Category Archives: Transmitter

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.

koch_display

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!

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)
1._Merle_doing_code_feature

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.

Programming Your New Ham Radio… the Easy Way!

ADMS_M100_U_2__89502.1447692865.220.220

downloadI recently took a deeper dive into digital ham radio and picked up a Yaesu FTM-100 mobile System Fusion rig.  VHF and UHF… 500 Channels on each band!  Holy Crap, Batman…  I’ll wear my aged, stubby, fat fingers to the nubs tryin’ to poke all that individual channel info into those 1,000 spots using those little buttons!  Plus, I have to look up all that info… somewhere… on EVERY channel I want to add to my line-up.  Ain’t no-body gotz time for dat!  (I also had to do that with my Baofeng UV-5RV2+ portable HT a couple years ago.)

What to do?  Path of least resistance!  Did a little research and found a computer program that does it all for me.  (I actually used the free CHIRP software to program my HT a couple years ago.)  RT Systems software makes the programming easy!  You simply pick out your software version based upon what radio you want to program, download the software, (Hopefully your radio came with the right interface cable to hook your radio to your computer to make the download of freq’s to your rig.), grab the repeater frequencies from some site like RFinder World Wide Repeater Directory and in 20 minutes you can load up your rig with more frequencies than you will ever use.  (While CHIRP is freeware, RT Systems and RFinder software platforms are paid versions.  I can honestly say that the software is very reasonably priced for both and you might only need to use it once in a while but it saves you HOURS of manual poking and prodding your radio buttons.)

(Click link below to see the typical instructions)

Radio Programming Software for the Yaesu FTM-100

(See the videos below…)

You can easily marry RT Systems software to RFinder software and quickly create a sort routine that grabs the EXACT frequencies you want and transfer it to your radio.  You can sort by town, state, zip code, ham bands, NOAA frequencies, etc.  

It makes short work of all of it!  You’ll spend more time convincing yourself to not pull in frequencies you will never use than the download takes!  

Once you set up your channel database you want to use for your radio, you simply hook your radio to your computer with the cable… poke a couple drop-down menus… and then the magic happens!  UPLOAD COMPLETE.  

I programmed about 75 VHF and 75 UHF Channels into my radio, start sort to finish sort to upload compete in under 20 minutes.  You might export your databases to your laptop or website to store for the future.

One thing I did that sort of brought sanity to my programming strategy and thinking was that I added the freq’s in sort of “banks” of channels so I could visually sense what channels I needed to tune to depending on my car’s location as I traveled.  For the first 10-15 channels, I loaded repeater data for the local area repeaters within about 75 miles of my home QTH.  I live just below the Mason-Dixon Line…  and yes, I consider myself a southerner but I can be in Pennsylvania within 10 minutes; in fact, I can be at the Pittsburgh International Airport in under 90 minutes!  So, since I travel a good bit for work, I can bounce to various repeaters as I drive in any direction!

In the next grouping of channels I might add just the Pittsburgh area repeaters.  In another group of channels I added the Dayton, OH repeater freq’s since my daughter and son-in-law live and work next to Wright-Patterson AFB and I also usually attend the Dayton Hamvention each year.  Another group of channels I include are the NOAA Weather Channels.  Other groupings include various regions of West Virginia since I also hunt, fish, camp and hike all over the place.

 

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…

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!

What is a Ham Radio Repeater?

Excellent introduction and explanation of “What is a Ham Radio Repeater?”

Comparing the Yaesu System Fusion FT1Dr and FT2DR

Yaesu FT1DR Review

Yaesu  FT2DR Review

DR-1X System Fusion Repeater and the HRI-200 WiresX

A nice video showing the basics of the setup with the HRI-200 and the Yaesu DR-1X System Fusion repeater.

Yaesu System Fusion Introduction

This is a good introduction video for anyone curious about Yaesu’s efforts in digital communications at the local repeater level.  It also sets aside some fears and misunderstandings about amateur radio operators making the decision to add or upgrade to digital from analog… you can do both!

2016 Dayton Hamvention Post-Mortem

Well… another Hamvention is in the books and it was the usual great time of fun and friendship.  WR8S  (Bill Shultz) and WV8TG  (Tom Graf) and I enjoyed three fun-filled days scouring the Flea Market and also inside Hara Arena for all sorts of treasures and trinkets.  Tom scored a pristine 1959 Hammerlund HQ-One Forty Five short-wave radio and several other vintage radios to restore.  (The Hammerlund was the first serious short-wave radio Tom bought and it eventually led him on the journey to get his Amateur Extra Class license!)  Bill and I invested in a couple Yaesu FTM100-DR System Fusion digital mobile radios so that we can explore the Monongalia Wireless Association’s new System Fusion repeaters here in the Morgantown, West Virginia area.  Below is a video recap of our annual trek to the Dayton Hamvention.  If you have never attended a Dayton Hamvention… GET THERE!  Enjoy!

APRS… from the inventor, Bob Bruninga WB4APR

I would venture to say you can’t do better than hearing it from the inventor himself!

Published on Oct 19, 2015

Automatic Packet Reporting System overview by its inventor, Bob WB4APR given at the HACDC Amateur Radio Club. For more information about APRS, go to http://www.aprs.org For more information about HACDC Amateur Radio Club go to http://www.w3hac.org

Complete Overview of MESH for Amateur Radio (2014) by VA3BCO

MESH communications in Ham Radio is another area where Amateur Radio pushes the edge of the envelope and  has put a tremendous amount of work into this slideshare that goes from A to Z on how to run a MESH!  (Click on his website for more!)

Originally published on Nov 6, 2014

This is a comprehensive introduction to MESH for amateur radio enthusiasts. It is particularly useful for anyone new to MESH but will also include some nuggets sure to be helpful to the experienced operator. Topics include:

1. HSMM MESH vs. traditional digital modes
2. Router review & comparison
3. Firmware selection & configuration
4. Antenna considerations
5. Application scenarios for ARES and experimentation
6. Updates on local efforts & recent software announcements

Visit VA3BCO.COM for more details.

APRS… Automatic Packet Reporting System

The thing I absolutely LOVE in this wonderful hobby of Amateur Radio is that there are so many diverse niches to explore!  Everything from building your own radio, working through satellites in orbit, transmitting your own slow or fast scan TV signals, Morse Code working over 300 countries in the world on less than a half of a watt of power, emergency response, tons of digital modes, bouncing signals off of the moon, ricocheting your signals off of an excited aurora… basically, if you have an idea on getting a signal transmitted or received to someone you can invent your own technology!

Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) combines ham radios, GPS and tiny computers to report your location, regardless if you are standing on a street corner, in a moving car on the highway, camping, hiking, boating, balloon tracking, airplanes or even in space!  Believe it or not, your own cellphone can serve as the computer part, software and GPS .  Check out this slideshare from  on the nuts and bolts of this fun segment of ham radio.  (Click on his name above and check out his other presentations!)

REVIEW: Yaesu Fusion FT2DR dual-band digital portable radio

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This is a solid review by Don Trynor from VA3XPR from July 2015 of the Yaesu FT2DR dual-bander HT.  (They have a very nice website!)

Our local ham radio club, Monongalia Wireless Association, recently bought 2 of the Yaesu Fusion repeaters and I am doing my own research into being able to enjoy a new type of technology. I am looking at my options and hope to find something to get my hands on at the 2016 Dayton Hamvention!  I would think that prices would be moderating downward by now as others adopt the new radio and there may be some rebates floating around or “Specials” by some of the dealers.  (Read Don’s full review here…  Review: Yaesu Fusion FT2DR dual-band digitl portable radio )

The FT2DR is a good choice for anyone looking for a full-featured dual-band portable radio that is compatible with Yaesu’s Fusion line of digital radios. While this radio has some innovations, we think that they may not justify the $550 USD price point of this unit. In addition, we feel that Yaesu could improve upon future radios like this one, especially as it relates to the overall user experience. In this day and age when a good user experience for touch screen devices is the norm, such as with smartphones and computers, we think devices like this have room for improvement. All in all, if users can live without the touch screen display and louder audio, they might want to consider a cheaper alternative in the Yaesu FT1DR, which retails for $300 USD.

WinLink… What is it?

K4REF tells us from his YouTube Channel the basics of this interesting technology that we can use as Amateur Radio Operators.  It is most likely very similar to a technology we use daily… away from our radios!

 

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!

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!

 

 

What Is D-Star All About?

Yaesu has System Fusion… guess who has this thing called, D-Star?  You can probably guess pretty quickly, if you don’t already have an idea.

Discover D-STAR from Icom

Yaesu System Fusion Introduction

Cory Sickles (WA3UVV) is active in our local ham club, Monongalia Wireless Association, and he has been guiding us in installing a new Yaesu System Fusion repeater system up on Chestnut Ridge.  Are you wondering what Yaesu System Fusion is?  What is C4FM?  What is the difference between Fusion, D-Star, P25 and DMR?  Well… here are a couple videos that might give you some insight into primarily Fusion… but the second video looks at some comparison.  (Spoiler alert… it gets territorial quickly.)  Hats off to HamRadioOutlet and HamRadioNow for spending the time on these cool systems!

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.

See How a Schematic Diagram is ACTUALLY Visualized

“How to read an Electronic Schematic” by Paul Wesley Lewis

Wonderful example of how to visualize and equate the schematic diagram with the actual circuit build out.

What the heck is an Amp-Hour?

Battery amp-hour, watt-hour and C rating tutorial

Regardless if it’s your flashlight, your 2 Meter hand-held radio, your QRP rig, your Field Day station(s), your APRS setup, your balloon launch radio transmitter, your trolling motor, your emergency preparations or your personal GoBox… understanding how long those batteries that supply operating power will last becomes quite important.  It will also assist you in deciding what battery to select for a particular project or product.  Afrotechmods has several excellent YouTube videos on his channel that we all can enjoy!

Battery Technology Comparison by KF7IJZ

Small AGM vs A123 ALM-12V7 LiFePo4 Battery Module

Explaining USB 3.0

ExplainingComputers YouTube Channel, Christopher Barnatt, explains USB 3.0 and how it compares to USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 and data transfer rates.

Do Volts or Amps Kill You?

Does Volts or Amps Kill You? Voltage, Current and Resistance

This should be a good lesson for everyone, especially Hams that tinker and homebrew serious radio equipment.  You’d be surprised how much is too much!  Safety around radio equipment, coaxial cables, power chords, power lines, lightening storms, grounding straps and towers needs to be at the forefront of our mind.

Excellent YouTube video by RimstarOrg.

 

Portable Battery Box for Kayak… or Ham Radio

There are a ton of variations of portable battery boxes and unbelievably expensive if you buy they retail.  I like building projects at home, so here is another battery box with a very different form profile from some of the other videos on my blog.  DIY!  Here is a video from Derek Dickey on YouTube of his own kayak fishing GoBox.

 

GoBox Ideas

GoBox Update from KC6TYD

I am getting ready to put my ham radio station back together after being QRT for a number of years.  When I think about the VHF/UHF section of my station, I may decide to configure those particular technologies in a GoBox, of some sort.  I really like the idea of being able to “pack-n-go” in the event of emergency comms or Field Day type of activities.

 

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!

Arrow Antenna Bracket by Randy K7AGE

If you are interested in a relatively easy way to chase “The Easy Birds” (amateur satellites), K7AGE can help you get set up and successful QUICK!

Ham Radio Satellite Arrow Antenna

How to track satellites with K7AGE… Randy is great at explaining the how and why!

Ham Radio AO-51 Satellite with Randy, K7AGE

Randy K7AGE does a great job explaining how the satellite pass will work with minimal ground station equipment.  It is a really cool way to communicate and anyone with a Ham Radio License can do it!!!  Think about it… you are shooting signals to and from something the size of a Cantaloupe that is more than 22,000 miles away from the earth… and MOVING at 17,000 miles per hour in a circular orbit… with a $30 handi-talkie!

 

 

 

 

2 Meters Ham Band… VHF… What can ya hear?

K7AGE has a superb series of ham radio videos and I have learned a lot from them.  Subscribe to his YouTube Channel for information on TONS of topics about amateur radio!

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!

GPS and APRS… A Marriage Made In The Heavens

24satellite

How GPS Works

Basic APRS – An Introduction

Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS)

(Click link above for the ARRL APRS webpage explaining APRS)

 The Global Positioning System, or GPS, is pretty amazing and chances are, it’s playing a much greater role in your life than you realize. Anthony explains how GPS works and tells you about some pretty cool upgrades coming soon.

GPS
http://www.gps.gov/
“Official U.S. Government information about the Global Positioning System (GPS) and related topics”

GPS Modernization Video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chNQW2…

GPS is getting an $8-billion upgrade
http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/…
“Without it, ATMs would stop spitting out cash, Wall Street could blunder billions of dollars in stock trades and clueless drivers would get lost.”

New Satellites Could Make GPS Harder to Jam
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/…
“Without GPS, drones can’t fly, communications networks can’t function, and you don’t have a chance of figuring out how to get to your Aunt Sadie’s place in New Jersey. And right now, GPS is highly vulnerable because its weak signals are coming from an aging constellation of satellites.”

How GPS Receivers Work
http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/…
“Our ancestors had to go to pretty extreme measures to keep from getting lost. They erected monumental landmarks, laboriously drafted detailed maps and learned to read the stars in the night sky.”

Check out the Air Force Collaboratory:
https://collaboratory.airforce.com/

Watch More:

How Collaboration Leads To Great Ideas
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ga1_a4…

How Robots Help Search And Rescue Teams
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1Jztu…

Voyager 1: Where To Next?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRbG3y…

Feed Lines… A Basic Understanding

The ARRL Website has excellent information on their website about all things amateur radio.  This article explains the basics about some of the more common feed lines in use for antenna construction and the termination to your ham radio equipment.  Check the link below…

Feed Lines… ARRL.Org

Ham Radio Reference Site… RigReference.Com

logo

I stumbled onto this really cool website called RigReference.Com and was able to find some information on several older pieces of equipment I have in my ham shack.  Here is what their website says…

Who we are

RigReference.com is designed for and by Ham Radio enthusiasts. RigReference.com provides information about new and vintage amateur radio equipment (rigs) and allows and encourages members to share their opinions about these rigs.

RigReference.com is always looking for amateur related news, especially new equipment announcements. If you’ve seen or heard anything interesting please don’t hesitate to contact us!

RigReference.com explicitly does not sell ham radio equipment and/or parts.

Twitter… @RigReference

First Radio? Icom 718 HF Radio

The Icom 718 HF Ham Radio is suggested by many hams as the ideal beginner’s HF rig. The QRZ.COM website had a good forum post on best radios for beginners HF Rig For Beginners  (See reviews of the Icom 718 at the end of this post.)

Icom 718 HF Radio from the Amateur Electronic Supply (AES Website) website

Core Specifications
Receive Range: 0.030-29.999 MHz
Transmit Range: 1.800-1.999, 3.500-3.999, 7.000-7.300, 10.100-10.150, 14.000-14.350, 18.068-18.168, 21.000-21.450, 24.890-24.990, 28.000-29.700 MHz
Mode: USB, LSB, CW, RTTY (FSK), AM
Transmit Power: SSB, CW, RTTY 2-100W; AM 2-40W
Memory Channels: 101 (99 regular, 2 scan edges)The HF bands allow you to communicate over long distances covering many km even to the other side of the world. With the superior performance found in the IC-718 such as wide dvnamic range, high C/N ratio, and full duty operation you will find making these contacts easy. Experience the combination of the latest RF and digital technology, along with the size and simplified operation. You will see the IC-718 will be the most practical rig you will ever own.Front mounted loud speaker
The IC-718 has a speaker mounted on the front panel. With the speaker facing the operator, audio sounds can be clearly heard without impediment during operation. It is no longer necessary to manually increase the volume to try and capture audio sounds.

Superior basic performance
The IC-718 has 0.03-29.999999 MHz* general coverage receive capability. A 4-element system is employed for the 1st receive mixer, providing superior receive IMD, especially from in-band near-by interfering signals. A well-designed double-conversion system to help minimize image and spurious responses for better signal fidelity, is also built-in. A newly designed PLL circuit has been adopted to improve C/N ratio characteristics. The combination of the 4-element system mixer and new PLL circuit allows superior basic performance as that of a commercial grade transceiver.
*Guaranteed range: 0.5-29.999999 MHz

DSP capability*
The DSP includes the following to give you superior receiver quality in your shack, vehicle or during DX’pedition. *DSP is built in to U.S. models, but may be optional outside the U.S. Please check with your dealer.
Noise reduction:
Pulls desired AF signals from noise. Outstanding S/N ratio is achieved, providing clean audio in SSB, AM and FM.
Automatic Notch filter:
This automatically minimizes beat signals and heterodynes while preserving the receive signal. Also, the notch frequency is automatically adjusted to follow interfering beat signals – for example, reducing interference from RTTY signals during SSB operation.

Interference rejection – IF shift
To reject interference, the IC-718 has an IF shift function which shifts the center frequency of the IF passband electronically to reduce adjacent interference.

Microphone compressor
This feature compresses microphone audio input to increase average audio output level. The result is, that talk power is increased. The compression level is adjustable for your preference. This function is effective for long distance communication, or when propagation conditions are poor.

RF gain control
RF gain control is combined with the squelch control. The RF gain adjusts minimum response receiver gain, and ignores signals weaker than the pre-set level – providing pleasant stand-by, or scanning.

Ample CW features
An electronic keyer with a variable dot/dash ratio (2.8:1 to 4.8:1) control is built-in. By simply connecting a paddle, easy CW operation can be made. The CW pitch and the key speed are also variable from 300-900 Hz, 6-60 wpm, respectively. Of course, full break-in capability is available with the adjustable break-in delay.

VOX operation
A VOX (Voice operated transmission) is included with the IC-718. It provides handsfree operation by detecting audio signals from the microphone. It’ s easy! Flexible filter selection

Flexible Filter Selection
An optional IF filter can be installed into the transceiver to suit your operating preference.

High frequency stability
When the optional CR-338 HIGH STABILITY CRYSTAL UNIT is installed, you get a very high frequency stability of ±0.5 ppm.

Selectable antenna tuner
Either the optional antenna tuner unit, AT-180 or AH-4 can be used with the IC-718 to suit your installing conditions, or operating style. Of course, the AH-4 control circuit is built into the IC-718.

Simple operation
The IC-718 is equipped with a minimum number of switches and controls for superior feature selectability. The 10-key pad on the front panel for entering directly an operating frequency, or a memory channel number. The auto tuning steps function helps quick tuning is activate when turning the dial quickly. And the band stacking register is very convenient when changing operating bands.

Digital S/RF meter
Built-in multi functional digital S/RF meter indicates signal strength level while receiving, and either transmit output power, ALC level or VSWR ratio while transmitting.

Optional voice synthesizer
A clear, electronically-generated voice announces operating frequency, mode and receiving signal strength level when the optional voice synthesizer unit, UT-102, is installed.

Other features
• USB, LSB, CW, RTTY(FSK) and AM modes are built-in
• Level adjustable noise blanker
• RF attenuator and Pre-amplifier
• Variety of scanning function types
• Total 101 memory channels are available
• Hand microphone is supplied, and more…

Includes:
• Hand microphone
• DC power cable
• Spare fuse (FGB 20A)
• Spare fuse (FGB 4A)

Dim: 9.4″w x 3.75″h x 9.4″d; 8.5 lb.

Download Manual: IC-718

Download Brochure: IC-718  

Reviews of the Icom 718 from eHam.net   eHam.net reviews of the Icom 718

How Does a Multimeter Work?

Afrotechmods is a very insightful and easy to understand YouTube channel to follow on basic electronics.  Here he talks about multimeters and their usage in our ham shack.  I have several different digital and analog multimeters and their usage often depends upon the application and project.  He does other excellent videos, so check him out!

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

Basics of RF Mixers in Radio Receivers / Mixer Tutorial / Frequency Conversion by W2AEW

This video describes the basic properties of RF mixers, in the context of using them for frequency conversion/translation such in the application of a radio receiver. The input and output signals are shown on the oscilloscope, and the spectrum of the output is also shown, illustrating the various frequency components that are produced by the mixing process. The concept of IF filtering in a receiver is also illustrated. The video does not go into the design of mixers, the different types of mixers, or how to select a mixer for a given application.

Basic Transmitter and Antenna Tuning… A Sweet Match

This is a simple video primer on using an antenna tuner to reduce your Standing Wave Ratio (SWR) and find the ideal tuning match between your transmitter and the antenna to maximize your output power to the antenna.  This basic principle applies to other antenna tuners of other design and configurations.  Always read your radio Operation Manual AND your Antenna Tuner manual for proper procedure for your set-up BEFORE you apply the power!  Initial tuning into a Dummy Load should be made before a quick final tune-up on the actual frequency you are planning to communicate on.

 

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/

 

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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

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Writings about Amateur Radio

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

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slightly sub-orbital testing facility

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Silver Bells Blog

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K5UNX Ham Radio Blog

A blog dedicated to things Ham Radio related

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