Archive for January, 2010

Time to Change Part 97?

when-all-else-fails-logoPart 97.113 has been the topic of much discussion lately, ever since the FCC communicated a rather narrow interpretation of the rules. See my previous post on this topic for more background information. From the ARRL web site, we find that the ARRL Board of Directors has chimed in:

The Board instructed the ARRL staff to seek a change in Section 97.113(a)(3) of the FCC rules to permit amateurs, on behalf of an employer, to participate in emergency preparedness and disaster drills that include Amateur operations.

This is not really a surprise and despite the usual criticism coming from some quarters, I am encouraged that the board sees this as an issue that requires action.

N5FLD lists the specific wording that the ARRL Board has approved, expressing some concern about the particular text chosen. I think we are clearly headed towards the standard FCC rule making process that will give everyone their say and, hopefully, we’ll arrive at a reasonable decision.

The February issue of CQ Magazine, arrived in the mail today, with a W2VU editorial taking on this topic. Rich points out that if you really want to get picky about it, ham radio publications are at risk due to a narrow interpretation of Part 97.113. For example, if an author is getting paid to review a new ham transceiver for publication in CQ, can he actually put it on the air without getting the foul flag thrown for “pecuniary interest”? So CQ wants to broaden the discussion, and has their own proposal for Part 97.113.

My read: stay tuned as we hash through this. There is enough support (based on good reasoning, I think) that this issue will get addressed. But it will take some time.

73, Bob K0NR

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This Spewed Out of the Internet #12

0511-0701-3118-0930Things have been busy around the K0NR household with Christmas, New Years, a general strategy of goofing off but having to go back to work in January.

Here’s a few things that have gotten my attention lately.

It seems that some of our pirate radio friends down in Texas think the FCC does not have jurisdiction over the Republic of Texas. See K3NG’s blog posting.

I came across Les N1LF’s blog: Big Iron: Chasing VUCC on Indoor Antennas. I am inspired by someone making the most of his station limitations and chasing VUCC anyway.

Wired Magazine reports that hearing loss is in decline even though we insist on shoving iPod and Walkman earbuds in our ears.

Then Wired publishes a totally lame article about increasing the intensity of a laser pointer. The most likely result is a toasted laser pointer.

The new Technician License question pool has been released and will take effect in July 2010. I took a quick look at it since I am involved in teaching a Tech License Class. It looks like some additional technical topics such as diodes, capacitors, inductors and decibels have been added to Element 2. Yes, that means the exam is probably more difficult than the current one.

The earthquake in Haiti is gaining lots of attention, inside and outside of the amateur radio community. Be sure to stay clear of the emergency nets and let these guys do what they can.

- 73, Bob K0NR

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The Class is Full

hamWow, the interest in the Ham Radio Technician License class has been intense! I was thinking we’d get 8 to 10 students. So far I’ve had over 30 people ask to be registered for the class but we had to cap it at 24. And some of our publicity efforts are just starting to kick in.

I also noticed this item from the ARRL Web Site:

2009 Sees Surge of New Amateur Radio Licensees

Don’t these people know that ham radio is an obsolete pastime for guys over 65 years old?

73, Bob K0NR


Circuit From the Past

I was trying to provide some semblance of order in our basement, which is the storage area for my extensive collection of great radio and computer treasures (sometimes referred to as “junk”). I ended up wading through piles of stuff that I didn’t even know I had. It was like Christmas all over again!

I came across this little gem built into a RadioShack enclosure:


I guessed that it was a Code Practice Oscillator and that I must have built it some time ago. I had a vague recollection of the project. It certainly looked like something I might have built. There was a straight key in the same box that plugged right into the key jack.

I opened the inside and found this circuit board populated with through-hole parts. Replacing the 9V battery with a fresh one, the circuit came to life. A little action on the key and the sound of Morse Code filled the room.


I was curious about the design. There is one integrated circuit on the board but it was labeled only with a proprietary part number. What would I have used to built a code practice oscillator? Probably a good old 555 timer, so I pulled up an online datasheet for that part and got its pin out.

Then I started to do a some lite reverse engineering of the circuit and this partial schematic diagram appeared:


The circuit is not complete — I just sketched out enough to confirm that the design was based on the 555 timer.  There is a lowpass RC filter on the 555 output to round out the square wave before it is fed to the speaker. It’s interesting that the key connects to the reset pin on the IC. I think this was to ensure a clean start up of the oscillator, to eliminate any frequency chirp.

So that’s a little diversion I had this weekend. Now back to cleaning out the basement.

73, Bob K0NR

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Amateur Radio: Not an Emergency Radio Service

arrlnewlogo-transWell, that’s what the FCC says: the Amateur Radio Service is not an emergency radio service. K1ZZ’s QST editorial quotes the FCC and points out that the mission of the Amateur Radio Service is indeed broader than emergency communications. (The FCC does recognize the role that amateur plays in emergencies — see this web page.)

Lately, I’ve noticed a number of blog postings and other statements from hams that define amateur radio way too narrowly. The common thread is taking the part of ham radio that is most important to them and arguing that Real Ham Radio is focused on that segment of the hobby/radio service.

For some folks, amateur radio is emergency communications (only). Others argue that only technical pursuits are true ham radio and those appliance operators are just holding us back. For others, ham radio is defined by getting on the air and operating (might be QRP, might be contesting, might be something else).

I think K1ZZ got it right….the purpose is broader than that. Just go read Part 97.1 of the FCC rules:

The rules and regulations in this Part are designed to provide an amateur radio service having a fundamental purpose as expressed in the following principles:

(a) Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.

(b) Continuation and extension of the amateur’s proven ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art.

(c) Encouragement and improvement of the amateur service through rules which provide for advancing skills in both the communications and technical phases of the art.

(d) Expansion of the existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts.

(e) Continuation and extension of the amateur’s unique ability to enhance international goodwill.

Let’s reject the narrow view and think a bit broader.

73, Bob K0NR