Thursday, April 29, 2010

News from A.R.S. KD8JHJ

Warm weather is finally here and with it the bevy of odd jobs such as lawn mowing and garage cleaning are added to the already lengthy to-do list.  Even with this extra activity I still managed to put in some quality time at the operating position of KD8JHJ.

The Straight Key Century Club's Week End Sprint was held on the 11th of April.  I had a good time making contacts mostly with the Vibroplex bug.  I worked 26 stations in 18 different US states and 2 Canadian provinces.  My ranking was 41st out of 97 entries in the 5-100 watt catagory.  A decent showing for my peanut whistle station I do believe.

This past Tuesday night was the 2 hour Straight Key Sprint.  I worked 10 stations in 9 states and 1 up in Ontario Canada.  For this contest I used my Vibroplex straight key and manually generated all my dits and dahs of Morse Code.  I ended up 33rd out of 56 entries. 

There are two ways to operate a contest.  The method I use mostly is called "search and pounce".  I tune around the band listening for stations calling "CQ CQ SKS" and answer to establish contact.  This method works great for the neophyte cw contester.  You have a chance to make sure you have correctly copied the callsign and other data from the calling station while he works other hams.  When your ready slip your call in after the current QSO wraps up but be quick because there is usually others waiting in line to work the calling station.  The second method is called "running".  Running is simply calling "CQ SKS" and working the stations one by one as they respond to your calls.  Running requires a good strong signal and some skill on the part of the operator.  You want to be able to copy callsigns correctly on the first pass.  Generally keep things moving in an orderly fashion without having to ask for repeats and minimize any errors in your own sending.  On a couple of occasions I have found myself on small runs of three or four stations and it is a thrill to know guys are lining up for a shot at your station.  Running is the key to big scores in contesting.  In order to improve my ability I use a software program called Morse Runner.  This program simulates a CW contest environment.  You are the "Running Station" and the software generates cw stations that answer your calls.  It is very realistic with calls coming at you at different speeds and pitches.  You set the parameters of  speed and level of activity.  In the "Pile Up" mode right after your call several stations answer at once.  Out of this churning soup of CW signals you have to single out one call and work that station.   The program's intended purpose is that of training aid but it is a fun and challenging game too.  You can set the time limit from 1 to 60 minutes and the computer keeps track of your contacts and shows your QSO per hour rate.

The past couple of nights I have noticed that propagation of radio waves on the 30 meter band (10 MHz) has been great.  Last night about 10:00 PM local time I established contact with Jose XE2YWX in Loreto, Mexico about 1670 miles away using the digital mode PSK-31.  Later I called CQ and was promptly answered by IK2WXW Giuseppe in Gallarate, Italy.  This QSO covering 4,361 miles also using PSK-31 and about 25 watts of power.  In between the two DX contacts I met a nice op named Don KB5VP who lives in Vermont.  Don said that after 33 years in the hobby he is still having fun and learning new things.  For example two weeks ago he successfully and for the first time received signals bounced off the moon by hams transmitting from the Aricebo radio telescope in Peurto Rico.  This technique is called EME for Earth-Moon-Earth.  Directional antennas and UHF/ VHF equipment are used for EME work.  Two way communication is possible but it is quite an accomplishment just to receive a radio transmission ricocheted off the Moon.

73 for now from KD8JHJ...

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