Award Certificate for June 2005 VHF Contest

My award certificate for the June VHF contest from last summer arrived in the mail today. Of course, the results were published a while ago so this was old news. Still, it is fun to see the printed award.

The June contest is a bit more competitive in the QRP (Single Operator Portable) category. (See my comments about the January contest.) The top ten scores in the category were:

K6MI 94,248; KA1LMR 76,920; N7IR 31,719; W6DWI 18,225; KØNR 16,415; N7OEP 14,472; W7KK 7,980; K9GY 6,357; W4RXR 6,210; KG4LEV 4,884

My score of 16,415 netted me 5th place overall, with a first place finish in the Colorado Section and the Rocky Mountain Division. I also set a new record for the Colorado section in the QRP category.

My soapbox comments on the ARRL web site include a few photos of the operation.

73, Bob K0NR

2006 Hamcon Colorado June 9-11

HamCon Colorado is again coming to beautiful Estes Park Colorado for the 2006 Rocky Mountain Division Convention. The dates are June 9, 10, and 11, 2006 at the Holiday Inn-Rocky Mountain Park Hotel near Scenic Rocky Mountain National Park.

FCC Special Counsel for Amateur Radio Enforcement Riley Hollingsworth will be the featured speaker at the 2006 HamCon Colorado Convention Banquet. Hollingsworth is no stranger to Amateur Radio Operators the world over. Since 1998, Holllngsworth has brought back the pride in Amateur Radio by strong actions, such as the response to 9/11 and the countless hours Amateur Radio operators during huricaine season. Hollingsworth has been quoted as saying that Amateur Radio is the “only truly fail-safe communication service on the planet Earth.”

The most recent HamCon Colorado was back in 2003, since the Rocky Mountain Division Convention rotates between locations. Unfortunately, a family event took me out of state that weekend, so I missed that one. I am very much looking forward to this year’s event since it is the only real ham convention that we have in Colorado. This is not to be confused with the run-of-the-mill swapfests (some say junkfests) that occur quite often around the Front Range cities.

Mark your calendars and make plans to be there. Getting your reservation in early is highly recommended (both for the convention and any hotel reservations).

73, Bob K0NR

2006 January VHF Sweepstakes

Last weekend was the ARRL January VHF Sweepstakes, one of the more popular VHF contests. If you haven’t worked a VHF contest, take a look at the basic tutorial on my web site. To me, a VHF contest is really a VHF Activity Weekend as it attracts and concentrates a lot of VHF activity.

For the fourth year in a row, the weather looked pretty reasonable here in snowy Colorado, so I did the Backpack QRP Portable Operation on Mount Herman (about 9000 feet elevation, grid DM79mb). The trail up the mountain is not all that difficult, maybe 1.2 miles distance and 1000 feet in elevation gain. The road to the trailhead is not maintained, so it is usually snow covered in winter and requires 4WD. The last few years there has been little snow in early January and the main obstacle on the trail was a few patches of ice.

This year was different as a recent snow storm dropped about 6 inches of fresh snow on the road and on the trail. No worries, we made sure we had the right gear (boots, Yak Tracks, ski poles, etc.) to slog it up the trail. My wife Joyce KAØDEH hiked up the trail with me, taking our time and enjoying the journey. We were the only people on the trail and we noticed quite a few animal tracks. A deer we called bambi came walking by and gave us a look. It was a very pristine backcountry experience, as the snow makes everything clean and quiet.

Oh, back to the contest. We made the summit a little after noon, ate a quick lunch and set up the QRP station. My main rig was the Yaesu FT-817, a great little HF through UHF portable QRP rig. For 6 Meters, I used my trusty old dipole, strung between two conveniently-located pine trees. For 2 Meters, I used a new SOTA beam which is available from the UK. The name SOTA refers to the Summits on the Air awards program that originated in the UK. This beam is amazingly light in weight and it is easy to assemble. I will be doing an article about this antenna in a future issue of QRP Quarterly. For 70 cm, I just used a vertical BNC-style antenna, nothing fancy. I also brought along a 222 MHz FM handheld rig with rubber duck antenna and made a handful of contacts on it.

My results for the contest are 52 QSOs, 72 QSO points, 8 multipliers and a score of 576. This is not all that great but it would have scored 6th in the nation in last year’s contest. A closer look at the 2005 results shows that I scored 864 from the same location and similar operating time last year.

2005 Contest Results (QRP):
KA1LMR 23,058; W6DWI 8,208; N8XA 4,200; KG6EE 2,486; KØNR 864; KA1VEC 585 (NM1K,op); NØHJZ 464; WB2AMU 396; KI7T 198; KØSM 16

So we see that last year, a 16 point score netted 10th place….uh, that was probably only a handful of contacts. We definitely could use some more activity in the QRP (I mean, Single Op Portable) category. In the mean time, I’ll be out hiking to my favorite mountaintop and playing with radios.

73, Bob K0NR

Astronaut Bill McArthur KC5ACR Earns WAC & WAS

AMSAT News Service Bulletin 022.01
From AMSAT HQ SILVER SPRING, MD.
January 22, 2006
To All RADIO AMATEURS
BID: $ANS-022.01

Last weekend, January 14-15 UTC, Astronaut Bill McArthur aboard the
International Space Station operated on the UHF band exclusively. A
report received from Keith, ZS6TW in South Africa indicates that Bill
has completed a sweep of Working All Continents on UHF.

Keith wrote on the ISS Fan Club site, http://www.issfanclub.com, “Bill
was active on UHF voice over RSA on the January 14, 20:00 UTC pass.
Bill contacted me followed by Greald, ZS6BTD in Johannesburg. He said
that our contacts had just completed his worked all continents. It was
a pleasure speaking to him again. 73’s Keith, ZS6TW.”

The UHF frequency NA1SS is 437.55 MHz simplex when this mode is active.

This is the first time an ISS crew member has worked all 7 continents
on the 430 MHz band. McArthur had previously worked all continents on
145 MHz to be the second ISS crew member to complete that feat. Mike
Fincke worked all 7 during his tour as Science Officer on Expedition 9.

Be sure to send in your QSL cards so Bill can claim his award. Refer
to the ARISS QSL page for information on how to QSL:
http://www.rac.ca/ariss/oindex.htm#QSL’s

On January 21, Ed, KL7UW; Dale, KL7XJ; and Kevin, KL0RG worked NA1SS
on pass #41012 so Bill has now completed WAS from space on the 2 meter
band.

Congratulations Bill and thank you for all the time you give to talk
on the radio!

[ANS thanks Kenneth, N5VHO for the above information]

Ham Radio is a Rich Man’s Hobby ?

News flash: Ham radio is officially no longer a rich man’s hobby.

It has been quite a while since I heard anyone complain about this but I am sure that the whining still goes on. You know the drill….some cheap (I mean thrifty) ham says “ham gear has just gotten so expensive that the average guy can’t afford to own a decent radio anymore.” Yeah, those radio manufacturers are really raking in the dough.

What makes me think of this today? I was reading the news on the AFC playoff game between the Broncos and the Patriots. The Denver Post reports that this game sold out almost immediately, with ticket prices ranging from $73 to $400. Now that the game is sold out, the scalpers and ticket brokers are charging even more. This means that quite a number of people are paying $300 or more to see one single football game.

I am not a football fan, so this makes no sense to me. But, hey, to each his own. Let’s see what $300 buys on the ham radio front. A quick look at Ham Radio Outlet’s web site reveals that for less than $300 you can have your pick of these dualband FM mobile rigs: the Kenwood TM-G707A or the Yaesu FT-7800R. Prefer a handheld rig? How about the Icom IC-T90A rig that covers 6M, 2M and 70 cm? For $312, you can have the Yaesu VX-7R, covering the same three bands.

Maybe you’d rather have an HF rig, such as the Yaesu FT-840 ($530) or the ICOM IC-718 ($600). You can’t quite get one of those for $300 but you are halfway there with one football ticket.

Here in Colorado, snow skiing is a popular sport. A regular season one-day lift ticket is $75 at moderately-priced resorts in Colorado such as Copper Mountain and Breckenridge. That is not quite enough to buy a ICOM IC-T2H 2M handheld radio ($100). Well, if you include the cost of lunch and transportation to the ski resort, you probably hit $100. Or toss two lift tickets together and you have enough money to buy a Kenwood TH-K2AT at $150.

Sometimes I hear that it is the kids that can’t afford the gear. Well, let’s check out the latest kid toy: the Microsoft Xbox 360. Guess what, the console version (without any optional accessories) costs $400. Another popular electronic gizmo is the Apple iPod: $299 for the 30 Gigabyte version, $399 for 60 Gigabytes. Steve Jobs says that Apple sold 32 Million iPods in 2005, so they are selling these products to the masses, not just the rich folks.

So don’t let anyone tell you that ham gear is too expensive.

Ham radio: the affordable hobby.

73, Bob K0NR

KC5ACR (NA1SS) Still Going Strong

The commander of the International Space Station (ISS), Bill McArthur, KC5ACR, just can’t seem to get enough of ham radio operation. Previous ham astronauts have participated in widely varying levels of activity (like “none” to “some”) but Bill is hitting it really hard.

More significant that than, he seems to have caught the DX bug. He has achieved Worked All Continents (WAC) on 2M and is now trying to get WAC on 70 cm. I don’t recall any ham astronaut firing up the ISS rig on 70 cm, so this is new and cool. For Worked All States (on 2M), he still needs to work Alaska. It seems that the combination of the ISS orbit and the relatively sparse population of Alaska has caused it to be the last state that Bill needs to work. I suspect with the publicity around his goal, he should be able to nail it shortly. According to the ARRL, Bill has about 50 or so DXCC countries logged.

See NA1SS Active From Space for more information.

73, Bob K0NR

Google Map of Ham Radio Dudes

The Percon Corp “Spectrum Online” web site has a great front end to the Google mapping that lets you map the location of hams, based on the address listed in the FCC license database. Plug in a zip code and get a map of all the radio amateurs in that area.

There is also a link for searching for frequency assignments from other radio services in a particular zip code.


Very nicely done, so check it out.

Ham radio search:
http://www.perconcorp.com/google_ham.html

Frequency (scanner) search:
http://www.perconcorp.com/google_spectrum.html

73, Bob K0NR

KE9V Ham Radio Predictions for 2006

Jeff Davis KE9V on his “Long Delayed Echoes” blog makes some interesting predictions for ham radio in 2006. I don’t agree with all of them but they do provoke some thinking. (I posted my comments on Jeff’s blog.)