Category Archives: Misc

Free course allows ‘hams’ to earn initial license

CHARLESTON — A course pre­sent­ed by the Charleston Area VE Group is help­ing ama­teur radio oper­a­tors, also known as hams, gain their ini­tial license. The course will review the ques­tion bank for the exam in order to famil­iar­ize those with the con­tent of the exam­i­na­tion.

Category: General News, Misc


Every­body knows that the so called “BIG GUNS” will win the con­test, but you will have fun even if you come in the 9999th . When “Hams” (Ama­teur Radio Oper­a­tors) talk about the Big Guns, they are talk­ing about the radio sta­tion that anoth­er Ham is oper­at­ing. These sta­tions are built usu­al­ly just for con­test­ing. On the out­side is a few acres (could be stretch­ing it a bit) of anten­nas that are of spe­cial types (beams, dipoles, and ver­ti­cals) for dif­fer­ent fre­quen­cies at legal heights (up to 250 feet). These anten­nas are on tow­ers with guide wires to hold them straight in the wind, and the anten­nas are mount­ed on rotors so the oper­a­tor can turn them to the desired direc­tion.

The inside of the “SHACK” has at least two of every­thing. Am not going to get into all the equip­ment that is in here or the lines/coaxes that run to the anten­nas as that would take too long and not part of this arti­cle.  There of course is (HF, VHF, and UHF) radio(s) with anten­na tuners and the dif­fer­ent ampli­fiers (will put out up to 1500 volts on HF, less on high­er fre­quen­cies). These sta­tions are set up by indi­vid­u­als or clubs that are inter­est­ed in con­test­ing and cost thou­sands of dol­lars (since they are all over the world it could be rubles or the cur­ren­cy of that coun­try!). Of course then there are the “LITTLE LITTLE LITTLE GUYS” that don’t have mon­ey to put thou­sands into radio equip­ment, all they have is an anten­na and a radio to trans­mit on! As you can see, con­test­ing is made of Hams with dif­fer­ent amounts of equip­ment, and they all are in the same con­test and com­mu­ni­cate with each oth­er as the object of a con­test is to see how many con­tacts you can make!

In con­test­ing there are sev­er­al dif­fer­ent modes, and for a con­test that has dif­fer­ent modes involved, they are on sep­a­rate week-ends. Modes are a method of com­mu­ni­cat­ing, and it can be voice (AM or FM), set of fre­quen­cies (HF, VHF, UHF), or dig­i­tal (RTTY, CW, and oth­ers). The rea­son that I have said ‘and oth­ers’ for dig­i­tal is that there are always new modes that Hams are using for com­mu­ni­cat­ing. Some con­tests can run for sev­er­al week-ends and have var­i­ous types of com­mu­ni­ca­tion between the oper­a­tors, each week-end has a dif­fer­ent mode of oper­a­tion for the same con­test such as voice and morse code. Which ever mode of oper­a­tion, an oper­a­tor still trades the same infor­ma­tion with the oth­er oper­a­tor. That is loca­tion of sta­tion (i.e.: coun­try, state), call let­ters, RST (receiv­ing strength of sig­nal), and pow­er of trans­mit­ting sta­tion. The exchange can include more infor­ma­tion, but it depends on the con­test and the mode that is used for that con­test.

HF or High Fre­quen­cy is known for its bounce capa­bil­i­ties. It can/will bounce off of the earth or the atmos­phere, but some fre­quen­cies are affect­ed by the day­light (heat­ing) or night­time (cool­ing) time of day capa­bil­i­ties of this type of acro­bat­ics! These fre­quen­cies also will pen­e­trate to a cer­tain depth in most objects. When an oper­a­tor has day­light con­di­tions they will oper­ate on the upper part of the spec­trum, as night approach­es the oper­a­tors will migrate to the low­er part of the spec­trum. As can be expect­ed the mid­dle part of the spec­trum (around 20 meters) has both day­light and night­time abil­i­tie

VHF (Very High Fre­quen­cy) and UHF (Ultra High Fre­quen­cy) are main­ly line of sight fre­quen­cies with short dis­tance com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Occa­sion­al­ly under cer­tain weath­er con­di­tions a odd­i­ty called tun­nel duct­ing will trans­port a sig­nal back and forth for sev­er­al hun­dred miles from local­i­ty to local­i­ty, this is an excep­tion and not the rule! Sig­nals in this area are Microwave fre­quen­cies and the pow­er sent to the final for trans­mit­ting is reg­u­lat­ed by the FCC (Fed­er­al Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Com­mis­sion) and part of the test to achieve an Ama­teur License. Some radios in these fre­quen­cies are set to a sta­tion­ary fre­quen­cy are called repeaters, all repeaters are lim­it­ed by some con­tests as to the type of con­tacts they can make, straight con­tact with­out the use of a repeater is legal and not reg­u­lat­ed in con­tests. In con­tests for high­er fre­quen­cies the radios and anten­nas are either mount­ed on some­thing mobile or are very portable and can be set up and tak­en down very eas­i­ly.

The world is divid­ed up into grid squares each one mea­sur­ing approx­i­mate­ly 70 miles by 100 miles (more like a rec­tan­gle). These grid squares are then des­ig­nat­ed by two let­ters and two num­bers (LLNN), These grid squares are than bro­ken down into small­er squares (3 miles by 4 miles Rec­tan­gles again)) and is des­ig­nat­ed by two let­ters at the end of a larg­er grid square (LLNNLL) to give a bet­ter loca­tion. The ham operator(s) that is involved in this kind of con­test­ing will try and find the high­est point with-in that square for their con­tacts and move to anoth­er square! The same con­tact is legal as long as it is from or to anoth­er grid.

Con­test­ing on the Ham Radio can be fun no mat­ter what mode it is in! It is my belief that every Ham Oper­a­tor should be involved in at least one con­test no mat­ter which mode it is in! You do have to turn in the con­tact sheets with­in a cer­tain time frame for recog­ni­tion. There usu­al­ly is either a cer­tifi­cate or pin stat­ing which con­test they were in, as well as the year that it took place. Guess if you win, that would be anoth­er feath­er in your hat as I nev­er have, but I look at all the con­tacts that I have made and how far away they were and that is all the feath­er I need!

Source by Dave Glass



As a trained severe storm spot­ter (not chas­er) I need to make accu­rate posi­tion reports when I make severe storm reports des­tined for the Nation­al Weath­er Ser­vice and the coun­ty Emer­gency Man­ag­er (usu­al­ly at the 9−1−1 call cen­ter). By train­ing we report the dis­tance and direc­tion from the near­est major inter­sec­tion. This is where prob­lems can enter the equa­tion.

These reports are via a ham radio net­work. The assump­tion is that we clear­ly pro­nounce the names of the roads we are near for exam­ple. And that we know the dif­fer­ence between being on a street, road, avenue, etc.. That, of course, is as long as we can see the road signs in the pour­ing rain, dark­ness and winds that we dri­ve through. Next con­sid­er­a­tion is the guess at the dis­tance and direc­tion from the near­est inter­sec­tion. How accu­rate is that in a rain storm? Then comes the issue of map loca­tion. Does the map that the per­son you are report­ing your loca­tion to have the lev­el of map detailed need­ed to locate the roads you are report­ing? More impor­tant­ly, does every­one in the com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work have the same lev­el of map details?

Intro­duc­ing a nice solu­tion — APRS (Auto­mat­ic Pack­et Report­ing Sys­tem) Con­nect­ed to a GPS sen­sor on one side and a ham radio on the oth­er side a TNC (ter­mi­nal node con­troller) trans­mits any ham radio oper­a­tor’s EXACT coor­di­nates (with­in about 50 feet) to (effec­tive­ly) a Google map on the inter­net. Any­one any­where that has an inter­net con­nec­tion (and many with just a ham radio sta­tion with­out an inter­net con­nec­tion) can dis­play the exact loca­tion, alti­tude and direc­tion of trav­el (at least) almost instant­ly. Since Google maps are zoomable to var­i­ous lev­els the desired lev­el of detail is but a click or two away.

Trav­el path is also be auto­mat­i­cal­ly plot­ted. A nice bright blue line con­nects the red dots that rep­re­sent the points of trans­mis­sion of the APRS device. A quite nice fea­ture of an APRS Google map (see an exam­ple at http://APRS.FI) hap­pens when your mouse point­er hov­ers over one of the red trans­mis­sion points. A sep­a­rate red line pops up that indi­cates what ham radio sta­tion heard the trans­mis­sion. With that infor­ma­tion you can trace the route of the data from the GPS device into the inter­net.

Anoth­er nice fea­ture of report­ing data via dig­i­tal data trans­mis­sions to the Nation­al Weath­er Ser­vice is that many peo­ple that have access to the inter­net Google map can view the infor­ma­tion at one time.

As a side note, Face­book — the social net­work — now has an APRS appli­ca­tion that makes these APRS maps of all of your friends avail­able at the click of one but­ton from your Face­book page! One pos­si­ble appli­ca­tion is to have the Nation­al Weath­er Ser­vice become friends for all severe storm spot­ters. Then they would have this data avail­able at the click of one but­ton!

Source by Jon Kres­ki

Category: Digital, Misc, Software


If you have a ham radio license (or even if you are only think­ing about get­ting a license), you prob­a­bly know about the 11-year sunspot cycle and how the sunspot activ­i­ty changes how far radio sig­nals trav­el.

In oth­er words, at the peak of the cycle you can basi­cal­ly make con­tact with oth­er ama­teur radio oper­a­tors all over the world. On the oth­er hand, when the sunspot activ­i­ty is in the low part of the cycle (like it is now) radio sig­nals don’t nor­mal­ly trav­el very far — but some­times they do and that uncer­tain­ty is one of the many things that make the hob­by fun.

Right now in 2010 we are in the bot­tom of one of the low­est sunspot activ­i­ty cycles in his­to­ry. The good part about this is the ham radio bands are not crowd­ed like they used to be. The bands are not crowd­ed because sig­nals don’t trav­el as far as they do dur­ing the high parts of the cycle and because not as many peo­ple are involved in the hob­by right now.

To make more dis­tance con­tacts con­sid­er Morse code. If you haven’t tried CW (code) late­ly, give it a try. The code bands are not crowd­ed like they used to be and with the low sunspot activ­i­ty using Morse code is an excit­ing way to make that rare DX con­tact.

Don’t wor­ry that your code skills are not as good as they once were, your code pro­fi­cien­cy will improve very fast with just a lit­tle prac­tice.

And don’t wor­ry about what kind of ham rig you have. Whether you have a vin­tage rig or one of the new high-tech rigs with all of the bells and whis­tles, now is the time to real­ly enjoy your hob­by.

Bot­tom line: The sunspot activ­i­ty is on the way back up and now is a great time to get back into ham radio because every day for the next five or six years you will be able to talk to more dis­tance sta­tions. Whether you use code or voice mode, you’ll find a part of the hob­by that’s just right for you.

Source by Jer­ry Minchey

Category: General News, Misc


Call signs in the Unit­ed States used to be very easy for one Ham Oper­a­tor to tell which area in the US the Ham they were talk­ing to was from! A 6 call was from Cal­i­for­nia or some state near, or a 0 call was New York or a state near New York, they did not even need to look at the call map! Today a Ama­teur Radio Oper­a­tor can move from North Car­oli­na where it is a 4 call to Texas where it is a 5 call and keep their 4 call.

Call signs (in the Unit­ed States) con­sist of one or two let­ters, a num­ber, and one to three more let­ters. The first part of the call sign denot­ed what coun­try they are from, with the US being A, AAAK K, KAKK, KMKW, KXKZ, N, NANK, NMNW, NMNW, NXNZ, WAWK, WMWO, WQWW, and WXWZ.
Also in the US, AAAK was issued only to Ama­teur Extras. Each coun­try has been assigned a coun­try des­ig­na­tion by a gov­ern­ing body.  This group is made up from rep­re­sen­ta­tives from all over the world and is not only con­cerned with ham com­mu­ni­ca­tion but all com­mu­ni­ca­tion. I am not going to get into the des­ig­na­tions for the coun­tries. There are sev­er­al charts avail­able that shows the dif­fer­ent des­ig­na­tions and the coun­try it relates to. The num­ber in the Call Sign tells what part of the US they reside in.

0 (zero) told they reside in Col­orado, Iowa, Kansas, Min­neso­ta, Missouri,Nebraska, North Dako­ta, South Dako­ta.

1 in the call sign Con­necti­cut, Maine, Mass­a­chu­setts, New Hamp­shire, Rhode Island, Ver­mont.

2 is New Jer­sey, New York.

3 is Delaware, D.C., Mary­land, Penn­syl­va­nia.

4 is Alaba­ma, Flori­da, Geor­gia, Ken­tucky, North Car­oli­na, South Car­oli­na,

Ten­nessee, Vir­ginia.

5 is Arkansas, Louisiana, Mis­sis­sip­pi, New Mex­i­co, Okla­homa, Texas.

6 is Cal­i­for­nia.

7 is Ari­zona, Ida­ho, Mon­tana, Neva­da, Ore­gon, Wash­ing­ton, Utah, Wyoming.

8 is Michi­gan, Ohio, West Vir­ginia.

9 is Illi­nois, Indi­ana, Wis­con­sin.

Hawaii and Alas­ka have a lit­tle dif­fer­ent scheme in their call sign.AL0‑7, KL0‑7, NL0‑7, WL0‑7 is Alas­ka.    AH6‑7, KH6‑7, NH6‑7, WH6‑7 is Hawaii.

The first part of the call sign told what coun­try the Ham Call was from and the num­ber told what area, the last one to three let­ters of the call sign is nev­er issued to anoth­er Ham in a call sign that has the same first let­ters and area num­ber.

This makes a call sign only one of a kind in the world.  A valid call sign could con­sist of 1 let­ter, a num­ber, and 1 more let­ter. In Alas­ka  or Hawaii a valid call could be two let­ters, a num­ber, and one let­ter!

As was said before, it WAS very easy to tell about the Ama­teur Oper­a­tor you are talk­ing to! Now there also is a call sign we call a Van­i­ty Call here is the US.  The FCC (Fed­er­al Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion) per­mit hams to apply for a call that means some­thing to them. If your Dad, Aunt, or some­one you knew had a call sign at one time that you want­ed, you could request that call sign (for a small fee) as long as no else had that sign. If your name was Joe, you could have those let­ters for your last three in your call sign (if no one else had them with the rest of the let­ters and num­ber) under the Van­i­ty Call sys­tem. When apply­ing for vacant Van­i­ty call signs that may be avail­able to you, you have to be aware that it depends on your license class. Extra class licensees can pret­ty much choose any vacant US call sign. Advanced class licensees can­not seek the 1×2, 2×1 or 2×2 start­ing with let­ter “A” as they are Extra class type call signs. What that means is that you can­not seek a call sign that is above your cur­rent license author­i­ty, but can take a call sign that is equal to or below the author­i­ty that you cur­rent­ly have!  As of April 2000, there was no longer a morse code require­ment for any of the Ama­teur Radio Oper­a­tors tests, and there is only three lev­els (Tech­ni­cian, Gen­er­al, and Extra Class) of licens­ing.
Exam­i­na­tions after that date will only be giv­en for Tech­ni­cian, Gen­er­al and Extra Class. Hams licensed under the cat­e­gories that are no longer will be “grand­fa­thered” so that they may oper­ate as long as the old license remains in effect. This could be some­where around 10 years as that is the length of a license So dur­ing that time or maybe nev­er at all can you ever tell any­thing about the Ham oper­a­tor that you or anoth­er Ham is talk­ing to oth­er than what coun­try they are from! Guess the best thing is to ask them where they are locat­ed!

Source by Dave Glass

Category: General News, Misc

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