PDI
W1PDI QSLsAlso included with the equipment my dad kept were a dozen or so old QSTs from the 1950s and ’60s. In one issue, January 1965, on page 74, was the announcement of the commemorative Amateur Radio stamp, first released in Alaska. It was in this issue that I found a block of the commemorative stamps my father must have placed there to preserve them. That, along with it being the stamp’s 40th anniversary, is what prompted me to design my current QSL card. On the back of my new card, I’ve included a tiny version of the lightning-throwing baby in the corner and a note that my dad held my current call sign from 1946 through 2002.

Get a flu shot!

I know this is off-topic, but if you haven’t already, get a flu shot. You don’t want to come down with this flu.

How do I know this? The flu hit me yesterday. I was incredibly sick for about 14 hours. I couldn’t keep any food or liquids down. It was very nasty. I’m better today, but still not feeling very hungry, and I’m very tired.

Around here, they cost about $20, if your health insurance doesn’t cover it. This is one time I wish I’d heeded my wife’s advice to go get one.

The Desiderata and Amateur Radio

On the wall of my home office hangs a poster with the poem “Desiderata.” While I’m not usually one for  sappy sentimentality, I do find the advice offered in this poem resonates (no pun intended) with me. Some of the advice is certainly applicable to ham radio:

  • “Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit.” Ever attended a club meeting or participated in a discussion on an amateur radio mailing list? Need I say more?
  • “Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.” Ever been to a hamfest?
  • “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” I find myself thinking of this passage often. Recently, there was a discussion on a ham radio mailing list about a guy who’s built eleven towers on his property. If I obsessed about stuff like that, I’d just give up on ham radio.
  • “Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own [ham radio] career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.” Do what you can and have fun with it.
  • “Be careful.” Remember to be safe when setting up that antenna.
  • “Strive to be happy.” If you’re not having fun with ham radio, find another hobby.

Amateur radio in the news: Wisconsin, Kansas, Manitoba

Amateur radio, Morse code useful yet today
At first blush, it might seem quaintly antiquated to hear that ham radio and Morse code still have enthusiasts in the 21st Century, what with all the smartphones and Internet-enabled tablets available. However, you can bet your nearest copper wire that not only do ham radio and Morse code adherents still have a place in modern society, but they actually are making it a safer place for all of us, especially in emergency situations and during severe weather outbreaks. That was the primary message being sent during the third annual Kid’s Day of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), which took place Sunday in Whitewater’s Cravath Lakefront Building.

Wichita amateur radio operators can offer key link in emergencies
For Mark Spaulding and other amateur radio operators, communication is key. The retired Beech demonstration pilot is a member of the Tec-Ni-Chat Amateur Radio Club and part of a group of about 30 amateur radio operators that volunteer as part of the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) for Sedgwick County Emergency Management.

Ham radio enthusiasts keeping old technology alive
Some ham radio enthusiasts in Winnipeg are sticking with an “original” form of wireless technology, despite the popularity of Twitter and text messages these days.

 

Bar code’s co-inventor dies at 91

A couple of weeks ago, NPR reported that N. Joseph Woodland, a co-inventor of the bar code passed away at the age of 91. I found this to be a very interesting story. First, because the bar code was really so far ahead of its time.

The original patent was applied for in 1949, and issued in 1952, but it wasn’t until 1974 that the first bar code was actually scanned. It took that much time for the scanner and computer technology to be developed enough to actually read and process the bar code. This was long after Woodland and his co-inventor, Bernard Silver, sold the patent for $15,000.

The second reason is its connection to Morse Code. The story reads,

The only code Woodland knew was the Morse Code he’d learned in the Boy Scouts, his daughter said. One day, he drew Morse dots and dashes as he sat on the beach and absent-mindedly left his fingers in the sand where they traced a series of parallel lines.

“It was a moment of inspiration. He said, ‘instead of dots and dashes I can have thick and thin bars,’” Susan Woodland [his daughter] said.

Woodland’s New York Times obituary has more on this story.

And now for something completely different……

Yesterday, I did NOT go down to the Hands-On Museum and operate WA2HOM, as I usually do. Instead, I participated in a family tradition – making sausage before Christmas. Romanchik is a Slovak name, and the sausage we make, klobasa, is the Slovak version of the Polish sausage kielbasa. Yesterday, we only made 25 pounds, but in the past we have made up to 80 pounds in a single sausage-making session.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 10 pounds pork butt
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 3 cups water or ice
  • 1/4 pound sausage casings

The secret to making good klobasa is using just the right amount of garlic. When my family makes sausage, Brenda and I are in charge of adding the garlic. The first thing we do is peel one head of garlic for each ten pounds of meat. We then put the garlic in a blender, add some water, chop the garlic, and then let the mixture set for at least half an hour.

Next, we cut the pork butts, also known as Boston roasts. The butts average about 8 pounds and have a bone. To make sausage, you have to cut out the bone and then cut the meat into small cubes. While cutting, look for and remove any glands within the fat.

Cut away and discard unwanted fat and gristle, but don’t throw it all away. Fat absorbs the garlic and marjoram, and without it, the sausage will not be as flavorful as it could be.

Place the meat into a tub, add the spices, garlic, water or ice, and mix. We use ice instead of water. This adds the appropriate amount of moisture and keeps the meat fresh at the same time.

To get the proper amount of garlic, my sister and I add some garlic to the meat, lean over the tub and smell the mixture. Then, we look at each other, and say, “More garlic.” We repeat this until the smell is strong enough to suit us. One way we know that we’ve added enough garlic is if our mother can smell the garlic as she comes into the house.

After you’ve added enough garlic, let the meat mixture marinate for at least an hour. In the meantime, you can clean the casings. Natural casings come packed in salt, and before you can use them you have to rinse them, both inside and out with cold water.

The final step is to grind the meat and stuff the casings. The grinder we use has a sausage stuffer attachment so we grind and stuff in one step. To do this, you take a length of casing, tie a knot in one end, and slide the casing onto the sausage attachment. With this arrangement, the grinder grinds the meat right into the casing.

We package the sausage in plastic freezer bags and freeze most of it. In a good bag, the sausage will keep up to six months in the freezer.

I think this classifies as a home-brew project. What do you think?

HamQTH.Com an alternative to QRZ.Com

I got this message yesterday from Petr, OK2CQR, proprietor of HamQTH.Com:

I’m very happy that I can inform you about recent news at HamQTH.com.

What’s new?

Small statistic:

  • 1,343,209 callsigns in database
  • 11,883 registered users
  • 7,018,773 queries to XML search
  • 6,521,517 QSO in the log from 953 different callsigns

Did you know that DX cluster at HamQTH can colour the spots according to QSO you have in the log?

We have almost 50 times more users using XML search than web visitors every day. It’s fine, but please encourage others to register at HamQTH and update their profiles. Without that, XML search won’t be accurate. Thank you!

HamQTH is a real alternative to QRZ.Com. Check it out.

The end of ham radio?

Mayan calendar

Is this calendar predicting the end of ham radio?

Is this the end of ham radio (or the world, for that matter)? The website for special event station N0D says:

According to one of the three Mayan Calendars, the end of the world will occur on December 21, 2012. To celebrate this—literally—once in a lifetime event, Special Event Station N0D (Now Zero Days) will be activated for three days during and possibly after the end of the world. December 20; is a celebration of the end of the world. December 21, the day of destruction, we will be on the air as long as possible. December 22…that is a little iffy right now.

The site is a real hoot. You can even take a look at the QSL card that you won’t get if the world actually does on December 21.

Amateur Radio Videos – 10/19/12

Here are some more videos for your amateur radio viewing pleasure.

History of the transistor radio. The PBS show History Detectives featured a segment on the Regency TR-1 transistor radio, the first transistor radio ever made, and some of the other early transistor radio models. The website says the show will air on October 28, 2012. (I know it’s only October 19, but the PBS website says this show will air on October 28.)  Look for the segment at the 28:45 mark.

K6BBQ at Pacificon 2012. Rem, K6BBQ, ask some amateur radio celebrities, including Dave Sumner, K1ZZ, and Gordon West, WB6NOA, some amusing questions.

Ham Amateur Radio Doing Illegal Crap.  Want to get your hackles up? Watch this video. I’m not sure what the author’s motivation was in making this video, but it’s sure to get a few of  you worked up.