On again!

Well, I’ve been somewhat of a slacker … my last sustained activity was in February. I just had an accumulation of things that couldn’t be put off any longer that took precedence. I’m still not out of the woods, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

I have managed to get some JT activity the past couple of days. Yesterday, in particular, seemed to be pretty good propagation during the early afternoon, but I didn’t have the time to get much operating done. Ah, well … I can only hope!

The weather is decidedly more cooperative lately, so maybe I’ll have a chance to get the cobweb antenna up, and do some portable operations from the truck as well. I checked out my FT-817ND and the associated mobile and portable goodies the other evening, and I think I’m OK there.

I got a couple of QSL cards this week, too! That’s an unusual occurrence for me nowadays. Back in the “good old days,” it was NOT unusual to get a few cards every week. Of course, when I was rare DX, I used to get LOTS of cards every week. Times change.

Well, I’m about finished my lunch break at work, so let me get back to work. See you later …

73 de Dick N4BC

Hamfests

I made the annual trip to the Virginia Beach Hamfest last weekend … not sure I should have bothered. Yeah, yeah – I know we need to support the hobby, but this was pretty pathetic. No major manufacturers, no first-tier retailers, no tailgating, and the prices that sellers figured their boat anchors were worth … wow!

I remember the crowds and aisles of sellers not that many years ago. I guess the internet has really caused cutbacks in the numbers of both sellers and buyers, It was nice, though, to actually put your hands on that new or used rig before parting with your money.

I guess the “Good Old Days” are gone forever, though. I’ll keep buying a ticket to support the hobby and keep attending, just in case I see something … anything … I want or need there.

73 de Dick K4FTW

Celebration of Life for Bill, WB4UYA

Before Bill passed away, he told his family that his wish was for them to throw a party in memory of him, and to invite all his ham buddies. Well, today that happened. We met at Nick’s at Gloucester Point for a celebration and get together. Everyone was given 5 raffle tickets upon arrival and had the opportunity to buy more.There were several HF radios (Icom 746, TenTec Orion) and several VHF/UHF radios (Kennwood TH-F6A, several mobiles) raffled off, along with miscellaneous items (RigBlaster, antennas, microphones, a fifth of Jamieson’s, etc). Not to be forgotten was his collection of coffee cups.All proceeds of the raffle went to the ARRL. I won the Kenwood TH-F6A and several coffee cups.We had a great lunch as well, and left laden with our wins and lots of fond memories of Bill.

de Dick, K4FTW

Back Again

I seem to show up here apologizing for not posting in a while quite often. What is it they say? “Good intentions pave the highway to Hell” … or something like that. Anyway, I have been somewhat productive. I’ve been experimenting with a homemade magnetic loop antenna for QRP operation, and it looks promising. I am AMAZED at what I can hear and work with a 13-ft loop of wire at ground level on twenty meters. Sure, it’s obviously not as good as a beam at 75 feet, but I can get on the air and communicate with it.

I also finally gotten around to loading FLDigi onto the new laptop. I expected a lot more trouble, as I remembered that there were problems when I first started using it. I must say, WIndows 10 cooperated wonderfully. The setup seemed to go much easier, too. Maybe experience counts for something.

I’ve been lurking on 20 meters in the digital portion of the band (14.070+) and reading the mail. Just trying to get a feel for QSO content and so forth. The last time I really was serious about RTTY/PSK/DIgital/etc. was when I was operating as VQ9RB on Diego Garcia. Those were the good old days … hamming pretty much every night from the club station, and a great bunch of guys. Some now Silent Keys and others still very much alive and kicking. It was a good mix of people, too. Navy guys who were fluent in CW and Merchant seamen (mostly Radio Officers who, in those days, were REALLY CW ops). Satellite communications on ships was fairly new, and CW was still required. Me, I was one of the few there that did CW only for fun! For all the others, it was job-related.

I think the first time I ever did RTTY was when I was VQ9D or S79D in the Seychelles. I had a Commodore 64 computer with a plug-in module on the backside that generated the keying signal. Worked great.

Well, enough reminiscing. Look for me again around the digital frequencies. I’d be pleased to have a chat.

73 de Dick K4FTW

CQ WW CW 2015

Well, I spent a lot of time (for me) working this contest. Conditions were OK, but nothing spectacular. Probably a lot of that has to do with my antennas. But I did manage to work about a hundred stations … a lot of search and pounce. I put N1MM+ logger to good use. I remember the old days of dupe sheets and paper logs … I don’t even want to go back to that.

I think I worked a few ATNOs, but I’m not sure. I did hear some, but couldn’t break the pileups … Senegal, Mozambique, 3B9 … mostly African stations. The only pacific station I heard was Hawaii, and he was steaming in here with a 59+.

All in all, it was a nice weekend to get my hand back into some hard-core CW.

73 de k4ftw, Dick

Hamfest Time

Last Saturday was the Virginia Beach Hamfest at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, so I made the trek. I already had a ticket, purchased at the club meeting. It was a nice time … met some old friends, saw some new things … also saw a Heathkit DX-100B for sale for $100.00. It was pretty clean, and according to the seller, worked flawlessly. Nostalgia is great, but no thanks. I’ll pass.

I was looking for some mobile hamstick-type antennas, and one of the flea-market sellers had some, but not for the bands I wanted or the price I wanted. I got home and ordered what I needed from HRO in northern Virginia, and should have them Tuesday. Even regular shipping is pretty much overnight to my QTH.

I’m not planning on mobile operations, but more truck-portable ops. I like Larry’s (W2LJ) habit of getting on from the parking lot at work for lunchtime, and a mobile antenna is a quick way to get on the air from there. He seems to have great luck, so I’ll give it a try with my FT-817nd and a hamstick.

The Hamfest, while worth a trip, is a shadow of its former glory. There were NO major ham radio vendors there (Elecraft had a local team there). Not even a lot of second-tier companies there. If you were looking to buy a name-brand, new hf rig, you’d be better off ordering it. I think this is a problem with all hamfests nowadays. The manufacturers just don’t have the budget to hit all the non-major hamfests. It’s a shame, really … no chance to “touchy-feelie” things.

I’ve been very busy lately at work. We’re updating our 800 MHz Motorola trunked system from analog to digital, so I’ve been involved with developing the new fleetmap and templates for programming the radios. Working at the computer for 8 hours a day makes your eyes cross after a while, so frequent breaks are needed and welcome.

73 de Dick K4FTW

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder …

Been absent from here for a while, but I’m still around. I’ve been busy with numerous things, and my daughter is graduating from high school this coming Saturday. It sure seems there’s a lot more stuff leading up to graduation than there was 50-some years ago when I graduated. I’ve been listening a bit when occupied with other tasks, but the bands have seemed pretty lackluster lately, and noisier. Guess it’s summertime.

Hopefully, I’ll be re-energized after the furor of graduation dies down … at least until she heads off for college in August :-).

73 de Dick K4FTW

Rig Nostalgia – the Good Old Days

I was just browsing some pictures on the web this evening and came across a photo of what my original receiver looked like as a Novice licensee. Actually I was a SWL even before that.

lafayette-he80

So I said, “Hey, maybe I can find a photo of my first transmitter.” So here it is!

dx100b_front

The Lafayette receiver and the Heathkit DX-100B transmitter served me well. I actually don’t remember what ever happened to them. I like to think I passed them on to another ham, but I draw a total blank … I have no idea where they went.

What I do remember, however, is the weight of that DX-100B. It had a huge transformer and weighed a ton! I remember that vividly … tubes and transformers — not built for portable operation. The antenna was an end-fed long wire. I haven’t a clue about what I used to tune it. I only had two crystals to start with … both in the 40 meter Novice band. Worked quite a few stations using that combo. Ah, the good old days!

 

73 de Dick K4FTW