Tuesday, April 30, 2019

"The claims of my demise are greatly exaggerated."

With the announcement of yet another digital mode du jour. FT4 - there are some who insist on dancing (yet again, prematurely) on CW's grave.

As I've stated before, so many times ..... my personal opinion is that Amateur Radio is a big enough tent to accommodate everyone's interests. I did digi in the 90s. Granted, it wasn't PSK31 or the newer FT modes; but it was RTTY, PacTOR and AMTOR. These modes were quite exciting at first, but eventually grew boring to me. All the conversations that I was having seemed to consist of a bunch of key presses to release a bevy of pre-recorded macros. Spontaneous conversations took place; but they became fewer and harder to find. That's why I drifted back to CW as my only mode of operation.

Now, that being said, I realize that my case is not the case for everyone. If digi floats your boat - then bravo! Go for it with gusto, kid! I like it when you are happy! But at the same time, please don't look down upon me when I politely say, "Thanks, but no thanks."  That doesn't make me a fossil, a cranky old fart, a relic or a yesterday's stale bread. It's just that I know what I like, what I'm good at and what brings me a modicum of pleasure.

As an added note, I do not look down upon, frown upon or consider anyone less of an Amateur Radio Operator because they never learned or just plain don't like Morse Code. Again - more power to you! Engage in whichever mode it is that makes you happy that you spent time doing it. But at the same time, don't regard my favorite aspect of the hobby to be "old fashioned", "irrelevant", "useless" or "unneeded in this day and age" just because it befuddles you.

Perhaps my feelings about CW were summed up by a lot of what Dale Parfitt W4OP wrote in a post on QRP-L. I asked Dale if he would mind if I re-posted his post here. He most graciously granted me permission - here it is:

"I think the decline in CW may be more associated with the decline in civilization in general. Fewer and fewer people seem inclined to work hard and more and more seem to be embracing the concept of a welfare state, participation trophies etc. In the amateur sector, the exams have become a matter of memorization as opposed to understanding,  off the shelf rigs replace homebrew and the focus of amateur radio today appears to be chatting as opposed to furthering the technical aspects of the hobby.

CW is a skill that does require work. But so enjoyable, and high speed CW is more akin to holding a conversation. I could work piles of more contacts off the moon if I did one of the digital modes. But for me, it is all about hearing these weak signals and constantly improving my station. I won't go into the fact that some of the digital guys on the moon seem to have to communicate via the Internet to complete  the digital QSO.

On HF, a nice CW ragchew,  adapting to the other's fist, using my brain and dealing with the vagaries of propagation, QRM  is what it's all about. If I want to simply send a message, I can text someone or send an email. All this has nothing to do with me being an old fart (although chronologically, I am one) . I embrace design software, love surface mount, design a lot of my  rigs and build more than I operate.

YMMV,

Dale W4OP"

Thanks Dale! I guess chronologically, we're in the same boat; but like you - for me it's about the challenge - and constantly marveling about how my radio signal gets from Point A to Point B without the aid of anything else but my radio and antenna, my key and my brain. And I think there are quite a few of us who would still like to occupy a seat on this pleasure craft - so for those out there who think we CW devotees are nothing more than a bunch of aging, irrelevant fossils ....... pay close attention to Dale's "YMMV". It's an invitation for us all to engage in what we enjoy while maintaining our mutual respect for one another.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Getting ready for Field Day

Even though it's only April, SPARC is getting ready for Field Day,


I've added our NJ2SP Field Day info to the official ARRL Field Day locator, and we're in full preparations swing.  Once again we'll be operating 3A with a GOTA station. This year, though, I'd like to add a proper 160 Meter dipole so that we can make contacts on Top Band through out the evening. The W3EDP was successful in making contacts for us on all bands last year 160 Meters through 10 Meters, but on 160 Meters it was a compromise antenna. Only the loudest and nearest 160 Meter stations were able to hear us. With a proper resonant antenna, we should be able to make more than just a handful of contacts.

We're also intent on doing more to get the local Scouts to come visit and operate this year. We need to start advertising that to the local troops now, because once the Scouts scatter for the Summer, it will be harder to get the message out.

What does your club/organization do to put Field Day in the eye of your community? Anything?

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Not playing by the rules

One of the "rules" that always made me chuckle, was from the sages who advise QRPers "not to call CQ". Again, these are the wise ones who equate QRP with weak signal. No one is going to hear your signal, so why even waste your time calling CQ. You're only going to get frustrated, right?

Wrong!

I was down in the basement today, soldering a few more components onto the kit du jour. I decided to put in the easrbuds and allow the KX3 to call CQ while I was happily soldering away. What I didn't expect was to get an answer on the very first shot. I had to hurriedly put down the soldering iron when my query resulted in a call from Alex UR3HC in the Ukraine. We exchanged 559 reports and we both went merrily on our separate ways.

So this confirmed a couple of things for me (once again).

1) Don't believe all the people who bemoan the facts that "the bands are dead". They aren't - at least not always.

2) QRPers definitely SHOULD call CQ. Again, your signal is going to be decent - somewhere. It may not be 599, but it will be audible and answerable - somewhere. Sometimes that may be only down the street, sometimes it will be halfway around the world. You may get lucky, like I did today and you may not. However, you're never going to know unless you give it a shot, so don't be gun shy.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that next Saturday (May 4th, 2019), the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club will be setting up a field station to put NJ2SP on the air for the purpose of celebrating the Fifth Anniversary of our founding.  We will setting up a CW station (QRP) and an SSB station (QRO) at Putnam Park, here in town. The park has a pavilion, so even if the weather is less than ideal, we will still be out there.

Look for us between the hours of 1500 to 1900 UTC, The frequencies that we will be hanging around will be 7.030 and 14.060 MHz for CW and 7.280 and 14.265 MHz for SSB.  An SASE will get you a QSL card with a special Fifth Anniversary sticker on it.



I'm the trustee for NJ2SP so if you look up NJ2SP or W2LJ on QRZ, both point to my home address.

This is an activity designed for the purpose of getting our newer members (also newer Hams) with less than a lot of HF experience, on the air. Hopefully it will entice a few who seem to get stuck on the VHF/UHF bands to set up HF stations at home.

Hope to work you!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Friday, April 19, 2019

Good Friday 2019


All is quiet at the W2LJ household, as we remember.

 "He was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity.
He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by His wounds we were healed."

Have a blessed Good Friday de W2LJ 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

W5LFL SK - Owen Garriot

The original "Ham Radio Operator in Space" - Owen Garriot W5LFL has passed away at the age of 88.


Owen's historic flight took place in 1983 on the Space Shuttle Columbia's STS-9 mission. I can still remember sitting in my car, tuned to the appropriate frequency as the Shuttle flew over NJ, several times during the mission.  As soon as Owen announced his call and mentioned that he would be listening for call signs, the frequency became maybe the worst pileup in history! Of course, I never made it through, but it was still a thrill to listen. When W5LFL came on the air with his uber line of sight signal, it was like he was sitting in a chair right next to me.  Some of the more famous Hams of the age DID make contact with W5LFL, notably King Hussein of Jordan JY1 and Barry Goldwater K7UGA.

Interestingly enough, years later, his son Richard W5KWQ, became a private space traveler. Launched to the ISS via a Russian launch vehicle, he also made contacts from space, following in his father's footsteps.

I think this mission whetted the appetites of many Hams for making satellite QSOs. I know it did for me; and some years later, I was very active on RS-10/11 and RS-12/13. Back then you could make contacts on satellites using your "everyday" shack HF equipment. It was a thrill to hear your own signal come back from space on the downlink - especially for this "kid" who cut his teeth on the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs.  I worked many states through those two LEOs - but alas, not all 50. I did, however, work across the pond into England on a rare mutually visible pass.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, April 12, 2019

QRP-ARCI Spring QSO Party this weekend

Thanks to Don W2JEK, another New Jersey QRP stalwart, for reminding me that the QRP-ARCI Spring QSO Party is this weekend.

It runs from 0000 - 2359 UTC on Saturday, April 13. The usual QRP operating frequencies. If the rules haven't changed, and memory serves me correctly, it's CW only and the exchange is RST/State/ ARCI # (or power output if you're not a member).

Curiously, there seems to be nothing about it in the official QRP-ARCI Webpage. In fact, there doesn't seem to be anything on the QRP-ARCI Website about ANY of their operating events/contests.

I'm hoping that's not due to lack of participation, but one never knows.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Interesting!

Got this e-mail from Panos SV1GRN yesterday. It's about a propagation survey/study being done by our brother and sister Hams in Greece - on 60 Meters!

Propagation Survey

A call to test the propagation on 60 meters, at noon and while in the grayline, using NVIS antennas and QRP power. AegeanDXgroup and Athens QRP Net invite you on May 5, 2019 in a meeting on
60 meters to study the propagation on the frequencies (5351.5 - 5366.5 MHz) of the band.

Duration: 09:00 - 11:00 UTC and 16:00 - 18:00 UTC

Power: QRP not exceeding 5 Watts

Modes: CW (5351.5 – 5354 MHz), SSB(USB) (5354 – 5364 MHz), BPSK31 (366 -
5366.5 MHz).

Stations can transmit on any or all modes.

Please sent Log (in adif, cabrillo, word or excel format) with real RS(T), QTH
locator and Antenna description to: sv8cyr@gmail.com

Participants will receive souvenirs. The participants with top qso’s (independently of
modes) will receive commemorative gifts

Now, NVIS antennas and 5 Watts may pretty much preclude any participation from our side of the pond; but it might well be worth a listen, at least. I have not been on 60 Meters much at all. I would be lying if I were to tell you that I was familiar with its propagation characteristics and properties. If anyone from our side were to hear any SVs or even manage to work one of them, I'm sure they's be thrilled!

I hope they post the results somewhere when all is said and done. It would be interesting to see how it all worked out.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

It was a good night last night.

As it slowly turns to Spring and warmer weather in NJ, it has become relatively comfortable once again, in the W2LJ basement shack. I can go down there for extended periods of time without freezing, as the ambient temps have returned to the 60s.

Last night, 40 Meters was positively jumping! And it turned out to he a rich Fox hunting environment. I was able to work both Jim N0UR and Wayne N4FP within the first 15 minutes of the hunt. The Propagation Princess smiled on me last night, and THAT hasn't happened in a very long time. It felt good. There were so many missed pelts this past Winter season that I was beginning to doubt my equipment, my antennas and my skills - each at one time or another.

Rather than run upstairs, I put some more time into my DSO138 Oscilloscope kit. I started it on Sunday and I've been doing a little bit every day. So far, I've gotten all the resistors, diodes, switches and RF chokes in. If I get home early enough from tonight's South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club meeting, I'll get the capacitors in.

After that, there's not much more to it. I should be able to complete it by the end of the weekend, if all goes well. After that, I think either my 4 States Ozark Patrol receiver, or my 40 Meter QCX kit will be next.

Oh, and by the way, that Mustel G600 microscope came in mighty handy last night. One of the components soldered into the DSO138 circuit board last night was a mini USB connector jack. The pins on that thing are entirely way too tiny and close together. I thought that there was no way I was going to be able to get that thing soldered in without creating one or more solder bridges. After I finished making the last solder joint, I brought out the Mustel and gave the solder pads a good look at ultra high magnification. No bridges!

You may be thinking that the kit building season is traditionally Winter. Not for me. I try to limit my time down in the basement when it's uber cold. Not only is it uncomfortable; but it's bad for the arthritis I have in my hands and my ankles. When I want to operate in the Winter, I either turn on a space heater down there; or I resort to operating from the living room using my magloop. And that's not a bad alternative, actually. It's definitely not as nice as using my outdoor antennas. However, if someday Marianne and I decide to sell the house when we retire, and we end up in some place that doesn't allow outside antennas - the magloop will provide a suitable, stealthy solution. It would not be the death knell of Amateur Radio for me.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, April 01, 2019

QRPTTF Announcement

The rules have been posted for QRP To The Field for 2019.  I seriously doubt that i will be able to participate this year as the scheduled date is Saturday, April 20th - which is also Holy Saturday of Easter Weekend.

At any rate - here are the rules (as per NA5N) for those who are not otherwise occupied:

Gang,

It's now spring (though hard to believe in some parts of the country) and April is almost here. Time for QRP TO THE FIELD.

The 2019 QRPTTF Rules are here: http://www.zianet.com/qrp/qrpttf/2019/ttf.htm

I've received several emails regarding this years QRPTTF, like: 

1) My favorite forest and campground burned down and now closed 
2) Go for a water theme as my town is still under water 
3) The bridge leaving town to my favorite spot is still closed 
4) Can't travel too far these days - pick something close

So on the side of caution, this year's QRPTTF is laying low and pretty easy ... "Any Ole Park" from the empty lot down the street to a recognized park. Can be close to home for safety for those in flood areas and closed highways. And of course, SOTA operations are invited as always.

Last year's QRPTTF the solar flux was rock bottom at 64. The USAF is predicting a solar flux of 74-78 and Kp=2 for April 20, so at least some improvement to daytime HF. Maybe we'll get a little solar flare to kick it up even higher (actually been a few solar flares past couple of weeks).

So get your field gear out of winter hibernation and give it a checkout for April 20. 

73, Paul NA5N 

So there you have it, for your edification.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!