GB2FFC – JOTA 2014

Last weekend South Kesteven Amateur Radio Society (SKARS) operated the GB2FFC special event station at the First Foston Scout Group for the 2014 Jamboree on the Air (JOTA) weekend.

JOTA is an annual event in which Scouts and Guides all over the world make contact with each other by means of amateur radio, giving them an opportunity to experience wireless communication and electronics.


This was a first for both SKARS and the Scout group and we set up a SSB voice station and a data mode station primarily running PSK. The QTH was the Scout hut in the village of Foston, between Newark-on-Trent and Grantham (IO92PX)

Nigel (M0CVO) and Sean (M6ENN) ran the SSB voice station as well as supervising the popular Morse key trainer. This allowed the children to tap out their names using a crib sheet and gave them a certificate to acknowledge their achievement. Working voice proved challenging due to the high noise level in the hut due to the other scout activities. Despite this they still managed to work stations mainly on 20 and 40m. Nigel ran a Kenwood TS-480SAT into one of his own M0CVO DBD-2040 loaded dipoles at approximately 100W



I operated the data station consisting of my FT-857D and interfaces connected to a laptop running PZTLog feeding a M0CVO Magitenna at 30W. I also had my Czech morse key connected to the TR9500 acting as a sounder and they really like the military style key.

Explaining the PSK datamode and what the program was doing to young children was quite challenging. The Scout group were also running JOTI (Jamboree on the Internet) which consisted of laptops running an IRC chat application allowing world wide groups to talk to each other so the distinction between that and the slower PSK station was a bit difficult for some of them to grasp. Thankfully there were two very intelligent and enthusiastic Scouts who got the idea and understood the QSO process and were soon explaining it to the other Scouts leaving me free to type and push the macro buttons. One of them described it as 'awesome!'



GB2FFC ran from 09:00-15:00 UTC on the Saturday and 12:00-15:00 UTC on the Sunday and made 88 QSOs in total, mostly other amateurs but we did manage a number of other JOTA stations in both modes. The whole event was great fun and we were made very welcome by the Scout group. The enthusiasm was infectious so hopefully it will be the start of a regular annual club event helping out the Scouts for JOTA - plans were already being sketched out for next year, maybe involving camping!

Here are the PSK QSO maps for the weekend. Saturday was on 20m and 15m and were just European, Sunday I was operating mostly on 10m hoping for some transatlantic contacts, and did make a couple in the short time we had - didn't quite manage to connect with some South American and Asian stations but they could be seen and decoded to the delight of the children.

 

Andrew Garratt, MØNRD, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from East Midlands, England. Contact him at [email protected].

’29 Style Transmitters…What To Build? – Part 1

Most hams in the late 20's and early 30's seemed to be using simple transmitters...one or two tubes at the most. No doubt the poor economics of the time made it difficult to build anything really elaborate but it didn't seem to stop them from getting on the air with whatever they could put together.
New rules for amateur radio signal stability came into effect in 1929, making that a pivotal year for amateurs, resulting in several new ideas for 'modern' transmitters hitting the publications of the day.

All of the simpler, one-tube transmitters, were self-excited oscillators capable of pretty good sounding signals when operated correctly and when the wind wasn't blowing the antenna around. Being directly-coupled to the antenna meant that any variations in antenna impedance caused by antenna wire movements, would result in  the note rising or falling in frequency by several hertz with the resultant 'musical-sounding' note. You can usually hear lots of these during the windy winter BK Party!

From what I can determine, the most popular first-time transmitter was the one-tube TNT (Tuned-Not-Tuned) style as it could usually be built with parts stripped from an old broadcast receiver. 


With a low parts-count, it was easy on the pocketbook. The grid coil was broadly resonant near the plate circuits frequency, resulting in enough feedback to sustain oscillation. The grid coil really needs to be optimised (a simple procedure) for peak efficiency and note quality. You can listen to the note quality on my own TNT while transmitting on 40m.

The Hartley oscillator is just as easy on the pocketbook as the TNT, and in the opinion of most, capable of an even better-sounding note once properly optimized.


This transmitter is optimized for best note-quality and plate efficiency by finding the correct tap point on L1. Hear my own Hartley's tone while transmitting on 160m.

The third common transmitter of the early 30's was the TPTG (Tuned-Plate-Tuned-Grid).


The TPTG style is a step-up from the TNT and similar in design. Although the added expense of a second variable capacitor made it less popular than the previous two styles, optimizing performance was somewhat easier since the grid circuit could be more readily adjusted for the oscillator's 'sweet-spot' without having to add or remove turns on the grid coil.

All of the triodes mentioned in my previous blog will work well in the above circuits. Keying is normally accomplished as shown below, by connecting the balanced filament resistor on the directly-heated cathode to ground.


It is important to know that construction need not be fancy to get on-the-air for the BK and there is no reason why modern components cannot be used, along with the era-appropriate tube. If you're still undecided, I'll give you some building details to consider next.

Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

Interesting discussion

going on over at QRP-L about portable antennas.  The catalyst for the "debate" is this article.

http://www.sotabeams.co.uk/blog/5-most-popular-hf-portable-antennas/

Lot's of good input by lots of people who know what they are talking about.  And as always, for portable operations (my emphasis), it seems to boil down to efficiency vs. ease of use.

Both Steve Weber KD1JV and Ron Polytika WB3AAL, who have done a lot of operating from the Appalachian trail, point out that while classic dipoles may be the most efficient antenna to use, there are practical logistical problems associated with them.  There may not always be trees available, and even when there are trees available, there may be so many and so close together, that hoisting up a dipole may not be practical.  I have to agree with Steve that hoisting a dipole or doublet in the classic sense, in a portable situation (especially when you are by yourself) can be an experiment in frustration.

Steve is a proponent of the End Fed Half Wave, while Ron likes a version of the portable vertical that he has designed and yields quite acceptable results for him.  I have used both and personally prefer the end fed wire for the ease of deployment. Don't get me wrong. I have verticals antennas and love them. My Butternut at home and my Buddistick on top of the Jeep have both done very well for me.  But as always, the ground plane is crucial.  Close to 60 radials at home and the Jeep's metal body acting as a ground plane for the Buddistick make all the difference in the world.

The thing that surprises me though, is that when speaking of dipoles or doublets, everyone always seems to think of them in the classic flat top or Inverted Vee configuration, which of course, requires three supports. I have used doublets, such as the NorCal doublet as a sloper and as a vertical dipole with a modicum of success.  My first Flight of the Bumblebees effort used the NorCal Doublet as a sloper and I was quite pleased with the results.

What it boils down to, of course, is that you have to try different things and see what works best for you. There is no single correct answer to the question of  "What is the best portable antenna?" What will work in one situation may be totally unsuitable for another.  No archer carries only one arrow in his quiver.  Hams who are adroit in portable operations always seem to be carry more than one antenna configuration into the field with them, as long as they meet the requirements for portability and ease of use. And I think all Hams who love portable operations are on a constant quest for the "Holy Grail", an antenna that is lightweight, quick and easy to deploy, and will work as many bands as possible.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Larry Makoski, W2LJ, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Jersey, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

Disturbing the Force

Smartphones keep getting bigger. Out of the noise about the rising popularity of phablets, one notable observation bubbled to the surface, and that by tech pundit and radio amateur Leo Laporte, W6TWT. Laporte likes the large phones and when chided that it would appear he was holding a waffle to his head when making a telephone call he responds, “who uses a smartphone to make telephone calls anymore?”

That sounds funny, and seems to go against the grain, however, it’s spot on accurate. We very rarely use mobile devices to “talk” with someone after the manner of the ancient rotary phone. We send texts, photos, and Tweet’s. We Facetime, Hangout, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Fact is, we do almost everything with our mobile devices EXCEPT use them as wireless telephones. It’s not a telephone, it’s a personal communicator and the demand for larger screens simply reflects the rapid changes we observe in the way we communicate with each other in the 21st century.

I find that notable because there’s an oddity in the ham radio world that might be explained by it.

Contest organizers and RBN data detectives tell us that CW activity has been on the rise for nearly a decade. We can infer by the increase in QST advertising of paddles, keys, and other such devices that the sale of Morse instruments is at nearly a fever pitch. And yet, despite that, you talk to guys who live in the code trenches and they will lament the serious lack of activity. Sure, some of that may just be the imagination of old men who dream of the better day that never really was, but that doesn’t negate the many credible observations that casual CW use, especially rag chewing, is getting harder to come by.

So what’s really happening?

Hard to say for certain but there is one possibility that would explain the observed rise and fall, at the same time, of CW. It is possible that the way we communicate in the new age has changed from the way we used to do it. The efficacy of CW is legendary and highly advantageous in a contest or when chasing DX. It’s just possible that we’re using CW more for short, rapid exchanges of information — and less for casual operation.

This would explain why the RBN is telling us one thing (way more CW activity) while the good old boys who do nothing but pound the brass tell us something different (CW is dying). Both are right, and wrong. (I told you it was an oddity).

It also explains why way back in our long ago a spiral bound ARRL logbook would last an entire year or more while these days, many of the brethren are putting 2,000 Q’s in the log over a good weekend.

Short, rapid fire CW exchanges = text messaging. Get used to it. Besides, who needs to be loquacious in the 21st century?

(But if you really want to chew the rag using CW, meet me on 7.120 and we’ll do it 20th century style!)

OMG WTF? LOL 73


Filed under: Ham Radio Tagged: cw, ideas

Jeff Davis, KE9V, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Indiana, USA.

Over The Moon – M0NRD


I now have a full licence and a new call sign M0NRD.

I sat the advanced level examination held during the RSGB Convention on the 12th October. The results were due at least six working days later so wasn't expecting to know how I had done till this week so I surprised when the certificate arrived on Saturday morning and was over the moon to discover I'd passed with a distinction.

I only decided to apply to sit the exam last month. Regular readers may have missed the announcement as it was an after thought at the end of another post.

I became a licensed ‘foundation level’ radio amateur last September (M6GTG) and an ‘intermediate’ (2E0NRD) in May this year. It was a bit of a bold decision to attempt the final stage as I hadn't been actively studying for it. There have been many people who have progressed in a shorter time but going through the levels in just thirteen months is a big undertaking especially when time and concentration is taken up with work, career and domestic commitments.

After a cursory glance at the syllabus and a quick leafing through the RSGB Advance! book I had decided while there were quite a few areas that I didn't know in depth the electronics theory and mathematics were okay due to my higher education background (though it has been 26 years since I left University) so I just needed to fill in the blanks.

After posting off the application the plan had been to spend the month going through the book, learning, refreshing and revising the subjects as necessary. Of course I got sidetracked and distracted so it got left it to the last minute, well in fact to the week before the exam.

As soon as I started studying properly I soon realised I'd seriously underestimated the amount of details and facts that I need to understand and recall. I knuckled down and despite doing full days at work I studied in the evenings, making notes, working the questions on the Hamtests website and in the QADV program and gained confidence of getting at least the 60% pass rate. I tested myself on the QADV practice papers and mock papers on the RSGB website and seemed ready.  

I had intended to be at the RSGB Convention proper however I agreed instead to spend that weekend at the Mother-in-laws in Cambridge and drove over to Milton Keynes in thick fog on the Sunday morning.

The actual exam seemed reasonable there were a few head scratchers and several questions on topics I suddenly found myself unsure of. I took my time deliberating and checked every single 'licence condition' question against the supplied licence document even if I thought I knew the answer. Double and triple checking questions, values, calculations and answers and with 10 minutes of the alloted time remaining I had filled in the marking sheet and made a quick exit in time to get my Sunday roast dinner.

I had left confident and reasonably happy but over the next few days doubt inevitably started setting in. I kept remembering questions.. had I got that one wrong? I resisted the temptation to check the text book and keep thinking well it is only 60% I need...

To achieve a distinction was very satisfying, a lot of people have said they expected me to walk it but self doubt and a lack of self confidence is something I have suffered from for many years. When I was a spotty student I would probably have agreed but now an overweight, slightly befuddled middle aged man with greying hair you do have your doubts.

I would like to thank all those people who have congratulated me and those who have encouraged me along the way and wish everyone studying and taking the exam in the future the best of luck.

Andrew Garratt, MØNRD, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from East Midlands, England. Contact him at [email protected].

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