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  But the reply is usually, why ham radio – isn’t that outdated technology?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.

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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

 

Thanksgiving Weekend NPOTA Fun


operating-from-truck

Fred, AB1OC, Operating Mobile in Minuteman National Historical Park, HP27

With only 1 month to go in the ARRL NPOTA event and some free time this Thanksgiving weekend, Fred and I decided to hit the road with our Mobile HF Station to activate some new parks.    We activated two nearby parks, each less than 1 hour away from our home,  Lamprey Wild and Scenic River,  WR23, near Epping, NH, and Minuteman National Historical Park, HP27, near Concord, MA.    There were close to 900K QSOs made overall in the NPOTA program as of Thanksgiving day and we also wanted to help the cause to get to 1 Million NPOTA QSOs by year’s end.

lamprey-river-wsr-map

Map of Lamprey Wild and Scenic River

On Saturday, we drove to Epping, NH, where we activated Lamprey Wild and Scenic River. It was a rainy day, but we still enjoyed the scenic drive along the river. We drove along the river until we found a place by the river to park and operate. The bands were not great, with a K-index of 4 and a high A-index. Despite the conditions, our activation was a success. We operated on both 20m and 40m SSB and made a total of 307 QSOs over 3 hours.

minute-man-area

View of Countryside in Minute Man National Historical Park

I work in Burlington, MA and often travel between Burlington and Waltham, MA for meetings.  Each time I passed by Lexington on I-95 I saw the sign for Minute Man NHP and thought it would be fun to do a NPOTA activation from there.  We activated the park on Saturday. We entered the park from the Concord, MA end and were pleasantly surprised to see some nice countryside in the middle of a suburban area of Massachusetts, not far from Boston.

mobile-logging

AB1QB logging for AB1OC/M during the NPOTA activation.

We operated from a parking lot in the park from mid afternoon until dark.  The bands were a little better on Saturday and we were able to get 239 contacts into the log, mostly US but also worked stations from Spain, Jamaica, Aruba and Puerto Rico.

We have enjoyed activating 8 National Parks so far in the NPOTA event.  We are planning another activation between Christmas and New Years of multiple parks before the end of the event on December 31.

NPOTA Fun – Activating a New Park


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Eastern Branch of the Penobscot River in Katahdin Woods and Waters NM

Ever since we built our Mobile HF Station, we’ve talked about taking it to Acadia National Park in Maine and operating from the top of Cadillac Mountain.  The 2016 ARRL NPOTA event gave us the motivation to plan the trip for the week before Labor Day.    The week before our trip, we saw an article in the ARRL Letter encouraging operation from the newly declared National Monument, Katadhin Woods and Waters in Maine, which had just be designated as NPOTA MN84.  Visiting the NPS website, we learned that the park is only a 2 1/2 hour drive from Bar Harbor, where we are staying.  We decided to accept the challenge to be the first to activate the new park.

Mobile HF In Park 1

Our F150 Mobile Station at the entrance to Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

Tuesday August 30 was our first full day of vacation, we left our hotel room and parked by the Acadia visitor center and called “CQ National Parks”.   We ended up with 76 contacts in the log from NP01.

After that we got on the road and headed toward Katadhin Woods and Waters, activating counties along the way including the county line between Penobscot and Aroostook Counties.

MN84 Map

NPS Map of the Park

As a newly designated National Monument, Katadhin Woods and Waters does not yet have a visitors center or any signs showing you when you enter and exit the park.  We just had the map (above) to determine where the park boundaries were.    All of the roads in black on the map are gravel roads that are also used for logging trucks.

Katahdin Woods Sign 1

Entrance to Kadahdin Woods and Waters National Monument

We entered the park from Swift Brook Road off Rt 11 in the lower right corner of the map.  We drove through the lower section by the entrance and then headed north along the Eastern Branch of the Penobscot River and operated near the Loos camping area.   The sign above confirmed that we were within the park boundaries.

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Scenic View of Katahdin Woods and Waters NM

The scenery along the river was beautiful with views of the mountains in the distance.

Mobile HF In Park 3

Operating at MN84

We started operating on 20m and the pileups were huge!  Everyone was excited to get this new NPOTA into the log.  Fred, AB1OC/M ended up going split on 20m due to the size of the pileups.  After a while, he moved to 40m to give the close in folks a chance at MN84.  We went back and further between 20m and 40m until the pileups thinned out.   We also made 18 QSOs with the club callsign N1FD to also give the club credit for the activation.  We really enjoyed activating the park and the people we talked to were great!  We made a total of 350 QSOs from MN84.

National Park Yes!

Friendly Sign at Katahdin Woods and Waters NM

We also plan to activate Acadia National Park NP01 again from Cadillac Mountain this week. We will also activate Saint Croix Island, HS01 and Roosevelt Campbello International Park, AA21 in Canada (as AB1OC/VE9 and AB1QB/VE9).

Activating MN84 for the first time was truly a memorable experience.  We enjoyed it so much we will be back on Saturday to give more NPOTA chasers a chance at MN84!  Hope to talk to you on the air!

You can read more about our Mobile HF station and Mobile HF operations here on our Blog.

73,

Anita, AB1QB

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)

Mobile HF And Station Building Presentations At The 2015 Boxboro Hamfest


Saturday Forum Schedule

2015 Boxboro Hamfest – Saturday Forum Schedule

It is once again time for the New England Regional Hamfest. The convention will be held in Boxboro, Massachusetts this weekend and will feature a great presentation and forum schedule, a large vendor exhibit area and a HAM Flea Market.

Sunday Forum Schedule

2015 Boxboro Hamfest – Sunday Forum Schedule

We will be doing presentations at Boxboro on two of the most popular topics that we write about here on our Blog – Mobile HF Station Building and Amateur Radio Station Design and Construction.

Mobile HF Presentation

Mobile HF  Station Building and Operation Presentation

Our articles on Mobile HF Station Building have become quite popular and we will be doing a presentation on this topic on Saturday at 11 am local time.

Mobile HF Car Installation

Mobile HF Car Installation

We continue to add new material to our presentations and the Mobile HF talk will include new material on a Dave, N1RF’s recent installation of a top-notch mobile HF station in a car.

Station Building Presentation

Amateur Radio Station Design and Construction Presentation

We will also be doing a talk on Amateur Radio Station Design and Construction at 4 pm on Saturday.

Remote Operation Preview

Remote Operation Preview

We constantly update the material in this presentation and this version will include a preview of a new project to enhance our station – a Remote Operating Gateway based upon a FlexRadio 6000 Series SDR.

We hope to see many of our friends and readers in the region at Boxboro this year. If you have a minute, stop by the forums and say hello.

– Fred (AB1OC)

Mobile HF – Our Counties Tour From New Hampshire To Dayton, Ohio And Back


2015 Dayton, OH County Tour

2015 Dayton, Ohio County Tour

We had a lot of fun during our 2015 Dayton US Counties Tour from our home in New Hampshire to the 2015 Dayton HAMvention and back. The trip involved a total of 5 days of driving and covered about 2,000 miles – giving our Mobile HF station quite a workout. We ended up activating 98 unique US Counties and we made 1,226 contacts during the trip. We mostly operating using the Nashua Area Radio Club’s call, N1FD/M. We spent most of our time on the County Hunter’s frequencies on 20m and 40m and the Net Control folks there provided a great deal of help in making our operation effective and efficient. We worked both bands in most Counties to try to give folks that were both close in and some distance away a chance to contact us.

Near The Line Between Blair and Cambria Counties in PA

Near The Line Between Blair and Cambria Counties in PA

We tried to activate some of the most needed Counties along our route. We had the most activity when we were in Blair and Cambria Counties in PA. These were two Counties that were needed by quite a few folks.

On The Fulton And Montgomery County Line In New York

On The Fulton And Montgomery County Line In New York

We learned that one can be quite popular with County Hunters by activating two Counties at the same time. To do this properly, one must park the vehicle on the county line with one set of wheels in each county as shown in the picture above. Operating in this ways allows folks to gain credit for two counties via a single contact.

On A Hilltop In Hampshire County Massachusetts

Dirt Lane On A Hilltop In Hampshire County Massachusetts

We spent quite a bit of time finding good locations to activate the rarer counties that we were in. This involved driving down dirt roads and “getting off the beaten path” quite a bit.

The County Hunter folks who worked us were great and some become fast friends during the trip. Several folks worked us more the 30 times during our trip.

N1FD QSL Card

N1FD/M QSL Card

We have already begun to receive QSL card requests for the contacts that we made during our trip. A Counties Tour is a great activity for a Mobile HF operator. It makes the time on a long drive go by very fast and can generate some great Mobile HF operating time. We are looking forward to finding another opportunity to do a County Tour again in the future.

– Fred (AB1OC/M)