Category Archives: Operating

Can we talk?

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.

QRP does work!

Time and time again I see the trite remark that life is too short for QRP. Well, QROers you can do amazing things with very small amounts of power! Oleg Borodin, RX3G and Leonid Bovin, R1LB have completed a QSO on 14.060 over a distance of 970kms with each using 80mw. Congratulations to you both for keeping real amateur radio alive.

Life is too short NOT to try QRP!

Tracking electrical storms

When a thunder storm is forecast I always disconnect and earth the antenna. Yesterday the UK Met Office  issued storm warnings for central and southern UK. A good way of tracking storms is to use an EU weather radar that gives a real time 3 hour forecast. You can pin your location making it easy to see if you are in the path of approaching weather. The storms missed this QTH, the northern edge being about 80 miles south of here.

The site is also a useful resource for predicting short term weather for portable operation. Like any weather forecasting it is not infallible!

Amateur Radio Transponders on Planned Chinese Satellites to Include HF

From: The ARRL Letter” 24 May 2018

China’s Amateur Radio Satellite organization, CAMSAT, has released some details of three new Amateur Radio satellites that could be launched as early as September. Two of the satellites, CAS-5A and CAS-6, will carry transponders; one will have HF capability.

CAS-5A, a 6U CubeSat, will have an HF/HF (21/29 MHz) mode linear transponder; an HF/UHF (21/435 MHz) mode linear transponder; an HF CW telemetry beacon; VHF/UHF mode linear transponder; a VHF/UHF mode FM transponder; a UHF CW telemetry beacon, and UHF AX.25 4,800/9,600-baud GMSK Telemetry. Transponders will have 30 kHz passbands, except for the H/U unit, which will be 15 kHz.

The tiny CAS-5B, weighing 1/2 kilogram, will be deployed from CAS-5A in orbit. It will carry a UHF CW beacon on an Amateur Radio frequency. It will be placed into a 539 × 533 kilometer, 97.5° orbit.

CAS-6, a 50-kilogram microsat, will include a VHF CW telemetry beacon; a U/V mode 20 kHz linear transponder, and AX.25 4,800-baud GMSK telemetry downlink. It will also carry an atmospheric wind detector and other systems that will operate on non-amateur frequencies.

A launch at sea is planned for CAS-6, which will be placed into a 579 × 579 kilometer, 45° orbit.

CAMSAT has applied to the IARU to coordinate frequencies for all three spacecraft. — Thanks to AMSAT News Service via AMSAT-UK

To talk or not to talk?

After being away from the hobby for around 5 years I am surprised by the uptake of digital modes. I wonder what this means and where it is going.

It is not that I have not used them in the past, in the early 1970s I had a Creed 7B teleprinter connected to a home brew terminal unit taking audio from a modified Pye base station on 2m. It was part of a local net and was left on standby a lot of the time. I would come home from work and find a few feet of paper on the floor. RTTY using the computer is not the same. No smell of 3in1 oil or the noise of the motors and clatter of the mechanics.

Video of a Creed 7B

 

I also found WSPR to be useful to test antennas and tried a few other data modes but frankly I found them to be boring. Yes, they can establish a 2 way connection where other modes cannot but so what? It is machines talking to machines. There is no experience of making contact with a human being, no suppleties of voice or ‘fist’ in CW. Nothing to personalise the contact and gain some idea of who you are connected to.

For me radio is about connecting, communicating with another person using voice or Morse. It is about recognising that there is a human being operating the equipment, making the connection, the contact. And I mean ‘contact’ in both the human communication sense as well as the technical sense.

I fear that digital modes are being pushed hard as a way of interesting younger people in the hobby. I must ask why? Why do something in a more expensive and complicated way that can be and is done by Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram etc?

A few years back when Internet linked repeaters started I remember having a conversation with a newcomer who was excited about ‘working’ a VK via the local repeater. In fact, he worked the repeater a couple from miles from his house but was under the impression he could get DXCC and other awards easily. That is the problem, the quick and easy fix appealed but took him nowhere.

I still believe that if you show a real contact on a radio with someone in a far-off place it will be more exciting and more attractive than dangling the instant hook of digital communication. Kids do that on their phones every day, why would they bother doing it via radio?