This Blog focuses on a few of my favorite activities. Most notably Cycling, Amateur Radio and Target Shooting. I believe that we learn best by doing. Since I am always engaged in one project or another, the blog is the journal where I keep track of my accomplishments and ideas.
Finally with the snow melted away I was able to get to my utility trailer and haul my oak writing table over to its new location. This table is heavy and wide and makes a perfect operating surface for my station. There is plenty of real estate for my notepad, logbook, telegraph keys and associated apparatus plus it looks nice too. My laptop is not in view but is positioned to the left on a smaller table about six inches shorter comfortably positioning the keyboard.
People always ask "What do you talk about on ham radio?" My favorite activity is to send out a CQ call or tune around the band until I hear a CQ and answer the call. Once contact is established a customary exchange of signal report, QTH (my location is) and name are transmitted and logged by each operator. Some ops like to keep things short with a quick thank you and 73 (best regards) and they are off to the next QSO (radio contact). Other ops, myself included like to continue the contact. Most hams love to talk about their gear so we describe our rigs and antenna systems. Since contacts often span hundreds or even thousands of miles the weather is always an interesting topic. After that the sky is the limit. These casual contacts are called "ragchews". I have had CW and digital ragchews last over an hour. These conversations are much like the friendly chats you might have with the neighbor leaning on the back fence. Though in this case its the neighbor in the next state or even the next continent over.
Last Saturday night around 11:00pm I was listening to activity on the 40 meter band. Around 7.035 MHz I noticed an Olivia mode QSO ongoing between two stations. One of the call sign prefixes was IZ. This was an Italian station. Usually when I find a QSO going on I hang around and listen in. Often another op will come on the air just above or below the frequency of the ongoing QSO and call CQ using the same mode. I do this quite a bit myself. There will be another op copying the QSO and he will see my CQ and respond. After a while the frequency went quiet and I decided to try a sequence of CQ's. After my second call and to my surprise IZ0GKZ answered the call. The sound of the Olivia tones were loud and distinct and the signal was bright on the spectrum display. The operator's name was Massimo and he lives in Rome, Italy. Like most weekends there were contests going on and Massimo was having trouble copying my signals due to European sideband contesters creating interference at his end. Massimo sent his email address and asked me to send him an e-mail to confirm the contact.
Here's where the story gets better. The following Tuesday I participated in the SKCC straight key sprint which is a two hour contest held monthly. After the sprint I was checking out the band seeing what else might be going on. Once again I heard the distinct note of an Olivia transmission so I quickly enabled the mode on my software and tuned in the signal. There was Massimo IZ0GKZ again loud and clear having a QSO with an American east coast station. I waited until they were done and then called Massimo. He copied me fine this time and we enjoyed a twenty minute QSO. The Band was much quieter on his end so he had no trouble receiving my signals. These two QSO's covering a distance of 4,658 miles are my first DX contacts using the end fed half wave wire antenna. Basically just a 65 foot long piece of wire strung to a tree in my backyard. DX means distance. In amateur radio any station outside of your own country is considered a DX station. Another question people often ask is "How do you understand the foreign operator?" English is the default language of ham radio and it seems that most operators are fluent in english or at least know enough to get through a basic contact.
I am now into my second year as an amateur radio operator and the thrill of these long range contacts is just as strong as the first time my signals were received across the Atlantic. To me this is the greatest draw of this fascinating hobby and what keeps me coming back for more. You never know who your going to link up with next and where in the world they might be.