W1AW Offers Code Practice, Bulletins via EchoLink

From today’s ARRL Letter:

Audio from W1AW’s CW code practices and CW/digital bulletins is now available using EchoLink via the W1AW Conference Server “W1AWBDCT.” The 9:45 PM ET phone bulletin is currently unavailable via W1AWBDCT. The audio is sent in real-time and runs concurrently with W1AW’s regular transmission schedule. According to W1AW Station Manager Joe Carcia, NJ1Q, this server is currently at an experimental stage: “Since the server is located at ARRL — and uses the ARRL’s Internet connection — there may be an issue as to how many users can connect to W1AWBDCT via EchoLink. The current number of connections is set to 350. If the current system can properly handle these connections without adversely affecting the performance of the conference server, this number will be bumped up higher.” All users who connect to the conference server are muted. Please note that any questions or comments should not be sent via the “Text” window in EchoLink. Please send any questions or comments via e-mail.

I like this idea. It will bring code practice to those Techs who still don’t have an HF radio.

A “No-Nonsense” Guide to Operating CW

A recent post to the SolidCpyCW Yahoo Group, which, in my humble opinion, contained some misinformation, got me to thinking about what I might do help people to get started in using and enjoying CW. Since I have already helped a lot of people get started in ham radio with my “No-Nonsense” license study guides, I’m thinking of writing The No-Nonsense Guide to Operating CW.

The topics I’d cover include:

  • learning the code;
  • selecting a key;
  • making contacts; and
  • other stuff, including CW clubs, modulated CW (MCW), and whatever other miscellaneous stuff that I can think of that would help hams enjoy operating CW.

There are already lots of books out there covering this stuff, most notably The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy. This is a great book, but the copy I have has more than 240 pages. Does someone really need to plow through 240 pages to learn the code?

So, what do you think? Do you think that I have the topics right? What else would you include? What resource did you find most useful when you were learning the code? What do you know now that you wish you knew when you got started learning Morse Code?

N9PUZ on Why CW?

On the HamRadioHelpGroup mailing list, when a ham asked, “Why should I learn Morse Code if it is no longer required?” Tim, N9PUZ replied:

  • Why do you learn how to operate RTTY, PSK-31, etc.?
  • It’s one more way to have fun with Amateur Radio
  • If you’re a DX chaser it may be the only way to get that rare
  • If you’re a contester you usually get more points for a CW contact
    than you do a phone contact.
  • Many of us talk on the phone or stare at a computer all day. The music that is CW can make a nice way top relax at the end of the day.

CW Ops Wanted

Jim, K8ELR, forwarded this to me this afternoon:

Paul Ewing, N6PSE, says that he has several open positions for CW operators on the DXpedition team headed to Kurdistan in April. Ewing says that costs for this DXpedition are quite reasonable and they will be operating from a very safe and secure facility. Anyone interested in joining the DXpedition team may contact Ewing directly by e-mail to paul (at) n6pse (dot) com or check out the website at www.yi9pse.com. (GB2RS)

According to the website, they plan on running two CW stations, each equipped with an ICOM IC-7600 and SteppIR beam antenna and 300-ft. Beverage antenna.

The current team includes:

  • N6PSE – Paul Ewing
  • N6OX – Bob Grimmick
  • JH4RHF – Jun Tanaka
  • AH6HY – David Flack
  • N2WB – Bill Beyer
  • YI1UNH – Heathem Sabah
  • K3VN – Al Hernandez
  • K3LP – David Collingham
  • WØUCE – Jack Ritter
  • W5KDJ – Wayne Rogers
  • FM5CD – Michel Brunelle

New 80m QRP Kit

John, K5JS, posted this to the qrp-l.org mailing list yesterday:

The Arizona ScQRPions are delighted to announce a new 80m QRP CW transceiver kit for 2010! This new transceiver is the creation of Dan Tayloe (N7VE) and kitted by the ScQRPions with invaluable assistance from Doug Hendricks (KI6DS) of QRPKITS.

This kit was first seen in August 2009 at the Fort Tuthill, Arizona, CactusCon 2009 conference in a presentation by Dan on the design and use of distributed active RC filters in receivers. Additional bands will be available later in the spring from QRPKITS.

The present design hardly resembles its simple Unichip+ origin as Dan includes one of his patented low noise mixers and distributed filtering throughout the transceiver to produce one of the best sounding DC receivers anywhere. The transmitter produces a clean 2.5 watts output using a pair of BS-170 FETs as the final amplifier and uses a rock solid VFO covering up to 80KHz of 80m centered where you want it. Complete specifications, pictures, schematics, board layouts, prototypes, Dan’s CactusCon2009 presentation and slides, and other information is now available at the new user’s group email list.

For the rest of the story and to see what you get for your $50+shipping, go to http://www.azscqrpions.org/Introduction_to_FT80.htm. You will also find a link to the user’s email list on this page. The new Fort Tuthill FT80 transceiver should be available about the end of January 2010 in a run limited to 100 kits.

Winter is here and this will be a great little project to introduce you to the magic of 80m QRP!!

Looks like a great kit to me!

The Most Unlikely Code Practice I’ve Come Across Yet

If there’s a bigger mismatch than between Shakespeare and amateur radio, then I don’t know about it. Even so, some fine fellow (I was unable to divine either this fellow’s name or callsign) has translated Shakespeare’s sonnets into Morse Code. There are versions at 7 wpm, 13 wpm, and 20 wpm for each of the 152 sonnets. Alas, poor Yorick, I could only make it through one of them.

New Kit from 4SQRP

Terry, WA0ITP, reports:

The Four State QRP Group is very pleased to announce the availability of our new AAØZZ EZKeyer kit.

This full featured PIC-based iambic keyer features 3 memories, 12 direct entry commands, and is very user friendly. It has many of the features of the high end keyers while maintaining ease of use. The PIC chips have been programmed by
Craig Johnson, AAØZZ, of PIC-EL fame.

There are only 10 parts to install on the quick build pc board, and the extensive manual features an Altoids installation tutorial.

The kit is is reasonably priced at only $17.

Please check out the details and order information at http://www.wa0itp.com/aa0zzkeyer.html

Thank you for supporting the Four State QRP Group and OzarkCon.

Vibroplex for Sale!

I was paging through the October issue of CQ while eating some dinner about a half hour ago and came across the ad for Vibroplex on page 47. While most Vibroplex ads attempt to sell their bugs and paddles, this ad reads as follows:

FOR SALE – Vibroplex
Mitch, W4OA, Owner of Vibroplex, is retiring.
Please e-mail w4oa@vibroplex.com for details.
Substantial Investment Required

I haven’t e-mailed to get any more details, but this is certainly a chance to really acquire a piece of ham radio history. The Vibroplex home page tells this story:

In 1902, inventor Horace G. Martin patented the first in a line of devices which solved the problem: the Martin Autoplex, an electro-mechanical sending device which required batteries.

Two years later, Martin went into business with a group of entrepreneurs, forming the United Electrical Manufacturing Company. It was also in 1904 that Martin filed his second patent for a new sending device which used a weighted, vibrating arm and did not require the use of a magnetic coil or batteries. This device was the basis for the first Vibroplex.

In 1908, the association between Martin and U.E.M. ended when the latter went out of business. However, J.E.Albright, who began a business catering to the telephone industry in 1890, began marketing the Vibroplex for Martin. On March 12, 1915, Albright filed a certificate of incorporation in New York for The Vibroplex Company, Inc. Within a few short years, Vibroplex© came to represent the best of the telegraphic, and later Amateur Radio, industry.

ARROW’s September Construction Project

Every September, our ham radio club, ARROW, does a construction project. In the past, we’ve done a keyer kit, J-Pole antennas, and other small projects that you can complete in an evening.

Bare Bones BoarduinoThis year, we’ve decided to build a low-cost version of the Arduino microcontroller called the Bare Bones Boarduino, from Modern Device. This is a pretty good introductory soldering project.

What’s an Arduino (or Freeduino)? It’s an open source microcontroller board that is cheap ($11), and fairly easy to program from Linux, a Mac, or even Windows. You program it in “C”, and there are libraries other folks have written to let you do things like run servos, blink LEDs, and so on. The Bare Board Boarduinos use the ATmega328Phave processor and have 32k flash memory and 2k of RAM.

What can you do with an Arduino or Boarduino? Well, you can check out the Arduino website for ideas.

In addition, the September/October 2009 issue of QEX contains a story on how to use the Boarduino to build a keyer. I don’t really need another keyer, but that article, coupled with an idea gleaned from the Ten-Tec-Omni-VII mailing list has given me an interesting use for the Boarduino, I think.

The mailing list thread discussing the 610 got my creative juices flowing is the thread discussing the elusive Ten-Tec 610 Remote Keyer. I say “elusive” because if you search the Ten-Tec website for information on this product, all you’ll find is a press release that says it will cost $169 and that it will be available sometime in 2009. There are no product specifications or photos to be found anywhere.

This dearth of information has, of course, led to a lot of speculation about what it will do and what it won’t do. Carl, N4PY, seems to have the most information on this product. He writes:

This keyer will interface through a USB port and become an additional keyboard for the computer. Paddles will plug into it and operating the paddles will cause the 610 keyboard to send characters to the application that has the focus just as though the characters were typed on a regular keyboard. There will also be a provision to add the Ten-Tec remote tuning pod to this device. Turning the knob left or right will cause certain special characters to be sent to the application that has the focus. The application will realize a right turning or left turning operation from the 610 keyboard and take appropriate action. So all programming will simply look at the receiving characters to figure out what to do.

This all sounds very cool, but $169 seems kind of steep. I’m guessing that I could program the Boarduino ($10 hardware cost, plus the cost of some kind of USB port) to interface to my computer so that I could use paddles instead of a keyboard for text input. Wouldn’t that be cool?

My iMac currently uses a USB keyboard, so I’m guessing (hoping?) that I won’t have to write a driver for the Mac end. Anyone know where I can find interfacing information for the Mac USB port?

More Sweet Tweets

Here are some more links to interesting Web pages I found by Twittering:

  • N3OX’s Remote Tuner Control. N3OX has added some servo motors and controls to a manual antenna tuner so that he can move it closer to the antenna, but still control it from inside the shack. Very inexpensive solution.
  • Band Plans for 900 MHz and Above. KB9MWR feels that the future of ham radio is above 900 MHz. I don’t know that I totally agree, but I do think we need to start thinking more about those bands. Give this a read.
  • Morse Code vs. Text Messaging. Chas Sprague, who’s not a ham, ruminates on how Morse Code could make text messaging more efficient. I wholeheartedly agree! Someone get this man his ham ticket.
  • Ham Logging as a Service. There’s been a lot of twittering about this KE9V blog post. I like the idea myself, and if I had more time, I might even take a crack at it. Anyone want to collaborate?
  • Planning a Digital ATV Station. After pondering a digital ATV station for the museum, I opted to go analog. If I’d seen this article first, I might have opted to stick it out and go digital.