Field Day is once again happening later this month. Hearing everyone is a blast, no? Well, it might not be. Especially if it’s the ham at the table right next to you. The “sshh, sshh” sound of the CW op bleeding over into your SSB ban frequency or the nearby FT8 transmissions doing the same. But you’re forgetting the CW op hearing your voice signal peaks, too. Unless you’re listening to the monitor on FT8 (or other digital mode), you just might not reliably decode a QSO transmission. All in all, it’s just not the folks whom you want hear!
It might be time to include an HF bandpass filter system into your Field Day or other portable operation station(s). But what to do? Build a kit? Buy commercially assembled? Or some of both? This is the focus of my article that appears in the June issue of CQ Magazine.
I bought an HF BPF system covering 160-6 meters from an Australian company, VK-Amps, from their eBay store at a very good price. Here’s a picture of the assembly into a customized aluminum case on my workbench. I tested it for filter characterization comparison against N5DU’s DX Engineering’s comparable DXE-419 filter system. My portable ops team tested the two during the Mississippi QSO Party. How did it do? Take a look at CQ Magazine’s June issue!
Something that has made me drift into periods of wonder for a long time now is to look through the websites or other historical sources of radios and transceivers manufactured for amateur radio. By just perusing radios over a lengthy period of time, one can gauge how and when the hobby made changes in the technology. As the author William Faulkner has said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” If coverage of the 2022 Xenia Hamvention bone yard is any indication, Faulkner is indeed right about the technological past not even being past!
Anthropologists of technology tell us that:
Our technological change in transceiver technology lends itself to the social change in how we practice amateur radio. I’ll focus on just one element that has emerged in the last decade, the panadapter effect, in a later post. But for now, let’s just get a grasp of the bigger picture. For it may not be what you thought, if you’re a long-time amateur radio operator. The pending demographic changes that I’ve written about unmercifully suggest that some won’t see the changes that tech imposes on cultural shifts.
But technology moves onward. The changes that improvements and revolutionary creations do begat collective change, even if the past still is among us in terms of usage or just in our hearts and minds. Those images and feelings are demographically rooted, however, in the time in which our early years are imprinted in our memories.
It’s quite an amazing walk to just browse through the dates that radios in Rob Sherwood’s table of receiver tests were released to the market. I’ve put a simple time line page in the portfolio of Sherwood Tools for the viewer to easily do that. I’ve added links to pictures and details of each radio for a richer experience.
Return to the year you were licensed or got seriously interested in amateur radio. What’s the nearest year in Rob’s Table? What was the technology of that radio? What was your first transceiver? Locate your amateur radio life course regarding transceivers through Rob’s bench test list. Then, check out the other Sherwood Tools to see how it fits into the latest rigs.
After this new page was circulated by Twitter, I received this kind note from a popular SOTA award winner, Ed Durrant DD5LP in Germany:
While it did take a minute, the results are hopefully well worth it. But just taking the Sherwood Table and placing each radio into the year of market-entry, there is a look at over a half-century of technological advancement in this time line. How has it made us change our behavior in operating? How has it changed the organized hobby itself? And what will tomorrow bring? Go take a stroll through transceiver time here.
The old quote attributed to the iron man of baseball, Satchel Paige, about not looking back is what I thought of as I posted my latest page in my new Sherwood Tools section of the FoxMikeHotel.com website. The emergence of the premium HF transceiver is the focus of much discussion, rants and downright fistfights in the kitchen to paraphrase a research methods text. Such a topic is ripe for statistical analysis using best-available data. I’ve tried to do that in this new page of tools to use to shape your thinking about pulling the trigger on a premium HF transceiver. In this market? How could you not use all the evidence available to you?
The Sherwood Tables are the basis of that data with the addition of the market-entry price and year. The focus is: who invented the premium transceiver? Well, it wasn’t Hilberling although at $20,000 in 2021 US Dollars that might be a good guess. Head over to this page to see by clicking here.
If you’re heading to Hamvention, it might be a good time to check the graphics out before making a decision. If you’re sitting this one out, it’s a great time to review what I have posted there. I understand Rob NC0B will feature these tools at his talk—Transceiver Performance for the HF Contest and DX Operator— for Contest University.
The work that Rob Sherwood NC0B has contributed to the public over the past decade is unique and an amazing service to hams worldwide. I’m talking about, of course, his summary Table of receive bench tests published at this Sherwood Engineering website. He is independent so no one can think that advertising dollars could skew his assessments or how he presents them. As a CW contest operator, he is very clear that he sorts his table on the basis of what his experience and training has shown him to be the single most important measurement in his table: the narrow dynamic range.
I am not a CW operator or accomplished contester (lol) but enjoy the latter with my small team of fellow hams. But I am a statistician who likes to focus on problems where analytic tools can help foster a wider understanding of the data surrounding the problem area. So, working with Rob NC0B, I’ve created a set of “Sherwood Tools” to visualize his data as well as link them to a couple of other critical aspects of a rig purchase: market-entry price, consumer satisfaction, and the year the radio entered the market. These four vectors of data drive all of these tools, now available over at foxmikehotel.com.
The tools include a sortable Sherwood list where you can sort on any of the nine tests he publishes as well as the composite index of them that I created and included in my two-part NCJ articles in 2021. A set of 3D data visualizations are available to simultaneously view radios on four data elements (that does make it 4D, technically). Several graphs illustrate key aspects of the data, including how to not get tripped-up in the “ranking” of radios where the bench measurements are just not appreciably different. Seeing how the past 50 years of radios appearing in Rob’s Table have made a remarkable and clear progression toward the best receiver performance that modern test equipment can detect is in another tool. In addition, how the trend in getting a receive bang-for-the-buck has progressed over this 50 year period is there, too. Finally, I’ve used the industry-standard tool by Gartner, the Magic Quadrant, to help isolate radios in Rob’s Table that perform and are rated above average at various price points. I call these the Golden Quadrant Lists.
Rob NC0B has not endorsed these tools and neither have Scott K0MD or Bob K0NR. But all three have given advice and suggestions for how I’ve designed them for which I am very grateful. None should be held accountable for any mistake or result that the viewer may find there. I hope these Sherwood Tools are of use to viewers who are evaluating rigs. (They have been to me over the past two years of doing this research during which I’ve purchased two new HF rigs.) Making a written set of must-have features is a critical complement to these tools. Just like Smokey the Bear says: only you can put out forest fires. Only you can determine the feature-set and ergonomics to satisfy your use-case for a new radio!
I’m outlining a talk on the use of these tools should clubs wish me to visit with them via Zoom. See my contact tab above. I’m good on QRZed.
While I would love to think that in Wayne’s World, this article would be “excellent,” that’s for you to decide! In this month’s Practical Wireless magazine, my article, “Need a Hand? Or Six?,” is on the cover. Like many hams, soldering work on the bench takes many forms. A lot of that involves setup time to get the right tools in place to begin. I really like to minimize these things so that my limited time is spent goofing up a solder joint..uh, making good soldering joints…and getting things done.
I also have been immensely dissatisfied with the cheap “helping hands” devices found at every hamfest or rally I’ve attended. The magnifying glass tips over too easily, there’s really not enough “hands” to suit me, and if I drop it on my garage floor, it’s likely to shatter. So I was inspired by a previous article in the April 2021 PW about the fabrication of a jig to do SMD work by Michael Jones GW7BBY.
My “artisan” soldering platform is my current solution to having a rather full-featured 12″ square platform with numerous “hands” to hold parts for using my two hands for holding the soldering iron or gun and the solder thread. It’s an honor to publish in Practical Wireless, smartly edited by a world-class contest operator, Don Field G3XTT. His book on 6 meter operation was recently revised and it’s well worth reading before practicing the “magic” in the 50 mhz region!
Due to questions I’ve received during club talks to visualize all three dimensions of price, performance and satisfaction in HF rigs, I’ve assembled a 3D data cube (scatter plot) with these three measures together. This includes the composite Sherwood Receive Tests (SPI), price at market entry, and the eHam rating. The data cube points are color-shaded to reflect year-of-entry into the marketplace. These data are updated with Rob NC0B’s March 5, 2022 test data. A few (older) rigs without eHam ratings were removed.
Go to this link over at FoxMikeHotel.com to take a look. I may do some additional analyses in the near future so stay tuned if you’re interested in Rob’s work and related data.
Paying homage to the cultural icon and frequent use of the phrase, my latest Social Circuits column is now available over at foxmikehotel.com. I’ve analyzed ARRL membership numbers and licensed hams over the past two decades. The results show some surprises, both in the growth segments of ham licenses and in League numbers. But the most demonstrable finding is captured in the phrase, Elvis Has Left the Building…but in 2015. Go here to find out what this means and perhaps why.
Meanwhile, Elvis ain’t coming back. But the League might be on the incipient steps of doing just that. But the Reagan-esque phrase of tearing down walls that created the decline depends on the ARRL’s Chief Executive Officer. Read the column and see the numbers. It’s as clear as Elvis singing Blue Christmas…