December 31, 2011

Auld Lang Syne

Auld Lang Syne
by Robert Burns, 1788

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
... ... And auld lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my dear, 
For auld lang syne.
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
Sin’ auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin’ auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.

NJ2X.COM Kindle edition is now available.

What are you doing new year's eve?

Happy New Year!

Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Radio Standards Organizations

Here is a handy reference to radio related standards organizations around the world.  One of the best things about standards is that there are so many of them.  All kidding aside, there is a wealth of information to be found via these links.

December 29, 2011

The DIY Magic of Amateur Radio

The ARRL has produced an excellent video called, "The DIY Magic of Amateur Radio".  The video is aimed at the Do It Yourself community.  The ubiquity of wireless technology in communications, computer, hacker, robotics, and other technology applications means amateur radio has a lot to offer to a broad spectrum of technically minded people.

This video runs about 8 minutes and would be an excellent video to show at your club's next meeting.  It would also make a nice video to loop for public viewing at an event.  You can download the high def 16:9 version directly from the ARRL

December 27, 2011

An American Ham in Canada

As a licensed amateur radio operator and citizen of the United States, you may operate in Canada as a domestically licensed station without the requirement of obtaining any license or permission from the Canadian government.
An American amateur may allow third party use of his station and call sign, carry international third party traffic, serve as a temporary control operator for a repeater station, and identify themselves as a domestic station using the national call sign system, provided:
  • The Licensee has citizenship and a valid amateur radio license from the country for their residency;
  • The Licensee appends the local Canadian Zone(Region) to the END of their call sign when identifying their station (e.g. KC2XXX/VE3); and,
  • The Licensee adheres to the Canada operating powers, frequency (band) allocations, and laws.
US amateurs operating in Canada must abide by Industry Canada RBR-4 rules.
- A US amateur who is qualified to send and receive in Morse code at a speed of at least 5 wpm may operate an amateur station in Canada in accordance with the provisions applicable to the holder of an Amateur Operator's Certificate with Basic, Morse Code (5 wpm) and Advanced Qualifications.
- A US amateur who is not qualified to send and receive in Morse code may operate an amateur station in Canada in accordance with provisions applicable to the holder of the Amateur Operator's Certificate with Basic Qualifications.
United States licensed stations are required to carry and provide upon request:
  • A US passport;
  • A copy of the 2009 FCC CEPT notice; and,
  • A valid FCC amateur radio license.
Special considerations for 420-430 Mhz - Line A and C
By international treaty between the US and Canada, operation in the portion of the band from 420 to 430 MHz is prohibited north of (an imaginary) "Line A",which runs approximately parallel to the US-Canadian border just south of the Canadian border from Washington state to Maine, and east of Line C, which runs from northeast to southeast Alaska.

Part 97 Legal Description of Line A:
§97.3 Definitions. (29) Line A. Begins at Aberdeen, WA, running by great circle arc to the intersection of 48º N, 120º W, thence along parallel 48º N, to the intersection of 95º W, thence by great circle arc through the southernmost point of Duluth, MN, thence by great circle arc to 45º N, 85º W, thence southward along meridian 85º W, to its intersection with parallel 41º N, thence along parallel 41º N, to its intersection with meridian 82º W, thence by great circle arc through the southernmost point of Bangor, ME, thence by great circle arc through the southernmost point of Searsport, ME, at which point it terminates.
It is a wonderful privilege for US hams to have the ability to operate in Canada.  This is particularly valuable considering the vast border that our two countries share.  Amateur radio is a useful asset when exploring the great Canadian wilderness and natural beauty.  So the next time you are headed to the Great White North do consider bringing amateur radio with you.

Related articles:

© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

December 26, 2011

The Thoughtful Radio Amateur

The thoughtful radio amateur is:
Responsible - using courteous operating practice, complying with regulations and accepted technical standards;

Progressive - striving to develop and improve operating and technical skills;

Helpful - offering assistance, support and encouragement to other Amateurs, especially beginners; and

Public Spirited - offering use of station, knowledge and skills as a public service whenever possible.

Text by Bill Wilson, VE3NR (SK 2010)
The Canadian Amateur 1997 12

Related article: The Amateur's Code

December 25, 2011



January 8, 2011

Briarcliffe College
 1055 Stewart Ave
 Bethpage, NY 11714

Since 1999, HRU has been bringing the local ham community together for a special day of learning and fellowship.  At HRU you can attend one of many forums about Amateur Radio. You can also find out
about many different Amateur Radio organizations and clubs and even join one! You can see
a demonstration of various radio modes such as signal sideband voice, Morse Code or digital modes  our demo room. You can operate our special event station and make contact with other hams around the country or around the world. You can listen to our keynote speaker. You can take any level amateur radio license exam in our volunteer exam session.

We have been attending this excellent event since 2008.  We look forward to meeting you there.

For more information check out:

December 23, 2011

HRD DM780 Macros: Curse or Blessing?

The Ham Radio Deluxe DM780 software is unquestionably a wonderful product - large number of digital modes, powerful features, and easy to use.  There is no mystery as to why DM780 has such a strong following among hams.

Monitoring 40m PSK31 activity with DM780

One of the convenient features of DM780 is automation of the QSO with macros.  You can think of macros as an automated form letter.  This allows for quick exchanges of routine information.  There are several very good reasons for using macros in DM780 or any other similarly enabled ham radio software:
  • Macros relieve the burden of typing the same information over-and-over again.  No fun typing CQ CQ CQ .... over and over again.
  • Speed up the QSO and allow the operator to multitask.
  • Provides an assistant to people with physical disabilities which limit their use of a keyboard.
  • Provides a structure to the QSO.
  • Macros are very useful with the hyper-fast modes like PSK-125.  Most people simply can't type fast and accurately enough to keep up with the mode.
  • Macros are a great way to make an exchange in a language you don't speak (see our article, "HRD DM780 - variations of the 73 macro").
Some hams are put off by macros.  Some even to the point that they avoid using digital modes like PSK31 due to what they perceive as inappropriate overuse of macros.
  • Some hams feel that macro driven QSO are like form letters lacking the human touch.
  • Some hams prefer a short efficient QSO.  They don't enjoy receiving macro-driven unsolicited extensive information about the contact's station, detailed accounts of the weather, long lists of awards, ...
We really enjoy using digital modes and macros definitely have a place in our operation.  We enjoy using digital modes for rag chewing and award hunting.  Sometimes we use macros, other times we don't and sometimes we combine both macros and typing.  It all depends on the context of what we are doing and who we are communicating with.  Here are a few tips for macro use:
  • Don't send station details, weather conditions, or award information unless asked for this information.
  • Keep macros lean and efficient.  Avoid loading them up with unneeded information.
  • Consider combining both macro and typed information together to give the exchange a human touch.
  • Don't use macros for very simple exchanges.  For example, the minimum exchange for a SKED is often call sign and report.  We typically choose to simply type the exchange during a PSK31 sked QSO.
  • Avoid the use of macros during a rag chew QSO and give your communication the human touch.
  • As an alternative to providing unsolicited details, consider sending a simple Internet link to your information.  This allows people to decide for themselves if they want to learn more about your station, awards, etc. by following the link.
We don't agree with those that abandon digital modes because of a few well-intentioned hams who overuse macros.  The art of amateur radio is communication.  We are in the glass-is-half-full camp thus we believe the art will continue to improve as we all gain experience with digital modes and grow with the hobby.  Also, operating digital modes are simply too much fun to just stand on sidelines.  It is much more fun to fire up the rig and get into the middle of the game.

See our related articles:
HRD DM780 Calling Macro
HRD DM780 - variations of the 73 macro

© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

December 18, 2011

3D Xmas Tree Kit - Velleman

The return of cold weather means less time in the field and more time warming the workshop with a soldering iron.  Winter 'tis the season of father and son kit building!

KC2VSR had a great time building this Velleman 3D Xmas Tree Kit.  The holiday theme really put us into the holiday spirit too.

The kit comes with a set of detailed instructions.  No issues understanding what to do.

The first thing we did was to layout the parts to make sure everything was included. We found the kit had all the parts and enough extra LED's to make the trees solid red or a combination of red, yellow, and green. KC2VSR chose to go with the multicolor design.

The parts are all through-the-hole which made soldering a breeze.

KC2VSR used this handy project vise to hold the circuit parts steady during installation and soldering.

KC2VSR demonstrating proper soldering technique - heat the part first (not the solder) and let the solder flow.  Nice work!

Voila!  The finished 3D Xmas Tree.  It worked the very first time powered up.  We like the clever design of using the 9V battery as the based of the tree. 

There is something about blinking LEDs that really makes a project come to life - the LED fun factor. 
The 3D XMas Tree looks great in the dark too.

  • Great kit for anyone interested in developing soldering skills
  • LED adds a "fun factor" to the finished product
  • Clear instructions
  • Low cost
  • Creative design
  • Exposed components show off the builder's skill - conversation piece
  • Possibilities for experimentation - e.g. changing values of capacitors, trying different transistors, ...
  • None!
This is an all-around wonderful little kit.  It would make a nice gift for any kit builder you know.  It would also be a fun project for anyone interested in learning how to solder.

Happy Holidays from KC2VSR and NJ2X

Be sure to checkout our related articles:

© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

December 17, 2011

NTSB Seeking New Laws Against Portable Electronic Devices

The number of criminal laws in the US has exploded in the last 50 years.  We have reached a point where it is beyond the capability of the citizenry to live free in confidence that they are also obeying the law.  There are simply too many laws and good people are being ensnared and their lives trampled.  The real tragedy is that we have traded away our freedom in exchange for the false security of being ruled by a large and powerful government.
Here they go again....

The brilliant lawyers and freedom fighters in Washington (yeah right) have come up with another way to make us all safe from ourselves.  Can you guess how?  If you answered, "more laws" then you win the golden fleece award.  Not a fair question you say?  True, they didn't come up with another way to make us safe.  Piling on the laws is the ONLY way for these people - its how they bread their butter.  When all you have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail.  Feeling a little safer and less free yet?  If not, read on it gets better.

The National Transportation Safety Board is seeking to justify their existence by seeking new laws to be made effective across the 50 states of the U.S. banning the use of portable electronic devices while driving.

"The safety recommendation specifically calls for the 50 states and the District of Columbia to ban the non-emergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers. The safety recommendation also urges use of the NHTSA model of high-visibility enforcement to support these bans and implementation of targeted communication campaigns to inform motorists of the new law and heightened enforcement."

Ban the non-emergency use of portable electronic devices
Amateur radio has been used safely by hams in vehicles for decades.  A 2m rig in your vehicle certainly fits the definition of a portable electronic device and is used most of the time in non-emergency situations.  Under the definition above, hams will either have to stop using their mobile equipment or become criminals.  Enjoy operating 2m, 200Mhz, 220Mhz, or HF while mobile?  These people are targeting YOU and your portable electronic device.  Feeling less like a valued good neighbor and more like a miscreant?

High-visibility enforcement to support these bans
Can't have more laws without more enforcement right?  Enforcement will likely include being pulled over for being spotted with something in your hand.  Cup of coffee, donut, GPS, or a Blackberry all look similar at 65 miles per hour.  How about a 2m hand-held microphone in your hand?  The bar will be so low that the police won't be expected to offer any evidence of just cause.

All this enforcement and nanny state re-education will require larger budgets, more spending, increased deficits, and all at a time when the country is deep in debt.  Guess who pays?  Hint... not the brilliant lawyers and freedom fighters in Washington.  "High-visibility" equals high cost equals high taxes equals fewer jobs equals a poorer you.

What is odd is that we already have mountains of laws that were passed under the same guise of public safety.  For example, in most places it is against the law to lose control of your vehicle, crash into a tree, and die.  It is also already illegal to run over pedestrians crossing the road.  Sadly, people still do these things.  Apparently, we pass laws to make ourselves safe but then find we are not safe so we pass more laws to make ourselves safe, and on and on...  Incrementalism brings the pot to boil without disturbing the frogs bathing in the water.

Laws against stupidity
Is it illegal to be stupid?  Apparently it soon will be as Washington incrementally makes another common sense personal decision a matter of law.  Eyes down and texting in heavy traffic at 70 miles per hour is indeed a potentially life shortening decision.  Risky?  Yes.  Foolish?  Yes.  Could earn you an entry into the Darwin Award competition?  Yes.  Do we need laws to protect ourselves from ourselves?  No.

It is the role of our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, friends, and everyone else dependent on us to help us be accountable and take personal responsibility for our decisions.  If someone chooses to put their children's lives at risk by texting while their kids are in the back seat then yet-another-law will be of no consequence to them.  However, that same law diminishes our general freedom and promotes a culture where personal responsibility is seen as passe.  Frivolous laws also dilute respect for the law.

Call your congressman and respectfully ask them to preserve freedom, reduce the size of government, don't touch mobile amateur radio, and don't let the NTSB legislate away personal responsibility.

December 12, 2011

Radio Teletypewriter AN/GRC-46 (RTTY)

We take "texting" for granted today as new technology; however, wireless texting has been in use since early radioteletype experiments dating back to 1922.  Radioteletype technology was put to use by the US military in 1930s and use expanded during World War II.  The US Navy called radioteletype RATT (Radio Automatic Teletype) and the Army Signal Corps called radioteletype SCRT (Single-Channel Radio Teletype).

Radio Set AN/GRC-46

This in an excellent 1963 Department of Defence film explaining the Radio Teletypewriter set AN/GRC-46 in terms of:
  • Components
  • Electronic Function
  • Capabilities
  • Operation
The AN/GRC-46 operated on HF (1.5Mhz to 20Mhz) and employed Frequency Shift Keying (FSK) for either half-duplex or full-duplex RTTY tactical communications (up to 80km).  The radio could also be used for CW and phone operations.  One interesting feature was the ability of the operator to simultaneously transmit both RTTY and phone.  Funny to think that this was state-of-the-art for portable "texting" device at the time.
A few interesting details to look for in the film:
  • Automatic transmitter tuning
  • Automatic antenna tuning
  • Leg clamp key KY116U for morse code
  • Paper tape storage
  • Modulator and demodulator (aka MODEM)
  • Cryptographic machinery mentioned though conspicuously absent
The film runs about 27 minutes.

Be sure to check out:



December 10, 2011

Portable Rotatable Dipole

For our portable operations, we have been using a portable rotatable HF dipole from EmComm-Products (model RADS 9-11/A) since 2008.  This antenna is rated for up to 200W UHF/VHF / 250W PEP HF.  In our setup we run no more than 50W on UHF/VHF and 100W on HF.

One particularly useful feature of the antenna is that it provides HF and a second VHF/UHF antenna on top of the dipole which is fed by a separate cable.  This allows the operator to run both a HF radio and VHF/UHF radio concurrently on one mast.

The mast is sectional fiberglass, guyed, and goes up very easily with two people (takes about 15 minutes).  The Velcro cable ties used to neatly store the cable double as ties between the mast and cable.

To rotate the antenna we simply give the mast a twist.  This is usually enough to cause the dipole to turn in the in the desired direction.  We have also used a light line tied to one end of the dipole to guide the rotation.
Dipole that can be rotated manually
NJ2X's Rotatable HF Dipole Antenna on the beach in Hattaras Island, NC

The dipole sections can be changed out and manually "tuned" for all HF bands from 160m to 10m and also VHF on 6m.  Tuning is accomplished by adjusting the telescopic sections.  A roll up tape measure and guidebook in the bag helps with the adjustment for specific bands and frequencies.

The entire antenna system packs up neatly into a heavy duty military green water resistant bag.  This makes it our preferred field day antenna.  We have also used it for mini-DX expeditions.  Pictured above is the antenna setup overlooking the beach on Hatteras Island, NC.

Emergency communication rotatable dipole antenna packed up in its go-bag

This antenna system has been a real pleasure to use and we look forward to breaking it out again for Field Day 2012.  Now only to decide where we will take it...



Subscribe to Kindle Edition

© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

December 9, 2011

ARRL 10 Meter Contest - December 10/11, 2011

The ARRL 10 Meter Contest is the second full weekend of December.  Starts 0000 UTC Saturday; runs through 2359 UTC Sunday (December 10 – 11, 2011).  This contest is sure to be a big draw since the 10 meter band has been open daily worldwide.  ARRL 10 Meter Contest Rules.

December 7, 2011

Amici Probantur Rebus Adversis

We recently encountered the latin phrase, "amici probantur rebus adversis" which is attributed to the Roman philosopher Cicero and translates to, "friends are proved by adversity".  This gave us pause and we were reminded of the corollary, "a fair weather friend changes with the wind".  Together these two sayings mean that we can judge who are our real friends (versus acquaintances) in difficult times.

Time and again radio amateurs have proved that they are indeed good friends to their communities facing adversity.  Hams provide emergency communication services to help those in need.  The Amateur Radio Service is there when all else fails.  So too are the radio amateurs.

Kudos to you friends.  We are grateful knowing you will be there when the going gets tough.

December 4, 2011

Hunting Shortwave Broadcast Radio Stations

A common pattern among amateur radio operators is to have developed an interest in radio from having access to a shortwave radio.  Sadly the trend over the last decade has been a decline in the number of shortwave broadcasters.  However, there are still stations on the air and shortwave listening (SWL) has remained a wonderful way to enjoy "playing radio" and experience the "magic".

As a youth, we would simply turn on the radio and tune up and down until finding an interesting station.  It was mostly a random process.  Over time, we learned to identify stations and programs and could tune to the right place at the right time.

Yeasu FRG-100 50Khz to 30MHz Receiver
We still do spend time tuning up and down the bands on our Yeasu FRG-100 or Sangean ATS-909X.  We also take advantage of the power of the Internet for improving our ability to locate radio programs and identify shortwave radio stations.  An excellent SWL resource is the website

This site offers several useful tools including:
  • World map identifying the location and frequency of stations currently on the air
  • A query tool for finding stations transmitting in English (or any other language) at a given time
  • A query tool for finding stations presently transmitting on a certain frequency is easy to use and enhances the shortwave radio listening experience with information.  It can help you spend more time listening and enjoying and less time randomly tuning.

If you are interested in becoming a shortwave listener, checkout the Monitoring Times article, "Getting Started in SW Listening" by Ken Reitz for some helpful information.

If you are ham, checkout our related article, "Hunting LoTW Stations",

December 3, 2011

The Amateur's Code

The Radio Amateur is:

CONSIDERATE...never knowingly operates in such a way as to lessen the pleasure of others.

LOYAL...offers loyalty, encouragement and support to other amateurs, local clubs, and the American Radio Relay League, through which Amateur Radio in the United States is represented nationally and internationally.

PROGRESSIVE...with knowledge abreast of science, a well-built and efficient station and operation above reproach.

FRIENDLY...slow and patient operating when required; friendly advice and counsel to the beginner; kindly assistance, cooperation and consideration for the interests of others.  These are the hallmarks of the amateur spirit. is an avocation, never interfering with duties owned to family, job, school, or community.

PATRIOTIC...station and skill always ready for service to country and community.

-The original Amateur's Code was written by Paul M. Segal, W9EEA, in 1928

December 2, 2011

2st EPC Ukraine DX Contest This Weekend

One of our favorite modes is PSK.  There is an interesting contest this weekend, "2st EPC Ukraine DX Contest."  BPSK63 is a fast mode so there will be plenty of action to keep it interesting.  Here are a few of the details:

The Ukrainian Section of the European PSK Club has the honour to invite radio amateurs from all over the world to participate in the 2st EPC Ukraine DX Contest (EPC-UKR-DX).

Rule overview
  • The contest will be held from 20:00 UTC on Saturday, December 3, 2011 until 19:59 UTC on Sunday, December 4, 2011.
  • This is strictly BPSK63 contest, no other modes are allowed.
  • The output power shall not exceed 100 watts in all categories.
  • Category SOAB-24, SOAB-12, SOLF, SOHF, MOST.
  • Contest call for all participants is «CQ EPCUR TEST».
  • Ukrainian stations should send RSQ plus conventional code of the Ukrainian Administrative Region. Example - 599 UR25.
  • Other stations should send signal report plus QSO number, starting 001. Example – 599 001.
  • Stations in the same DXCC Country are worth 1 point.
  • Stations on the same continent but different DXCC Countries are worth 2 point.
  • Stations on different continents are worth 5 points.
  • Contacts with Ukrainian stations are worth 10 points.
The rules and other information can be found at the contest website in English, on Russian. You should send your log via E-mail:

November 30, 2011

A Ham's Night Before Christmas

This is a wonderful piece by by Gary Pearce, KN4AQ, with guitar melody by Don Mercz, WA3AYR.

November 27, 2011

1948 Film: Vacuum Tube Manufacturing

Vacuum Tube
The vacuum tube was invented in 1906 and was the enabling technology for the rapid development of electronics for the next 50 or so years until the appearance of the transistor in the late 1950's.
Pentode Components 

This 3-part film from Philips-Mullard (1948) presents a detailed look at the components, construction, and manufacture of vacuum tubes.  This is a fascinating work on several levels - vacuum tube technology, period manufacturing automation, and the factory environment itself.  The 3 films in total run about 24 minutes.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Be sure to checkout our related articles:

November 26, 2011

Number of US Amateur Radio License Holders Highest Level Ever

According to the ARRL, over the last 40 years, the number of Amateur Radio operators in the US has grown at a remarkable rate:
  • December 1971: 285,000
  • December 1981: 433,000
  • December 1991: 494,000
  • December 2001: 683,000
  • September 2011: 700,221
The growth and interest trend in Amateur Radio is a clear indication that the future is bright for the hobby.  This growth also has implications from a spectrum use perspective.  We do hope the FCC and federal legislators will take note of this.
  • Do not pass laws that will reduce or sell off the spectrum that is for amateur radio use.
  • Do increase spectrum available for amateur radio use.
  • Protect amateur radio spectrum from interference through FCC enforcement.
  • Acknowledge the value of amateur radio in science education and emergency communications.
  • Support laws that protect amateur radio operator's ability to erect and use outdoor antennas.

November 25, 2011

Black black black Friday

It is the biggest day of the shopping all year... Black Friday.  Rumours were flying all over town about an unprecedented sale which had been confirmed by recent radio spots for, "Extreme Pricing with 99% off!".  As a result, a long line had already formed at 6:30AM in front of the store.  By 8:30AM the line had doubled in length and had become a little surley.

A small man pushed his way to the front of the line, only to be pushed back, amid a barage of curses.

On the man's second attempt, he was knocked around a bit, and then thrown to the end of the line again.

As he got up the second time, the small man said to the person at the end of the line, "That does it!  If they throw me down one more time, I am not going open the store!"


Avoid the lines and hassles and visit your local Amateur Radio dealer instead this Black Friday.  You will likely have a lot more fun, see some new gear, and may even take home a little something for the shack.

November 24, 2011

Westinghouse Film - Electronics At Work - Electronic Tubes Explained

In this 1943 film by Westinghouse, the six basic functions of vacuum tubes are explained along with how each type of tube is used in industrial and military applications.
  • Rectify
  • Amplify
  • Generate
  • Control
  • Transform light into current
  • Transform current into light
This is a well done educational film with a 21minute run time.  Provides a very nice tube tutorial for those of us who have grown up in the solid state / digital age taking some of the mystery out what these devices are all about.

Be sure to check out our related articles:

November 23, 2011

Chasing 10m FM DX

There are so many interesting modes in which to operate our amateur radios.  Most hams are familiar with the "meat-and-potatoes" modes like, CW, SSB, AM, and RTTY.  Surprisingly, few hams seem to have tried working DX with FM.  The return of sunspots provides ham with an opportunity to jump into FM DX'ing.  You can work 10m FM DX with a modest station - a 100W rig and an 10m antenna will do the job.

You can even work QRP (low power < 5w) FM DX when the 10m band is open.  This is really amazing thing to experience.  Give it a try sometime.  One approach is to start the QSO with higher power and then back the power level down to QRP and see if you can maintain the contact.  How low can you go?  Another approach is to simply work the contact with low power.

Kenwood TS-480SAT HF + 6m Transceiver
Kenwood TS-480SAT HF + 6m Transceiver

Generals, Advanced, and Amateur Extra's have HF FM privileges on the 10m band.  The United States HF band plan allows FM between 29.6Mhz and 29.7Mhz.

5 Tips for 10m FM DX
  1. Keep the QSO short  - 10m FM DX is fast paced since the conditions are typically unstable.  Make the exchange quickly so you can log the contact.
  2. Monitor beacons for 10m openings - When 10m is open, dial up the 10m FM band plan frequencies.
  3. Monitor spots for 10m FM - Monitor 10m spots and look for frequencies that fall within the US FM band plan.  Once you see a spot, move quickly as the station will often disappear quickly.
  4. 29.600Mhz is the FM simplex calling frequency.  This is a good place to start listening.
  5. Dial up-and-down.  FM simplex changes quickly.  Stations will appear and disappear.  Keep moving, listening, and pounce.
On November 20, 2011, we had a great time making 10m FM contacts with Europe including OK2OV (Czech Republic), PB2A (The Netherlands), and GI7AXB (Northern Ireland).  All of these contacts were with full quieting and rich audio.  10m FM DX can sound awesome!

If you have a 10m radio with FM, we encourage you to get onto 10m and try working FM DX.  You will be amazed that this typically local mode works so well over great distances.  You will also enjoy the nice clean sound of FM too.

© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2011.

November 22, 2011

WWII Film - Hallicrafters: Voice of Victory - SCR-299

In 1944, Hallicrafters teamed up with the US Army Signal Corp to produce this interesting training film called, "Hallicrafters: Voice of Victory".  The technical advisor of the film was W9AA - Cyrus T. Reed.  This film shows the assembly and testing of big iron Hallicrafters radio SCR-299.  When we write "big" we mean "BIG" (takes up the better part of a truck and two men to load).
This film would likely be of great interest to Hallicrafters enthusiasts,  SCR-299 owner this film, and people interested in the role of US amateur radio in winning World War 2.  This film runs about 14 minutes.  We hope you will agree it is a rather amazing and unique work.

A few things to look for (list courtesy of K0OD):
  • 3:32 - Listen for the replica (no hams on air in '42) vintage CQ and exchange. Notice the op manually switches off the transmitter and tunes his SX-28 receiver after his CQ. Most callers would have been crystal controlled and on a different frequency.
  • 7:42 - Shot of early 2 element beam rotating on what looks like a wood tower.
  • 12:20 - Ugly soldering iron.
  • 12:45 - Assembly line worker using power hoists to position the heaviest parts.
  • 17:05 - Light bulbs used as a "dummy antenna". 

SCR-299 Advertisement circa 1942

Be sure to check out:

November 21, 2011

Driving on the New Jersey Turnpike

An elderly ham was driving down the New Jersey Turnpike when suddenly his 2 meter rig crackled his call...

Answering the call, he heard a fellow ham's urgent warning....."Elmer, I just heard on the news that there is a car driving down the turnpike the wrong way so please be careful"!!
Elmer replied,"Well I'll declare, it's not just one.......there are hundreds of them!!!!!!!!!"

November 20, 2011

Desoldering 101

Soldering is a very good skill to have as a ham.  But what do you do when you need to remove a solder part?  You "de-solder" it of course.  Learning the correct way to desolder can save a lot of frustration and time.  You will need this skill if you ever engage in activities such as:
  • Kit building - e.g. soldered a part in the wrong orientation or wrong position.
  • Electronic repair - e.g. replacing leaky old capacitors in a radio.
  • Part salvage - e.g. removing parts from a device for reuse in some other project.
Take a few minutes and learn the proper way to desolder.

We learned desoldering the hard way in our youth tearing apart old gear and salvaging parts.  It turns out that desoldering is a common pattern among hams as a way to successful learning of soldering technique.  In other words, desoldering an old piece of equipment and salvaging the good parts is a great way to learn how to handle a solder iron.  This is likely because the risk of doing damage is ZERO (the circuit is already broken) which gives the freedom to make mistakes and learn. 

Before you open the cabinet of an old piece of equipment, make sure the power is off and unplugged.  Additionally, do educate yourself on how to safely deal with capacitors and other components which can store dangerous voltages even after the power is disconnected.

As a youth, would have loved to have some soldering wick and the fancy solder sucker.  We have been using solder wick for many years.  We recently picked up a nice solder sucker tool at Fry's Electronics while working in San Jose (Silicon Valley), CA.  Now we just need an old radio to work on....

Be sure to check out related articles:
Soldering 101
Soldering PL-259 Connectors
KN-Q7A Single Band SSB Transceiver Kit - New Arrival

November 19, 2011

Soldering 101

Amateur radio is a wonderful hobby with so many different facets to explore.  One of the skills that most ham develop at some point is soldering.  This is because soldering is fun, useful, and arguably necessary.  Here are just a few things you can do with soldering:
  • Solder a power cable (see our article Project: Car power adapter to Anderson Powerpole)
  • Solder ends on coaxial cable
  • Build a commercial kit (radio, power supply, gadget, ...)
  • Make a home-brew device
  • Splice wires together
  • Repair or modify electrical equipment

If you would like to improve your soldering skill, spend the next 7 minutes with this excellent tutorial on the basics of soldering.  It will help you solder like a pro in no time.

A few safety precautions:
  • Never touch the element or tip of the soldering iron. They are very hot (about 400°C) and will give you a nasty burn.
  • Return the soldering iron to its stand when not in use. Never put it down on your workbench, even for a moment!
  • Work in a well-ventilated area. The smoke formed as you melt solder is mostly from the flux and quite irritating. Avoid breathing it by keeping you head to the side of, not above, your work.
  • Wash your hands after using solder.  Solder contains lead which is a toxic metal.
Now that you have learned how to solder it is time to practice.  A great way to start is to buy a simple electronic kit from Radio Shack, Fry's Electronics, Vectronics, or other electronic kit retailers

Elenco sells a nice Elenco Learn To Solder Kit that comes complete with a soldering iron, solder, circuit board, and components.

Alternatively, check out our simple, useful, and easy-to-build project, Project: Car power adapter to Anderson Powerpole.

Elecraft offers a useful Q&A on soldering called, "Ask Dr. Solder".  It is definitely worth reading.

We learned desoldering in our youth tearing apart old gear and salvaging parts. It turns out that desoldering is a common pattern among hams as a path to successful mastery of soldering technique.  In other words, desoldering an old piece of equipment and salvaging parts is a great way to learn how to handle a solder iron.   This is likely because the risk of damaging the circuit is ZERO (since it is already broken) which gives the freedom to make mistakes and learn.  Desoldering old equipment is also nearly free!  Be sure to check out our NJ2X.COM article, "Desoldering 101"

See our related articles:
Project: Wheel Of Fortune Kit (Velleman)
3D Xmas Tree Kit - Velleman
KN-Q7A Single Band SSB Transceiver Kit - New Arrival

November 18, 2011

ARRL’s annual November Sweepstakes - Phone

The ARRL’s annual November Sweepstakes is the oldest domestic contest, beginning in 1932. It’s a competition between North American stations – individuals, teams, and clubs. For many US and Canadian hams, it is their first contest operation and remains a regular event on their yearly schedule for a lifetime. The contest is somewhat unique in that each station may only be contacted once and the number of different recognized locations is limited to the 80 ARRL and RAC sections. Working the 80 sections is called a "Clean Sweep" and allows the station to claim one of the coveted Clean Sweep coffee mugs – there are other awards, as well.
Phone: Third full weekend in November (November 19-21, 2011). Contest Period: Begins 2100 UTC Saturday and runs through 0259 UTC Monday.

For stations in the United States and Canada (including territories and possessions) to exchange QSO information with as many other US and Canadian stations as possible on 160, 80, 40, 20, 15 and 10 meter bands.

All stations may operate no more than 24 of the 30 hours.  Off-times must be a minimum of 30 minutes without operating. Listening time counts as operating time.

Your exchange is based on an ARRL radiogram header and has five parts:
  • Serial – the number of this contact in the contest (1st, 10th, 121st, etc)
  • Precedence – your category abbreviation as described above (A, B, M, Q, S, or U)
  • Your call sign
  • Check – the last two digits of the year in which you were licensed (i.e. – 02 for 2002)
  • ARRL Section – the abbreviation for your ARRL or RAC section
For contest information see the 2011 Sweepstakes Operating Guide or contact the ARRL: or (860) 594-0232

November 17, 2011

Light bulb

Q: How many amateur radio operators does it take to screw in a 100W light bulb? 

A: Three.  One to solder the lightbulb on the end of the coax, one to check the SWR, and one to measure the signal strength and plot the radiation pattern.

Anyone remember line printer art?

         -~        ~-
        -     _      -
       -      |>      -
       -      |<      -
        -     |>     -
         -    ||    -
          -   ||   -                  

Gunsite / Yavapai Radio Club Observe NRA Birthday November 17, 2011

Gunsite / Yavapai Radio Club Observe NRA Birthday November 17, 2011
Celebrate NRA's 140th birthday on November 17, 2011 as the Yavapai Amateur Radio Club operates a special-event broadcast station from the famed Gunsite Academy in Arizona. This FCC-licensed amateur station, using the call sign, K7NRA, will operate from 8AM to 5PM MST on the following frequencies: 7.250, 14.050, 14.250, and 21.355 MHz. All amateur radio stations, especially those operated by NRA memebers and Gunsite alumni, are urged to participate. A unique NRA/Gunsite QSL Card will be sent to stations contacted for the event. For more info, visit:

November 16, 2011


Q: What is the best way to greet an Amateur Radio operator?  A. With a short wave of course!

November 15, 2011

Chasing DX The Easy Way with HRD DM780

We love chasing DX and the thrill of the hunt.  Chasing DX is also time consuming - spinning the VFO dial in search of that rare DX station at all hours of the day and night.  For some, chasing DX competes with other priorities such as family, food, hygiene, sleep, jobs, kid's soccer games, exercise, ...  That is why it is important to us to find little tricks to maximize the impact of our scarce operating time and maintain some semblance of balance to life.

Warning, you are about to learn a very powerful secret that may change the way you ham FOREVER.

Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD) is a wonderful ham radio software package that includes integrated rig control, logging, and a program for running various digital modes called DM780.  We love operating digital modes like PSK31.  It is fun to communicate by computer over the radio.  Additionally, PSK31 is very effective at making DX contacts with a modest station.  An interesting additional advantage of using digital modes is automated monitoring.

It is possible to configure DM780 to listen to all the digital activity on a certain frequency and notify you when it detects DX that you are interested in.  This is extremely handy as it frees you to concentrate on other things.  Imagine being able to work on the "honey-do" list and working DX at the same time.

We recently used DM780 to monitor 14.070 PSK31 activity and notify us when a specific station appeared.  We were looking to make contact with K8WDX in order to complete our last 20m PSK31 WAS state - WV.  We knew that K8WDX uses the LoTW and frequents 20m on PSK31.  Having the computer monitor 14.070 for the station's call sign allowed us to work around the house within ear shot of the computer.  The computer gave a nice loud alert as soon as it recognized the desired call, "W8WDX on 20m".  We immediately ran over to our rig, locked onto the station, and called as soon as he finished his QSO.  Thanks to Tom K8WDX we completed 20m PSK31 WAS!

Here is how we setup DM780 for this:
  1. Tune radio to 14.070 and launch HRD / DM780.
  2. From DM780 menu, select SuperBrowser --> Display.  This brings up the SuperBrowser screen.
  3. Select Alarms --> Manager.  This brings up the Alarms Manager.
  4. DM780 will have several alarms configured as examples.  Disable all of these by removing the check boxes next to the alarms.
  5. Click "New".  A "New Alarm" window will pop up.
  6. Enter the desired station's call in the title field (in our example we entered, "W8WDX")
  7. Click on the "Match: SuperBrowser Only" tab.
  8. Click on the check box for "Callsign(s)".
  9. Enter the desired station's call in the field to the right of the "Callsign(s)" check box (in our example we entered "W8WDX").

     10. Click on the "Action: Sounds" tab.
     11. Add a check to the enable box under "Text-To-Speech".
     12. Click "OK".  This will save the search in DM780.

That's it!  With a few easy clicks you have configured DM780 and your computer to monitor your radio for a desired station and alert you.  This will allow you to do other things and jump on the radio when the desired station has been detected.  This trick is more powerful than monitoring spots since it potentially allows you to locate stations before the spot (and subsequent pileup).

The alarm feature in DM780 is flexible and can be configured in much more complex ways.  We hope you will give DM780 alarms a try.  You will be amazed at how well the alarm feature works.

Be sure to check out our related articles,

November 13, 2011

1944 US Navy Training Film - Radio Operator Training - Technique Of Hand Sending CW with a straight key

This is an excellent US Navy training film explaining the correct technique of hand sending morse code with a straight key.  It is from 1944 and it is spot on.  Well worth a view regardless if you new to CW or an expert (about 9 minutes long).

Be sure to check out my other related post, Army Morse Code Training Film 1966.

November 11, 2011

Project: Car power adapter to Anderson Powerpole

Conservation is the act of preservation, protection, or restoration of the natural environment.  We hams are conservationists as we tend to be a thrifty lot and regularly re-purpose and reuse materials for our hobby.  Why throw something into a landfill when it can be made into something useful?  Through creativity and technical know how we conserve materials (and funds).  The smell of solder and a few minutes in the workshop is great fun too!
In this article we share a useful and simple project to convert an unneeded car power cable to an Anderson Powerpole adapter.  We cabled all of our radio gear for Anderson Powerpoles sometime ago and have been glad we did so ever since.  Anderson Powerpoles offer many compelling reasons for adoption:

Flat Wiping Contact System
  • Minimal contact resistance at high current, wiping action cleans contact surface during connection/disconnection.
Colored Modular Housings
  • Provides visual identification of proper mating connector.
Molded-in Dovetails
  • Secures individual connectors into "keyed" assemblies which prevents mis-connection with similar configurations.
Defacto Standard
  • Anderson Powerpoles have emerged as the defacto power connector standard in the amateur radio community.
  • This means it is easier to power your equipment at hamfests, club meetings, field day, emergency communications, ....
Unfortunately, vehicles provide power for passé "cigarette lighters" and not Anderson Powerpole connectors.  Come on Detroit, time to get with it and provide Anderson Powerpole outlets in your vehicles.  A boring solution would have been to buy a couple of  vehicle power to Anderson Powerpole adapters which typically sell for about $15.00 at ham fests.  However, a quick survey of our junk box revealed several unused vehicle power cables which could be readily adapted to Anderson Powerpole connectors for very little cost.

Materials and Tools
1 - pair of Anderson Powerpole contacts (black and red)
1 - 2-inch length of suitable heat shrink tubing
1 - vehicle power cable (AKA cigarette lighter power cable)
Wire cutters
Wire stripper
Soldering iron
Rosin flux
Electrical Solder

Step 1: Prepare the cable by snipping off the unneeded end.

Step 2: Strip both wires about 5/16 inches (7.9 mm).

Step 3: Brush on rosin flux and tin the wires.  Be careful not to apply too much heat and melt the insulation.  If you do melt the insulation a little, just trim up the exposed wires to maintain the 5/16 inch length.

Step 4: Slip the cable through the 2 inch length of heat shrink tubing.  This provides a nice dressed looking cable.  Additionally, the heat shrink tubing will provide strain relief.

Step 5: Melt rosin flux into the Anderson Powerpole connectors.  Solder the connectors onto the tinned wires.

Step 6: Using the multimeter, determine the vehicle adapter's center contact.  Install the red Anderson Powerpole's by inserting the contact and wire into the housing from the rear. Position contact and push forward so that contact slips under the barrier and snaps over the end of the retaining spring.  Tug slightly to make sure contact is locked in place.

Step 7:  Install the black Anderson Powerpole's by inserting the contact and wire into the housing from the rear.  Position contact and push forward so that contact slips under the barrier and snaps over the end of the retaining spring. Tug slightly to make sure contact is locked in place.

Step 8: Using the multimeter, confirm continuity of red contact with the vehicle adapter center conductor.  (and no continuity with the outer spring contacts).  Confirm continuity of the black contact with the vehicle adapter out spring contacts (and no continuity with the vehicle adapter center conductor).

Step 9: Dovetail the two connectors together and interlock the red and black Anderson Powerpole by slipping the keyed parts together as pictured above.

Step 10: Slide the heat shrink tubing forward as close to the Anderson Powerpole connectors as possible.  Use a blow dryer or other heat source to gently shrink the tubing until snug.  Avoid burning or melting the heat shrink tubing.

Voila!  That is all it takes to make a vehicle power / Anderson PowerPole cable adapter.  This is a fun and easy project that has the added advantage of saving money.

A few other considerations.
  • Since it is possible that vehicle manufacturers may reverse polarity of the power output, be sure to use your multimeter or Anderson Powerpole Polarity Checker to confirm that red Anderson Powerpole connector is indeed positive on your vehicle prior to using the cable.
  • We built our cable for use with low power devices.  Be sure to use a cable suitable for the current your device will draw. 
  • An in line fuse or fuse integrated into the tip of the vehicle power adapter is a good idea. 
  • Adding a ferrite bead or two can do wonders with keeping RF off the power cable (our junk box cable came with a ferrite already installed).

By Michael Maher (NJ2X)
See related articles on NJ2X.COM:

© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.