2016-12-09

December 9

December 9.  Two notable radio-related things happened to me on this day, 40 years apart.  Of little interest to anyone other than me, but this is a blog and that's what blogs are for.

1976

On this day in 1976, I bought one of these:


Well, almost like this.  Mine was branded Lloyd's CB-2123 and not Spark-O-Matic.  Otherwise, it was identical.  I didn't realize it at the time but the reason this was being offered for the unheard-of price of $79.99 (about half of what the cheapest radios had cost all that summer) was that they were being dumped on the Canadian market.

On January 1st of 1977 -- mere weeks after I bought the radio in question -- the FCC was to increase the number of Class D CB channels from 23 to 40.  While this was great for the CBers who would nearly double the number of available channels, it was a big problem for manufacturers.

Once the news of the FCC's new rules (surely a Report and Order after a Notice of Proposed Rule-making) got out, the bottom dropped out of the CB market as consumers didn't want to be stuck with "obsolete" 23-channel radios.

Some manufacturers reacted by including a coupon that would allow for a free "remanufacturing" of the 23-channel radio into a 40-channel unit after the first of the year.  I have no idea how that worked given that most 23-channel rigs used a crystal matrix to synthesize the 23 (or, more often, 24!) channels; only the most expensive units had phase-locked loop digital synthesis.

The Canadian market offered a way out for some.  The Canadian Department of Communications didn't plan their CB expansion -- legally the General Radio Service, or GRS, a name no one used -- until April 1st of 1977.  So US-based manufacturers started dumping them north of the border.  In this case, Spark-O-Matic evidently worked with or otherwise struck a deal with Lloyd's, a Canadian company that sold consumer electronics gear, to sell these radios in Canada.

Worked for me:  I was finally able to afford a CB radio!  Something I had coveted all through the summer of 1976.  Many hams look down on CB for some reason and while in my area there were certainly a number of jerks on the air, most people were quite pleasant.  We even had directed nets on busy nights and had RDF contests.  We had fun.

2016

So today, 40 years later to the day, I'm in the car on the way to work.  The radio stops scanning on AO-85's VHF downlink frequency and I hear the recorded voice of the little girl who IDs the satellite when the voice transponder is activated.



One of the regulars is on but there is not the usual cacaphony of stations trying to make contacts.  There is a lull and I kerchunk (my radio is programmed with the UHF uplink and VHF downlink in the same memory slot).  I hear a gap in the audible hash that is caused by AO-85's Data Under Voice telemetry (at least, I think that's the noise) and that gap is about the right delay given the distance to the satellite (over the Great Lakes at that point).  So I decide to give out my callsign and grid locator. AND I GOT A REPLY!

I had no idea that you could work satellites (of the low-earth-orbit variety in this case) on a regular FM dual-band mobile radio and basically a unity-gain antenna (Comet SBB-1NMO).  Ironically, I had had no luck at all over the summer and fall with AO-85 using my HT and an Arrow-II satellite antenna, a setup I've used quite a bit with SO-50.

Interestingly, the FT-90 installation in the car is sort of half-assed, with power being drawn from the cigarette lighter.  On most of the regular repeater channels, I have the power set down at the 5- or 10-W level so I don't blow the fuse (it's hardly needed for the local repeaters).  When I checked the memory settings after I made my QSO this morning, I found that it was set to high for AO-85!  I have no idea why the fuse didn't blow.




2016-09-04

New Stuff

Clearly have not posted more often even though I do, in fact, have a master's degree (in nothing RF- or computing-related!).  I did, however, attend the Dayton Hamvention for the first time.  I made a point of attending the AMSAT forum (even ducking out early from the HamNation forum to attend) and ended up being jazzed (again) about satellite operation.  In college, I contacted both the Space Shuttle and MIR as well as making contacts via AO-13 and, I think, its predecessor AO-10.  Not sure we ever operated any LEO sats, though at the time, most were packet and, for whatever reason, we weren't QRV on orbital packet (we certainly had all the pieces at the school's station).  I do remember listening to DO-17 trying to make its voice synth work.  Some stuff was hard 25 years ago.  Anyway, other than occasionally copying the Shuttle or ISS mostly by accident, I'd done nothing spacey.

I became an AMSAT member at Dayton and when I got back, I ordered an Arrow hand-held satellite antenna (with the diplexer and a mounting clamp).  They aren't expensive and they work really well.  Longer story short, I made a half-dozen satellite QSOs standing out in the yard back in June ... and then it got really hot, which took all the fun out of standing out in the yard.  It's cooler now, so I need to get back at it.  I've only been able to successfully work via SO-50, a Mode V/u FM satellite.  I've not yet been successful with AO-85, Mode U/v FM.  I need to figure out how to set up for AX.25  packet, too, since there are a couple satellites that will digipeat.

For several years, I've wanted an IC-910H multimode rig.  After considering an IC-9100, Icom's replacement for the venerable 910, I decided that the extra kilobucks needed to get that radio weren't worth the money, since I already have the IC-746Pro for HF/6/2 and had no plans to get rid of it.

Looked and looked and found an IC-910H that had the UX-910 L-Band module and a single UT-106 DSP module.  And I got it for a great price.  Before I found the 910, I bought a used CD-II-type rotator, an MFJ 6-m Yagi and a Diamond 70-cm Yagi.  I don't have the support to get all that in the air quite yet, but will soon get that 70-cm beam up in the air.  Don't have anything for 1.2 GHz, either.  If that wasn't enough, I also got an excellent deal on an Elecraft XV-222 1.25-m transverter.

So I've gone from having "weak signal" ability only on 6 and 2 but also 1.25 m,  70 cm,  and 23 cm.  This setup (once it's all set up!) will also allow me to work some of the linear transponder satellites, albeit only on near-horizon passes.

OK, off to do some repeater work.

2016-03-20

Not selling the Isopoles after all

Spouse finally got me to climb the ladder to do something about the Isopoles on the end of the house. I've got both the 2-m and 70-cm versions with a diplexer (band-pass filter) feeding them into the radio room.  Since they've been up, I've never really been happy with their performance.  I eventually stuck an Arrow Antennas GP146/440 up to replace them and just used the Isopoles for the scanners.

So when I got up the ladder and got all the dead vines away, I opened up the plastic box that holds the diplexer to start disconnecting things.  First thing I noticed was that one of the PL-259s, the one on the VHF port, was loose.  No big deal. Hmm, which antenna does this feed again? Maybe that's the problem.  Hey, look!  It's connected to the UHF Isopole.  And naturally, the UHF port was connected to the VHF antenna. 

Gee, do you think connecting it backwards is a problem?

Yeah.

2015-12-27

RoIP and Digital Modes

I recently helped a couple of the local repeater elders set up a DMR repeater.  DMR, Digital Mobile Radio, is Yet Another Digital Mode That Has A Network Component.  Yes, just like D-STAR.  And System Fusion (YSF).  In fact, the one thing that I missed early on is that the network parts of D-STAR, DMR, and YSF are no different than IRLP, EchoLink or Allstar Link.  Once I realized that, it became obvious that they were all basically the same, with the only real differentiation being that D-STAR, DMR, and YSF are all digital modes over the air, while the others connect analog radios.  Other than that, the two groups are very similar.  You an connect to another station, another repeater station, or another virtual repeater ("reflector").

Anyway, I've been doing a lot of research on this primarily because the fact that, as the man says, "these systems are 95% the same and 100% incompatible."  I think that's silly in amateur radio, so I need to educate myself on each of these.

2015-11-07

I need to keep up - Dipole back in air

Seriously ... over 2 years?  I do need to move this over to WordPress but even so .. two?  Maybe it will be better after graduation. 

Anyway, a year ago, the local utility was replacing poles on the property and inadvertently snagged the Spi-Ro D-52 40-80 trap dipole. So for the last year, I've been relegated to 10/12/17/30 m.  With the help of spouse, I've fixed the two breaks and hauled it back into the air.  Just in time for the ARRL November Sweepstakes.  And, I've even made a few QSOs.  Dips in the SWR are not as they were before (I need to find the old ones), but looks to be usable at the low end on 40 and 20 at least.

I see that my country totals are way off, too.  191/177?  More like 201/187.  Guess I should be sending out some cards, too, to get that 200 sticker.

2013-02-24

Where was I?

Boy, I've sure let this go!  Let's see, since my last update I did complete 50-MHz VUCC with all credits via Logbook of the World.  And I did receive my 150 sticker for Mixed and my RTTY (not Data!) and 20-m DXCC certificates.  Been in something of a lull since then, though.  I'm qualified for 40-m WAS, but I'm going to wait until I have all I need for 5BWAS.  I'm only 15 states short of Triple Play, too, all on CW of course. 

How long before the next update? 

2011-07-12

More on the paper chase

Here it is, six months later.  I've decided that my DXCC cycle will be to submit "sometime after Field Day" each year, meaning July.  That avoids the rush at HQ that happens at the end of the calendar year when everyone is trying to get the highest number possible for their listing in the DXCC Yearbook.

So, for me, none of that this year.  I'm up to 164 Mixed (so I'll get the 150 sticker) and I've also got more than enough for the 20-m DXCC and the RTTY DXCC.  Looks like I'll need to come up with two more frames that will fit 11.5 x 14 certificates. 

I've also got enough grids confirmed on 6m for VUCC, though only 96 of them are via LOTW.  I may do the separate applications thing (no hybrids for VUCC) since I do have the cards and need to visit the card checker for my DXCC application anyway (he's also a VHF Awards Manager).  Or I may wait to see if 4 more come in via LOTW.