HAM RADIO (Pinned Post)

When I earned my amateur radio license from the FCC back in 1973, I had no idea I was joining such an elite community of people with such a diverse set of incredible skills. It's an amazing group of individuals from all walks of life and from all points on the globe.

The friends I have made and the things I have learned from them will stay with me for a lifetime. It's been an interesting journey and I dedicated a post to that topic in the first entry down below.

I hope you enjoy!



January 6, 2020

DIGITAL MODES

Ham Radio

Above is an internet based application allowing digital users to observe the reach of their digital HF (High Frequency) radio transmission.

I'm saddened to see that digital modes (and FT8 in particular) have caused such a stir in the amateur radio community. I acknowledge that the digital traffic and the digital community have taken a bite out of the original modes of communication with which so many of us grew up, but I think there's more to the story than the critics are letting on.

For many of us, the combination of humble antennas (dipoles?) and a dead low in the sunspot cycle have left us with few alternatives if we want to enjoy the hobby. Add to that the busy lives we all tend to live these days, and even a CW QSO (morse code conversation) can eat up the precious time we often need to be using for other things.

At a place in time where everyone has a cell phone and access to the internet, amateur radio has got to continue to evolve as it has in the past (remember the introduction of Slow Scan TV?) or the hobby is sure to suffer the consequences. For those among us who consider themselves purists, I say enjoy whatever you enjoy. But, I encourage you to maintain space in this hobby for the interests of everyone.

It was one of the exciting changes in the hobby that permitted me to connect with Commander Doug Wheelock aboard the International Space Station. I still find it hard to believe this hobby that I love has afforded me such a wonderful and amazing opportunity!



December 26, 2019

MY HAM RADIOS OVER THE YEARS

Heathkit

My first rig was the Heathkit HR10 receiver (left) paired with the DX60 transmitter, both that I built back in the very early 70's.

Drake

My second rig was a new Drake TR4C. After I spent a year as a novice with my Heathkit rigs, I graduated to the Drake rig. I purchased the rig after earning my general license and the rig arrived before the license.

Fortunately, Mr. Roland Ring, whom I believe had the call W4OAT, (Old American Traveler) came over one evening and allowed me to operate under his call sign in order to test out the new rig. So exciting at that time!

ft840 After a break from the ham radio hobby, I re-entered with a Yaesu ft840 that I enjoyed for quite some time!

ft950 Sometime later, I upgraded to the Yaesu ft950 and operated that rig for a number of years until we moved to the Florida coast. I sold all my equipment and went silent for about 2 years.

ic7600 In 2016 we moved inland for a year and I purchased my current Icom 7600. I fed it into an attic mounted 20 meter dipole. The antenna was nothing to write home about, but it did better than I expected.

als600 In May of 2017, when we moved to our current home, I located the 20m dipole outside and up about 25' and added the Ameritron ALS-600 amplifier. It was a great addition to the ham shack along with the LDG AT600 ProII AutoTuner and M-600 meter combination!



December 22, 2019

MY HAM RADIO JOURNEY

Ham Radio

This picture above is of the Albany Amateur Radio Club and was taken in 1975 at a club meeting. In the picture I am seated second from the left end.

I started my radio adventure at 16 years old in Albany, Georgia where I lived at the time. It all started with a Realistic 23 Channel Citizen Band (CB) mobile radio that I purchased from J.C. Penny's automotive department and installed in my 1961 Volkswagon Beetle. I added a pair of co-phased whip antennas that provided my VW with an odd and humorous insect-like appearance.

I was a member of a rock band and one of the other members (David Turner) also purchased the same mobile CB radio from J.C. Penney's and we used to talk on the way to and from our late night weekend gigs. In fact, when I purchased a CB base station, David very kindly came over and climbed a very tall pine tree to install my new omni-directional antenna at the very top.

With a bit of investigation, David and I discovered that the 23 channels on our CB radios were synthesized using 4 crystals. By swapping the location of these crystals we were able to generate private frequencies. To this day, I have no idea what frequencies we had generated, but they sure weren't any of the 23 channels that were derived when the crystals were in the factory installed positions.

As a senior in high school I used to attend what the CB crowd called coffee breaks. Truth is these were nothing more than a meet-up at one of the local and more casual pizza places there in Albany. My favorite at that time was the Pizza Villa on Broad Avenue. (In fact, I took my wife there on our first date, and I took her back again at a later point to propose to her.)

It was at one of these CB coffee breaks that I met Sgt. Glen Picard, who was originally from Mississippi and had been stationed at our local Marine base. Glen was the MARS operator there on the base and ran the prestigious Collins S line of radio gear owned by the Marine Corps.

I met up with Sgt. Picard on the base one evening and joined him in the radio shack for a Mars radio session. I was hooked! Next thing you know I'm earning my novice license from the FCC (WN4FLV) and building a Heathkit transmitter and receiver.

I tied the rig into a half dipole mounted vertically on one of the trees in our yard. The other half of the dipole was actually a short piece of wire attached to a metal stake that was driven in the ground at the base of the tree. Of couse, back then it was CW (morse code) only for the first year and I managed to set up a weekly schedule on 40 meters each Sunday afternoon to play chess with another teenage ham up in North Georgia.

After the required 12 months as a novice, I drove to Atlanta and took and passed my General exam and the 13 words per minute morse code test. Weeks later I received my new call (WA4KGC) in the mail.

By the time my General license arrived, I had already sold my Heathkit gear and moved up to a Drake TR4C transceiver and a TA-33 jr beam antenna mounted on a well guyed 30' push up pole.

Of course, as a high school student I was still living at home and in retrospect it sure was kind of my parents to tolerate all of my radio shenanigans there around the house - especially installing a large rotating beam atop our nice home in an area of town not known for that kind of (less than appealing) stuff waving up in the air.

When I was not away to college, I was an active member of the Albany Amateur Radio Club. In the very early 70's when touchtone became available to the world of Amateur radio, I went to the junk yard and purchased an additional dash panel for my Chevy Vega. In it, I cut a hole and mounted a touchtone pad that I attached to my 2 meter mobile rig and was an early adopter of mobile phone calls, well before cellular phones were on the horizon.

My junior year was spent at FSU in Tallahassee and I took my HF rig down and managed to do a midnight install of a 40 meter dipole antenna with a feed to my window. Funny how no one ever noticed it. I suppose no one ever stopped to notice that (what they must have thought was a power line) actually terminated on a pine tree. I also started the first, and a very humble, FSU Ham Radio Club. Unfortunately, we never had enough members to get anything interesting going.

My senior year was spent back in Georgia at (then) Valdosta State College. In a much more daring midnight install, I mounted a 2 meter beam on the roof of my dorm. I had a room on the top floor and remember climbing out of my window and up onto the roof. The funny memory, which I'll never forget, was me hanging on the edge of the roof (after the install) preparing to go back through my window when a security guard walked out of the door immediately below me. He looked around but never looked up. After he went back in I managed to climb back through the window and that was that!

In 1980 Patty and I moved to Savannah and I joined the K4NLX club. I was very active on 2 meters and HF and called a lot of the weekly 2m nets. The kids were getting old enough to do stuff so I sold my gear and my ham radio hobby went silent.

It wasn't until 2002 that I jumped back into the hobby while living in Douglasville, Georgia. I took the vanity call K4SQL. Not long after, my dad earned his technicians license (N4WIA) and we met up on 2 meters from Douglasville to Stone Mountain. In 2005 my dear XYL (wife) earned her license (KI4ODL) so we could keep up with each other if we were both out and about.

In 2010 I earned my extra class license but the high point for all of the years I have been in the hobby came on November 20, 2010 when at 22:07 I made contact with Commander Doug Wheelock aboard the International Space Station on expedition #25 as it made a southeasternly pass across the United States. It was a short QSO but quite amazing to hear him say, "K4SQL, this is NA1SS. Welcome aboard the International Space Station."

In 2014 we moved to Florida and landed in a townhome on Perdido Bay in Pensacola, Florida. I was convinced that we would probably retire there (wrong!) and that I would probably have no more involvement with the ham radio hobby (wrong again!) but In 2016 we moved inland a bit and I purchased the IC-7600 that I use presently. I was in a covenant restricted neighborhood and I must admit the 20m dipole in the attic left a lot to be desired.

Fortunately, we moved here to Wakulla county a year later (May 5, 2017) and I strung up my 20m dipole some 25' in the air and have had a blast with HF ever since! In 2018 I became active with digital modes and in 2019 I took up FT8 and have not looked back since!

If you're a ham and don't catch me on the air, you can catch me on Twitter @K4SQL.

73's,

Hutch ~ K4SQL


Copyright © 2019 Hutch DeLoach