RADIO AMATEUR NEWS & VIEWS, January, 2000

RADIO AMATEUR

NEWS & VIEWS

January, 2000


IN THIS ISSUE...
The Vermont E-911 System
Radio Classes
Vermont QSO Party
Our Last RANV Meeting
The Prez Sez
Amateur Radio Restructured
Contest Corner
Repeater News




THE VERMONT E-911 SYSTEM
First RANV Meeting of the Millennium!

We've all survived the dreaded Y2K nonsense and what better way to start the new year than with a talk and discussion about Vermont's E-911 System. Nathan Wilcox handles the technology implementation for Vermont's E-911 program. He will be our guest speaker and will discuss some of the following:

The E-911 people are looking for amateur radio to provide a communications backup should their system fail. Not only do we get to learn about E-911, but also they get to learn what we can and can't do.

Nathan can also talk a little about some of the questions we all have like "why did my address change?" However, those decisions are made in another department.

Pre-meeting warm-up and munchies will occur at Zach's on Williston Road, starting around 5:30. The RANV meeting will be on Tuesday night, January 11th, at the O'Brien Civic Center, 113 Patchen Road, South Burlington. Please join us for the first of many great meetings this year!


RADIO CLASSES

by Mitch W1SJ

With amateur radio restructuring, there are a lot of changes and opportunities in obtaining licenses and upgrades. The Weekend Amateur Radio Course will be held March 18-19th. This course will be unchanged, since the new syllabus will not have taken effect. A whole new course and program will be implemented for the fall.

I expect that there will be a flurry of testing and upgrade activity in the next few months. In particular, there will be a lot of hams taking the General and Extra exams to take advantage of the 5 word per minute code requirement for all classes. I am planning to offer one-day courses in late March or early April for each of these exams. The courses will not be offered unless there is adequate interest. Another question is if there is interest for a no-code Technician to General upgrade course after April 15th. This would entail learning the General material and 5 word per minute code. So, if you are interested in a one-day course for the General and/or Extra, please contact W1SJ.


VERMONT QSO PARTY

The Vermont QSO Party will be held on February 4-6, 2000. This is a great opportunity to get on and make a bunch of HF contacts. The bands from 10 meters on down all promise to be in great shape.

The QSO Party runs from Friday at 7pm until Sunday at 7pm, a period of 48 hours. All bands except 12, 18 and 30 meters can be used. Stations can be worked once on phone, CW, RTTY or digital. Exchange is RST and location. Vermont stations give county. Multipliers are states, DXCC countries, VT/NH/ME counties and Vermont Clubs. At the end of the contest, count up the number contacts, multiply by the multipliers and you get your score. Check out the RANV Web for full contest rules and information on using NA software for this contest.

Some of the stations in our area to look for: WB1GQR, W1B W1PU and AA1SU. Hope to work all of you in the Vermont QSO Party.


OUR LAST RANV MEETING

by Fred AA1SU, Secretary

Food, talk, and radio were served up in abundance at the RANV December holiday gathering at the W1SJ QTH last month. A good number of club members, family and friends were on hand to share stories both of radio and the upcoming holidays. A conversation on almost any subject could be found: stories from the busy contest season; discussion of the condition of amateur radio clubs at the Vermont State Colleges; lots of talk of what's next for the shack; and Christmas wish lists. Brian KA2BQE and his new spouse Sara were on hand, and Brian shared some stories of building and distributing TNCs during the early days of packet radio. In one room, a tape of FCC chief enforcer Riley Hollingsworth on a shortwave radio show was of interest. In another room, some looked over logs from the 10-meter contest held the weekend before, comparing the stations worked and laughing at the busted calls.

Little official business was handled, as this was a time to celebrate the year's end with friends. New officers were installed. Paul AA1SU as President, Fred N1ZUK as Secretary, and Richard WN1HJW as VP/Treasurer will now take on the officer duties for the year 2000. Outgoing President Eric N1SRC presented to new President AA1SU the official RANV scepter - a tube containing the RANV banner. Our new President proclaimed his first order of business is to have the banner cleaned, as it was quite dirty from announcing many RANV events and meetings.

After installation of the new officers, everyone present thanked Eric N1SRC for his efforts over the past three years. The contribution of his time and energy is appreciated by all of us. In other business, Fred N1ZUK was nominated by a club vote to become an ARRL VHF Awards Manager. Currently in Vermont, there isn't an active awards manager for reviewing applications for the VUCC award. As RANV is a Special Service club, it's empowered to nominate someone to this position. This will make it more convenient for Vermont VHF enthusiasts to receive the awards they work hard to achieve.

The New Year brings on new challenges and changes for all of us. If you have an idea where we should head, please let the new officers know. Our telephone numbers and E-mail addresses can be found in the newsletter, and on the RANV web page. I wish you all a great New Year, and don't forget to put 2000 on your QSL cards!


THE PREZ SEZ

by Paul AA1SU, President

It has been an exciting 3 years for me since I started studying for my ham ticket, ultimately receiving it in March of 1997. I had read about ham radio in the third grade while growing up on Long Island. However, I never really had any guidance on how to obtain a license, and the book became just a memory. At the age of 37, I passed 3 FCC tests and obtained my Technician Plus Class License. I have been infected with the ham radio bug ever since. I read recently that ham radio benefits from both those who make the technological advances and those who are enthusiastic about the hobby. I think that most of us fall into the latter category. Sure, others have invented certain groundbreaking items before us, but we are the ones that get to have the fun with those inventions. More ham radio modes and devices are being utilized than ever before, such as the hot new mode PSK31, among many others. Who knows, maybe one of us will make a contribution that enhances the hobby. In the meantime, we all must continue to use the bands and modes, and have fun.

Ham radio keeps us on our toes and keeps us thinking, too. For instance, I did not know a thing about home computers and E-mail. Sure, I had studied Computer Science in college, but I lost interest and went on to other things in life, In the meantime, the technology passed me by. After seeing how computers were integrated into Field Day 1997, I decided to learn more, and I got into Packet Radio, followed by contesting with computer logging, followed by RTTY, etc. Along the way, I had to make cables and learn what a DB25 connector was, and what other new terms meant. As usual, the more I (we) learn, the more I realize that I don't know enough. As I have learned of new things in this hobby, I have tried to put those thoughts down on paper. Thus, I find that where I used to be a couch potato, I am now writing articles and helping others out along the way.

The upcoming year is bringing us more and more changes. Who would have thought that the FCC would make some of the changes that they did? It is an exciting and controversial time for ham radio and we will be in the thick of it. Using the bands, as always, is a priority. There are several companies, including the Little LEOs, just waiting in the wings to take some of our bandwidth away. And, the FCC has a policy of "Use it or loose it"!

Please make an effort to get out to our monthly meetings. They are your link to more ham radio knowledge, and a good place to socialize with others who share your interests. Richard WN1HJW, Fred N1ZUK and I look forward to an informative new year with you and hope to meet more of you face to face.


AMATEUR RADIO RESTRUCTURED

by Mitch W1SJ

The long awaited amateur radio restructuring was announced by the FCC on December 30th. The full text and story can be found at the FCC Web site, www.fcc.gov. There have been a lot of questions and inaccurate information flying about. Hopefully, some of these questions will be answered here.

After April 15th, only 3 classes will be available: Technician, General and Extra. Technician will require passing a single 35-question exam (Element 2) which will mostly deal VHF operation and Rules & Regulations. General will require passing a 35-question exam (Element 3), dealing mostly with HF operation; plus a 5 word per minute code test (Element 1). Extra will require all of the above plus a 50-question technical exam (Element 4). There will be no code examinations above 5 words per minute.

The Novice and Advanced class licenses will be eliminated, but grandfathered indefinitely. In other words, you will not be able to get these classes of license after April 15th, but existing licensees will continue to hold them until they upgrade or their license lapses. Technician Plus will continue, but will not show up as a license class. In other words, there will continue to be codeless and coded Technicians, even though all Technician licenses renewed after April 15th will show Technician. The FCC will rely on an internal database to determine which Technicians are authorized for HF privileges.

Here are some possible scenarios. If you are a no-code Technician and do nothing, there is no change. If you pass the code test, there is no change to your license, but the FCC will update its internal database showing that you have HF privileges.

If you are a Technician Plus and don't upgrade, when you renew your license, it will say "Technician", but you will retain your HF privileges. Or, you can pass the 30-question element 3B General test now. After April 15th, take the CSCE to a VE session and you will upgrade to General. If you are what is called a "old" Technician, that is, someone who passed the old 50-question Element 3 exam prior to March 1987, you will be able to upgrade to General after April 15th by simply showing a copy of a Technician license prior to 1987. If you don't have a copy of an old license, you will have obtain verification that you held a license at that time. You can write to the FCC to provide this verification, but there might be a delay since they will get a lot of similar requests. The W5YI-VEC can also provide this verification for a $5 fee.

If you are a General, there is no change. If you pass both the Element 4A and element 4B elements before April 15th and bring the CSCE to a VE session after that date, you will qualify for Extra.

If you are an Advanced, you can pass the 40-question element 4B Extra test now and bring the CSCE to a VE session after April 15th to earn an Extra Class upgrade.

Of course, there is no requirement to do anything. You can remain at whatever class of license you are and continue to renew it. The key part of the FCC order is that no one loses privileges or automatically gains any (except for the aforementioned "old" Technician). Another point of this order is the elimination of the unpopular Morse code waivers. All applicants have always been required to prove proficiency at 5 words per minute, and this will be continued.

The new question pools will be released in March and will be used after April 15th. The 35-question Technician test will focus more on Rules & Regulations and less on technical information. The 35-question General test will combine the Novice and General pools and focus more on HF. The 50-question Extra exam will include questions from both existing Advanced and Extra pools and will probably be quite difficult. The FCC has given the Question Pool Committee the power to decide on exam content and not necessarily include the 10 subject areas previously used.

Our Burlington Area VE Team has regularly scheduled exam sessions on February 26th (Milton) and April 28th (Essex). We are looking into adding a Tuesday, April 18th session, for administrative upgrades (no testing) only. Since other VE's have proposed doing this, we will offer this service only if there is enough demand.

Besides the FCC and ARRL websites, another good source of reliable information is the W5YI web at www.w5yi.org. W5YI is one of the leaders of the Question Pool Committee and has very accurate information on the new classes of licenses and the makeup of the new examinations.

This is a great opportunity to get that upgrade you have been talking about for years. Start studying!


CONTEST CORNER

By Paul AA1SU

It looks like the ARRL 10-Meter Contest was a great success for members of RANV! Several of us were on for this annual event, and the band was wide open during the daylight hours. This event has 10 categories, and we made good use of 6 of them. Congratulations to all for getting on the air and scoring points for you and for RANV. I am currently chasing my 5-Band Worked All States, as well as DXCC, and I found this contest very helpful in filling in several blank spaces on the record sheet.

For the month of January, we have the North American QSO Party-phone, coming up on the weekend of the 15th. It starts at 1pm and runs for 12 hours. Power output is limited to 100 watts and Single Ops are limited to 10 hours of operation. The exchange is name and state/province/DXCC. Multipliers are the 50 states, 13 provinces, and only North American DXCC Countries. Ron KK1L and Bob N1MEZ will be doing a multi-op for this one, and visitors are welcome. Please contact one of them before hand.

The following weekend is the ARRL VHF Sweepstakes. This is a good contest for Technician Class amateurs looking to get into weak signal contesting. It starts at 2pm on Saturday the 22nd and runs for 33 hours. There is no time restriction. The exchange is grid square (FN34). The complete rules are in the December QST, page 101 or November issue. Page 106. This contest is eligible for club competition, so be sure to mention RANV on your summary sheet. Three entries are required so please make an effort to get on for this one.

On Super Bowl weekend, there is the CQ WW 160-Meter DX Contest, CW. It starts at 5pm on Friday and ends before the pre-game show at 11am on Sunday. This is an everybody works everybody contest and the DX will be on! Be sure to catch a nap before the big game, however. This one is also eligible for club competition, but we are not sure if we will do it as a RANV or YCCC effort, yet. After the contest, send me an E-mail, if you were in it.

On February 4-6, there is the famous Vermont QSO Party! It is 48 hours long and starts at 7pm on Friday. Work everybody, everywhere, all of the time. Anybody, anywhere, on any band (except WARC bands) counts for points. Complete rules are on the RANV Web.

Also, be sure to get over to N1MEZ's house to visit the Special Event Station, W1B. This station commemorates Wilson A. "Snowflake" Bentley, the Jericho scientist who photographed snowflakes and proved that no two are alike. All local hams are invited to come over for a while and operate. It will start at 9am on Saturday, February 5th and go until 7pm on Sunday. The WARC Bands will be available for those of you looking to operate casually and of course, the other bands will be hopping with contest activity. The food is plentiful and very good. There will satellite, PSK31, AND CW stations operating as well. It is always a very educational experience, so be sure to drop on by.

Next month: there is a contest where you only score when you work the opposite sex!


REPEATER NEWS

by Mitch W1SJ

There is not much to report on Hot 515. It is working fairly well and we have our fingers crossed that the antennawill last the winter! There are still ocassional hits of pager interference, but I suspect that has been desiged to remind us to use the repeater.

News of other repeater systems haven't been as rosy. The 145.47 Mt. Mansfield repeater is essentially dead. There was a extreme power surge on the mountain which put very high voltage on the 120 volt mains, destroying both the VHF and UHF repeater and a bunch of other stuff. The repeater can be keyed on occasion, but is a deaf as a post. The UHF repeateron 447.175 is completely dead. There is no indication when the systems will be fixed. About 1000 feet away, the 146.94 repeater is also performing poorly, and I suspect they have taken an antenna hit as well. Even with the antenna operating properly, the site is blocked to the Champlain Valley and it plays mediocre at best. However, it does quite well to the south.

The 147.36 Middlebury repeater has been off over a year because their home, the Middlebury College Science building is undergoing renovation. There is no firm date on when this repeater will be back.

The 146.625 Williamstown repeater was operating on very low power most of the year because the power amplifier blew up. I've recently read that the repeater has gone off the air for another reason but I haven't been able to verify this.

For those of you active on 222 MHz (I might be the only one left in Vermont), the only repeater in our area on this band, 224.02 in Plattsburgh, has not been heard from in a while. All of the UHF repeaters in our area are on the air (except for Mt. Mansfield), but activity has been little to none.

For a quick reference of Vermont area repeaters, check the RANV Web. Repeaters in Vermont and in nearby states with good coverage in Vermont are listed. Current details, such as operational status is included as I learn them.

Looking at other areas, such as New York and Boston, I've seen the same trends. Repeaters have been breaking down and staying down for longer periods. In fact, the number of 222 MHz repeaters have dropped by 50% over the last two years. Activity is also down - except for the rush hour commutes, activity everywhere is low. The one good thing I have observed - I have yet to find a repeater which has gone down due to Y2K!



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