The Morse tutor is complete. I chose a plastic box that was only just big enough, I like a challenge and this certainly was one! It all worked out OK in the end but was a real fiddle to get the measurements right.
What I learned apart from home construction is fun:
1. A nice bezel hides a lot of mistakes!
2. Covering a plastic box in masking tape prevents it being scratched when drilling and filing.
3. Removing the glue after covering a box in masking tape is not easy.
4. Red is always the positive wire on battery connectors!
It was around 60 years ago that I realised there was a radio amateur living across the road, he was Jim G3LIO, an ex Navy WT operator. When I passed the RAE in in 1972 Jim advised me to learn Morse, but I resisted and became a G8. He was right of course; it would have been much easier to train a younger brain.
In 2000 I started learning Morse and managed to pass a 5WPM test at the Harrogate Morse Camp which gave me a class A/B license and the M5 call. A couple of months later I went to take a 12WPM test at a local rally but the examiner never turned up and the Morse requirement was dropped a few days later.
Eventually I did a 15WPM proficiency test at the Newark Ham Fest but lack of confidence was still a big issue. After that I decided that my operating would be 100% CW and it was. Things slowly improved but only with straight keys.
Now my resolve it to get to 25WPM and use a paddle by my next big birthday! I have signed up for training at the CWops CW Academy which should start in a couple of months. I am determined to finish do what I should have done 48 years ago!
This is a recording of W1MBB on 3.798Mhz at 0754 this morning. My antenna is a long wire strung between two trees with a homemade tuner. I also heard a ZL this morning.
So, what does this prove? That the uBITX receiver works well although I must add the AGC board! That there is DX out there if you know where to look. That amateur radio need not cost a lot. And, most of all, there is nothing to beat the kick of building a radio and using it on the air.
I know I could never work him on the uBITX but I also know that using higher bands it is perfectly possible to work across the pond on 2W of CW.
It is not that the bands are dead, try listening around 14.026 when TT8KO is on! It is just that ops prefer to wait until there is something on the DX cluster rather than put out a CQ or come on for a rag chew.
If we are all waiting for somebody else to speak nothing is said!
Very pleased with my new key, a Signal Electric J37 picked up for £10 at the Newark Hamfest today. It was very dirty and tarnished but an hour of work made it more respectable and perfectly functional. I got a lot of satisfaction from bringing it back to life. It is obvious that it has been very heavily used and that makes me wonder who the previous ops were. Nice key and can’t wait to start using it.
Last week I heard a QSO on 80M SSB where each op was using 400W and each gave the other 5-9+20db One op said ” I always use QRO, life is too short for QRP”. Reducing their power to ~6w would have resulted in report of 5-9+2db. Why waste so much power?
Interestingly I found this today on the North American QRP CW club web site; “According to Rich Arland, K7YHA (now K7SZ), in World Radio magazine (Feb. 1990, year 19, issue 89, pp. 46-47) the long-distance low power record is held by KL7YU and W7BVV using one micro-watt over a distance of 1,650 mile 10-meter path between Alaska and Oregon in 1970. This is the equivalent of 1.6 billion miles per watt.”
That is why I use CW with a 5W power output limit and often use much less. It takes more effort to work some stations and more skill and patience but the rewards are well worth it especially when using homebrew gear.
After 6 years away from the radio what is different? Everything and nothing. Still the same camaraderie and immense kindness in the hobby. That has not changed. The difference is there seems to be a growing reluctance to actually talk to each other on the air.
What has become apparent is the reliance of the internet. I saw a message on the net recently from a VHF op who said he had spent a long time calling CQ with no response. The reply was that he needed a ‘spot’ on the ON4KST site and then people would know he was there. I assume from that nobody turns on the radio and tunes around anymore.
Then there is ‘the HF bands are dead’ mantra usually followed by it’s not worth turning on the radio as there is nothing much on the DX cluster. Again, it looks as if ops are sitting in front of their computers waiting for to see something happen instead of using their radios.
And the automated digital QSOs, jt8? And digital propagation checking where you don’t even need to contact another human being to know how far you signal has travelled.
Is that what it is all about now? Only operate when there is DX around? Never call CQ because nobody is listening? But what gets me most is never ‘talk’ (voice or CW) to another human being? Have radio amateurs lost the ability/desire to speak to each other?
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for using the latest technology and moving with the times but if we insist on removing the human element or reducing it to the shortest possible exchange for the points or to bag another country then we lose the very basis of the hobby. There must still be a place to rag chew on 160m or 80m or 2m, I want to talk to another human being and not a computer.
Why do I like using SMD? Let me explain, I began making radios using valves, it was all there was at the time. When I started work in the industry the first training courses were on valves and how they worked. Then the transistor came, then integrated circuits followed by surface mount devices, SMD. I guess I have followed the technology.
It is easy to be overwhelmed by progress and stick with what you know but there are many advantages to using SMD:
individual components, resistors and capacitors, are very cheap
many older devices are no longer available as wire ended e.g. the SA612
PCBs are smaller due to high packing density
high frequency boards are easier and cheaper
An SMD VFO module
Above is an SI5351 board (ready made apart from soldering the SMA connectors) it is just 30mm wide and can used with an Arduino to make VFO with 3 programmable sine wave outputs. Current cost is less than £5 on ebay plus the Arduino.
You might need some new tools like a magnifier, fine tipped soldering iron and good quality tweezers. There are more including heated tweezers and a hot air gun for component removal but they can wait for a while.
So, my advice is do not be put off and have a go. Find a simple kit to practice with and then progress to more complex circuits. It helps if you know something about how SMD components are sized. Srat with the larger sizes and work down.
1206 and 0805 are popular SMD sizes
This is another good one to print out.
Over the coming month I will add to this series of posts and share some of the projects I am working on which include: a remote tuner, vector network analyser (VNA), wide range VFO/signal generator, a switched attenuator.