|Transceiver Design I||VT QSO Party Stories||HAM-CON Wrap|
|RANV Flea Table||Secretary's Report||New England Cabinet Meeting|
|Check Your Address||Ham Class March 24|
Rich Lang W1ELL will present Part II of his current project: Designing and Building An HF Transceiver. He will continue the discussion begun in January, along with additional demonstrations. More details can be found in the December 2011 News & Views.
Following the presentation will be snacks and a chance to catch up with folks.
When you operate in a contest for 24 hours or more and make hundreds of contacts, there are dozens of stories. The stories run the gamut of glorious runs right down to the times when one cannot buy a contact. The stories include how equipment worked well, or failed at key times. And finally, there are the human stories – running into folks who you haven’t spoke to in years.
At the Friday night start of the QSO Party, I was really happy that 20 meters was still open and producing contacts. Shortly into the event, I worked K5FLU in Mississippi. The call sign and location seemed very familiar, so I inquired about his name, which he said was Martin. Now I was sure. Martin is Martin F. Jue, whose initials are MFJ! I’ve spoken to him several times at Dayton while he was at the booth. And I thought he only operated CW. We chatted a bit, before I continued the run.
I moved to 80 meters to catch the Vermont activity window at 8:00, where I ran into Arnie W2HDI and Bob AB1NJ for the first of a few contacts. I then jumped into the DX Window and ran some 80 Meter DX for a while, but it was tough – high noise, poor copy. Paul W1IMD (originally from Burlington) sent me an E-mail from Maine telling me that I needed a better receive antenna. Yup, I know that! Heck, he didn’t even give me a contact!
I was looking forward to the morning where the DX starts rolling in on 20 meters, but old man propagation had another idea. There was no DX on 20 meters and nothing on 10 meters, so I packed my bags for 15 meters, where the Black Sea Competition was in full swing. I got right in working many Russian and Ukraine stations. I stayed on 15 meters where DX was worked, albeit slowly. No big pileups of German, Italian and British stations this year!
Jim KE1AZ came in at noon and we pointed the beam west to run stateside. Meanwhile, I checked my mail and took a much needed nap! When he finished at 2:00, 15 meters was worked out, so I jumped down to 20 meters and ran some nice pileups of stateside stations all afternoon. I was pleased to hear Bob W4YFJ also on 20 meters and saw Joe K1VMT spotted on 15 meters. Vermont was in the house!
QSO Party weekend requires being quick on your feet. Concurrently, the Minnesota, Delaware and British Columbia QSO Parties are running, along with the Black Sea Contest and the 10-10 Contest. Some of these require giving your name, or your state or even your ITU Zone (08). Knowing the exchanges for all of the contests helps put more contacts in the log and keeps the natives happy!
In past QSO Parties, I lived on 20 meters. The 40 meter band is a strange place. If you live in the Midwest, the prevailing motto is, “there ain’t meters like 40 meters”. However, for most stations in the Northeast, it is a place to avoid at night – kind of like a bad neighborhood where you’re likely to get mugged. However, bolstered by the fact that I did very well on 40 meters this season, I gave it a try. I worked station after station and the pileup kept coming. I couldn’t believe it! After 10PM, at a time when 40 meters is outright dangerous, I put nearly 130 QSO’s in the log in one hour! I may have to rethink my strategy from now on!
Saturday night, I ran into Tony, K1AMF. He was a young contester who grew up in Fellows Balls, Vermont (as he termed it) but I hadn’t heard him in years. He’s now in the northern suburbs of New York, and commutes to the city each day. “Sounds like a jail sentence”, I responded! And the next morning, I ran into his brother, Rick, N1IRL.
With nearly 1300 QSO’s in the log I retired for the night quite happy, thinking that 2000 QSO’s were in reach. But that was not in the playbook. Conditions Sunday morning were el stinko. I heard Europeans, but those were the big guns who were only S2. The little tweakers with the 100 watts and dipoles who feed my pileups were simply not heard. I ran with tail between legs down to 40 meters and got a reasonable run going for a while.
When I went back to 15 meters, I noticed that the SWR on the yagi was quite high. I stuck a tuner in the line, but it didn’t work. It seemed like the antenna had one impedance at low power and a different impedance at higher power. Clearly, it was working OK until high power caused something to arc over. I put the CQ tape on and went outside to see if anything was amiss, and I audibly heard “CQ Contest” coming from the antenna! Well, that’s a first! Finally, I hatched a plan to use the high dipole and tuner on 15 and 20 meters. Fortunately, it worked well.
Kathi K1WAL was on for the 10-12 hours. She had a bit of a learning curve to first learn the call sign, and what QRZ? meant, etc. But she mastered the lessons well, and got a slowish run going for a few hours. There was a lot of CQing, but she was able to hear the stations and get them logged OK. Meanwhile, I did what I do best – took a nap!
I finally got back on 20 meters around 2:30 on the dipole. The rates were OK, but not spectacular. By Sunday afternoon in any contest, you start “using up” available stations. By late afternoon, things were very slow so I tried a desperation move to 10 meters. I could only hear a handful of weak stations, so I wasn’t terribly optimistic. Surprise – there were enough stations lurking in the shadows to feed a rate for 30 minutes or so. With 20 meters running out of gas, I finished up on 40 meters with another great run.
One of the great things about a long contest is the opportunity to learn. While listening, I would switch between the beam and dipole. You would expect the beam to win hands down. Or at least, the dipole would win towards 4-land since the beam is usually pointed out west. Nope! The dipole both heard and was heard better out in CA and WA, whereas the beam did better in places like TN. Why? This is a great question for a program like EZNec to answer. The dipole is much higher than the yagi, so its takeoff angle may be the difference in gain. The lesson learned is to not assume things like yagis always beat dipoles!
Lots of guys pooh-pooh contests because of the short nature of the QSO’s. Resist that thinking! I ran into a bunch of guys I haven’t heard from in years, worked some juicy DX, had fun with pileups and learned a thing or two about antennas. In short, I had a ton of fun.
By all accounts, HAM-CON 2012 was a success. Attendance was around 300, up from last year. The gate was higher and expenses were a bit lower, resulting in higher revenue. And most important, everyone enjoyed the show and the overall assessment is that the new location at the Holiday Inn was a hit.
Not too bad considering that last April we were literally tossed out in the street by our former venue. We were given the ability to return there, but only if we moved the date by a considerable amount – into April. Ultimately, we decided to stick with our traditional date, for many reasons. In the summer, we thought we had a new venue set up to go, only to learn that we couldn’t use that location either. It was a struggle, to be sure.
Even when we finalized plans for the new location, we had to recreate the show since the layout of the space was quite different. This allowed us to reinvent some things we were doing.
With three forum rooms available, the first thought was to increase the number of forums. However, a nagging complaint I kept hearing was the lack of a space for attendees to sit and meet others. Demographically, we are getting up there in years, and sitting down is becoming more of a necessity. And I still wanted to offer something more than the two rooms of forums. Then we also realized that placing W1V and other activities in the lobby were not going to happen. Thus the “Activities Room” concept was born, which combined Relaxation Area, W1V, Tech Table and several mini-forums all in one place.
I thought the concept worked quite well and it certainly helped the W1V operation where there was ample room for operators and spectators. The mini-forums were a hit! All of these forums had 5-7 interested people standing around, which was the ideal number we were looking for. While we didn’t have large numbers of attendees using the relaxation part of the room, part of the problem was that folks didn’t really “find” the room until later in the day.
The forums program was fantastic. All the forums drew around 15-20 people and some had even more. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I felt I was selling out when I scheduled forums on Cell Phones and Computers, but both these forums had a fervent following and were right topic at the right time. There were a lot of great comments on our guest presenters, Joel Hallas and Gordon West. The skype hookup with Gordo in Southern California was near perfect and it really felt like he was in the room with us. Special thanks to Ron KK1L for running Tech on that. He made it look very easy, although I know that these high tech presentations can have problems. The technology is such that we can bring virtually anyone from anywhere electronically to the show! Not to be overlooked, the non-technical forums, ARRL, RACES/Irene and Sounds of DX were also well attended and enjoyed.
Anytime you think everything is planned properly – guess again! The set up for the vendor room was based on the number of vendors we had in the last two years. We had a somewhat smaller room and we lost one large vendor, so there should have been plenty of room. It didn’t quite play out that way! Carl had a real problem with vendors flowing in early and completely using up all available tables and space. When I arrived, we did a lot of creative arranging to get almost all of the vendors in, but a couple of the later attendees didn’t get tables. While we make no guarantees about table availability, we do feel bad about this. This was good-bad scenario. Good to see the number of vendors increase after 2 slack years, bad that we had to turn some customers away. Now I know what airlines go though every day to fill airplanes up! Rest assured that we already have some plans to deal with this next year.
All morning, the vendor room was filled with tables chock full of stuff and happy hamfesters perusing (and later buying) some of the said stuff. Certainly, the room looked very busy and active. Afterwards, many of the vendors indicated that they were happy with the sales results. Many of the buyers indicated the same.
The new location made things challenging and kept all of us on our toes. Bob had to reinvent how we were to set up the yagi when the AB-577 tower would not be able to be used. And then there were last minute snags which had to be overcome. But it worked! We pointed the beam NE and ran Europe all morning before doing a run toward the states. Several operators stopped by and enjoyed operating for extended periods of time.
The closing ceremonies ran a bit late as were making things up as we were going along! We eventually fell back on our original plan to open up the wall between two rooms so that everyone fit comfortably. This year, Kathi K1WAL along with Carl AB1DD wrangled more door prizes so we had more stuff to give away. It was also great to see that many folks hung around until the drawing.
We had a nice quick VE session which served 9 applicants and created 5 new hamsters. By 3:00 the space was emptied out and we all got to go home – a lot earlier than in previous years.
A lot of people work to make HAM-CON happen. They give up valuable vendor and forum time to do this and we all appreciate their efforts. Here’s the list – I hope I got everyone: AA1SU AB1DD K1CRS K1WAL KB1FRW KB1IVE KB1LHB KB1LOT KB1MDC KB1PDW KB1THX KB1WDN KB1WUB KE1AZ KK1L N1FBZ N1LXI N1PEA N1WWW N1YD NW1V VE2EQL W1DEB W1SJ W4YFJ WY0N and Sandy.
We call HAM-COM “the best little Hamfest in the world” and to date no other “little” Hamfest has challenged this. We have a forums and activities program which is better than shows many times our size. And unlike many other non-ham shows around us here in Vermont, we have remained solvent. It’s not easy to put on shows like this anymore, but we’ll keep chugging along so that we can showcase amateur radio in Vermont.
The table saw quite a lot of business, again, this year — many very good bargains were found, and sellers did very well overall. Not much was left when the day wound down. There is a market for your old stuff, but it's got to be useful and in decent shape. Not perfect, fixable seems OK, but not junky junk! Keep an eye open as you poke around your shack, and pile up those things you no longer have a need or use for. Then haul 'em in to the flea-table next year!
Many thanks to those who brought in stuff to sell.
Rich Lang, W1ELL gave a presentation on an SDR transceiver that he is designing and building himself. It is based around a PIC DSP that makes all kinds of processing possible. The radio will have knobs (connected to encoders) and HTTP control.
One part of the project is to make custom circuit boards. Rich found that Free PCB is a good tool to draw a design, and it even does auto-routing of the wire traces. To build the board, one can send the design to "Express PCB," or etch it at home using assorted tricks and chemicals.
We didn't get to see a completed radio, but Rich's project is quite ambitious.
Part II will come in March.
Vermont was ably represented at the NE Division Cabinet meeting last January by Paul Gayet AA1SU, Vermont SM; Gerry Ashton WY2Y, Green Mountain Wireless, President; Bob Allen KB1FRW, RANV, President; and Carl Dow AB1DD, RANV, Vice-President. The New England Division meets twice a year; the goal is to have a number of clubs represented, although the winter meeting can be tricky due to weather curveballs. Around 35–45 people from the New England states attend the meetings which are usually held in Massachusetts or southern New Hampshire.
Talk centers on Spectrum Issues, League happenings, FCC issues, Enforcement, EmComm, and efforts to grow membership in clubs and the League. With the ARRL’s 100TH anniversary coming up, Centennial Celebration ideas were a hot topic at this particular meeting.
The next Cabinet meeting will likely be in late June/early July. If you'd like to attend, let Paul know.
RANV members are asked to check their mailing address and Email address we have on file so that we can communicate quickly and efficiently. You can check your mailing address in the January Newsletter (printed version only). Or check the mailing label on the back of your newsletter (assuming you got your newsletter!). Your E-mail address can be checked at www.ranv.org/memb.html If there is no address listed, it means that we don’t know your address, or that the last one we had bounced. Thanks for taking the time to check these items.
The Spring Ham Radio Class will be coming up March 24-25th. If you are interested in taking the class, contact me immediately as registration will close soon. The Technician class (for new hams) will be offered Saturday and the General upgrade class will
be offered Sunday. The package comes with books, on-line training and live class, with exam session at the conclusion. If you, or
someone you know, are waiting for a good time to take take the class, note that I will likely not offer it again for a long time, so
jump on it now.