Amateur Radio Station K6JEB

from beyond the horizon

Archive for November, 2008

The Quadrifilar Helix antenna works!!!

Posted by Jack on 22nd November 2008

I recorded this right off the air using my new
Quadrifilar Helix antenna from sitting about a foot above the ground (hi hi)outside. The one I got was with Right-Hand Circular Polarization (RHCP) and is rated for 50watts output.Quadrifilar Helix AntennaSeriously, just a foot off the ground and this Quadrifilar Helix antenna netted me two new AO-51 QSOsand here's my laughable transmitting antenna, just a 5/8 wave on the patio table

This is a recording of the LUSAT-OSCAR 19 (website) CW beacon which was on 437.120MHz:

LUSAT-OSCAR 19 20081123 1615UTC

Then Cubesat OSCAR-57 flew over:

The highlight of the evening was two AO-51 QSOs with W6BVB and WD9EWK! The Quadrifilar Helix antenna works!

I need to mount it high up. I could tell the house was in the way based on the angle and elevation VO-52and sudden drop on where the house is. Otherwise I believe I picked-up AOS at around 15 degrees elevation, which is quite right from the ground in the back yard and with the tall trees in that direction. I’m very happy! I was using 50 watts into a 5/8 vertical for my output on 2m.

I keep coming back and updating this blog entry with more sounds I record from this antenna. What a blast this has been. It’s like someone tore open a hole into space so I can actually hear. Here’s some Morse telemetry from RS-22 (website):
RS-22 20081123 0625UTC

For software, I’m tracking the satellites with Orbitron. Once I decide which bird to track, I switch over to the Ham Radio Deluxe Satellite Tracker which comes as a part of the awesome Ham Radio Deluxe suite; this I use for frequency control. I’m still mastering the linear inverting transponder for VO-52 but I have already successfully tuned-in a couple passes already; seems to be an active bird.
OrbitronHam Radio Deluxe Sat Tracker

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The Sky Is Not Falling, But I’ll Miss World Radio

Posted by Jack on 13th November 2008

“Argue for your limitations, and VOILA! they’re yours.” – Richard Bach

Regarding World Radio: it will be missed. It was always something I enjoyed reading as a young ham and I’ve kept my subscription current since getting back into the hobby.

That said, regarding the never ending number of times we STILL hear about the sky falling, err, I mean ham radio coming to a screeching halt (it was just as shrill in 1983 when I became a ham), don’t forget the part where:

Kid finally talks parent into driving to ham a meeting (cost=gas+time which parents have so much of in this ‘awesome’ economy)

Kid and parent get to ham meeting, kid and parent mostly ignored as many hams at meeting are talking another language in their cliques and won’t “QRS” to talk to ordinary humans. The few who do approach them haven’t actually been on the air for months (years if you don’t count repeaters) and often are the people no one else in the club will talk to.

When kids and parents gather the gumption to ask some pertinent questions, kid and parent get all kinds of data but no way to discern the useful from the BS. Or they get very expensive answers. Mostly they get opinions or non sequitors. If they’re lucky, they’ll just be handed a flier with info on the next licensing class.

Meanwhile, almost every corner of the club meeting room has conversations that often contain things like “kids these days are just worthless” or “everyone is just an appliance operator nowadays” or “if it wasn’t for cell phones we’d still have a thriving hobby” or “that darned Internet . . .”

Looking around the room, kid and parent get the feeling they don’t belong. Especially since the feedback they’re getting on so many levels is that they’ll never be a ‘real’ ham (many reasons to choose from: no more CW test, multiple choice exams, because all gear sold these days is junk and anyone who would even buy the stuff shouldn’t be allowed on the air, because computers do all the work, etc . . .).

Pleasantries are exchanged. Goodbyes are said, and even though the kid goes off to become an engineer or technician, or a rocket scientist, their first glimpse of the hobby was filled with cranky, whining, opinionated, long-winded, selfish individuals who put out less welcoming energy than a rabid dog.

There it is. I’ve said it. If the shoe fits, wear it.

And then, there are the rest (most?) of you who are wonderful, helpful, generous, interesting, good listeners, fun, funny, and always looking for a way to help another person get on the air. You’re the person who approaches the kid and the parent and in a friendly way, pulls them away from the cranks and the crazies and perhaps at the club meeting, more likely sometime later; you invite them to your shack and you all have a blast getting on the air.

Parent asks about the workbench where you solder all your kits and not missing a beat, you put a soldering iron in the parent’s hand and have them finish up that through-hole kit (which just needed an RCA jack, so it was simple and a good primer for soldering). Meanwhile, kid is on her second contact and now the parent wants on too.

Pretty soon it’s nearly midnight and finally they leave, but they’re carrying a box of old magazines (including WorldRadio and those old issues of Ham Radio Horizons as well as others), a CW key and sidetone oscillator, HRO catalog so they can start getting an idea of what some gear costs (along with an explanation of how a lot of this stuff can be built for a fraction of the cost and with a hundred times more satisfaction). You lend them a soldering iron, and an easy kit (you had that unbuilt keyer kit sitting in your drawer). They’re also carrying with them a list of useful URLs and most importantly, they have come away knowing they can depend on you, at least for now, to help mentor them into this wonderful hobby. And yes, I said THEM.

We used to have ‘Elmers’. For me it was one helpful person who really went out of his way to help me out. As a 14 year old, I had no budget. he showed me things like putting together simple circuits from junk box parts. We didn’t get stuck on trying to build the greatest Big Gun station ever. Instead we focused on working with what we had, and developing our operating technique, and most of all, a lasting love for ham radio.

He didn’t accomplish this by trying to convince me that if I didn’t have a ham radio license and there was a natural disaster, that I’d be somehow NOT safe. He didn’t sell ham radio to me by making me feel inferior, or too young, or not experienced. He didn’t give me some spiel about how a career in electronics begins with a Novice license (although it did for me). He didn’t do it any other way than by demonstrating how much fun ham radio can be. When I would get frustrated because I wasn’t getting through in a pile-up, he would give me useful pointers instead of a condescending statement or whining about how operators these days just suck. If I asked a question with an “obvious” answer, he wouldn’t just give me the answer, but how to arrive at that answer in the future, on my own.

I would argue that we don’t have a shortage of motivated, bright, curious and persistent kids. I’d say we have a shortage of good Elmers.

I worry that these days, at least here in the States, we are mass producing hams. Or more accurately, we are licensing them en masse, and we leave the _learning to operate and get on the air_ part to them, however they see fit. And sadly, I see so many single-purpose clubs/organizations who are pushing people to get their license thinking a ham license is somehow akin to a degree or certification. Those same people will get an HT and never learn about the rest of what this huge hobby has to offer.

After having lived in Germany while I was stationed there with the US Army, I don’t think the issue is so much ham radio, it’s ham radio in America. The clubs I took part in were thriving with people of all ages and walks of life. The interests within any one club spanned numerous facets of ham radio (it’s not just EMCOMM, or QRP, or contesting, or traffic handling, or satellites, DXing, etc . . . There were specialty clubs too). At least in the clubs I was in, there were almost as many women involved in the hobby as men.

I was visited this summer by a young ham from South Korea and we spoke at length about the ham club at his college in Seoul (HL0R). He told me that usually they have between forty and sixty members at each meeting. They often meet with another college club in Seoul with the callsign HL0J, so they call those meetings the “Romeo and Juliet” meetings. 🙂 By the way, he wasn’t an engineering student, but rather, an economics student.

The sky is NOT falling. But we’d still better get our act together. Let’s do what we can to ‘water the garden, not the weeds’. We need to think of being “V.E.’s” as also meaning VOLUNTEER ELMERS. Bring your QRP radio to the local school! They’d be glad to have you. If someone tries to convince you otherwise, tell them to step off.

Also, it’s not just ham printed periodicals that are dropping off. Newspapers in general have been taking a real hit. And THAT you can ‘blame’ on the Internet, but the up side is where one big tree falls, many smaller ones pop up: look at all the web sites that we have within ham radio! Now instead of just QST, 73, CQ, World Radio as the main pubs, we now have dozens of web sites (and that’s not even counting the myriad personal sites and speciality sites). Hey, you’re not going to have a shortage of things to read, that’s for sure.

All the same, I will really miss that little ham magazine on newsprint. It was great while it lasted in print. But at least we’ll still have it via the web.

Jack, K6JEB


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