Friday, March 22, 2019

According to ClubLog, Pitcairn Island is number 67 on its list of Most Wanted - not rare by DXCC definition, but it remains one of the most interesting locations on the planet and that’s reason enough for a radio team to plan the Pitcairn Island DXpedition VP6R.

Of course the island is the location where in 1790 nine mutineers of the HMS Bounty set Captain Bligh and his officers adrift before scuttling the ship and committing their fate to what seemed a Pacific paradise but turned out to be something much less.

The March 2019 edition of the Twin Cities DX Association newsletter, The Gray Line Report includes a bit of that history and complete details for the coming operation in the article, Pitcairn Island - From the Bounty to the Bravehart to Your Log written by Ralph Fedor, K0IR. Download the newsletter (free) and enjoy it.

Then make plans to work the DXpedition - and put a little high treason and sea legend in your own log this Fall.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

Driving home from work last night in a light rain I got to thinking that it’s been a few weeks since I spent time in the shack. The hockey game was going to start late as the Winnipeg Jets were playing on the West coast so there should be a little time for radio after dinner.

The rain was still falling and the bands were noisier than usual so I decided to make it a digital evening using FT8. I started on 40 and saw little DX. There were the usual European suspects but though I copied them they didn’t copy me. After thirty minutes or so I had worked ten and figured it was time to pull the plug.

Stations worked: K1EK KE0CAZ NE9O KA1AQP NO7GX N7QT AA3B WD0EFP KM5LY KK7AI

With a little more time on my hands before the hockey game, I noticed this reminder from Curt, WA2JSG about the NAQCC Sprint and decided to jump in that fray for a few more minutes. Stations worked: KJ4R NF5U N5GW WB4OMM WB9HFK

Thirty minutes later, I closed the station and settled in to watch the Jets beat Anaheim for a fourth straight victory. Nice evening all around!


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Michael Wells, G7VJR curates the ClubLog online logging service and publishes a weekly set of statistics culled from the data of uploaded log files. That information includes details on solar activity, active expeditions, most active bands, and most active modes, among other interesting tidbits.

This chart illustrates which modes are being used most heavily during the period of this report - and illustrates the growing popularity of FT8.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

North American SSB Sprint - 0000 until 0400 UTC, March 24, 2019 (Saturday evening March 23 local time) is a short, intense competition that challenges the best operators, while allowing others to sharpen their skills. Lasting only four hours and using only the 80, 40 and 20-meter bands, these contests demand that participants be on their toes at all times.

OPDX MAILING LIST (Reminder). The “new” OPDX Mailing List is back up and running! Details on how to subscribe/unsubscribe are at the bottom of this bulletin. PLEASE pass the word around. Thanks and 73 de Tedd KB8NW

Given the proliferation of computers and networking in the ham shack, these Ethernet RF filters from DX Engineering might be a solution for those suffering from RF getting into the computer.

The seats for the SWODXA DXDinner during Hamvention are going fast. Check for details and ticket information. See you there!


Monday, March 18, 2019

The QRP community has suffered the loss of several of its notable enthusiasts over the last few weeks. Ken Louks, WA8REI, Hank Greeb, N8XX, George Dobbs, G3RJV in quick succession and then just this last week came news of the passing of Cam Hartford, N6GA. These had been firm anchors in the low-power world for decades and to see them pass within weeks of each other makes it even more depressing.

I’d like to imagine that having been wounded this way our fraternity would gain some reprieve from additional loss, at least for awhile. But given the advancing ages of those of us who enjoy this hobby, additional losses will occur and probably on a more frequent basis.

I last attended FDIM just a couple of years ago and was a little shocked to see many of those I admired greatly looking much older and more fragile than I last remembered them.

I got involved in the QRP movement in 1996 and that seems to have been the nexus of a golden age for low-power enthusiasts. The clubs, kits, and field adventures built to a climax that exploded with the Elecraft K2 transceiver kit in 1999 - and that was only the beginning of this present wave.

QRP seminars, bi-coastal conferences, and the rapid growth of the Internet carried the gospel of five watts to the four corners of the globe while transceiver kits poured forth like rain.

But that was nearly a quarter century ago and we’ve lost many friends along the way since. Those losses remind us that life is brief and ham radio is only a hobby – albeit a very good one. Friends and laughter is the best part; saying goodbye is the tougher side of the same coin.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

I’ve long been convinced that we would eventually see a new kind of homebrew transceiver, a system comprised of low-cost, plug-in modules integrated into a single enclosure.

I first thought this after picking up a FunCube dongle a few years ago. Built like a USB stick along with some software and an antenna that permitted me to receive data from a small amateur radio satellite in low-earth orbit. That was followed by a succession of other dongles for other frequencies, some that cost as little as twenty five bucks.

Now I see an article in the March QST written by WA3TFS, Super Simple 6-Meter SDR Transceiver (pp 39-43) that describes just such a project with dongles, modular low-pass filter and an RF amplifier on a single chassis.

As this methodology and the software continues to improve, it should be possible to custom build a transceiver for any band or mode by simply selecting this specific dongle and that particular power module that when put together will become a mashup of homebrew and software integration.

That could usher in a new age of ham radio development and innovation that won’t be particularly kind to traditional radio manufacturers and retailers. On the other hand, radio enthusiasts will no longer have to beg for specific features that often go unfulfilled in the current business model.


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Membership in the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) now exceeds 20,000. It’s somewhat unique as a club in that it’s remained popular and very active, no doubt it’s many activities account for that continued popularity.

It’s once a month Weekend Sprintathon (WES) regularly churns the watering holes where its many members tend to congregate.

According to the fellow who manages the event, the March event broke the record for the most log submissions for any WES since the first one. When the dust has settled, more than 300 logs will have been received.

I’ve no doubt that Morse will eventually go away because people will forget how to use it. But I’m encouraged that doesn’t seem likely to happen during my lifetime. As improbable as it seems, small pockets of CW enthusiasts have found ways to rekindle the flames of passion and given the old mode a few more decades of much needed momentum.

Join us, life membership is free. You’ll meet plenty of like-minded telegraphers on the air, on the mailing list, or hanging out on the club sked page waiting to get acquainted with you and put you in the log.


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Time for another peek under the hood from G7VJR on the data he collects, sorts, and studies from the collection of Club Log users. Lots of interesting data to sift through - and this interesting summary about the continuing advance of FT8:

“I’ve studied the data in a lot of tools, because I’ve been asked if FT8 is cannibalising other modes or just increasing overall activity. I do believe that FT8 has taken activity from other modes in absolute terms. This is what I see in the data and what I hear on the bands”

  • around 270 DXCCs have been active on FT8 in 2018
  • In terms of FT8, 6.4% of Club Log expedition QSOs were FT8 last year
  • more modest stations (using FT8) are making contacts with rare DXCCs
  • In 2018, 14,200 Club Log users had uploaded at least one QSO with FT8


Monday, March 11, 2019

I woke this morning to the news that the Reverend George Dobbs, G3RJV had passed away. Dobbs, who founded the G-QRP club, passed away from pneumonia that didn’t respond to antibiotics according to this report.

I spent time with G3RJV several times, all during the Four Days in May event in Dayton. While I don’t recall the last year he was there, it has been several years since he last attended. A frequent speaker at the event, the late night sessions at the hotel discussing radio minimalism until the wee hours were not to be missed.

I had heard late last summer that he had developed dementia and was living in an assisted care facility. Tragic news from such a sharp mind. His work will live on through his many written words as well as the low-power amateur radio club in Great Britain that he founded in 1974.

RIP George. You taught us much about life with less.


Monday, March 4, 2019

I canceled my pre-order for the IC-9700. The additional manufacturer delay made me concerned about the readiness of the hardware. And the transceiver is already being offered for two-hundred dollars less at another dealer. I don’t believe there will be a race to the bottom on pricing for this one, but I’ll wait a few more months to re-evaluate this purchase decision.

My wife and I traveled to Ohio this weekend for a Sunday night hockey game between our Winnipeg Jets and the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jets won 5-2 so it was a nice getaway weekend and WE WON!

So there was no time for radio this weekend, but I will be back home this evening in plenty of time for the Adventure Radio Society’s Spartan Sprint.


Friday, March 1, 2019

I received a note from DX Engineering this morning informing me that the ICOM IC-9700 that I pre-ordered from them last year is now expected to ship around the end of May. It’s been a long time coming and this additional delay gives me some wonder about the readiness of the hardware.

I’m considering canceling my order and putting an even longer pause on this purchase.

The crowd seems convinced the 9700 will hit the market and the price will drop significantly over the first year, much like the 7300. I’m less certain about that given that it’s specialty equipment, but I have already noticed a few hundred dollars difference in prices being listed by different retailers.

Perhaps patience really is a virtue.


Monday, February 25, 2019

We buried my father-in-law today. Bill was 86 and full of life, until he wasn’t. If we could talk to him right now he would probably say that the last year wasn’t worth living. Lots of hospital visits and suffering but that’s the deal. You get so many days and for a season life gives bountifully.

But at some point, it begins to take it all back.

Still, there are no regrets and nothing left unspoken between us. Bill was a good guy and it was my pleasure to know him. I’ve been married to his only daughter for more than forty years with never a cross word between him and me.

I’m certain he will rest in peace.


Friday, February 22, 2019

The RTTY edition of the North American QSO Party takes place this weekend. I said after the WPX RTTY a few weeks ago that next time around I’d use software instead of just pre-programmed messages. That was the plan but then I got this silly notion to use my KX3 on RTTY via the CW paddles. I’ve no idea how this will turn out but it will be a unique experience for me!

The new acrylic stands for my KX3 and PX3 arrived from DXEngineering yesterday. These will replace the vertical wooden stand I had been using. I’ll still build a shelf to support the amplifier and power supply above the radio and panadaptor. I’m going to visit a local supplier of old wood to see if I can find something interesting for this little woodworking project.

The weekend weather promises to be warmer with even more rain. It never stops raining here any more so that hardly matters. But the warmer temps mean I can get out in the garage and should be able to get the shelf built and perhaps finished yet this weekend.


Thursday, February 21, 2019

I had decided to sell-off the KX3 when I had a change of heart. Been doing that a lot lately. It’s the problem with not having specific goals, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. The reason I bought it to begin with was the desire for a battery-powered station. I had a goal in mind, but it somehow managed to fall off my radar.

Since I’m keeping it I need to do some accessorizing. I’d like to have a small panel that permits me to make use of various keys without wearing out the key socket on the transceiver. I’d also like to come up with ways to make the cable routing cleaner. Having all those connections on the sides of the radio means a lot of right-angle plugs and a rat’s nest of cables so better cable management is in order.

I’ll order the matching amplifier with the auto-tuner from Elecraft. I’m a low-power enthusiast but I’m not a zealot about five watts. I generally run the KX3 at ten watts unless I’m working an actual QRP event. I have no qualms about using higher power when necessary and want it available. But the goal is to run the station from batteries and the power budget won’t be enough for full-time 100-watt operation.

Which brings me to the batteries. I’m looking for a solution that will probably include hardware from Bioenno and West Mountain Radio that will combine batteries, charger, and some safe power distribution system. I’ll sweat those details next month.


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A few years ago, when the DMR movement leapt out of the starting gate, I got involved. Bought a handheld and a hotspot and was off to the races. Everyone was doing it and I ran with the crowd. After six months or so, I lost interest and moved on to the next thing - or back to the old thing, it’s hard to recall.

Having settled the matter that this mode wasn’t for me, I decided this week to delete my registration and remove my DMR ID. But as it turns out, deleting a registration isn’t nearly as easy as creating one. Apparently, the system wasn’t designed to get out, only to get in.

The old ‘Hotel California’ conundrum.

Unable to find a way to remove the ID myself, I sent a note to a friend who owns numerous DMR repeaters and asked him how to do it. He told me he didn’t think it could be done but that a note to the support team at RadioID.net might turn up a solution.

And it did after several email exchanges trying to prove that I was the proper holder of my own call sign. I understand their caution but find it interesting that the system provided no method for getting out of the database without considerable human intervention.


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Bitcoin Sent Offline from Toronto to Michigan Through Shortwave Radio

The protocol used is identified as JS8Call which enables users to connect a shortwave radio to a computer.

Hmmm… Why don’t I think everyone is going to be pleased with this development?


Monday, February 18, 2019

Last week was a tough one at work with several really long days and an out of town stay. That left me looking forward to a relaxing weekend at home with nothing specific on the agenda despite the ARRL DX CW Contest.

It’s tough to completely ignore a big one like this, so Saturday afternoon I waded into the shallow end of the event. I spent an hour operating QRP on 40 meters and put a small number of stations in the log. While the band wasn’t in great shape, it’s amazing how much better things work when lots of people are available to call.

Though it was a chilly 22F here, the magic of radio transported me to warm Caribbean waters. The Caymans, Costa Rica, Curacao, Bonaire, and the Virgin Islands. And just before wrapping up, I worked another bit of paradise, Hawaii.

We slept in on Sunday morning and enjoyed a lazy start to the day but before noon I was back in the shack for another hour. This time, it was QRP on 20 meters and another dose of Caribbean weather. French Guiana, the Bahamas, Montserrat, and Barbados. After that it was the Azores, Spain, Croatia, the Canary Islands, Madeira Island, and then even more Hawaii.

Nothing remarkable was worked but there’s almost always a surprise. Turns out, I didn’t have Barbados on 40 CW so that could be a plus, if he confirms.

Most of all, it was just plain fun, and a nice treat to call a DX station and have them call me back at the bottom of this wretched solar cycle. Radiosport enthusiasts are highly talented operators whose skill and patience never cease to amaze me.

DX Worked: ZF1A TI7W PJ2T PJ4A KP2M KH7B NP2P 8P5A KH6LC ZF9CW CR3DX EA8RM NP4Z VP2MSS 9A3XV 9A1A CU4DX C6AGU EA5RS FY5KE


Thursday, February 14, 2019

For a very limited time, the Four State QRP Group has lowered its price for the HillTopper 40 and the HillTopper 20.

These single band, ultra-portable, CW transceiver kits were designed by Dave Benson and David Cripe and are easy to build and feature rich. And for the next few days only, can be purchased for just $80 US plus shipping.

It’s a great opportunity to save a few bucks on a trail-friendly radio that you can build yourself and put to good use during the coming outdoor season. It’s a limited time offering so don’t delay.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Limited amateur radio operation has commenced on Es’hail 2, a Qatari satellite launched late last year.

Its primary mission is to provide direct-to-home television services in the Middle East and North Africa region. But the spacecraft also carries two “Phase 4” amateur radio transponders operating in the 2400 MHz and 10450 MHz bands. A 250 kHz bandwidth linear transponder intended for conventional analogue operations and an 8 MHz bandwidth transponder for experimental digital modulation schemes and DVB amateur television.

Hams have longed dreamed about having a transponder in a stationary orbit and now they have one, though it’s parked over a hemisphere that doesn’t include North America. Disappointing as that may be for those of us “over here” the platform provides plenty of opportunity for study and learning in the hope that we may one day gain access to a similar resource covering our hemisphere.

One way to indirectly participate is to access the online Web SDR receiver that’s streaming live audio collected at the Goonhilly Earth Station. You can listen to live traffic from the amateur transponder when it’s active. Given its footprint, much of that traffic won’t be in English (though I’ve monitored several English speaking QSO’s) but you can certainly get a feel for what it would be like to have access to this kind of a communication platform on orbit.


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

I received word from DX Engineering that the ICOM IC-9700 all-mode VHF/UHF/1.2 transceiver that I had pre-ordered nearly a year ago has received FCC approval and will begin shipping in May.

There has been much speculation about the price since that hadn’t been announced. I expected the price to be about two-hundred dollars more than the $2099 launch price so I was happy enough. Even so, that’s still a lot of money and will require even more for an AZ-EL rotor, satellite antennas, preamps, cables, etc.

It’s a significant investment just to make LEO satellite contacts from inside the house especially considering I can do that right now from the backyard while waving a handheld antenna around with equipment I already have.

But I’m excited by the prospect of future amateur satellites intended for higher orbits. I’m thinking specifically of the GOLF program but there will be others. Perhaps even a HEO project and handheld equipment just won’t cut it in those cases.

Besides, there are other things to do at VHF and above. Weak signal work abounds. And it’s an important building block in the quest for my ultimate radio goal; EME.

I haven’t had all-mode VHF/UHF access in the shack since 1996 and I see this as an opportunity to explore other facets of the hobby during the next, and possibly final, phase of my lifelong ham radio adventure.


Monday, February 11, 2019

I jumped into the WPX RTTY contest on Saturday as planned. Putting fifty contacts in the log was easy enough, the tougher part was manipulating it all via the transceiver front-panel. I didn’t use software for this effort, just pre-loaded messages and the touch interface. There was enough activity that S&P was effective on 80, 40, and 20.

It was a lot of fun but next time, I’m using software!

I worked a few stations on multiple bands. Propagation seemed decent (as seems usual for all big contests) and I worked a wide swath of North America but only three DX.

I claimed 1600 points for the effort.

Worked: AA5AU NR4M KZ7X P49X AB0LR NX6T WW3S NX6X V37DX K4MM NG6O WU6TT N7WY NT5V AA4LS N3QE N4QS AA3B KD8OSD KI9A N9SE K4GMH W4PJW NC1CC NY6DX SN7Q KZ0US AB0RX AK9D WE6Z NA5NN K8IA NC0DX VE7KW K9CT K6JO NR4O K8AC K0WA WR0H W4GKM K9CT KC4WQ AC0C W4MLB KU1CW VA7ST W2DAN AA4DD KF2O


Friday, February 8, 2019

I don’t believe RTTY is used as a form of regular communication any more, it being relegated to contests and some DXpeditions.

One of my high school teachers was a RTTY enthusiast. He used to type long messages on a paper tape punch machine over his lunch hour. He would then share these messages with a friend not 25 miles away using his Model 28 TTY machine on two meters. I thought that unusual in 1976 and can’t imagine anyone still having general QSO’s via teletype in the 21st century.

This weekend is the 2019 CQ World-Wide WPX RTTY Contest and I’m thinking about jumping into the fray. I’m not a contester by any means but I do fancy the idea of dropping 50 RTTY contacts in the log and this seems a good way to accomplish that while perpetuating an antique mode of communication.

I’ll use the IC-7300 with pre-loaded messages and make it strictly a button-pushing operation. I had some success doing it this way during the Centennial QSO Party a few years back which netted me the only RTTY contacts I’ve ever made in the modern era.

Barefoot and using the dipole at thirty-feet I’ll be lucky to make 50 contacts, but it seems a reasonable goal. Maybe I’ll see you on RTTY this weekend?


Thursday, February 7, 2019

The rain simply won’t stop. If I were a journalist I’d go look at the statistics and offer them up here as evidence to support my thesis. But I’m not and won’t. All I can tell you is that it has rained (or snowed) here every other day since the first of October.

It was the wettest autumn in the last sixty years.

We have a fire pit in the backyard and usually enjoy many fall evenings around a fire, but we had no opportunity for that last season as everything was too wet to burn.

There’s a foot of water pooled inside the fire pit now.

The air has been damp for so long that mold has started growing on the sides of my tool shed and all along our privacy fence. Water is standing in low places in the yard because there’s nowhere for it to go - the ground is too saturated to accept any more.

And it won’t stop raining…


Wednesday, February 6, 2019

In my seemingly endless quest for SKCC Senator level, I made another half dozen straight key contacts yesterday. After updating my log, I noticed that my prefix score had risen to something over two million.

That’s not nearly as eye popping as it sounds because of the way it’s scored. It’s the sum of the SKCC numbers of unique call sign prefixes. And with nearly 20,000 members, there are millions of points available for this award that’s issued in increments of 500,000.

Last time I submitted for this award (2013) I had just over half a million points and was issued the Px1 level. My latest submission claims credit for over two million so I expect to get bumped to the Px4 level.

For a little perspective, consider that Bert, F6HKA recently obtained the Px25 level for more than 12.5 million points in this same category.

Yeah, it’s an obscure and a somewhat trivial achievement, but it’s easy enough to track since the electronic log handles the accounting. Plus, I see it as a measure of my on-air activity. And while we will never all agree on a proper description for “active” it’s one way of marking my territory in the collective of active wireless operators.


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Adventure Radio Society Spartan Sprint for February took place last night. It’s a two-hour monthly event that happens on the first Monday every month. This one has been going on for a long time and while participation isn’t as great now as it once was, there are a core group of QRPers who have kept it together these many years.

I usually forget about it until it’s too late but last night I participated from the shack using the KX3, five watts, and dipole at thirty-feet.

I managed three contacts, all on 40 meters.

  • W5QLF TX 5W
  • WB5BKL LA 5W
  • N0TA CO 5W

Log and soapbox submitted. I’ve put this one on my calendar because I’d prefer to not forget it again. It’s exactly the kind of radio activity I enjoy, a short sprint. I’d like to get back to operating this one from the field during warmer weather. CQ SP next month?


Thursday, January 31, 2019

It’s the end of January and the annual SKCC K3Y event has drawn to a close. I ended up with 24 of 140 band slots worked and confirmed. That might sound a little skinny, but it resulted in a US Sweep (K3Y/1, K3Y/2, K3Y/3, K3Y/4, K3Y/5, K3Y/6, K3Y/7, K3Y/8, K3Y/9, K3Y/0).

I also managed to work K3Y/EU, K3Y/NA, K3Y/OC, and K3Y/KH6. I figure that’s not too shabby for the bottom of the solar cycle with a hundred watts and a wire with a straight key.

The extra activity resulted in a respectable January Brag count of 39 and I did work the bonus station. I’ll have to submit those brag results tomorrow.

With 19, 858 current members, the Straight Key Century Club is far and away the largest group of CW enthusiasts on the planet and I might add, the friendliest. If you’re looking for fun and to improve your CW experience then you need to get in on some of this.

Join us today!


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

It’s the end of January so about now I’m guessing many a New Years resolution to “finally learn to use Morse code” has come and gone. I know, learning a new language isn’t easy and I’m not here to taunt you about it.

I can’t even help you as I’m not really the instructor type.

Truth be told, I don’t remember exactly how I learned the code but it was most likely via a 33rpm LP record because I had one around here for the longest time and I seem to recall ordering it from the ARRL in another century.

I can tell you that the moment my Novice license arrived (WD9GCT) I was on the air the same afternoon and made the first of many contacts that day.

Looking back, I couldn’t possibly have known all the procedural stuff, I just knew how to send and receive at 5-10 words per minute and I knew what “CQ” was supposed to sound like.

It’s beyond certain that I made mistakes. Plenty of them. I can almost imagine some of the old-timers I worked rolling on the floor in laughter at my slow sending, request for repeats, and botched operating procedures.

What I don’t recall was anyone ever taking me to task for any of it.

Everyone I worked was friendly and encouraging. Surely someone dressed me down during that period, but if they did, I’ve blocked it out. At least not on the air. One fellow sent me a QSL card with a warm welcome to the hobby and he included a copy of the seminal article, “Your Novice Accent - and what to do about it”. It didn’t feel like a rebuke but a helping hand and I’ve kept that article (and QSL card) to this very day.

I share this to encourage you to get on the air and give CW a try as soon as you’re able. You will make mistakes (big deal!) but no one will bite your head off. The number of us who enjoy the code is dwindling and we’re just happy when someone new comes along and gives it a try!

What brought all this to mind was a recent episode of the DitDit podcast.

Episode #22 - Jitters, Anxiety, and Your First QSO is a fantastic collection of comments from hams around the world and how they dealt with the panic attack that all of us experienced when we discovered (to our horror) that someone is returning our call sign after we called CQ.

I enjoyed every single one of the responses and highly recommend that anyone with a desire to use Morse code drop everything and go listen.

Trust me when I say that every radio telegrapher on the planet has shared the panic of those first few contacts, and this shared experience is so powerful that it fuses us into an incredibly rare and new element.

We are a fraternity of Morse code survivors!


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The ARRL seems to be rethinking its strategy with regards to the Amateur Radio Parity Act.

The odds that amateur radio could win such a concession through legislative action has always been slim and this may be a concession to reality. They will take some heat from those who always complain about whatever they do (or don’t do) but this too shall pass.

It doesn’t really matter to me. I can’t possibly be alone in the conviction that if you’re a licensed radio amateur, and you want to erect towers with clouds of aluminum over your head, you ought to find a house or property where that is permissible. Even if that puts you twenty minutes further from the golf course, supermarket, or the hospital.

But the need to even debate this point may be fading as amateur radio continues to evolve. Where the old guard used to build shacks loaded with walls of big iron and covered their property with comically huge aerials, a growing number of 21st century hams are making do with attic, stealthy or other low-profile antennas - because they must.

And now there are many who prefer to operate from the field, carrying trail-friendly equipment and innovative new antennas designed to go up and down quickly. Batteries, solar panels with low-powered equipment in the field is trending (as the kids say) right now in the world of amateur radio.

I’ve no such restrictions where I currently live but we’re planning one more move after retirement. I once was certain that would be to some place with a little acreage and wide-open spaces for antennas. But I could probably be just as happy in a cozy, antenna restricted neighborhood given the many options for ham radio in such an environment, including taking my gear to the field.

Effective, stealthy antennas are a reasonable compromise. I have a friend who lives in a condo where any installed antenna is forbidden. He uses a three-band vertical that he keeps in his garage. He sets it up outside when the sun goes down and puts it back in the garage before the sun rises. He calls it his “Vampire Vertical” and has 154 countries confirmed using it with five watts. Go figure.

The even larger issue that faces us all no matter where we live, is noise. It has become a much bigger problem than effectively radiating RF and many afflicted radio enthusiasts have taken to the field to get away from the noise that washes over all of us without regard to home owners associations.

But no matter how you view this issue, we should all be encouraged that as these problems materialize, our hobby evolves into whatever it needs to be in order to continue delivering the adventures of personal, two-way radio communication without regard for the formidable obstacles that living among other humans puts in our path.


Monday, January 28, 2019

Registration is now open for the 2019 VHF Super Conference to be held April 26-28, 2019 at the Holiday Inn Washington-Dulles International Airport in Sterling, VA. The conference is sponsored by Southeastern VHF Society, North East Weak Signal Group and the Mt. Airy VHF Radio Club, and is hosted by the Grid Pirates Contest Group and Directive Systems and Engineering.


Friday, January 25, 2019

I have to work tomorrow (Saturday) so decided to stay home and enjoy a day off today. It was brutally cold, only 3F when I woke up and the mercury never made it above 20F as the day wore on, but the sun shone brightly and the sky was bright blue.

My wife and I ran some errands that consumed the morning, but this afternoon I found myself with a couple of hours in the shack and made pretty good use of it. It was an all SKCC day as I filled a few more slots and managed to finally achieve Tx7.

I worked KH6ZM in Hawaii on 15. He was running K3Y/KH6 which was one I didn’t think I would manage this time around but Max was pounding in here during a short window.

That was the highest frequency contact I’ve made lately and it’s always good to work a little DX on the 15 meter band.

An hour later I worked ZL2BLQ on 20 meters. Stan was running K3Y/OC which was yet another one I didn’t think possible during this years event.

Check another DX slot off my K3Y log.

The lesson learned is that the high bands still have a little life, even in the depths of the solar minimum. But those openings are almost never in the evenings when most of us are home from work and have a few stolen moment to disturb the aether. Carving out a few daytime operating hours is tantamount to success on HF at this point in the cycle.

Among a dozen other random SKCC contacts I managed to gather enough unique T’s and S’s to qualify for the Tx7 award. Fifty more uniques and then it should get a little easier on the road to Senator level.

Finally, one of those “random” contacts was with Bill, WB4DBO who just happens to be the Brag Bonus station this month. I’ll never top the Brag list but at least this month I’ll make a respectable showing - plus the bonus!