March, 1999

From the Wheelhouse
Left Over Goodies
Catching the Bug
Our Last RANV Meeting
The Prez Sez
Milton - What a Blast!
Milton Millennium
Book Review - 160M DX
Contest News


Held over from last month, Mark N1ZWC will talk about some of the things he has seen in his years as captain of the Grand Isle to Plattsburgh Ferry. Mark will describe some of the equipment found upstairs in the wheelhouse and also his experiences in shortwave listening. He will be joined by Todd KB1CSR who works in the engine room, and who will describe what is found down below deck. Mark assures us that he will be there this month!

All this takes place on Tuesday evening, March 9th. Snax-at-Zacks kicks off at 6, the meeting is at 7 and refreshments will be around 8. The meeting will be at the O'Brien Civic Center, 113 Patchen Road, South Burlington. Join us!


We still have a bunch of Ten-Tec kits left over from the hamfest and these will be available on a one-time basis before I send them back. The kits include QRP transmitters for 20, 30 or 40 meters, 6 and 2 meter transverters, SWR bridge, RF load, CW keyer and an add-on squelch. The transmitters and transverters are in the $100 range, and the smaller kits are $20-50. If you are interested, please contact me (W1SJ) and I'll give you the exact price. I won't bring any kits to the meeting unless someone expresses interest.

The weather is getting warmer and it is time to start thinking about summer wear. The well dressed club member will be sporting the light blue RANV T-shirt, with the flames and "tune for maximum smoke" logo on the back. These are nice, well-made T-shirts of 100% cotton. Eric will have a few of these for $10 each. Now, anyone interested in jackets?

Can't find a phone number or E-mail address? I'll have some copies of the 1999 Vermont Amateur Radio Directory with me and will be able to solve this problem for you.


by Paul AA1SU

In writing up the meeting minutes on February's Antique Radios talk, I thought that the idea of collecting antique radios in this hobby is like a bug. If you get exposed to it a few times, you just might catch the bug. Some of us have the Model Airplane bug, some the Contesting bug, some the DXing bug, some the Repeater bug, etc. There are so many interesting facets to this great hobby of ours, that we should be able to find what we like and have fun with it. Some of us push ourselves to learn a new mode and make new friends and contacts.

I recently did this with RTTY. However, had I not pushed myself to learn Packet Radio last year, I would not been able to learn RTTY as quickly as I needed to for a recent contest. The two different modes have very similar commands.

Let's hope that you catch a bug for something that you like and can afford. Then, maybe we can have a little meeting and you can tell us all about it. Or, maybe there is a mode or feature of ham radio that you would like someone else to explain in terms that you can understand. This is how we try to pick topics. Let us know what you have the bug for and we will try to talk about it at an upcoming meeting.


by Paul AA1SU, Sec'y

We started the February 9th meeting with the typical introductions and secured a refreshments volunteer. This was followed by some strategy talk for the Milton Hamfest, as we heard who the exciting guest speakers were going to be at the informative forums. We then had a vote to spend $60 for the RANV advertisement in the 1999 Vermont Amateur Radio Directory. The vote passed without objection.

We turned the meeting over to Mike W1RC, our guest speaker of the month. Mike came to talk with us about vintage radios - mostly receivers. He showed us a magazine called Electric Radio that is devoted to the tube type radios. It had a nostalgic 1950's look to the front cover, but it is a current publication and highly referred to. Mike explained that the older radios are cheaper to buy and easier to work on than the newer surface mount technology rigs. Not too many of us want to get out the old soldering iron and start making modifications or repairs on a $3000 rig! Old stuff, however, is getting harder to find.

For example, the Collins 390A is a highly sought after radio and Mike has one with the original Navy manual. This is a premier receiver and the manual tells you how to take the unit completely apart and put it back together again. He's received more offers for the manual than he has for the receiver - that's how good and rare the manual is. One of the books that stood out at the meeting was the Pocket Guide to Collins Amateur Radio Equipment 1946 to 1980. There are many, so called, Boat Anchor nets that meet on the air each week. There are also Web sites devoted to the love of collecting old radios. Mike actually started one and has since turned over the web master duties to a friend.

We also heard about Mike's friend Tom W1TP, who is a trader of fine Morse code keys. Key collecting is now a hot item also. Tom can be found at local hamfests with his excellent collection of antique and interesting keys. Tom resides in both New Jersey and Vermont. We want to thank Mike for his nice presentation on the older transceivers and receivers. We learned a lot and had a lot of fun. Look for Mike at the local hamfests: he's the one wearing a Collins T-shirt.


by Eric N1SRC, President

Thanks to all who came to the Milton Hamfest and to all the folks who helped with setup, staffing, and pickup. Milton is a 5-ring circus so that nobody can actually see all that is going on. We have been collecting reports and we will be looking into some ideas for improvements for next year. Your suggestions and observations are welcome.

Each year I learn a few more things about the care and feeding of a hamfest, and I only work on some parts of it. I have learned that hamfests are not magic. We lost a number of vendors this year because they did not sell enough last year. This is a common problem. Likely vendors were contacted and the event is advertised. It is hard to compete with modern mail order for new equipment. Please consider this as the other hamfests come along. The organizers can provide the time and the place. In the end, we will get as much action as we support.

We had some doubts about the table supply. We use just about every table in the school and supplement that with a full truckload of tables from other sources. We have found that the going rate for tables is about $10 per table. If we had to pay that much, our admission price would certainly have to go up, and we LIKE being the lowest cost hamfest around. Fortunately we had just enough. If anyone knows of good sources please let me know. This question comes up frequently. We are reluctant to buy them because they would need to be stored.

Now on to other things - please consider Field Day. We had just enough folks last year. It would be a lot more fun if we have some extras. It will be a great chance to get some good operating and setup ideas. We could also use some folks to chronicle the event. We have missed some stuff that belongs on Funniest Home Videos for lack of a camera. Even if you lack the camera you can come watch. Events like this are the best chance to get to know other hams.

The topic change last month serves as a reminder that we have had remarkably dedicated speakers over the years. However, we can not take this for granted. Things happen and we must be ready to change course. Special thanks to Mike, W1RC for allowing himself to be put on the spot.

Thanks also to Mark, N1ZWC for persistence and willingness try again.


By Mitch W1SJ

By all accounts, the 17th annual Northern Vermont Winter Hamfest was a blast! Continued good attendance, sizable number of vendors, great forums, great times, and GREAT Weather! This was the second year for mild sunny weather, prompting some to suggest some outside activities. I wouldn't count out winter just yet!

The attendance was once again right around the 600 mark, and in fact, a few more than last year. We've seen three solid years of sustained attendance at Milton while other hamfests all over the country (including Dayton) are seeing marked reductions. Thanks for the support and keep up the great support in coming years! The number of sellers was down a little from last year's record setting 100+ tables. Several larger vendors had personal things come up, but promise to be back next year. In their place, several other vendors filled in the slack, notably Webster Communications, from Michigan, and RANV, who went into the kit selling business this year. The sellers reported mixed results, with some doing quite well and others just so-so. Remember that we have to buy STUFF to keep these guys coming back. There certainly didn't seem to be a shortage of boat anchor sales. We didn't have a scale to prove it, but there looked like thousands of pounds of junk, er, I mean, treasures going out the door in the hands of happy customers. There may not have been a lot of fancy brand new radios changing hands, but trading in the goodies was fast and furious. That appears to be the strength at Milton.

This year, Milton had the honor of being the ARRL Vermont State Convention and the increased ARRL presence made a good hamfest even better. For a small hamfest, the forums program was first class, and well attended. David W1KR attracted a nice sized group at the early hour of 9:00 for his Portable and Mobile Forum. The VHF Rover Forum virtually ran all day. The lecture portion ended at 10:30, and many stayed outside to admire 6-band N1MJD Rover mobile and enjoyed the sunshine in the process. The ARRL and Antenna Forums attracted big crowds and we are happy to report that Ed W1RFI did indeed solder together a yagi with a blowtorch and didn't set his tie on fire! We have pictures! The Contest and DX Forum drew a dedicated crowd and resulted in 6 new members of YCCC and the formation of a small contesting group in the area.

Over at the library, 10 examiners gave 28 exams to 18 applicants, resulting in 10 license upgrades. Some of the notable upgrades: Jim KE1AZ to Extra (his callsign is now AA1UJ), Tom K1KBL to Advanced, Wey N1WYA to General and Jeff N1YTY (dad of N1SRC) to Tech Plus. Congratulations!

Unfortunately, it all ended so quickly! With the glorious weather outside, many decided to pack up early and enjoy the rest of the day. By 1:00, the place was empty, and the 16 years of tradition known as the Milton Auction had to be put on hold. We will adjust the times next year so that the Auction will return!

We had a small, but dedicated crew to help run the hamfest. Please consider helping out next year. It doesn't get any easier!

Setup & Breakdown: K1HD N1ZUK N1SRC W1SJ WA1RMS WA2AUY



Volunteer Examiners: AA1BO AA1SK AA1SU K1HD K2KBT N1PEA W1BY W1SJ WA1AM WE1U


by Mitch W1SJ

Next year's Milton Hamfest will be held on February 26, 2000. This will be one of the first hamfests of the new millennium (certainly the first in Vermont). Things around us are changing rapidly and a number of changes are proposed for next year. To understand these changes, we feel that everyone should understand some of the problems we deal with in producing the show.

This year, we struggled mightily with procuring enough tables. Most of the tables are the cafeteria tables. Unfortunately, these fall apart in normal use and are usually not replaced by the school. It appears like we loose 1-3 units (2-6 tables) each year. We add to this by procuring 12 tables from a number of sources on the outside, which are trucked in by Eric. During setup, we scour the school and appropriate suitable tables and move them to the cafeteria (a lot of work). And several of the large vendors bring tables as part of their setup, which amounts to 20-25% of the total number. Unfortunately, this was a Murphy year for tables. The vendors with the tables didn't come or couldn't bring them, the usual source of tables couldn't provide them and we had a lot less cafeteria tables to work with. The solution was that the club paid to rent tables. That is not a total solution, because we can only access 12 tables in this manner unless Eric is willing to spend all day hauling tables or someone lends us a big truck. So if you know of a cheap source of tables and a vehicle to haul them, please let us know.

Access to the hamfest has been a problem for many years. The problem, which is shared by all hamfests, is that everyone wants to get inside first, and be assured the exact spot they want. I sympathize with this thinking because when I attend a hamfest (as opposed to running one) that is exactly what I want too. A few years ago, we started letting large vendors in early through the back door. Now, everyone wants to get in early and be afforded the convenience of a short walk. Besides that fact that the parking and facility cannot handle a lot of people back there, the net result is the original situation we had out front. As a service to vendors we reserved blocks of tables to help them get set up quickly. A disturbing trend is that some vendors reserve tables and don't show up, or else, some sellers don't reserve tables, blow into the back door and then, want their choice of spots. Unfortunately, it is a small number who make it difficult for everyone else.

The proposed solution is similar to what they do at Hosstraders. And I will be the first to tell you that I don't like that arrangement, but see it as a necessary evil. The hamfest crew will set up a ticket booth at the back door (more work for us). Sellers can enter early through this entrance between 6:30 and 8:00, but pay a higher admission of $10. This is still not bad, considering that we still don't charge for the tables. Through this, we expect that the serious hamfesters will pay to come in early and everyone else will come the main entrance after 8:00. No more table reservations will be taken. There are always enough tables if you come to the fest early.

The other change is the continued shifting of the time people leave the hamfest. For it's first few years, Milton ran from 9am until 3pm. Now, everyone is gone by 1:00. This trend is also seen at Hosstraders and other hamfests too. To adjust for this, afternoon activities will not be held. Forums will start earlier and end by 12. The auction will probably be moved to 11:00. The afternoon VE session, which has been very small in recent years, will not be held.

All of this is under discussion and nothing is final. Please feel free to contact me with your ideas and constructive suggestions on how we might better improve the show.


by Paul AA1SU

DXing on the Edge -The Thrill of 160 Meters, by Jeff Briggs, K1ZM, is a specialized book put out by the ARRL. It is specialized in that it deals with one narrow spectrum of the bands that we, as hams, get to use. The League was not sure how such a book would sell, given that there are not a lot of hams on the Top Band. It has been out for a short time and when I met the author at the Milton Hamfest, he told me that 2000 copies had been sold, much to the delight of the ARRL. Included with the book, is a CD of Memorable Moments on 160 Meters. The text is well laid out and it does a wonderful job of detailing 160-meter DX chronology from 1930 to the present. The book starts and ends by talking about propagation. The first chapter tells us what we now know about propagation and the final chapter tells us of the DXing challenges yet to be met and questions yet to be answered.

One of the true pioneers of the 160 meter band was Stewart S. Perry, W1BB. The author wastes no time in telling the reader of Stew's great accomplishments. At 8 years old, Stew made a receiver in a Quaker Oats cereal box. A few months later, he made a spark transmitter using a Ford spark coil. When the war ended, and station licenses again became available, Stew, at the age of 15, travelled to Boston in 1919 to be the first in line to take the test. He wanted 1AA. There were, however, 27 future amateurs in line in front of him and he received the call 1BB, a callsign that he would hold until his death in 1990.

The biography goes on in great detail of his accomplishments. For instance, besides two stations in the house, Stew had a third QTH a few miles away on Point Shirley, a peninsula of land jutting out into the sea. Mr. Perry had erected a V-beam suspended from the top of a water tower that, was itself, on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The apex of the V-beam was a remarkable 265 feet over the ocean. The Point Shirley site was a DXers dream come true. The rest of the chapter is filled with important facts and figures about the man who kept 160 meters in the amateur band plan.

The next six chapters deal with the major achievements in 160-meter DXing, as well as some advances on the other bands. For a while, after WWII, only 10 meters was available to radio amateurs. In 1946, part of 80 meters was restored, followed by 40 meters CW only. It would be 3 years before 160 meters was restored. Most of this part of the book details new long distance QSO's on the Top Band. Many other 160 operators are mentioned for their long distance accomplishments.

The one reoccurring problem facing the operators throughout the history of events was not the static, but the Loran Navigation System. This was a U.S. Government system to track the location of submarines. The system wreaked havoc with the weak signals and, for years at a time, the band was either off-limits or had limited use with limited power. In 1980, Loran-A ceased to be a problem for 160-meter DXers, and operators in the USA Midwest were soon heard working Japan stations.

Chapter 9 gives us notable achievements on the 160 meter band. For instance, Stew Perry would not apply for his DXCC, even though he had it, because the ARRL did not have a DXCC for 160 meters. He instead waited until the League came up with such an award. When the award was announced, in true gentleman's band fashion, the six applicants for this award decided to file for their awards in the same order that they received their 100 QSL's. This assured that W1BB would be 160 Meter DXCC #1. The chapter shows us the top operators in the world, with their place in history for working 100 countries.

Chapter 10 gives us anecdotes from many 160-meter DXers. Many surprise QSO's are mentioned, some with W1BB himself.

Chapter 11 deals with transmitting antennas and chapter 12 deals with receiving antennas. These are not dipoles strung between the trees; rather they are very specific antennas for getting a signal out the most efficient way possible. Some of the explanations are very technical, but less so than in an antenna book. Consideration is given for those with small lots and small budgets, such as "A Poor Man's Beverage" that includes 4 slinkies.

The book ends things up with proper pileup techniques and other courtesy items that will help you be heard above the others in the fray. Some apply to all bands, such as sending your full call. Partial calls only slow things down. This is followed by Jeff wondering about the DXing challenges to be met and why the band does what it does. For example, no signals are heard from a Singapore sked for several days then, on the fifth day, a solid 559 signal is heard on the Southeast path. Do the first six hours after a solar flare improve 160-meter DXing dramatically? Many say yes. Other questions remained to be answered; others remain to be asked. The last chapter is a compilation of photographs of stations and operators that have put out a fine signal on the band. It is truly a nice way to preserve the images of these top band radio amateurs.

The compact disc included with the book is a nice compliment to the text. Included are recordings of QSO's with W1BB, an interview with 160 DXCC #2 Ralph Green, and some rare CW DX.

All in all, I found the book to be informative and interesting. It was well written and it gives us a chance to read about the history of one part of amateur radio. As a rule, we do not always get to hear what the pioneers did for the hobby before the transistor was invented. Parts of the book are written for the DXer only. There are many parts of the book that I understood quite well. I've been a ham for two years now and this has helped me to understand ham radio even more.

DXing on the Edge - The Thrill of 160 Meters is $29.95 and is published by the American Radio Relay League.


by Paul AA1SU

I'm not sure how many of you got on HF in the last month to hand out Vermont contacts. During the VT QSO Party, W1B was on, providing a special event contact and valuable VT contacts. Several area hams showed up, and it was a great success. The final tally of QSO's was down a little from last year, but fun was had by all. The satellite guys made an appearance to get Vermont on the air via the birds. I, and some other members also operated from home. I did find it most strange that I did not work any stations from NNY or DE. Both of these sections also were holding QSO Parties, but no contacts here at AA1SU.

Although other contests during the month had club competition, few of us competed in them. I operated the HAL WW RTTY WPX Contest, instead of the CW SPRINT for a change of pace. Plus, I was feeling a little sleepy, and not up to a fast paced CW contest. The ARRL CW DX Contest was February 19-21 and I broke my own record for most QSO's in one weekend, with 714 contacts. For the hamfest weekend, I operated the CQ WW SSB 160M Contest a little from here on Saturday night and a little from W1NVT at Mitch's house Friday evening before the Milton Hamfest. These last two contests have club competition, but I don't think that we have 3 logs to submit between the two of them. So, if you competed, once again let us know.

Upcoming events with club competition include ARRL SSB DX Contest during the first weekend in March. There are no points or multipliers for stateside contacts, but there are also no points for DX to DX contacts either. That's right, every country on the Earth will be looking for those rare Vermont contacts. The last weekend of the month features the CQ WW SSB WPX Contest. WPX means Worked All Prefixes. The multipliers are prefixes. This contest has a lot of categories, so read the rules very carefully. Last year, I entered Rookie Class, took a break to do a testing session and still placed 3rd in the country. Any contacts made within the U.S. are now worth one point. Last year they were only worth multiplier credit. This means that my free contest software is out of date and I will have to break down and get new software. Remember your call sign prefix (i.e. WB1, W1, KE1, etc.) is the multiplier, so stations WANT to work you! Your competition will be against similar prefixes. I'm really hoping that we get 3 logs for this one. Recent upgrades and even Tech Plus' can have a blast with this one! Just enter the Band Restricted category.

In recent weeks, I have received some beautiful certificates for finishing first place for Vermont in QSO Parties for the following states: Washington, Florida, Nebraska, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. I did this by making a handful of contacts and submitting the logs. Of course, it helped that I was the only Vermonter submitting a log. The month of March has a lot of state QSO parties including the Wisconsin QSO Party on March 14-15. I challenge any RANV member to beat my score from last year of 36 points and 14 counties. It's not very hard and you can practice your search & pounce skills. I did it all on CW, and used it to build up my CW contesting skills and double my points. There are usually more phone operators on during these parties than CW operators. The third weekend in March has three Parties: Alaska, Ohio, & Virginia. There are also 2 DX contests: Bermuda and Russia. For this weekend, I recommend a pad of paper and just start logging contacts and see what you get.

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