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[l] at 3/29/23 7:31am
Useful knots for portable hams After watching  this video, Im actually able to tie a taut hitch. VarAC HF Chat Im not a big digital guy, but this looks interesting. W8TAM: Powering POTA Parks on the Air (POTA) is arguably one of the coolest things in ham radio today. Here, Thom, W8TAM, a friend of mine and one of the masterminds behind the technology, explains some of the tech that makes it so popular.   The post Videos: Tying knots, chatting on HF with VarAC, and the tech behind POTA appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Digital Modes, Operating, Parks on the Air, knots, POTA, VarAC]

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[l] at 3/26/23 10:35am
In this episode, I joined Martin Butler M1MRB, Caryn Eve Murray KD2GUT and Edmund Spicer M0MNG and discussed the following topics: Echo of BBC’s first broadcast in Scotland 100 years ago is heard from centenary event at Pacific Quay Steubenville-Weirton Amateur Radio Club Donates Books to Library System Is there a Better Way to Safeguard Vital Repeaters? In the Car, Podcasts and Online Audio Continue to Grow FreeDV Aims to Bring Open-Source HF Digital Voice Into the Mainstream Astronauts from UAE Taking on Space Education The episodes feature is about Hamzilla 2023, a hamfest in the U.K. Hams actually listen to us? Im always pleasantly surprised when I run across hams who say that they listen to the podcast. Mostly, it just seems like were babbling when we record the podcast, but when people say that they enjoy listening to it, it makes doing it all worthwhile. Last week, at the HamSCI Workshop, I introduced myself to a fellow who said, I know who you are. I recognized your voice from the podcast. We proceeded to have a really nice conversation about the workshop. Last night, I worked someone on 30 meters, and my being on the podcast made it possible. He emailed me after contact saying, Im a new CW operator and I heard your call tonight and recognized it from podcast fame, so I answered. I appreciated that you slowed down right away, but I immediately regretted my decision when you sent more than RST and state. That is to say that he probably wouldnt have answered my CQ if he hadnt recognized my call sign. I replied, I could tell that were a bit unaccustomed to ragchewing, but kudos to you for trying! I went on to say that I hoped that he should feel free to call me anytime. The only way to get better, after all, is to make contacts. I hope that I get to work him many times in the months ahead. Ill extend that invitation to all of you. If you ever hear me on the air, or see me at an amateur radio event, please feel free to say hi. The post ICQ Podcast #399 Hamzilla 2023 appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Clubs, Digital Modes, SWLing, VHF/FM/Repeaters, BBC, FreeDV, libraries]

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[l] at 3/24/23 12:10pm
Here are some interesting articles from the March 1923, March 1973, and March 1998 QST. To find and download the articles, go to http://www.arrl.org/arrl-periodicals-archive-search. Note that you do have to be an ARRL member to make use of this service..Dan March 1923: Exploring 100 Meters. This article describes some of the work going on to induce amateurs to operate on wavelengths of 100 meters and below. Thats 3 MHz and up, frequency-wise. That was short wave back in the day. Activities described included a 100-meter CQ Party and weekly short-wave tests. The March 1923 issue also included a couple of other interesting articles: What the Department of Commerce Things of our A.R.R.L. Voluntary Lid is a compilation of letter extracts describing agreements between amateur and broadcast stations. 1XM, the radio station at the Massachusetts Institute of Techology is showcased in the Whos Who in Amateur Wireless column. March 1973: Beginner and Novice: Tips on Ten. In 50 years time, amateur radio has gone from its first steps into the shortwave region to operating on 10 meters. And, now that were headed towards the peak in the sunspot cycle, 10 meters will be plenty active again. In this article, Ed Tilton, W1HDQ, gives some great advice on the propagation modes that you can take advantage of on 10 meters and covers a wide variety of antennas that you can use for this band. Another great article in this issue is The W2FMI Ground-Mounted Short Vertical by Jerry Sevick, W2FMI. In addition to writing the book on baluns and ununs, Sevick did quite a bit of work on short verticals. The example in the article is a 6-ft. vertical for 40 meters. March 1998: There are a number of interesting articles in this issue, including: What is Good Amateur Practice? by Dave Sumner, K1ZZ. Specifically, K1ZZ addresses the issue of good amateur practice as it relates to band planning. Helping New Hams Get Started by Dennis Agosta, KB0RFA. This is a nice article on how to engage new hams. Understanding UTC by Gary L. Trice, K4xxx. This is a one-pager on what UTC is, and how to use it. Make Your Own Rubber Duckies' by Paul Stump, N0LRF. Paul writes, You can build a replacement antenna that delivers a lower SWR and more RF output than the one that came with your radio—and you can do it for $10 or less and a couple hours of fun! The post 100, 50, and 25 years ago in QST: 100 meters, 10-meter tips, build your own rubber duck appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: antennas, Books and Magazines, Classes/Testing/Licensing, Operating]

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[l] at 3/23/23 1:31pm
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about what seemed to be a lack of marketing in amateur radio. I recounted my experience at Northern Telecom with a product called the DV-1. Well, as it turns out, one of my readers is also a former Northern Telecom employee. He wrote: Small world! I joined BNR Atlanta in 1985 as a market research manager in data communications. Later that year, I ran a customer study to identify why DV-1 didn’t sell and whether anything could be salvaged. The results of that study started a helluva controversy at NTI in Nashville. As you probably know, there were several attempts to repurpose the DV-1 platform but nothing ever worked out. For years there was a DV-1 at the Nashville building. It’s the only place I ever saw one in use. I really wanted to see that study, so I emailed the fellow. Unfortunately, he no longer had a copy, but I really wanted to hear more. I suggested a telephone call, but he suggested we get on 40 meter phone, which we did. We had a great chat about our experiences with the DV-1 and with Northern Telecom in general. Is this ground wave? In the past week, Ive had a couple of contacts whose propagation mode I cant quite figure out. The first was with W8KIX on 30 meters. According to QRZ.Com, he is 48.3 miles away from me as the crow flies. He was really strong—S9+. Its hard to believe that we were working ground wave, but he suggested that we try 40 meter and then 80 meters to see if we could copy one another. On both 40 meters and 80 meters, we were both S9. So, does that mean we were really working ground wave? I would have thought thered be some difference in signal strength had we been working sky wave. Just last night, I worked VE3CWP on 40 meters. According to QRZ.Com, hes only 35.4 miles away from me. He was actually S9 + 20 dB here. He gave me a similar report. As a result of this contact, Im thinking that we really are working ground wave somehow. As an aside, I was amused to read his QRZ.Com page. He writes, Licensed since May 29, 1958, my 16th birthday. My first ticket was dated July 16, 1971, my 16th birthday. The post Operating Notes: DV-1 revisited, strong ground wave?? appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Operating, DV-1, ground wave, Northern Telecom]

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[l] at 3/20/23 3:24pm
Im on my way home from the HamSCI 2023 Conference, and while waiting in the airport, I thought Id record some first impressions. As the date approached, I was feeling kind of reluctant about going. In fact, I almost didnt go. In the end, though, Im glad I did. Impressions: Scranton seems to be typical of a lot of East Coast and Midwest cities that enjoyed an industrial past, but are not as vibrant today as they once were. Its in a beautiful spot, and the people are very nice, and Id say that things will get better in the future. Scranton is called The Electric City. This is partly due to their steel works early adoption electrical power and because they opened they opened what was was recognized as the first street car system in the country to run exclusively on electric power in 1886. I stayed at the Radisson Lackawanna, which is a very cool hotel (see right). It used to be a train station for the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad that ran from Hoboken, NJ to Buffalo, NY. From its construction, you can see how prosperous Scranton was at its peak. One of the unique features of this station/hotel are the 36 ceramic portrayals of scenes along the  railroad line. The first depicts the Hoboken ferry. The 36th depicts a resort near Buffalo. This was a small, but mighty conference. There were lots of presentations because they used the academic format, which gives presenters only 20 minutes instead of the hour thats usually given to presenters at ham radio conferences. The focus was on ionospheric research, but there were topics of more general interest as well. For example, because the Doppler shift is of interest when describing the behavior of the ionosphere, theres also an interest in accurately measuring signal frequencies. There were lots of students, as you may expect. The median age was, therefore, much lower than at many ham gatherings. The attendees were more diverse, too. There were many women and people of color present. As a result of attending this conference, Ive added a couple of things to my list of projects Id like to do at some point. The first is connecting a GPS disciplined oscillator (GPSDO) to my IC-7610 in order to make my frequency measurements more accurate.The second is to play around with VLF reception and listen to some of the naturally-occuring phenomena that produce  RF signals, such as whistlers. The post HamSCI 2023: Some first impressions appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: antennas, Propagation, HamSci, ionosphere, PA, Scranton, VLF]

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[l] at 3/14/23 9:41pm
The Icom IC-2820H. About a year and a half ago, I bought an Icom IC-2820H at the Findlay hamfest. It included the UT-123 option, which is a board that you plug into the main board, which gives it D-STAR capability. I mentioned in a previous post that Id be willing to remove and sell that board as there are non D-STAR repeaters in my area. I got one offer about a year ago, but that never panned out for some reason. Then about a month ago, someone else offered to buy it. After agreeing on the price, he sent me a money order for the amount, so yesterday, I attempted to remove the board. I hit a snag, though, in getting the board out of the unit. To remove the board, you have to remove 10 tiny Phillips head, M2 screws. I don’t know who installed the board, but whoever did, really torqued down these screws, making them very difficult to unscrew. I got the first nine out OK, although some of them i had to really bear down on some to get them out. The tenth was another matter. I stripped the head, making it unremovable, at least by any method I could find on the internet. I tried using a straight screwdriver and then a rubber band, but the darn thing just wasnt coming out. This morning, I took it over to my favorite hardware store, Stadium Hardware. The people there are really amazing. Theyll help you with almost anything. I knew that if it was possible to get that screw out, they could do it. At first, the guy said, “Hmmmm. Looks like we’re going to have to drill that out and re-tap whatever it’s screwing into.” But, then, he walked away from the counter and came back with a set of damaged screw removers and a drill motor. At first, it looked like he was just shaving more metal from the stripped screw, and I’m thinking that I’m really screwed now. Eventually, though, the screw began to turn and it came out. I ended up buying the extractor set, of course. I took the radio home, popped the lid, removed the board, packaged it up (the guy who sold me the radio even had the original box for the UT-123), and I sent it on its way. The hardware store didnt have the right screw to replace the ruined one, so I only had to replace nine of them. The whole process was kind of a pain, but it was a learning experience, too. I learned how to use a screw extractor, and I now have the right tools to do the job. The post You learn something new every day: screw extractors appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Gear/Gadgets, IC-2820H, UT-123]

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[l] at 3/8/23 7:30am
Warning!! This is a partly-baked idea, so go easy on me.Dan DV-1 users were given integrated voice and data terminals, like this Meridian M4020. They really wanted PCs, though. I worked for Northern Telecom (NT) from  1985 to 1991. They had purchased a company here in Ann Arbor, MI and formed a division that was developing an integrated voice and data system, called the DV-1. It used quite sophisticated technology, and we had some talented hardware and software engineers, but ultimately the product was a failure because it wasnt really what customers wanted. Customers didnt really want an integrated voice and data terminal on their desks. They wanted a PC. A couple of our engineers developed a PC interface card to allow PCs to be used with the system, but that never really caught on. They tried to use the hardware as a database server for NT phone switching systems, but since the hardware wasnt designed to be a database server, per se, that didnt work out all that well, either. The problem, of course, was that there was no marketing. Some engineers somewhere said, Hey, we have this neat technology. Lets make a product and sell it. What they should have said is, Hey, we have this neat technology. How can we design a product incorporating that technology that people will want to buy? I think that ham radio suffers from a similar lack of marketing. There are lots of ham radio projects and products that suffer from ills that make them either unusable or annoying. It could be that the setup is too complex for the benefit to gained, or that a product is lacking a key specification. A transceiver, for example, may have an output power of only 500 mW, making it useful only in certain, limited applications. That same product might be a lot more successful, however, if it had an output power of 5 W or 10 W. Many will say that hams should be savvy enough to deal with these limitations and still make things work. Thats true, but sometimes even the most savvy dont want to be bothered, or they dont see the benefit from taking the time to complete a complex setup. Many  hams are tinkerers, but they dont have an unlimited amount of time. If the obstacles to success are too great, theyll abandon a project or sell off a piece of equipment thats too hard to use. Im not really sure what the answer is. Im not a marketing genius, either. Its easy to say that hams working on projects need to start thinking like marketers, but its a lot harder to do it. If you want your product or project to be successful, though, that what you need to do.   The post Partly-baked idea: Does amateur radio need more marketing? appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Everything Else, Gear/Gadgets, marketing]

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[l] at 3/5/23 8:30am
On the Elecraft-KX mailing list, an item popped up on a topic that Ive been pondering for a while. Titled Balun necessary? Barry N1EU asked the question: Im planning some 40M-15M portable operation with a 44ft doublet fed with 25ft of twinlead into the KX2 ATU.  Is it, or is it not, necessary to use a balun between twinlead and KX2 antenna terminals for this application? Ive been pondering this very question myself, as my go-to antenna for portable operation with my KX-3 is a 66-ft. doublet fed with twisted pair. Ive just been connecting the twin-led feed line directly to the radio with a BNC-binding post adapter, but it occurred to me last summer that I should perhaps be connecting the unbalanced output of the KX-3 to the balanced feed line. The antenna seems to work just fine without the balun, but I wonder in the antenna system would be more efficient with one. At 10 15 W out, you want your antenna system to be as efficient as possible. As you might expect, this question generated a lot of replies. Many of the replies simply said, A balun is preferred, without really giving a reason for this. Many write that using a 1:1 balun or current choke would prevent common-mode currents on the feedline. The purpose of this being to reduce the chance of the feedline radiating and causing RFI or to reduce noise pickup. I jumped into the conversation when it was well underway  and mentioned that I have been using a doublet with twisted-pair feed line. That prompted a private reply from Barry, and we struck  up a conversation on the relative merits of twisted-pair feedline vs. 300 Ω twinlead and whether or not to use a balun. In one of the emails, he wrote: FYI Dan, did a little experiment. I set up a 44ft doublet on a summit yesterday and ran some 1 watt WSPR transmissions on 40, 20, and 15m using first a 300-ohm twinlead feedline and then a twisted pair feedline (PTFE insulated, harvested from surplus CAT5e cable). I’ve always been intrigued by the super lightweight twisted pair and several years ago used it once with very good results (high score in 2014 QRPTTF/SOTA event). But I always wondered about the loss involved, especially with the high SWR encountered in a non-resonant antenna. I lacked sufficient time on the summit to be very thorough and methodical but I believe the data is valid. 30-45 minutes separated the transmissions for the different feedlines. 40m 24 reports for both twisted pair averaged -3.75dB down from twinlead 20m 27 reports for both twisted pair averaged -1.56dB down from twinlead 15m 13 reports for both twisted pair averaged -4.15dB down from twinlead Perhaps one day I’ll do a more thorough and methodical test but I think these results show that PTFE twisted pair is a viable balanced feedline and makes for an ultralight option for SOTA activation, although twinlead is preferred when weight is not an issue. Other equipment used included an Elecraft KX2/ATU and Android phone running WSPR Beacon. The 300-ohm twinlead was connected using a homebrew dual FT140-43 core 4:1 Guanella current balun and the twisted pair was connected using a homebrew FT140-43 common mode choke (12 turns). I should probably do some of my own testing. While scouring the shack for stuff to take to a hamfest a couple of weeks ago I ran across some quality 300 Ω twinlead, so I could make up a 66-ft. doublet with the twin lead feedline. I also have ferrite cores and try winding the twisted pair feedline around it to see if that makes any difference. Barrys test show that the twin lead is more efficient, but twisted pair is easier to handle and does wind up into a smaller and lighter package for transporting to and from a POTA or SOTA site. It would be interesting to do some testing with the 44-ft. doublet. In general, of course, the more wire in the air the better, but less wire again makes it more manageable. Im going to have to download WSPR Beacon to my Android phone, too. In any event, it looks like Ill have a lot of fun stuff to play with this summer when I can get out and do some activations. The post Balun or no balun? appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: antennas, Operating, QRP, baluns, twinlead, twisted pair]

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[l] at 3/2/23 7:44am
I subscribe to an email newsletter named Model D that covers community news in Detroit. The company that publishes it also publishes other email newsletters that cover similar news around the state of Michigan. In the last issue of Model D there was an ad for the SC4 STEM Fest. I thought to myself that this kind of event would be perfect for some kind of amateur radio involvement. So, I emailed our ARRL Section Manager and asked if he might know if anyone in the amateur radio community was exhibiting at the event, and if not, what we might do in the future to find out about upcoming events and to get involved with them. I received the following response: Thanks for the heads up I have forwarded this to the club up in Port Huron. If they can make it great, if not we will look a little further in advance and see if any local clubs can support. It would be perfect to introduce amateur radio at this one since a former astronaut will be there. While this is an understandable response, I think its missing the boat. I think that someone in the ARRL organization should be keeping on top of these things and making sure that amateur radio has a presence at them. Not only that, we need to come up with some kind of exhibit that will be engaging enough so that kids will be attracted to our hobby, and if not our hobby, electronics and communications engineering. This is really more than a small amateur radio club can handle. An effort like this really needs to be addressed on a statewide, if not a national level. I asked our section manager what he would think about starting some kind of Michigan Section STEM Committee, but I havent received a reply yet. Having said all this, here are a few questions: Do you know if the ARRL has any kind of program for finding out about this kind of STEM event and any kind of exhibit that could be displayed at them? I know that the ARRL conducts the Wireless Institute, but thats really a thing for teachers, not students.(Right after I post this, Im going to email Steve, K5ATA, ARRLs Education and Learning Manager about this.) Have you been involved with any of these STEM programs? If so, Id love to hear about your experiences. Is there a list of STEM events somewhere that we could consult to find upcoming events? Do  you have any ideas for what kind of exhibit would be a hit with the students and/or the teachers that attend these events? I know this is all kind of partly baked, but I think that this could be a good way to get more youth involved in amateur radio. So, I say, Lets get on board with STEM! The post Were missing the STEM boat appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Kids, STEM]

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[l] at 2/28/23 7:52am
For ICQ Podcast Episode 397, I joined Martin Butler M1MRB, Edmund Spicer M0MNG, Ed Durrant DD5LP and Chris Howard M0TCH to discuss the following topics: Spy Radio Stations that Still Broadcast Today An Expansion on Solar Cycle Prediction Another 100 year old Radio Club PRESENTER OPINION: There Are Almost as Many GMRS Licenses as Techs… Hobby Club’s Missing Balloon Feared Shot Down By USAF This episodes feature is 23cm Antenna review and ISP Trouble. The post ICQ Podcast Episode 397: Spy station, solar cycle 25, 100-year-old club, GMRS appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Clubs, Podcasts, Propagation, gmrs, numbers stations]

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[l] at 2/27/23 9:49am
Last week, Id signed up to do a turn as W1AW/8 as part of the ARRLs Volunteers on the Air operating event. I had planned to operate 40-meter CW on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings. That was the plan, anyway. On Tuesday, I simply forgot about operating. My bad. On Wednesday, I wasnt really sure how much Id be able to operate because an ice storm started several hours before I was to begin my operations. I use a non-resonant, 80-meter doublet antenna on 40 meters, and when it gets wet or icy, the antenna can sometimes become untunable. My 80-meter doublet antenna on Thursday morning. After dinner, about 6:30 pm, I looked out at the antenna and noticed that there was already some ice on both the elements and the feedline. Even so, I went down to the shack and was able to tune the antenna, so I started calling CQ. Almost immediately, I started getting calls, and the signals were almost all S9, so I thought this is going to go well. While I was operating, I did notice the SWR vary from time to time, but I could usually adjust the tuning to get it back down to a reasonable value. About 8:00 pm, though, the SWR just went through the roof, and I had to shut down for the night. Overall, I made 80 contacts in about an hour and a half. Thats not a bad rate considering that I had to slow down for many operators, and I took some extra time to swap comments with operators that I knew. Even though I had to quit operating, I was glad that our power remained on. This being such a bad storm, I thought there was a good chance our power would go out. Thursday, the temperature rose into the mid-40s, and all the ice melted. I thought to myself that we were in the clear now, and I was looking forward to the evening session. Boy, was I wrong. Before I could get started, our power went out, and we became two of the hundreds of thousands of people who lost power here in Michigan. The power was out for nearly 72 hours. My wife and I toughed it out in the house for the first two days, but it got so cold in the house, that we got a hotel room on Saturday night. Im still not sure how we managed to do that with so many who were still without power in the Ann Arbor area on Saturday. Fortunately, our power was restored on Sunday afternoon, and were once again warm and cozy here. And, Im back on the air. We used to have very reliable power service here, but it has deteriorated quite a bit over the last 10 years. So much so, that some folks here in Ann Arbor are talking about setting up a municipal utility and dumping DTE Energy, the current provider. In either case, Im thinking a generator might be my next purchase. The post Operating Notes: Ice storm takes me off the air appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: ARRL, Operating, VOTA, weather]

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[l] at 2/20/23 2:49pm
We have a really great library here in Ann Arbor. Its won library of the year honors in the past, and it continues to do a fabulous job. In addition to books and magazines and music, you can borrow stuff like telescopes, energy meters, thermal cameras, and a bunch of other cool stuff. One of the best features, however, is the Friends of the Library book sale. Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan, and as you might expect, people here have a lot of books. So many books that we dont have enough shelf space to store them all. So, when shelf space needs to be freed up, many of these books get donated to the Friends of the Library and get sold in the Friends shop. This shop is open every day, and you never know what you might find. Ive purchased many technical books from the Friends of the Library book shop. My latest find is Understanding Basic Electronics, 1st edition. I snagged it for two dollars. I would never have purchased this book new. After all, I think that Im pretty well versed in basic electronics. But, for $2, I couldnt pass it up. Im glad I didnt. It explains some of the basic concepts in ways that makes these concepts understandable to newcomers. For example, instead of just saying that the phase angle between voltage and current in a capacitor is 90º, it explains why this is: It appears that capacitors dont like the applied voltage to change. They react to a voltage change as to oppose that change. When the voltage is increasing, they take energy from the voltage supply. You could view this as an attempt to prevent the voltage from increasing. When the voltage is decreasing, the capacitor returns stored energy to the circuit. Think of this action as working to prevent the voltage from decreasing. There are similar explanations of concepts such as resonance and how transistors are made and how they work. Im hoping that by reading this book, Ill come up with new ways to explain how some of this stuff to the folks taking my ham radio classes. Before you buy the book, note that theres nothing in the book about antennas and very little about electronic circuits. Thats because this book is really devoted to the basics of electronics. Also note that there is a second edition that was published in 2010. I havent seen that edition, but Id guess that its even better than the first. The post A nice find at the local library appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Books and Magazines, Electronic Components, Electronics Theory, ARRL]

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[l] at 2/16/23 2:29pm
Norwich Free Academy contacts the ISS This video was made and posted by the Norwich Bulletin. This contact was made possible, in part, by a grant from Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC), my employer. Club demos ham radio in northern Florida WALDO, Fla. (WCJB) -The Gainesville Amateur Radio Society invited the public to Waldo City Square to show a demonstration of another form of communication in case of severe emergency situations. Amateur radios, better known as ham radios, were invented in the early 1900′s to communicate during power outages. “One of my biggest is seeing new hams and young people get involved in it,” said event organizer Michael Martell. “I think amateur radio gives to the kids and other people kind of a disciplined approach to communication where you kind of lose that in your texting or in your internet and stuff.” read more and watch video For amateur radio club, practice makes perfect WASHINGTON, IA — For members of the Washington Area Amateur Radio Club (WAARC,) biannual contests represent both a thrill and an important exercise. On national radio field days every summer and winter, the group sets up camp and spends 24 uninterrupted hours making as many contacts as possible around the world. Club member Lloyd Thornburg said the group served as both a hobby and a form of emergency response infrastructure. If communications between actors like hospitals, governments and emergency responders fail from any kind of disaster, the WAARC can step in and fill the gap with their own portable, off-grid equipment. “We can get a signal in and out of the country,” Thornburg said. “When everything else fails, HAM radio works. They were the first ones to report the earthquake in Alaska in the ‘60s.” read more The post Amateur radio in the news: CT students contact the ISS, club demos amateur radio in northern Florida, practice makes perfect appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: ARDC, Operating, Satellites, Special Events, ARISS, CT, FL, IA]

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[l] at 2/13/23 7:18am
If youre like me, you have a lot of browser tabs open. These tabs have web pages that you keep meaning to get around to reading, but often do not. You could bookmark them, but bookmarking those pages just puts them out of sight, and they shortly become out of mind. Right now, I have four different amateur radio-related tabs open. Since I think that many of you will also be interested in reading them, Ill do a short review of each one here. G7FEK antenna: 80 meters in a limited space Before I found and put up my Cobra antenna, I did a little research and found several possibilities, including a loaded dipole and a 43-ft. vertical. Another good option that I recently came across is the G7FEK antenna. G7FEK describes his antenna as a 46-ft., multi-band antenna for small gardens that works well on 80 meters. And, according to G7FEK, its impedance is nearly 50 Ω on 40 meters, 30 meters, 17 meters, 15 meters, and 12 meters, and it can be used with a tuner on 20 meters and 10 meters. Heres what it looks like: The G7FEK antenna needs only 46 feet of space. If any of you are using this antenna, please let me know. Id like to hear your thoughts. The REAL SWR page As Ive often noted, Im not an antenna guru. I know enough to get something in the air and working well enough to make contacts, but not a heckuva lot more. I know that low SWR at the transmitter is a good thing, but that its not really necessary that the antenna itself have a low SWR. The REAL SWR page backs me up on this. Here are the 7 points that WC7I makes on this page: Reflections happen at the coax antenna connection and they also happen at the coax tuner connection. The last part of this statement seems to be missing from most discussions of SWR and mis-matched conditions. This is why a lot of people think that reflected power gets into the radio and does damage. That does not happen! These reflections do not cause energy loss. All losses are due to the coax itself. Energy moving backwards in the coax is subject to the exact same losses as energy moving in the forward direction. The amount of energy reflected at the coax antenna connection depends on the amount of impedance mis-match (read SWR) between the antenna and the coax. The greater the mis-match, the greater the reflection. The amount of energy re-reflected at the coax tuner connection is 100% of the energy that gets there, but not all the energy that was originally reflected gets back to the coax tuner connection. There will be losses in the coax. All the reflected energy that reaches the coax tuner connection is re-reflected back into the coax headed for the antenna. (Yup, another lossy trip in the coax.) The re-reflected energy will be in phase with the generator so the two signals will add. This can create more forward power in the coax than the transmitter is actually producing. It is possible to measure 125 Watts forward power from a 100 Watt transmitter because the re-reflected power adds to the transmitter power. Coax losses are the only losses in the whole system. These losses can be significant, but they are the ONLY losses in the antenna system. If you have been paying attention, you know that this last step is just a re-statement of other steps above. He goes into much more detail on why this is so, so read the web page. Two things pop out from this discussion: WC7I says, You should always use an antenna tuner. It goes near your rig, in the shack. Its duty is to match your antenna and coax to the impedance of your rig, not to change the SWR in the coax that goes from the antenna down to the antenna tuner. Electrical energy moves forward and backward in a coaxial cable and in ladder line. (Everything I tell you about coax is also true for ladder line, except that ladder line has far less loss.) How to activate your local repeater A frequent lament is that repeaters these days are quiet most of the time. In an attempt to get more people on their local repeater, a Reddit user asked for suggestions on how to increase activity. Here are some of the ideas that you might want to try: Throw out your call sign and let people know youre listening. It wont change it overnight,  but I think you, plus a few others, could make a world of difference. We have a daily net, round table style. It is open from 5 to a minimum of 5:30. longer if we are having discussions. If we run out of check ins or things to say, the net control remains on frequency and makes a call every few minutes until 5:30. Encourage discussions and conversations. Some net controls do words of the day, finding odd words and asking if folks know their meaning. I do trivia, sometimes ham related, sometimes not. As a NC, engage with people, ask questions, ask how that thing they were doing last week went or whatever. The point is to make it more than a simple check in and personal, not just some call sign checking in. Does the repeater have a website? Make sure any regular nets are published there, and promote it in clubs, newsletters, etc. The post also has some good ideas about how to make nets more interesting and get more check-ins.   The post Latest browser tabs: G7FEK antenna, SWR, repeater activity appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: antennas, VHF/FM/Repeaters, G7FEK antenna, SWR]

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[l] at 2/7/23 9:30am
A little over three years ago, I got a pretty good on a Flex 6400. So, although Ive been an Icom guy since the 1980s, I bought the Flex and sold my IC-7300. Flex 6400 The Flex is a great radio, but after three years, I got a hankering for a radio with real buttons and knobs. The obvious choice for me was the IC-7610. Id been thinking of getting one for more than a year now, but got serious about looking for one about three weeks ago. My first stop was QRZ.Com Swapmeet. I had really only intended to see how much used IC-7610s were going for, but found someone selling one for $2,300. I noted that there were a couple of guys already interested in purchasing it, but I emailed the seller and told him that if neither of them came through with the cash, that Id buy it from him. A day or two later, he emailed back saying that both of them decided not to buy it after all, and if I still wanted it that it was mine. I sent him a cashiers check for $2,378 (shipping was $78), and about a week and a half ago, it was delivered to my door. Honestly, I was a little concerned about buying it sight unseen. Yes, there were pictures on QRZ.Com, and it did look like a well cared for radio, but unless you can play with it, you dont really know if there are any problems or not. I was relieved that when I took everything out of the box (which, by the way, was the original packaging) that everything looked to be in mint condition. There wasnt a single scratch on the radio. The next day, I crimped some PowerPoles onto the power cable, disconnected the Flex, and installed the IC-7610 on my operating desk. I had to either make or find the proper cables to connect the headphones and key to the rig (the Flex used 1/8-in. phone jacks while the IC-7610 still uses 1/4-in. phone jacks for these two connectors), but once I got those in place, I was ready to roll. My new (to me) on my operating desk. So, here are some first impressions: I love being able to use my Motorola speaker again. I wasnt able to use it with the Flex because the Flex requires an amplified speaker. I chose some amplified PC speakers based on recommendations on the Flex mailing list, but I was never happy with the sound. Theyre probably great PC speakers, but for ham radio, especially CW, the Motorola speaker is much better. It has a nice, crisp sound. The IC-7610 receiver is definitely quieter than the Flex receiver. I noticed that when I changed from the IC-7300 to the Flex, too. Of course, that may mean its more sensitive. I dont really have the equipment to test that out. The Flex bandscope is a lot more flexible than the IC-7610 bandscope. The IC-7610 bandscope has only a select number of spans, while the Flex bandscope span is continuously variable. I really like that feature. On the computer monitor, the display is larger, too. You can hook up a bigger monitor to the IC-7610, but I havent tried that yet. With the Flex, you can display all of the meters in one window, while the bandscope is in another. The IC-7610 crams all this information into a smaller screen, meaning that you cant see it all at the same time. The Flex has a separate setting for output power when tuning, while the IC-7610 does not. So, if you want to reduce the output power when using the IC-7610, you have turn it down, tune, then turn it back up. The Flex has separate outputs for the speaker and the headphones, and you can turn them on or mute them separately. This is nice if you switch often between headphones and speaker, as you dont have to keep plugging and unplugging the headphones.  You can also use the headphones while a visitor in the shack is listening to the speaker. The effort to set up the radios with third-party software, such as N1MM contest logging software, is pretty much a wash. I did have to install the Icom USB drivers, but that wasnt a big problem. The SWR meters read differently on the two radios. Im not really sure why. I should have connected an external meter and compared readings before I disconnected the Flex. Overall, these are two great radios, but they do offer two distinct operating experiences. I think that as we move forward, its the user experience that is really going to differentiate products. Theyre all going to offer great performance, so its the ergonomics thats going to become important. The post First impressions: IC-7610 vs. Flex 6400 appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Gear/Gadgets, Flex 6400, IC-7610]

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[l] at 2/4/23 7:29am
Odd propagation A couple of weeks ago, I turned on the rig, tuned up on 30 meters, and called CQ. The first station I worked was KB8FCG. According to QRZ.Com, KB8FCG is 28.8 miles away from me. The signal was S9 here in Ann Arbor. That seems a little too far for ground wave, but a little too close for sky wave. The second station I worked that even was S57V. QRZ.Com says that S57V is is 4,600 miles away. He gave me a 579 report. Is zero beating a lost art? Zero beating is the practice of matching your transmitting frequency to that of the station youre calling or are in contact with. Because most new rigs have DSP filtering, zero beating is more important than ever. If you call a station calling CQ, and your transmit frequency is off by more than 100 Hz, the station calling CQ may never hear you because youll be outside the passband. I had this happen twice the other night. The first station to answer my CQ was 250 Hz up, the second was 250 Hz down. If I hadnt seen these two stations on my bandscope, I never would have heard them. The moral of the story is that if youre answering a CQ, get as close to the stations transmit frequency as you can. You do this by matching the frequency of the incoming signal to the frequency of your sidetone. That is to say that if you have your sidetone set to 500 Hz, the frequency that you hear when youre receiving should also be 500 Hz. There are a bunch of good YouTube videos on the topic. Heres a good one: A new Q signal? So, Ive been on the air quite a while now, and have contacted many stations many times. That being the case, I generally dont need them to send me their name and location. Id like to propose a new Q signal that will tell the other station that theres no send this information again. My first thought was to use QHI. Theres already a definition for QHI, but its not used at all in ham radio, and I bet that we could get away with it. WATSA OMs? The post Operating Notes: Odd prop, is zero beating a lost art? appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: CW, Operating, Propagation, Q-signals, zero beat]

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[l] at 2/2/23 8:10am
One of the things on my ham radio bucket list was to learn how to use KiCAD and design a PC board. Being a newbie at PC board design (when I was an engineer, we had PC designers do the actual layout), I decided to do something simple. Since I teach ham radio classes, I decided to design a board based on the circuit in Figure T-1 of the Technician Class question pool. This diagram illustrates a couple of ideas: How schematic diagrams represent electronic circuits. How a transistor is used as a switch. Designing the board Since I already had the schematic, the first step in designing the board was to choose the components. I had a bunch of 2N2222 transistors in my junkbox, so that was an easy choice. Choosing the lamp wasnt quite so easy, though. Normally, Id just use an LED, but LEDs require current-limiting resistors, and adding a resistor to the circuit would meant that it wouldnt match the diagram. I did an Amazon search and found some LEDs with built-in current-limiting resistors. Since theyre designed to operate from 9 12 V, it was natural to choose a 9 V battery. This meant that I had to find the snaps to plug the battery into. A quick Mouser search yielded the Keystone 593 and 594. Once Id decided on using a 9 V battery, the next step was to choose the resistor. I figured that connecting the input to the 9 V battery would be the easiest way to turn on the lamp, and I calculated that 47 kΩ resistor would give enough base current to turn on the lamp. Since the current through the resistor was so low, I thought that an 1/8 W resistor would do. While thats true, choosing that value probably wasnt a good idea. The reason for this is that 1/4 W resistors are much more readily available than 1/8 W resistors. The next revision of this board is going to have space for a 1/4 W resistor. Making the schematic was pretty straightforward, but laying out the board was a little more complicated. First, you have to assign a footprint for each of the components, then place them on the board, then route traces. That doesnt seem like a big deal, but it takes some time to get used to how to actually do this. Once I thought I had a decent design, I ran it by one of my friends here in Ann Arbor who has designed several PCBs. His first suggestion was to increase the size of the traces. I had just used the default size, but he noted that its easy to lift traces when soldering if they are too small. He also suggested that I make the board as small as possible to reduce the cost. I did do that, but as you can see from the photo below, the batter hangs off the board. Thats not really a big deal, but I did want to include an image of the Figure T-1 schematic, as the circuit is supposed to demonstrate how the circuit in Figure T-1 works. My Figure T-1 demo board. To make the board, I chose AllPCB.Com. They were really very patient with me. For example, when I first submitted the design files, I forgot to include the copper layers! Want one? I havent used one of these in any of my classes yet, but I think it will make an effective demo. If youre an instructor, and would like to have one of these boards, I can sell you a kit for $6. Also, if you have any suggestions on how to improve this board, please feel free to contact me. The post My first PC board! appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Classes/Testing/Licensing, PCB Design, Figure T-1]

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[l] at 1/31/23 7:11am
This article was published by NIST yesterday. I think that if amateur radio wants to remain relevant in emergency communications, someone needs to be reading these kinds of reports.  Based on this survey, NIST produced 14 different reports. Heres a quote from one of them, Voice of First Responders Identifying Public Safety Communications Problems: Findings from User-Centered Interviews Phase 1, Volume 1: The public safety community is in the process of transitioning from the use of land mobile radios (LMR) to a technology ecosystem including a variety of broadband data sharing platforms. Successful deployment and adoption of new communication technology relies on efficient and effective user interfaces based on a clear understanding of first responder needs, requirements and contexts of use. Dan America’s First Responders Give NIST Their Communications Tech Wish Lists NIST’s nationwide survey aims to improve communications devices for fire, police, EMT and 911 crews. January 30, 2023 Credit: B. Hayes/NIST Our first responders have spoken. An extensive research project conducted by experts at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) reveals what our country’s police, fire, emergency medical and 911 dispatch responders think about the communications technology they use on a regular basis and how they would like developers to improve it in the future. More than five years in the making, the Voices of First Responders project reflects the input of 7,182 respondents to a survey NIST conducted of first responders hailing from across the country, from large cities and suburbs to small towns and rural areas. The results of the study, the largest of its kind ever to investigate public safety personnel user experiences, provide a wealth of data intended to help developers of communications technology create more useful devices for the field. “First responders are people who go to the scene with the goals of saving lives and protecting the public,” said Yee-Yin Choong, an industrial engineer at NIST. “We set out to understand this technology from their perspective, to find out what is working for them and what isn’t.” While the results fill more than a dozen publications, some overarching messages stand out, including three interrelated requests that first responders made: Public safety communications technology should be trustworthy, be controllable and reduce user frustration. “Our findings are aimed at the research and development community, but we are also trying to reach administrators who make purchases,” she said. “Technology needs to be trustworthy, and the users need autonomy over it. Our results indicate that if you focus on those things, the users will be happier.” The team also distilled the study data into six guidelines for future technology development: Improve current technology — more important than developing new technology is improving what first responders currently have. Reduce unintended consequences — develop technology that does not interfere with or distract from first responders’ attention to their primary tasks. Recognize that “one size does not fit all” — technology must accommodate public safety’s wide variety of needs, across disciplines, districts and contexts of use. Minimize “technology for technology’s sake” — develop technology with and for first responders driven by their user characteristics, needs and contexts of use. Lower product and service costs — develop technology at price points that departments find affordable and also scalable for widespread distribution. Require usable technology — technology should make it easy for the user to do the right thing, hard to do the wrong thing, and easy to recover when the wrong thing happens. The team began its investigation by interviewing about 200 first responders from across the country to gain a general understanding of how they used communications devices. From this information, the team developed a more detailed survey about particular pieces of technology — from radios and phones to laptops to the headsets and earpieces that call center dispatchers use — and details about them, such as frequency of use and the problems they presented. After obtaining the raw survey results, the team spent three years analyzing the interview and survey data and developed a total of 14 publications detailing the findings. Four are NIST Special Publications (SPs), each of which concerns the technology needs of one of the four first responder communities. The remaining 10 are NIST Interagency Reports (NISTIRs), which focus on the interview and survey data across all four communities. The data are freely available online, and the team has made it possible to enter specific queries and create charts that allow for more effective analysis. “For a developer, the data might help you design a better radio, but it also might give you information you never thought of,” Choong said. “One police officer said his body camera needs to show the court exactly what he saw. It should indicate that he was upside down and in the dark, but it shouldn’t change the video contrast, which can make it appear that something in that dark room was plainly visible.” The study fills a gap in public safety communications technology research. Previous research efforts by other organizations have focused on the technology itself, not users’ interactions with it in real-world situations, Choong said. “Before our project there was no systematic method for looking at the users’ needs and the problems they have faced,” she said. “We did not have any preconceived ideas of what we would learn, but we were rigorous in our methodology for obtaining the data. We include the details so that it can be useful in domains beyond public safety communications research.” The post NIST studies first-responder communications needs appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Emergency Communications / Public Service, NIST]

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[l] at 1/29/23 9:36pm
In this episode, I join Martin Butler M1MRB, Edmund Spicer M0MNG and Ed Durrant DD5LP to discuss the latest amateur / ham radio news. In this episode, we discuss: Internal Heating Element Makes These PCBS Self-Soldering Amateur Satellite FalconSAT-3 Nears Reentry DX-Unlimited, Arnie Coro, CO2KK — SK Grid Hunters who Use Satellites Risk Losing an Important Resource Natural Phenomenon Affects Radio Waves and Helps Science The episodes feature is Workshop Experiments.   The post ICQ Podcast Episode 395 Workshop Experiments appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: ICQ Podcast, Satellites, SWLing]

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[l] at 1/27/23 8:23pm
On Twitter, one of the accounts I follow is MichigansPast. His tweets are always interesting, and Ive learned a lot. One of his recent tweets included this photo of the display of Michigan license plates at the R. E. Olds Museum in Lansing, Michigan: What jumped out at me was the W8AHV license plate in the third row. I didnt know that Michigan offered ham radio license plates that far back. I re-tweeted this, and a fellow named Rory replied, According to this article. 1939 may have been the first year in Michigan. http://www.pl8s.com/hams.htm This article, written by Mike, W1DGJ, who is now unfortunately, a Silent Key. He writes, After completing an article about Amateur Radio Call sign auto license plates for the January 1995 issue of the American Radio Relay League’s official journal, QST, I felt it would be appropriate to put together a collection of first year of issue ham plates from all the 50 states. My intentions were to also document this information for posterity. This unique collection had been attempted by plate collectors in the past, but to my knowledge it has never been successfully completed. Not something for the Guinness Book, but I feel it is an important part of Amateur Radio history. The article includes this photo of his collection: This display features two Michigan plates: the W8IQS plate from 1939 and the W8ZQV plate from 1954. Heres why: The first plates with ham call signs on them were issued in Michigan for 1939. The Great Lakes Amateur Radio Telephone Association of Detroit under the leadership of James Strang, W8NFR, proposed the special plates for hams . They petitioned the Secretary of State, Leon D. Case, to allow the request be granted under legislation that allowed a maximum of 3 letters and 3 numbers. It was more correctly a personalized or vanity type and 400 to 500 of these plates were issued to hams (ref. March 1939 QST). After the first year the officials felt the system not administratively workable and Michigan discontinued issuing them the following year. Michigan did not start issuing official ham plates until 1954. The next plate issued with a ham call sign on it was a 1950 Florida plate that is generally considered to be the first true ham plate. In addition to this history, the article is full of interesting stories as to how W1DGJ was able to find and acquire these license plates. Heres an example: One first year of issue ham plate was sent to me by the widow of a Silent Key asking the plate be added to my collection in his memory. The only problem was the plate had been repainted in silver with his call sign in black paint. He had displayed his expired ham plate on a second vehicle and did not want to be stopped by the authorities for using an expired plate on his automobile. I tried a little lacquer thinner on the back of the plate and found it removed his paint without effecting the original paint underneath (most likely an enamel paint). Under his workmanship I found an excellent condition first year plate for my collection. Unfortunately I did not have the foresight to photograph his repaint job that protected the plate for many years. I was sorry to read that W1DGJ is now a Silent Key himself. If anyone knows what happened to his collection of amateur radio license plates, Id be interested in knowing that. Also, if you have any remembrances of W1DGJ, please comment below. The post TIL: Michigan issued the first ham license plates appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Everything Else, license plates]

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[l] at 1/26/23 11:21am
From the Internet Archive blog. Internet Archive’s Digital Library of Amateur Radio & Communications is quickly growing to become an important archive of radio’s past and present. The collection has blossomed to well over 51,000 items related to ham radio, shortwave listening, scanners, and related communications. The newest additions include books, journals and magazines, newsletters, and archives of early Internet discussion lists. More than 3,300 books and magazines are now available via controlled digital lending in the DLARC lending library. These materials, including hundreds of magazine and journal issues including Popular Electronics, RF Design, and General Radio Experimenter, can be borrowed for online or offline reading, one reader at a time, by anyone with a free Internet Archive account. DLARC has also added amateur radio magazines QST from 1912-1961, Radio & Television News from 1919-1959, and Radio magazine from 1920-1947. Theres lots more, too. Read the entire blog post to see all the cool stuff they now have on line, courtesy of an ARDC grant. The post Archive for Amateur Radio Grows to 51,000 Items appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Everything Else]

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