Build a TX for the 1929 QSO Party

This from VE7SL via the qrp-l mailing list:

If any of you were thinking about putting something together for the Antique Wireless Association’s 1929-style QSO party, there is still time to throw together a little Hartley or TNT!

The 1929 QSO party runs Dec 05/06 and Dec 10/11 (2300z-2300z). This is the contest where entrants are required to use a tube and tx circuit design that was only available in 1929 or earlier (210, 245, 27….there’s a bunch of them, mostly triodes). No xtals are allowed …..self-excited oscillators only! Your transmitter doesn’t have to look pretty either! Most of the activity is on 80m (3550-3580) but there are always a handfull of brave soles venturing way up to 40m (7040-7060) as well.

There has been a significant rule change this year that allows the ’29 member stations to work non-’29ers for points (previously these QSO’s could not be scored) so even if you don’t put a transmitter together, please join in the fun and listen to the chirps and buzzes of what the bands once sounded like….and then call them!

For inspiration, I have posted a gallery of eligible transmitters. The AWA has a ‘quick-build’ plan on their website, and a page on replica vintage transmitters.

Hope to hear you in the contest.

73 / Steve

Jumping the Gun?

This Friday evening, I’m hearing a bunch of stations calling CQ SS between 7.040 and 7.050 MHz. The way I read the rules, though, the contest isn’t supposed to start until 2100 UTC Saturday. Am I crazy or are these contesters jumping the gun?

Batteries Just Cost Me Some Points!

Down at the museum today, I got sucked into working the PA QSO Party. I made 35 contacts before packing it in for the day.

This evening, I thought I’d get on and make a few more contacts. So, I set about programming my WinKeyer.

Normally, this is a no-brainer, but tonight, the keyer started acting up on me. I would get halfway through programming one of the memories, and the thing would just quit on me. It was all very puzzling. I plugged and unplugged the key without success. I had it play back its status to me, but that gave me no clue.

Then, it dawned on me that I had never changed the batteries in the thing. In fact, I couldn’t even remember what kind of batteries it used. So, I opened up the case and found that it used three, AAA batteries.

I changed them and got the thing working again, but by that time, the band had changed and there were no PA stations to be found! So, I guess the moral of the story is change your keyer batteries before the next big contest.

While I’m miffed that I missed a few points, I can’t really complain about the battery life. I built this keyer in December 2008, and this is the first time I’ve changed the batteries, so they’ve lasted nearly two years.

If a Nine-Year-Old Girl Can Do It….

….shouldn’t all of you?

Thanks to Jim, W8JPM, for sending me a link to this YouTube video of RZ9UMA working the recent WPX CW contest:

More Morse
And, while we’re on the subject of Morse Code, here’s another video that I found while surfing around YouTube. It’s a video of how to use a simple microcontroller to decode Morse Code. I will grant that since the input to the microcontroller in this example is a pushbutton switch, the practicality of this example is somewhat limited, but it should get you started on making your own Morse decoder, if you’d like to give it a try.

This Weekend on the Air at KB6NU/WA2HOM: Contest Mania!

This weekend was a busy one here in Ann Arbor. I got down to the museum, turned on the rig, tuned to 20m, and almost immediately started hearing stations in the Seventh Area QSO Party. If you’re a regular reader, you know that I regularly get sucked into contests like this.

Of course, I had to see how many of these stations I could work, even though we’re not really set up for contesting down at the museum. Over a couple of hours, I worked 24 stations in WA, OR, AZ, and MT.

Tuning to 40m, I immediately started hearing stations working the Indiana QSO Party. I worked about 17 of those stations before leaving the museum about 1 p.m.

Saturday evening, I got on the air at my home station about 2330 UTC. Right off the bat, I heard a bunch of Italian stations operating the ARI International DX Contest. I also heard some stations working the New England QSO Party. I was interested to see how well I was getting into Italy, but after making five contacts, I switched over to working the NE QP.

In 2006, I had the highest score from Michigan in the NE QP. I have the certificate to prove it, but in the intervening years, I either haven’t worked it or haven’t done so well, so that certificate is getting a bit dated.

Since I had the evening to myself, I thought I’d give it a try. Starting at 0015 UTC, and operating until about 0430 UTC, I made 50 contacts. I made about ten of those contacts by camping on a frequency and calling CQ NEQP.

The NEQP is one of those contests that has operating hours on both Saturday and Sunday, so at 9am Sunday morning, I was back at it. During the course of the day, I made 41 more contacts, bringing my total to 91. My claimed score is 7,216. Considering that I placed first in Michigan with a score of just over 3,000, I think that I have a decent chance of scoring first this year.

Overall, I had a lot of fun working the contests this weekend. We need to get a memory keyer for the museum, though. That would make operating these contests a lot easier.

Finally, I have some new “stations whose callsigns spell words” to report. I worked K7EAR in the Seventh Area QSO Party and W9JUG. I actually thought W9JUG was working the Indiana QSO Party at first, but he lives in IL. So we had a nice little ragchew before the band changed on us.

This Weekend on the Air at KB6NU/WA2HOM

This weekend, I got sucked into two contests. The first—the MI QSO Party—I operated on Saturday down at the Hands-On Museum.

I got to the museum around 10 am, and the contest didn’t start until noon, so I fiddled around a bit, trying to figure out how the bands were. I made three contacts on 40m and a couple of contacts on 20m, so it looked like band conditions were going to cooperate.

When noon hit, I was off and running. Switching back and forth between 40m and 20m, I made a total of 90 contacts in the next two hours, including three DX contacts. Not stellar, but not bad, either.

Having my WinKeyer certainly helped. As I’ve mentioned, the Omni VII doesn’t have a built-in memory keyer, meaning that in previous contests, I had to bang out the CQs myself. The WinKeyer improved the process immensely.

When Pigs Fly…
Sunday evening, I participated in the Flying Pigs QRP Club’s monthly “Run for the Bacon.” This is a two-hour “sprint” that takes place on the third Sunday of every month. Since my KX-1 was already set up (my IC-746PRO is still in the shop), it was easy enough to get into this contest.

Band conditions on 40m were great! I was able to camp on a frequency and even run stations for a while. I worked as far west as Nebraska and South Dakota and all up and down the East Coast. In just more than one hour, I made 18 contacts, scoring 616 points.

Scoring is on the honor system and is done online. You enter your data into a Web page on the Flying Pigs website. Contacting members of the FP-QRP Club counts for three points, while contacting non-members counts for one point. After you’ve entered your data, the website automatically calculates your score and ranks you. As of 2 pm this afternoon, I’m still in the top ten, even though I only operated the first hour, and because my KX-1 doesn’t have 80m capability, only 40m.

I really like operating in these smaller contests. They’re way less chaotic and intense than the big contests, and can be just as much fun.

Reminiscences of the Early Days of the National Contesting Journal (NCJ)

This bounced around several mailing lists before arriving in my inbox. Tod, K0TO, was the founding editor of NCJ from 1972 – 1975. Here’s what he wrote in the original e-mail to the Minnesota Wireless Association:

I was cleaning off files from my computer this morning and ran across a document I had been asked to write for an NCJ issue a few years ago.

I decided to load it on my web page for a brief period of time before it goes off to randomized electron and magnetic domain heaven. It deals with the challenge of editing and producing the NCJ during the first three years of its life [1972-75]. At that point the ARRL Board said I had to ‘retire’ from that job if I wanted to run for ARRL office.

Tod, K0TO

This is interesting stuff. As he notes, personal computers were just starting to be used, and to be honest, they weren’t very useful at that point. And the Internet was still limited to universities.

A VOIP Contest??

In my e-mail just now, I got the following:

Hi , Daniel

My name is Rick, and my call sign is XXXX. I’ve been a contester since 2004 when I became a ham, and I love it!

I wanted you to see this information from a friend of mine, Trippy, about a new contest that will be held in March of this year! I will be in it myself, and I hope to work you in it.

Please tell every contester you know about this new contest. I look forward to working you!


Rick, XXXX
PS, contest letter and announcement from Trippy to you, is below

There were several problems with this e-mail. First of all, there was no attachment. Second, this was obviously spam. I don’t know Rick or Trippy, nor have I ever worked them on the air. Third, I just can’t excited about a CQ100 contest.

Here’s my reply:

Hello, Rick–

First, there was no attachment.

Second, as I hope you know, CQ100 isn’t really a new mode. It’s a computer program that simulates amateur radio contacts using the voice over Internet protocol (VOIP).

I’m not one of those OFs (old farts) who gets all hot and bothered about the use of VOIP in ham radio. I use EchoLink when it’s appropriate and feel that it does have a place in ham radio. Having said that, I just can’t get very excited about a “contest” that takes place over a VOIP network, especially one that you have to pay for! Operating a “contest” over VOIP is like shooting fish in a barrel.

If you’re having fun with CQ100, more power to you. I think, however, that you’ll have a lot more fun by actually radiating some RF energy of your own.



What do you all think?

Calling All Rookies – Get on the Air for the Rookie Roundup

From the 2/18/10 ARRL Letter:

The ARRL Rookie Roundup is designed to help newly licensed amateurs build their operating skills on HF. It is a contest specifically for those new to Amateur Radio, similar to the ARRL Novice Roundup that ran from 1952 until 1995. The Rookie Roundup brings the fun and Elmering of the old Novice Roundup into the 21st century. Three Rookie Roundups will be held each calendar year: SSB in April, RTTY in August and CW in December.

The Rookie Roundup will be scored 100 percent in real time through the scoring system. There are three ways to participate: by using your favorite logging software with the real time scoring support, by downloading a simple logging program from the Web site or by logging your contacts directly into a Web page. No separate logs are required — it all happens online in real time and final scores will be available online within hours of the end of the contest! More information is available on all of these options at Of course, you can get on the air and make contacts without logging them, but you won’t have as much fun!

Who Can Participate?
Any ham licensed for 3 years or less qualifies as a Rookie. If you were licensed in 2008, 2009 or 2010, you can compete in the 2010 Rookie Roundup. Non-Rookies may only work Rookies, while Rookies may work everybody. A major part of the success of this contest will be non-Rookies getting on the air and working the Rookies, just as in the Novice Roundup. Just like in the Novice Roundups of years past (when Novices could work anyone and non-Novices could only work Novices), Rookies may work anyone, be they Rookie or non-Rookie; however, non-Rookies are limited to only working Rookies.

Entry Categories
Single Operator Rookie, limited to a maximum of 100 W. Spotting assistance or using call sign and frequency alerting systems is allowed, but self-spotting or asking somebody to spot you is not. All Rookies must identify themselves as a rookie. Example: “Kilo Bravo One Quebec Alfa Whiskey, Rookie.” Non-Rookies only need give their call; no designation is needed.

Certificates will be available for all participants to download. The top five high scores from each US call area, Canadian province and Mexican call area will be recognized on their certificate. No national winners will be recognized.

Go to for more information on how to participate. Be sure to check out the April 2010 issue of QST for complete rules and other information. The Rookie Roundup — a fun event for all amateurs!

Sounds like fun to me. Every Elmer should get on and participate along with the rookies.

Operating Notes: 1/25/10 – 1/31/10

This week, I made some notable QSOs:

  1. K0HL RigMonday night, I contacted K0HL, operating CW mobile from his truck in ND (see right). On his QRZ.Com page, he lists his occupation as clockmaker. I need to e-mail and ask him how he became a clockmaker. I’ve always had an interest in clockmaking.
  2. Tuesday night, I had a QSO with YS1ZC. He’s my first contact with El Salvador.
  3. On Thursday night, I stayed up late. When I got home from bowling, my wife informed me that her parents’ power went out and that we might have to go get them, if their power didn’t come back on soon. Just after midnight, I called CQ on 80m, with my crummy 25W and random-wire antenna, and lo and behold, I got a call from DJ0KC, who heard me while getting ready for work. He’s my first European on 80m, and only my second DX contact. I’m amazed when I make any contact on 80m, much less a DX contact.
  4. Thursday night, I worked HA3NU. He is the first DX station that I’ve worked with the same suffix as mine.
  5. On Saturday, down at the museum, we worked one of the stations in the REF French DX Contest on 20m. Later that evening at home, I heard a couple of French stations on 40m and worked them. That got me caught up in the swing of things, and overall, I made ten contacts, including one in Guadeloupe and three in Martinique. I also made one on 80m—F5KIN—who, as you’ll note, has a callsign that spells a word (kin).