My amateur radio highlights of the year

Lee, G0MTN used to publish his excellent ‘Review of the Year’ on the UK-Contest reflector. Hopefully he still does, I’m long gone from that reflector (and all others!). It’s a fun thing to do and I have been thinking over the last few days about my Amateur Radio Highlights of the Year.

1. JT65
If you’ve seen my posts recently you’ll see that I have been very active on JT65 on HF using the W6CQZ JT65-HF software. It’s excellent for working DX with low power. And actually I get just as much satisfaction from working a station using something like a loft dipole, knowing that on any other mode, I would struggle to make the contact. It’s a very relaxing mode too, also ideal for those late night contacts without keeping other occupants of the house awake.

Having seen how effective JT65 is on HF, I really want to try it on VHF. But that’s something for 2012.

2. The 50/144/432MHz collinear
The aerial was installed in April and it has given me a new perspective on 144 and 433MHz in particular. There have been plenty of surprises about how much variation there is on a day-to-day basis in terms of propagation. There have been some exceptional contacts and loggings too; a repeater from Norway completely out of the blue on 144MHz as well as more recently a 144MHz FM contact to the South of France.

On 50MHz during this year’s Es season, the antenna worked out well with many contacts being made.

3. 28MHz
During the summer the new Anytone AT5555 proved great fun with low power with the Es propagation. And earlier in the year, my bike ride portable operations with the FT817 and a simple antenna were always interesting.

In the autumn it was a real surprise and pleasure to find the band so good for worldwide DX again.

4. Practical Wireless
Being part of the team and writing for PW is great fun and I’ve enjoyed every column and review in different ways. It’s been great to engage with the contributors and find out what interests them. Thanks to Rob, Tex and the team in Poole for making it such a great experience.

5. Memorable contacts
Hard to single them out as there’s always something interesting in each contact. But a few contacts of different types spring to mind quickly:

The contacts that come out of apparently nowhere! Being fascinated by radio propagation, it’s magical to me how signals can come up out of noise and then fade back down again (hopefully having been worked in between); 9H1BT on 50Mhz late one May evening, EA1FDI on 144MHz in August, HB10K on 144MHz on a September evening, F4FGB worked on 144MHz FM via a repeater in the South of France and F5ICN on 144MHz SSB from the South of France more recently. Earlier this week, working Rene DL6NAA on 144 and 432MHz was really pleasing.

JT65 has been quite a mind shift for me. Working W7YES from the west coast with just a few watts on 28MHz as well as KP4ED on 3.5MHz JT65 on a noisy winter’s evening were QSOs that I know I would have struggled to make on other modes.

Of course it was good to work some real DX; my friends at T32C on the other side of the world did a wonderful job and it was great to work them with no hassle on 10 and 24MHz CW. In September, I realised that 28MHz was back in business when I worked NE0X with a huge signal on CW early one evening.

It’s no longer all about DX for me though. Working Larry G4OXY on 70MHz FM via the Tring parrot was great. We used to work on 50MHz when Larry was in Portishead and I was in Cheltenham back in the mid 1980s, so there was much to catch up on! Likewise with Mattias DH3NAN who I worked recently on 144MHz SSB – we remembered QSOs from the SquareBashers 1985 expedition to IN79 square GB2XJ.

I always enjoy radio contacts with my Twitter friends, so it was really good to chat with Jerry KD0BIK from Denver on D-STAR. Rob M0VFC persuaded me onto 18MHz SSB for the first time in many a year when the Camb-Hams were operating from St Pierre et Miquelon – that was a fun QSO.

D-STAR provides the ability to make some nice QSOs across the world or closer to home and I particularly enjoyed a lovely QSO one August morning with Rod G3TXA on the Isle of Wight and another QSO with old friend Gordon G8PNN in Northumberland.

All in all, an enjoyable year on the radio. Always something new and interesting to try and fascinating people to talk to. 2012 will mark the start of my 30th year on the air. Short compared to some – but a hobby has to be good to keep you keen after 30 years, doesn’t it?

Tim Kirby, G4VXE, is a regular contributor to and writes from Oxfordshire, England. Contact him at [email protected].

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