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

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Helpful Hint for FM Repeater Users

I was listening to a conversation on the Frederick, Maryland W3ICF 146.730 MHz repeater this morning.  The gentlemen I heard shared a helpful hint for those, like me, who were listening.  The hint follows….

There are hams who use the SCAN function of their VHF/UHF transceiver to monitor several repeater frequencies.   Sometimes the ham is in front of the transceiver.  Sometimes the ham is nearby, within hearing distance of the transceiver.

The gentleman I heard on the air mentioned that some hams configure their transceivers to resume scanning a few seconds after the frequency goes quiet.  If you key the repeater and announce yourself, saying something such as:   “This is AF3I, Listening” the other ham, who was out of the room at the time, probably has no idea on which of the several repeater channels you were speaking.

His suggestion:   If you key the repeater and announce that you are listening you may wish to include a few additional words to convey on which repeater or on which frequency it is that you are listening.  For example:   “This is AF3I, Listening on the 146.730 Repeater.”

Sounds good to me.  Give it a try.

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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]

 

February – A good month to play radio!

 

February is a fun month.  It starts with Groundhog Day and ends with the South Carolina QSO Party.  It has the Minnesota, Vermont and British Columbia QSO Parties in between.  February also has a couple CW contests, RTTY contests, the School Club Roundup and many others, including some Special Event stations.  This month I have spent more time than usual on the air. 

While the bulk of my activity is VHF nets such as the Cumberland Amateur Radio Club two-meter net at 1900 EST on Sunday at 146.490 MHz and on HF nets such as  the Virginia Fone Net on 3.947 MHz at 1600 and 1930 EST daily, this month I have spent a lot of time collecting grid squares, states and countries using the FT8 mode.  I have tried Olivia (see the RESOURCES page: Operating Your Station for How Do I… articles on various modes) and actually made some PSK31 contacts.

Continue reading “Notes From The Shack… February 2020”

Notes from the shack….

Winter Field Day, 2020

Ah… Field Day.  Summer temps, picnic food, setting up outside… can’t wait!

UH…wait….you said “Winter Field Day?    Huh?  Winter?? as in freezing outside?   Ummm…no thanks.  

Really. Winter Field Day is a thing.,  It was started several years ago as basically a club activity in Ohio and has grown into one of the larger events in amateur radio.  Winter Field Day seems to be most popular from Virginia south.  Why? In part because it’s warmer there.  And in some places Winter Field Day on the 4th weekend in January is a lot more fun to be outdoors than the ARRL Field Day the 4th weekend in June.   The 2020  ARRL Field Day is the weekend of June 27.  CARC has already reserved the cabin at Shaffer Park in Carlisle, PA.  Watch this website for more info.

 

Winter Field Day has essentially the same rules. With one important exception:  the entry classes.   ARRL Field day uses the number of operating transmitters and a combination of how they are powered and where they are located.  CARC has operated ARRL Field Day as 4A (4 radios, club, commercial power).  If we ran our radios  off batteries we could enter as 4B.  Winter Field Day uses the number of transmitters and the environment were they are located:   Outdoor, Indoor or Home.   Outdoor means just that.  Indoor is a room or building without an existing antenna system and not normally used as a space for radios.  Home is a place where you normally have a ham radio station of some sort.  Most of the stations I worked this weekend were Indoor or Outdoor. 

I got the current N3FJP Winter Field Day software downloaded Saturday morning so I could keep my log electronically and was ready to start at 1400 EST (1900 UTC) except that I was just getting up from my nap. So I was a bit late.  I  am a 1 transmiiter Home station, or IH for WFD purposes.   20M was quiet but dead.  40M was busier.  I figured 80M would be really noisy so I started on 40M phone (voice).  I was hoping to pickup the nearby ARRL sections (EPA, WPA, MDC, SNJ, NNJ, WNY, VA, CT, WMA, ONS, ONE, QC and perhaps some others then work longer distances on 80M after dark,  Nope. 40M was long.  My goal is to work a new ARRL section on every QSO until I run out of ones I can realistically get.   I think 3 of my first 5 were Indiana (IN) and the other 2 were I think Ohio (OH) and Illinois (IL).  By supper time I had something like 24 QSOs in the log and the closest were NC and OH.  Not good.  After checking into the Virginia Fone Net on 75m (I could hear the Net Control in Virginia’s Northern Neck, but to check-in I had to rely on a relay in South Carolina, I went down 75m looking for WFD activity.   I found 2 stations.  One I had worked on 40m who moved to 80m after dark and still had a big pile up.  I was surprised at the lack of activity on 80m.  40m had lots of it earlier.  Due to band conditions though many stations I could hear were on top of each other; they could not hear each other and I could hear both but could not reach either without getting stepped on by the other one.  Frustrating!

Got up this morning and found 80m quiet, full of nets and rag chewers and no WFD activity.  20m was very good, but no WFD activity there, so I went back to 40m and worked another 15 stations or so.  Then at 1030 EST my voice  quit.  I was trying to reach a station in KS.  I think he was running QRO (high power) with at least 800 watts, and everyone seemed able to hear him and he heard no one.

Then my voice just quit.  I knew no one would hear me.  

I tried CW, thinking 40m and maybe 20m and 80m would have a fair amount of WFD activity but I found none.  Still not sure what to do, so I shifted my log to my second monitor and fired up FLDIGI, the Fast Light Digital modem software discussed on this website in the “How Do I…” articles featured on the RESOURCES pages.  I went to 40m and switched the mode to PSK31. Found nothing. 

PSK31 is fun.  I like it, but since the advent of the WSJT-X modes (FT65, JT8, FT8) etc, it has become very hard to find on the air.  Many of the call signs I worked on PSK31 I have since worked on FT8.  I started calling CQ WFD on PSK31 and after a few calls someone came back to me.   I collected a couple more, then began seeing other folks calling CQ WFD and worked some of them.  I expected it would be a slow process.  I eventually switched to 20m on 14.070 MHZ then back to 7.070 MHZ to end the contest. I lost a few Q’s as band conditions just blew them away mid contact.  I finished with 12 and added at least 2 new sections in the process. 

The end result was about double my total QSO’s for last year’s Winter Field Day and close to 4 times last year’s score. (Multipliers are your friends!).  Last year I worked I think 2 bands, all on phone.  This year I had 3 bands, and both phone and digital. I figure I left about 11 sections on the table as I was unable to find a band short enough to work them.

 

If Winter Field Day is kinda like the NASCAR race at Daytona, the contest season is just starting.  Next weekend (February 1 and 2) is the British Columbia QSO Party as well as the Minnesota Party and Vermont’s.

South Carolina is February 29 and North Carolina is on March 1, 2020.

The Oklahoma QSO Party is March 14.

The Virginia QSO Party is March 21.

The Pennsylvania QSO Party is October 10 and 11, 2020.  CARC plans to set up and operate a multi operator station somewhere again this year.  Watch this website. We have not decided yet if we will try for a three peat from York County or take the Traveling Radio Road Show caravan elsewhere this year.

Frank

KB3PQT

The Beginning of Amateur Radio License Plates in Pennsylvania


 

Royal Kramer, W3ZIF, shares with us this amusing story about one of the first Ham Radio Operators to receive a call sign license plate for his automobile. 

Photograph of a Pennsylvania Amateur Radio license plate bearing call sign K3HLN.

The year was 1956, the year I got married, and the first year that ham radio license plates were officially permitted on our vehicles after many years of battling the powers-to-be in Harrisburg to pass a law regarding their use on our vehicles.
It was also the first year that I was working in the design drafting department at PPL in Allentown. Another draftsman who worked with me was Paul Fritsch, W3HHC. He was my “Elmer” in many ways as he gave me code practice sessions together with many other technical problems that I had encountered over the years despite the fact that he was 15 years older than me. Paul got his license back in 1938 I believe and was a 1st LT. in the Army Signal Corp during WWII serving in the South Pacific. 
From time to time, Paul and his wife Anna would travel to Anna’s family who lived in the small community of Muir, Pa which is located west of Pottsville and Tower City.
One Saturday, as they were driving out the Route 22 thruway, between Allentown and Hamburg heading for Route 61 and long before I-78 was built, Paul noticed a flashing red light about a mile behind him and not being a fast driver, sort of slowed down to let this car pass him which was a PA. state trooper. However, the state trooper’s vehicle did not speed up to pass him but kept a steady speed behind him. Paul figured he may be following him so he pulled over to the side of the road and the state trooper pulled up behind him. Both Paul and Anna wondered why they were stopped but as the state trooper came up to his car, he wanted to see his license and registration as they normally want to do and Paul responded that he didn’t think he was driving over the speed limit and the state cop responded saying that he didn’t stop him for speeding but because he had an illegal license plate on his car. He asked Paul where he got the license and he told him at the same place everyone else gets their license from, the Department of Revenue. Paul asked him why his plate was illegal and the cop said that license plates that begin with the letters W,X,Y, and Z are reserved strictly for tractor trailer trucks and since he was driving a four door sedan, his license was illegal. Paul said that he could explain that since he had a “special plate” on his car with his call letters on; W3HHC. He pulled out his FCC license and showed it to the cop. The cop looked at it and had a weird look on his face. He asked when the Department of Revenue came up with this law and he told him it was that particular year, 1956. The cop responded wondering why the DOR never let the state troopers know about it as this was the first license plate he saw that started with a W. Paul told him that he will see many more license plates similar to his that start with the letter W as many ham operators had applied for this “special plate.”  The cop, somewhat embarrassed,  appreciated this information and apologized to Paul for detaining him and left him go with no citation or fine issued.
Saying all this, these “special plates” were the first ones issued by the state but we were all charged an extra $3.00 to have this kind of plate displayed on our vehicles. After several years of paying this extra $3.00, that cost was dropped and today, we pay the same amount as any other person would pay for a regular license plate. Today they are called “vanity plates” but I don’t know if people have to pay extra for that plate or not. 
Back in Allentown, practically every member of the Lehigh Valley Amateur Radio Club had their call letters displayed on their license plate. However, as the years passed, many of these hams became Silent Keys and it seems that the younger hams in the club never bothered to apply for this “special plate.”
I can honestly say that when I bought my first car in 1959 soon after getting out of the Army, I applied for this plate and after owning eight vehicles so far in my life, my license has always had W3ZIF on its plate. I’m proud of my W3 call.
73 to you and your family and have a Happy Thanksgiving.
Roy Kramer, W3ZIF 
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Photograph of CARC Club Member K3SWZ giving an audio-visual presentation to fellow club members.

Get on the air.  Have lots of fun.  PA QSO Party.


CARC held its monthly Face-To-Face meeting on Wednesday September 18, 2019.  At least two Special Thank You moments came out of that meeting.

1.)  A Special Thank You goes to Glenn Kurzenknabe, K3SWZ, who delivered a very nice presentation teaching us all about the PA QSO Party.  Glenn has many years of experience operating and winning the PA QSO Party.  It was a great experience for those who were present to learn from a Master.  Thank you, Glenn.  The 2019 PA QSO Party will take place Saturday October 12 and Sunday October 13.  

2.)  Another Special Thank You goes to Bobbe Rothermel, WA3BKK, who shared this photograph of the presentation.  Glenn is up front at our meeting venue — Hoss’s Steak and Sea House Family Restaurant, located at 61 Gettysburg Pike in Mechanicsburg (Upper Allen Township).  The room-full of meeting attendees is off-screen to the left of what you see in the photo.

If you hear K3IEC on-the-air that is us — the Cumberland Amateur Radio Club.

Posted by:  Andrew Forsyth, AF3I

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It was a dark and stormy night.

We’ve all heard that opening line at one time or another.  Here is the Summertime-In-Central-Pennsylvania version of the same concept:   

It was a hot and humid afternoon.

One of the creative writers, who is a vertebrae in the backbone of our club, spent this hot and humid July afternoon writing an article for our Resources page.  The article describes how Ham Radio Operators use the terms WAVELENGTH and FREQUENCY BAND to describe the location of their radio signals.  I hope you will read and enjoy the fruits of his labor.

Here is a link to the article called:  Waves and Bands

Regards,

Andrew Forsyth,  AF3I

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It is a great day to learn something new, even if that something happens to be 50 years old… perhaps older.

A new article (in PDF format) has been posted on the Resources page, associated with the sub-heading OPERATING YOUR STATION.  The title of the article is Slow Scan Television.  Hams frequently abbreviate that name to SSTV.

Slow Scan Television is a technology that enables the transmission of images using shortwave radio.  There are some similarities between SSTV and FAX.  Slow Scan Television was created in the 1960s.  At that time there was a tremendous dependency on using cathode ray tubes with very long phosphorescence to display the images.   The more modern version of SSTV leverages the power of the Personal Computer and its Sound Card to create and preserve the images.

You may wish to read the article. Here is a link to the file SSTV.PDF.

We have at least three club members who have taken the bait and tried their hands at sending or receiving SSTV images.  If you have questions on the topic perhaps we can get you connected with one of the three and share their knowledge.

73, Andrew Forsyth   AF3I

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