Take a break from radio…

…or play radio outdoors !

 

Amateur radio is a fun hobby!  It is amazing to receive a Slow-Scan Television (SSTV) image from the International Space Station, or realize the FT8 digital contact you just completed put a new state or grid square in your logbook.

 

But sometimes you just need to take a break, or play elsewhere.  Fall is a beautiful time of the year.  Whether it’s wandering off to Leidigh Park to sit by the creek and fish, watch birds, or photograph trains as they cross the nearly 100 year old railroad bridge, take a ham radio along!

 

That Hand-Held Transceiver (HT) you routinely use for accessing the nearby repeater can make a great scanner for listening to railroad communication, or with a handheld yagi antenna and a lot of luck, you could make a QSO with another ham operator via earth-orbiting satellite. 

 

You might enjoy putting a mobile HF rig in your car or truck.  Some of your fellow ham radio operators might be in need of a two-way radio contact from one of the rare counties.  Consider combining a sight-seeing trip with some ham radio activity.  If you give out rare contacts be prepared to send QSL cards to the lucky men and women on the other end of the contact.  They will appreciate your efforts.

 

Follow the trail below to find more articles on radio, SSTV, rail-fanning and other stuff:

https://www.radioclub-carc.com/resources/

 

See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT

Photograph of ham radio operator W3VRE operating his ham radio transceiver.

 

Photograph of a farm goat standing in the pasture. The location of this scene is adjacent to where the Cumberland Amateur Radio Club set up its portable ham radio stations as part of the 2020 Pennsylvania QSO Party.
One member of the herd kept a watchful eye on the K3IEC Portable, Multi-Op, York County operations.

 

 

Part of the Notes From The Shack… series.

 

The Pennsylvania QSO Party for 2020 is over and hopefully your log has been submitted.

 

Cumberland Amateur Radio Club Members Andy AF3I, Doug KC3CPT, and Frank KB3PQT went to the home of club member Dave W3VRE in York County and got K3IEC on-the-air as a Portable, Multi-Operator operation.

 

Band conditions Saturday afternoon were terrible.  Andy and Dave made nearly all the QSOs on 80 meters using phone and CW.   (Thanks to Valli N8QVT for the 40 meter QSOs also!)

 

Chef-For-Life Doug KC3CPT prepared an excellent lunch which was enjoyed be all those who were present.  Visiting members Valli N8QVT, Harry K3EYL and Glenn K3SWZ added their momentum to the Team activity as well.

 

Did I mention that Dave W3VRE is a gentleman farmer?  We set up our stations in the back of his pasture within an arm’s length separation from the livestock.  See the nearby photo.

 

The Goat Wranglers K3IEC Contest Crew had a great time.  We are making our plans for PA QSO Party 2021.

 

For more information on the Pennsylvania QSO Party and contesting, follow the trail to

https://www.radioclub-carc.com/resources/

 

See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT

 

#####

 

 

Part of the Notes From The Shack…
series.

Scott Davis, N3FJP and his fine team at Affirmatech have created a constellation of software logging packages.  His AC Call Log is one of the more popular software loggers, and there are dozens of computer assisted logging programs.  Not only does his software do the usual logging, easy uploads to e-QSL and Logbook of the World, address labels, but under the VIEW tab I found some interesting statistics. 

A screen snapshot taken from my log:

Total Contacts by Band and Mode:

 Band       CW   Phone     Dig   Total       %
 —-           —      —–         —     —–       —

  160        0       9      25      34       1

   80        0   1,192     178   1,370      41

   40        0     208     210     418      13

   30        0       0      70      70       2

   20        0      55      81     136       4

   17        0       8       2      10       0

   15        0       4      20      24       1

   12        0       1       0       1       0

   10        0      96       2      98       3

    6        0       1       0       1       0

    2        0   1,137       5   1,142      35

            —   —–     —   —–     —

 Total       0   2,711     593   3,304     100

 

A few months ago, 80m made up 43% of my total contacts, and 2m made up 33%.  This Summer and Fall I made a deliberate effort to make contacts on “anything but 80m”.  That has not gone so well, as the shift from 80m to 2m shows, but I made more contacts on 30m (a fun band!) as well as 20m and 40m.  I am always amazed at how, while my perception is that most of my radio time is spent on digital modes, phone is the mode on which the bulk of my contacts have been made.

The N3FJP statistics also show the ARRL sections (usually obtained from contest loggers and imported into AC Call Log afterwards), states, countries, etc. The item I wish it tracked was mode by type:  RTTY; PSK31, FT8 etc.

 

Total Contacts by State \ Prov:

 State       Total     %
 —–         —–    —

 PA          1,283    39

 VA          1,016    31

 NC            189     6

 (blank)      98     3

 MD            63     2

 FL              47     1

 

This screen snapshot shows my top five states (plus the ever popular “blank”). 

I am not sure which surprised me more: that 70% of all my contacts were made with two states, or that NC ranks third, or that MD ranks fifth.

 

Follow the trail below to the Know-How Resources Tab to read more about computers and amateur radio,   https://www.radioclub-carc.com/resources/

 

See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT

 

Image shows a ham radio handheld VHF transceiver, sometimes called a Handi-Talkie or HT.

How Far Can You Go?

Sunday night August 30, 2020 the Cumberland Amateur Radio Club Weekly Two Meter Net had two visitor check-ins.  We welcome visitors.  In that sense, there was nothing unusual about one or even two visitor check-ins that evening.

What was impressive is that Denny KC3PVU was operating from on top Blue Mountain near Linglestown with a Yaesu FT-60R hand-held transceiver and a mag-mount antenna.  He was operating in the “Light Up Two Meters†on-the-air activity event where the object was to get as many two-way radio contacts (we call them QSOs in ham radio jargon) as possible on the 2 meter Amateur Radio band between 1800 and 2000 EST.

That little 5 watt radio and antenna successfully reeled in Valli N8QVT and Harry K3EYL in York Springs, Doug KC3CPT in Mt. Holly Springs, Andy AF3I in Dillsburg, Glenn K3SWZ in New Cumberland and other club members in the Mechanicsburg area.

I do not know how many contacts Denny made overall, but he got 9 entries in the log by talking with CARC members.

 

Denny was joined on Blue Mountain by his mentor – Mike W3MSB who had the same objective to Light Up Two Meters.

 

I am impressed.  If you need proof that ham radio is all about location and the more elevation the better, this is it.  If you ever thought a little handheld has too little power, you could be wrong.  From his Blue Mountain location to York Springs, home of N8QVT and K3EYL, was about 40 miles.

 

And even better – Denny had been licensed just 10 days at that point.  He has more QSOs in his log now than I did after 5 years in the hobby under my own call sign!

 

Thank you everyone who was not only willing to devote their time to assisting two fellow hams, but who eagerly added to their scores:

Andy — AF3I,
Harry — K3EYL,
Glenn — K3SWZ,
Doug — KC3AB,
Frank — KB3PQT,
Doug — KC3CPT,
Logan — KC3FFI,
Steve — N3FWE, and
Valli — N8QVT.

 

This activity was not planned, but that is part of the magic of ham radio!  Things happen.

 

The CARC Two Meter Net meets each Sunday evening at 7 p.m. on 146.490 MHz FM simplex.  If you are within ear-shot we invite you to check-in.  Listen for Net Control Station KB3PQT as he calls the net and invites check-ins.

 

If you are beyond the ear-shot distance you may wish to participate in our net using EchoLink.  Our EchoLink station can be reached on Node 259045 using Station ID AF3I-L

 

See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT

#####

 

Not just for grown-ups!

 

Faye KN4WDF recently was the Virginia Fone Net  Net Control Station and reported that she had talked to a newly licensed ham on another net she runs.  The new ham is an 8 year old girl.  Unfortunately I do not know the young lady’s call sign.

Faye is an enthusiastic supporter of the ham radio hobby.  While has not been licensed very many years herself, Faye seems to be very good at drawing people into the hobby.  She has expressed several times she wishes she had gotten into ham radio decades ago instead of waiting until after she retired.

How enthusiastic is Faye?  She was still getting her 50 required check-ins in order to become a VFN member when she said she was willing to be a net control on Saturdays, a day when the net can get 50 or more check-ins.  That’s enthusiastic!

 

The Virginia Fone Net meets on 3.947 MHz, at 1630 and 1930 Eastern time daily.

 

See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT

 

#####

Field Day, Contesting and Random Operating Thoughts

After Field Day 2020 was in the books a group of us from the Cumberland Amateur Radio Club K3IEC Field Day crew discussed what worked, what didn’t work, and what we can do to improve.  Some of our thoughts may well apply to your radio shack.

  1. Know thy radio! Sure, you have a brand new super duper KenIYea1000 with every bell and whistle you could possibly want.  But do you really know how to use it?  Or every time you want to adjust something you need to get the manual out?  Doesn’t have to be a new radio, just new to you or maybe an old favorite that doesn’t get used much.  The point is if you are spending more time looking at the book than operating, maybe you need more practice!
  1. What should you expect to achieve? If your antenna works best on 80 meters, you may have a less than satisfactory QSO rate in the early hours of Field Day, but wait until dark and it could be your time to shine!  If you are able to cover multiple bands, either with one or several antennas, you can hopefully make contacts regardless of what band is “open”.  Starting on 20 or 40 meters (or even 10 or 15 meters) then gradually moving up (or is that “moving down”) to 80 meters may net you more contacts and increase the fun level!
  1. On Field Day a “clean sweep” – working every ARRL section – is an awesome accomplishment. But if you cannot sit still for a long time, have family or household responsibilities and know you can operate for only a few hours, you may need to lower your expectations.  The point is to have fun, not generate stress!

 

What you just read is the first three of ten proven techniques that will help improve your operating results — whether it be the Field Day Operating Event, or any one of the many Radio Sport Contests that fill the airwaves most weekends. 

To read the entire group of ten proven techniques, please follow this link which will bring you directly to the PDF file.  How Do I Field Day Tips [PDF]

Or, you may wish to visit our Know-How Resources tab to see the many different subjects and topics our authors have written about.  It is a treasure trove.

 

See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT

Notes from the shack….

FT8 addiction?

With some help from our friends at WSJTX@groups.io.com

FT8 is one of the many digital modes in the WSJT-X  software suite from Joe Taylor, K1JT and his team of collaborators.  The basic software covers everything from weak signal HF to earth-moon-earth and meteor scatter transmissions on 2 meters and 70 centimeters in the VHF and UHF bands.   WSJT–X really took off about 4 years ago with the introduction of JT65 and since the introduction of FT8 in spring of 2018, FT8 has become one of, if not the most popular HF digital mode.  Please see the Know How Resources Tab for additional articles about the WSTJ-X suite, other digital suites and various digital modes.

Are there any psychologists out there, professional, amateur or wannabe, who have some theories about why FT8, its sibling FT4, and even its older cousins, JT65 and JT9, are so addictive?
73,
Ken, AB1J

Some replies:

Yes…

FT8, it’s all the fun of Ham Radio – without the jibber-jabber!

For me, since I have hearing loss & tinnitus, I enjoy being able to turn the volume to zero & avoid the noise. And you can certainly multi task in that environment, have a meal, conduct a transaction, pay a bill, even watch a favorite TV show, etc. 

In other words, having a life AND playing radio using FT8 are totally compatible – enjoy!

73 – John – N7GHZ

 

It’s addictive because it works well in crappy conditions, you can quickly and easily see where prop is going, and you can surf the web while operating.

Scott N7JI

Or clean up the shack. I use WSJT-X software because they make QSOs that I can’t make on CW, the mode I enjoy most.
73, Jim K9YC

 

I could tell you, but right now I am in a 15 second continuous, never ending, loop … 🙂 
Marion  K4GOK

 

from another poster:

Hook up GridTracker and use a Mario Coin sound when it successfully uploads a grid to LOTW and it’s  like a video game!

 

That is a major advantage. One can work stations all over the world even in the horrible current band conditions. Since starting with JT65 and moving to FT8 (a little FT4), it got my digital DXCC and have credit for 100 countries confirmed digital on QRZ and eQSL. I just need a confirmation from an Alaskan station I worked a few days ago on 10M (that was a surprise) and a QSO and QSL from Maine (Hello, any amateurs there — almost never see a balloon.) to complete my 10M digital WAS. I have confirmed all states digitally on 15M, 17M, 20M, 30M and 40M. Due to high SWR on my DX-88 vertical, I don’t work 80M much at all.
John, WB9VGJ

 

It “does exactly what it says on the tin”

And, you don’t need a big all singing station to get heard, just a few watts will work the world!

Ken.. G0ORH

 

Whether you love it, or hate it, FT8 seems to be here to stay for a while.  Will it be around over 150 years from now like Morse Code (CW)-the original digital mode?  or fade away to become about as commonly used as the Telex-Over-Radio  (TOR) modes like TOR, PACTOR and other variants of those that were common in the 1980s and 1990s but are rarely heard today?   Either way, for now, it has given a lot of Technician class licensees the incentive to upgrade to General and sold a lot of radios.

See ‘ya down the log!

Frank KB3PQT

#####

Are you an active ham?

Good day!

The United States leads the world in having the greatest number of licensed amateur radio operators.  There are about 763,000 among all US License Classes.  About 8,000 of those have Novice licenses, 387,000 have Technician Licenses, 179,000 General, 38,000 Advanced and 150,000 Extra Class.  About 160,000 people, not all licensed, are members of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). 

The US is 4th place (behind Japan, China and Thailand) in the percentage of the total population holding an amateur radio license.  It’s about 0.23%.  A tiny number.  And, for those looking for comparisons, more Americans have been diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus in 2020 than the number of Americans who have a ham radio license. 

Pennsylvania has about 24,000 licensed amateurs.    That’s about 0.19% of the state population, so PA trails the national average.  California not only has the greatest number of licensed hams among all US states at over 106,000, and also has the greatest percentage of the state population licensed at 0.27%.  Texas has over 53,000 and 0.24% of the population licensed.  Alabama has barely 12,000 but 0.25% licensed and Virginia has over 20,000 and 0.24% licensed.

How many of these licensed ham radio operators are active?  No one really knows.  Some are Silent Keys (ham radio jargon for deceased) whose licenses have not yet expired or cancelled.  Many students got a ham radio license for extra credit in high school Physics class, and never really had much intention to ever getting a radio station on the air.  Some started out with great intentions, then either left the hobby or put it on hold as life interrupted.  Many of today’s “new hams” were licensed 20 or 30 years ago, left the hobby, and as they become “empty nesters” or look for a retirement hobby they return.

If you are an active ham, what are you doing to encourage others to become more active?  If you are an inactive ham, is it involuntary, or have you simply not found the time? 

If it is the later, What is required to get you back on the air?  Stealth antennas?  Portable operations?  Satellite activity?

Even if you don’t have a ham radio station or antenna you can enjoy some aspects of the hobby by using EchoLink.  EchoLink is PC-based software which uses the Internet in conjunction with traditional ham radio.

Our own club – the Cumberland Amateur Radio Club – conducts some of its activities using the Zoom Web Meeting application.  If you would like to familiarize yourself with the type of activities that are of interest to today’s ham radio operators I invite you to connect into one of our Wednesday evening 8:00 p.m. get-togethers.

eMail AF3I@RadioClub-CARC.com  to tell us what is on your mind and to request a meeting invitation with ID and Password.  We are glad to help and will welcome you.

Check out our Know-How Resources tab for some ideas and more information!

 

See ya down the log!

Frank KB3PQT

Memory Aids for Ham Radio Call Signs

Photograph of air horn trumpets as one might find on a train locomotive or eighteen-wheeler truck.What on earth is this doing here? 
                                                                               It will make sense after you read the story.

Some people find memorizing things is easier if they associate it with something else. This is how a lot of acronyms come in existence and how “memory experts” sell their tips. 

Their memorization techniques generally don’t work for me.  If your name is Karen, your chosen career is a Nurse, and I cannot remember something as simple as that how does thinking of Karen as “Carin” as in A Nurse Cares For Someone help?   The steel sieve leaks enough! 

The other night I was happily working FT8 (A popular digital mode.  See the Know-How Resources tab for more articles on that topic).  A call from a grid square I don”t have confirmed popped up.  I looked at the call and did a double take — K3LA.  I had to work that one!.  

Why?  I am a train enthusiast.  The Nathan K3LA air horn is one of the most common and widely used locomotive horns in the USA.  The Nathan K5LA, with 5 trumpets, is less common but even more impressive.  The ham radio call sign K3LA belongs to Chester located in Sharon, PA.  His QRZ page gives no biography info, so I have no clue if his call sign was an available 1×2 call, or perhaps Chester really likes Nathan air horns, or trains in general. 

I was watching some other interesting call signs. 

W0BLE.   is that “Wobble”? “Wobbly”?  or W0 Bessemer [&] Lake Erie [RR]?

M0WIT.   “Mow it”? or “Mo Wit”? 

K3GPS, a member of our own ham radio club and now a Silent Key, was famous for his love of technology.  The call sign fit him perfectly.

What interesting calls have you seen?

 

See “ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT

#####

 

 

Photograph of green plastic Army Men toys used to illustrate the post topic.

Share The Airwaves

 

It’s OK to just want to play radio! 

This weekend, as I was watching an email thread unravel on a ham radio reflector, I was reminded of one of my nephews.  He was about 4 years old, maybe he just turned 5.  I will call him Younger Precocious Nephew, or YPN for short.  YPN was at his older brother’s Little League game.  YPN was bored and was playing quietly under the bleachers with his little green army men. 

Another little boy, about 3 years old, came over and looked enviously at YPN.  YPN generously offered to let the boy, NK for short, play.  But YPN had a serious question that needed answered first. He asked NK:  “Do you want to play World War I, Waterloo, or the American Revolution?”.  NK had no clue.  So YPN tried again and NK still had no idea. He just wanted to play with the toy soldiers.

YPN was becoming frustrated when his mother intervened and explained that NK had no clue what the question was and YPN should just pick one and move on.  YPN reluctantly did that. 

 

What does that have to do with radio?  The thread I was watching with someone making a very reasonable request to attempt to practice their emergency communications (emcomm) skills outside of the weekly emcomm net.  That’s all.  As the thread played out, one poster replied that rather than do simplex messaging (station to station) they should learn how to relay messages from one station to another to get to the final destination. Then when they mastered that technique worry about simplex.  And you guessed, that poster didn’t offer to set a sked (schedule) to help the newbie emcomm operator do that.

 

I don’t know how many times I have heard some variation of don’t… 

  • I don’t make QSOs with QRP stations (low power). 
  • I don’t talk to anyone who I do not have perfect armchair copy on. 
  • If you are less than 59, I cannot {won’t) hear you. 

And so on.

Really?  Have we become that unfriendly?  Then we whine the air waves are dead. 

Come on folks!  This is a hobby.  Sometimes we don’t share common interests:  CW, EMCOMM, moonbounce, SSTV, all have niches.  But ‘ya know what?  At the end of the day, it’s all about Amateur Radio.

So share the airwaves!  You just might learn something too.

See ‘ya down the log.

Frank KB3PQT

 

So, what’s this all about?  

Stock Photo of a tropical island sandy beach with blue ocean water in the distance.

  • A female voice is saying “Calling You”
  • and then a male voice says “Wanted DX”. 
  • While in the background, 
  • the Stereo is playing some of that good old time rock and roll.

Stock Photo of an attractive luau-style meal set out on a dining table.

  • Let’s Party…..
  • Fiesta…..
  • All Night Long…..
  • oh  yeah…oh yeah…..
  • all night long…..

Stock Photo of a glass of beer being poured from a bottle.

  • We zoom back, taking this all in,
  • we see the OM with an ice cold cerveza in one hand
  • and the mouse in the other. 
  • He clicks on Log QSO, 
  • then on Enable Tx.

Notes From The Shack….  WSJT-X and JTAlert

Today’s Guest Author:  John N6DBF

 

I use WSJT-X and JTAlert (AL) for running FT8.

 

My computer is a home made Windows 10 machine with plug-in sound card and it also has a headphone jack.  

My interface is a Yaesu SCU-17.  

WSJT-X is setup to use the audio input and output from the SCU-17.  

JTAlert has the sound card set to the computer headphone jack.  

JTAlert is also loaded with both male and female voices.

My computer is setup with two sets of speakers. One set is plugged into the headphone jack and the other (3.1 Stereo Main Speakers) plugs into the stereo output jack of my computer sound card.  

So, what’s this all about?  

Well, JTAlert now announces some Alerts with a female voice and the others with a male voice.  I have “Spotify.com” loaded and running on the 3.1 Stereo Speakers.  All this while running WSJT-X, JTAlert, HRD LogBook, Ham Radio Spots, and PSK Reporter.  I make use of Windows Task View. WSJT-X, JTAlert, and HRD LogBook go on the first Desktop, Ham Radio Spots, PSK Reporter go on the next Desktop, then “Spotify” and Volume Mixer go on the third Desktop. You may add more or less to your taste.  

As our cameras move in, we see N6DBF in the Ham Shack. The radio equipment is on.  The 24″ computer monitor is displaying WSJT-X, JTAlert and HRD Logbook, we’re on 40m in FT8 mode.  

A female voice is saying “Calling You” and then a male voice says “Wanted DX”. While in the background, the Stereo is playing some of that good old time rock and roll. 

We zoom back, taking this all in, we see the OM with an ice cold cerveza in one hand and the mouse in the other. He clicks on Log QSO, then on Enable Tx.  

CQ N6DBF DM13……….New Prefix……….New Grid……….
Let’s Party….. Fiesta….. All Night Long…..oh yeah…oh yeah…..all night long…

Who says the bands are closed???  

John Wisniowski n6dbf

Tonight (February 23, 2020) as part of the Sunday evening CARC Two Meter Net which meets at 1900 EST, CARC members Frank Mellott KB3PQT and Andrew Forsyth AF3I demonstrated sending and receiving SSTV images (Slow Scan Television) over the air. 
The equipment on each end of the radio connection consisted of a Two Meter FM amateur radio transceiver, a personal computer, a PC Sound Card, and some free software called MMSSTV.

The complete posting, with images, can be viewed by clicking the link:  Notes From The Shack SSTV [PDF]