November, 1999

All About Tuners
Holiday Party
Coming Up
Our Last RANV Meeting
The Prez Sez
Welcome To RANV
The Devious Foxes
Murphy's Law
Contest Corner
Eleven New Hams
Early Recollections
Contest Rumors

The November 9th RANV Meeting

Join with us for our November meeting as we invite back Tom W1EAT, this time to talk about the use of antenna tuners. Tuners use a little bit of antenna theory and a bit of black magic to allow us to match impedance of various antennas. When you know w hen to use them and how to use them, they can be a tremendous help. When you don't understand them, they can be a real pain. If you don't have much interest in tuners, come anyway - it is worth it for the entertainment value alone! Tom gave a talk a coupl e of years ago on CW and people are still howling about. Tom's normal mode of operating is making a lot of contacts using QRP CW, so you know that he knows his stuff!

The pre-game festivities kick off at 5:30 at Zach's on Williston Road. Be sure to stop by over there before the meeting. We have a tremendous time! The meeting starts at 7pm and is held at the O'Brien Civic Center, 113 Patchen Road, South Burlington, just up from White Street.


Mark your calendars for the gala RANV Holiday Party, Tuesday, December 14th at 7pm. The party replaces the December meeting.

Last year, we changed the format and location of the party and all in attendance loved it! Once again the festivities will take place at the shack of W1SJ in Essex. We will provide a cold cuts platter, munchies and soda and you are invited to bring wha tever else. Other activities will include operating the W1SJ/WB1GQR station, viewing of videotapes of glorious conquests and ragchewing and telling of tall tales. This is an official RANV social event and spouses and SO's (significant others) are especia lly invited.


It's contest season and that's the focus of most of the activities in the upcoming weeks.

If you are a CW operator, put down this newsletter and start practicing for the CW Sweepstakes, starting this Saturday at 4pm. If you are not a CW operator, this is a tremendous way to build up your speed. Stay higher in the CW portion of the bands to find stations who are running a bit slower.

There is a 2-week break in which some of you might concentrate on hunting, and then there is the phone weekend of the Sweepstakes. Everyone who has a higher class license should get on and hand out some contacts. It is a load of fun and it will help yo u work towards your Worked All States award.

The next weekend is Thanksgiving weekend, but serious CW DXers will be taking part in the CQ Worldwide. After that, in December, is the 160-Meter Contest and then the 10-Meter Contest. Conditions on 10 Meters are expected to be near record levels, so b e sure to get on to enjoy the goodies. If you are a casual operator, 9am until 3pm both days will give you the best Europe and U.S. openings.

Don't forget the RANV Holiday Party on Tuesday December 14th. And if you cannot possibly stay away from the radio, welcome the millennium with Straight Key Night on New Year's Eve. The goal is to send the best code you can with a straight key. Some try to do this while seriously celebrating!

When we finally make it to the New Year, the best news is that it is a mere 57 days until the Milton Hamfest!


by Kristin, AA1SK

At the start of the meeting we discussed possible meeting topics, upcoming events and elections. We voted to buy one book of postcard stamps to reply to QSL cards that have accumulated. Normally we expect a SASE but since many of these cards were from beginners, we decided to have mercy on them and reply. W1SJ reported that the pager owner had agreed to check out their rig to see if they could find why we are getting it on our repeater input.

Brian, KA2BQE then took over and gave us a nice account of the origins of various aspects of digital radio. It started in Vancouver, Canada and spread east when digital privileges were first granted. Then it crossed the border in the mid- 80s to NJ, D C, and Seattle WA when the US got the privileges. The early DX clusters and digipeaters were set up. Packet networks were built.

Since then, much of this has been overtaken by Internet access and improved telephone modems. But the experimenters also developed the packet satellites. Their design was good enough both mechanically and in functionally that it was licensed for commer cial use by Brazil. These were digital mailboxes in the sky, far cheaper than the big geosynchronous satellites. AO-10, by the way, is now the longest lived satellite that anyone has ever put up, and still lives on, despite loss of batteries.

An instructor at Annapolis developed APRS. It was used to track the Naval Academy boats as the midshipmen practiced. It uses a broadcast based protocol that repeats data at intervals, rather than creating closed exchanges. The principle has been borrow ed by other services. APRS is gaining popularity because it permits efficient monitoring and tracking. New rigs like the TH-D7 now have built in TNC hardware that only require that a GPS unit be added.

Hams have proven that handheld rigs like this could communicate efficiently via the packet rig on Mir. APRS is used to automate collection of hurricane weather reports. This sort of hardware has led to some consternation when police have been directed to emergencies by precise latitude and longitude. It has proven useful for tracking assets in hurricane relief support.

Future work is expected to include high-speed spread spectrum modems. Follow progress at and or stay in touch with hams like Brian KA2BQE.


by Eric, N1SRC, President

It was really great to hear about some of the history of digital modes at our last month's meeting. It was also nice to see some new faces.

I have been very pleased to be part of RANV when we were recognized as a Special Service club several years ago. There was about 3 years of work, some of it before I even joined. RANV continues because of the efforts of each member, not merely that of the officers. I look forward to being able to continue to pitch in.

In the last 2 years we have placed the latest Radio Amateurs Handbook in local libraries. This is one way to provide a point of contact and make information available to both club members and the general public. The latest Handbook just came out, which reminded me of this. I'd like to continue this (though each year we have worked with a different library).

Three months ago my family faced a crisis, with the failure of 2 of our 3 HTs. I am now feeling like a cat that got the canary because I fixed both of them. One had a corroded plated through hole in the power lead to the battery. A jumper wire (insula ted with Teflon) fixed that one. The other seems to have been rosin flux or some other such gunk getting into some switch contacts. The hard part was getting at the affected areas. It is such a rush when a repair like this actually works.

I look forward to the next meeting on Tuners. Our guest speaker, Tom W1EAT has a way of covering all sorts of things and has a lot to teach all of us. It should be fun. Even though I have read about tuning and wire antennas, my experience is limited so I look forward to sharing some of Tom's.

Welcome to RANV

Dave KB1EMB, of South Burlington, just graduated the Weekend Class and has started to get active on 2-meters.

Dom KB2NCM, of Burlington, moved to Vermont from the Rochester, NY area.

Brian KA2BQE, of Underhill, has been active on the digital modes for many years and just gave a talk at the October meeting.


by Fred N1ZUK

The final RANV Fox hunt of 1999 was held Friday, October 18. Although the nights in October can sometimes be cold and wet, fortune looked well on us, and gave us a beautiful night for the event. The hunt was enjoyed by over 20 participants, with ten gr oups of hunters in search of the sly, elusive fox.

Although Paul AA1SU was the first to locate the fox in the hunt held in August, he relinquished his role as fox to me for this hunt. He may still be wondering if that was the wise thing to do. I am grateful he did, as I had many ideas of what I would l ike to accomplish if ever given the role of fox. My goals were pretty simple: to give everyone a good hunt, and to see if I could give our resident expert fox slayer Mitch W1SJ a few confusing moments. I think I was successful on both counts.

To execute my devious plans, I enlisted the help of Ted K1HD. I knew he had a large, multi-element 2-meter beam for satellite work at home. He eagerly offered the antenna and his assistance, as well as an amplifier, to the plan. After scouring maps of Chittenden County for possible places to hide, and where I could put the side of the beam towards the W1SJ QTH, it was time to scope out my locations. I am thankful that my understanding YL Laurie did not mind combining our foliage drive with my scouting expedition! I ultimately decided that the parking lot of Dorset Park, in South Burlington, would be where this fox would dig in.

Of course, no VHF effort recently has not been visited by Murphy himself. Several days before the hunt, I discovered that the antenna we planned to use wouldn't fit in the car, even unassembled! At the same time, I found an ad on a bulletin board at wo rk that Pepi KA1VLH was selling an 8-element 2-meter yagi. After a few days of phone tag, and a day of antenna repair, we were ready to go and hide. Except for the amplifier occasionally going into SWR protection lockup, things went pretty smoothly.

Setup was quick and uneventful. We were parked in the lot across from the hockey rink and the antenna was on a tripod in the field behind us. We even had time to wire the amp directly to the car battery. This was all done in about 20 minutes! We had a bout ten minutes to spare before darkness fell, and the check-in began. As each Hockey Mom pulled into the busy parking lot, we thought we were caught, but after 30 minutes into the hunt, we knew we had people confused. We had to laugh when one minivan p ulled in with some pine branches stuck in its grill_leading us to think that some ham had driven through the woods looking for us! Turned out to be another group of kids for the hockey game in progress inside.

About forty minutes after going on the air, a familiar van pulled in_W1SJ. He, like a number of other hunters, sped quickly behind the arena. After a few moments, we could see his headlights shine on our yagi out behind the car. Pulling right up in th e grass, flashlight in hand, he followed the coax right up to the car. Although he was the first to locate the fox, he did admit that he couldn't get a fix on us from his house (his typical Modus Operandi), and had made two wrong turns, before locating us . So my plan succeeded! Ten minutes later, Mike N1UWT and Dan N1PEF followed in Mitch's tire tracks.

Forty-five minutes passed, and the rest of the hunters were still not to be found. I figured that the reflections from the beam had some confused, so it was time to make things a little easier for everyone. Talking the beam and amplifier off the air, I switched to just 25 watts into my window mounted car antenna. Although I warned everyone that I was making a major change, many were surprised to find my once S9 signal (reported as far away as Mallets Bay!) had dropped to S2. In about 20 minutes N1IRO a nd N1NTT, as well as N1LXI pulled up to give us their regards.

As it was getting late, and we were hearing stories about the remaining hunters checking every bush and dumpster in Al's French Fry's parking lot for us, the clues began to get more and more precise. I'm not 100% sure, as I was disassembling equipment outside the car, but Ted may have even given our GPS coordinates! A caravan of fox hunters descended on us. A good thing, too, for we had forgotten to run the engine on the car and charge up the battery. A quick jump-start got us going, and we all proceed ed to Zack's to tell our stories, view videotape of the hunt, and get a bite to eat.

And Paul AA1SU, who let me be the fox for this hunt? He was still out on Williston road looking for us...


W1SJ            7:40
N1UWT + N1PEF   7:50
N1IRO + N1NTT   9:00
N1SRC           9:40
N1PDL + N1RUI   9:40
N1YWB           9:40
K1WEY           9:40
KM1Z            9:40
AA1SU           DNF


by Mitch W1SJ

Murphy's Law. Words which strike fear in Engineers, Scientists and Amateur Radio Operators. It is elegant in its simplicity: "If anything can go wrong, it will." Murphy is an equal opportunity Law, striking at both poor and rich alike, across all races , creeds, nationalities, genders and socioeconomic classes. Even NASA has dealt with Murphy's Law, as we all remember several catastrophic events surrounding space exploration.

I have spent many years learning how to avoid those Murphy moments, and despite Herculean efforts, there are still times when, well, you know, things go wrong. In my early days of being a radio operator, Murphy was a constant companion during radio ev ents. Antennas which seemed solid would always fall down a day before a contest. Antennas which didn't fall down had a strange propensity for getting open connections in them, usually around midnight and during a pileup on a rare DX station. Field Day gen erators always stopped running. Over the years, I have learned that many of these so-called Murphy events were actually attributable the lack of proper preparation and maintenance on items which really required it. In other words, many of these little dis asters were really preventable if the proper precautionary steps were taken. Some of these steps might have included proper sizing of the antenna mast to withstand normal winter storms, actually soldering antenna connections instead of twisting wires toge ther and putting oil in the generator before trying to run it all weekend.

With years of obtaining wisdom and practicing my craft, many of the Murphy experiences have been expunged. Perhaps you too, have worked on being an expert at setting up the many and varied logistics in an amateur radio event. That is really what ham ra dio is all about because our main calling is to come through when everyone else has been ravaged by Murphy. However, as stated above, no one is immune to Murphy, no matter how experienced or well-financed. In the last couple of years, I have come across s ome humbling experiences which make me realize that we always have to be ready for the unexpected.

Those of you who have operated with RANV or SJRC at Field Day know that we put together a serious and well-planned activity. This results in a very competitive score for a rather small group. For many years, the event went off without much of a technic al hitch. Three years ago, there was weirdness in the universe, and it was time for us to experience Murphy. The way I figure it, a strange, undetectable gas hovered over the site making otherwise saavy hams do dumb things. It was weird, because 5-6 peopl e all had to do these things to create the chain of events. First, someone adjusted the throttle on the generator because it was running rough. This sped up the generator, which in turn increased the voltage to about 150 volts. It is considered good form to occasionally check the generator voltage and some did. I tried to, but the leads in my multimeter broke, so I forgot about it. Someone else did, saw 150 volts and assumed that he was having problems with his meter! One radio died, but it was an older u nit and we assumed its time was due. Another radio died, and we assumed it was because of the rain. When the amplifier died catastrophically and flames shot out of the transceiver a short time later, someone finally found a good voltmeter and determined t hat the generator was cranked way too high. To finish the event, when I got in my car to take the broken stuff home to get it fixed, it wouldn't start because the battery was dead! Scary stuff, indeed. Since that time, we have many spare radios and many, many voltmeters!

Each September, a bunch of us go up to Mt. Equinox for the VHF QSO Party. With multiple radios, antennas and computers crammed into a van, there is ample opportunity for many things to go wrong. But proper planning and procedures should circumvent pr oblems. So I thought. My 175-watt 2-meter amplifier started acting up in June. I sent it to WA1ZMS in Virginia to clean up the distortion. That being done, he shipped it back UPS, in plenty of time for me to receive it. It was raining when it was shipped. The ink on the address label was not waterproof. The address was erased. The package went back. Unfortunately, Brian was up here to operate the contest, so the amp vacationed for another week. No problem, I switched to plan 'B'. Clarence N1UQT has a hig h power amp which we borrowed during Field Day. But, he just found that it didn't receive properly due to a bad relay, so he shipped it out to get fixed. Fortunately, I was presented with a plan 'C'. Fred N1ZUK bought an amplifier off E-Bay. Checks for po wer output and linearity passed with flying colors. I installed it into the operating position in the van and fired it up during the pre-flight checkout. You guessed it - it blew up. This set the tone for the whole weekend.

An operating group of seven people dropped suddenly to 4 people the day before the event. And then, when we got there, 2 more were amongst the missing. A dead car knocked them out of the game. The radios and computer stuff which they were supposed to b ring also didn't show up. This created problems in getting the computer network running properly. Finally, after a few hours, the correct pair of wires was twisted together and we had the computers working. Oh, by the way, another operation was set up 50 feet away, which generated all sorts of QRM, in addition to the junk already spewing out of the paging transmitters on the mountain.

Are you still with me? The next few hours were relatively quiet, but not for long. First, the 6-meter rotor started to only rotate in one direction! Since it was evening and 6 meters was pretty quiet anyway, we parked it SW and hoped for the best. Wit hin an hour, the 2-meter rotor completely stopped rotating. In howling 30-MPH winds, we loosened the mast clamp and hooked a rope the antenna for manual rotation. The next day, during the quiet time of the contest, I pulled down the rotor and reinserted a gear which popped out of its guide. Rotor back on line. The 6-meter rotor mysteriously began working too and the bands were open. Things were finally looking up. And then, around 5pm I noticed that smoke was wafting from the 222 MHz transmitting converte r which was not in use at the time. I first thought how interesting the smoke looked curling above the equipment when I realized that this was not a good sight. That meant no more transmitter for 222 MHz. And we needed a lot of grids on that band. Necessi ty is the mother of invention and I devised a way to continue to make contacts. With the 222 MHz SSB receiver still working, I used a 222 MHz FM transceiver and keyed CW on the microphone. It was crude, it sounded like hell, but I made contacts and worked those needed grids. For the final sendoff, in the last hour, the 2-meter rotor died again!

We cannot control the forces of Murphy's Laws. Despite the best equipment and best planning, stuff happens which is beyond our control. However, what we CAN do is to have the correct attitude. We continued through the contest and submitted a competit ive score despite many, many things going wrong. I'll tell you that I did think about throwing in the towel, but that would have really bothered me. Instead, I took stock of what I had and made use of all the tools I had available to me at the time.

In any operation, have at least 1 or 2 backup plans and lots of backup equipment. Try to visualize the worst case scenario and plan for it. This is easy if you are engineer or natural pessimist like myself, but you can train to think this way. The poi nt of the exercise is not only to take part in the event but also to do the best you can, given whatever circumstances are thrown at you. Know your craft well and spend lots of time planning and preparing equipment and practicing your setup. It really he lps. And when you get visited from Murphy, smile and immediately jump to the next backup plan.


by Paul AA1SU

Contesting season is upon us and we have a little something for everyone. For the Six-Meter crowd, we have the Six-Meter Winter DX Contest, starting Friday November 19th at 7pm and ending Sunday at 11pm. Exchange is grid squares. For the SSB HF guys, t here is the ARRL November Sweepstakes on Saturday November 20th at 4pm until Sunday at 11pm. Operate 24 of the 30 hours. This contest is deep-rooted in ham radio history. The oldest specialty mode in Amateur Radio is traffic handling, and the exchange for this test uses vocabulary from that mode. I told you last month that I would explain what the precedence was in the November SS. Let's start with the whole exchange.

In a typical radiogram message, the header, or preamble contains a number, the precedence, the station of origin, the check and the place of origin. The number denotes the message number of the originating station. The precedence indicates the relative importance of the message, such as routine or priority. The station of origin is self-explanatory, the check is merely the word count of the text of the message, and the place of origin is the city and state. There is much more to traffic handling than t his, of course. However, the exchange for the November Sweepstakes is similar in that it requires a consecutive serial number, precedence (category), call sign, check (last two digits of the year you were first licensed) and ARRL Section. Complete rules a re on page 88 of October QST. For this contest, we will submit out logs with for an aggregate score for RANV, as opposed to YCCC.

The following weekend is the CQ Worldwide CW Contest. I won't say much on this but you YCCC members should get on. The ARRL 160 Meter Contest starts Friday, December 3rd at 5pm and ends at 11am Sunday. It's 42 hours long and has no time limit, because the band is closed during the day anyway. Exchange is signal report and ARRL Section. This is a CW-only contest.

On the following weekend, is the ARRL'S most entered contest ever. The 10-Meter Contest starts at 7pm on Friday December 12th and ends Sunday at 7pm. Maximum operating time is 36 of the 48 hours. Exchange is signal report and state or province for US/V E and signal report and serial number for DX stations. Modes are Mixed, Phone only and CW only. On CW, Tech+ stations sign their call with '/T' (28.1 to 28.3 MHz) because you will be worth 8 points per QSO. Slow speed CW is encouraged between 28.05 - 28.0 8 MHz and 28.10 - 28.13 MHz. Hopefully, the band will be open. Last year, the League reported two all-time scoring records.

With these contests, you should be able to work all states (WAS). Many hams do this in the Sweepstakes alone. Personally, I will try to get some more states for my WAS-160 and 5 Band WAS. I just started on 160 last year and it may be a while before I g et all 50 states. If you don't have your General Class license yet, consider upgrading. Just think of the FUN that you'll have. Next month, just who (or what) is Cabrillo?


By Mitch W1SJ

The fall Weekend Ham Radio Class is over. Eleven normal people entered on Saturday mornng and eleven hamsters emerged on Sunday night. Please join me in welcoming:

KB1ELY Mike Balog Groton
KB1ELZ Andrew Davis Williston
KB1EMA Jim Dresser Groton
KB1EMB Dave Legrow S Burlington
KB1EMC Chris Leister Waterbury
KB1EMD Bob Leister Bethel
KB1EME Kristina Mc Ginnis Berlin
KB1EMF Jack Mc Ginnis Berlin
KB1EMG Kye Richter Fairfax
KB1EMH Debbie Sprogis Underhill
KB1EMV Fred Harrington Concord, MA

Who are these guys? Mike has been involved with the Red Cross in Central Vermont for some time. During the lunch break on Sunday, he scored a deal with someone who came by and was seen hauling off a short rack cabinet. Sounds like Deerchester material!

Chris got interested and then convinced his dad Bob to come up from Bethel and his friend Fred to come up from Massachusetts. Chris can be heard commuting from Waterbury to the Rutland area each week. Also heard on the air is Dave, who has just joined RANV.

Jack has been interested in ham radio for a long time and did the course with wife Kristina.

Debbie has had aninterest in ham radio for some time and got her kids and a few others involved in the Radio Camp this July.

It was a group from far and and wide - 4 Vermont counties (Chittenden, Orange, Windsor and Franklin) and Massachusetts represented!

Be sure to give each one a big HELLO when you hear them on the air!

Next class is March 18-19, 2000!


by Eric N1SRC

Recently I saw a question about crystal radios. There is a crystal radio society that specializes in these old "tuned RF" rigs. Though I am not sure that a wire wound oatmeal container quite makes it to the level of a "rig" anymore.

This reminds me of one summer when I was a kid I saw an article about razor blade radios. My grandfather and I went and got the exact wire specified. We got an old tuning capacitor from a junk shop. They still had junk shops in those days which were pr ofessional level junk boxes with parts from just about any piece of hardware that could dissected into parts. They did not call it recycling Now that we recycle we can't even find such parts because we melt them down or shred them.

Once we had the parts, I wound my coil, got the old High impedance headphones, set up the pin to contact the razor blade, strung an antenna and got silence. I never got it to work. I have since learned that my mistake was that I used a CLEAN razor bl ade. I should have used a rusty blade, or a germanium diode.

I did make a neat little microphone though. I took apart some D cells and cleaned off the carbon center electrode. Then I took a pencil lead and laid it across them. I wired a fresh battery in series with this contraption and the old headphones. If I yelled at the pencil lead, I could hear a sound in the headphones. Even slight movements could be heard. Of course, the quality of the reproduction was really bad, but it was great fun.

Eventually a friend of mine helped me to build a little 2 tube regenerative receiver. It picked up the Voice of America, Radio Havana and other such large signals. It was designed to work on very little power. The tube filaments were run on 1.5V instea d of 6V and this limited the current to almost nothing and it hardly got warm so tube life is quite long. Of course, the sound output was very small.

I mention this because it was these sorts of experiences that brought me to ham radio. They were made possible of by patience of adults who were willing to spend time with me on these projects. They showed me how things worked without worrying about a lot of theory. That could come later. Be ready to spend the time to plant these seeds in kids or adults around you.


A few folks from our area participated in the CQWW phone. Here is what we know of the scores. Check for up-to-the-minute coverage on the RANV Web page:

Call QSOs Zones Countries Score Category
W1YK (N2YHK,op) 850 107 356 1,082,957 High Pwr Astd
K1HD 924 74 216 771,690 High Pwr
AA1SU 811 77 232 663,732 Low Pwr
N0ICI 504 63 257 358,772 Low Pwr

We hear that AA1SU and W1EAT will go at it in the CW Sweepstakes. In the phone Sweeps, a big battle will be brewing between long-time champ WB1GQR and challengers KK1L and K1HD, both of whom have new stations. Stay tuned here for the details!

Back to the top
Other RANV Newsletters