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


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