Newsletter and meeting announcement for the Alexandria Radio Club.
Club repeaters and detailed info can be found at www.w4hfh.org
Club Net: 147.315 (600 KHz, PL107.2) on Thursday’s at 8 PM local time
Club Meetings: Second Friday of each month at 7:30PM at the Alexandria Fire Training Center.
Minutes of the last meeting.
First your VP and Program Collector must apologize to all and to our speakers for rushing them. As we missed our February meeting, I figured that we could host two programs at one meeting. What this did was to: 1 – Make for a very long meeting, 2 – Rush both speakers, 3 – Not leave time for our Field Day planning kick off and 4 – No report on the usiness of the club.
Our first program was from Gordon, President of the Sterling Park Amateur Radio Club. SPARC sponsors the Virginia QSO party. Gordon gave us some good insight in to the contest, which plays, how to submit logs, and which clubs perform well and which clubs have not fared so well. I hope many of you took the hint and worked the contest. Don’t forget to submit your logs and make sure that you mark them as part of the Alexandria Radio Club so we get a better score this year. For those who worked the contest PLEASE send in your logs. Note that if you use WINEQF, the Cabrillo format is messed up you will have to port to a .txt file from WINEQF and edit the file to show the correct location identifiers and serials sent to you. Don’t forget to get those bonus points and multipliers’.
The club voted to sponsor two awards for this contest this year.
Our second speaker was Mr. Bob Bruninga WB4APR. Bob is the inventor of Amateur Position and Reporting System APRS. APRS uses packet radio to send both position and relevant information to provide the user situational awareness. Bob points out that this system is NOT so we can track each other but that we can attach information to that location and know what’s going on. Bob talked about having local repeater beacon information on the APRS 144.39 frequency that may tell travelers that they are welcome to use that repeater. Bob’s main program: however, was his use of solar electric cells to provide power for both his automobile and his house. He is running into some Bureaucratic problems while trying to get his solar cells into the sun light. Bob pointed out that “factory seconds” can be had for as little as $1 per watt and that approved cells can be had for as little as $3 a watt. Bob currently has 8 KW worth of cells up and running. He pointed out that the major cost is batteries and that these are not needed if you use the power grid as a storage device.
One of the club’s most important events is ARRL Field Day. This year Art Pond III, KB4FBT is our Field Day chair. Rich’s XYL, Stephanie has volunteered to cater our event (a great step up from past events.) Below is an article from Art, but both the Club president and I hope that most of the club members will set aside some time to come out and help one of the band captains with setup / clean up. One person cannot operate for 24 hours nor should one person be expected to do all of the work with a station.
Band Captains this year are: Rich KA4GFY for 75 Meter Phone Rick N4ASX for 40 Meter Phone Tim KT4MV for 10/15 Meter Phone Jack K5OTZ for 20 Meter Phone Ian N8IK (master of all CW) 40/75 CW. We still need a VHF/UHF / SAT Captain Please volunteer to help one of the teams with set up and clean up and come out and operate for a few
hours. Next Meeting
Our next meeting will be April 9th at the Fire Training Center in Alexandria. As always, dinner
prior to the meeting at Chicken Out Our program will be our own Craig Church, K4GOR. Craig built the 145.47 repeater which was one of the most effective repeaters in the Northern VA area. As our club have several VHF and K
Many of us made the trip up to Timonium and some of us bought a few goodies. For others it was a way to exercise. The Big Daddy of all Hamfests is coming shortly see Rich’s Article below. Dayton Hamvention– The Ultimate Hamfest The Dayton Hamvention has been described by some as “Mecca for ham radio” because if its
ham radio related, it will be at Dayton. Since this is the largest hamfest in the US, if not worldwide, this is the perfect opportunity for the manufacturers to introduce their latest models. I was there at the ICOM booth a few years ago
when ICOM introduced the IC7000 to the world. I have also seen Ten Tec bring out the Jupiter and the Orion. I bought one of the very first ICOM ICT81 four band handheld radios at Dayton. Every T81 sent to Dayton that year was gone the first day. Last year, the entire stock of ICOM IC880 DSTAR radios was sold out by Saturday. Yaesu sent a run of FT817s the first year they were out. Within a day, those were all sold out. Same thing for the Kenwood TM D700 APRS radio when it was introduced. Elecraft introduced one of their first radios at Dayton several years ago and has become known as a manufacturer of high quality equipment. The best part is some of the manufacturers offer discounts on their equipment just for the Hamvention. You become the comparative shopper by going around to the vendors to get their best price on the equipment you want to buy. People are lined up several deep in front of the major vendors’ booths to get the newest piece of gear. You can also find out what the manufacturers are up to, they have people there to answer questions about the current equipment and what’s on the horizon.
If you are not in the market for the newest equipment, this has to be the largest ham radio flea market anywhere. Everything from loose parts to entire stations is for sale. A local surplus supplier in Dayton sets up a large tent out in back of the Hara Arena. For those hams with a taste for nostalgia, there are rows and rows of old gear. You need tools; there are tools to found somewhere out there. You need antennas, somebody will have them. You need cable, its there. And the list goes on. For that repeater project, there is plenty of surplus commercial equipment available.
For those who are not looking for equipment, the forums are a great place to learn what is going on in ham radio. The topics range from what’s going on at the FCC and ARRL to satellites, emergency communications, DXing, kit building, QRP operating and the latest technologies are some of the more popular ones. There are five or six forums going on at one time for all three days from the time the building opens until it closes each day.
Just about every organization connected with ham radio is there. ARRL has a big presence, of course with their very successful EXPO. AMSAT has a large presence as well. The MARS organizations have displays set up. Let’s not forget the Radio Society of Great Britain. In addition, many ham radio publishers are there. “CQ” magazine, Gordon West, “Nuts and Volts” and Radio Amateur Callbook are there to name a few.
When you put 20,000 plus people into a small area, and most are carrying a radio, finding a frequency to talk to your buddies on is difficult. The first year N4ASX and I went; we could talk to each other on 70 cm with no problem. Ten years later, we were on 23 cm because 70 cm became too crowded. Some of the APRS guys have said the Hara Arena area is so jammed with activity that APRS doesn’t really work. I can’t imagine why…. DSTAR on 70 cm is gaining popularity because of the narrow bandwidth. 1.25 meters is popular as well. By the way, 23 cm still works very well.
While carrying (or wearing) that radio, you can go into a restaurant and nobody will look at you like you are weird (they are all wearing one too). The breakfast bar at the hotel is a great place to meet up with people. Everybody is wearing a hat, a shirt or just a nametag with their call sign on it.
For the kids, ARRL has been sponsoring kid’s activities at the Hamvention with a lounge area and forums specifically for kids. These have been headed up by Assistant Section Managers for Youth from some of the sections that have one. They have their own frequencies they hang out on and also their own event on Saturday night at a local restaurant.
Some of the other popular events outside the actual Hamvention, are the “unofficial” activities Friday and Saturday nights. An open house in a hotel ballroom or dinners sponsored by DX and contest clubs is very popular. QCWA hosts a dinner as well. If the Hamvention also happens to be an ARRL national convention, there is the initiation ceremony into the Royal Order of the Wouff Hong. I can’t tell you any more than that because it’s a secret society.
One of the best things about Hamvention is the people you meet. There are people from all over the world who travel to the Hamvention. I have seen people from China, India, Australia, Europe and all over North and South America. KI4MWP and I met up with a ham from the UK one year and learned quite a bit about ham radio in Europe. We also decided to stop complaining about $4.00 per gallon gasoline when he told us what they pay in the UK. While the US dollar was taking a beating on the currency markets, foreign hams came to the US to take advantage of the great deals. So, the vendors did not see a decline in business because of a weak economy.
While gas may or may not be $4.00 per gallon this year, the best way to go is to travel with a group. Not only does it cut costs by sharing gas, but you get people to talk to for the drive out and back. Of course there is activity on the radio. 146.52 MHz is usually busy. The Mid CARS and ECARS nets on 40 meters are busy. You see lots of vehicles with call letter license plates heading west on I70.
The biggest logistics issue with something like this is where to stay. Most of us get reservations a year in advance. I block out several rooms with the idea of making the trip a club activity to reduce the cost a bit. Do you see a trend here? Ham radio really is a fraternal activity. Sharing an experience like the Dayton Hamvention helps to bring a group of hams together that lasts long after the Hamvention is over.
One of the non ham radio activities to take in while in Dayton is located at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Wright Patterson AFB home to the US Air Force Museum. Anybody with even a passing interest in aviation will find this a great place. There are some well known aircraft as well as one of a kind.
If you are interested in going this year, let me know ASAP. I usually order the tickets in April so we have them in time to depart the Thursday before. We really need people willing to drive and split the gas. It’s about 1200 miles out and back including whatever running around we do in Dayton.
Working DX (part 1)
Checking with the club’s HF operators, it appears that our 5 plus year sun spot drought is beginning to end. I worked the ARRL DX contest the weekend of March 6th and was surprised at the crowds on the bands and the ranges.
Many of our members restrict their operations to VHF and UHF FM. While there are many reasons for this, including space for antennas, time and economics, there are many benefits to working HF DX.
While the cost of HF gear has always been expensive and better antennas mean more real estate, HF can be done on a budget.
I recently cleaned up two HW101s. These radios have reasonable receivers and put out 120 watts of power, which is on par with most of the modern gear. These radios can be had with power supplies and maybe a microphone for under $150. Because they were kits, they are not hard to repair or to maintain. There are many other older radios, some solid state with digital readouts that can be had cheaply. N3RDX picked up an ICOM 701 for less than $200 last year with the matching power supply. The club has an ICOM 701 and it is a very nice radio.
Antennas are another issue, but they needn’t be. Ian, N8IK has worked over 100 DX entitites with a mobile antenna on his balcony. Rich, KA4GFY has worked a great deal of DX on a 50 watt radio tied to the rain gutters on his condo.
A long wire or dipole will get you on the air. While many want to work ALL of the HF bands, you can start on 20 meters and start with a dipole that measures 33 feet end to end. As the conditions get better you might even think about working the 10 or 15 meter bands. 15 was hot this last weekend.
If you’re not into rag chewing, but want to know how well your station is doing, then DX is your cup of tea. The exchanges for noncontest DXing is usually short and to the point. Wait for an opening, rare stations have many stations calling them for a contact. And a contact is generally what you get. Once you know that your ‘target’ station is on the frequency you can drop your call into the pile “November FOUR Alpha Sierra Xray”. Stick to the standard phonetics. Some use Sugar or other common words, but it’s generally better to stay with the standard. The response will be “N4ASX your 59” your next response may be “LT1F your 59 in Alexandria VA, name here is Rick”. If the DX is in a hurry, he may just say “QRZ” (next?) or he may come back with “73 Rick – Good DX – QRZ” End of contact. Sometimes a DX station will take the time to make the conversation more personnel, leave that to the DX.
I do have to warn all new DX’ers that it can be a blood sport. Do not expect the big guns to help you make the contact.
Equipment is not all you need. DX is a skill and knowing when to drop your call, how to be quick and to the point is a practiced skill.
Don’t forget the QSL cards…
73 Rick / N4ASX
April Craig Church K4GOR Repeater Engineering confirmed May Terry Hines N4ZH Antenna Modeling confirmed June Field Day Planning Dennis Bodson W4PWF ARRL July Tim O’Neill KT4MV Test Equipment and trouble shooting August City Emergency Preparedness Mr. Mark Penn / Ms. Kim Purcell September Eric Parker KG4DZA City Radio System October Gary Sessiums MARS / Club officer nominations November – Club Elections, Budget, end of year wrap up. December Dinner
If you have an idea for a program you would like to hear, please let the VP (N4ASX) know and we will try to arrange it.
Many of the club members meet prior to our meetings at the Chicken Out Restaurant at Franklin and Washington Streets at 6 PM. This is also a chance to meet our guest speaker as we offer to buy dinner for them prior to the meeting.
Monday Night Half Price Burgers – There is a group that gets together at Shooter McGee’s on Monday evenings at 6:30 PM. A good burger and soft drink runs about $9.
Spring Swap and Shop – We are looking for a large parking lot where we can meet on a Saturday or Sunday and have an impromptu tail gate swap meet and get together. Ideas welcome at the next club meeting.
Transmitter Hunt – If you’ve not done it, ours is simple. Within the City, the hunted transmitter talks for 1 minute is quiet for 4 minutes and the first person to find the hidden transmitter is the next hidden transmitter. Expect to do this sometime after the next meeting. Details at the meeting. Prize to be determined….
QSO parties are a great way to get started in contesting. Most states have one. They tend to be low key events. If you’re working on DXCC, the ARRL DX contests are a good way to work new countries.
ARES and upcoming public service events.
Art Pond KD4FBT is the lead on the Bull Run Run on 10 April 2 meter mobiles are good, if you have 6 meter FM even better.
Eric Parker has the American Diabetics Association Tour De Cure Bike Run on 20 June 2 meter mobile and handhelds on local repeaters.
FIELD DAY June 26/27 – Be THERE.
73 DE N4ASX