RADIO AMATEUR NEWS & VIEWS, MARCH, 2000

RADIO AMATEUR

NEWS & VIEWS

MARCH, 2000

IN THIS ISSUE...
Carolina Floods Upgrading Time Fox Hunt Time
Our Last RANV Meeting The Prez Sez Milton 2000
The Case of the Noise Contest Corner Hams At the Auction
Expense Report Memorable QSO Welcome To RANV
From the ARRL DX A-Plenty




RED CROSS COMMUNICATIONS DURING THE CAROLINA FLOODS
The March 14th RANV Meeting

Our special guest for the March meeting is ARRL Section Manager Bob DeVarney, WE1U. Bob wears many hats, and one activity which he has yet to speak about is his work for the American Red Cross as Disaster Specialist. In the aftermath of the flooding which hit the Carolinas last year, Bob was sent there on assignment to help assess damage and coordinate relief efforts. He will talk about the organization and equipment (big toys??) utilized as part of those efforts. In the remaining time, Bob will also give as a quick update on ARRL matters from the Section Manager perspective.

The meeting is Tuesday, March 14th, at 7pm at the O'Brien Civic Center, 113 Patchen Road, South Burlington. Snax-at-Zax will commence at around 5:30 at Zachary's Pizza, on Williston Road.


UPGRADE TIME

Judging from the mob scene at the Milton VE session, upgrading will be the number activity in amateur radio for the next few weeks. The new rules provide us with an opportunity and many are taking it all the way to Extra Class. I have been getting tons of E-mail and phone calls with all sorts of questions on the process. Before asking, please refer to "Information on the New Ham Rules" on the RANV Web, www.ranv.together.com. Your questions will most likely be answered there, and if not, there are links to W5YI and ARRL which also should help.

The number one question concerns "Old" Technicians who were licensed before March 21, 1987. If you are a Technician and have an old (non-vanity) callsign from the WA or WB block or anything before N1EUA, you probably are an "Old" Technician. Bring a copy of a license dated before March, 1987 to an exam session after April 15th and you get a General. If you don't have an old copy of a Technician license, try to find an old callbook showing your Technician class. If that doesn't work, contact W5YI and for $5 he will provide you with proof.

I will be offering a VE Session on Sunday, March 19th at 6pm at the Essex Town Office. This will use the old exams. There will be a special administrative VE session on Tuesday, April 18th 6-7pm at my house. Bring all the required documentation and $6.65 and we will give you the cherished upgrade certificate. Finally, there will be a session on Friday, April 28th at 6pm at the Town Office, which will use the new exams.


FOX HUNT TIME

The first RANV Fox Hunt of the season will take place Friday, April 7th, starting at 7pm. That wiley fox W1SJ is back, and who knows what fox hole he will dig himself into. To participate, please check into the 145.15 repeater (required) and then switch to the input to look for the fox. The rules are simple. The fox will be located in Chittenden County. The fox must put at least an S-1 signal at I-89 Exit 14. The fox must transmit 10 seconds out of every minute. Beyond that, anything else is possible. First one to find the fox will be next hunt's fox and will claim all the glory.


OUR LAST RANV MEETING

by Joe K2KBT

The February meeting got off to a good start with Paul AA1SU opening up with several business items for the members to discuss and decide on before we got to our featured speaker Dave W1KR and the evening's program.

Paul submitted three items for the members to consider and vote on. The members agreed to spend $60 to advertise RANV in the Vermont Amateur Radio Directory. Members approved expenditure of $100 to rent tables for the Milton Hamfest. Members also voted to spend $67 to cover the cost of donating a Handbook, Antenna Book and an RFI book to the Burham Library in Colchester.

Following the business, Paul introduced the evening's guest, David W1KR. David teaches photography at Goddard College and builds scale models of historic telegraph keys and bugs as a hobby. The models Dave brought to the meeting ranged in size from a 3-foot version of the venerable J-38 straight key to a beautifully crafted key that measured one and a half inches long. Dave calls the 3-foot J-38 his "QLF Key", with QLF being the well-known signal for "Quit Sending with your Left Foot." Both of David's keys work, and work very well. We all had a chance to try both when connected to an oscillator. The 3-footer works great with either foot or hand power.

In addition to the two straight keys, Dave brought a half-scale version of a turn-of-the-century bug called the Martin Midget. Dave builds half-scale replicas so his work won't be confused with the original collectible version. The Martin Midget worked beautifully and it would be great to have one in the shack. It would be ideal for portable operating as you could carry it in your shirt pocket!

Dave's latest project is a half-scale replica of the Menihan Valient, a semiautomatic key dating from the early 1940's which makes both dashes and dots automatic.

In addition to his jewel-like replicas, Dave also spent some time on the history of the telegraph and telegraphers. We learned that what is known as "carpal tunnel syndrome" was known to telegraphers as "glass arm" and gave rise to the semi-automatic key.


THE PREZ SEZ

by Paul AA1SU, president

Our club voted last month to buy some more ham radio books and donate them to a local library. This is in keeping with a tradition started by our former Club President Eric N1SRC. This year we are donating 3 books to the Burnham Memorial Library in Colchester. The 3 books are the ARRL 2000 Handbook, ARRL Antenna Book, 18th edition, and the ARRL RFI Book. These books have a wealth of information in them and will be available for ham radio operators, and others to check out. In the past we have donated to the Brownell Library in Essex Junction and the Essex Free Library in Essex Center. We received a good deal by buying the books from Ham Radio Bookstore at the Milton Hamfest. Please feel free to check one of these items out with your Home Card. The Home Card is a library card that is honored in most libraries in Chittenden County, except Burlington. Pass the word around to your ham radio friends and others interested in the hobby that these books are available. We will try this again next year at another library, with updated material.

Mitch and I want to thank all who helped out with the Milton Hamfest. Specifically, thanks to Fred N1ZUK for providing such a nice PA system and doing a great job with the announcements; Eric and his Dad Jeff N1YTY, who helped move tables; Mike W1RC, Roger K1CRS, Debbie W1DEB, and Richard WN1HJW who took in the money. The VEs in the testing session, too numerous to mention, get a BIG thank you! And, most of all, thanks to all of you that attended for whatever reason. You REALLY made the hamfest.

Our next big event is Field Day, which, believe it or not, is less than 4 months away. We will need operators for all of the stations, including the Novice/Technician Station. Preparation is underway, and we need your help to get FIRST PLACE again this year. Some things that we are looking for right now, besides operators, are a 4-man canvas tent, and a 40' aluminum extension ladder. Maybe you can help, so please keep in touch with us on this.


MILTON 2000

by Mitch W1SJ

It was another fantastic year for the Northern Vermont Winter Hamfest at Milton. How do we know this? The official measurement of hamfest success is counting the smiling faces leaving the building. And by that account alone, everyone had a wonderful time!

Attendance was down a little from last year, but the aisles were still packed during the peak times. We eventually set up 96 tables and virtually all were used. In a quick walk through the hamfest, I found the usual eclectic assortment of stuff. The hamfest wheelers and dealers report that they found all sorts of treasures to keep them happy and vendors report sales as fair to good. And, of course, the weather was nice (meaning no snow or ice storms) which was an added bonus.

There are two forces at work. First, flea markets worldwide are getting smaller due to the proliferation of on-line auctions. Second, it seems that every year, school vacation occurs the week right after Milton and a lot of people took advantage of this time for family vacation.

The big story this year was VE Session. We prepared for a tidal wave, and at precisely 9:00, it came crashing in. Some 50 people swarmed into the Library for the morning session alone. Fortunately, Al W1BY and myself both brought our boxes of testing supplies and we used most of it! The numbers were staggering: 70 people showed for testing, 83 elements were given, only 12 upgrades, but 69 CSCE's issued, 5 hours total exam time and 11 examiners. It took another 4-5 hours at home for me to complete the paperwork. The effect of the exam session was that the hamfest got noticeably smaller at 9 as this large group left the flea market! The overwhelming majority sought credit for element 3B and 4B in preparation for the new rules change on April 15th. Amazingly, there was a sizable group taking the 13 and 20 wpm code tests, even though these won't be required next month. Among the successful candidates: Jay W1EMT upgraded to Extra, Jeff N1YTY (Eric's dad) upgraded to Advanced, and Bill N1WQV upgraded to Tech plus. Many club members picked up various element credit.

I heard many good reports about the forums program this year. With flea markets getting less attention, this is where I would like to see Milton shine. Steve Ford WB8IMY of the ARRL spoke to two large forums of interested people in the HF Digital Communications Forums. He had a tape player hooked to a computer and was showing what PSK-31 sounded like and looked like as a spectrum plot. From what I'm told, it works better on HF then the other digital modes, and all you need is a radio, a computer and some software which you can download from the net! Later that morning, at the ARRL Forum, Tom K1KI told the assembled group about new information coming out of Newington. At the Contest Forum, Don K2KQ had the group listening to propagation beacons (off of a dipole set up by AA1SU) and presented all sorts of contest software information, as well as talk about his recent visit to Grenada. I stopped in towards the end of this forum and the group was wildly enthusiastic!

The hamfest was very difficult to get set up this year. The administration at the school has changed and where many things were done casually with a handshake before, now it has become tons of negotiation. The main problem was that a formal dance was scheduled the night before. Our agreement is that we fly standby when school events are concerned, but it would have been very useful to know about this dance a month ago when it was scheduled. After 45 minutes of discussion it was finally agreed that we could come in at midnight (when the dance was over) and help the janitors clean up, while setting up the room. And that's what we did! The entire room with tables was set up in just over an hour, a new Milton record. At the same time, we set up the signs and forum rooms as well. We all got to bed by 2am, and were up just before 6am for the hamfest opening. This was great training for operating the Sweepstakes!

The second bomb went off Friday afternoon when I learned that we couldn't use the library for testing because "someone might see confidential information on the computers". The counter offer was to use a classroom, which, of course, would have been hardly acceptable given the 50+ who showed up. After a couple of hours of phone calls going back and forth, we agreed to rope off the computer areas and would get to use the Library just this year.

Well, we got through the snafus and had a great time anyway. I don't know what the minute details for next year will be, except that the Northern Vermont Winter Hamfest will be held on February 24, 2001.

Thank you to:
Order of the Night Owl (setup): AA1SU KA2TJZ N1SRC N1YTY W1DEB W1SJ
Hamfest Staff: AA1SU K1CRS N1SRC N1YTY N1ZUK W1DEB W1RC W1SJ WN1HJW
Forum Speakers: K1KI K1TWF K2KQ W1SJ WB8IMY WE1U
Order of the paper pusher (VE's): AA1BO AA1MG AA1SU K1HD K2KBT KM1Z N1PEA NN1C W1BY W1SJ WA1AM


THE CASE OF THE NOISE

by Eric N1SRC

While working the VT QSO party I noticed that our poor old Azden 2-meter rig was showing a half scale signal, but the squelch was not opening. I have often see this when there is a nearby strong signal. The strong signal gets into the intermediate frequency stages and is detected by the automatic gain control circuit, which reduced the gain of the IF amplifier. The signal indicator is a measure of how much the AGC has reduced the gain. This is also called desense. I see this when my mobile rig is close to someone else using the same repeater. Since they transmit 600kHz away from the the repeater downlink, the receiver will not demodulate their signal, but it will get into the AGC and force the gain down to the point where the repeater downlink disappears. If this happens, either reduce power or go to simplex.

In this case, I tuned around and got the same signal strength on every frequency in the band! It was bad enough that full scale signals were hard to copy. I disconnected the outdoor antenna to see if the rig was confused or if it was a real signal. The signal went away. I put a rubber duck antenna on the rig and I could hear repeaters easily, but no more strange reading. I listened on the outdoor antenna with my HT, but got no strange signal either. I also tried turning off the computer, the HF rig, and other signal sources. I did a scan for out of band strong signals and found nothing new that was continuous. I DID find that our TS430 has a pretty good near field signal on 144.000 MHz and the computer puts out a decent signal on 128.000. Now I was confused.

Next day, I realized that we were being bothered by an S3 power line noise on everything about 20 meters. Normally, power line noise is worse at low frequencies. When I went out to feed the horses I noticed the fence line was loose, meaning that the horses had been playing with it again. I got my HT and tuned it to the aircraft band, where it uses an AM detector instead of FM. The power line noise was there, and was very strong near the power meter. It was very strong in the barn. When I unplugged the fencer the noise vanished.

Now why-oh-why did our Azden show the signal when the HT did not? I think the answer is that the old Azden uses a simple AM AGC detector that is much broader band than the HT. The broad band signal from the fencer, when collected over a wide bandwidth adds up to a large signal. The HT seems to have a much tighter IF system that did not collect so much signal all at once. The squelch is usually based on a circuit that detects quieting rather than signal strength. In the ICOM it counts noise pulses, when the count gets low it will open up. A hissy sort of signal is not likely to open these squelch circuits even if they are quite strong. Some radios use a squelch driven by the AGC circuit.


CONTEST CORNER

by Paul AA1SU

This month is a bit of a slow period for contests. On the weekend of the 18th, there is the Alaska QSO Party. Here at AA1SU, I need Alaska on 80 and 160 Meters to help round off several awards. Remember, Alaska counts as a country, as well as a state. It is a 48 hour contest, starting at 7pm Friday night. You will also find Virginia and Ohio on the air with their QSO Parties. These are good for Search & Pounce practice, and to hand out that rare Vermont contact. Details are on page 100 of the April QST.

A really interesting contest is also on this particular weekend. It is called the Bermuda Contest. It is interesting because, unlike most country contests, it is an everybody works everybody contest; not just VP9. It is also interesting because the winner gets flown to Bermuda to pick up the award! Scoring is 5 points per contact and multipliers are DXCC/WAE countries per band. Then multiply again by the number of VP9 contacts. You can work 24 of the 48 hours, and it sounds like it would be really easy to rack up a high score. You can visit the Radio Society of Bermuda Web site at www.bermuda-shorts.com/rsb/rules_1.htm for more information on this one.

Got an unusual prefix in your call sign? Well, you may want to try your hand at the CQWW WPX Phone Contest, where the multipliers are prefixes. I entered as a Rookie Class last year and scored 3rd of 9 in the nation, and 12th of 33 in the world. I'm expecting (OK, hoping) to see even better results when the CW scores are released in CQ Magazine next month. It's the only thing on that weekend and it is a lot of fun! Single ops can operate no more than 36 of the 48 hours. We can enter as a club on this one. You can visit ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/n8bjq/ for updated info before and after the test.

Several other RANV members made it into the magazines this month for their fine efforts. WB1GQR with ops W1SJ and N1ZUK made it into the top 10 in the Limited Multioperator category of the ARRL September VHF QSO Party! N1MJD and N1JEZ placed 2nd in the country in the Rover category. In the IARU HF World Championships, held in July, AA1SU entered as mixed mode and held his own. K1HD, N1PEA, and KK1C (now W1MP) entered as phone only, and we all enjoyed the weekend. Next month, we go to the Holy Land!


HAMS AT THE AUCTION

The hams of RANV and BARC will descend upon the Vermont Public Television Travel Auction on Saturday, April 15th. Volunteers are needed at VPT, and we will be there with our usual rowdy behavior, in force. This is a fund raising event where donated travel items are auctioned off. Our shift will be from 7 to 9:30pm and this will be a joint club effort with our friends at BARC. Volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks and, if we have too many, we can rotate positions. We will be answering the phones, marking the bins, filling the bins, passing messages, as well as other tasks.

Rumor has it, from the old timers in the club, that we did a similar event to this once before and that our antics were legendary. When I mentioned this to Denise at VPT, she said that having fun is part of it, but she also said that she is new, and this is her first auction (tee-hee). So, let's all go to the VPT Travel Auction and have some fun! Call or E-mail Paul if you want to volunteer.


EXPENSE REPORT

Treasurer Richard WN1HJW has comprised a report for RANV 1999 Income and Expenses that he will hand out at the next meeting. Here is a condensed version:

ExpensesIncome
Coffee & Snacks97 Hamfest 1999 2006
Ten-Tec Kits 1491 Ten-Tec Refund1087
Directory Ad 60 Dues, Misc. 1454
Print / Stamps 729
Hamfest Tables 50
Field Day 198
Club Insurance 185
Picnic Fee 45
Holiday Party 46
Club Misc 139
Total $3040Total$4547



MEMORABLE QSO

by Buzz KB1EPQ

February 8th started out pretty much like any other day for me on two meters. I made a couple QSO's on the 145.15 repeater then set my rig to scan. A little after 10am, there came a call of "Mayday" on the 147.39 repeater in Barre. Even though the person didn't give a callsign, I responded. Nothing. So, I figure the guy just found a radio and wanted to see if it worked. He probably assumed that if he cried wolf someone would respond. A bit later I asked Mitch W1SJ about what my appropriate response should have been. After telling him about it, we kind of agreed that it probably wasn't an emergency. So, I went back to scanning.

Then at 3:10pm, I hear the same voice asking for help, this time on the 146.625 repeater. I respond again, just in case. He said that he needed an ambulance, but he was very hard to copy. After about twenty minutes of very patient communications with him, I was able to get an address in Washington, Vermont and description of his home. I was unable to copy his name. I made the call to 911, just hoping that this guy wasn't playing around.

It turned out he had been in and out of consciousness for hours, and every time he moved he would pass out. Although not licensed, he happened to have an HT while studying for his test. By 4:00, I was able to hang up with dispatch and catch my breath. It just goes to show that, even sitting at home, I was able to be in the right place at the right time. My four-year-old had to open his own drink while I struggled to decipher the address, but everything turned out fine.

Why not write about your most memorable QSO? I'm sure that everyone would love to hear about your favorite contact. Maybe the bands opened up just right and gave you a straight shot to a location that you hadn't reached before. What was the most satisfying QSO you've had? Tell us about it!


Welcome to RANV

Buzz KB1EPQ from Barre, is a regular on 145.15, and also has become the new editor of QFQ, the CVARC newsletter.

Scott KB1DUL from Essex, graduated from the Weekend Class last March and has been to a few RANV meetings.

Howard K2MME from Burlington, recently moved full time to Vermont from Rockland County, New York where he was active with the Crystal Radio Club.

Kye KB1EMG from Fairfax, graduated from the Weekend Class in October.

Doug N1RWR from Burlington, is back after a 1-year hiatus.

Charlie N1IOC from Huntington, is back after a 2-year hiatus.


From the ARRL

PSK31 and QRP - this changes everything! ARRL staffer Steve Ford, WB8IMY, reports his PSK31 demonstration at the February 27 Vermont State Convention was a huge hit. The PSK31 forum he conducted "was standing room only," he said.

This and more appeared in a news item on the "members only" section of the ARRL Web.


DX A-PLENTY

If you didn't get on for the ARRL DX Contest this past weekend, you missed a beauty! Normally, I sit out the DX contests, but I decided to get on for a few hours to finish up my Millennium DXCC. All of the bands were GREAT! Ten meters was amazing with tremendous runs of Europeans in the morning. Many stations over there were running 5 watts and had big signals. Twenty meters was slow in the morning, but came into its own in the late afternoon and evening hours. Plenty of DX was found on 40 and 80 as well. If you are waiting for the good conditions, it doesn't get much better than this!




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