Amateur Radio Goes to Washington

from The ARRL Letter, Vol 26, No 39

Army MARS Chief Stuart S. Carter, AAA9A, has invited the ARRL and Amateur Radio representatives to join a Military Affiliate Radio System (MARS) demonstration outside the Capitol building in Washington, DC on October 3. Hams around the country are asked to aid in the demonstration by making HF contacts during the day. With help from Laura Abshire, Legislative Aide to Representative Mike Ross, WD5DVR (D-AR), Tricia Russell, Legislative Aide to Representative Steve Israel (D-NY), and coordination of the myriad details by “Pudge” Forrester, W4LTX, Systems Administrator for Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), the “show” is set for next Wednesday, and hams around the country can help.

ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager Allen Pitts, W1AGP, said, “Thanks to a MARS invitation to join in a demonstration, and excellent coordination work by Forrester, the October 3 demonstration of Amateur Radio and MARS emergency communications will be front and center in the open space between the Capitol building and the Botanic Garden in Washington, DC.” Pitts went on to say that the regional MARS organization is planning to conduct an exercise demonstrating emergency communications at the Capitol, as well.

The exercise assumes a Category 3 hurricane, Hurricane Quincy, will make landfall on October 2 over the coastal areas of Delaware, Maryland, DC and Virginia. Quincy will progress northward to New Jersey and Pennsylvania and then travel inland to the south, returning to the Atlantic Ocean on October 5 via the Carolinas and Georgia. During this time, MARS resources will be challenged by ongoing events in every part of the country, including ice storms, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and earthquakes.

There will be a communication trailer, tent type shelter, four HF transceivers — voice, PSK, and Winlink — and VHF equipment at the site. The local Voice of America (VOA) organization and MARS have local repeaters and digipeaters available. Power will come from solar panels and generators with battery backup. The emergency communications trailer, owned by the Blue Ridge Association, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, part of the Southern Baptist North American Missions Disaster Relief Ministries, will also be on hand.

Representatives from ARRL headquarters, including Pitts, will be there. They will have ARRL public relations materials as well as video that shows the negative impact of BPL if current FCC rules are not modified. In addition, there are special materials for Members of Congress and their staff advocating Amateur Radio’s positions on several legislative issues, including information to solicit co-sponsorship of H.R. 462 and H.R. 2743.

While MARS will be conducting their drill on their frequencies, Amateur Radio operations are scheduled from 1400-2100 UTC. While there may be last minute changes, plans are to try to center HF voice contacts around 14.250 and 7.250 MHz, and on PSK at 14.070 MHz. “By showing Members of Congress our nationwide capabilities and potentials, we advance the Service in many ways,” Pitts said.

Representatives Ross and Bartlett plan to stop by. Army MARS is sending their Chief of Operations Grant Hays from Arizona. Mike Barrett, K3MMB, of the Transportation Security Administration’s Office of Security Operations is aiding with the operations and logistics.

The Review, Part 1: The World of Ham Radio, 1901-1950: A Social History

This is a modern telling of Clinton DeSoto’s 1936 classic 200 Meters and Down story through meticulous research of the author, Richard Bartlett, and the amateur radio experiences of the his brother Forrest, W6OWP. Tracing the start of radio from Marconi through the emergence of a thriving hobby in the post WWI years, Bartlett does a wonderful job of taking the reader on a journey through the history of ham radio. It is a more vibrant story than 200 Meters, aided by hindsight and a wealth of primary sources the author pulls from. When he describes the early boy-ham experimenter, I immediately drew a parallel with the boy-“hackers” of the 1980s and 90s. Teenage boys, curious and prone to mischief with knowledge of a new technology unfamiliar to most. Ignorance easily creates fear, and these early boy-hams were often looked at as a danger and a threat.

There is good coverage of the early organizations supporting ham radio to include The Royal Order of the Wouff Hong. I’d always heard about the Wouff Hong and it was fascinating to read about it’s humorous origins.

Bartlett covers many of the highlights of ham radios initial contributions: demonstrating the ability to relay messages across the country, providing a means of communications in support of disaster areas, and sending messages across the globe. It is amazing that amateur radio survived the post-WWI years – threatened by both the military and commercial broadcast interests. The hobby also created a commercial industry of amateur radio equipment suppliers – Bartlett describes the elaborate displays these businesses put on at the Chicago’s 1933-34 World’s Fair that helped capture the imagination of the public.

The best part of the book so far is Bartlett’s coverage of ham radio’s support to exploration in the 1920s and 30s (Chapter 7, Amateurs as Experimenters and Adventurers). Harry Wells, W3ZD, accompanied a 1929 scientific expedition to Borneo and sent reports back to hams in the states. Bertram Sandham, W6EQF supported an automobile expedition to open up an International Pacific Highway from Fairbanks, AK to Buenos Aires. The descriptions of both these portable and mobile operations are exciting and inspiring.

I’m still working through the book, so more to come.

… part 2 of the review is here

CW Practice

I’m continuing to try and improve my CW skills – primarily my ability to copy. Now I’m working with the MFJ-418 Morse Code / CW Tutor.

There’s a lot this little box does. It looks a little like the pager I used to carry in the mid 1990s. I was first introduced to this device by John, KE4UP. He hosted (along with Don, N4DJ) a CW class I participated in back in November/December of 2005. I had recently passed my 5 WPM test but wanted to get better at CW. During one of the sessions John brought in his CW Tutor and said it had really helped him. It is easy to use, easy to change the speed the code is sent. It will even send practice QSOs to copy. My goal is to pass the ARRL Code Proficiency at 25 WPM. I have a ways to go.

Thank You AmateurLogic.TV!

My internet capability here is rather limited, especially when it comes to large downloads. I had seen a few episodes of AmateurLogic before I left the States and now I wanted more. But try as I might, the download usually timed out before I could get the whole episode. I sent Jimmy an 2GB SD card with a SASE and asked if he could mail me back some of the earlier episodes. Not only did he fill the SD card, but he included a CD with the complete collection of AmateurLogic episodes. You guys are great! He also asked if I could send a video clip of our radio activities here…. hmmm, maybe I can do a segment on my MARS station. More to follow…

For your consideration

Here is a great ham webpage. Explore the links to the left under the Site Map. Dave, G3VGR, is a rabid CW enthusiast: “CW is my favorite mode of operation. I no longer operate any other modes as none give me anywhere near as much enjoyment as sending and receiving Morse. My microphones are stored safely somewhere in the garage and I removed the SSB option board from my K2 a while ago. I am a member of 8 CW clubs and like to participate in their activities.” He’s got a great collection of CW keys.

He also has a great collection of QRP rigs and homebrews a lot of his own equipment: “I am a Radio Amateur, not an Amateur Radio Operator”. Great quote!

I recently read this blog – from it’s first entry back in Jan 2004 up to today’s. Right off the bat, the blog looks cool. I like the MFJ-564B paddle as the background image. The QSL cards stacked along the right side are very cool. I enjoy the blog’s focus. Michael, WA5ICA, also only operates CW. He starts his blog adventure with two MFJ QRP rigs (15M and 20M) and operates from his truck.

It is interesting to see his operations and equipment change over time (participating in contests from the driveway, trying different CW keys, getting a new rig, new antenna). I invite you to start from the first post and work your way forward, I think you’ll consider it time well spent.

Link List

Jeff, KE9V, took down his blogroll. I completely understand why he did it… but I used it for my daily stroll through ham blogdom. If I was squared away, I’d have one of those RSS aggregators – I’d be able to neatly peruse through the latests posts. But I’ve never been able to get the hang of using those. I panicked a bit when I saw the blogroll was gone – but then I attempted to piece together what was there and added in some other blogs that I enjoy as well. So now over on the left side my link list is much longer than before. The beauty of my blog is that it doesn’t get much traffic, so I won’t run into the same problem Jeff had…. and I’ll easily be able to take my morning walk through what I believe is the best in amateur radio blogging.

QSL Cards… what makes a winner?

My dad has recently upgraded to General and has been getting on the air making contacts. This isn’t the first time he’s been on HF or exchanged QSL cards. Back in his younger days, he held the call KN6ILL (I Love Lucy) and operated an HT-20 transmitter and a National NC-57 for a receiver with an 80 meter dipole. His license lapsed but now he is back in the game with an IC-718. He is making regular contacts using PSK-31 and has started to receive QSL cards. But he hasn’t made up his own cards yet. I figured I’d try an help with a rough draft – something to get the creative juices flowing.


Wikipedia defines a QSL card as a written confirmation of either a two-way radiocommunication between two amateur radio stations or a one-way reception of a signal from an AM radio, FM radio, or television station. A typical QSL card is the same size and made from the same material as a typical postcard, and many are sent through the mail as a standard postcard. QSL cards derived their name from the Q code “QSL”, which means “I acknowledge receipt.”

I really enjoy QSL cards, both receiving them in the mail from other hams verifying our QSOs and designing my own to send out as an acknowledgment of the contact on my end.

The appearance of your QSL card can be important for many. It gives the recipient a snapshot of you… and I find it difficult to do that on the small area provided by a 3.5″ by 5.5″ card.

The general agreed upon minimum elements of a QSL card are the following:
– Your callsign
– Basic information concerning the QSO
+ the other party’s callsign
+ time/date of contact in UTC/GMT/Zulu
+ band or frequency of the QSO
+ mode (SSB/CW/digital mode)
+ signal report (RST)
– Your name and mailing address

Additionally most hams include the following information which is useful for a number of different awards:
– County (for the county hunters)
– Grid (for the grid hunters)
– ITU and CQ zones

After that the door is wide open on what is found on a QSL card. Many include membership numbers which go towards earning awards (FISTS, SKCC, 10-10, etc.). Some also include one or more logos of clubs and organizations they belong to (ARRL, ARES, MARS, SKYWARN, contest club, local club, etc.).

Many hams like to individualize their QSL cards with a picture showing their hamshack, antenna farm, QRP rig, mobile setup. Others put a picture of a some notable location or landmark near where they live (National Park, major league stadium, civil war battlefield, etc.). And a few portray an additional hobby they are active in beyond (or complimenting) ham radio. This is where you can really set your card apart from others, make it stand out in a crowd.

I think some sound advise is to keep the card relatively clean and simple – don’t try to do too much in such a small space. Have fun and make your card something you are proud to share with others.

Here are some other sites with more information on QSL cards:
– QSL Cards
– WA7S: QSL Cards – How to Make Your Own
QSL Factory
The QSL Man


30 END

Great post from Richard on his 30th anniversary of working with computers. Looking at the code above brought back many memories.

My first computer was an Apple ][. I started out with a cassette tape player to load programs. Soon I got one, then two disk drives. The 300 baud acoustic cup modem. The 1200 baud Hayes modem. RAM upgrade to 48k(?).

I really enjoyed exploring BBSs. Growing up in the 408 area code (the home of Silicon Valley) allowed me to connect mostly to local boards. However, their was one in Santa Cruz (called Moria?) that I used to call regularly until the phone bill arrived and was told to restrict my modem exploration to local calls only. I remember with the 300 baud modem I could read the text as fast as it came across the screen. The jump to 1200 baud seemed incredible. This was still before file uploads/downloads. Software was exchanged, but it was via 5.25″ floppy disks. We used a hole punch to clip a hole on the left side of the floppy to enable the reverse side to be usable. I went to one of the early Apple conventions at the Moscony Center in San Francisco. I learned how to do simple programs in BASIC. For that I have to thank Ms. Watanabe – she was a teacher at Wilson Elementary in Cupertino and taught a weekly course that I attended. There was a game I used to love to play… kind of a Dungeons and Dragons type game where there was a 2-dimensional maze that you explored. The goal (if I remember) was to find the treasure before the dragon got you.

When I get a chance to go back to Sunnyvale to visit family, two places I always have to go are the Ham Radio Outlet store and Fry’s Electronics. On display at Fry’s, amongst the aisles of stuff, is an old Apple ][. I enjoy the memories that the sight of the beige box brings.

W6PO – Rememberance

This site was put together by Janice, KB6FNS, for her father, Bob Sutherland, W6PO, SK. I really enjoyed reading the entries about Bob’s amazing ham activities. The mix of childhood recollections, remembrances from fellow hams, and pictures are wonderful.

“As a kid, one task would be to turn on the ‘shop’ for my dad before he got home, so all the tubes would be warmed up. (Probably the ham shack too) There is a big breaker box inside the door with a bunch of switches that turn everything on.
During moonbounce activity, we were not supposed to answer the phone until it rang more than once. The ‘one ringer’ signal was from another ham who was verifying that the pre-arranged schedule was on and he was ready.”