Category Archives: CW

Morse Code

Perfect CW / Morse Code Trainer

This program G4FON Koch CW Trainer has been a joy to play with and learn from.  I am wanting to increase my Morse Code speed skills and this is a perfect way to do that!  I am wanting to get back into CW but have gotten rusty from not practicing for years.  I seem to be stuck at copying  about 7 words per minute.  My goal is 20+ words per minute so I can help rack up more points at Field Day events!  The key, I have now found, is to HEAR letters at 25 words per minute… but at a longer spacing between them when received, and then begin shortening that spacing time over a period of practice sessions.

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I have it set to send the individual letters at 25 words per minute (wpm).  I am starting at the time between those letters at 10 wpm.  I started with two letters and would copy just those two for a few minutes in one minute drills.  Once I get to 90-100% copy, I add another letter!  I practice about 15 minutes each night, if I can.  I am halfway through the alphabet now and having a ball.  It is easy to download and configure… you’ll be instantly surprised at how much fun it is!

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You Need Your Own QSL CARD

WT8WV QSL

I know, I know… we have QRZ and eQSL and LOTW (Logbook of the World) and Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD) and Netlogger and N1MM and… blah, blah, blah.  An old fashioned paper QSL card is still sweet to hold in your hand and to enjoy the real memory of a fun contact. Especially if it’s a DX station from a far away land toward DXCC or the last state you needed for WAS.

They aren’t as expensive as you think.  For simple black and white cards you can buy 100 cards for about $12… my color card above cost about $30 for 100 of them.   I got mine from Cheap QSL’s on the internet and they sent the proofs the same day and shipped them out the same day!  Most folks are migrating toward electronic QSL’s these days.  I predominately use Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD) Logbook for my main logging software but also upload my logbook to eQSL, QRZ and LOTW every couple days of logging, however if someone requests a paper card I will oblige.  Sooooooooo… if I do that once in a while I’ll have about 65 cents in the effort by the time I add postage.  Below is a Special Events Station I worked and got this electronic QSL a few days later…

WT8WV-Tesla4-N2T

 

Merle Taylor: Maven of Morse Code

Such a great story!  Click link below after reading first few paragraphs for the full story and pictures.  (by Elinor Florence)
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When this Manitoba farm girl joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, she proved to be such a whiz at Morse Code that she was assigned to instruct the air crews. Now almost ninety-three, Merle still practices her dots and dashes every day, claiming that Morse Code keeps her mind sharp.

Merle Taylor of Lochaber, Nova Scotia, wrote to me after reading my column in The Senior Paper, a newspaper widely distributed to seniors across Canada. (If you haven’t seen a copy yet, email me for more information).

We exchanged copies of our books – I sent her my wartime novel, Bird’s Eye View; and she sent me a copy of her memoirs, Until the Cows Come Home.

When my husband and I travelled to the Maritimes recently, I was determined to meet Merle in person. We found her still living on the farm she operated with her husband Fred since 1946, about thirty kilometres south of Antigonish.

After serving lunch to us, Merle took me on a farm tour in her electric golf cart. I loved hearing her stories of life in the air force, and in the decades since then.

Morse Code: Straight Key and Others

I enjoy a niche of ham radio called Continuous Wave (CW) / Morse Code sending and receiving.  There are all sorts of hand keys out there to use.  Lots of CW Contests occur every month for all levels of CW enthusiasts… you don’t have to send fast, if you don’t want to!  It’s a very efficient system of communicating when traditional modes of messaging are out of service, too.  Some say since the advent of the telephone and then the cellphone, it is a dying art… I say it’s a BLAST to do!

Every ham ought to try a little CW every once in a while.  Find a key you like and use it periodically to stay proficient but also pick up a straight key and join the annual Straight Key Night Contest around New Years.  (It’s not really a contest; it’s more of an opportunity to pull out a straight key and try sending Morse Code the old fashioned way.

I love to scour the hamfest flea markets looking at all the old time keys available to buy for a variety of prices.  Some served in Post Offices, Telegraph Offices, military communications, in combat and in ham shacks!  My favorite straight key is a 1950’s era South African Special Forces straight key… super compact… light weight… and darned cute… that I picked up at the Dayton Hamvention in 2015!  It wasn’t cheap, but it’s unique and has a good story.  See some of the key configurations below…

Bencher Paddles and Memory Keyer UNITE!

As soon as I get my Yaesu System Fusion FTM100-DR online, I want to mate my Bencher paddles to the new MFJ-490X Menu Driven Memory Keyer that I picked up at the 2016 Dayton Hamvention last week (May 21, 2016).  I am itching to get these two toys working in some CW / More Code Contesting very soon!  5 programmable memories plus all sorts of keyer speed, weighting, side tone, hand key capability, serial number decrements, random code practice, iambic settings, etc.

(See video below!)

MFJ-490X Memory Keyer  Instruction Manual

 

 

Intro to Kit Building for Radio Amateurs by K7QO (Chuck Adams)

Chuck Adams (K7QO) makes a club presentation on Kit Building basics.  He highlights what every ham radio operator needs on his workbench to build kits or make repairs.

K7QO Chuck Adams website

Morse Code: Dual Lever Paddle Adjustment Tutorial

K7QO MFJ-564B Dual Lever Paddle Adjustment Tutorial

K7QO Chuck Adams website

This is an excellent explanation of the taxonomy of a dual lever paddle (i.e. Bencher and MFJ) and how to make the adjustments that are critical for efficient CW / Morse Code sending in your ham shack.

The alphabet in Morse Code / CW sent at 20 words per minute (wpm)…

 

Make your own Dipole Antenna

Randy does such a good job of explaining how to make your own 10 Meter Dipole.  Get on the air… 10 meters is a fun band when the sun cooperates!

Magnetic Loop Antenna

I always wondered if this type of magnetic loop antenna would “get out” to the world and how it worked.  This video shows both!

Amateur Radio Go-Box and Go-Bags Examples

Ham Radio Operators need to be ready to roll out to a crisis quickly if it requires communication support.  Are you ready to “grab and go”?  How quickly could you have a functional ham radio station on-the-air ready to support an emergency situation?  Could you support your local authorities efforts, and for how long?  Can you personally sustain yourself with food and water for 3 days of support, without being a burden on the emergency relief efforts?  Constructing your own version of a “Ham Radio Go-Box” and a “Go-Bag” might be a great addition to your preparedness efforts.  Below are some pictures of potential Go-Boxes to stir your imagination and creativity.  You might even have some of the items laying around that could be put into the effort to BE PREPARED.

GO-BOX IDEAS

GO-BAG IDEAS

How Does a Crystal Radio Set Actually Work?

Here is an excellent YouTube video from RimstarOrg that breaks down the concept of how crystal radios actually DO their magic!  Yes, MAGIC.  Radio signals are all around us 24 hours a day.  Invisible!  You can’t really touch them.  You can’t smell them.  You can’t hear them without assistance.  We don’t really feel them bombarding us.  We don’t sense those signals without some mechanical help… but they strike us with many different frequencies constantly… so let’s explore the range of frequencies we can decipher with a homemade crystal radio set!

Crystal Radios. A blast from the past!

Many of us have looked at, or even built a crystal radio set at some point in our lives. Maybe it was in our Scouting days, youth group, science class, science fair… or just to DO IT!  The circuit itself is relatively simple to wire-up.  A long piece of wire acts like an antenna.  Some configuration of earphones or speaker will let you listen to signals.  And believe it or not, the signals are all around you!  The local AM radio station should be easy to hear.  You can even build a simple pre-amp (pre-amplifier) circuit to boost the incoming signal to add extra volume and signal strength to the fun.

Let’s understand WHY a crystal radio set is sooooooo cool!  SIMPLE CIRCUIT DESIGN.  EVEN KIDS CAN DO IT!  EASY TO GET PARTS.  NO EXTERNAL POWER REQUIRED.  INTERCEPTING INVISIBLE RADIO WAVES THAT ARE ALL AROUND US.  Plus, it’s just a pile of fun!

Here is a YouTube video from WonderstruckHow who teaches us to build a very rudimentary crystal radio set with parts that are easy enough to scrounge up.

After you watch the video check out the picture gallery of all sorts of crystal radio sets that can be built in just a short time.  They are great for kids working on a science fair project (and sure beats out a terrarium!)  Some of us “Seasoned Citizens” might actually remember the paper towel tubes or Quaker Oat cardboard cans we wound the magnet wire around and even some of the commercial kits sitting under our Christmas tree!

Straight Key Night… FUN!

Every January 1st there is a fun filled evening of laid back, “no pressure” CW (Morse Code) operating using a simple “Straight Key” to key your transmitter without the aid of added electronics to perform the speed and spacing of your sent letters and numbers.  This isn’t a contest!  It is designed for fun sending CW the “old fashioned” way.  The object is to simply enjoy sending and reading Morse Code.  There are numerous configurations and sizes of straight keys and a jaunt down any ham radio flea market aisle will often give you quite a few options for a great purchase!

Here is a video example of the annual Straight Key Night experience. MIKROWAVE1 explains and actually makes CW contacts with other amateur radio operators enjoying the annual event. (Below the video, look for some pictures of several types of straight keys you might find as a bargain to add to your own ham radio station!

Here are some pictures of various CW (Morse Code) keyers.  You can grab several to use for contesting or just simple rag-chewing.  Some hams actually collect various types of keys!

 

 

Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS)

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I love DX.  I love chatting to interesting people all over the world and making new friends.  For short range chatting I use our Monongalia Wireless Association W8MWA Repeater on the 144/440 frequencies.  Sometimes it’s more difficult to talk short distances than it is to talk half way around the world.  Let’s consider Near Vertical Incidence Skywave  (NVIS) antennas with our HF radios.

NVIS is something every Ham needs to learn about.  The antenna system is not difficult to construct and can serve an important function for shorter range communications, especially in time of an emergency when normal local / regional communication systems are down for some reason.  (i.e. cell towers, cellphones, landlines, etc.)  Hams may be called into service quickly.

Here is what Wikipedia says about NVIS communications…

Near vertical incidence skywave, or NVIS, is a skywave radio-wave propagation path that provides usable signals in the range between groundwave and conventional skywave distances—usually 30–400 miles (50–650 km). It is used for military and paramilitarycommunications, broadcasting,[1] especially in the tropics, and by radio amateurs. The radio waves travel near-vertically upwards into the ionosphere, where they are refracted back down and can be received within a circular region up to 650 km from the transmitter.[2] If the frequency is too high (that is, above the critical frequency of the ionospheric F layer), refraction fails to occur and if it is too low, absorption in the ionospheric D layer may reduce the signal strength.

The most reliable frequencies for NVIS communications are between 1.8 MHz and 8 MHz. Above 8 MHz, the probability of success begins to decrease, dropping to near zero at 30 MHz. Usable frequencies are dictated by local ionospheric conditions, which have a strong systematic dependence on geographical location. Common bands used in amateur radio at mid-latitudes are 3.5 MHz at night and 7 MHz during daylight, with experimental use of 5 MHz (60-meter) frequencies. Broadcasting uses the tropical broadcast bands between 2.3 and 5.06 MHz, and the international broadcast bands between 3.9 and 6.2 MHz, Military NVIS communications mostly take place on 2-4 MHz at night and on 5-7 MHz during daylight.

Optimum NVIS frequencies tend to be higher towards the tropics and lower towards the arctic regions. They are also higher during high sunspot activity years. The usable frequencies change from day to night, because sunlight causes the lowest layer of the ionosphere, called the D layer, to increase, causing attenuation of low frequencies during the day [3] while the maximum usable frequency (MUF) which is the critical frequency of the F layer rises with greater sunlight.

NVIS is most useful in mountainous areas where line-of-sight propagation at VHF or UHF frequencies is ineffective or when the communication distance is beyond the 50-mile (80 km) range of groundwave, and less than the 300–1500-mile (500–2500 km) range of lower angle sky-wave. Another interesting aspect of NVIS communication is, that direction finding of the sender is more difficult than for ground-wave communication (i.e. VHF or UHF). For broadcasters, NVIS allows coverage of an entire medium-sized country at much lower cost than with VHF (FM), and daytime coverage similar to MW (AM) nighttime coverage at lower cost and often with less interference.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_vertical_incidence_skywave

Below are a few very good links to articles for the nuts & bolts of putting together a simple and good NVIS antenna.

http://www.tactical-link.com/field_deployed_nvis.htm

http://www.qsl.net/wb5ude/nvis/index.html

http://www.w0ipl.net/ECom/NVIS/K2GW-NVIS.htm

http://www.w0ipl.net/ECom/NVIS/cbp-nvis.htm

Here is a sample video by NG9D with an 80 Meter End Fed NVIS Field Antenna.

Analog Oscilloscope bandwidth considerations with W2AEW

Get the right O-Scope!

Monitor your Ham Radio transmitter with an oscilloscope with W2AEW

More O-Scope training!  This guy is so good at teaching it!

Analog Oscilloscope Basics: Making a Frequency Measurement with W2AEW

Bought my first O-Scope at Dayton Hamvention in 2015… here is a good way to learn!

2015 ARRL Field Day

Tom and Bill work on configuring Ham Radio Deluxe DM780.

Tom (KD8DQK) and Bill (WR8S) work on configuring Ham Radio Deluxe DM780 for our ARRL Field Day stations high atop the mountain.

Well… the 2015 ARRL Field Day adventure is in the books… the logbooks, that is. Having experienced decades of Field Day excursions, this one takes the cake!  What started out as a hot, sunny, humid Friday afternoon setting up our station high atop Chestnut Ridge, ended on Sunday afternoon having operated under conditions of torrential rains, a downward shift of 40 degrees in temperature, one antenna failure, one operator unable to man a station due to illness, a generator choked-out by all the moisture in the air and eventually walking around in a literal cloud!  We had three layers of clothes on and could see our breath on Sunday morning!  To say the least, it was a unique set of challenges to overcome.

Plan A was to slingshot and hang 3 doublet antennas, run 2 KX3’s for CW and PSK31, and run an Icom 7200 with a new Heil Pro 7 headset on voice.  We had a 5500 watt generator and 25 gallons of fuel to keep us purring along.  With 4 operators we had a good chance to keep all rigs racking up points for the duration.  Laptops were ready to log and the plan sounded solid.  The goal was to beat our score from Field Day 2014 and thought a good mix of voice and data would do the trick.

Our usual set-up has us mooching off of WR8S’s generosity when he goes to the trouble of of hauling his camper to the top of the mountain.  We extend the awning and set up a table or two to operate from.  Field Day 2014 was done via battery power and QRP mode.

WR8S and WD8DQK bundled up... oh wait...WR8S only brought shorts!  Wins endurance award!

WR8S and KD8DQK bundled up… oh wait…WR8S only brought shorts! Wins endurance award!

Sunday morning in a cloud!

Sunday morning in a cloud!

3 layers of clothes with hands so cold it was difficult to run DigiPan for PSK31 contacts.

WT8WV with 3 layers of clothes and hands so cold it was difficult to run DigiPan for PSK31 contacts.

The video below is a typical contest exchange using CW (Morse Code) and in the ARRL Field Day Contest an exchange of information would be the call sign of the other station, your operating mode (how many radios are you running and what sort of power and station are you running), followed by your section of the country.  Then you return your own exchange to the other station and move on the to next contact by calling “CQ FD CQ FD de WT8WV WT8WV” and hope for a return of your call sign for a confirmed contact to log.  CQ means “calling anyone”… FD means your are calling for the “Field Day” contest… de is French and means “from”… and WT8WV is our station’s “identifying call sign”.  (You will see Bill (WR8S) make a contact and then write down the exchange from the other station on the log paper… then he begins calling CQ FD CQ FD de WT8WV using a memory keyer that he can program with the CQ message, our contact information and a thank you good bye message.  He just needs to use the keyer paddles to send the other stations call sign during a contest.)  Our return message to the other station to enter into their own log was, “WT8WV 2A WV”.

The pictures below tell the story of our challenges and our solutions.  I have to admit I thought we were DOA when the generator croaked at 4:30 am on Sunaday… but we quickly came up with Plan X and realized WR8S had a converter in his truck!  Back to battery power to finish of a good run of PSK31 and CW for 2 points each!

The original team plan was to use my new call sign WT8WV and be “3 Alpha West Virginia” but Jay got sick on Friday so we were now down 1 team member and 1 radio.  Then we had a balun issue with 1 doublet antenna.  So now we are WT8WV 2A WV with 2 Elecraft K3’s and 1 antenna.  We decided to salvage our potential scores by focusing on PSK31 and WR8S’s speedy left hand on CW… and forgo voice comms.

Friday night

Friday night with Jay and Bill

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Bill’s new eBay score! SWEEEEEET!

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Tom working on busted antenna while Bill tries to thaw out from a cold night.

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Bill loading software and setting features.

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Added a 24 X 12 tarp for 3 total sides to block prevailing weather and winds.

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Generator exiled away for less QRN.

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Tom runs PSK31 as Bill logs.

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Spence working PSK31 and Bill keeps him straight.

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Bill cranking out CW contacts as Spence logs.

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Used a nice Android App to log with a bluetooth keyboard.

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Tom and Bill hook-up inverter to salvage our weekend.

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Tom saves the day! Good Boy Scout… WAS prepared.

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Tom fixed us a wonderfully WARM Sunday breakfast and we continued to grab a last string of PSK31 on 20 meters.

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A nice last hour run of CW on Sunday morning by Bill.

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PSK31 logs of confirmed QSO’s

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Bill brought a 16 foot long string of BRIGHT LED’s to light up our lives! Best gizmo of the weekend!

How can you become a Ham Radio operator QUICKLY?

Ham It Up_HR-RGB

You won’t believe how easy it can be!  You take it in bite-size chunks of information and at your own pace.  NO MORE MORSE CODE REQUIREMENT!  (But Morse Code is a blast to still use and also the most efficient form of radio communication!  I had to be able to send and receive 5 words per minute for the old Novice License… 13 wpm for General Class… and 20 wpm for Advanced and Extra Class licenses.  There are no longer any Morse Code requirements and the Novice and Advanced Class licenses are no longer available.)  For more than 100 years ham radio operators have been exploring the world and beyond from their own little ham shacks / ham station / living rooms.  It never gets old and there is always something to explore!

What can you do with a ham radio?  Talk to people all over the world with as little as 1 watt or less… or even 1500 watts.  Assist in Emergency Communications.  Assist with branches of the US Armed Forces.  Build your own radios and equipment.  Experiment with your own antennas.  Go to fun “Hamfests and Flea Markets” to learn and get great bargains.  Find new friends who are hams in your local club.  Participate in the Annual ARRL Field Day Contest and exercises!  Talk to the astronauts on the International Space Station.  Talk to other hams around the world THROUGH many ham radio satellites orbiting the earth!  Use your local VHF/UHF Repeaters to talk to family and friends from the car, handheld radio or from home.  Track ham radio equipped balloon flights.  Work with hams with disabilities.  Refurbish or collect old time ham radio equipment.  Teach others ham radio courses and/or help with exam sessions.

ARRL-Centennial-Logo-small-1024x868           skywarn           amradiospace2013           amateur_radio_emergency_service_thumb  
                                                               

There are three different licenses you can obtain and they are designed in a way that as you study to get the first license, what you learn there will help you understand the next license study material.  The really nice thing about it is that you will have ALL the multiple choice questions in each exam pool AND THE EXACT ANSWER TO EVERY QUESTION!  That’s pretty good to have all the Q’s and A’s to study!  The sample questions in your study materials are the EXACT questions you will see on the exam.  A score of 74% gets you the license!  There are also FREE practice exams you can take online or even from your smartphone!  (I took a couple practice exams each evening as I sat watching TV in my favorite chair in my living room.)  Soon the questions you have missed in the past practice exams are embedded in your brain with the correct answers reinforced!  Each question will have four (4) possible answers; and on most of the questions you can just about eliminate two of the possible answers just by looking at them.  (I will give you some good pointers about how to study and prepare for the exams at the end of this post!  Read them before you buy any study guides or books!)

ham-radio-test

You will just need to do some interesting and fun reading, look at the questions (and the exact answers) from each chapter of the book… and before you know it you will be ready to take the exam!  You are going to learn some really cool stuff each time you read the material.  PLUS, as you advance to a higher class of Ham Radio license you can pick your own call sign!  (In the early 1980’s my first call sign was KA8LJO from the FCC as a Novice Class licensee… then I was assigned KB8FIR by the FCC when I got my Technician Class license… and better yet, when I got my Extra Class license I picked my own call sign, WT8WV… “Whiskey Tango 8 Whiskey Victor”.  I chose it for three reasons… I am fond of an occasional taste of good whiskey… I love my state of West Virginia… and phonetically it stands out and sings in a pile-up during a Ham Radio contest!)

GWTW14Stech

The first license you study for is called the Technician License and the exam has only 35 questions!  You will learn some very basic things about electricity, how your radio signals move through the air, some of the rules that the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) expects us to abide by for best practices, antennas, radios, the frequencies you can use in your new radio, and much more!  You will gain legal access to some very good frequencies for both voice and data communication in several excellent ham bands.  You could be ready to take this exam in a couple weeks of study!

gwgw11gen

The second license is called the General Class License and also has only 35 questions.  This course adds to what you learned in the Technician Class study.  It really dives just a bit deeper into some common things you will find will help you get more out of your antenna, radios, contesting, which ham bands magically open at specific periods of the day and year, some simply explanations of a few electronic circuits we use every day, and much more!  You will also gain even MORE frequencies on the ham bands to use at your pleasure!  You could be ready to take this exam in 2-4 weeks of easy study!

gwem-12extra

The third (and highest class of Ham Radio license) is called the Extra Class License and consists of a 50 question exam.  This study course really dives deeper in what you have learned in the Technician and General Class license preparations.  It will take a bit more time to study and prepare, and has a few more questions on the exam.  You gain ALL frequencies allotted to Ham Radio communications, with several excellent niches within certain ham bands reserved for ONLY Extra Class licensees!  You could be ready to take this exam in 30-60 days with some good study and practice exams under your belt!

ARRL-Logo

The Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) also offers all sorts of study books for not only all the licenses but a myriad of way cool ham related stuff for every facet of this vast hobby!  I have been a member of the ARRL for years and the monthly QST magazine alone is worth my dues!  Plus you get discounts on all the other books and items.  You can even find a local ham radio license class!  http://www.arrl.org/find-an-amateur-radio-license-class  Here is a link to the ARRL study guides for the three licenses.  They are much more in-depth than the Gordon West series of license books and a good addition to your study… but I personally feel the Gordon West series in the best way to get that license quickly.  Below for more information.   http://www.arrl.org/ham-radio-license-manual

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License Exam Study and Preparation Tips

Select which study book you will use for the license you are going to test for.

Find a quiet place to read.

Have a yellow highlighter handy to highlight things you might need to refer to for a question.

Study about 20 minutes a day.  That way you won’t overload your brain!

Download a smartphone app with the ham radio practice exam questions and answers.  I used this all the time whenever I had to wait around for something or someone… or in a boring meeting (once in a while).

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.iversoft.ham.test.prep&hl=en

Watch free YouTube videos to help you prepare or further understand the chapter.  I have watched all of Dave Casler’s YouTube videos and they were a tremendous help to UNDERSTAND not just the question but the concept for every ham license book.  He does each video by chapter or topic and they a short enough to consume in a sitting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEWmiMotimY&list=PL07A7D1C9D7BF7F48

I highly recommend the Gordon West Technician Class License Value Pack for getting your Technician License quickly!  I don’t get paid for saying this!  Grin.  However, I will tell your this is the best investment in getting a license you can find.  Gordo makes it fun to learn and he tackles every question and answer in a way that will etch it deep in your memory.  You will absolutely burn through the questions and he’ll teach you ways to remember even the questions that seem difficult for some reason.  I have met him at the Dayton Hamvention and he’s a wonderful person and so helpful.  He even gives you his personal telephone number to call if you have a question!  I suggest burning the CD’s to an MP3 format and put them on your iPod, iPhone, Android or other device so your can listen to them anywhere… car, at lunch, on the treadmill, working out, hiking, etc.  Worked for me every time I did my 30 minutes on the treadmill and lifting weights!  (After I completed my Extra Class license with his book and CD’s I sold them for half-price to another General License ham in our club who is now studying with them!  You could recoup some of your cost, too!)

http://www.w5yi.org/catalog_details.php?pid=78&sort=4

I highly recommend the Gordon West General Class License Value Pack for getting your General Class License quickly!  http://www.w5yi.org/catalog_details.php?pid=59&sort=4

I highly recommend the Gordon West Extra Class License Value Pack for getting your Extra Class License quickly!  http://www.w5yi.org/catalog_details.php?pid=43&sort=4

Practice Exams, Practice Exams, Practice Exams, Practice Exams, Practice Exams!

These are free and a good way to see what areas you need to focus on so you can master a question.  I did this about every evening during commercials watching TV!  Great feedback on how you are progressing in your studies.  When you begin scoring 80% on these practice exams you will be ready to sit for an exam!  (If you buy the ARRL study books, they come with a CD with all the questions in the pool, the answers, scores your exams, shows you the areas you need to focus on, and tracks your progress by each section of the question pool.)  

http://www.eham.net/exams/

Getting you Ham Radio License is NOT rocket science… but it will be fun!  It’s a hobby that is ageless.  What happens if the cellphone towers don’t work, or if there is a prolonged power outage, or a natural disaster prevents normal communications?  Ham radio operators are often the first folks getting the word out and getting the help coming in!  I doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby, either!  I have pieces of equipment I have either built myself or purchased dirt cheap at a flea market.  I have also saved my money for some other items in my ham shack.  It’s also a fun hobby to share with family, friends, and associates worldwide!  GET ON THE AIR!       

Click on picture below to enlarge it so you can see the frequency privileges you get with each license!

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Doublet Antenna to Hang!

Will be putting this baby up in the air soon!  Also have a 4:1 balun to add to it.  We use these for Field Day, as well!

Will be putting this baby up in the air soon! Also have a 4:1 balun to add to it. We use these for Field Day, as well!

2015 Dayton Hamvention Exploits

Tektronix 455... have always wanted a 'scope' to use to monitor my signals.  Got this one from a engineer who upgraded to a fancy new one.  Paid $75 for it and it works great!

Tektronix 455… have always wanted a ‘scope’ to use to monitor my signals. Got this one from a engineer who upgraded to a fancy new one. Paid $75 for it and it works great!

Bill, Tom and I decided to buy a QRP rig to play with that night while in Dayton.  So we picked this little jewel up, found an old power supply, and rigged up a dipole for some 40 Meter QRP.

Bill, Tom and I decided to buy a QRP rig to play with that night while in Dayton. So we picked this little jewel up, found an old power supply, some cheap meters and rigged up a dipole for some 40 Meter QRP.

Bill and Tom (with the assistance of my daughter's cat,

Bill and Tom (with the assistance of my daughter’s cat, “Ender”) put together the custom dipole for 40 Meters. It was strung through the kitchen and up the stairs… and it made beautiful music!

Inside the MFJ 40 Meter QRP rig... CLEAN!

Inside the MFJ 40 Meter QRP rig… CLEAN!

Picked up a cheap power supply and some $1 meters to add to our Dayton Hamvention

Picked up a cheap power supply and some $1 meters to add to our Dayton Hamvention “power house QRP station”.

Bad capacitor in power supply had to be re-soldered.

Bad capacitor in power supply had to be re-soldered.

Needed a little TLC

Needed a little TLC

Stealth antenna for QRP

Stealth antenna for QRP

Bill wiring circuits with Tom's oversight.

Bill wiring circuits with Tom’s oversight.

Bought this cute and tiny South African Special Forces Keyer to use for QRP and Straight Key Night contests.

Bought this cute and tiny South African Special Forces Keyer to use for QRP and Straight Key Night contests.

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A couple of old $1 meters

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Lighting up the FINALS! Burning holes through the clouds!

NEXT YEAR... this will be our big purchase for a tower for our weekend QRP station.  Tom gets to carry it out of the Dayton Hamvention Hara Arena to the truck.

NEXT YEAR… this will be our big purchase for a tower for our weekend QRP station. Tom gets to carry it out of the Dayton Hamvention Hara Arena to the truck.

Upgraded to Extra Class License and New Call Sign ! WT8WV

In March of 2015 I took my test for Extra Class and passed with flying colors.  I then did some searching for a unique vanity call sign that would have the letters “WV” somehow incorporated for “West Virginia” initials.  None of the 1 X 2 calls were available, so I fixated on variations of a 2 X 2 call.  I tried prefixes of W? A? K? N? followed by 8WV.  After some thought for use in a contest, I settled on a “WT” prefix since you don’t tend to hear many “WHISKEY TANGO” prefixes… soooooo…

WHISKEY TANGO 8 WHISKEY VICTOR

WT8WV

A buddy of mine in the ham club said, “That’s a lot of whiskey’s…”  I told him I am fond of whiskeys and love West Virginia… hence the new call sign.  Eighteen days later the FCC granted my first choice and I retired my old call sign, “KB8FIR” and before that my original call sign from the early 1980’s was “KA8LJO”.

N1MM Contest Logger Software

N1MMLoggerPlus250x75

http://n1mm.hamdocs.com/tiki-index.php

There is a new version out now, so be sure to get the latest version!  But these videos will give you the gist and get you up and running pretty fast.

20 Meters Ham Radio Band… HF… What can ya hear?

20 Meters Ham Radio Band is one of the most popular bands for long range (DX) communications.  It holds up in most conditions and is were a lot of exciting DX contacts OfficialSWLChannel tells us all about finding signals on the 14 MHz part of the band.

10 Meter Ham Radio Beacons… HF… What can ya hear?

10 Meter Ham Radio Beacons (28 MHz) help us know where propagation is working in our favor for communicating around the world.  OfficialSWLChannel provides another excellent video on how to take advantage of these beacons!

40 Meters Ham Radio Band… HF… What can ya hear?

OfficialSWLChannel tells us what we can expect on the exciting 40 Meters amateur radio frequencies.

160 Meters Ham Radio Band… HF… What can ya hear?

160 Meters is another challenging ham radio band to work.  This video tells you what listen for and what to expect.  This is another OfficialSWLChannel video.

10 Meters Ham Band… what can ya hear?

Anderson Power Poles (Part 2)

Anderson Power Poles For 12 Volt Ham Radio Connections

These are very handy for all sorts of your 12 volt ham radio projects!  

Will be looking for these at the next hamfest!

Kent Morse Tutor

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Kent Morse Tutor
Android App available from Google Play

HELP TO LEARN, IMPROVE AND MAINTAIN YOUR MORSE CODE PROFICIENCY

The FREE KENT Morse tutor app generates random Morse code in groups of 5, or random length groups of 1 to 10 characters and lesson lengths of up to 250 groups of characters.

The selectable letters, numbers and punctuation’s can be played individually or in any combination.

Code speeds from 5 WPM to 40 WPM can be selected in 1 WPM steps, and an independent delay can be inserted between characters. This feature allows you to learn each character at the correct speed but allows thinking time between characters. as you improve, the delay can be reduced.

The tone can be set between 500hz and 1750hz

Please visit Google Play to download the free version of the android app

Cool Android App to help you turn into a CW Pro!  Learning the Morse Code is not hard and adds extra fun when you warm up the radio.  Click on the link above from The DXZone website for more information about the smartphone app.

The Doublet Antenna

I have helped build and used two of these Doublet Antennas during the 2014 Field Day Contest and they worked great!  Worked many stations on CW, Phone, and PSK31.  Works great across many HF bands.  A little over 120 feet long.  WR8S (Bill Shultz), WD8WQK (Tom Graf) and I are going to make one for my ham shack as soon as I order the parts. Take a look at Ray Heffer’s explanation of the Doublet Antenna and a diagram by N4UJW below.

8010doublet

Solar Super Storm of 2012 Near Miss… Ham’s Better Be Prepared

This is why ham radio operators need to be prepared for such a massive solar event.  If the rest of the grid (power and internet) were to go down, it could take a long time for it to be repaired.  Ham radio communications might become critical in every community.  Are we prepared and proficient to aid our communities?

Link to full article… Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012

Elecraft KX3 Demo and Connect to iPad Videos

I had the pleasure of playing with two Elecraft KX3 radios during ARRL Field Day 2014 running CW and PSK31 modes.  Both radios worked like a charm off of battery power and we racked up some excellent contacts during the hours of the contest.  I want to thank Bill (WR8S) and Tom (KD8WQK) for letting me get may hands on their toys! Definitely on my WISHLIST!

kx3

The KX3 HF Radio is pictured above.  The optional 100 Watt Amplifier is pictured below.

 kxpa100_fr_1280

Watch the Elecraft KX3 Demo Video below…

Connect the KX3 to an iPad…

QRP DXing… by JOHN SHANNON – K3WWP

pix_naqcc_logo_mini

John Shannon (K3WWP) kindly permits me to post his recent article here for your enjoyment.  His contact information and websites are listed at the end of this article.  Also, check out and join the NAQCC website at http://www.naqcc.info/

NAQCC NEWS   ISSUE 193 JULY 2014

You can’t work DX on HF unless you run high power and have a big antenna farm. How many times have you heard that? Believe it or not even one ARRL employee was very skeptical about the ability to work DX otherwise. Maybe still is.

Anyway I’m writing this to dispel that notion. I also do it by example as many of you probably already know. Let me start by describing my station in detail. My rigs since I became active again in the early 1990s have been homebrew, Kenwood TS-570D, Kenwood TS-480SAT, Elecraft K-2, and now the wonderful Elecraft KX3. All have a couple things in common. They have never been used on any mode but CW. They have never been used at more than 5 watts output power (except for two experimental QSOs and one accidental one – that’s another story just mentioned here for 100% accuracy).

My antennas consist of a random wire most of which is in my attic for 160 through 30 meters, a 20 meters flat-top inverted vee in my attic, a 15 meters vertical dipole mounted on the side of my house, a 10 meters sloping dipole on my porch roof, and a 6 meters rotatable dipole in my attic. As KB7MBI puts it, that’s not an antenna farm, that’s an antenna victory garden.

With that setup I have made 19,140 DX (non-W/VE) QSOs since the early 1990s from at total of 219 countries (entities) on all continents and 36 of the 40 CQ zones. Currently as of May 29, 2014 I have made at least one DX QSO each and every day since March 1, 2013 – a total of 455 consecutive days.

With that preamble to let you know that I probably know what I’m talking about, I’m going to tell you how you can do just the same, probably even better if you have better antennas and a better location than I do. Oh, I neglected to say I don’t live on a remote hilltop somewhere, but right in the middle of a small town with its attendant man-made QRN. The town is located in a river valley with surrounding hills making a visible horizon of a couple degrees up to around 10 degrees.

I think the above proves it is possible to work DX with just 5 watts or less output and simple wire antennas. Of course it’s not as easy as working DX with 1 kilowatt and stacked 4 over 4 beams, but it’s not as hard as many hams think. I believe that ANYONE, without a great deal of effort, can get the basic DXCC award using nothing more than QRP/CW and a wire antenna. I worked 100 countries in just the first 78 days of the year 2000 as part of the ARRL Millennium Award program. Here are some tips to hopefully help you in your DX efforts.

Basically there’s not a lot you need to know to successfully work DX. First of all, a lot of good DX is only available via some high speed CW operators, so the faster you can copy, the easier it will be to work the DX station and move on to others. Of course since you don’t really have to copy a lot of info in most cases, you can get by at lower copying speeds. When you get right down to it, all you really need to copy is the DX station’s call, and your own call. But still you’ll be much better off being able to copy at least 30 WPM which is not all that hard to do with some good practice. If you can copy everything involved in the DX operation, you’ll be much more prepared to work the DX.

You also should know something about propagation as I mentioned in a previous newsletter. That way you won’t waste time in mid-afternoon trying to work DX on 80 or 40, nor time in the middle of the night trying to work something on 10 meters. Not to say there aren’t times mid-day DX on 80 or especially 40 is possible, or 10 meters DX late at night, but generally it’s not.

The most important thing to remember about DXing, no matter what power or antennas you are using, is to LISTEN before you do anything. Of course, before you can work the DX, you have to be able to hear it.

Once you find a DX station, you then LISTEN some more to find out the station’s mode of operation and just where HE is listening. For example, if you hear him work a station right on his frequency, then you know he’s listening there. Zero beat him and get ready to call, but again don’t jump in too quickly.

LISTEN to find out the pattern of the DX station’s exchange. When the DX is trying to work as many stations as possible as quickly as possible, the exchange should go like this:

Station – Sends
X2XXX – CQ DX X2XXX K
K3WWP – K3WWP
X2XXX – K3WWP 599
K3WWP – TU 599
X2XXX – TU

Sometimes after the exchange of info, the DX station will just say TU as in this example, and then start listening for replies. Other times he will send QRZ?, or QRZ? de X2XXX, or just X2XXX. Some stations send dit dit. Whatever it is, learn when the DX station is done with a QSO and ready for the next call before you jump in. Do everything right and you’ll have your QSO or at least a better chance at the QSO than someone who has no idea what is going on.

Of course that is the ideal situation, and it is not going to work that way every time, even for the most powerful station in the world, and certainly not for the QRPer with his wire antenna. Not to say it doesn’t happen, though. A few times I have beaten out a fair sized pileup to work a DX station. Why? Often it is simply favorable propagation, but there are also things you can do to help.

Be sure your signal is as clean and crisp as possible and your keying is as close to perfect as possible. DX stations often mention that it is not always the strongest signal that is easiest to copy in a pileup. Often a weaker clean signal with perfect keying is easier to copy. If you have a memory keyer, use that to send your call. It is possible to get nervous when trying for some rare DX, and be sloppy sending even our own call.

Another thing that helps at times is to delay for a second sending your call so that the last letter or two extends past the main buzz of the pileup. In my case, the DX station would then hear the WP and send WP? Then I send my call again, and make the QSO. That is assuming there is no other WP in the pileup, and everyone acts properly and does not transmit again if their call doesn’t contain a WP. And we know the odds of that. Generally anyone who has a W in their call transmits, everyone with a P transmits, and others will transmit even though their call has nothing close to a WP in it. The best of the DX stations in this case will send WP? KN KN and keep doing this until everyone else shuts up except the WP station. If a DX station does this often enough, he can really take control of a pileup and make it manageable.

If you’re totally aware of what is going on, you can sometimes catch a station switching from simplex to split (more about that below) operation, and be one of the first ones to switch. I’ve several times gotten an easy DX QSO that way. Or catching a station switching to another band and being the first one to do so and working him easily. Again that gets back to LISTENING which a lot of folks seem not to do.

If you keep calling him without an answer, try to figure out why. It could be that propagation is currently favoring another area. If he is working one W6 after another, and you are a W1, that could be the case or he may have his beam pointed to California at the moment. This is a good time to just note his frequency or store it in a memory in your receiver, and look for someone else. Come back later and see if the DX station is working stations in your area. If so, jump in and try again.

Some QRP stations like to sign /QRP at the end of their call in a pile-up. I don’t think it’s necessary, and I NEVER do it for the following reasons:

1. I don’t feel my QRP should be pointed out as a special situation. I’m just another station in the pile, not someone special because I’m only using 5 watts or less.
2. I am sure some QRO stations cheat and sign /QRP, and I certainly don’t want to be accused of that by those who don’t know that I am a 100% QRPer.
3. It does take an appreciable amount of time to send /QRP when you are dealing with running hundreds of stations per hour, especially if it has to be repeated. If I make a contact, there’s a chance I’ll have to repeat
my info since my sigs are weak, and repeating /QRP along with the other info may annoy not only the DX station, but others waiting in the pile. I hate slowing down DXpeditions or contesters like that.
4. To back up what I say in item 3 above, famous DXpeditioner G3SXW in his book “Up Two” urges operators calling him not to use /QRP. Then there is this quote from the 3B9C DXpedition web site to further denounce using /QRP: “We have received a few e-mails demanding that we amend logs to show /QRP. We are aware that some operators at 3B9C have been logging /QRP but it is DXpedition policy that we do not do so. /QRP does not form part of the legal callsign in any country and, as far as we are aware, no QRP awards require the callsign to be suffixed with /QRP. Therefore the /QRP suffix has no place in the 3B9C DXpedition log. You know whether you worked us on QRP or not and that should be all that is needed.”

If a pileup gets too huge and the pile obliterates the DX station, then the DX operator will switch to split frequency operation. This is when the DX station transmits on one frequency, and listens on another, usually higher, frequency.

If you hear a DX station say UP (or UP1, UP2, etc.), that means he is listening to a frequency higher than his. The number is the number of kHz higher than his transmitting frequency. Leave your receive frequency on the DX station, and set your transmit frequency UP to where the DX is listening. If he just says UP with no number, generally that means UP 1, but not always. Then you have to find the pileup yourself. Once you determine where the DX station is listening, follow the same procedures listed for simplex or same frequency operation. Just be sure you are transmitting and listening on the right frequencies. Every rig seems to have a slightly different way of accomplishing this. I’ll describe two ways it can be done with a KX3.

1. Tap the A>B button twice to copy the A VFO frequency and settings into the B VFO. Hold in the A>B button to activate split operation. Now the A VFO shows the receive frequency, and B can be tuned with the B VFO knob to set the transmit frequency. Then if desired, the headphones can be split via a menu setting so the DX is heard in the left ear and the pile in the right ear. That way you can hear who the DX is working in the pile in your right ear and the KX3 will then be set to transmit on that frequency.
2. Use the XIT feature to offset the transmit frequency from the receive frequency.

I always use #1 above, so I’m not totally familiar with XIT operation.

If the pileup is huge, you might be better off transmitting slightly higher than the main pile. The DX station will often explore the upper (usually) edge of a pileup if he can’t pick out calls from the main section of the pile. This is where the clever QRPer can often steal a QSO from the QRO stations. It’s really a chess game, and whole sections of DXing books have been devoted to breaking a pileup.

Often times the DX station will be operating split frequency but not saying so. This is where listening comes in. If you hear the DX working one station after another, but don’t hear any of the stations he is working, it’s time to tune UP and see if he is indeed working split frequency. Or you can go ahead and transmit on the DX frequency, and the self appointed DX policemen will very impolitely and illegally tell you the DX is listening UP. It’s always better to know what’s going on before you do any transmitting.

That’s enough about the pile-up type of DXing. If you want to know more, just get on the air and practice, or read one of the many excellent books that have been written about DXing.

Let’s touch on a few other DX topics at random. What about the QRPer calling CQ DX using his wire antenna. It’s probably useless most of the time, but I have had DX stations answer my regular CQ’s many times. This usually happens on 10M when conditions are really good, but it also happens on other bands. I currently have about 3 dozen countries worked via answers to my CQ’s. Strangely, my most distant QSO ever came when VK6HQ answered my regular CQ on 30M one evening. I was so shocked and excited I could hardly send. Even after the QSO, I was wondering if it was really true that I worked a VK6. It was, because I received his QSL card in a couple of weeks. However something like that is the exception rather than the rule for QRP CQ’s. Once in a while lightning strikes twice and a couple years later John, VK6HQ again answered my CQ on 30M. This time it led to a long distance phone call from John, and follow up Emails between us. This is one of the rewards of DXing – having one of your contacts become a friend.

The easiest time to work DX is in contests, because the best operators in the world often go to exotic locations for contests to make themselves more desirable or just to activate some rare country. Plus you have the super contest stations in various countries operating with their huge antennas and state of the art receiving equipment. They are the ones who can dig out the weakest of signals, and are glad to do so for those few extra points they will get in the contest. Those points may just help them beat out another top notch contester. You may have a tough time beating the pileups at the beginning of a contest, but often these super contest stations almost go begging for QSO’s near the end of a contest period. Then is the time you may easily work them.

Also for the week or so just before the big DX contests, many of the stations setting up for the contest will check out their equipment by working as many folks as possible. At these times they may also operate on the WARC bands (30, 17, 12) which are not available for operation in the contest itself. They often stay at their locations for a few days after contests also.

Always let the DX station dictate the type of QSO. If you answer a DX station outside a pileup, and he still sends just a report, you do the same. You will earn the respect of the DX station and those working him. There’s nothing more frustrating that having a DX station send only RST and the station working him sending seemingly his entire life history. If the DX station does send something like RST, QTH, and Name (OP), then you may be fortunate enough to find yourself with a DX rag chew. Send your QTH (maybe just the state), and name, and maybe mention you are running QRP. It doesn’t happen too often, but I have had some very nice rag chews with DX stations. I recall a few I especially enjoyed. I chatted for a half hour with a German who was on vacation in the Canary Islands. A PJ2 wanted to know all about my QTH. I had a nice chat with an Italian talking about my Italian heritage (my mother was Italian). A German asked me all about my QRP rig. A station in Haiti was new to operating CW and asked me several questions about it.
There were others as well. These are the DX QSO’s I find really rewarding, although I appreciate the RST only ones also. You CAN rag chew with DX using QRP when conditions are good.

There’s much more good info about DXing on my web site at http://home.windstream.net/johnshan/. I hope you’ll visit. I also hope you’ll be as successful as I have been working DX. I KNOW you can be if you just apply yourself.

73 and gud DX.

 

* John K3WWP – 100% CW / QRP – Proudly promoting Morse Code:

* On the air with my KX3 #2325, K2 #6418, KX-1 #02101

* As NAQCC VP – # 0002 FC # 1 – http://naqcc.info/

* As FISTS Keynote QRP Columnist – # 2002 – http://www.fists.org/

* With my CW-QRP site – http://home.windstream.net/johnshan/

 

CQ Field Day 2014 de WR8S

2014_Field_Day_Logo_333_X_220

Operating Field Day Station WR8S from high atop Chestnut Ridge in north central West By God Virginia, Bill Shultz (WR8S), Tom Graf (KD8WQK) and Spence Graham (KB8FIR) ran QRP CW and PSK31 modes on 2 Elecraft KX3 radios.  It was a great weekend with excellent chums!

Ham radio equipment I have used over they years…

I has been fun to own, sell and trade some good equipment over they years!  I enjoyed every one of those old friends and worked many stations with them.

playwithlifeorg

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

HarsH ReaLiTy

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Tinkertoytech's Blog

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Chronicling my pursuit of amateur radio’s "Worked All Neighbors" award

Casey's Place

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." -- John Muir

Hackaday

Fresh hacks every day

VK4JAZ

Writings about Amateur Radio

Tactical HF

I love the smell of ozone in the morning...smells like...radio.

WB5RMG : RadioActive Blog

slightly sub-orbital testing facility

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A blog about ham radio, Linux and more...

Ham Radio Blog PD0AC

Thoughts of a Dutch radio amateur

Silver Bells Blog

Truth Appealing...

CQ de WT8WV... GraHAM's Dits & Dah's

My journey in amateur radio intrigues and hobby interests

K5UNX Ham Radio Blog

A blog dedicated to things Ham Radio related

Mountain Mists...

A pleasant journey into how I see things... big and small

playwithlifeorg

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

HarsH ReaLiTy

A Good Blog is Hard to Find

BG5TLA's Blog

Just another WordPress.com site

Tinkertoytech's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

KC4LMD

Chronicling my pursuit of amateur radio’s "Worked All Neighbors" award

Casey's Place

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." -- John Muir

Hackaday

Fresh hacks every day

VK4JAZ

Writings about Amateur Radio

Tactical HF

I love the smell of ozone in the morning...smells like...radio.

WB5RMG : RadioActive Blog

slightly sub-orbital testing facility

73, de N2HTT

A blog about ham radio, Linux and more...

Ham Radio Blog PD0AC

Thoughts of a Dutch radio amateur

Silver Bells Blog

Truth Appealing...

CQ de WT8WV... GraHAM's Dits & Dah's

My journey in amateur radio intrigues and hobby interests

K5UNX Ham Radio Blog

A blog dedicated to things Ham Radio related

Mountain Mists...

A pleasant journey into how I see things... big and small

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