Footprint

I removed the IC-7610 from the operating desk recently to prepare it for shipment to Michigan for a display replacement. In it’s place I have setup the IC-705 with the AH-705 auto-tuner on a more permanent basis so I can continue to play radio. By comparison, the enormity of the “hole” left by the 7610, its two matching speakers, and the ICOM power supply was striking. The entire experience has me questioning the common sense of maintaining such equipment. And it’s not just the desk space required, the double-boxed radio that I will drop off at the UPS office is massive, and the shipping bill alone, impressive. This only serves to reinforce the notion (at least to me) that smaller footprint equipment is just smart ham radio strategy.

This month-long switcheroo of equipment on my desk brings with it additional challenges. The IC-705 was designed to be used laying on a rock outside. Same goes for the Elecraft KX3. The cables all connected on the sides which is a logistical nightmare when trying to use this stuff on the desktop where you would want the transceivers sitting up for easy access to the controls. Right now I have a veritable rats nest of cables running in and out of the 705 and I haven’t even connected the microphone. All things to consider carefully when selecting equipment and building a shack. I’m going to have to quickly come up with some sort of cable management system for the 705 on a desk just to feel better about it. The same would be true of the KX3 if I choose to use it over the coming month.

Yesterday, with the replacement radio cooking along at 10 blistering watts of HF CW, I managed to easily work ten stations, most of them POTA activators in the field. To be honest, I’ve never seen much difference between ten and a hundred watts so long as I’m using a decent antenna. Hardcore QRP enthusiasts will expend many brain cycles trying to convince you that there’s only a negligible difference between received signals at 100 and 5 watts, yet most also will tell you using 10 watts instead of 5 watts is a way too much power kind of sacrilege. Go figure.

Fortunately, I’m not a purist and 10 watts falls into a category I consider to be “low-power” and I’m good enough with that. I’ve often said my long affiliation with the QRP world has nothing to do with power levels. I’d run a kilowatt if it was safe to do so in a package that I can carry in my hand and it would run off a small battery. Since that’s not possible, I fall in with the QRP crowd for the portable equipment, the kits and home brew projects, and for the whiff of self-sufficiency I get when fraternizing with the best of these. Five watts, ten watts, psh. Who cares?

Now, where is my new Elecraft KH1? Ordered it at 2pm on October 20th, six weeks ago. So far, nothing but crickets out of California…

Weekend Update

It was a busy weekend. The kids were all still in town for Thanksgiving holiday through Saturday and we had an enjoyable time visiting with them and the grandchildren. On Saturday morning it was a visit to the local Christmas tree farm with all of them to get a tree before they began heading back to their own homes. Saturday afternoon Fedex delivered the Elecraft K1 transceiver that I had purchased from a guy in Chicago a week earlier. But when it arrived I was busy in the shack with the CQWW DX CW contest so I didn’t check it out until Sunday evening.

I didn’t approach the CQWW as a contest. My score was unimportant. It was an exercise in cherry-picking needed entities and in that regard I didn’t do so well. I made around 50 contacts, all DX no domestic. I didn’t gather a single ATNO though I did fill several needed slots assuming they are confirmed. It was almost all ten meters for me and while my results were skinny, that should goose my numbers on 28MHz nicely. I didn’t think band conditions were stellar, but there was a lot of activity. I admit to growing bored as I often do in these events. I’m not equipped to be a serious radio contester either with the necessary hardware or the gumption to stick it out. When you’re searching and pouncing for select entities it gets boring pretty fast. I probably spent five hours total in the effort, time spent mostly spinning the dial looking for something I never found.

The K1 that arrived is a four-band (40,30,20,15) CW transceiver (SN 2750) with the internal auto-tuner, filters, and noise blanker. (I’m looking for a KTS1 tilt stand). After the contest ended I powered it up and all looked well. I called CQ at five watts and a couple of RBN stations took note. A good sign! Then I went hunting for a “first” contact which wasn’t tough as the SST was already in progress. Three quick exchanges on 40 meters and I figure the new (to me) K1 has been broken in. Having built and sold a K1 some twenty years ago, it’s nice to have one back in the shack next to the K2 (SN 524) I built in 1999.

The K1 will likely play some larger role during the month of December when I’ll send my IC-7610 back to the factory for a display replacement. That will promote the IC-705 to the primary position until the big rig returns. I’ve been telling friends that December marks my return to full-time QRP work with good reason. I plan to exercise all of my QRP stock during the month. Some, like the KX3 and the TX-500, haven’t been powered up in months and I have some fears about the health of internal batteries.

The absence of the big transceiver will mostly close out my hunt for DX during 2023. To be certain, I’ve worked an impressive amount of DX at five watts over the years, and magic happens more often than you might think. But having achieved most of my HF DX goals, the focus is beginning to shift to other bucket list adventures in the coming New Year.

Signs, Symbols, & Other Wonders

55F with rain in the Heartland this morning. Knowing what was coming we worked outside all day yesterday. Raking leaves and power washing the pergola over the patio. Taking advantage of the warm temps and sunny skies while we could. I’m guessing yesterday might be the last really nice day of the year, though I never bet against warm weather. Most of our weather surprises these days tend to be spells of unusually warm weather when it’s supposed to be otherwise. The point being that we got a lot done yesterday and were exhausted by the end of the day. So much so that taking today “off” will be well deserved. Not that there aren’t always more chores requiring attention, but today’s leisure has been earned and we won’t feel at all bad about a little loafing on this Friday.

I spoke with a tech at ICOM’s service center in Michigan yesterday about the display problem with my IC-7610 and made plans to send it to them for repair, but not until after the CQ WW Contest (CW). Despite the fact that it’s a display issue and the serial number of my transceiver is in the group that ICOM agreed to replace all displays at no cost, mine might end up costing $500. The problem I’m experiencing (a single column of dead pixels) isn’t the same problem experienced by many owners (retention & washed out display) so they will have to inspect it first. If they determine it’s not covered under the free replacement policy then the new screen with labor and shipping will add up to about five-hundred bucks. I don’t have much choice, it needs to be fixed in case I ever want to sell or trade it.

Can I tell you a secret? Sometimes I think about selling the 7610, the 9700, and even the 705 and using those funds to buy a new K4D transceiver. I have a much loved K2 that I built (#524) in 1999, a factory assembled KX3, and a new KH1 ordered on October 20th that could show up on the doorstep any day now. The K4D would be a welcome addition to my shack and put me back on a path that I assumed I’d always traverse many years ago. There would still be that closet full of QRP transceivers of questionable lineage, but ignoring those, I would be an Elecraft guy again. It’s just a notion I kick around in my head during the still of the night and will likely never come to pass…

I’m a contrarian by nature so it should come as no surprise that I’m one of the few who has reservations about the FCC action to remove symbol rate restrictions on our HF bands. Everywhere I look all I see are joyful expressions of how this will fix so much of what has been holding the amateur radio service back from achieving its full potential. Good grief, just typing those words feels like a boatload of malarkey. I understand the issue, and can smell what its proponents are shoveling, but I have doubts. In fact, I predict that no stunning new technology will emerge from this action, but that a large increase in interference complaints from HF enthusiasts will be noted. And of course hams will blame ARRL for all this, even though they begged for it, because that’s how hams roll. Blaming Newington for everything that goes wrong – or right – is our standard operating procedure. Mark these words…

I’m off podcasts again. These once were a staple during my drive time, but they were slowly edged out by audio books. Being retired I no longer commute to and from work, but I still spend almost an hour a day walking with air pods stuck in my head. I’m always listening to choice selections from Audible. The latest few books in my library have been the Bernie Taupin biography, Scattershot, the post-World War II scientist expose, Operation Paperclip, and at the moment I’m halfway though the latest Grey Man novel, Burner. Queued up next is the just released UFO: The Inside Story of the US Government’s Search for Alien Life Hereā€”and Out There. Who’s got time to listen to podcasts?

The Worked All States Triple Play Award plaque arrived yesterday and is already on the wall. Working and confirming all 50 states, each using CW, Phone, and Digital was an accomplishment I wouldn’t have thought possible when I was a Novice. A more seasoned operator wouldn’t see it as a difficult achievement, but I found obtaining 150 confirmations via LoTW was no easy task. I was “stuck” at 149 for nearly two years needing a single Phone confirmation from anyone worked in Utah. I decided if and when that ever showed up I would order the plaque, not just the paper certificate, as I felt that was deserved.

On Injured List

The main display on my IC-7610 has developed a problem. A single column of dead pixels running from the top to the bottom about in the center of the display has appeared. It has no impact on the operation of the equipment, but it’s an annoying distraction and, given ICOM’s problems with this particular display, has me concerned it could worsen. Right now I’m trying to get in touch with someone to have them tell me where it needs to be shipped for repair. While the unit is long out of warranty, ICOM has been providing no-cost replacements for displays on 7610’s with certain serial numbers and mine falls in that group.

I guess we will see if the company lives up to that promise.

Because it still functions, I wouldn’t ship it back to the factory until after the upcoming CQ WWDX CW contest. That’s going to be my last best chance of the year to closeout my DX Marathon entry for 2023. Last year I managed to work 123 entities and went into 2023 with high hopes of working at least 150. I never came close as the summer episodes took me off the air for months and now here I sit, a week before Thanksgiving, with only 96 entities worked this year.

At this point I’d be happy with a hundred and look to 2024 for better results.

That cause was helped a little yesterday when I worked TX7L on 10 CW. I was beginning to think I might miss them too, but I got lucky. I understand they are just past the halfway point in their operation so there should be a few more opportunities to get them on other bands and modes though that won’t help me in the 2023 Marathon. I’m going to need a handful of “new” entities in the CQ WW DX contest just to get to a hundred, with maybe a few extra “just in case” entries and then the 7610 will be headed somewhere for repair.

With the main transceiver on the injured list for a month or two, I’ll have to move the IC-705 up in the rotation. I’m a grizzled enough QRPer that I look forward to that low-power challenge and the transceiver is a delight to use, especially with a decent antenna. I used to have an IC-7300 as a backup, but I got rid of it a year or so ago and haven’t looked back.

This temporary juggling of equipment has me thinking that I need to get busy selling off a lot of excess gear that has been idle in the garage for far too long. I hate selling equipment…