WAE from the Railroad Station (QRP)

Judy and I rode our bicycles from Andover to the Potter Place railroad station. I operated in the Worked All Europe contest and managed 9 countries in 20 minutes. The weather was perfect and 20 meters was in good shape.

What a day for a bike ride… a perfect August afternoon. It was nearly 80F with a nice breeze. We arrived at Potter Place around 3:00 pm. I tossed a half wave wire over a maple tree on the hill over looking the old station. There was a picnic table directly underneath. I used the KX3 on 20 meters.

The band was full of stations operating in the WAE contest. I had no trouble making contacts. I’ve changed my log to show the countries worked.

13 Aug-17 1925 14.041 SN7Q CW 599 599 Poland
13 Aug-17 1927 14.036 OM3RM CW 599 599 Slovak Rep
13 Aug-17 1928 14.031 RU1A CW 599 599 Russia
13 Aug-17 1930 14.030 DM6V CW 599 599 Germany
13 Aug-17 1933 14.030 HG5F CW 599 599 Hungary
13 Aug-17 1935 14.019 S500R CW 599 599 Slovenia
13 Aug-17 1936 14.021 DP6A CW 599 599 Germany
13 Aug-17 1938 14.023 R6AF CW 599 599 Russia
13 Aug-17 1942 14.033 ED2A CW 599 599 Spain
13 Aug-17 1944 14.039 YO9HP CW 599 599 Romania
13 Aug-17 1945 14.043 9A1AA CW 599 599 Croatia

After nearly a dozen QSOs, I packed up for the return ride. The results from operating QRP out of a backpack with a short wire must be the closest thing to pure magic. Combined with a glorious bike ride… well… it’s fantastic!

Jim Cluett, W1PID, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Hampshire, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

Ham Cram Offering Free Extra Course Online

Ham Cram is accepting registrations for an online guided-study Extra Class licensing course. The course begins in late September and is co-sponsored by the Gloucester County Amateur Radio Club, GCARC.

The W1UL ham cram method has four distinguishing characteristics:

  • Incorrect answers are not studied
  • Only those questions most likely to be on the VE test are studied
  • It’s the fastest and most reliable path to a license or upgrade
  • It’s free!

This course differs substantially from the normal Ham-Cram.com independent study license prep because the Extra class pool is 50% larger than the Technician or General Class pools, making associations between question and answers more difficult. In addition the Extra subject material is more challenging.

A required book is offered for free but donations are requested. The donations will be exclusively used to enhance the ham-cram.com website. The purpose of the book is showing pool questions and answers in context.

Here is the normal (non-context) display:

(E0A05) What is one of the potential hazards of using microwaves in the amateur radio bands?

The high gain antennas commonly used can result in high exposure levels

The answer follows the question.

Here is the same question in context:

(E0A05) What is one of the potential hazards of using microwaves in the amateur radio bands?

An antenna creates by taking energy that would normally radiate from the side or back of the antenna and concentrating it in the desired direction. Microwave frequencies have exceptionally short wavelength allowing development of antennas having substantially higher amounts of radiation (gain) raising the effective radiated power in the desired direction.

Contextual usage does not make you an expert but it gives you additional insight into the question and answer pair.
Candidates complete and report on their results of assignments and participate in discussions on a dedicated email reflector. The pace of the course is initially targeted at one subelement (out of 10) per week but actual progress depends upon the pace of candidate assignment completion.

For those with commuting distance of the GCARC clubhouse in Mullica Hill, NJ (across the river from Philadelphia), the course will terminate with a two hour review session immediately followed by a VE test. However, W1UL will conduct a review session and VE test for any club in the ARRL SNJ section or any location within 70 miles of Tuckerton, NJ provided there are at least three candidates, (not all necessarily from the same club), a club furnished location for the review/VE session and the club provides two additional Extra class VEs. For people not in the Southern NJ area the email reflector used for the rest of the course will host the review.

Reserve a virtual seat for the course now since reservations may be limited.

Email urb at ham-cram dot com with reservations request and questions.

73 Urb W1UL – 67 Years a Ham

Urb LeJeune, W1UL, is the creator of Ham-Cram, a ham radio test preparation website. He writes from New Jersey, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

Calling Olivia-mode Operators (from All Regions)

Calling all Olivia-mode operators with experience using the Olivia digital mode in all areas of the world:

Please join our Facebook group at the following link. We are discussing important operational changes!

If you are on Facebook, and interested in the Olivia HF radioteletype chat mode, please join the community group at the following link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/olivia.hf/

If you want to join our discussion by way of the Olivia group on Groups.io, please feel free to spread the news, and also to subscribe to that group email reflector. We’ll start discussions, soon. Here’s the link: https://groups.io/g/Olivia

OLIVIA (Also, Olivia MFSK) is an amateur digital radioteletype mode designed by Pawel Jalocha, SP9VRC, starting in 2003, and in use by 2005. The Olivia-mode goal was to be effective even in poor propagation conditions on the high frequencies (shortwave).

OLIVIA can decode well under noise, propagational fading (QSB), interference (QRM), flutter caused by polar path propagation and even auroral conditions and sporadic-E. Olivia uses a 7-bit ASCII alphabet. There were a handful of amateur digital modes that were derived from Olivia, including RTTYM and PAX.

Outside of amateur radio two-way communication, this mode is utilized during the tests run by the VoA every weekend. See the VoA RadioGram website, VoARadiogram.net, for the schedule.

The Olivia QSO between K4SOL and NW7US 20170806 @1410UTC

The Olivia QSO between K4SOL and NW7US using 16/500 mode settings on shortwave, 2017-AUG-06 @1410UTC

The first on-the-air tests were performed by two radio amateurs, Fred OH/DK4ZC and Les VK2DSG on the Europe-Australia path in the 20-meter amateur band. The tests proved that the protocol works well and can allow regular intercontinental radio contacts with as little as one watt RF power. Since 2005 Olivia has become a standard for digital data transfer under white noise, fading and multipath, flutter (polar path) and auroral conditions.

Voluntary channelization

Since Olivia signals can be decoded even when received signals are extremely weak, (signal to noise ratio of -14 dB), signals strong enough to be decoded are sometimes below the noise floor and therefore impossible to search for manually.

As a result, amateur radio operators have voluntarily decided upon channelization for this mode. This channelization allows even imperceptibly weak signals to be properly tuned for reception and decoding. By common convention amateur stations initiate contacts utilizing either the 16/500 or 32/1000 modes and then switch to other modes to continue the conversation. The following table lists the common center frequencies used in the amateur radio bands.

The traditional channels are now under heavy use by newer modes. Thus, this Olivia group is working on refiguring the strategy for continued use and channelization. Please join us for discussion.


Thank you,

Tomas / NW7US

Tomas Hood, NW7US, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Nebraska, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

ICQ Podcast Episode 245 – Youth on the Air (YOTA) 2017

In this episode extra episode, Martin M1MRB / W9ICQ and Martin Rothwell M0SGL visit the YOTA 2017 event at Gilwell Park to talk to the participants, organisers and volunteers at this year's event.

We would like to thank our monthly and annual donors for keeping the podcast advert free. To donate, please visit - http://www.icqpodcast.com/donate

Colin Butler, M6BOY, is the host of the ICQ Podcast, a weekly radio show about Amateur Radio. Contact him at [email protected].

ICQ Podcast Episode 245 – Youth on the Air (YOTA) 2017

In this episode extra episode, Martin M1MRB / W9ICQ and Martin Rothwell M0SGL visit the YOTA 2017 event at Gilwell Park to talk to the participants, organisers and volunteers at this year's event.

We would like to thank our monthly and annual donors for keeping the podcast advert free. To donate, please visit - http://www.icqpodcast.com/donate

Colin Butler, M6BOY, is the host of the ICQ Podcast, a weekly radio show about Amateur Radio. Contact him at [email protected].

AmateurLogic 107: FT8, Scope Kit, Pi Zero W

AmateurLogic.TV Episode 107 is now available for download.

Peter operates the new FT8 Digital Mode from Joe Taylor. Tommy builds the DSO138 Scope Kit. George discusses the Raspberry Pi Zero W. Wayne build an Antenna Tripod.



George Thomas, W5JDX, is co-host of AmateurLogic.TV, an original amateur radio video program hosted by George Thomas (W5JDX), Tommy Martin (N5ZNO), Peter Berrett (VK3PB), and Emile Diodene (KE5QKR). Contact him at [email protected].

What a Zoo!

The question I raised in my article about JT65’s success (“Who’s next?”) has already been answered: Joe Taylor. The same guy that brought us the JT mode of families has devised the mode FT-8, developed together with Steven Franke (K9AN). It’s basically turbo charged JT65, with a message length of only 12.64 seconds and transmission beginnings synced to the next 15 second interval. It’s not as sensitive as JT65, but that might change when a priori information is added at a later stage.

My version of WSJT-X was automatically updated to 1.8.0-rc1 on July 11th and just for fun I decided to check out if there was any FT-8 activity. There was: a couple of VKs and JAs. I was a bit surprised, because I had been monitoring FSQ which has been around for a while already and I couldn’t find any activity. FT-8 had only just been introduced so that was a good sign. It got even better when I noted some European stations popping up in the local evening. I tried my hand at making a QSO, but couldn’t get through, so my first ever FT-8 QSO was with HS7WMU from Thailand. The reason why I couldn’t get through became clear later: the delta loop for 6 meters was still hooked up to the rig! After switching to a proper antenna if became apparent that even my modest verticals didn’t have any problem in getting through to Europe. Even better, stations from the east coast of the US were also coming in fine early evening and I also had no problem working them. (Over here in Taiwan the eastern US is one of the more difficult regions of the world to work).

Over the course of the next few weeks I noticed a steady increase in the number of stations I could receive. The statistics page of pskreporter.info backs this up. As I write this the number of FT-8 spots over the last 2 hours outnumber the JT65 spots 2 to 1. JT9 has already been relegated to the margins, so it seems Amateur Radio’s new favourite mode has become FT-8.

I have always been critical of the JT modes, mainly because they reduce QSOs to a 599 exchange with no possibilities to engage in a more meaningful conversation. Plus, JT65 is boringly slow. So, how do I feel about FT-8? Well, it’s not slow at all. In fact, you don’t even have time to push the appropriate macro buttons on the screen, so let WSPR-X do all the work for you. Even answering a reply to your own CQ can be handled automatically, which frees your hands into doing something else (In my case practising guitar. I’m working on Lindsey Buckingham’s “Never Going Back Again“, but don’t expect any performance soon). Arm chair DXing but still no possibility to start a real conversation with the other party. Not great in my book.

Screen capture of WSJT-X with my first ever FT-8 QSO. Notice the checks with “Auto Seq” and “Call 1st”. Keep these on if you want smooth, automatically sequenced QSOs.

Still, I’ve been playing with FT-8 a lot and it is kind of fun. I normally only log some four hundred QSOs a year and in the last two years that has been reduced to forty or less. Honestly, till July 14 I only had 22 QSOs in my log for 2017. Now I’m way over 240 of which 212 are FT-8 QSOs. July 8th was the highlight so far: SSN of 11 and the K index only 1, so pretty good ionospheric conditions. Within 4.5 hours I worked 50 stations from 19 DXCC entities, working from the east coast to the west coast of the US (I added four new states for my WAS), then into Europe. I hardly had any time to put out CQs, because the next station was already calling me before the previous QSO was finished. The pass band on the scope was filled to the brim, when one anonymous ham sent out the cry that became the title of this post: “What a Zoo!”

Screen capture of pskreporter with all the stations I received on August 8 in the span of 4.5 hours.

He may have found it a zoo, but I like zoos, a lot. All joking aside, the one thing that really attracts me to FT-8 is the fact that you can do real time ionospheric observations. WSPR was meant for this, but the number of WSPR stations is too small and signals are too infrequent to be very accurate in my opinion. By constantly monitoring the FT-8 pass band I already noted a couple of sudden ionospheric disturbances and even a complete black out. Sometimes it only takes minutes for conditions to change from favourable to abismal and as a self reliant ham FT-8 is then a nice monitoring tool to have.

So apart from Antenna Summer, this has also become FT-8 Summer. Until the end of August (summer break) I will be active from 05 to 15 UTC most days, calling CQ a lot. I’m on 20 meters only, so if you see me on your waterfall there give me a call.

Hans "Fong" van den Boogert, BX2ABT, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Taiwan. Contact him at [email protected].

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