The Gamification of Ham Radio

I think contest organizations and the ARRL understand one aspect of fostering activity in the hobby. The logbook awards, contests, and sprints have their roots in achievement, competition, and accomplishment. Stanford gaming theorist Jane McGonigal recently spoke at a Security Conference I attended where she remarked on the incredible amount of time poured into online gaming. More than the combined manpower of the largest companies in the world, games contribute literal trillions of man-hours (billions a week) to seemingly “useless obstacles”. Why? Because games bring out a full-brain engagement like few other daily activities. The same concepts are readily (albeit unintentionally) applied to ham radio. Even contests that aren’t scheduled,… Read More

Continue Reading

Test Ed Fong Roll-up J-Pole

One of the few things I actually took home from Pacificon 2018 in San Ramon was an Ed Fong “DBJ-2” Dual-band Roll-up J-Pole for 2m/440. A vendor was asking me if I needed a cool base-station 2m antenna (DBJ-1), and I said I already had one set up. I recognized the seller’s nametag and said, “But I do know your name… Do you happen to have any of your famous Roll-up J-pole antennas?” He had only a couple more. I knew about this antenna from SOTA YouTubers KG6HQD Jerry and W6RIP Kevin, and wanted to try one since seeing Jerry throw one over a tree and blanket the whole Los… Read More

Continue Reading

CW and FT8 and PSK, oh my!

In the past month, I’ve finally unblocked my antenna issues and made great strides in the digital realm of ham radio. Using the PreciseRF HG-1 magnetic loop antenna along with my RigExpert AA-600 to get the lowest possible SWR, I have found that I can get out to virtually all over the country simply from putting the antenna on the street. The loop only supports max 45W PEP, so it is definitely a low-power antenna. But I can only imagine how it would function if I were in a flat field or on a peak. With gray-line propagation some days, I see strong signal spots via Reverse Beacon Network or… Read More

Continue Reading

Sent first SSTV image

Using SSTV for iOS on my phone and a BTECH APRS-K1 Audio Interface Cable (albeit connected to a Kenwood TH-D74A), I just sent my first SSTV image on 145.510 MHz FM simplex. I don’t think anyone heard, but it was a proof of concept exercise. I recorded the transmission on a separate handheld, using a small voice recorder. Despite this lossy recording method, I was able to reconstruct the image pretty well using the same SSTV app. Here is the recording, give it a try with your decoder: Encoded with Scottie 1, try decoding this SSTV transmission with your own SSTV app. (here’s a media file download link) The implications of this mode are fascinating.… Read More

Continue Reading

First CW QSO Confirmed

Today I received my first reply QSL card. And for a CW QSO, no less!   On March 7, 2018, during my lunch break I set up my mobile 40m hamstick in the office parking lot and surfed around the CW frequencies of 40m (i.e. 7.000 to 7.125 MHz). It was mostly me calling CQ and with no replies, but toward the end of the lunch hour, I heard someone coming in pretty loud, and slow enough that I could (mostly) make out the characters. By the second callsign send, I could visualize: AB6ET. I hoped I was getting it right. When AB6ET finished, I sent out, “AB6ET DE AD6DM… Read More

Continue Reading

Choosing the Next Rig

In my quest to find the next portable rig (I already decided), I made a comparison sheet with stats about the various rigs I was considering. Here is my portable rig matrix (including handhelds). Hopefully this list could be of help to others.  Bear in mind, I had specific goals in this rig evaluation: Portability of station setup Ease of use in multiple modes CW practice wherever I was Expansion of my amateur radio capabilities into other modes, e.g. APRS, packet, digital HF, base and mobile antenna improvement Versatility and integration with my existing setup While I was dead set on getting the Elecraft KX3 fully loaded, I decided… Read More

Continue Reading

Wiring a CW Paddle

Many HF transceivers use a stereo jack for the internal electronic keyer. Some have a 1/4″ jack, others have a 3.5mm jack. This is a note on how most of these are wired to a CW paddle. On a TRS cable (tip ring sleeve 3.5mm) Red: tip (left, dit) White: ring (right, dah) Yellow: sleeve (common ground) (this wire could also be black) If you’re right-handed, use the left paddle for the dit, which would go to the tip of the plug which would be the red connection. The white connection is the dah (right paddle) which goes to “ring” on the plug, adjacent to the tip. The common ground… Read More

Continue Reading