Calling CQ

Issue 101 | August 14, 2017

  1. FT8 is suddenly more popular than phone

    None of us were around when spark gave way to continuous wave, but all of us are witness to this. Radio Arcala made plans to land on Market Reef this weekend and operate there on the 12th–19th with emphasis on the new mode:

    “Tuning the poor 20m band month after month represents a major frustration nowadays. Particularly on SSB, only the occasional DX signal breaks the sea of noise, consequently reducing activity levels even further. However, that very noise could be a new lease of life, if one were to copy signals below it. They are there every day. Indeed, with their huge antennas and state-of-the art receivers, DXers can dig even deeper into the noise and log plenty of good DX faster than one can think. Martti, OH2BH/OJ0BH, and Henri, OH3JR/OJ0JR, will attempt to land on Market Reef this Saturday PM, weather permitting, and will immediately break the noise floor by getting FT8 QSOs underway”.

    FT8 will make an appearance in future DXpeditions, at least until something better comes along. And while everyone seems to be antsy about the lack of direct LoTW support for it, software vendors are already adapting.

    Log4OM just released version 1.30.0 “due to the high amount of requests to manage DATA mode in LOTW download, following recent FT8 digital mode release”.

    For the moment, it’s a runaway freight train…

  2. Return of Experimenter’s Wednesday to AO–85

    With the recent popularity of Slow Scan Television (SSTV) from the ISS, AMSAT Operations is bringing back Experimenter’s Wednesday to AO–85. On a trial basis, users are invited to exchange pictures using Robot 36 SSTV mode via the FM repeater on AO–85 during UTC Wednesdays. Please identify prior to beginning transmissions, and only send when the uplink is clear. Stations are requested to only uplink if they have a reasonable expectation of maintaining a full-quieting signal for the duration of the image transmission. Smaller stations are encouraged to focus on receiving the images. Please don’t send questionable or provocative images. If in doubt, pick another one. Expect all ages to participate. Feedback is encouraged.

  3. August is Meteor Month

    For Northern Hemisphere observers, August is usually regarded as “meteor month,” with one of the best displays of the year reaching its peak near midmonth. That display is, of course, the annual Perseid meteor shower, which is beloved by meteor enthusiasts and summer campers alike.

    By the time you read this, peak viewing will have passed but the Perseid event lasts for about amonth and there remain plenty of opportunities for meteor scatter work. In fact, reports have already been rolling in from hams in North America who have just made their very first scatter contacts. There are plenty of resources to help you get started:

  4. Elecraft KX2 Added to Receiver Rankings

    The Elecraft KX2 transceiver has been added to Sherwood Engineering’s receiver rankings. The popular transceiver has impressive specifications as ranked by Rob Sherwood, NC0B.

  5. New N1MM Logger+ Feature

    The Spectrum Display Feature works with some recent radios to show signals currently occurring in the radio’s passband and in a Waterfall Bandmap format. Signals can be identified by call sign data gleaned from packet spots, or entered locally.


Ten More Clicks


Postscript

This month marks my 40th year as a licensed amateur radio operator and it’s been a great ride for me. Still, there are times in my radio adventure when I find it helpful to pause a bit and carefully consider the things that attracted me to this hobby.

And no matter how often I do that, it always comes down to people. I’ve made more friends than I could number via ham radio. Sometimes we work frantically to make contact with a DX station or earn points in a contest. To an outsider, this can look like amateur radio is nothing more than a dab of ephemera sandwiched between 15 second radio contacts.

Before I knew what ham radio was, I read the book CALLING CQ that was written by Clinton B. DeSoto and published in 1941. It was my initial exposure to the hobby and the reason I pursued joining this fraternity. After reading the opening pages of the first chapter of that book I was hooked.

Let me share the first few paragraphs of that old book with you and you’ll see what I mean.

What’s Amateur Radio Like?

“Being an amateur gives me the chance to meet people I would otherwise never meet,” says one. “That’s part of it. There’s more to it than that though. If I build a new amplifier or something and make it work I feel that I’m creating something. When I hook up a rig I’ve just finished and I push the key and a fellow in the next state answers me–all this with things I have made with my own hands–why, then I feel like I have accomplished something sort of worthwhile.”

The neophyte does not metamorphose easily into the full-fledged amateur. But when he does leave his chrysalis a new world is opened up to him. First he gets a new name–his radio call letters. Thenceforth he has a new identity–even a new personality and new social status.

He finds amateur radio “the means of communications with others on equal terms, of finding friendship, adventure and prestige while seated at one’s own fireside,” according to Dr Raymond V. Bowers. "In picking his human contacts out of the air, the amateur is not seen by them…. He is not known by the company he keeps nor by the clothes he wears, but by the signal he emits.

He enters a new world whose qualifications for success are within his reach. A good homemade set gives him more prestige than a commercially manufactured one. There are no century-old class prejudices to impede his progress. He enters a thoroughly democratic world where he rises or falls by his own efforts. When he is W9XYZ the beginner the radio elders help him willingly and when he becomes W9XYZ the record breaker and efficient traffic handler he willingly helps the younger generation. Without a pedigree, a chauffeur or an old master decorating his living room he can become a prince–of the air. At the close of the day, filled with the monotonous routine of the machine age, he can find adventure, vicarious travel, prestige and friendship by throwing in the switch and pounding his signals into the air."

His equipment may be of the most elementary kind, and his complete station may cost less than fifty dollars. Yet with such an outfit–with perhaps ten or twenty watts’ power–he can accomplish as much as his operating skills will permit. One amateur in New South Wales, Australia, for example, talked with each of the six continents with a ten-watt transmitter. Another amateur, in Columbus, Ohio, communicated by code with South Africa, Australia and New Zealand–halfway around the world–using only one-half watt of power.

On the other hand, he may have high-powered, completely automatic transmitters rivaling or excelling those of a large broadcasting station and costing many thousands of dollars. A Mexico City amateur is reputed to have spent fifty thousand dollars on his station; another, in San Francisco, is said to have invested over one hundred thousand dollars.

But the enjoyment of amateur radio is not measured in dollars or even in elaborate equipment. It is rather measured by such gauges as service, self-expression, a sense of personal accomplishment.

Friendship is such a gauge too. Even the shyest, most introspective soul will respond to a proffer like this: “Well, old man, let’s know each other better. I’m thirty-nine years old. I own a garage in this sleepy Arizona town of five hundred people. I also do electric welding. I have three children. What do you do?–and how old are you?”

The Chicago dentist whose CQ he had answered responded in kind, and between the Chicagoan and the Arizona garage owner there sprang up a strong friendship. Such contacts occur constantly in amateur radio; the community of the air is a friendly one. And, lest those contacts become ordinary and commonplace, coupled with them is the element of unpredictability. The next amateur “worked” may be a grocery clerk or a retired banker or a housewife or a rancher or a film star or physician.

Fraternalism … good fellowship … ingenuity … public service … the power to annihilate distance and bring oneself closer to mankind throughout the world … the ability to build and create and put the products of one’s hands to work to overcome the miles and hours … thrills and sport and adventure….

That’s what amateur radio is like.

Make it a GREAT week!

73, Jeff