31 Oct 2009

500kHz - two new reports and a new country

M0DUO (104kms away) spotted my 500kHz WSPR beacon late this evening. Then in the middle of the night my first report from The Netherlands from PA3FNY (JO22nc at 330kms). So, 22 different reports in 11 grid squares and 5 countries with best DX remaining 896kms. Not bad for a 6m long antenna and less than 1mW ERP!

AA1TJ's Code Talker TX

Mike Rainey has now added a schematic to his page on the New England Code Talker CW transmitter powered and keyed only by audio derived from his whistling into a loudspeaker. Mike is hoping to span the Atlantic with a similar TX on one of the HF bands in the years to come, knowing that others have "crossed the pond" with powers as low as 1mW or less when conditions were very good.

LC Meter - a nice kit

Some months ago I bought a PIC based LC meter kit from the Cambridge Radio Club (CDARC). This was a club project and the unit allows very accurate measurements. The kit had remained unbuilt until today when I decided to build it. I'm impressed: it went together well and worked first time. The quality of the kit is first class with a custom case, silk screened PCB and good instructions on the club website. This little box will measure from low pF and nH right through to uF and mH. I can see it being used almost daily. I believe CDARC is to make these kits available more widely. Go and buy one for £50.

20th station hears me on 500kHz

Last night M0WKR (IO94 at 237kms) reported my 500kHz WSPR beacon bringing the total number of unique reporters up to twenty.

30 Oct 2009

The 500kHz ATU

This is a close up picture of my 500kHz ATU which consists of a ferrite rod with thin copper wire tapped at various points to which the antenna and TX are connected. The TX connection is about 5t from the ground end. Also in view are the current transformer (the small toroid with 50 turns secondary) and the small meter used to measure the antenna current.

AA1TJ's "Code Talker TX" - all voice powered

Mike Rainey continues his work on purely voice powered transmitters, in which just the energy in his voice is used to power the RF circuits i.e. no batteries or PSUs at all. He's achieved well over 100kms on 80m this way using a form of CW derived by whistling into a loudspeaker to generate the energy needed. Here is an example of his signal received 109kms away. He can clearly be heard "keying" (actually whistling!) the words of "Mary had a little lamb" in CW.

29 Oct 2009

A good evening on 500kHz QRPp

This evening my 500kHz WSPR beacon has been running from 1700-2300z, still with less than 1mW ERP. As the map shows, this is not preventing 8 stations in 4 countries copying me and many at considerable distance. There has been some transatlantic propagation this evening with SM6BHZ and OR7T being copied in Canada already. These are distances I can only dream of with my tiny station!

A 19th reporter on 500kHz

G4EFE managed to hear my WSPR beacon on 500kHz several times last evening (127kms) bringing the total number of unique stations receiving me to 19 now. I still have work to do to get over the 1000kms distance target.

26 Oct 2009

500kHz - an 18th station hearing me

This morning at around 0930z I received a new report for my 500kHz WSPR beacon, this time from G0HNW who is 200kms away. This brings the total number of reporters to 18. 16 were via the WSPR database and a couple of others via the RSGB LF reflector. Clemens DL4RAJ has been looking for my signal for many nights but thinks I need a further 10dB of ERP before I reach central Europe.

25 Oct 2009

CQWW contest summary - 10m was great

With darkness falling now 10m is going quiet after an exciting 2 days. In the end, my 5W SSB and halo antenna worked 35 stations in 20 countries. DX from outside Europe was not workable this time but I was hearing CX, PY, ZS, 6W, etc so conditions were definitely not bad. Although there were a couple of stateside stations worked from Europe, I did not manage to hear them. The slight upturn in sunspot activity came just at the right time.

10m - the return of the good days?

The CQWW SSB contest has livened things up on 10m this weekend, but the sunspots are also showing signs of activity again and the band generally has been in good shape. In the last 24 hours I have heard DX from 4 continents and confidently expect it to open to the USA this afternoon. Good signals from 9J2B0 on CW and ZS9X on SSB today as well as wall-to-wall Europeans from 28.38-28.62MHz at times. Could this be a sign of the good times to come? Let's hope so as 10m is one of the best allocations we have on HF and a great band for QRP DXing when conditions really improve.

24 Oct 2009

500kHz TX schematic (5W)

This is the current schematic of the 500kHz TX down-converter I use for WSPR. It uses an IRF510 FET PA and generates about 5W from the PA stage, although the ERP is only around 1mW from the antenna. I am planning to add the RX converter stages and an RF sensing circuit so I can use other modes in full transceive on 500kHz. The input is my FT817 at 500mW on 28MHz which is mixed down to 500kHz in an SBL1 mixer.

G0NBD and G4FDD log me on 500kHz

My 500kHz WSPR signal has been logged by new reporters G0NBD in IO83 square (261kms) and G4FDD in IO93 square (212kms) tonight.. This now brings the total number of different stations that have heard me to 16. Not bad with <1mW ERP.

23 Oct 2009

10m - CQWW SSB DX Contest

This BIG HF contest runs this weekend and is sure to make the bands sound busy. I shall be having a go with 5W SSB on 10m only and see what happens.

By 1600z Saturday I'd worked 24 stations in 16 European countries with 5W QRP SSB including C4I, P33W, 4L0A, US5D and TM1O. It is nice to hear 28.4-28.55MHz crowded with stations. Funny how "conditions" magically improve when there is a big contest! In the afternoon there was some decent DX about including LU1HF and PW5G but I did not work them.

EPAD FETs and low voltage TX

This application note shows a 32uW oscillator using EPAD FETs that works with 0.5V supply and may be useful for "harvested energy" TX circuits. The ALD110800 FETs used has also been used to power an amplifier with just a 0.2V supply.

500kHz ATU

Spent half the afternoon going around in circles trying to measure the antenna current since I rebuilt my tiny ATU with a few more taps on the ferrite rod. For reasons I don't understand it was all over the place with my multimeter connected by about 50cms of wire. Instead I built the current meter around a toroid and a small 50uA meter mounted in the ATU and can now repeatably measure the antenna current which is 50mA. With a 5m effective height this is still way below 1mW ERP.

AA1TJ's Voice Powered DSB TX (El Silbo)

Mike has done it again - a superb piece of QRP creativity. This is from his email today:
"AA1MY and W1PID met with me on 3686kHz this afternoon. I was operating a new, DSB version of my "El Silbo," voice-powered transmitter. Both Seab and Jim successfully copied my/their calls and signal reports. Jim commented later that I would have been hard pressed to pick a worse day for the attempt. The propagation was producing severe QSB fading and the QRN was all over the place (peaking at S-7 to S-9 at times). I came away nearly dumbfounded that these two operators could pull enough of my 5mW DSB signal out of the mess, at distances of 100 and 67miles, to complete the QSOs."

22 Oct 2009

Antenna measurements at 500kHz

Matching my antenna at 500kHz has been a bit hit and miss: my technique, if you can call it that, has been to match the antenna "by ear" on RX, adjusting taps on the ferrite rod ATU inductor, to give me the best S-meter reading on the intermod product on 504kHz. Then, with a 3dB pad between the PA and ATU, carefully tweek the tap settings on the ATU for maximum antenna current measured using a toroid current transformer. The 3dB pad is to prevent damage to the PA during the adjustment process. Up to now this has been OK, but I could really do with a better way of measuring the antenna parameters. I'd really like to get an antenna analyser, but cannot justify the expense. I need to check out some other simple, low cost, techniques.

14 stations hearing me on 500kHz WSPR

With a report overnight from G4KPX, I've now been logged by a total of 14 different stations on 500kHz WSPR. 13 are listed here plus G3YMC's report via the LF reflector. There is still room for further, not complex, ERP improvements which should help a few more people detect my very QRP signal. At the moment I have no plans to change my small antenna, just the grounding and ATU.

21 Oct 2009

Another new reporter on 500kHz

Eddie, G3ZJO, has managed to copy my 500kHz WSPR beacon tonight. He is now the 13th station to hear me on the band. No great DX at 79kms, but pleased to be heard by someone else.

6m WSPRing and aeroplanes

Just been active on 6m WSPR this morning running 5W to the vertical colinear. The only person to report me, several times, so far has been G3ZJO who is 79kms to the west of me. What is most interesting are the number of multipath 6m signals seen on the WSPR waterfall with large amounts of Doppler shifts. G3ZJO has been analysing these are has made predictions about the aeroplane flight paths which would result in such traces. Here is the WSPR screen when receiving G3ZJO through an number of such multipath and Doppler shifted traces.

20 Oct 2009

Simple beacon keyer IC: the K-ID2

Looking around for a simple beacon keyer to use with a QRSS beacon, I discovered the ICs sold for $6 (available via Paypal) from K1EL. This 8 pin IC looks ideal as it allows a variety of pre-programmed messages to be selected and sent at predetermined keying speeds.

See http://k1el.tripod.com/KID.html . At $6 each you can hardly go wrong with this. I shall be ordering a few shortly.

Another new country on 500kHz WSPR

My 500kHz WSPR beacon has now been heard in a fourth country: a -26dB S/N report from F5WK who is in the Paris area, a distance of 436kms away to the south. The beacon has now been reported by 11 different stations in four countries so far.

19 Oct 2009

Lambda diode circuits

Mike Rainey AA1TJ has some good tunnel diode ideas on his pages but these devices are hard to find these days. Instead one can create a negative resistance device called a Lambda diode with a couple of FETs or an FET and a transistor. See for example the pages of Ramon Vargas Patron at http://www.zen22142.zen.co.uk/Theory/neg_resistance/negres.htm where he has examples of oscillators and regenerative receivers using Lambda diodes.

18 Oct 2009

500kHz WSPR - a summary so far

So far, spots have now been received from 10 unique reporters (9 via the WSPR database + G3YMC's report using WSJT7 not shown here) in 3 countries and 7 grid squares.

If I could summarise what this tells me it is:

(a) WSPR works very well at 500kHz allowing weak QRPp signals to be detected.
(b) Very low power (ERP <0.3mW) and electrically tiny antennas do work on 500kHz if weak signal modes are used.
(c) 136kHz is worth a go next, even with the poor antenna and very low ERP.

17 Oct 2009

A map to end a fantastic day on 500kHz QRPp

This is the map that says it all: DX that even yesterday I would not have believed possible with a true QRPp microstation on 500kHz WSPR. I go to bed very happy, leaving the beacon running overnight in case any others manage to detect my signals.

K1JT, Joe Taylor, thank you for bringing us this wonderful software package.

What next - 136kHz WSPR?

Having now almost achieved more than I could ever have expected on 500kHz WSPR with uWs ERP, I'm wondering if I should give 136kHz a try with the same antenna and transverter. If I could maintain the same antenna current (20mA measured) my ERP would be around 3-5uW on 136kHz. I'm wondering how far that might get. Almost certainly not too far, but probably enough to be detected by some of the nearer stations

Even greater DX on 500kHz QRPp WSPR - 896kms!

This is getting unbelievable now with such low power and a simple antenna: having just got a report from OR7T I've just now got one at -26dB S/N from GM4SLV in the Shetland Is all of 896kms away! This has been one of the best days ever in my ham radio life.

International DX on 500kHz WSPR

Just received my first 500kHz report from outside England at -26dB S/N from OR7T in JO20ix which is 337kms away.

Using the formula in the RSGB LF Handbook I just calculated my ERP on 500kHz assuming an effective antenna height of 6m (probably less than this in reality) and a measured antenna current of just 20mA. It works out at 315uW ERP. Based on earlier measurements by M0BMU it should now be around 60uW. I suspect he is nearer than the theory suggests. Anyway, still a long way below 1mW ERP even but getting great results with WSPR.

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)

Good to see that Uruguay has become the first country to provide a laptop for every child attending state primary school according to a report on the BBC News website today as part of the OLPC Initiative.  Over the last 2 years 362,000 pupils and 18,000 teachers have been involved in the scheme, which aims to provide low cost, but high specification, laptops to school children across the world.

500kHz paths

The map here shows the distances spanned on 500kHz WSPR with my QRPp station. I'm now beginning to believe that further will be possible, especially with some skywave propagation. 210kms DX already means I've a chance of being heard in GW, ON, and PA if stations are listening in these countries and uploading spots to the WSPR database.

My new 500kHz DX record - 210kms

Just been reported by G3YMC in Bracknell, which is 120kms away and my 6th station to report me and my best DX to date. Then I got a report from G0KTN at 210kms away!! It's gradually getting better.

Incidentally, this is the transverter at the moment very ugly style. Will add the RX part soon so I can use CW.

Dave's G0YMC's report:
153000 15 10 2.6 -62 0 G4JNT IO90 23
153000 8 -20 5.2 8 1 G3XBM JO02 0

Wow, only 30dB down on G4JNT! Well done Roger.

(sorry cannot upload as I am copying with WSJT7 which doesn't support
the internet upload - but has an auto soundcard calibrator).

73 Dave G3YMC

5W (from the PA) on 500kHz

With the arrival of some IRF510 FETs I've built a small PA to go on the end of my WSPR beacon transverter. The output (from the PA) is now 5W, so my ERP should be up by around 10dB to around 50-60uW. Already I have been spotted by G7NKS some 10dB stronger than ever before - most encouraging!

The first transistor - read Shockley's lab notes

Take a look at William Shockley's hand written lab notes at Bell Labs when he created the first point contact transistor back in December 1947. Little did he know then what this would lead to in the next 60 years. Amazingly the patent wasn't filed until 1951. Who actually invented the first transistor is debated and was the result of separate discoveries and hard work by many. This is often the case in science.

15 Oct 2009

500kHz WSPR - last time before improving the station

This evening and overnight I am running my 500kHz WSPR beacon for the last time in its unmodified state before beginning to make improvements to the antenna and PA. I am still hopeful that I'll get another one or two new stations spotting my signal. Once the ERP starts to be increased by up to 20dB my "sphere of influence" on 500kHz should increase.

Do listen on 500kHz WSPR and upload any spots you get.

POSTSCRIPT: I did actually fire the "old" setup again last night (Friday evening) for a few hours but was only reported by G7NKS. I'm now thinking of practical and relatively unobtrusive ways of making the signal a bit more potent on 500kHz without the garden looking like Droitwich or GBR Rugby.

14 Oct 2009

A new station hears my 500kHz WSPR QRPp

This evening I received reports from G0BPU in Ipswich on 500kHz WSPR, This is now the 5th station to have heard my 6uW ERP signal. I am still hopeful that I will beat the 100kms barrier before I start the station improvements. Other reports today came from M0BMU and G7NKS. My best DX remains at 69kms.

500kHz WSPR restarted - please listen

In the coming weeks I shall be improving my ERP, but to get a baseline I've just restarted my 500kHz WSPR beacon which is believed to have an ERP of around 6uW (microwatts). Since starting it up I've already received reports from M0BMU at 69kms away with S/N levels ranging from -24 to -29dB. These are the levels I was getting last month, so all is still working (see picture of the WSPR database).

If you are able to listen on 500kHz WSPR set you receiver to 502.4kHz in USB mode and click "upload spots" on the WSPR screen so that your SWL reports will be added to the database on the internet automatically.

It really would be good if more people listened on 500kHz WSPR even if they can't TX. WSPR is very easy to use especially on RX and the WSPR software can run in the background whilst you get on with something else. The WSPR software can be downloaded from http://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/K1JT/WSPR112.EXE

All reports really would be most welcome.

13 Oct 2009

161kms voice powered QSO by AA1TJ

Just got an email from Mike Rainey AA1TJ describing his TX powered only by his voice. He achieved a distance of 161kms with a germanium transistor oscillator putting out a few mW of power. The power for this was generated by rectifying the audio signal from the loudspeaker used as a microphone. In the end Mike resorted to a sort of MCW mode shouting CW into the LS but W1VZR copied this and made a recording. Mike is also looking at a receiver using "RF harvesting" to allow a receiver that requires no DC power source other than that derived from off-air RF.

Mike's amateur radio pages are at http://mjrainey.googlepages.com/radio

Free power QRPp transceiver or beacon?

The idea of powering a low power receiver, or even a transceiver or QRPp beacon, from free, otherwise wasted, RF energy that is all around us appeals to me. A few people have been toying with this idea and there are even some commercial ICs likely to appear which "harvest" energy from stray RF and even vibrations. The circuit shown here is from the excellent site by KE3IJ (R.Andersen) and shows how to use 50 or 60Hz mains "fog" and stray RF to power a simple receiver. See http://www.tricountyi.net/~randerse/nopower.htm .

See also Ben Tongue's crystal set pages for a circuit using a supercap to store harvested energy which is then used to power a micropower op-amp.

A "harvester" QRPp transceiver or beacon which derives its energy from stray RF, storing this is in a supercap and allowing brief periods of transmission at very low power is worth developing I think. I have not seen such "harvesting" circuits used to power a transceiver or beacon before but for a uW level beacon this should be feasible.


The latest copy of GQRP's quarterly magazine SPRAT arrived here today and it was nice to see my little Sixbox 6m AM transceiver featured on the front cover, alongside my car keys! Also in this edition was my article about WSPR weak signal beaconing. Since the article was written back in the summer I have been using WSPR almost daily on all bands from 500kHz up to 50MHz.

Just £6 annually gives you GQRP Club membership with 4 article-packed issues of SPRAT magazine a year, as well as access to the GQRP QSL bureau and club sales items such as toroids, QRP frequency crystals, transistors and ICs at good prices. As a GQRP club member, you can get a CD with all 140 editions of SPRAT magazine for just £4. It's worth joining just for this alone. If all other magazines had to go then SPRAT would be the one I'd still get as it is the best.

12 Oct 2009

Rybakov Wideband Vertical Antenna

For those looking for a simple vertical antenna that can cover a wide range of HF bands you might want to try the Rybakov antenna. This is what IV3SBE says about it:

"Multiband NO TRAP NO GAP Antenna. This Antenna is a small wonder, easy to build and allow you to work all HF spectrum with your TRX and it's internal ATU. It consist of a matching device at it's feed point to enable lowering the impedance of a randow wire. Winding 14-18 turns of twin insulated wire 1.75mm over an AMIDON T-200-2 RED Toroid type and wiring as the image on your right will enable you to perfectly feed the radiating element . Once finished, place it in a waterproof plastic casing used for electrical wiring suitable for UV radiations. Complete it utilizing a SO 239 socket and two Stainless Steel Bolt to ensure long life under external condition. Connect, to the Wire Terminal, a lenght of wire ranging from 7,6m onwards depending the frequency range we would like to obtain. With 7,6m we can easily cover from 7Mhz upwards, for better performance we suggest to leghten the wire up to 8,6 > 12m so to have a better performance staring from 3.5 Mhz. The Antenna will perform well in vertical position utilizing a retractable fiberglass pole ( we use a 9m fiberglass fishing rod ) so to deploy the Antenna in seconds just hook the wire to the top part and extend the elements fully. You are now ready to operate ALL BAND NO GAP making use also of the internal ATU of your TRX for portion of band where SWR is above 2:1. See Below the Antenna fully extended and in Action during a short Portable Expedition."

See http://www.iv3sbe.webfundis.net/html/Rybakov806.htm

10 Oct 2009

IC703 TX failure

After many years of excellent service my IC703 decided to expire on TX last night: power started to drop when running 5W on 30m then 80m (good matched load), then nothing, although I could detect a signal on the FT817, probably at mW levels.

I believe this is a common IC703 issue. Does anyone have data on how to fix this and where I get the spare parts? I believe it is either a driver or PA failure.

Incidentally Martyn Lynch quoted £45/hr plus parts and shipping to do a repair. I don't expect I'd see any change from £100.

This is the first time in 42 years of operating that I have had ANY piece of amateur gear fail, confirming that generally equipment is reliable if used carefully, so I cannot complain.

Genesis Q5 QRP kit from Australia

The Genesis Q5 is a radio transmitter kit designed for novice kit builders and QRP radio enthusiasts. With 40 parts and a professionally manufactured circuit board, the Q5 produces 1W QRP crystal controlled on the international QRP frequencies. Price: US$ 19.95 + postage. For more information visit http://www.genesisradio.com.au/Q5/ . Watch two-minute Q5 promotional "Hook 'em on" video produced by 12 years old Josh, VK2FJDX: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5klKvQHqqJ4

8 Oct 2009

Ferrite rods as transmitting antennas?

Assuming one is running very low powers (milliwatts) and use (say) 10 ferrite rods "in parallel" for the core is there any reason why a single thick turn on a ferrite rod, suitably tuned and matched, would not make an effective transmitting loop antenna on the lower HF bands or 500kHz? As long as the core doesn't saturate I cannot think why this would not be feasible.

I have just been told about a Yahoo group for people experimenting with ferrite rods. The owner, John Popelish, experimented some time ago with stacked ferrite toroids to make a ferrite rod.


17m WSPR

Just put the WSPR beacon on 17m and received 3 reports from W8LIW at 6105kms when using 5W to the 15m end-fed wire. Activity on 10m WSPR is very low today with no reports of signals.

7 Oct 2009

Sound powered transmitters

A few people are currently experimenting with sound powered RF transmitters, generating the DC power to run a microwatt level oscillator from the human voice or morse key activation. There have been a few such ideas published. What appeals to me is a sound powered TX coupled with a crystal set RX. Such a system might get a mile or two as long as the station at the far end was running a few watts of AM or MCW. This would be the ultimate in QRPp!

There is a patent for this sort of sound powered transmitter - see United States Patent US2981833 dating from 1955 which has some schematics. This is available to view at http://www.freepatentsonline.com/2981833.pdf

DXTV - 1938 style!

There is a fascinating clip on YouTube of 405 line BBC TV being received in New York (from London) presumably by F2 or multi-hop sporadic-E propagation in 1938. This is the only example of a pre-WW2 live 405 line BBC TV transmission known to be recorded. The image shown left is of the female TV announcer. The signal comes and goes as the QSB takes the signal out of sync. Totally fascinating.

See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SniB0JEDGs

5 Oct 2009

Back from holiday - WSPRing soon

Just got back from 2 weeks in Greece visiting the ancient sites. Hope to get back WSPRing on 500kHz within a few days after I've caught up on things at home.