We get all sentimental about the ARRL Founder, Hiram Percy Maxim. We probably should. But he’s only the titular leader of what became the amateur radio movement in the United States back in the early 1900’s. Did you know he didn’t found the ARRL by himself? Yea, and Joe Namath was not the only quarterback that the New York Jets drafted in 1965 either. Can you name the Heisman Trophy winner whom the Jets also drafted that year? Well, I taught a graduate course on the sociology of sport so I got a head start on you, perhaps. There was a co-founder of the American Radio Relay League. And there were many other early hams that gave life to this amazing hobby! I call them the Blue Collar Scholars who made the blue lightning pass the spark gap and set the foundation for ham radio to become what it is today.
It is also important for us to understand the blue collar scholars and pioneers in that movement as much as it is the role of Mr. Maxim. We may never know who the original ham operator was or if there was a single first op. And where was that movement birthed? It’s often said (and I did in a couple of books I wrote) that time cannot be fully understood without a consideration of space. Historians and geographers make very good bedfellows! So where in the world was Waldo…uh, the first ham operators?
I’ve been digging into that ever since a club in my state claimed to be the “oldest” one in Mississippi. Since they said in a brochure to have been started in 1949, I really doubted that this was an accurate statement. I checked into the first experimental licenses given through online libraries containing what was then the Federal Radio Commission records. Mississippi A&M (Now MSU) and the University of Mississippi each had one and a club to go with it. So those darn historical facts get in the way of perfectly good bragging sometimes. That memory gave me the intellectual itch to examine what we can know about the earliest hams in the U.S.
We can get a firm glimpse of who those early ham operators were by looking at FCC and ARRL records. The first Blue Book published by the FCC was in 1909. And, when Mr. Maxim and his co-conspirator founded the League, they published Issue 1 of the modest magazine, QST. In it, they also published a list of amateur operators with call “letters” (signs). Gosh, where were these people located in the United States? Where was Maxim living at the time? He died in Colorado and is buried in Maryland. But did he light the “spark” (pun intended) to the spark gap in his neck of the woods? Was it a widely spreading thing due to the newfangled “radio” (they had to invent a name for it) being in the newspapers from coast to coast and in other continents?
It is written here that Maxim may have spent some of this life on Third Street near Smith Street in Brooklyn NY. Today that might carry him right by the Ugly Baby Takeout and the Hannah Senesh Community Day School (see map excerpt):
Over at my companion website, foxmikehotel.com, I’ve posted a reasonable set of answers to these questions. And, an interactive map to see not only where the earliest record of licensed hams (that I could find thus far) were located and just how big were their coils? Some of them are noted to be KW in their capacity. (I wonder if those were in California, giving an historical grounding to that contemporary phrase, California Kilowatt!) I’ve looked at all of them and just wonder what things were like back then when they were learning to communicate through the ether, the first wireless capacity being developed by the grass roots efforts of both kids and grown ups.
They weren’t all boys and men (see, among others, here). Miss Kathleen Parkin was on the cover of The Electrical Experimenter magazine. She was called “youngest successful female applicant for a radio license ever examined by the Government at that time,” or as The Mary Sue blog says, “Parkin began her hobby at age five with her brother, and was the first woman in California to pass the first-class radio license.” They labeled her “a total badass.” I don’t disagree. One bit. She and her own “apparatus” is shown on the right. She started the itch for radio at age five with her brother. She was reportedly the “first and youngest successful female applicant for a radio license ever examined by the Government at that time.”
There is a graphic on the home page at foxmikehotel.com with a link to the page with a fuller story under the Maps tab. It’s called The Lost Tribes of U.S. Radio Amateurs. Were any in your area where you live today? Are you perhaps related to any of the original license holders? Isn’t it as important to know who some of these lost tribe members were, the ones who persevered into the night experiencing the propagation vagaries that we now predict (well, try to) with software? Without them, Maxim may just be known as the guy who developed a gun silencer and a few mufflers for the motorized horse.
I may continue to look at this, adding additional years to track and estimate the diffusion of this most important innovation of the last century. But for now, give the interactive map a go. You can reach me at my email for thoughts or suggestions. I’m good on QRZed.
Frank Howell, K4FMH, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Mississippi, USA. Contact him at [email protected].
Getting out on the road and exploring is always fun, especially if you have ham radio on board. Joyce/K0JJW and I have been doing quite a bit of travel lately and we just completed our longest road trip so far with our RV.
Our main destinations for the trip were four national parks: Congaree NP, Biscayne NP, Everglades NP, and Dry Tortugas NP. This determined the main route but we also found plenty of other things to do along the way. We started in Colorado, cut the corner across New Mexico into Texas, then east through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. Then we headed south to Florida and ended up in Key West. Our return trip followed the gulf coast back to Texas, then back home.
Planning a trip is full of trade-offs, so it is useful to have a general approach that the participants agree on. Our approach to this trip was to not drive too far every day but drive enough to hit the various places we wanted to visit. We are still working to find the right balance. This trip lasted 39 days, covering 6000 miles, which is about 150 miles per day. Some days we drove very little and other days were longer, maybe 400 miles.
Although the trip was created around the national parks, we filled in with interesting stops along the way. In particular, we like to camp at state parks: the campgrounds are great and there’s usually something interesting about the park to enjoy. And did I mention they are natural Parks On The Air (POTA) opportunities? We also tried to work in some Summits On The Air (SOTA) activations that are relatively easy to access.
Our recreational vehicle (RV) is a 2018 Winnebago Paseo, built on a Ford Transit chassis. We named her Rocky Victoria, using non-standard phonetics, but usually just refer to her as “Rocky”.
Compared to your typical car or SUV, this Class B RV is huge. Compared to other RVs, this vehicle is small, about 22 feet long, usually fits in a standard parking space. With all of the normal RV stuff installed (stove, microwave, sink, refrigerator, toilet/shower combo, bed, etc.) there is not a lot of room left for personal gear.
Rocky fits us really well because it is easy to drive, getting in and out of places without much hassle. Also, setup and tear-down time at a campsite is minimal. One limitation is poor ground clearance, which is fine for forest service roads in good condition but not appropriate for offroad use. This affects what SOTA and POTA activations we do.
We have an ICOM IC-2730A in Rocky, for normal 2m/70cm FM comms while running down the road. The antenna (not visible in the photo) is just a short whip on the driver’s side of the hood.
Rocky is not a big RV so by the time we load up all of our stuff, it is full. So the radio gear (and everything else we take along) must follow the backpacker principle of “take only what you need, use what you take.” No room for extra stuff you don’t use.
For this trip, we took along two ham stations: A basic VHF SOTA station and a capable, picnic-table POTA station.
VHF SOTA Station
The VHF SOTA station is very compact and easy to carry. It covers the 2m and 70cm bands on FM, which is usually sufficient for us. The RF output power is only 5W, so it does not have the punch of one of our higher power radios. Not a bad tradeoff though.
Two Yaesu FT-1DR 2m/70cm handheld transceivers
Arrow 3-element Yagi 2m antenna
Two RH 770 dualband SMA antennas
HT chargers and other accessories
Picnic Table POTA Station
The POTA station is built around the FT-991, which is a 100 watt transceiver (HF/VHF/UHF) that is reasonably compact. We use a 20 Ah LFP battery to power the radio so it is portable and independent of the RV power sources.
Yaesu FT-991 Transceiver (HF, 6m, 2m, 70cm)
End-fed halfwave antennas for 40m, 20m, 17m, 15m, 10m
Roll-up j-pole antenna for 2m/70cm
20-foot fishing pole to support antennas
Two 25-foot lengths of RG-8X coaxial cable
12V, 20 Ah LFP Battery (Bioenno Power)
The POTA station does a great job at a campsite, usually on a picnic table. The POTA station fits inside my Kelty backpack so it can be taken for a hike. It is a bit heavy for a typical SOTA summit but works OK for drive-up and short-hike summits. It can also be set up inside the RV if required.
Typically, we are going to try operating on 20m or 17m so that the halfwave antenna easily hangs from the fishing pole support. Depending on conditions, we often have to use 40m which takes a little more work to hang. Not a huge problem, though.
For portable operating, I’ve tended to use a variety of end-fed wire antennas supported by a non-conductive pole of various sizes. For this trip, we used a 7 meter (21 feet) telescoping fishing pole that collapses to about 30 inches. This pole will fit into my SOTA backpack.
To support the fishing pole directly from the RV, I attached a short length of plastic pipe to the ladder. It is a simple matter to slide the pole into pipe, resulting in the top of the pole being about 26 feet off the ground.
The combination of the two stations gives us a lot of options for ham radio operating.
Summits On The Air
We activated three summits along the way: Mount Scott (W5O/WI-002) in Oklahoma, Choctaw County HP (W5M/MS-001) in Mississippi, and Monte Sano Mountain (W4A/HR-002) near Huntsville, AL.
Monte Sano Mountain turned out to be a unique location because it is located in the Monte Sano State Park. The park surrounds the summit, which is broad and flat. We determined that the park campground is within the activation zone, so we camped there and did both SOTA and POTA activations.
Parks On The Air
We did a number of POTA activations along the way. This was done opportunistically, typically in the afternoon after we had set up our campsite. Our radio operating used SSB on 20m or 40m, along with a few 2m FM contacts.
K-0688 Lake Meredith National Recreation Area US-TX
K-1090 Lake Chicot State Park US-AR
K-1048 Monte Sano State Park US-AL
K-0017 Congaree National Park US-SC
K-1832 Anastasia State Park US-FL
K-0024 Everglades National Park US-FL
K-0635 St. George State Park US-FL
K-2992 Brazos Bend State Park US-TX
Every one of these activations was a lot of fun. There’s nothing like sitting outdoors in the sunshine working a pileup of enthusiastic POTA hunter stations.
In this post, I emphasized the ham radio activity during this trip. Radio operating was not our main goal but it was a big part of the overall experience. Joyce and I had a fantastic time touring this section of the country, and we are looking forward to our next trip.
73 Bob K0NR
Bob Witte, KØNR, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Colorado, USA. Contact him at [email protected].
I took a bike ride for the first time this year. I rode along the Pemigewasset River and worked Wisconsin and Florida. It was a glorious day.
Starting out at Shaw Cove, the water is much higher than usual. Buds are just beginning to show. The trail is strewn with debris from spring flooding. Tree branches block parts of the trail, but I can ride around it all. I head north a bit more than a mile and stop under a huge pine tree.
I brought a half-wave end-fed for 20 meters. The wire is about 30 feet long. I tossed it over a pine branch and set up the KD1JV Mountain Topper. The view is spectacular.
I sit on the ground with the Mountain Topper in front of me.
I’m powering the rig with a Powerfilm LightSaver solar panel with built-in 18650 battery. I’m using a USB dongle to step up the voltage from 5v to 10V. It’s a perfect setup for the Mountain Topper which puts out about 3.5 watts with 10V. I can operate indefinitely as long as the sun is shining.
Right away I hear K0BXB from Wisconsin and call him. Martin gives me a 539. He is 559 to me. Soon I hear Bernie KB4JR in Florida calling CQ. He gives me a 559. He is running 500 watts and is strong to me. I tune down the band and hear Tom W2TMT from Florida calling CQ. Tom gives me a 559. He is a strong 599.
After operating for 20 minutes, I pack up for the ride back. Soon the black flies will be out and bike rides will be troublesome for a few weeks. I take one last snapshot of the sparkling river.
Jim Cluett, W1PID, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Hampshire, USA. Contact him at [email protected].
The Summits On The Air (SOTA) program originated in the United Kingdom but has propagated to most countries around the world. The program came to Colorado on May 1st, 2010 with Steve/WGØAT sending a CQ from Mount Herman, just west of Monument. Today, the SOTA program in Colorado (called WØC-SOTA) is very active with roughly 180 activators that operate from Colorado summits.
To celebrate our 10th Anniversary, WØC-SOTA is organizing a 10-10-10 Event with a challenge for Activators and Chasers alike. (Activators operate from summits, Chasers try to contact them.)
Activator challenge: Activate 10 (or more) 10K feet (or higher) summits (in Colorado/WØC) within 10 days.
Chaser challenge: Chase Activators on 10 different (or more) qualifying WØC summits (10K or higher) within the 10 days.
Event Date: We will kick-off the event in conjunction with the Colorado 14er event on August 7th, 2021 and conclude on August 16th.
Everybody is invited to participate, either as an Activator or a Chaser. Block off these days in your calendar now and start planning for how you can participate. Feel free to operate as much or as little as you would like. It is all about having fun messing around with radios. Any HF, VHF or UHF band can be used for making SOTA contacts, with the most popular ones being 40m (CW & SSB), 20m (CW & SSB) and 2m (FM).
For more information on the SOTA program in general, see the worldwide SOTA website.
Full Disclosure: May 1 is actually the 11th Anniversary, but the COVID-19 Pandemic interfered in 2020, so we are catching up.
The post Celebrating 10 Years of Summits On The Air in Colorado appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.
Bob Witte, KØNR, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Colorado, USA. Contact him at [email protected]com.
In this episode, Martin (M1MRB) is joined by Chris Howard M0TCH, Dan Romanchik KB6NU and Edmund Spicer M0MNG to discuss the latest Amateur / Ham Radio news. Colin (M6BOY) rounds up the news in brief and in this episode we feature The not so simple Dipole
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- Updated Radio Frequency Exposure Rules Become Effective on 3rd May 2021
- New 122GHz DX Record
- Amateur Radio has a New Census
- Radio Amateur Helps Rescuers to Locate Lost Hiker
- YOTA Summer Camp Croatia Postponed to 2022
- GB5UTA Active in June for U3A Event
- 60 Metres in New Zealand
Colin Butler, M6BOY, is the host of the ICQ Podcast, a weekly radio show about Amateur Radio. Contact him at [email protected].
Joyce/K0JJW and I did another activation of Mt Herman (W0C/FR-063) today. This is a repeat summit for us this year but we were looking for an easy hike not too far from home.
As usual, we were just using the VHF/UHF bands for the activation. My favorite rig for this type of SOTA activation is a Yaesu FT-90, a very compact mobile transceiver (4 x 1.2 x 5.4 inches) that is no longer manufactured. It has a unique heatsink with an integral fan that can handle the heat from the 50-watt transmitter. We use a Bioenno 4.5 Ah LFP battery to supply the power for the radio.
I was trying to work Bob/W0BV about 65 miles away and we were not able to complete the contact. The distance is not too difficult but there are several mountain ranges in the way. Sometimes we can get the electromagnetic waves to sneak through, but not today. Hiking down the mountain, I was thinking about how we could have probably made the QSO on SSB or CW, instead of FM. I chose not to bring the all-mode transceiver (FT-817) along today, so that was not an option.
That is when the idea hit me. The FT-90 is the right form-factor and power level for VHF/UHF SOTA but it is limited to FM. Yaesu, if you are listening, here’s what I’d really like to see in a small mobile transceiver:
- FT-90 size radio, perhaps a little larger but not much
- 2m and 70 cm bands (include 1.25m if you’d like)
- At least 25 watts of output power, more would be better (say 50 watts)
- All mode capability (CW/SSB/FM/Digital), sure go ahead and toss C4FM in too.
- No internal battery…I’m going to have to use an external battery anyway to get enough battery capacity
At various times, I have had people ask “why don’t they put SSB in handheld radios?” They recognize that SSB has weak-signal advantages over FM, so they wish their handheld transceiver (HT) could do it. I say rather than shove more features into an HT, put it in an FT-90 size radio. It would be a much more usable solution.
Although I arrived at this radio concept thinking about SOTA, it would also be a great mobile rig for general use. The FT-90 was popular because it was very compact AND it had a removable faceplate that could be mounted almost anywhere. There really is no way to get VHF/UHF SSB into a vehicle other than those all-band radios like the FT-857 and the IC-7100. Oh, did I say FT-857? Sorry, that model has been discontinued. The satellite operators will love it, too, especially if it could work 2m/70cm crossband full-duplex.
So there you go, Yaesu (or Icom)…a fantastic product concept at no charge. I would be happy to beta test it for you.
That’s my idea for today. What do you think?
73 Bob K0NR
Bob Witte, KØNR, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Colorado, USA. Contact him at [email protected].
Unboxing the Icom AH-705 Compact Auto Tuner, one screw at a time.
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