ARC Shorts – March 2011

Rich – KA4GFY
January 2011


Our next meeting is March 11th at Alexandria Hospital at 7PM.   N8IK hopes (his day job permitting) to have a presentation on how to learn (or relearn) Morse code correctly. If you’ve tried before and given up, or are still plodding along at 3wpm, here’s your opportunity to speed up.  He’ll also show us how a CW newbie can contest at 27wpm!


The February meeting was very well attended.  Thanks to all who came out.  Our guest speaker was Gordon, NQ4K with the Sterling Park Amateur Radio Club (SPARC) and his topic was the Virginia QSO Party.  We’ve seen this program before, but Gordon does a great job and presents an interesting view of the last contest and the statistical history. It is amazing the amount of work that goes into this effort each year.

The QSO party is a fun contest and all in the club can work individually and also contribute to a club score.  Last year only 5 of us submitted logs with the club identified, so we did not do as well as we hoped.

One of the surprises at the last meeting was the appearance of Mr. Jim Stone, W4YUE.  Jim had not attended a meeting for many years and it was good to see him again.  My apologies to Jim for errors in the meeting notice and for errors on the website.  Jim went to Chicken Out for dinner because I failed to correct the info when I copied it from an older issue in the last ARC SHORTS.  The meeting start time is 7 PM but most of us arrived late.  If we can get Jim to come back again, maybe we can get him to talk about the club as it was in the Good Ole Days.


Rich, KA4GFY, our chief instructor has been working with Roy, K4AXQ, our new webmaster, to arrange for a space to hold classes for technician and general class licenses.  I believe the first class will be the week of April 4th.  As this is short notice PLEASE pass the word to anyone you think might be interested.  This will be a short class but we hope to add a few weekend activities to make it more interesting.


Rich, KA4GFY is the coordinator for the Dayton, OH. Hamvention.  This is, for new hams, the LARGEST hamfest in the world.  Somewhere around 20 to 30 THOUSAND people attend.  All of the major manufacturers,  radio stores as well as small manufacturers will be there.  Additionally, if you cannot find it in the flea market you don’t need it.  Hamvention is May 20- 22nd.  There are 3 slots left for this year’s Hamvention trip.  If you are interested in going, contact Rich ASAP so he can order the tickets in early April.

Several people have asked,  “What does it cost to go to the Hamvention?”  The biggest expense is the hotel at around $180 for the 3 nights based on two people per room.  With $4 to $5 gas on the horizon, figure in around $80 to $100 per person for gas based on 3 people per vehicle.  The ticket is $28, which includes the bus pass.  Breakfast is included at the hotel and dinner will run around $20 each night.  Lunch at the Hara Arena is basically, arena food.  Add in breakfast and lunch on the way out and lunch and dinner on the way back.  Those are usually fairly inexpensive.  After that, figure in buying those items that catch your eye in the flea market or at the dealers’ booths.  There is a teller machine on the Hara Arena grounds for those of us that may need a few extra bucks for that item in the flea market that costs a little more than what’s in your pocket.  Of course, the dealers all take credit and debit cards. So, like they say on the TV commercial, “For everything else, there’s Mastercard.”


Washington’s Birthday 10K Race – Feb 19 – Rich, KA4GFY was our team lead to support the race.  Thanks to KV3W, KJ4FUU, KD4LEL, N8IK, KI4MWP, KA2BWU, N4CWP and KA4GFY for braving the wind.  This year’s event was run entirely on Eisenhower Avenue with the runners going west to the incinerator and turning around to go to back to the movie theatre.  The run itself very uneventful, but the high wind did take out the power at the repeater site.  Without missing a beat, everybody switched over to simplex on the repeater output and continued the event.  It sounds like it went well.  Thanks to Rich, KA4GFY.

Washington’s Birthday Parade – Feb 21 – After last year’s cancellation due to snow this parade went off with fewer participants due in large part to Fairfax Co. using the day as a snow makeup day.   This year went well, but we did have a few problems.  We did not get the same order of march that was given to the parade managers.  This caused a great deal of confusion.  D-Star did not work as planned, but amateur radio always has a backup.  The changes were sent directly to the reviewing stand with Jack having to pass them directly.  Jack thought this was going to be an easy day….  Thanks to Ian, N8IK and Jack, K5OTZ at the reviewing stand, Marshall, KI4MWP, Tom, KJ4FUU, Warren KA2BWU, Saunders KD4LEL, and Harry, N4CWP covered the parade set up and Rich KA4GFY and Rick N4ASX who covered NCS and sending the changes to the reviewing stand.  The club did get an e-mail from Joe Shumard, the parade coordinator, thanking the club for its support and he stated that they could not do the parade without us.  Thank you to all of those who spent their day supporting the parade and putting up with an NCS trying to adjust to changing info.  Thanks also to the Mt. Vernon Amateur Radio Club for the use of the K4US 146.655 Repeater and to WA4USB for his help and constructive inputs.

Vienna Wireless Winterfest – Feb 27 – Many members of the club attended the Vienna Winterfest.  This year there was an interesting variety of gear for sale, but it did not appear that a lot of items were selling, but it was a good time to catch up with friends and for our club an excuse to have lunch.  Rich and Marshall attended the T-MARC meeting and I’m sure we will hear about repeater coordination at our March meeting.


Mr. Thomas B. Lucas, W4TBL is a silent key.  Tommy passed away almost three years after suffering from a massive stroke.  Tommy had worked three careers from pressman with the Star Newspaper to radio repair tech for PEPCO where he met and worked with Jim WA4CCF and then over 20 years as a supervisory paramedic for the City of Alexandria.  Tommy was very active in the club and in amateur radio as well as with Alexandria ARES.  He was the club’s go to guy for advice on radio repair and in many cases he volunteered to help many of us with repairs.  Tommy was our unofficial hamfest coordinator and was great at finding bargains (we think).

Over the last few years, members of the club have been collecting and selling some of Tommy’s gear to help the family with expenses.  What we found was that Tommy must have had about 100 projects on going.

One of Tommy’s projects was to help Gene, N4JEE with a Collins KWM-2 that was picked up for $500 at one of the hamfests.  The radio was missing several components, which Tommy was able to find.  When he fired it up one of the filter capacitors exploded.  Tommy talked about how the family cat was in the room, ran out and would not come into his shack for several weeks.

Tommy had worked closely with Jim WA4CCF(sk) on the repeaters.  He was a pioneer in amateur fast scan TV (NTSC).  Tommy was also key in the development of the city’s current EMS radio system.

Tommy supported the club, provided us with a liaison to the city, was a mentor, and a good friend to all in the club.  We will all miss Tommy and his contributions to the club.  When the family informs us of arrangements, I will send the information out to the club members.

We got word yesterday from one of our former members that Mr. Cory Hamasaki, AH6GI had become a silent key.   Cory was a member of the Alexandria Radio club when I joined in 1978 and left the club when he moved out of the area in 1981.  He was club president in 1979 and an active operator.

73 Rick / N4ASX

Up Coming Events

The SSB portion of the ARRL International DX Contest runs from 0000 Z March 5 to 2359 Z March 6.  With the band conditions getting better, you should be able to work into Europe and the Caribbean fairly easily.  Non North American stations will be trying to work as many North American stations as they can.  The exchange for US/Canadian stations is a signal report and your state/province.  DX stations will send a signal report and their power.  Don’t be surprised when you hear the DX station give you a 59 K.  They are using a shortcut for kilowatt.

During the day, most stations start out on the upper bands and move to the lower bands as night falls.  However, don’t be fooled.  The sun sets East to West, so while it may be dark here, its still light in the Pacific.  So, 20, 15 and 10 meters should still be open to the West.  The reverse is true in the early morning.  The lower bands will still be open to the Pacific for awhile after sunrise here on the East coast because its still dark to the West.

Virginia QSO Party Start 2 PM March 19th and ends March 20th at 9PM local.  Submit Cabrillo V3.0 format.  WIN-EQF has the VA QSO PARTY format.  If you work the SPARC station and get the extra 500 points you will need to edit the Cabrillo format to show that stations score as 500.   Remember to put ALEXANDRIA RADIO CLUB in the club line for club credit. The objective is to promote amateur radio activity in Virginia’s 95 Counties and 39 Independent Cities.

There are also QSO parties in Idaho, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Oklahoma during March.  Idaho and North Dakota are not always easy to find in some of the other contests, so this is a good opportunity to work those states as well as Wisconsin or Oklahoma on a new band or mode. March 26th/27th – CQ WW WPX (SSB)Contest

Here is an easy way to work DX.  Everybody will trying to work everybody else.  This isn’t limited to US stations working only DX and DX working only US.  You can also use the DX contacts toward your DXCC award and the stateside contacts toward Worked All States and/or County Hunters.  The exchange is a signal report and a serial number.  It starts at 0000 Z on March 26 and runs until 2400 Z on March 27.  If you’re keeping score, every new prefix is a new multiplier.  So, a big score is not hard to get in this contest.


The Baltimore Hamfest and Computer show is March 26 and 27 at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, located in Timonium.  Its just NW of Baltimore right off I-83.  This is by far the largest hamfest in the area, with representation from a few ham radio manufacturers and a few major dealers as well.  In addition to the two buildings with commercial vendors, there is also a building that features a large covered flea market area and a parking area with more flea market.

Radio Review – N4ASX – Kenwood TR-7950

Many of us recently attended the Richmond Frostfest. This is one of the better hamfest in our area ( if your area extends 90 miles).  The one thing I’ve noticed about this hamfest is that there will always be a wide variety of used radio gear.

This year, I found a Kenwood TR-7950 Kenwood for $25 and it had the original box and owner’s manual.  My first thought was that it was a parts radio, but the seller told me that it had been owned by a young lady who used it when she first got licensed and now wanted something newer.  He also pointed out that it had no PL (sub audible tone board).   Yes! I purchased the radio.  Took it home, installed an aftermarket tone board, and it works well.

You might ask: What makes this old radio worth buying when there are newer radios for just over $100?

The answer is that this radio is a BRICK.  The TR-7950 is solid and very dependable.   The TR-7950 is somewhat unique in that it’s does not go very far out of the 2 meter band and it has a filtered front end that all but eliminates intermodulation and adjacent channel interference.   The unit also has a center frequency indicator to show you if the station you are listening to is on frequency.  No menus, the operations are very straight forward.   Most radios have the touch tone pad on the microphone.  The TR-7950’s front panel keypad is also your tone pad for auto patch or repeater control.   The microphone plug is a 6 pin type.  You can change it out to the more common 8 pin, but if the radio comes with a microphone, then I would hold off on the mod.  Power is supplied by a two pin Heathkit like connector.  These can be had at hamfests, but I put a more common connector after the chassis connector so that I don’t have to disconnect and reconnect the old connector.   The radio has a good internal speaker at the top of the case, so that you hear the radio when it’s sitting on the bench.   The LCD display is easy to read.  As these radios get older the 12 volt bulbs may quit, the display is readable without the backlighting.  There is a modification to install LED’s on the web and I plan to try that mod out and will let folks know how it goes.  The radio does have limitations.  Only 21 memories (if you need 100 memories, then this radio is limited).  While Piexx makes a replacement tone board, you can only select one of three programmed tones.  I have 107.2, 141.3 and 156.7 which will cover the majority of repeaters in our area with tone.  There are some repeaters that I will miss.  I know that COMSPEC’s tone board can be integrated and they have a spec sheet to do this and then you could change tones by changing the dip switches.   It is a TWO METER only radio not out of band coverage to speak.  Too bad they did not make a matching 440 rig.   For repair, the radio is very modular.  When I had one with a bad power amplifier,  I just unbolted one from a parts radio and connected it to the working radio and I had a working radio.  Lots of space in the box for big fingers.

I purchased my first TR-7950 in 1984 when these radios were the standard for the Arlington Radio Club.  (their other ‘standard’ was the Yeasue  FT-208R handheld).   I had been using a Heathkit 2036A and a used AZDEN 2000.  The Heathkit only put out 10 watts and was tuned by thumbwheels.  The AZDEN was advertised as the first microprocessor controlled 2 meter radio and could be modified for CAP and MARS.  The AZDEN was in interesting radio, but was plagued with microphone cable problems and was a pain to program.

So at the 1984 Gaithersburg hamfest, I sold my AZDEN and the Heathkit and purchased the TR-7950.  It was my home radio, my car radio, and my portable radio and to this day it shows the scares.

The TR-7950 will go out of band and operates from 142 MHz to 149 MHz. This allowed it to be used on the CAP frequencies (at that time) and on the Army MARS frequencies.

Kenwood replaced the 7950 with the 2550 in the late 80s but it had problems.  There is also a lower power version of the 7950 which is the 7930.  The 7930 is the same radio but with 25 watts out vice 45 watts on high power.  I have one of those as well and it stays with my Father-in-law in Florida.  It was my portable packet / APRS radio for a while.

73 Rick / N4ASX

President’s Corner

One of the great things about amateur radio is how well it combines technical knowledge with just plain fun.   A good example of this “marriage” is the upcoming Virginia QSO party which will occur March 19 and 20.   At our last club meeting, Gordon Miller, NQ4K, provided a number of interesting statistics regarding past Virginia QSO party contests, including the information that Virginia hams rank number four in the country with regards to state QSO party participation.   Considering the population of Virginia hams is much smaller as compared to some of the other larger states such as California, Texas, or Pennsylvania, I think one of the reasons for such a good participation rate is that if you participate in the contest once, you realize how much fun it is and how challenging it can be.  For those who choose to participate as a mobile operator, there’s the added benefit of taking in the beautiful Virginia countryside just as springtime approaches.   The technical fun comes from putting together the best antennae/station combination you can, and then using your operator skills to try and contact the counties that were not activated in the prior year’s contest. If you haven’t participated before, I encourage club members to set aside some time on the weekend of March 19 and 20 and give it a try.  The latest rules and information for the contest can be found at .   Give it a try, and hope to hear you on the air during the contest!

73  Marshall, KI4MWP

Social Events

We expect to be meeting at the Alexandria Hospital from now until our June 2011 meeting, so the pre-meeting dinner is now at Atlantis in the Bradlee Shopping Center 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 (Duke and Paxton Streets) on Monday evenings at 6:30 PM. A good burger and soft drink runs about $9.00.

ARC - Shorts

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