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Showing posts from 2009

Chadron, Nebraksa hamfest, 1967

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The young man seventh from the right is me, WA0QMZ. My dad, WA0OQX, is eighth from the right in the back row.

Great weekend on 160 meters

This weekend was the ARRL 160 meter contest, which is always one of my favorites. I operated for a few hours Friday night, had a couple of long runs going, and ran for a few hours in the early evening on Saturday. The result was over 600 contests, and I had a great time. Next weekend is the ARRL 10 meter contest, which is really almost the opposite as far a propogation and hours of operation goes. With the low sunspot numbers, I'm not expecting much, but I'll be on.
I am learning more and more on contesting. My lesson from this one is, "If you're running a frequency and getting a high rate of hourly contacts, don't quit to go watch a football game or something. When you come back, the contest and conditions will have changed, so don't expect to pick up where you left off. I've read that advice before, but I saw it first-hand Saturday night. If I'd kept operating Saturday night, I could have added another 200 contacts or so, but I went to watch Nebraska…

DX contest

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I spent some time working the CQ Worldwide DX contest this weekend. I learned a good lesson -- keep checking the bands.

The contetst started Friday night, and I tuned around on 40 meters. I could hear a few Europeans, who were being swamped by hundreds of US operators calling them. That wasn't the contest I remembered, so I went upstairs and did something else.

Saturday morning wasn't much better. I worked a few Asians on 40 meters to get started, then moved to 20. There I heard just a few Europeans, again being hounded by hundreds of US operators. With my vertical, I don't stand much of a chance in that situation. I made a few contacts, but soon gave up and did something else.

Then late afternoon I went back in the shack and listed on 15. I could hear Asians, and made contacts. Then I ate dinner, and came back down to 40 meters. There were the Europeans, all over the band. I spent the night working them. It's still a thrill to hear that faint signal from half-way aroun…

CW decoder

I was having a very nice conversation (at 30+ words per minute on cw) with Bill, KA1RVM, this morning. We were talking about radios -- my favoroite subject -- and started talking about cw decoders. I told him I was surprised how well the decoder on the K3 worked, and picked up the camera and shot this quick video of the K3 decoding Bill's last transmission.

KG0GY wins Field Day 2b2

Last summer's Field Day results were just posted, and my cousin, Brad, KG0GY, did all right. We finished third in the section of Nebraska, behind the large operations put on by the Lincoln and Omaha clubs. But to our surprise, we finished first place nationally in our classification of 2B2, a group (not a club) with two stations and two operators. There weren't a large number of entries in that category, and there is Brad's call at the top of the list. I'm not sure how we beat this next year.

In a side note, it is 70 degrees in Chicago today, not bad for middle of November. I'm sitting on my deck in the sun writing this.

Slow sweepstakes

Last weekend was the CW Sweepstakes, probably the biggest and most challenging of North American contests. I had planned on making a major effort to work a clean sweep -- all 80 sections -- but discovered I had an old friend and his wife visiting over the weekend. It was hard to tell them "No, don't come, I have a ham radio contest."

So instead I did a very modest effort -- in about 2.5 hours of operating I made roughly 140 contacts. I had a good run going on 40 meters Sunday morning, and did some search and pounce just to listen around the bands. Actually, it was a little liberating not to have to try to beat last year's score and make that clean sweep. Maybe next year.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of other contests coming up this winter. Maybe I'll make a big effort on the 160 meter contest next month. Phone Sweepstakes is two weeks away, and I'll dabble in that a little, but I just don't see the challenge of working a phone contest. Maybe if I had a bette…

Another new old radio

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Last Saturday I heard a local ham saying he had an old HW-16 for sale. It is a cw transceiver made by Heathkit in the '70s and designed for the Novice class license holder back then -- a low-power, crystal controlled transmitter.

I stopped by on my way home from work a couple days later, and by Wednesday night I was on 80 CW with my one crystal at 3841 calling CQ. First call I was answered by KB8AXS, Mike in Cincinnati. My bug -- a semi-automatic key -- fell apart in the middle of the contact and I finished up with the hand key. That's old-time ham radio, a straight key and simple CW only radio. So that's my new vintage station. Look for me on 3841.

Old friends

Tonight I heard an old friend, N9HAL, calling CQ on 80 meters.

I ran into a guy named Bob from Wisconsin a few years ago on 40 cw. We started talking and trading personal information. It turned out we were both originally from Nebraska. Then he asked me if I used to be WA0QMZ. It turned out he used to be WA0ODM, we went to junior high and high school toghether and were both helped along by the same group of older hams in Sidney, NE, the small town we grew up in. Small world.

Bob and I have had some random schedules, but most often we just hear each other on 80 or 40 once or twice a year, and then spend some time catching up. It gives me a nice bridge to the past, plus we have a lot in common today and talk about fixing up old radios, operating CW, and some random things. Contacts like that are why this is such a nice hobby.

In other radio activity, I did operate the Illinois QSO party last weekend and made roughly 200 contacts. I had hoped to do more, but wasn't feeling 100 percent a…

Got Midway DXpedition

This week the K4M DXpedition to Midway Island has been on the air. I made a few half-hearted tries at working them on 17 meters this week in the late afternoon, and heard them before work on Friday morning on 40 meters, but didn't have time to chase it. So this morning (Saturday) I got up at 4 a.m. as they are only on the air for a few more days.

By 4:40 I had them in the log on 40 meter cw and I got them on 30 meters by 5:30. I spent a little time on 80, but I couldn't hear them very well. I actually heard them better on 160 this morning, but didn't have any luck snagging them there. I tried a little on 40 SSB, but at that point the sun was coming up. Oh well, I got them on two bands, so I'm happy.

Now it's 7 a.m. and I'm ready for a nap. Tomorrow is the Illinois QSO party, and I plan on hitting it hard. I'll have an update tomorrow night.

There is a new radio in the house. I've had sellers remorse ever since I sold my Icom 756ProIII a year and a half ago…

Early morning DX

This morning the Oceana DX contest was on, and there on the bottom of 40 were quite a few Australians and New Zealanders calling CQ. I worked everyone I heard. Nice to start the weekend with a little DX on 40.

Gearing up for Illinois QSO party next weekend. I plan on hitting it hard from the home station. I'm not exactly in a rare county -- DuPage -- but looking at last year's results I didn't do bad. It would be nice to break into the top 10 this year.

New old radio

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Last Sunday I picked up a project radio. It's an old Yaesu FT-101ZD. I owned one from about 1980 to 1998. Why I sold it in '98 is beyond me, and I've recently been looking for a replacement. I found one locally. It needs cleaning and I ordered a new set of capacitors from the guy who sells cap kits on E-Bay. I'm looking forward to digging into it, cleaning it up and getting it back in top shape. More details to come

Cloud logging

A question I've been asking myself is why there isn't a "cloud" logging program -- a logging program that exists on the Internet, and everyone can view real time. Logbook of the World is an awards database, not a real-time log.

Then this morning I stumbled on HamRadioDeluxe online log. This seems to be totally a beta and work in progress, but very interesting. I've uploaded a few logs to it, and it's posted on the top corner of this site. It looks like someone else was thinking the same thing I was.
Test from phone. Getting ready for w9dxcc

More mobile DX

I finished my road trip today, and worked more DX. I was working an East Coast station on 20 CW while driving through Des Moines, and SP5SA (Poland) broke in to see if he could get that county. I gave him that county, and we kept talking until I reached the next county line and he got Jasper County as well. He thanked me profusely. All this while I was driving 80 mph on I-8o.
Later I heard LZ50KA (Bulgaria) calling CQ and answered him. He came right back, and that was another good contact. Not bad for using an ATAS 120 antenna on the back of the Mini Cooper.

Mobile activity

This week I took a 900 mile drive to visit a friend in West Nebraska. That gave me a lot of mobile time. Here are some highlights.
Early on the trip Monday I had a long contact with someone (his call escapes me) who I've talked to a few times from Pennsylvania. While we were talking he viewed this blog, and commented on the photos of the mobile setup. That's how it's supposed to work.
Shortly after that I was calling CQ on 40 meters and W7AAZ/m came back to me. It turned out he was about 400 miles ahead of me on I-80, also heading west. We talked for about an hour, largely about mobile setups -- his was in a Corvette -- then both stopped for lunch at the same time. A half hour later I called him again, and we went for another half hour or so. Great mobile activity.
Today I started the eastbound trip. This morning I was having no luck on 40 meters, so listened to the I-pod instead. Then this afternoon I switched to 20, and was still having minimal luck. So I settled in on a fr…

Vertical back on air

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I got the Steppir vertical back in a vertical position this weekend, and it's nice to have it back in service. It blew over during a thunderstorm this summer. I was lucky, the concrete that the support post split and the antenna tipped over without being damaged. I normally keep it guyed, but had removed the guys due to an ongoing deck construction project. Now that project is done, and the antenna back up. I'll have it guyed again by tomorrow night.

I haven't been on the air much. Just some random rag chew QSO's on 40 and 30 meter cw. This morning I had a nice chat with Bill, W3BW, on 40. We've talked a few times, so carried on the conversation talking about my experience with cw mobile operation. As I get more active this fall, I promise to get more active with the blog...famous last blog words.

Summer activity

While summer is not the traditional best time for ham radio -- noisy bands and too much outside activity -- there are a few contests in the summer and that's been most of my activity as late. Last night I ran the North American QSO party, with a respectable 340 contacts in about six hours of operating. The bands were noisy, but workable, so I had a good time.

A couple weeks ago I operate he IARU contest for a few hours working a nice range of DX, with even a few contacts on 15 meters. Maybe the bands will come back. I had a nice surprise in the mail right after that contest -- I got a certificate in the mail that I had placed first place in CW only High Power in Illinois in the 2008 contest. That is kind of a fluke, as the big guns in Illinois all entered as low power and had many more contacts than I, but I'll still take the first-place finish. It show why to send in a log, even if you think you have no chance of ever winning.

That's been about the size of my activity. We…

More on Field Day

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Our success was due to good antennas. Here are photos of the 20 meter loop held up by Brad's push-up pole and my phased verticals, with my aunt's windmill in the background. No, we didn't use the windmill as an antenna support, but we thought about it.

Field day 2009

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I travelled to Nebraska again this year to particpate in Field Day with my cousin Brad, KG0GY. We did our first attempt last year, had a lot of antenna problems but managed about 360 contacts. This year we were much better prepared and organized on the antenna front, and did 800 contacts as a 2B station. We ran a K2 and an Icom 756 Pro to phased verticals on 40, a loop up about 40 feet on 20, and a multi-band OCF dipole on 80, 40 and 15. The dipole wasn't high enough for us to do much on 80, but it did well on 40 and 15.

We were very happy to more than double our contacts from the year before, and we're starting to wonder how to top that next year. We operated about 15 hours, slept for a few hours in beds, and had dinner with my aunt. Not a bad Field Day at all. Shown in the photo is Brad, running the K2 on 40 meters. We were inside the door of an old shed, but running on emergency power.

Fixing mobile problems

I was having problems with high SWR (standing wave ratio) on my ATAS 120 mobile antenna. My guess was the feedline, which was the standard tiny coax that comes with a Comet or Diamond trunk lip mount. I ordered the Coment 3D4M coax cable assemly, which has 13 feet of RG58 coax. All of a sudden my SWR on the ATAS goes down to 1:1 on 40 meters and some random RF problems are solved.

Lesson -- use real coax on HF mobile, not the miniature type that's designed to go through a gap easily, but may be so-so on transmitting and sheilding RF.

Dayton update

I made it to the Dayton Hamvention and back last weekend. The highlight for me was the contest forum on Saturday morning. I just stumbled into it, but had a great time and learned some things. I seemed more at homewith the contesters than most of the groups I was involved with at Dayton. Most contesters are CW ops, that's part of it.

My big Dayton purchase was a Stationmaster controller from Microham. It's purpose is to interface between the K3 and the PW-1 amp. I got it up and running, but it's been buggy so far, and seems to go into error mode every now and then. I'll keep messing with it, but so far I'm regretting my purchase. It added a lot of complextity to the station, just so I wouldn't have to push a button on the amp and the SteppIR vertical controller when I changed bands. I saw that at good insurance for the amp, but so far, I'm not sold. More on that later.

Dayton one week away

I'll be in Dayton one week from tonight. Any followers or tweeters going to be there. Let's do a meet-up.

Two contests at once

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This weekend I was able to run two large QSO parties at the same time -- the New England QSO party which covers the New England states, and the 7th Area QSO party, with all the 7th call district -- Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

I had tried doing it in the past, but found logging a probem. You really need two separate log programs open. With the new setup with the K3 and LPBridge, I'm able to run two logging programs at once. Saturday night I was running the 7QSO party on WinEQF and the NEQSO party on N1MM logger. Both were up on the screen, so switching between the two was simple.

I don't have exact numbers, but I did around 70 contacts in the 7QP and 40 in NEQP. I just didn't hear enough New England stations.

On another note, I got my 80-meter dipole back up in the top of a tree where it belongs. It's now at 40 feet, rather than sloping from 40 to 10 feet.

Mobile install finished

Last week I had the Icom 7000 in the Mini Cooper, but was running the power for the radio from an accessory jack in the boot (trunk.)  That worked, but we all know that's not the best way to do it in the long term.
Sunday morning I was on a Mini Cooper web site  and did a search for running power lines through the firewall. It turns out it was incredibly simple, with Mini leaving a space to do exactly that, and right next to the battery. So I now have a fused power line running direct from the battery to the radio in the boot. This solved a couple of issues, and I can now crank the power up to 100 watts without fear.
Of course, I had to drive around a make a couple contacts. I am impressed with the 7000 as a mobile radio and am getting the hang of going to the right menu on the fly. I'm happy, and ready for the road trip to Dayton next month.

It works

First contact with the new mobile this evening while coming home from Rockford. N4YG, Joe, in Huntsville, AL. We both had good signals, so I think the new setup is working. I got the MFJ remote antenna controller and it works. You push the button to raise or lower the antenna for best SWR. Yes, I can't change bands while driving down the road like I could with the Yaesu radio, but the Icom IC 7000 is a much nicer radio. More on that as I spend more time on the air. Listen for K9OZ/m around 7030 mornings and late afternoons.

Three antennas

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Now I'm a true ham, with three antennas on the Mini.

HF mobile in Mini Cooper

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I spent most of Saturday getting the Icom IC 7000 installed in the Mini Cooper. It was a trick, but it's in and seems to be working fine. I'm running the Yaesu ATAS 120A antenna, and have a gizmo on order that will allow me to tune the antenna manually. For right now, it's tuned to 40 meter cw and that's where it will be this week.


I had picked up a neat little paddle at Dayton a couple years ago, and hadn't had a chance to really use it. I screwed it to the top of the Cooper's ashtray, and it should work great there. The position is perfect.

I'd like to have the control head higher -- closer to line of sight, but for right now its sitting next to the shift lever. Not great, but doable. If you really want to mess with the radio, pull off the road.









Novice QSL card

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A few years ago I was visiting my uncle Merrit, WA0HFH and we went down in his shack and started going through his old QSL cards. I was amazed he had one from me, that I had sent him shortly after getting my license. It's not often you find something you wrote and sent as a 12-year-old.



This was sent in late October 1965, and I got my license in August. So I think, from reading the message, I had just gotten these fancy printed QSL cards, and was proud to send him one. During my novice days, I carried out a schedule with my uncle nearly every Saturday afternoon, chugging away at low-speed CW. At the time I didn't think much of it, but looking back now I realize the time he put in to help a nephew get on the air.


My novice station was a Globe HG 303 transmitter and a Heath HR-10 receiver. My dad and I had built the receiver from a kit -- a weeks-long endeavor that I'm sure was a chore for my dad, but again, he willingly put in the time to help.

Going mobile

I was talking about getting active mobile again, that's opertating cw HF from the car by my definition. I put the ATAS 120 back on the Chevy Equinox, and unfortunately, it seems to have died. I've run the Yaesu FT-857/ATAS 120 combo for a quite a few years and really like it, but the antennas don't seem to last that long. This is my second one that has died, so I don't think I'll buy a third.
So I'm at a quandry -- what do I use for an antenna. I ran Hamsticks for years, and may go back to that. They are simple, cheap, and you don't feel bad when a $18 antenna fails. I'm also debating what radio and what car to do this in. I spend most of my road time in a Mini Cooper, but I spent a few hours trying to figure out how to shoehorn a HF rig into that car last weekend, an didn't come up with a solution.
I presently have a Yaesu FTM-10 in the Mini, which is perfect for a limited-space installation of a 2 meter/440 radio. The microphone and speaker are hous…

Getting the mobile bug

Hello to K2CZ who commented on my Mini Cooper silliness. Yes, I need HF mobile in it. I've got 2 meter/440 with the Yaseu FTM-10 -- that strange little radio designed for motorcylcle work. It does work well in the Mini, the control head has the speaker and the mic in it, so that's all I really have up front.

But I miss my HF mobile. I ran a Yaesu FT 857 and ATAS 120 antenna for years, but the ATAS has died and my wife gave me an Icom IC-7000 for Christmas. I can see having the 7000 driving a Hamstick on the back of the Mini. I do a 90-minute commute two days a week, so I have plenty of mobile time to kill.

That's my Spring project, if Spring ever arrives. Stay tuned.

Slow winter for ham radio

I thought it was jut me, but last month in both CQ and QST magazines, there were articles about how bad the bands have been this winter. Ok, that's my excuse for not getting on enough and not blogging.

Actually, I've just grown lazy on the blogging. I was on last weekend and had three very nice CW rag chews. They were Bruce, K6ZB, in Thousand Oaks, CA; Tony, N2ATB, in Chrerry Hill, NJ: and Bill, KA1RVM in Hollison, MA. All three were nice conversational contacts, where we talked about a wide range of things clipping along at 25 wpm or so. That's when CW is really fun for me.

Contest season is about over. I tried to get on the the 160 meter phone contest last weekend, but my dipole antenna blew down a couple weeks ago. Instead of a dipole at 50 feet, I now have a dipole at 50 feet on one end and 10 feet on the other. It still gets out ok on 80, but I could tell the difference on 160. Oh well, spring will be here soon and I'll get a new rope up to the top of that tree and…

Second op

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Gus the cat likes ham radio, or at least chewing on the cords.

Sprint, and good weekend

I ran about an hour and a half of the NA Sprint last night -- a very fast-paced contest -- and wound up with about 60 contacts. Nothing to write home about, but I had fun.

The good news is the line noise that is generated by the electrical system in this neighborhood disappeared last night, about the same time the snow melted. It had been steady s5 noise since December. It's great to hear a quiet band again.

This morning I was down enjoying the quiet band, and had three great contacts. They were Joe, N4YG in Huntsvuille, AL, who I've talked to a couple times before; John, K3MD, who I've worked in many contests but never had a long contact with; and Mike, VE3GFN, in Toronto who had a new K3 and we talked K3s for a while. Good morning on the air.

CQ 160 contest

Friday night at about 11 p.m. I realized I'd forgotten about the 160 meter CW contest this weekend. I tuned around the band, heard some stations, but it was dark, cold and snowy outside and I didn't want to go out and reconfigure the antenna. So I went to bed.

Saturday I went outside while the sun was out, it was still cold and snowy, and reconfigured the antenna so I could operate Saturday night.

I have a 80 meter off-center-fed dipole fed with ladder line up about 50 feet. For 160, I tie the two sides of the antenna together and feed it from the long wire connection on the Dentron MT-3000A tuner. On 80 meters, I've been running coax to a balun just outside the shack, and feeding the open wire from there to reduce RF in the shack. Hence the need to go outside to reconfigure antennas.

Saturday night I got on 160 about 5 p.m. as the band opened to the East Coast. I took a couple breaks in the evening to eat dinner and go somewhere with my wife, but by 11 p.m. I'd broken 30…

Noisy bands for NA QSO party

This weekend I spent several hours Saturday in the North American QSO party. This is a quick contest -- it only lasts 12 hours, and I operated about six of them. I wound up with around 240 contacts, but spent a lot of time battling my high noise levels. I could tell people were calling me, but I couldn't pull them out of the noise.

Noise has been an intermittent problem at my location, but it's gotten worse this winter. Hopefully, it will pass and I'll start hearing things again. If not, maybe I need that cabin in Arkansas with a remote station set up.

Straight key night

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Every year on New Year's eve and New Year's day there is an event called Straight Key Night, when cw operators get out the old straight keys and pound out a few contacts. I made eight this eyar, and it was enough to remember how much work is is to send with a straight key. Today we all use electronic keyers, much faster and much easier, but maybe not as much romance.

I'm always surprised my fist -- that's how well you send cw -- isn't that bad with a striaght key. I used two different keys, a Vibroplex I picked up at a hamfest a few years ago and an old miltary key -- it says WEP 1940 --on the bottom