Monday, October 31, 2005

My comments

My comments to the proposal by the FCC to eliminate the Morse Code requirement from Amateur Radio exams:


There have been may persuasive arguments put before the Commission as to whether or not the Morse Code requirement should be kept as part of the examination process. It appears the Commission deems that Morse Code requirement is an anachronism that no longer has any validity and should be eliminated. In my opinion, I believe the Commission is being shortsighted and that we should maintain the requirement.

Many amateurs and organizations point to the fact that the military and other professional communications services have abandoned Morse Code. To some extent, this is true. But those services have gone on to highly advanced satellite communications systems. Amateur radio operators, at least for the majority, have not. Our communications depend mostly on voice or radiotelegraphy in the High Frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Radiotelegraphy has proved itself to be the most reliable method of communications using those portions of the spectrum that we, for the most part are relegated to. During times of "radio blackout" due to increased sunpsot or other types of geomagnetic activity, often Morse Code communications using Continuous Wave transmission is the only permissible means of radio communications. It should also be noted that the most "cutting edge" frontiers of Amateur Radio - meteor scatter, spread spectrum, low power and microwave and weak signal communications all rely on Morse Code and CW as the "mode of choice" in completing communications.

The Commission has expressed a concern that the providing of Morse Code testing presses an "undue burden" on the part of the VE examining teams. I would like to say, that in over ten years personal experience as a Volunteer Examiner, my team and I never found administering the Morse Code exam to be a burden. In fact, we took extreme pleasure in administering the exam and watching untold numbers of candidates pass. Again, in my personal experience of over a decade as an examiner, I have never come across an individual who was unable to pass the exam given enough time to properly prepare.

The argument has been proposed that the Morse Code exam is a roadblock, preventing untold numbers of qualified individuals from entering the Amateur Radio service. I believe this claim to be unsubstantiated at best; and just another "urban myth" at worst. The Commission has indeed licensed children as young as the age of six or seven as Radio Amateurs. While this is the exception rather than the rule, I would suggest this points to the fact that anyone with a fair amount of ambition, desire and discipline can master a 5 word per minute Morse Code exam. For those who honestly and truly have a valid medical reason for being unable to complete the Morse portion of the test, the Commission had already provided recourse via the medical waiver. I would like the supporters of this argument substantiate their claims with some kind of documentation. It is not proper to make "wild claims" before the Commission without proper documentation. Furthermore, it would seem inappropriate for the Commission to accept these unproven claims as the rule; rather than the exception.

Were the Commission to delegate the Amateur Radio Service as some non-essential radio service such as CB, GMRS or the FRS then I would accept the hypothesis that the Morse Code exam is of little value and should be eliminated. But clearly, the Commission has repeatedly avowed the importance of the Amateur Radio Service and the need for it's continued health and well being. I would hope the Commission would agree with me that to maintain that health and vitality; that it is paramount to not lower standards; but on the other hand to maintain or increase them.

Respectfully submitted,

Saturday, October 15, 2005

My favorite band

I'm going to be upfront. I hate the Fall and Winter! There, I've said it. I hate the cold weather and I hate even the approach of cold weather. I hate the Winter and I despise Autumn because it means Winter is coming. I know, I've heard all the excuses - turning leaves, pumpkins, holidays, etc, etc, etc. Bah! I hate the cold and the lack of daylight. Fall and Winter are nothing but misery for me - with one exception .........

One of the only good things about this time of year is that 80 Meters comes back for the season. This is my favorite band; or at least it's in a tie with 40 Meters for that role. And fortunately 80 Meters comes into it's own at this time of year.

In Spring and Summer, along with the increased daylight and warmer weather also comes thunderstorms and aggravated atmospherics. When 80 Meters becomes noisey; I know warm weather it on the way. So, my favorite band disappears for just about 6 months except for a rare evening here and there.

But now, in October, the band pops up its' head again and becomes a joy to use. There is hardly any QRN and the signals pop out of nowhere all the way to 10 or even 20 over 9. Both my G5RV and Butternut HF9V vertical load quite readily on 80 Meters with no problems. I can ragchew to my heart's content and even work some DX here and there. All the "close in" states become more easy to work, once again.

This year, the QRP Foxhunt Committee had decided to run QRP Foxhunts on both 40 and 80 Meters this Winter season. I have signed up to be a Fox for an 80 Meter hunt or two. I hope they let me; it would be a blast!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Monday, October 10, 2005

It always amazes me ........

It never fails to amaze me .....

There are nights that I can be sitting behind the rig; and I seem to be calling "CQ" endlessly on or about the QRP watering holes with nary a nibble. Then I'll go down toward the bottom of the band edge and I'll hear some DX and will chase it down with not much trouble.

That was the way it was tonight. I was calling "CQ" for what seemed to be an eternity on 80 and 40 Meters. I thought I was going to nod off; I was getting so bored! I then spun the frequency knob towards the bottom of 40 Meters and heard SP3EPK calling "CQ" from Poland. I gave him a shot and he answered me on the third try!

I couldn't raise a stateside station; but yet somehow my 5 Watts made it to Poland and I got a 579 signal report to boot! Thanks, Les!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Code Practice

Are you tired of listening to the same old Morse Code practice tapes? Do you want to listen to some fun Morse Code and improve your speed - even if you're a grizzled old veteran? I have a solution for you; and best of all, it's all pretty much free!

The first thing you have to do is go to http://www/ and download the program "Koch Trainer" for yourself. It's freeware that was developed and is maintained by Ray Goff G4FON.
This program will not only aid in teaching Morse Code to the neophyte; but it will also translate text files into audio files that the experienced operator can make use of.

I went to the Gutenburg Project and downloaded "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" as a text file. I opened up "Koch Trainer" selected the speed I wanted and set the program to record the session as an audio (.wav) file. I then had the trainer play my text file and when it was finished, I converted the .wav file to mp3 format and then burned it to a CD.

Perfect for playing in the CD player in my car during the ride back and forth to work! This is the Amateur Radio version of "Books on Tape"!

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, October 01, 2005

I can't hear you .......... !!!!

The current big DXpedition is to Kure Island which is at the Northwestern most end of the Hawaiian chain. The callsign they are using is K7C. They've been on that island for about 5 days now and I still haven't even heard them yet! I'm hearing the pile-ups; but not the DXpeditioners themselves. They've had thousands of QSOs according to the official Website - mostly with Japanese Hams, it seems.

Well, I've printed out some propagation forcasts using W6ELprop software. It looks like my best chance will be during the middle of the night; perhaps 3 or 4 in the morning! I'll set the alarm and we'll see. Is this sick, or what?

73 de Larry W2LJ