Why Ham Radio?


Scorpion SA-680 Screwdriver Antenna

Fred’s Truck with Antenna

Every so often, I drive Fred’s truck into work and people ask me what that big antenna on the back of the truck is for. I explain to them that it is for Ham Radio.  But the reply is usually, why ham radio – isn’t that outdated technology?  We have cell phones and IM, etc…what do we need Ham Radio for?  So I thought I would put down my thoughts as a relatively new Ham about why I enjoy spending so much of my time with Ham Radio.

amateur_radio_could_save_lives_in_times__2205260000_9445423_ver1-0_640_480

Amateur Radio for Public Service

Public Service

The number one reason we still need Ham Radio along with all the other technology we now have is for public service.  When there is a disaster and cell phones, television, etc are all not working, Ham Radio operators provide the critical communication.

Ham Radio operators help locally to keep hospitals and first responders in contact with each other to help those affected by the disaster.

Hams also use our ability to communicate around the world on HF bands to help family members around the world to get in touch with loved ones affected by a disaster.

Ham Radio operators have been on the scene helping in every disaster from the earthquakes in Nepal to the recent flooding in California.

hamsats

Amateur Radio Cube Satellites

Technology and the Maker Movement

I only became a Ham 5 years ago but many of my fellow Ham Radio operators got their license when they were in their early teens and used what they learned to launch their careers. Many have had very successful careers in STEM fields, all launched by their interest in Ham Radio at a young age.  As technology advances, so does the technology used in our hobby.   We even have a nobel laureate, Joe Taylor K1JT who is a ham. Joe has developed weak signal digital communication modes that let us communicate by bouncing signals off the moon!

As technology has advanced, so has the use of it in Ham Radio.   Most Ham Radio operators have one or more computers in their shack.  Many also have a software designed radio (SDR), where much of the radio functionality is implemented using Software, we use sound cards to run digital modes, which are a lot like texting over the radio, and we use the internet extensively as part of operating.  We can also make contacts through satellites orbiting the earth and even the International Space Station.

Most hams love do-it-yourself technical projects, including building a station, home brewing an antenna, building a radio or other station component.  In my day job, I am a program manager for software development projects, but its been a while since I have built anything. As a Ham I taught myself how to code in Python and about the Raspberry Pi and I built the DX Alarm Clock.

vk6lc

QSL Card from VK6LC in Western Australia

International Camaraderie

One of the coolest things about being an amateur radio operator is that you can communicate with other hams all over the world. Ham Radio is an international community where we all have something in common to talk about – our stations and why we enjoy ham radio.    The QSL card above is from a memorable QSO with Mal, VK6LC, from Western Australia, who was the last contact that I needed for a Worked All Zones award.  I must have talked to him for 1/2 hour about his town in Australia and his pet kangaroos!

world-map

Amateur Radio Map of the World

Geography Lesson

I have learned much about geography from being on the air and trying to contact as many countries as I can.  There are 339 DX Entities, which are countries or other geographical entities and I have learned where each one is in order to understand where propagation will allow me make a contact.  I have learned a great deal about world geography. Through exchanging QSL cards often get to see photos from so many areas of the world.

dxcc-challenge-award

DXCC Challenge Award Plaque

Achievement – DXing and Contesting

DXing and Contesting provide a sense of achievement and exciting opportunity for competition. Many Hams work toward operating awards. You can get an operating award for contacting all 50 states, contacting 100 or more countries, contacting Islands, cities in Japan, countries in Asia, or anything else you can imagine.  Each of these operating awards provides a sense of accomplishment and helps to build skills.  Contesting builds skills through competition among Hams to see who can make the most contacts with the most places in 24 or 48 hours. Contesting also improves our operating skills and teaches us to copy callsigns and additional data accurately.

anita-instructor

Teaching a License Class

Teaching Licensing Classes – Passing it On

Recently I have joined a team of club members who teach license classes to others who want to get licensed or upgrade their existing Amateur Radio licenses.  Teaching provides a way to improve my presentation skills and also helps me to really understand the material that we teach about Amateur Radio.  It is always a thrill at the end of the class to see so many people earn their licenses or upgrades.

There are so many interesting aspects of Ham Radio which is what makes is such a great hobby.  Getting your license can open up a world of possibilities.  Upgrading to a new license class provides more opportunities to communicate over longer distances.  Ham Radio clubs, including our local club, the Nashua Area Radio Club,  provide many resources to help you get your first licenseupgrade to a new license class, and learn about the many aspects of our hobby.

Giving Back To Amateur Radio


Nashua Area Radio Club - 2016 Year In Review

Nashua Area Radio Club – 2016 Highlights

Anita, AB1QB and I have spent a good deal of time this past year helping the Nashua Area Radio Club here in Nashua, NH USA as a way to give back to the Amateur Radio Service. Our work with the Nashua ARC has produced some of the most enjoyable and memorable times of our Amateur Radio experience.

Teaching Nashua Area Radio Club Hosted License Classes

Teaching Nashua Area Radio Club Hosted License Classes

In particular, our contributions to the work that our club is doing around helping people to earn licenses and introducing young people to the Amateur Radio Service has been most rewarding.

Abby, KC1FFX Operating a GOTA Station During Nashua ARC Youth Day

Abby, KC1FFX Operating our GOTA Station during Nashua ARC Youth Day

We recently produced a 2016 Highlights video about our Club’s activities and the club’s contributions to the Amateur Radio hobby. We thought that some of our readers here might enjoy the video. You can view it on our club’s home page here.

73,

Fred, AB1OC

 

2016 New England QSO Party – Operating Mobile HF


Several members of the Nashua Area Radio Club operated as N1FD/M (our club callsign) in the New England QSO Party this year as a Multi-Op Mobile Entry. Operators included Wayne Wagner, AG1A and Jamey Finchum, KC1ENX and myself. We began our operations on Saturday afternoon on the Massachusetts – New Hampshire State line where we activated two counties and two states.

NEQP Multi-Op Team

N1FD/M NEQP Multi-Op Team

We entered the 2016 NEQP Contest in the High Power Multi-Op Mobile Category. We operated using SSB phone mode using mostly on the 20m and 40m bands. We took turns operating, driving and navigating. We used Fred’s, AB1OC’s mobile HF station in his truck.

CQ NEQP 4

CQ NEQP from N1FD/M

We operated Saturday and Sunday for nearly the entire contest period. We spent most of our time calling CQ and we had several nice pileups to work.

Counties Activated 2

Counties Activated by N1FD/m in the 2016 NEQP

The map above shows the counties in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont that we activated during the contest. Anita, AB1QB helped us to create a route of counties to activate which included some of the more rare counties in Vermont and New Hampshire.

Operating On The Line 4

Operating on a County Line in Vermont

We tried to focus on activations where we could be in two counties as once. These activations produced some nice pileups for us to work.

Operating On The Line 1

Operating on a County Line in NH

We parked on county lines with 2 wheels of N1FD/M in one county and 2 wheels in another. This gave us two QSO points (one for each county) for each contact that we made.

NOPTA Activiation 2

NPOTA Activation – Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP in Vermont

We also activated two National Parks along our route as part of ARRL’s NPOTA program. We activated Saint-Gaudens NHS (NS60) in New Hampshire and Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP (HP26) in Vermont. The HP26 activation produced the best response – we made about 50 contacts while we were there.

Solar Weather for NEQP

Solar Weather for NEQP 2016

We had a few challenges along the way. We had some antenna related problems to deal with. Fortunately, we had spare parts with us and we adjusted our operating style to overcome these problems. We also had to operate through a major solar event on Sunday. This made contacts very difficult but we still logged over 235 QSOs on Sunday in spite of the conditions.

CQ NEQP 1

Wayne, AG1A Operating in NEQP 2016

We used a PC running the N1MM+ logger connected directly to the Icom IC-7000 radio which is mounted on the passenger side lower interior panel in our truck. This made if very easy for whomever was operating to keep up with the logging when our QSO rates were high.

All in all, we had a great time in the contest. We logged a total of 631 QSOs and we worked 58 Multipliers. Our final claimed score was 36,598 – not bad given that this was our first entry as a mobile and our first time in NEQP. We worked 43 of 50 states and we had quite a few stations from Canada and Europe call in to answer our CQs. All in all, it was a lot of fun operating from our Mobile HF station in the NEQP contest!

There was some discussion on the way home about the Maine and New Hampshire QSO parties which will be held later this year. We hope to be N1FD/M again in one or more of those as well.

The N1FD/M Multi-op Team,

Fred (AB1OC)
Wayne (AG1A)
Jamey (KC1ENX)
Anita (AB1QB)

Dayton Hamvention 2016


Anita Preseting in Contest ForumFred, AB1OC and I just returned from the 2016 Hamvention in Dayton, OH.

Our first day in Dayton was spent at Contest University – this was our 5th year in attendance but each year we learn more from the contesting experts. This year, we attended two presentations from Frank Donovan, W3LPL on operating techniques for the declining solar cycle and on 80m and 160m antennas.   We also heard a talk from Val NV9L from Ham Nation on Log Analysis tools and another session on SO2R (Single Operator 2 Radio) Operating.

W3LPL Solar Cycle 5

Slide from W3LPL Contest University Presentation

Friday was the first day of the Hamvention and we spent most of the day visiting all of the vendor exhibits.   We visited the Icom booth, where we looked at the new Icom 7851. It has an incredible display as well as one of the best receivers on the market.

7851

Icom IC-7851 Display on a Large Screen TV

We also saw the new KX2 Transceiver at the Elecraft booth. It is even smaller than the KX3 and is perfect for SOTA and other portable operations. I would expect to hear some NPOTA activations using this radio.

KX2

Elecraft Kx2 on Right, next to a KX3

Friday evening was the Top Band dinner where we learned all about “Top Band Disease” from Larry “Tree” Tyree N6TR.   Hams with this disease are nocturnal, love the bottom of the sunspot cycle. They are constantly improving their 160m antennas – when you upgrade your receive antenna, then there are people who can’t hear you, so then you need to improve your transmit antenna – and the cycle continues…

Top Band

Top Band Dinner Presentation by N6TR

After the dinner, we were treated to a concert from the Spurious Emissions Band (N0AXKX9XK4ROW4PA), with hits like “On The Cover of the NCJ” and “Sittin on the Edge of the Band”. They were so funny! You can watch their performances on YouTube http://bit.ly/DaytonSpurs2016.

Spurious Emissions

The Spurious Emissions Band Performs at Dayton 2016

On Saturday, Fred, AB1OC and I presented our Station Building talk to around 250 people as part of the Dayton Contest Forum. It was a great honor to be selected to speak there by Doug Grant K1DG, who has been organizing the Contest Forum for many years.

Fred in Antenna Forum

Fred, AB1OC Speaks at the Contest Forum

We also continued to tour the vendor booths, visiting our fellow Nashua Area Radio Club Member Bill Barber, NE1B, at the DMR-MARC booth.

Bill Barber NE1B

Bill Barber, NE1B at the DMR-MARC Booth

After that, we stopped by Gordon West’s Ham Instructor booth where we spoke to him about the success of our Club’s License classes.  Here is a picture of Gordon, WB6NOA and Fred sharing the secrets of how the Hilbert Transform and the Flux Capacitor make Single Sideband and Time Travel Possible.

AB1OC with Gordo

Gordon West, WB6NOA with Fred, AB1OC

We also visited the AMSAT booth, where we met Burns Fisher,  W2BFJ,   who currently lives in Brookline, NH and is moving to Hollis.    They had a cube sat on display – you can see how small it is below.  It’s amazing that AMSAT builds and arranges to launch them into orbit so that we can make QSOs through them!

Cube Sat

Anita, AB1QB Holds a Cube Sat

Fred could not resist a visit to Begali Keys where we purchased a neat travel key. It should be great for operating mobile and for Field Day.

Begali Travel Key

Begali Travel Key

On Sunday, we headed back to New Hampshire, sad that the weekend had come to an end but full of great memories from the trip.

2016 ARRL Rookie Roundup SSB


ARRL Rookie Roundup Ops

ARRL Rookie Roundup Ops

A team of newly licensed members of our club, the Nashua Area Radio Club, came together to enter the 2016 ARRL Rookie Round SSB Contest, using our club callsign, N1FD. We held a training session at our QTH the weekend before the contest to allow our operators to learn about contesting and to become familiar with our station. We put together a training package to introduce the operator team to contesting in general and to the ARRL Rookie RoundupYou can view the training package here..

Station setup for the Contest

Station Setup for the Contest

We entered the ARRL Rookie Roundup in the Multi-Op, Single Transmitter category using the club’s N1FD call sign. This gave everyone a chance to operate in the contest and to contribute to the team’s final score. Fred, AB1OC spent some time setting up and checking out our station ahead of time. Our operators used the N1MM+ logger and operated using 100w of power on the 20m and 40m bands.

We had a total of 13 Nashua Area Radio Club members who attended the preparation session and/or operated in the contest. Folks worked as teams during the contest with one person operating while another person logged. Our operators had nice pileups to work for a good portion of the contest. All of our Operators did really well. As you can see and hear from the linked video, we definitely have some future contest stars in our club!

2016 RR SSB Score

The table above shows the results of our operations during the 6 hour contest period. Our team did really well! Of particular note is that they were able to work 45 of the 70 available multipliers. It will take some time for the ARRL to put together the results for everyone in the contest but we believe that our team did very well.

Abby and Her Dad Jamey Operating in the ARRL Rookie Roundup SSB

Abby and her Dad Jamey Operating in the ARRL Rookie Roundup SSB

The results are in and N1FD took first place in the recent ARRL Rookie Roundup SSB in the Multi-op Category. The N1FD team was also #1 in area one and #5 overall in the contest. Congratulations to all of our operators – the did a great job operating in the contest. You can find all of the scores for the contest here.

2016-ARRL-RR-N1FD

We are planning to host recently licensed club members again for the ARRL Rookie Roundup RTTY and the ARRL Rookie Roundup CW contests later this year. We hope to see many of our operators back again for these contests.

Do you have a contest station?  If so, we’d like to encourage to host and Elmer some new hams and challenge us in the ARRL Rookie Roundup RTTY on August 21.

Dayton 2015 HAMvention Recap


Contest University 2015 Kickoff By Tim Duffy, K3LR

Contest University 2015 Kickoff By Tim Duffy, K3LR

Anita, AB1QB and I began our 2015 Dayton HAMvention experience by spending a day at Contest University. Tim Duffy, K3LR and the Contest University team put together another great program this year.

Contest University 2015 Dayton Agenda

Contest University 2015 Dayton Agenda

Anita and I choose to attend the VHF contesting, Low-Band Antenna and Waterfall Displays sessions and they were all very interesting. It was also great to see all of our friends from Contesting Community.

Anita, AB1QB At The ARRL Exhibit

Anita, AB1QB At The ARRL Exhibit

We began our visit to the HAMvention exhibit halls at the ARRL booth. It is quite something to see the scope of the activities that The ARRL engages in to the benefit of the Amateur Radio Community.

ARRL Emergency Go Kit

ARRL Emergency Go Kit

One thing that caught our eye there was the very well put together Emergency Go Kits that the ARRL can supply in disaster relief situations.

Elecraft K3S

Elecraft K3S

Next, we visited the Elecraft booth and saw the newly announced K3S Transceiver. The K3S is a pretty major upgrade to Elecraft’s popular K3 transceiver. Most of the K3S upgrades can be retrofitted to existing K3 Transceivers. Elecraft’s approach to making significant upgrades available to update older version’s of their radios is a major selling point for them.

Elecraft KX3 And Accessories

Elecraft KX3 And Accessories

We also saw the recently added accessories for the Elecraft KX3 Transceiver – the KX3 Pan Adapter and the KPA100 100w Amplifier. These are both excellent units which we have added to our KX3 Transceiver setup. The PX3 provides a really nice band activity and waterfall display capability and the KPA100 is nicely integrated with the KX3 making the combination a 100W transceiver package. Look for more on our experiences with the PX3 and KPA100 in future posts.

Bob Heil And Gordon West - HAMNation Forum

Bob Heil And Gordon West – HAM Nation Forum

We had the opportunity to spend a little time with our friend Bob Heil, K9EID again this year. Bob and the HAM Nation crew are always fun to listen to. Bob was also part of Contest University this year where he spoke about improving contest audio.

Ward Silver, N0AX And The Spurious Emissions Band

Ward Silver, N0AX And The Spurious Emissions Band

A big part of the HAMvention fun was the various dinners and end of day events that we attended. We did the RTTY Contesting, Top Band and Contesting Dinners this year. A special treat was seeing Ward Silver, N0AX and the Spurious Emission Band perform some HAM Radio Hits!

We expanded our 2015 Dayton HAMvention experience with a County Activation Tour on the trip to and from Dayton. You can read more about that here.

The Dayton HAMvention is always a treat for us. We hope to see some of our readers there in the future.

– Fred (AB1OC)

2014 Amateur Radio Highlights


2014 Readers Around The World

2014 Readers Around The World

It is once again time for our annual 2014 Year in Review post. First, I’d like to thank our readers for their continued interest in our Blog. Our blog was viewed about 100,00 times in 2014 from 165 countries around  the world. You, our readers have made 2014 our busiest year yet and this provides Anita (AB1QB) and me with great encouragement to continue to provide content for our readers.

2014 was a very busy year in Amateur Radio for us. Our activities included a continued focus on station building, contesting, WRTC 2014, special events, providing presentations to help other in the hobby learn about new things, attending several HAM Events, progress on operating awards, and most importantly – time spent on the air operating.

microHAM Station Master Deluxe Antenna Controller

microHAM Station Master Deluxe Antenna Controller

We upgraded our fixed station to include a microHAM Station Automation system this year. This was a major project that added some nice SO2R capabilities to our Multi-one station as well as automated the sharing of our antennas between our two SO2R Operating positions. More of this project can be found here:

Eggbeater Antennas And Preamps SystemsOn Tower

Eggbeater LEO Satellite Antennas And Preamps Systems On Tower

We also added LEO Satellite capabilities to our station with the addition of some new antennas and electronics on our tower. This allowed us to make our first contacts through LEO birds with linear transponders. Our articles on this project include:

Scorpion SA-680 Screwdriver Antenna

Our Mobile HF Station – Screwdriver Antenna

Our final major station building project was the construction of a state of the art mobile HF station in our Ford F-150 pickup truck. We did this project in phases starting with a simple setup using a 100W radio and HAM Stick antennas through the installation of a Screwdriver Antenna System for the 160m – 10m HF bands and concluding with the installation of an amplifier to enable high power mobile HF operation. You can view the articles on this project here:

AB1OC Operating In CQ WPX SSB

AB1OC Operating In the 2014 CQ WPX SSB

Anita (AB1QB) and I continued to be active in several contests this year. We both continued to develop our skills as contesters and our scores and place in the rankings reflected this. You can read more about our contesting activities and what we learned in the following articles:

Hollis Site Support Team And Referee

WRTC 2014 Hollis Site Competitors, Support Team And Referee

We were also fortunate to host one of the WRTC 2014 competition sites. Along with our friend Scott Anderson, NE1RD, Anita and I acted as site managers for the only WRTC 2014 Competition Site in New Hampshire. You can read more about our WRTC 2014 experiences here.

13 Colonies Special Event QSL Card For K2K New Hampshire

13 Colonies Special Event QSL Card For K2K New Hampshire

Special event operations were a particularly fun part of our on air activities in 2014. We operated as K2K, New Hampshire in the 13 Colonies Special Event, W1AW/1 as part of the ARRL Centennial QSO Party, and as N1FD Celebrating the 35th Anniversary of the Nashua Area Radio Club. It’s great fun to operate in these events and the experience running the pileups that result continued to help Anita and me to develop our operating and contesting skills.

Introduction To The DXLab Suite

Introduction To The DXLab Suite

We make it a priority to develop a significant amount of our Amateur Radio time to helping others in the hobby learn new things. In addition to writing this Blog, Anita and I try to create and deliver several presentations each year on a variety of topics of interest to the Amateur Radio Community. Our presentation this year included an update of our presentation on Amateur Radio Station Design and Construction and an Introductory Presentation on the DXLab Software Suite. We are always interested in working with Amateur Radio Clubs to deliver the presentation either in person where practice or over the web.

Anita (AB1QB) and I with Bob Heil (TBD)

Anita (AB1QB) and I with Bob Heil (K9EID)

We had the fortune to meet some of the legends in Amateur Radio this past year. Anita and I had the opportunity to get meet Bob Heil, K9EID and to appear on his Ham Nation podcast. Bob is an amazing gentlemen and we feel truly fortunate to have the opportunity to get to know him. We also had the opportunity to meet Fred Lloyd, AA7BQ, the President and Founder of QRZ.com. Fred visited our station and did an article about our station on QRZ.com. Anita and I both learned a great deal about HAM Radio and how it came to be what it is today as a result of the time these fine folks spent with us.

Joe Taylor's WSJT Presentation

Joe Taylor’s WSJT Presentation At the ARRL Centennial Convention

Amateur Radio Conventions and HAM Fests were a major part of our Amateur Radio fun again this year. We were fortunate to attend and speak at the ARRL Centennial Convention in Hartford, CT USA this year – truly a once in a lifetime Amateur Radio experience. We also attended the Dayton Hamvention in 2014 where we had a chance to see all of the latest and greatest in Amateur Radio Equipment.

Our 2014 QSOs By Callsign

Our 2014 QSOs By Callsign

We were quite active on the air making almost 26,000 contacts between the two of us. As you can see from the graphic above, about 45% of our contacts were as part of Special Event Operations. We also made a little over 500 contacts from our mobile station, working over 100 DXCC entities in 2014 from the mobile.

Our 2014 QSOs By Band

Our 2014 QSOs By Band

 We were active on all of the HF bands this year. We made our first contacts on the 60m band and I was able to focus on the 6m band and earn a VUCC Operating Award (100 grid squares worked and confirmed) on that band. Anita and I also made our first DX contacts to Europe on 6m in 2014. Anita took quite an interest in the 160m band and she is working on a Worked All States Operating Award on this band. Our operating time using weak signal and satellite modes on the 2m and 70cm bands was limited to a few contacts this year. I did make my first contacts through LEO Satellites in 2014.

We

Our 2014 QSOs By Mode

Our 2014 QSOs By Mode

We mostly operated in the SSB phone mode in 2014. Anita and I both continue to work on our CW skills and we managed a little over 800 QSOs using CW in 2014. Anita was very active in the RTTY mode as part of her RTTY contesting efforts.

K2K New Hampshire QSL!

13 Colonies K2K New Hampshire QSL!

All of this operating resulted in quite a bit of QSL activity. We sent a total of almost 4,200 QSL cards in 2014!

We again made a video showing all of our contacts around the world in 2014. As you can see from the video, we were fortunate to work quite a bit of DX in 2014.

6M VUCC Operating Award

Fred’s 6M VUCC Operating Award

All of this operating helped Anita and me to make some progress on operating awards this year. In addition to earning a 6M VUCC, I also completed a Worked All States Award on all 9 HF bands 160m-10m. I was also able to complete several nice regional operating awards (Worked All Europe TOP Plaque, Worked All VK Call Areas and Worked All Africa) as well upgrading my DXCC Challenge Award to the 1,500 Band Country level. Anita completed her JARL JCC Award (she worked 100+ Cities in Japan) as well as her Worked All States Triple Play Award (all states on SSB, CW and Digital via LoTW).

Anita and I had a lot of fun with Amateur Radio in 2014. We are looking forward to another great year of HAM Radio fun in 2015. We hope to share some of what we learn and our experiences with our readers here on our Blog.

– Fred (AB1OC)