Easier CW

I recently purchased an addition to my portable gear that makes CW much easier. The item is a Ultra Picokeyer kit from HamGadgets.

Ultra Picokeyer - Available Colors
Ultra Picokeyer – Available colors

My favorite portable transceiver is the Yaesu FT-817ND. One of my not-so-favorite things about it is that it has no CW memories. If you’re contesting or working a POTA pileup, it can wear your hand out!

The Ultra Picokeyer solves that problem. It has CW memories, and a continuously variable speed control, in addition to lots of other features. In addition, it’s a pretty simple kit to build … I didn’t time myself, but it couldn’t have been more than an hour or so. It went very fast, and the only tools required were soldering gear and some flush-cutting wire cutters. Easy-peasy!

73 de Dick N4BC

How I Became Interested in Ham Radio …

Some have asked what triggered my interest in my radio hobby. Well, this is the culprit …

Before television, this was a familiar object in many 1940’s homes. I’m not sure if this is the actually the model we had in my childhood home, but if not, it was similar. You see, in addition to the normal AM broadcast band, it also included shortwave bands.

I would spend hours listening to the BBC, or Radio Deutsch Welle, or any of a large selection of foreign broadcast stations.

But it wasn’t only those stations to be found … there were also amateur radio stations to listen to. Those were the days before SSB, so there were lots of AM ham radio QSOs going on. I was listening to hams from all over the world. CW was also there, but with no BFO, pretty rough copy … if I had understood CW 🙂 .

Just as an aside, there was also a 78 RPM turntable connected to the audio input of the radio, and a big selection of my Dad’s vinyl records. All of the big bands, some classical, and lots of artists of the 40’s and 50’s. Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Gershwin … they were all there. I think that ensured that I would have a continuing interest in good music.

73 de Dick N4BC

What’s New?

I haven’t posted for a while, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been doing anything.

I’ve been chasing Parks on the Air (as usual), and having some success with the improved solar conditions, but my main emphasis since the 1st of the month has been the 13 Colonies Special Event. So far, I have ten of the original 13 in my log, and still trying to break the pileups on the last three. There are three bonus stations, and I have WM3PEN in the books, but not the overseas two. I’ve worked them where I found them … 80M, 40M, and 20M … and on several modes … CW, FT4, and FT8. Surprisingly, none on SSB so far. The phone pileups are chaotic.

Six meters has been having some nice openings, too. All up and down the East coast from here … the farthest contacts have been into Canada, Cuba, and Bermuda. The majority of those contacts have been on FT8.

Our VHF repeater (W4MT) has been up and running for several weeks now, after having some problems passing audio (knock on wood 🙂 ). We never identified the cause, but the problems were coincident with HVAC problems … the drain on the wall unit was plugged and the condensation was running out onto the floor inside instead of outside. Everything was still cool. We unclogged the drain line, and I wonder if the high humidity had something to do with the issues we were having?

It looks like Tropical Storm Elsa will be just a rain event here in coastal Virginia. We’ve still got our eye on its progress, but hopefully it’ll just be wet! We’ll surely see some coastal flooding, but we get that with any big rain event.

73 de Dick N4BC

Miscelleney …

The repeater antenna has been repositioned and braced against excessive sway, and all repeater operations are back to normal. If you recall, high winds had blown the antenna into the tower and one of the elements had hung on the tower structure.

Six meters FT4 and FT8 were busy this afternoon. Seems like Cycle 25 is heating up

I picked up a new “Pocket Portable” iambic key from CWMORSE this week. It’s 3D printed and is really nice quality. I’m looking forward to getting out into the field with it soon.

Field day is coming up soon. Our club, in concert with several others, is mounting a combined operation, as we have in past years. Hopefully, it’ll be a great event.

73 de Dick N4BC