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QSL Cards

MAY 07, 2022


QSL Cards 1

05/06/22 04:21 PM

Just got back from a very warm run and my wonderful soulmate dropped off an envelope full of QSL cards sent to me from the USA QSL bureau and that she picked up from our mail box. I should probably provide some back story for those who don't know about QSL cards.

QSL cards serve as a way for ham radio operators all over the world to confirm contacts with other ham radio operators. When two ham operators make a contact, and if they both confirm on their respective qrz.com sites that they do indeed swap QSL cards, then both may fill out a QSL card (postcard) with the contact information and mail it to the other operator via the address located on the qrz.com website for that station.

The QSL bureau is a non-profit organization that helps ham radio operators world-wide save money by receiving international postcards destined for the USA and sending them in bulk to the USA bureau, which in turn has many volunteers who sort and distribute them to their respective contacts.

The guys who serve the USA bureau (QSL Managers) are all volunteers who do the labor to sort and send free of charge. Envelopes and postage are paid for by the contacts who will receive the QSL cards. Those contacts might typically have an account with the QSL Manager and keeps funds in that account so that the QSL Manager can pay for envelopes and postage when enough cards have been received to justify sending them out. I usually get about 7 cards at a time.

I have two notebooks, one for cards received directly from other ham radio operators in the USA and one for international cards received via the bureau. Pictured above and below is the last batch I received from the bureau.

QSL Cards 2

These cards came from ham radio operators living in locations including Wilzheim and Eichenbuhl, Germany; San Sebastian de La Gomera, Spain; La Roquebrussanne, France; Toronto, Canada; Cabo da Praria Terceira Azores, Portugal, (That's a civil parish on the east coast of the municipality of Praia da Vitória on the island of Terceira in the Portuguese Azores;) and a Special Event station (callsign CJ3A) celebrating the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.




More Radio

APRIL 14, 2022


mmnet

04/13/22 1:40 PM

It's been another couple of ham radio days. I haven't been on Single Side Band (SSB) voice in forever and it was really cool to get back onto that today! I checked into the Maritime Mobile Net on 14.300 and had my first opportunity to manually log a contact on the QRZ.com website - since the digital contacts have all been auto-logged for the past couple of years.

Also managed to score my first 40 meter contact last night on the new attic mounted 40 meter hamstick dipole. It was an FT8 digital contact with KK4OJZ (James Pate) located in Big Canoe, Georgia which is in the North GA Mountains.

It's been fun to listen to the QSO's and POTA stations on SSB voice but I haven't had much success reaching out to any of them since they have all been pretty busy. That's okay though. It's just good to mix things up a bit and jump back into the SSB side of the world.

Correction, I managed to work a POTA station next door over in Mobile, AL. And I finally jumped on 2 meters and said hi to some of the guys who hosted the POTA station I worked earlier. Pretty cool!

Also checked into a hosted net on 2 meters but didn't hang around very long. Definitely enjoying the new opportunities afforded by the new equipment. Now, we're standing by for the storms that are slated to arrive later tonight.




Markers

APRIL 13, 2022


Markers

04/12/22 2:58 PM

Experience can be misleading! That's the lesson I'm taking away from my most recent experience.

For years, and I mean years, I have had to live with a problem with my Icom 7600 ham radio that I could not solve. There were signals showing up on the radio's scope and I could not get them to go away, not matter what I tried.

Now when I first purchased the radio, I was having the same kind of issue. Random signals were being generated on the radio's scope and I could not figure out how or why. Finally, I happened to unplug a battery charger out in the garage for the weed wacker and guess what? You guessed it! The signals went away!

Turns out the charger was sending a signal through the wiring in our house (by virtue of it being plugged into the wall outlet) and my radio was picking it up and the interference was outputting a signal on the radio's scope.

And now, with many more signals being sent to my scope, this problem was definitely a new one, but my experience led me to believe that it was kind of an old one at the same time. In other words, something was sending interference to my radio and the result was signals that I knew were not related to any radio transmissions.

Once again, and as I had done a few times before, I went to Twitter and asked for help. Everyone tried to take me down the same path I had traveled before with an approach to looking for interference generators. I must admit, there were some great ideas (e.g. check the computer mouse if it's blue tooth) but I knew that the problem even preceded any computer in my shack. In fact, it even occurred when the antenna was disconnected which led me to believe I had an internal problem with my rig.

By the way, this time I had new information. This problem was occurring at the old house and now again at the new house. That rules out all sorts of potential environmental problems. In fact, I couldn't come up with anything (other than the radio itself) that was common to both situations. I had even used a different power supply and knew that wasn't the difference either.

I pulled up Icom America support and chatted online with a technician. He didn't know the answer and suggested I do a factory reset on the radio per the instructions in the manual. With what I now know, I'm guessing that would have fixed my problem.

Giving credit where credit is due, Guy Roberts (@bakeliteguy on Twitter) and holder of ham radio callsign G0UKN, pointed out that there is a marker that is turned on and needs to be turned off.

I found the marker in the frequency calibration section of my manual and using the set command figured out how to turn it off. Wow! Problem solved!

Since I didn't even know about that setting, I have no idea how it was turned on unless it was just a random thing. But, as I said before, and with what I now know, a factory reset would have likely fixed the problem (although it would have also erased all of my settings, representing a great deal of work, and I didn't want to go there LOL!)




Radio Roots

APRIL 08, 2022


AARC 1975

04/07/22 4:30 PM

It just dawned on me that I've been a ham radio operator for 49 years. In 2023 I will celebrate 50 years. That's crazy when I think about it. Hard to believe I've been doing anything for 50 years.

The picture above is of the Albany Amateur Radio Club (W4MM) back in 1975. That's me sitting down and second from the left end. On the end and to my right is Walt Burnett with whom I talked and visited often. Walt was a TV technician in town and went to Sherwood Baptist Church where he managed and maintained the church's cable TV station and all of he equipment owned by the church. He was also instrumental in helping Alex Kendrick start the film making over there and was cast in several of the movies they did.

On my other side was Bobby Jones who played in a country-rock band and used to call me to sit in for him when he couldn't make it. Good memories! Also in the picture are Leon Perret (K4GCR) and John Crosby (K4XA), both who became close friends and both who had sons that I taught at Merry Acres Junior High School.

John passed several decades ago and his son Graham was able to secure John's old callsign. As for Leon, I've spoken with him a couple of times via 2 meters and rather recently. I was still in Crawfordville, Florida and not so far from Albany that I couldn't secure a contact via 2 meters whenever conditions were good. Leon ran an electronics store in Albany and sold me my first 2 meter handy-talkie. The brand was Standard.

It's fun to look back on all that has changed in the hobby over the many years and also to look back on my Citizen Band Radio roots in the early 70's. I remember being in the J.C. Penny automotive department and seeing their Realistic 23 channel Citizen Band (CB) Radios, and I was instantly hooked. It was without a doubt love at first sight and a very natural fit for this evolving techie.

I remember the challenges I encountered trying to get a license for my Citizen Band radio. But KFL4219 finally arrived in the mail. As busy as the CB bands are these days, it's funny thinking back to a time where I had to call someone to get them on the air so I would have someone to talk to with my CB radio.

I also remember riding with dad on business trips and telling him how neat I thought it would be if other drivers had CB radios and could talk to each other. Little did I know what the future would hold! The coffee breaks, where some would meet up for coffee while the rest of us grabbed cokes and pizza, is another great memory from my CB days.

I knew two David Turners and the one who played bass in our rock band was a constant companion on the CB radio. What great fun and such cool memories getting into all of that and all that we learned along the way.

I had no idea that only a year or two later I would meet Sgt. Glenn Picard from Mississippi, who ran the Mars Radio Station on the Marine Base there in Albany. He invited me to sit in on a Mars session and I was hooked and ready to move on from CB to Ham Radio.

I've tried to find Glenn to thank him, but my search has never produced any positive results.

Because Ham Radio has always been a big part of my life, I've included it in my category list over in the left margin. There's plenty more there for any geeks in the audience.




SkyWarn

APRIL 03, 2022


SkyWarn

I got a call a couple of days ago indicating my repaired power supply was being shipped back to me. It was supposed to go out either last Tuesday or Wednesday and if the trip out there was any indication, it could take a week for me to get it back.

I shipped it UPS on a Monday and it was to arrive the next Monday, which would have been this past Monday. If it takes a week to get it back, we're looking at the middle of this week coming up. I hope it will be sooner.

My power supply drives everything in the shack and without it I'm pretty much dead in the water and off the air. The exceptions to that being my Handy Talkie and EchoLink on my cell phone.

I played with EchoLink during the storm last week but am hoping to have a working 2 meter base station if the power supply makes it back in time. If not, I may check into the SkyWarn net via EchoLink if a storm arrives as is currently in the forecast and if it's bad enough to require a net.

I've always been very active on 2 meters during my time in the ham radio hobby and I'm amazed I have not talked on it yet in the seven months I've been here in the Spanish Fort, Alabama area. There's quite a large and active crowd of locals on 2 meters so I have no excuse for not getting on and at least saying hi to everyone.

Maybe this week.




Ham Radio Station

MARCH 22, 2022


Ham Radio Station

I had to order some fuses for my ham radio station power supply and had a good idea that they were not the real problem. They (5) came in today and a quick test blew one of the fuses and confirmed my concerns.

I shipped the power supply back to the manufacturer for repair and look forward to getting back on the air in a few weeks. It's going to take a full week for it to get from Alabama to Irvine, California and after repair and return shipping my guess is that I'm probably looking at around three weeks before I'm back on the air.

I put a tweet out on Twitter to see if I'm doing anything wrong that would tend to abuse the power supply, or to see if it's pretty normal for this kind of thing to happen as a power supply ages and gets lots of use.

No matter the problems or lessons to learn, Amateur (Ham) Radio is a great hobby!




Malaysia MH370

MARCH 12, 2022


Malaysia MH370

I've been an avid follower of the MH370 story since it first came out back in March of 2014, literally 8 years ago. I'm sure it haunts us all and we all want to know what happened. Well, thanks to ham radio, we may all finally find out.

Not that many years ago, the world of Ham Radio was introduced to new digital modes of communication. In some of these modes we type into our computer and it sends the data via a ham radio to another operator doing essentially the same thing.

In still other digital modes, FT4 and FT8 for example, we do the same thing as previously mentioned except we don't type messages - we simply make contacts and log them in our log books.

In yet one other digital mode, known as WSPR and which operates more like a beacon, we are simply able to see how far our transmissions reach out and to be made aware of the location of the listeners who hear our transmissions.

A UK ham radio operator, Richard Godfrey, who is also a retired aerospace engineer with incredible credentials, has introduced breakthrough tracking technology using existing ham radio digital technology, and believes he has the exact location where MH370 went down. The story is well documented on this YouTube site.




Digital Modes

FEBRUARY 18, 2022


FT8 2

I was going after a ham radio contact on FT8 this morning. I read his signal into my system at a -5 which is not bad, so I thought I would chase him. However, by the time he responded his signal was a -21 and I feared we would not be able to confirm our contact. And, I was right. We couldn't and we didn't.

I've read that signal reports in digital modes are less about the transmitting station's power and more about the noise and interference on the receiving end. Still, I've not be able to put 2 + 2 together and figure out exactly what is happening on my end to cause such signal report swings. All I know is that they are indeed happening.

I know we're still in the low point on the sun spot cycle, and I'm aware that the bands have been very good recently, but the changes from day to day are difficult to imagine and even more difficult to explain.

Funny thing is I feel bad when I initiate a contact and can't complete it. I almost feel like I'm telling the other guy that his station is not doing the job, and nothing could be further from the truth. What I know for sure is that 'good' station signal reports are no guarantee that a contact can and will be confirmed.

These digital modes sure do produce strange results and reports with our ever-changing band conditions!




QSL Cards

FEBRUARY 12, 2022


QSL Cards

One of the cool things about the ham radio hobby is the opportunity to swap QSL cards with the ham radio operators I've contacted. It's a fun way to confirm and verify a contact, and it's a fun way to share pictures with hams and non-hams alike. Not all hams take advantage of this feature, but those of us who do tend to really enjoy seeing those cards come in the mail.

QSL is one of many Q codes in the hobby and gives the operator the ability on CW (morse code) for example to send fewer words and letters when sharing information with a contact.

I started collecting QSL cards back in 1973 when I entered the hobby but unfortunately got rid of them when we moved to Florida in early 2014 and when I thought I would be leaving the hobby. I've been active, once again, in the hobby for the past 7 years but not terribly active in the QSL swapping department.

I recently purchased plastic pages for my cards and placed them in binders to make it easier to save and share them. Currently, I've got about 80 DX cards, (cards from other countries all over the world) and about 100 cards from all over the USA.

I've made contacts in all 50 states but don't believe I have a card from each state. Fortunately, we have LOTW (Lot of the World) and the QRZ websites which are both set up to help hams confirm and verify contacts by matching up submitted data from each operator in the contact.

Pictured above is my QSL card. I've had a lot of fun swapping it for the cards of other hams I've contacted over the years.




Ham Radio & FT4

JANUARY 07, 2022


FT4

I've done most of my digital on 20 meters, primarily because the 20 meter dipole is the only antenna I have. Well, I have a 40 meter ham stick dipole (and a 20 meter ham stick dipole) but neither has been installed so band choices are limited.

Months later after a battle with bronchitis, I'm still coughing just enough to dissuade me from jumping on voice and encourage me to stay with the digital route. Honestly, I've simply grown to enjoy it more just for the sake of wondering which states or countries I'll be able to contact when I jump on the radio. With the current band conditions, I'm lucky if I can make a voice contact just down the street.

We're still low on the sunspot cycle which means low power operations are going to be the preferred mode and digital definitely covers that base. Just a few short months ago even digital didn't have much to offer with the horrible band conditions. I was lucky to make 5 contacts in a day. But lately, band conditions have been good enough to easily pull in 15, 20, or even 25 digital contacts in a relatively short period of time.

Ham Radio is such a cool hobby and has so much to offer between the cool technology and an awesome community of great people all over the world!




Running Ham

DECEMBER 17, 2021


Handy Talkie

I was thinking about posting stuff from yesterday's ham radio activities and today's run that I just finished. But, the two different topics made for a challenge when thinking about a title for this blog entry.

Running Ham really didn't make sense until I remembered the number of times I ran in races with my 2 meter ham radio (handy-talkie) and passed along reports for the security and first aid volunteers.

In fact, when dad earned his ham license to get on the air with me, he decided to work a few of the races since I was already there and running in them. It was fun to know that he could hear my reports as he worked and I ran those races. And what a blessing to have my father and my wife earn their ham licenses purely out of their love for me. Amazing! IC 7600

Yesterday's FT8 ham radio activity included a contact with a new country in Africa and one that I'd never come across before. Burkina Faso is not a country or name that you come across that often, I suppose unless you live over there. But it sure was fun to get that one in the logbook.

I have to admit there's always a bit of a heart flutter when I see a CQ show up on my screen for one of these countries I don't have in my logbook. The excitement and intensity of effort to secure a contact is almost palpable.

A bit of hand shaking and a rapid heartbeat always seem to be involved. I guess it's just one of those things that really does add fun and excitement to the hobby. Garmin

Today's run was a good and strong one and I recorded a new record time on just my fifth day back at it. In fact, as I looked at my daily times in my running log, I noticed that each one was better than the one before it. Wonder how long that will last?

I started my run at 9:00 AM and logged an 18:14.1 two miler. Mile one was 9:19.44 and mile two was 8:54.67. Average pace came in at 9:07 and calories burned was reported at 244 from my Garmin Vivo Active smartwatch.

AHR was a high 151 and MHR came in at 183. Both of those are way too high and tell me I'm pushing my pace too hard for the point I'm at trying to build up my endurance. That's always been my problem and one that I absolutely must address. If health is to come first I need to make sure it comes first!




Ham Radio

DECEMBER 12, 2021


Icom 7600

One of the things my Twitter profile claims is all things geek and, in fact, my Twitter account (@K4SQL) is pretty much focused on the geeky world of Ham Radio.

I posted my ham radio story back on October 19, 2020 and it can be found in my October 2020 blog archive on that date. I also posted a story about FT4 and FT8 (digital modes) which can be found in my February 2021 archive on February 18th.

I still spend most of my time on HF and most of my HF is centered on the FT4 and FT8 digital modes. These modes, which don't require much power, have been a particular benefit with the attic-mounted dipole I'm using here in the new location. I'm not under any covenant restrictions for an outside antenna, but just don't think I can make it stealth enough to suit my own preferences. Thus, the attic option.

I'm already up to 235 contacts here in the new location just using FT4 and FT8 and am particularly pleased with the great DX I've already enjoyed including Cuba, Mexico, Australia, Peru, Spain, Italy, Canada, Portugal, Lithuania, Estonia, Belgium Finland, France, Argentina, England, Slovenia, and the Canary Islands where the La Palma Volcano still remains active after so many weeks.

That DX is not bad for low power with an attic-mounted 20 meter dipole!


CLUB MEETING

MAY 21, 2021



Club Meeting 1

Club Meeting 2

Our K4WAK Amateur Radio Club down here in Wakulla County, officially named S.P.A.R.C. or the Sportsman's Paradise Amateur Radio Club, held an 'in person' club meeting last night, and that was the first in person meeting since February of 2020.

It was a real treat to meet so many of the members and to put faces with the names and callsigns. I look forward to their getting back to meeting at Hardee's each Saturday morning at 10:00 A.M. I also look forward to grabbing some coffee and hanging out with the guys!


HAM SHACK

MAY 19, 2021



Ham Shack

The term is Ham Shack. It can be anything from a dedicated space out next to the car in the garage, to a desk in the corner of one of the rooms in the house, to an entire room in the house that's been dedicated to ham radio, and finally to a fancy climate controlled building constructed out in the yard filled with high-end shelves and consoles that are loaded with the latest and greatest in amateur radio equipment, not to mention more radios and microphones than one ham operator could ever use.

I get a lot of QSL cards from other guys with pictures on them and, between the pictures of their shacks and their antenna farms, it's quite an amazing site to see. They often look more like a museum filled with an over abundance of equipment that would put any major commercial radio station to shame.

Mine (pictured above) is actually quite humble by comparison. I can't hold a candle to many of the stations out there, or their antenna farms! But, I do enjoy what I have and I'm grateful for it! It's hard to believe that there are actually radios out there with prices over $20k. Who buys that stuff? And the prices on some of the antenna farms I've seen would probably run much higher.

With what I have and have had, I've connected with ham operators in all 50 states and in over 125 countries all over the world. I even had the privilege of speaking from my VHF radio with Commander Doug Wheelock aboard the International Space Station as he was flying overhead. What a treasured memory and one that I will never forget!


HAM RADIO STUFF

MAY 07, 2021



Ham Radio Stuff

I mentioned in a previous post that we moved to our current home on 5/5/2017. Two days later on 5/7/2017 I had my ham radio station in place, operable, and made my first contacts on single sideband. And now, four years later and on the anniversary of that station going live, I've logged 5,000 contacts with 1,266 of them on sideband and 3,734 using digital modes, mostly FT4 and FT8.

It's by far the most active I've been in my 48 years of ham radio. Having retired in July of 2018 also made a big difference in those totals! And, I must say that the digital technology showed up just in time to help us overcome the poor conditions we've experienced with voice transmissions during this horrible low in the eleven year sunspot cycle (which has basically provided seasons of silence to our hobby in former decades.)

In case you're not aware, the digital technology I'm enjoying specializes in overcoming the weak signal problems that arise during poor radio transmission conditions. These technologies are known as weak signal modes and it's truly amazing to be able to watch our computers talk to each other when the station operators can't.

It's also quite amazing to see the incredible distances that are covered in making these contacts. I've already made contacts in all 50 states and in over 125 countries located all over the world. Without this technology (or far better band conditions) this would certainly not have been possible.

Here's to more exciting contacts with new countries that I haven't worked before.


HAM RADIO TECH

APRIL 27, 2021



FT8 Tech

Back on the 22nd, I wrote about Ham Radio from a more philosophical standpoint, but today I approach it from a technical standpoint. As digital forces the shack to become more and more complex, we're forced to deal with those challenges if we choose to operate in that environment.

Today was a good example of just that!

A few months back, I downloaded a version of wsjt-x and then discovered after the fact that it was purely beta. For the last few weeks (months?) it presented a warning message that it was slated to disable access to itself after today. I'm not one to wait until the last minute, so I took on the project of loading a more valid version of the software to avoid any problems if I wanted to operate tomorrow.

Of course there's always the usual tweaks that go with any install, but in the case of wsjt-x, I'm always impressed with how little there really is to adjust with any install. It goes in quite quickly and most often comes up working on the first try. Such was the case today and so I decided to continue with a test run, despite the less than appealing conditions!

Worked a station or two, but nothing to write home about!

I also performed a bit of maintenance on the dipole but have yet to get it back to a 1:1 SWR where it performed for such a long time. My 1:3 is not bad at all, but there are just those of us who are never satisfied until we find that 1:1 on the SWR meter.

All in all, it was quite a busy day and I'm looking forward to slowing down as the evening rapidly approaches. Hope you've having a great day wherever you are and with whatever you're doing!


PERHAPS IT'S ME

APRIL 22, 2021



Perhaps It's Me

I must say that I'm very grateful for the digital technologies that have been added to the Ham Radio arena. It's been too many years since I've had anything but a dipole antenna and that doesn't make for a very good SSB (voice) configuration when conditions are poor, as they often are nowadays with our less than desirable location in the sunspot cycle.

I'm fully aware of the debate that rages over digital and its place in or out of the world of ham radio. While I might be tempted to side with the purists on that one, life has demanded otherwise. The combination of a dipole and the sunspot gutter has pushed many of us over to the dark side of digital if we intend to power up our rigs for any useful cause.

Add to that my disdain for headphones, the age-related struggle to hear and process correctly, the extra noise floating through the house which originates from my shack, and the benefit to earning additional awards not so likely in the purists' camp, and I'm left with a number of good reasons to prefer digital over voice and CW.

And for some odd reason, which I'm simply unable to explain, the quality of rag-chews has diminished greatly in recent years. It seems they just aren't what they used to be!

Perhaps it's me.


HAM RADIO

FEBRUARY 18, 2021



FT4

Amateur (Ham) Radio is such a cool hobby and it's changing at the speed of light. I was slow to get into the world of Ham Radio's digital modes but in 2018 I started dabbling with them and on January 18, 2019 I said goodbye to Single Side-Band and hello to FT8.

Since that time, and as of yesterday, I've made 3,331 FT8 contacts. I also upgraded yesterday from WSJT-X 2.0 to 2.4 and jumped in with both feet to FT4 with 33 contacts made yesterday just before the 20 meter band said good night to this part of the country.

I'm not sure what it is, about allowing a computer to make an electronic contact via my ham radio that is so fun and interesting, but that's basically what I'm doing and it is indeed fun and interesting.

The world of digital modes has opened up doors of opportunity that I could have never imagined including having worked all 50 states and presently 125 countries on all of the major continents, not to mention additional awards from qrz.com for contacts made to most all of the countries in Europe and South and Central America.

Not bad for 100 watts and a wire.


MY HAM RADIO STORY

OCTOBER 19, 2020

IC7600

I started my radio adventure in 1970 at the age of 16 years old in Albany, Georgia where I lived at the time. It all started with a Realistic 23 Channel Citizen Band (CB) mobile radio that I purchased from J.C. Penny's automotive department and installed in my 1961 Volkswagen Beetle. I added a pair of co-phased whip antennas that provided my VW with an odd and humorous insect-like appearance.

I was a member of a rock band and one of the other members (David T.) also purchased the same mobile CB radio from J.C. Penney's and we used to talk on the way to and from our late-night weekend gigs. In fact, when I purchased a CB base station, David very kindly came over and climbed a very tall pine tree to install my new omni-directional antenna at the very top.

With a bit of investigation, David and I discovered that the 23 channels on our CB radios were synthesized using 4 crystals. By swapping the location of these crystals we were able to generate private frequencies. To this day, I have no idea what frequencies we had generated, but they sure weren't any of the 23 channels that were derived when the crystals were in the factory installed positions.

As a senior in high school I used to attend what the CB crowd called coffee breaks. Truth is, these were nothing more than a meet-up at one of the local and more casual pizza places there in Albany. My favorite at that time was the Pizza Villa on Broad Avenue. (In fact, I took my wife there on our first date, and I took her back again at a later point to propose to her.)

It was at one of these CB coffee breaks that I met Sgt. Glen Picard, who was originally from Mississippi and had been stationed at our local Marine base. Glen was the MARS operator there on the base and ran the prestigious Collins S line of radio gear owned by the Marine Corps.

I met up with Sgt. Picard on the base one evening and joined him in the radio shack for a Mars radio session. I was hooked! Next thing you know I'm earning my novice license from the FCC (WN4FLV) and building a Heathkit transmitter and receiver.

I tied the rig into a half dipole mounted vertically on one of the pine trees in our yard. The other half of the dipole was actually a short piece of wire attached to a metal stake that was driven in the ground at the base of the tree. Of course, back then it was CW (Morse code) only for the first year and I managed to set up a weekly schedule on 40 meters each Sunday afternoon to play chess with another teenage ham up in North Georgia.

After the required 12 months as a novice, I drove to Atlanta and took and passed my General exam and the 13 words per minute Morse code test. Weeks later I received my new call (WA4KGC) in the mail.

By the time my General license arrived, I had already sold my Heathkit gear and moved up to a Drake TR4C transceiver and a TA-33 jr beam antenna mounted on a well guyed 30' push up pole.

Of course, as a high school student I was still living at home and in retrospect it sure was kind of my parents to tolerate all of my radio shenanigans there around the house - especially installing a large rotating beam atop our nice home in an area of town not known for that kind of (less than appealing) stuff waving up in the air.

When I was not away to college, I was an active member of the Albany Amateur Radio Club. In the very early 70's when touchtone became available to the world of Amateur radio, I went to the junk yard and purchased an additional dash panel for my Chevy Vega. In it, I cut a hole and mounted a touchtone pad that I attached to my 2 meter mobile rig and was an early adopter of mobile phone calls, well before cellular phones were on the horizon. I had become a technical legend in my own mind!

My junior year was spent at FSU in Tallahassee and I took my HF rig down and managed to do a midnight install of a 40 meter dipole antenna with a feed to my window. Funny how no one ever noticed it. I suppose no one ever stopped to notice that it (what they must have thought was a power line) actually terminated on a pine tree. I also started the first, and a very humble, FSU Ham Radio Club. Unfortunately, we never had enough members to get anything interesting going.

My senior year was spent back in Georgia at (then) Valdosta State College. In a much more daring midnight install, I mounted a 2 meter beam on the roof of my dorm. I had a room on the top floor and remember climbing out of my window and up onto the roof. The funny memory, which I'll never forget, was me hanging on the edge of the roof (after the install) preparing to go back through my window when a security guard walked out of the door immediately below me. He looked around but never looked up. After he went back in I managed to climb back through the window and that was that!

In 1980 Patty and I moved to Savannah and I joined the K4NLX club. I was very active on 2 meters and HF and called a lot of the weekly 2m nets. The kids were getting old enough to do stuff so I sold my gear and my ham radio hobby went silent.

It wasn't until 2002 that I jumped back into the hobby while living in Douglasville, Georgia. I took the vanity call K4SQL. Not long after, my dad earned his technicians license (N4WIA) and we met up on 2 meters from Douglasville to Stone Mountain. In 2005 my dear XYL (wife) earned her license (KI4ODL) so we could keep up with each other if we were both out and about.

In 2010 I earned my extra class license but the high point for all of the years I have been in the hobby came on November 20, 2010 when at 22:07 I made contact with Commander Doug Wheelock aboard the International Space Station on expedition #25 as it made a southeasterly pass across the United States. It was a short QSO but quite amazing to hear him say, "K4SQL, this is NA1SS. Welcome aboard the International Space Station."

In 2014 we moved to Florida and landed in a townhome on Perdido Bay in Pensacola, Florida. I was convinced that we would probably retire there (wrong!) and that I would probably have no more involvement with the ham radio hobby (wrong again!) but In 2016 we moved inland a bit and I purchased the IC-7600 (pictured above) that I use presently. I was in a covenant restricted neighborhood and I must admit the 20m dipole in the attic left a lot to be desired.

Fortunately, we moved here to Wakulla county a year later (May 5, 2017) and I strung up my 20m dipole some 25' in the air and have had a blast with HF ever since! In 2018 I became active with digital modes and in 2019 I took up FT8 and have not looked back since!

When I earned my amateur radio license from the FCC back in 1973, I had no idea I was joining such an elite community of individuals with so much knowledge and a highly diverse set of technical skills. It's a great group of people from all walks of life and from all points on the globe.

The friends I have made and the things I have learned from them will stay with me for a lifetime. It's been an amazing journey!

If you're a ham and don't catch me on the air, you can catch me on Twitter @K4SQL.

73's,

Hutch ~ K4SQL



2 METERS!

May 16, 2020

hamradio6.jpg

This will be the first non-Corona virus post I've put out in quite a while. I think we're finally getting (back?) to some sense of (a new?) normal.

I was first licensed in 1973 and for the next 40 years was very active on 2 meters in addition to HF. Afterward, when we moved to Florida, I kept up with HF but 2 meters seemed to fall by the wayside.

Well, yesterday I installed an 85 watt 2 meter transceiver at the house and a jpole up 25'. I also submitted an application for the local club (Sportsman's Paradise Amateur Radio Club) and sent in my dues. For my first 2 meter qso in forever, I made a contact on 146.52 simplex with another ham out to the west of Tallahassee, somewhere between 25 and 30 miles away.

When I was first getting things set up, I was hoping to reach the local repeater and maybe one, or at most two, other repeaters. By the time I began testing everything, I was truly excited to have reached 9 repeaters in a 40+ mile range. And, to top it all off, I enjoyed checking in on an ARES net that was handling traffic for a hurricane simulation. All in all, a fun way to get back into 2 meters!

Above is a picture of the jpole antenna I installed out on the rail that surrounds the front deck and the rest of the house. With only the gulf to the south of the house, I wanted to install the antenna in an area that provided my best shot at all of the reachable repeaters, which are generally to our north.

I've never used an Alinco radio before, but took a chance on the DR-B185 and have not been disappointed! With 85 watts out it's an attractive rig, and with 500+ memories it was very easy to program. I'm new to digital squelch, but once I understood the concept, and was introduced to the ease of use, I became a real believer!

It's also been a real treat to be able to connect with the local hams!



CONTACTS AND QSL CARDS

April 1, 2020

QSL Cards

I'm so grateful for those ham radio operators who still take the time to log contacts so the rest of us can obtain awards for those contacts. I've seen a lot of operators who seem to have about every award that has ever been presented and yet they are kind enough to keep logging.

I also envy those ham operators who live in exotic locations for they enjoy the benefit of being sought out by the rest of us and are able to log countless contacts. It helps me understand why other operators go on dxpeditions just to enjoy being on the other end of those pileups.

Last but not least, I'm so grateful for those ham operators who continue to exchange QSL cards. It's always a joy to receive an envelope full of international cards from the bureau and a few more directly, not to mention the many from here in the states.

I received this QSL card (located above) this week and proudly displayed it, along with many others, here in the ham shack. And I must add that I'm grateful for FT8 technology for without it I doubt I would have ever had an opportunity to enjoy adding so many beautiful international cards to my collection, especially at this low point in the sunspot cycle.

Thanks to everyone who was kind enough to send a QSL card my way. I'm honored to have them in my collection and proudly displayed here in the shack!



SPACE FLIGHT

February 2, 2020

Space

One of the things I love about the ham radio hobby is the number of experts I encounter and the incredibly technical and interesting things they are doing with their expertise.

Today I made an FT8 contact with callsign OZ2SPACE, which represents a group of Danish rocket experts working on the Danish rocket and space project called Copenhagen Suborbitals.

According to their QRZ web page, it's a group of experts and hobbyists working for free to make a space limit rocket capable of launching a person into space. The picture above is of their ship, Spica I and the project to build it is featured in (as of this writing) 16 episodes at their website, which is located here.



January 6, 2020

DIGITAL MODES

Ham Radio

Above is an internet-based application allowing digital users to observe the reach of their digital HF (High Frequency) radio transmission.

I'm saddened to see that digital modes (and FT8 in particular) have caused such a stir in the amateur radio community. I acknowledge that the digital traffic and the digital community have taken a bite out of the original modes of communication with which so many of us grew up, but I think there's more to the story than the critics are letting on.

For many of us, the combination of humble antennas (dipoles?) and a dead low in the sunspot cycle have left us with few alternatives if we want to enjoy the hobby. Add to that the busy lives we all tend to live these days, and even a CW QSO (Morse code conversation) can eat up the precious time we often need to be using for other things.

At a place in time where everyone has a cell phone and access to the internet, amateur radio has got to continue to evolve as it has in the past (remember the introduction of Slow Scan TV?) or the hobby is sure to suffer the consequences. For those among us who consider themselves purists, I say enjoy whatever you enjoy. But, I encourage you to maintain space in this hobby for the interests of everyone.

It was one of the exciting changes in the hobby that permitted me to connect with Commander Doug Wheelock aboard the International Space Station. I still find it hard to believe this hobby that I love has afforded me such a wonderful and amazing opportunity!



December 26, 2019

MY HAM RADIOS OVER THE YEARS

Heathkit

My first rig was the Heathkit HR10 receiver (left) paired with the DX60 transmitter, both that I built back in the very early 70's.

Drake

My second rig was a new Drake TR4C. After I spent a year as a novice with my Heathkit rigs, I graduated to the Drake rig. I purchased the rig after earning my general license and the rig arrived before the license.

Fortunately, Mr. Roland Ring, whom I believe had the call W4OAT, (Old American Traveler) came over one evening and allowed me to operate under his call sign in order to test out the new rig. So exciting at that time!

ft840 After a break from the ham radio hobby, I re-entered with a Yaesu ft840 that I enjoyed for quite some time!

ft950 Sometime later, I upgraded to the Yaesu ft950 and operated that rig for a number of years until we moved to the Florida coast. I sold all my equipment and went silent for about 2 years.

ic7600 In 2016 we moved inland for a year and I purchased my current Icom 7600. I fed it into an attic mounted 20 meter dipole. The antenna was nothing to write home about, but it did better than I expected.

als600 In May of 2017, when we moved to our current home, I located the 20m dipole outside and up about 25' and added the Ameritron ALS-600 amplifier. It was a great addition to the ham shack along with the LDG AT600 ProII AutoTuner and M-600 meter combination!



December 22, 2019

MY HAM RADIO JOURNEY

Ham Radio

This picture above is of the Albany Amateur Radio Club and was taken in 1975 at a club meeting. In the picture I am seated second from the left end.

I started my radio adventure at 16 years old in Albany, Georgia where I lived at the time. It all started with a Realistic 23 Channel Citizen Band (CB) mobile radio that I purchased from J.C. Penny's automotive department and installed in my 1961 Volkswagen Beetle. I added a pair of co-phased whip antennas that provided my VW with an odd and humorous insect-like appearance.

I was a member of a rock band and one of the other members (David Turner) also purchased the same mobile CB radio from J.C. Penney's and we used to talk on the way to and from our late-night weekend gigs. In fact, when I purchased a CB base station, David very kindly came over and climbed a very tall pine tree to install my new omni-directional antenna at the very top.

With a bit of investigation, David and I discovered that the 23 channels on our CB radios were synthesized using 4 crystals. By swapping the location of these crystals we were able to generate private frequencies. To this day, I have no idea what frequencies we had generated, but they sure weren't any of the 23 channels that were derived when the crystals were in the factory installed positions.

As a senior in high school I used to attend what the CB crowd called coffee breaks. Truth is these were nothing more than a meet-up at one of the local and more casual pizza places there in Albany. My favorite at that time was the Pizza Villa on Broad Avenue. (In fact, I took my wife there on our first date, and I took her back again at a later point to propose to her.)

It was at one of these CB coffee breaks that I met Sgt. Glen Picard, who was originally from Mississippi and had been stationed at our local Marine base. Glen was the MARS operator there on the base and ran the prestigious Collins S line of radio gear owned by the Marine Corps.

I met up with Sgt. Picard on the base one evening and joined him in the radio shack for a Mars radio session. I was hooked! Next thing you know I'm earning my novice license from the FCC (WN4FLV) and building a Heathkit transmitter and receiver.

I tied the rig into a half dipole mounted vertically on one of the trees in our yard. The other half of the dipole was actually a short piece of wire attached to a metal stake that was driven in the ground at the base of the tree. Of course, back then it was CW (Morse code) only for the first year and I managed to set up a weekly schedule on 40 meters each Sunday afternoon to play chess with another teenage ham up in North Georgia.

After the required 12 months as a novice, I drove to Atlanta and took and passed my General exam and the 13 words per minute Morse code test. Weeks later I received my new call (WA4KGC) in the mail.

By the time my General license arrived, I had already sold my Heathkit gear and moved up to a Drake TR4C transceiver and a TA-33 jr beam antenna mounted on a well guyed 30' push up pole.

Of course, as a high school student I was still living at home and in retrospect it sure was kind of my parents to tolerate all of my radio shenanigans there around the house - especially installing a large rotating beam atop our nice home in an area of town not known for that kind of (less than appealing) stuff waving up in the air.

When I was not away to college, I was an active member of the Albany Amateur Radio Club. In the very early 70's when touchtone became available to the world of Amateur radio, I went to the junk yard and purchased an additional dash panel for my Chevy Vega. In it, I cut a hole and mounted a touchtone pad that I attached to my 2 meter mobile rig and was an early adopter of mobile phone calls, well before cellular phones were on the horizon.

My junior year was spent at FSU in Tallahassee and I took my HF rig down and managed to do a midnight install of a 40 meter dipole antenna with a feed to my window. Funny how no one ever noticed it. I suppose no one ever stopped to notice that (what they must have thought was a power line) actually terminated on a pine tree. I also started the first, and a very humble, FSU Ham Radio Club. Unfortunately, we never had enough members to get anything interesting going.

My senior year was spent back in Georgia at (then) Valdosta State College. In a much more daring midnight install, I mounted a 2 meter beam on the roof of my dorm. I had a room on the top floor and remember climbing out of my window and up onto the roof. The funny memory, which I'll never forget, was me hanging on the edge of the roof (after the install) preparing to go back through my window when a security guard walked out of the door immediately below me. He looked around but never looked up. After he went back in I managed to climb back through the window and that was that!

In 1980 Patty and I moved to Savannah and I joined the K4NLX club. I was very active on 2 meters and HF and called a lot of the weekly 2m nets. The kids were getting old enough to do stuff so I sold my gear and my ham radio hobby went silent.

It wasn't until 2002 that I jumped back into the hobby while living in Douglasville, Georgia. I took the vanity call K4SQL. Not long after, my dad earned his technicians license (N4WIA) and we met up on 2 meters from Douglasville to Stone Mountain. In 2005 my dear XYL (wife) earned her license (KI4ODL) so we could keep up with each other if we were both out and about.

In 2010 I earned my extra class license but the high point for all of the years I have been in the hobby came on November 20, 2010 when at 22:07 I made contact with Commander Doug Wheelock aboard the International Space Station on expedition #25 as it made a southeasterly pass across the United States. It was a short QSO but quite amazing to hear him say, "K4SQL, this is NA1SS. Welcome aboard the International Space Station."

In 2014 we moved to Florida and landed in a townhome on Perdido Bay in Pensacola, Florida. I was convinced that we would probably retire there (wrong!) and that I would probably have no more involvement with the ham radio hobby (wrong again!) but In 2016 we moved inland a bit and I purchased the IC-7600 that I use presently. I was in a covenant restricted neighborhood and I must admit the 20m dipole in the attic left a lot to be desired.

Fortunately, we moved here to Wakulla county a year later (May 5, 2017) and I strung up my 20m dipole some 25' in the air and have had a blast with HF ever since! In 2018 I became active with digital modes and in 2019 I took up FT8 and have not looked back since!

When I earned my amateur radio license from the FCC back in 1973, I had no idea I was joining such an elite community of people with such a diverse set of incredible skills. It's an amazing group of individuals from all walks of life and from all points on the globe.

The friends I have made and the things I have learned from them will stay with me for a lifetime. It's been an interesting journey!

If you're a ham and don't catch me on the air, you can catch me on Twitter @K4SQL.

73's,

Hutch ~ K4SQL


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