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!
This is where I spend a lot of time. It is part of an old converted barn that was a coaching stop between Manchester and Sheffield. It built into a bank with walls 2-3 feet thick which makes it very quiet and cool all year round.
Next project on the bench will be a remote antenna tuner using a couple of Arduinos with an RS485 link. See this F4GOH web page
The construction area. Note the solder fume extract pipe.
The fume extractor is an inline ventilation fan bought from a hydroponics shop. It has a variable speed control and works very well.
The SMD rework area. The heated tweezers will soon be joined by a hot air gun.
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 6.25W 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.
The antenna is back up after 6 years! Nothing fancy just an inverted L at about 11m (~35ft) and around 38M (125ft) long. Still need to put in a counterpoise in the lawn but the ground is rock hard after weeks of drought, so it will have to wait.
I have a nice waterproof box that housed a commercial tuner to house it and will probably make it solar powered to avoid have to DC up the coax. Hope to get the coax in this week, it is something like a 40M run of RG-213. So, work to do before winter!
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.