|Building Telegraph Keys||VT QSO Party||MILTON HAMFEST!|
|Our Last RANV Meeting||The Prez Sez||Collecting Grid Squares|
|Exams, Classes, Upgrades||Milton Goodies||ETC On the Air|
|Welcome To RANV||Contest Corner|
This month we're very happy to present David W1KR who will talk about the history of the semi-automatic telegraph key and his adventures in designing and building keys. For "high speed operation" telegraph operators most commonly made use of a semi-automatic key otherwise known as a "bug" to automatically make the dots instead of pounding them out with a straight key. Until hams started building electronic keyers, a bug was often found at the operating position in a ham shack and except for a few dedicated operators, bugs are not heard on the air as much as they are sought out by collectors. Because many serious telegraph key collectors prefer to trade rather than sell keys, David decided to get involved by building working scale models of bugs that fall into the rare and "most wanted" category. He will bring his 1/2-sized Martin Midget and also some evidence of his present efforts to build a 1/2 scale model of the more complicated Melihan Valiant fully automatic bug. David also says he will bring in his giant "QLF" manual key, seen several years ago at a hamfest. We invite anyone who has any Vibroplex or other interesting bugs at home to feel free to bring them in for show and tell at the meeting.
The meeting is preceded by eats and socializing at Zach's on Williston Road and White Street starting around 5:30. The meeting starts promptly at 7pm at the O'Brien Civic Center, 113 Patchen Road, South Burlington.
Fire up the HF radio this weekend for the Vermont QSO Party. Vermont's contest takes place this weekend, starting at 7pm Friday and running 48 hours through 7pm Sunday. Exchange signal report and county. Collect countries, states, provinces, counties in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine and clubs in Vermont. Find W1BD and pick up another 2000 points. Best bet for making contacts is 10, 15 and 20 meters during day. Locally, look for active stations WB1GQR and W1B.
Also on the same weekend is the Snowflake Bentley Special Event station W1B in Jericho. They will be operating all day Saturday and Sunday on all bands and invite all to stop by, visit and operate.
For details on the Vermont QSO Party and the Snowflake Bentley station, consult the
The 18th Annual Northern Vermont Winter Hamfest will be held Saturday, February 26, 8am until 2pm at Milton High School, Route 7, Milton, Vermont. The hamfest is again combined with the ARRL Vermont State Convention.
Over nearly a score of years, Milton has quietly become the premier North Country ham radio show. More than anything else, it is the place where hams get out to meet other hams and find out what's happening. But it's more! With over 25% of the attendees non-hams, Milton serves a large population of people with similar interests. Hobbyists, with strong interest in computers, shortwave, radio collecting, electronics and other pursuits, religiously come year after year to meet and to look for goodies. They find Vermont and the North Country's largest electronic flea market and emporium. And judging from the stuff hauled out of there, they buy early and buy often. On-line auctions like E-Bay have certainly taken business away from some of the flea markets, but Milton still seems to have its niche of sellers and buyers.
Milton has the best educational program for a small hamfest found anywhere! For a few years, hams have been asking for a meeting program on the various HF Digital Modes. At this year's hamfest we are very pleased to welcome an expert in this field, QST Managing Editor Steve Ford WB8IMY. At 9am we will start off with an introductory Digital Forum where all the various modes will be described and compared. Then, in part 2 of the Digital Forum, Steve will focus on the most popular modes and describe details for getting on the air. Sound too technical for you? Not a problem, because at 11, Steve will give us all a rare look at Behind the Scenes at QST, from his view as Managing Editor.
Since amateur radio restructuring was announced by the FCC a month ago, volunteer examiners have been besieged by questions about the new upgrade process. To answer these questions, I will briefly step away from hamfest duties to present the forum, The New Ham Rules.
The cornerstone of all ARRL Conventions is the ARRL Forum. This year, we plan to have Director K1KI and Vice Director K1TWF giving us the perspective from Newington and the view of amateur radio in the 21st Century. Section Manager WE1U will cover items closer to home.
The Contest Forum returns this year. This forum will run 2 hours and will feature the Vermont regional meeting of the Yankee Clipper Contest Club. Other activities include slide shows and videos on contest and DX operations and discussions on how to improve your station. There will a video of the just-completed DXpedition to Grenada.It is a must-attend if you have any interest in the world of DX and Contesting.
One of the fun things about Milton is that we don't take it too seriously. As evidence of this fact, we offer you, ta-da, the famed Milton auction! Now moved to the earlier time of 11am, this irreverent attempt at a real auction does indeed sell items and always can be counted on to produce a few laughs.
Volunteer exam sessions will be at 9am and 1pm this year. A large number of candidates is expected so please have all the pertinent items with you: 2 forms of ID, copy of license/CSCE, pen, pencil and $6.65 exam fee, exact change. The VE team is planning for a crowd and will work to get everyone in and out as soon as possible.
There is a major change in the early entrance procedure. In past years, vendors have set up at 6:30 and used a special entrance at the back of the building. Unfortunately, many others also tried to use this small entrance, causing a jam. To alleviate these problems and to help fund the increasing tab for table rentals, the back entrance will be open to all between 6:30 and 8am, but admission will be $10. Normal admission to the hamfest, starting at 8am at the front will remain $3. Kids under 18 and tables are still free. All tables are first come, first serve, and no reservations for tables will be taken.
Milton requires a lot of volunteers to set up, break down and to staff during the event, and we need you! The hours can be long, the pay is dismal, you still pay $3 admission, but you get a great feeling from helping out at a great event. And if you help set up on Friday or early Saturday, you get first dibs at a table and get in early for the cheap price. Such a deal! Contact Mitch if you are interested.
In the three weeks before Milton, talk to as many people as you can and have them join us at Milton! You are our best sales staff. See you there!
Full details on the
Even for a cold winter evening, a good-sized group of members and guests gathered for the January 2000 RANV meeting. The din was quite loud before the meeting, as everyone was sharing conversation on the holidays, the new gear people got as gifts (it's still a gift if you buy it for yourself, right?), and the recently announced amateur radio license restructuring.
Before introducing our guest speaker, president Paul AA1SU handled some club business. First, a volunteer (Don N1QKH) was found to supply the snacks for the February meeting. Although Richard WN1HJW had been supplying the goodies for the past few months, he felt it was time for other folks to take on the task for a while. Thanks, Don and Richard!
We welcomed RANV's newest member, Andrew KB1ELZ. We're glad to have you with us.
Richard WN1HJW gave a Treasurer's report. In summary, all accounts are in order, and the club is financially sound to handle the upcoming expenditures of the Milton Hamfest and planned book donations.
Announcement was made of the 4th year of the special event station W1B, which will be run during the Vermont QSO party, February 5-6th. An invitation was extended to all to visit. Information is available at the RANV web, on the local repeaters; and signs posted at key intersections.
Since President Lyndon Johnson put forth the formation of the 911 emergency phone system, now 93% of all Americans can phone for help by dialing those three numbers. Our guest speaker, Nate Wilcox, is the System Administrator of the Vermont E-911 system. The new, enhanced, system now allows the person taking your call not only to know where you're calling from, but also which emergency response service is closest to you. The Vermont system, which was officially turned on in November 1998, is truly state-of-the-art. Being all-digital, it allows for faster delivery time, while being almost immune to line noise. To show the determination of northern New Englander's, the E-911 Board stuck with their decision to go with the digital system, all the while the phone company pushed their older, analog technology. The phone company was quite surprised to find the new system (with many redundant backup systems) worked so well.
But no system is 100% perfect, and Nate had no reservations in detailing those problems as well. They're due to new, emerging technology; and old, archaic technology. New technology brings on the problems of locating cellular phones and automated crash systems. These issues are being worked on by the E-911 and equipment designers. The old technology poses problems that may be resolved with help from amateur radio. There are a number of remote communities that have phone service supplied by a single telephone trunk. Discussion of how amateur radio could be used as a communications link between the affected community and the central dispatch office continued until the end of the meeting.
Murphy has been hanging around at my shack lately. My 160-meter dipole came down during Tropical Storm Floyd. Several attempts to put it back up seemed to fail after short periods of time. After acquiring some quality rope, and finally making a perfect shot over several trees, I had that homemade wire up higher than I had ever seen it before. Only catch is, I obtained this perfection halfway into the CQ WW 160-Meter Contest. During the computer setup for this event, I noticed that my computer was not sending any CW to the rig. After some investigating, I repaired a broken solder connection at the DB9 connector on my homemade interface cable. Still, I had nothing. After removing the heat shrink, I noticed a broken transistor. I figured it was easier to make a power cable for a recently acquired keyer and paddle. So, I did that, and managed to put out a decent signal on the top band for the second night of the test. However, paddles are tricky to master, and my code was a bit sloppy. I did all this to get on the air! It paid off too. Nobody had heard me on the night before, so I was a bit of an attraction. I worked a few new DX Countries, as well as a state that I did not have in log yet: Oregon. I could not stay up all night playing radio however, because I was pooped out from the antenna raising.
Yes, it is a lot of work sometimes just to stay on the air. And, you don't have to contest to get on the air and make contacts. I recently checked into a WAS 160-Meter net for an hour and found several new QSL cards in my mailbox a few days later. What are you doing to stay on the air? You don't have to get on 160, either. There is a local gathering on 10 Meters every night at 28.425 at 7pm. There is a 2-Meter SSB activity night, once a week, here in New England. There is our club's effort to get on the local repeater every night at 8pm. There is the ARES net every Friday at 7pm on the 146.61 repeater, and the Plattsburgh 147.15 repeater has too many nets to mention.
Of course, I know that time and money are tight, and you also need to be motivated. I'm not sure what motivates me. Speaking of Murphy, my 2-meter mobile rig setup is suddenly inoperative. I suspect something in the antenna is awry, but I'm not motivated right now to figure it out, and repair it. But, I will get to it.
Be sure to look for me at Miton!
What are Maidenhead Grid Squares, and why are VHF operators hunting them? If you've ever been on 6 meters, or operated 2 meters or 70-cm simplex, you probably have been asked for your 'grid square.' No, they're not asking for some math formula of a vacuum tube. Grid squares are used to signify the location you are operating from.
The concept of grid square locators goes back to over 30 years ago, when it became quite popular with European VHFer's. There were several uncoordinated systems being used until the early 1980's, when the VHF award managers in Europe got together and came up with a standardized system. The Maidenhead Locator System (named for the village outside London where the managers had met) divided the world map up into a grid 2 degrees in longitude by 1 degree in latitude. This works out to a 'square' (really a rectangle) 100 by 70 miles large. The goal is to work as many different 'grids' (squares) as possible.
In 1981, the Central States VHF Society began promoting the concept here in the United States. Its popularity spread quickly, and in 1983 the ARRL adopted it to promote VHF activity. It developed the VUCC award (VHF/UHF Century Club), which is a cousin to the DXCC award on the HF bands. To earn the award, you must work and confirm on a single band, the required amount of contacts, in any mode - CW, SSB or FM. Contacts must be direct - no repeaters allowed except for the satellite award. On 50 MHz, 144 MHz and satellite - 100 grids; 222 MHz and 432 MHz - 50 grids; 902 MHz and above - 25 or less. The awards are numbered, and along with your certificate you get a lapel pin and your callsign listed in QST. After earning your award, you can also earn endorsement stickers for working additional grids. Some of the 'top guns' have several hundred grids!
But you don't need a monster station to earn an award. I set my 6-meter station up in May last year, and have worked 147 grids already. This was with a very modest setup (more on that next month). Your first decent sporadic E opening will gather you an easy 25+ grids. The more you earn, the harder it gets to find one you haven't worked. But like a rare DX station, a hard to come by grid is rewarding to work.
Back to that question, "What's your grid square?" If you're in the northern half of Vermont, you're most likely in FN34. In the southern half of the state, below Middlebury, it's FN33. Below Shaftsbury, it's FN32. And up in Northeast Kingdom, east of St. Johnsbury, it's FN44. Good news for us is though we aren't the rarest grid, there are many operators around the country who would love to get credit for working you. On a number of occasions, I've been the target for a small pile up of stations calling me. It's fun. It's exciting. It's what ham radio's about.
There's a great wealth of information on the Web on the Maidenhead Grid System, the VUCC award, and VHF operating in general. Two good places to start are ARRL and
RANV Web pages. As Vermont's newest VHF Awards Manager, I can review your VUCC application, and I'm always happy to answer your questions. You can E-mail me at email@example.com, or reach me on 50.125 MHz or the 145.15 MHz repeater.
With amateur radio restructuring looming large before us on April 15th, it is indeed exciting times. If you somehow haven't heard, the only code requirement for upgrade beyond Technician is the 5-wpm test. This opens up a whole realm of upgrades by passing written tests only. And it provides a windfall for old Technicians licensed before March, 1987. They merely need to show up at an exam session after April 15th to claim their General! We expect that a lot of people will be taking advantage of this by getting exam credit now and trading in after April 15th for an upgraded license.
First, it is important to know and understand the new rules and the upgrade process. To facilitate this, I have put up information about this on the RANV Web. If the tables and upgrading scenarios don't help, there are links to similar pages on the W5YI and ARRL websites as well. For those who still need information, I'll be hosting a Forum on the New Ham Rules at Milton, where all your questions will be answered.
Next, carefully prepare for the exams. There has been a tremendous demand for General and Extra class license manuals, and they may be hard to find. The question pools and sample tests can always be found on the web. If you are looking for study materials for the new question pool, there will be a little wait. The pool will be released in early March, with the books available after that.
If you prefer classes, I will be offering a 1-day course on the General (Element 3B) and Extra (Element 4B) exams. I have set aside the weekends of March 25-26 and April 8-9 for this. The classes run on a demand basis. That is, if I get 5 or more students in a particular course, it will run. Please call if you are interested in taking such a course. The Weekend Technician course will run March 18-19 and will be unaffected by the rules change - this time around. Looking ahead, this summer I am again offering a Technical Camp and ham classes for youngsters, ages 10-14. Call for details on this fine program.
Finally, you need to know when the exams are. The first opportunity is at the Milton Hamfest, at 9am and 1pm. We will have extra examiners on board to handle the large crowd expected. The next exam will be Sunday, March 19th. Both these exams are under the old rules and we cannot upgrade anyone beyond Technician with only 5-wpm code. After the new rules take effect, a special administrative exam session will be offered on Tuesday, April 18, at my house. No exams will be given, but this is the time to bring the appropriate CSCE's and proof of old Technician license for an instant upgrade. The first full exam session, using the new question pool, will be on Friday, April 28th.
So there you have it. There no longer is any reason to dream about getting on HF. Just get yourself a study book, get yourself to a class, get yourself to an exam session and we'll see you all on 20 meters!
Even if you are not in the market for that shiny new radio, Milton offers all sorts of books and publications for your perusal. Look for the release of the 2000 Vermont Amateur Radio Directory, the phone and E-mail directory for amateur radio in Vermont. Callsigns, names, addresses, phone numbers and E-mails on Vermont hams plus information on a whole bunch of other items are included. The Vermont Directory will be available at the RANV Table.
Also at the table will be back issues of News & Views and other club literature. Out in the main lobby will be freebies - literature from the ARRL and handouts of Amateur Radio Trader and Nuts & Volts.
Radio Bookstore will be back with 5 tables chock full of ham radio books But, no promises are made that you will be able to find license manuals - they have become much in demand and hard to find!
Milton will also have door prizes. There won't be anything like an HF transceiver given away, but we will have several ARRL publications, like handbooks and antenna books to give out. Ticket numbers will be drawn starting at 10:30 and posted behind the RANV table.
Hamfesting is a lot of work and builds a big appetite. The folks of Milton Project Graduation will have coffee, pastries, sandwiches, hot dogs and drinks to keep you happy. And it all goes to benefit High School graduates.
I think we got it all covered! We'll see you at Milton!
Andy KB1ELZ from Williston, graduated from the Weekend Class and attended his first RANV meeting.
Jeff WA1TER from Jericho joins with son Alex KB1ETX, who just pass his Technician exam.
Last month, I neglected to point out the fine contesting efforts by some of our members in the June 1999 VHF QSO Party. RANV members W1SJ and N2YHK put out a fine signal from the top of Mt. Equinox in Southern Vermont. In this contest, Mitch and John went down on the spur of the moment, and had to wait for the hill climb race to end before they could go up. Still, they had a high score in the Limited Multi-Op category, and had a lot of fun. New to contesting, N1ZUK Fred got his feet wet by putting out a signal on 2 and 6 meters. Since then, Fred has obtained his VUCC for working 100 grid squares. For more information on grid squares see Fred's article in this newsletter. Friends of RANV, N1MJD & N1JEZ (Beau & Mike) operated as a rover and scored high in the June, August and September contests. If you were in the January ARRL VHF Sweepstakes, be sure to put our club down on the Summary Sheet.
In other results, congratulations go out to KK1L Ron & N1MEZ Bob for a 2nd place finish in the August NAQP SSB Contest for the Multi-Two category. In the September NCJ Phone Sprint, Ron took the Vermont record, and first place for New England! I was also in both of these, but with a lower score. In the September NCJ CW Sprint W1EAT Tom and I pounded the brass to represent Vermont and the YCCC.
As we mentioned last month, be sure to get on for the 2000 Vermont QSO Party. This is our time to be heard! You can also participate from W1B Special Event Station. Contact N1MEZ for directions.
Looking at the upcoming month, there are many contests to choose from. Here are some of the highlights. There is the YL-OM SSB Contest on February 11-13. YLs only work OMs, and OMs only work YLs. Exchange is Callsign, QSO number, RS(T), and ARRL section. Multipliers are sections, provinces, DXCC worked per band. The CW portion is the following weekend. Hmmm, not sure how to identify gender in that mode.
Oh well, that's okay, because the real CW ops will not want to miss the ARRL CW International DX Contest on February 19-20! We can only work DX for points and multipliers, and the DX can only work States & Provinces for points and multipliers. Thus, once again, those other countries will be looking for that rare Vermont contact! All of the gory details are in the December QST, page 99. This will be a YCCC Club effort.
On the last weekend in February, we will be sponsoring the Milton Hamfest. The big contest this weekend will be the CQ WW 160-Meter SSB Contest. Not too many of you out there on the top band, so there will be a multi-op going on at the home of W1SJ.Then, on March 4th, there is the SSB portion on the ARRL DX. This is a fun contest to work on your DXCC. This is also a YCCC team contest. So, be sure to get on and operate!
Next month, find out how to go to Bermuda for free!
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