31 Jan 2009

HF Maritime radio and CW?

I thought HF marine stations had abandoned CW, yet I heard 3 sending CW IDs today: IAR on 8.418MHz , SVO on 8.424MHz and A9M on 8.428MHz.

Topo Lighthouse EU-175

Just worked CU5T on 18MHz CW in the Azores. He gave me 599 when I was running 5W. This was the S.Jorge DX'pediton 2009 station to Topo Lighthouse.

QRPP 80m QSOs with G3XIZ

Just completed a nice QSO with G3XIZ 45kms away when he was using the FETer 15mW 1 FET transceiver. I gave him RST529. After our contact finished Chris went on to work Richard G3CWI (Macclesfield) and then Pat G0GMA (East Lincolnshire). Great stuff for 15mW! BTW, I was running real QRO (5W). Claude HB9CGL, in Switzerland, copied Chris's 15mW TX some hours earlier - amazing.

30 Jan 2009

Listening to G3XIZ's 15mW 80m beacon

G3XIZ's beacon running 15mW on 3.555MHz to his FETer transceiver was excellent copy this morning. At peaks it was running RST569 at a distance of around 45kms.

Here is the sound clip of his signal at 10.10am today, 30 Jan 2009.

29 Jan 2009

RQ or CQR call for quick report only?

When using QRP there are times when all I want is a quick report in response to a CQ and not a long QSO with names. QTH, WX, power, antennas and general chit-chat. I wonder if we should have a different CQ format for this e.g. RQ or CQR (meaning CQ for report only).

Is this a good idea or a daft one? Let me know what you think.

VHF AM Yahoo group

This is a picture of G4BYE's version of my own Fredbox 2m AM transceiver design - a neat unit his is complete with proper PCB.

Many blog readers are already members of the Yahoo VHFam group. To join visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/VHFam/ and follow the joining instructions.

At last VHF AM operation has got a mention in the latest UK VHF bandplans with the agreed "centre of AM activity" being notified in the footnotes as 144.55MHz. This spot in the European all-modes area is also used by some other users - I hear SSTV here sometimes - so it is NOT an exclusive spot, rather somewhere to look for 2m AM activity in the first instance. There's some AM activity on 145.8 still in Scotland but it would be good if users there would move to 144.55 so this became a UK-wide spot on which AM activity is likely to be found. Users can also be found on 70.26MHz on 4m.

VHF AM gear can be very simple to make and AM is an ideal mode for QRP building and experimenting. There's plenty of ex-PMR AM gear still to be found for next to nothing, ripe for use on 2m/4m AM.

28 Jan 2009

More FETers around

Today I hear that Bill Meara N2CQR and Chris Osborn G3XIZ have built FETer, 1 FET, transceivers. Chris was beaconing his 15mW version this afternoon and it has been copied here at RST229 and in Kent at RST339. You can see Bill's version at his famous Soldersmoke blog.

Rockbound?

Walking home from the bus stop today I noticed a tiny piece of clunch on the ground, a local chalk stone from the Cretaceous age, the period of geological time approximately 143-65 million years ago. In the stone were two small fossil shells. Amazing to think these two creatures were living not far from my home all that time ago.

....and radio is only just over 100 years old.

27 Jan 2009

GQRP Club and SPRAT

Attached is the 6V6 valve transceiver by Geoff, G3YVF, from SPRAT magazine number 137 (Winter 2008/9). It uses 19 parts in all.

Join the GQRP club and receive the excellent SPRAT magazine every 3 months. The fee is only £6 per year (or equivalent in other currencies) which is excellent value. See: http://www.gqrp.org/join.htm for details on how to join. You can now pay with Paypal too if you prefer. BTW, if times got hard and all other radio mags had to go then SPRAT would be the one I'd keep.

Every quarter SPRAT is packed with circuits, ideas and news of interest to those who enjoy QRP. Back issues of editions 1-132 are also available on a GQRP club CD for just £5 if you are a club member.

25 Jan 2009

Help in the shack?

Contest operating was a little slower this morning as I had a "little helper" in the shack. This is my 14 month old grandson, Lucien, who is staying with us at the moment.

He was fascinated by the morse key, so there is hope that a future radio ham is in the making.

24 Jan 2009

Update from W2UW on his 20mW transceiver

My FETer (1 FET transceiver for 80m) appeared in SPRAT this month. The circuit is very much based on a 40m transceiver created by Glenn Yingling, W2UW. His original 40m version, on which mine was heavily based, is called the FET-1. Today I got a nice e-mail from him with an update on his results.
Dear Roger, I was surprised to see your little article in the sprat mag about your FETer, it was interesting. I am glad to see that you credited me.
By the way, you might be interested in knowing that I have made 451 QSOs with my little rig. I have not met my goal of working all of the states east of the Mississippi river. HI I still have 4 to go (Fla., Ala., Geo., and Miss.) They are way down there! I may have to wait until the next "peak".
I am 81 yrs. old and still think radio is "magic". Hi
Glenn
W2UW
451 QSOs with a tiny little 1 FET transceiver is pretty good going Glenn. Well done!

20 Jan 2009

2-way transatlantic QRP

Just worked VE3DJX on 14.060MHz CW. He was using 5W to a 3el and I was using 5W to my (low) 15m long end-fed long wire. Despite the poor sunspot conditions it is still possible to make 2-way transatlantic QSOs using QRP with the most basic of stations and antennas.

19 Jan 2009

2m AM now on the RSGB band plan

At last 2m AM gets a mention in the bandplan as published in the Feb 2009 edition of RadCom. Sadly not as the 144.55MHz "centre of activity" on the 2m chart, but rather as a comment in the footnotes.

Still this is better than nothing and people interested in 2m AM now know that 144.55MHz is the place of preference to centre AM operations. There is still interest in 2m AM as (a) simple gear is easy to build and (b) there is a lot of surplus ex-PMR AM gear around going for almost nothing. Also it is interesting to compare AM and FM as part of self-training.

It would be good if the AMers in GM-land would migrate off 145.8 down to 144.55 now so that all AM in the UK was on/around one common frequency.

18 Jan 2009

HUGE 160m 3el yagi antenna

Take a look at this antenna for 160m and 80m. It is the antenna used by OH8X and is absolutely massive.

This is certainly not my idea of ham radio, and the complete antithesis of QRP, but you have to take your hat off to these guys for the engineering of this monster beam which weighs tons. I wouldn't fancy scraping the ice off in mid-winter!

16 Jan 2009

Long-term HF deterioration?

Some time back I recall discussion about a theory that the ionosphere was not behaving nowadays as it was, say, 50 years ago. I'm not talking here about sunspot cycle issues but whether or not there are factors at work that mean HF comms today is more difficult than many years ago due to ionospheric structural changes. I'm also ignoring things like increased noise floors due to SMPSUs, lights etc.

Can anyone point me in the direction of any definitive references to this theory?

13 Jan 2009

AA1TJ's 1 transistor transceiver

Take a look at Mike's neat 1 transistor VXO controlled 80m 80mW transceiver, The Reggie, which uses a passive RX with the VXO acting as LO for a heterodyne mixer. He's worked some decent distances with this modest little rig. Mike has a great website with plenty of other fine ideas. The little Reggie circuit continues to evolve so keep checking back to his site.

http://mjrainey.googlepages.com/reggie

Update 19/1/09: Mike tells me he has measured the MDS as -87dBm (using a sig gen and a stepped attenuator/20dB pad) which is pretty remarkable for essentially a passive RX using a switching mixer. It implies Mike can hear around -90dBm clearly in his ST3 headphones.

12 Jan 2009

The spots return...

After weeks without sunspots the sun is showing signs of life again with solar flux levels around 70 (the highest for a year nearly) and sunspot numbers between 13-20 depending on who is doing the counting. Time will tell if this is the start of better things to come or another false dawn.

See http://www.solen.info/solar/

11 Jan 2009

Some off-air historical ham recordings

Thank you to those of you who have submitted ham audio links. Here are some for starters. I will add others if people let me have links.

http://files.myopera.com/davews/files/vp8.mp3 A recording of Bob McLeod VP8LP in Goose Green on the 20m amateur band on the evening of the Argentine invasion in the mid-1980s made by Dave Sergeant G3YMC.

http://files.myopera.com/davews/files/zl3gq.mp3 A short recording of a CW contact with Peter Watson ZL3GQ in Christchurch, NZ made by Dave Sergeant G3YMC on 4th October 1977 when using just 10W at Dave's end.

http://www.qsl.net/wa5iyx/ra/zk1aa69a.ra ZK1AA 6m keyer/beacon in 1969.

http://www.dxzone.com/catalog/Internet_and_Radio/Sounds/
has many different audio clips spanning many years and many bands.

10 Jan 2009

Off-air historical ham recordings

Looking around for a site which has off-air historical ham recordings I found http://www.dxzone.com/catalog/Internet_and_Radio/Sounds/ which has quite a lot.

Somewhere I have a reel-to-reel tape recording made off-air 42 years ago of G4PJ (Salcombe, Devon) and I also have a recording made at the peak of cycle 22 (I think) when I tuned across 10m SSB hearing stations from Europe, South America, the USA and ZD9 (Tristan) amongst others.

There is an excellent website for SW broadcast interval signals at
http://www.intervalsignals.net/ which I believe I've mentioned before.

QRP DXCC score box

I've added a 2009 DXCC "countries worked" box on the RHS of the blog so I can keep track of what I work on various bands. So far, the score is just 15 countries worked with best DX being the USA on 20m CW, but it is only mid-January. Last year the score was around 60 countries worked.

10m QSO (winter sporadic-E)

This morning I worked my first 10m station this year - 9A2009ST on 28.480MHz SSB using 10W to my wire halo antenna. He was also calling CQ on 28.22MHz CW. The signals were not strong but this is clearly a case of mid-winter sporadic-E.

This year my aim is 100 DXCC countries on 10m QRP, so this was number one. An hour later and I heard G0FWX about 20 miles away so gave him a call and got a 52 report.

So now 2 x DXCC countries in the log on 10m ....only 98 to go this year!

8 Jan 2009

Latest cycle 24 sunspot predictions

http://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/images/ssn_predict.txt has the latest (Jan 2009) predictions for the progress of Cycle 24 suggesting that by the end of this year we should be well on the "up" again with decent 15/12/10m conditions.

Having said that, we have had another extremely quiet period now for almost 6 weeks. Unless a few spots start to appear we may still be bumping along the bottom of the cycle still.

7 Jan 2009

QTH Locator with Google Maps

http://f6fvy.free.fr/qthLocator/fullScreen.php

This site has the useful ability to show QTH locator locations using Google maps. Enter the QTH locator and the map zooms to show where square actually is. You can also use it to find QTH locators in the first place and to work out distances.

Licence-free handhelds in 70cms

Did YOU realise that we now have to share the 70cm band with LPD433/434 walkie talkies? I understand that Ofcom has recently changed the requirement document (IR2030) and it now allows FM voice transmissions at 1mW/10mW on 69 channels between 433.075 - 434.775MHz. These handhelds are available in the UK from several CB/446 outlets. Look out for the words LPD433 in adverts. 10mW may not sound much but it goes a LONG way from a hilltop. If these units proliferate they could become a real problem for 70ms repeater and simplex users.

QRP - 4 continents today

After a slow start to the year because of family commitments, today saw some QRP CW contacts around the world. These included RV6HA, HB9ANJ, 7X4AN and KA2MGI with QSOs on 14MHz or 7MHz.

With the Elecraft K1 with internal ATU and the random 15m wire strung down the garden I can usually work most of the stations I hear as long as they are not buried in a huge DX pile-up. CW is a very effective mode especially if you are like me and have a simple, unobtrusive wire antenna rather than a huge beam on a large tower.

6 Jan 2009

E44M Palestine DXpedition

E44M is busy working stations on 40m SSB currently and coming through quite well at 8pm UK time. From the DX cluster it looks like they are proving very popular. I have not tried to break the pile-ups with my QRP.

2 Jan 2009

Z309KNV Macedonia

The first QSO in the QRP log this year was Z309KNV on 40m CW which seems to be a special call for Macedonia. The band was buzzing with several USA stations this evening but not managed to cross the pond yet.