Posts Tagged ‘Radio Zen’


Last night after I had enough of writing software code I decided to turn on 160 meters.  There was a contest going on, the CQ 160 meter CW contest.  I like 160 meter contests for some reason.  There’s something just a bit different about them.  I have a decent, though modest antenna, an inverted L running about 30 feet vertically and 65 feet horizontally, with a six foot long loading coil on a piece of 1.5 inch PVC pipe.  I have only eight or so radials, short by this band’s standards, but the antenna works rather well.  My experiences with this antenna lead me to believe that a lot of people could do 160 meters if they just attempted to build an antenna like this, even on space-challenged lots. The antenna I have could fit in a quarter acre property.  But I digress.

I turned on 160 and got my contest program going.  I did the usual search-and-pounce starting from the bottom of the band and worked my way up.  It was like shooting fish in a barrel, and I was starting to get bored with it.  What the heck, let’s park somewhere and call CQ.  I worked a few stations in the next 10 minutes and then it was like someone opened the floodgates.  I had three, four, or five guys calling me each round.  Amazingly I was able to pluck stations out of the pileup most of the time with no problem.  This was going on for what seemed like an eternity.  I started watching my rate meter and it hit 258 QSOs per hour at the peak and later settled down to around 150.  This went on for about 45 minutes.  I was in shock over the number of stations and how it was just relentless, but somehow I just went into overdrive and commanded the frequency.  I’m not rare DX and I don’t have a super big signal on this band, but it was like everyone wanted me.  The pileup started to subside and settled down to a few QSOs here and there and I was getting tired from a long day.  I wished I had planned to make a serious effort in this contest; it probably would have been fun to start rested up right at dark when the band opened and work the band until the wee hours of the morning, maybe even attempting to crank up the CW speed up a bit.

All in all, I was really pleased with my performance with this unexpected pileup.  Recently I have been training with Morse Runner while on business trips, mainly to break up the monotony of long flights.  I can tell this practice has made a difference in my ability to manage pileups, pick out stations from the chaos, and rack up the QSOs.  This could get interesting.


What blog wouldn’t be complete without the New Year’s resolutions?  Like everyone else in amateur radio blogademia, I’ve got some resolutions for 2014:

Get my contest CW speed up to 35 WPM.  I really wanted to make a resolution that I would do some ragchew CW QSOs in order to increase my overall speed, but I know that’s just not realistic.  Therefore I’m going to attempt to increase my contesting speed, mainly by operating more contests and practicing with Morse Runner when on business trips.

Not view QRZ or use it for callsign lookups each day in 2014.  A lot of radio amateurs do a QSO-a-day thing for a year.  Not me.  I travel too much and just can’t get on the air every day.  And I have a life outside of amateur radio.  So I’m doing something else to further my enjoyment of amateur radio, I’m not going to go to for 365 days and will use other services for callsign lookups.  Now that I’m using InoReader, I will depend on RSS feeds from numerous other sources for getting my amateur radio news fix.  I’m going to buck the “I’m Good on QRZ” trend.  Call it No-Zed-A-Day.  I’ll be tracking my progress on this blog, so check in periodically to see how I’m doing.  Wish me luck.

Make a serious effort with satellites.  Amateur radio satellites have been going through a bit of a renaissance or rebirth recently.  The old guard will bemoan the demise of the HEO or High Earth Orbit satellites of yesteryear.  LEOs or Low Earth Orbit satellites are where it’s at, as the recent launch of numerous cube satellites will attest.  They represent and benefit from favorable trends in amateur radio and technology: miniaturization, efficiency, cheap computing power, open source software, and an open and energetic community of volunteers, supporters, and followers.  I need to complete my Frankenrotator project and get my satellite station on the air.

Make the trek to Dayton.  I’ve never been to Dayton and I keep saying each year that I’m going.  I know I’m going to hate the facilities, dislike the hoards of people, and vow to never go again, but I feel I really need to do this once and get it off my bucket list, before Hara Arena crumbles into a pile of dust.  Expect blog posts about this and please bear with me while this passes through my system.

Organize some multi-operator events. There’s something I really enjoy about getting together with a group of amateurs to work a contest, climb a mountain, camp out, build something, or do all of these at once.  I vow to organize some events with local radio friends.

Organize a DXpedition for 2015.  I intend on getting my feet wet with DXpeditioning in 2015, and hopefully will organize or participate in a DXpedition every two years after that until I go to the big hamshack in the sky.  This DXpedition won’t be a big one like Amsterdam Island, but my goal is to eventually work my way up to some top 20 most wanted DX entity expeditions.

Continue doing cool stuff with Arduinos.  I’m still having fun developing software for Arduinos to do cool amateur radio stuff.  The Radio Artisan Group which supports my projects has almost reached 500 members.  Everyday I get email from people around the world asking about projects or bouncing ideas around.  We really do have a lot of innovative and creative people in amateur radio.

Those are my amateur radio resolutions for the year.  Happy New Year and 73!

My Antenna

My antenna…


…didn’t wake you up at 3 AM last night with loud music.

…doesn’t mind it when you leave your curtains open and walk around naked in your house.

…doesn’t rev up its engine for two hours like Joe does down the street with his old Mustang on Friday nights.

…won’t pollute your water well.

…didn’t mess up your TV yesterday, but the signal coming out of it may have.  Sorry about that.  I can fix that if you’ll let me.

…won’t drive up over the curb and over your flowers and shrubs.

…doesn’t belong to a gang.

…isn’t as cute as the woman next door, but my antenna didn’t call the township office like the woman next door did when you didn’t get a building permit.

…will never be on a sexual predator list.

…doesn’t bark at everything that moves.

…is a technological sculpture…well, to me, at least.

…is a gathering place for birds, when they’re not over at your bird feeder.

Come to think of it, my antenna is a pretty good neighbor.


It’s been said that the universe could be described entirely with car analogies.  Analogies don’t really prove anything, but they’re great for clarifying an opinion or illustrating a complex concept in a more simplified, understandable fashion.  Often it’s difficult to describe amateur radio to non-technical family, friends, and co-workers.

I can’t think of a better analogy for explaining amateur radio than fishing.

Why do you call CQ and try to talk to just anyone?

We’re not out to catch one particular fish.  We cast our line where we think there might be fish and when we catch one, it’s a surprise.  This is part of the joy.  You never quite know what you’re going to reel in.

Why do you do Morse code?  Isn’t it easier to just talk to someone?  Or perhaps type on your computer?

Some fisherman like to fly fish.  It’s not for everyone, but it’s an art that takes a bit of practice and skill. You don’t catch bigger fish fly fishing, and many times it’s a lot more work.  But some people find it more fun than regular fishing.  Some do both regular fishing and fly fishing.  Some fisherman ice fish.

Some hams use power amplifiers to make big signals while others use low power, this thing called QRP.  Why wouldn’t everyone want to use more power?

I know guys who go deep sea fishing and catch big tuna or swordfish on big expensive boats.  Some of us like to use ultralight rods and fish streams for trout or small ponds for panfish.

In this age of the Internet where you can chat with anyone around the world on your computer, why even bother with amateur radio?

Why bother buying a fishing license and all that equipment when you can much more easily go to a supermarket and buy a fish?  It’s because it’s not about just eating a fish.  It’s the experience of fishing.

Amateur radio seems inherently non-competitive, but you have contests?

On the surface fishing is a non-competitive hobby.  But there are fishing tournaments in which fisherman compete.  Like other types of fishing it’s not for everyone, but some love it, and for some fisherman that’s all they do.

What do you talk about?

We often talk about fishing techniques or what else we caught that day, but more often we talk about whatever comes to mind.  Sometime we don’t talk about much at all.

Is amateur radio all old guys?

There are a lot of old guys who fish probably because they have a lot more free time, but everyone fishes.  It’s nice to get the whole family fishing.

Are you always going to be a radio amateur?

You’re always a fisherman, even if you haven’t gone out fishing for awhile.  I hope to fish until the day I die….

Subscribe FREE to's
Amateur Radio Newsletter

We never share your e-mail address.

Do you like to write?
Interesting project to share?
Helpful tips and ideas for other hams?

Submit an article and we will review it for publication on!

Have a ham radio product or service?
Consider advertising on our site.

Are you a reporter covering ham radio?
Find ham radio experts for your story.

How to Set Up a Ham Radio Blog
Get started in less than 15 minutes!

  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor

Sign up for our free
Amateur Radio Newsletter

Enter your e-mail address: