SKCC 5123T----- FISTS 14979----- Flying Pigs 2331----- NAQCC 3610-----QRP ARCI 14176-----Polar Bear 257

Monday, September 17, 2018

Take me back to those Novice Days with the Ameco AC-1

The Ameco AC-1 was a popular first transmitter kit for amateur radio novices in the 50s. I heard the AC-1 mentioned on several QSO Today podcasts from hams who are my senior. I am infected with the nostalgia of those times. I acquired an assembled AC-1 clone from eBay at a reasonable price.

15 watt 80/40 meter transmitter using 6v6 oscillator on "shoebox" style chassis. Xtal control.
I tried the AC-1 into a dummy load and could not get any RF power out. This was a mystery as the seller showed the rig putting five watts into a dummy load. Thinking it could be operator error, I kept trying. I consulted with Tom WD0HBR. He inspected it and gave me some checks to do. The B+ and filament voltage was good. I read online you can use a milliamp meter in the key circuit as a tuning aid. At least, with the milliamp meter, I saw something to dip. It tuned up fine a couple of times. However, when I wanted to put it on the air, I could get little output. This was definitely harder than it should be. With some checking of the output circuit, I found the antenna loading capacitor shorts when the plates start to mesh. This could explain the tuning issue. I will look into obtaining a replacement capacitor.  It is true that you learn more radios when they don't work.

I have a vision of using the Ameco AC-1 with my SDRPlay RSP-2 Software Defined Radio. This would be a nice combination of old technology and new technology. We will look forward to that when I get the AC-1 going.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Ham Contacts with Friends during My Kansas Vacation

I also QSOed with Jim K4LIX in Panama City and Bobby AJ4KA in Georgia.

Thanks everybody!

Greg N4KGL

Monday, September 10, 2018

Packet Radio for My Field Day Messages

I missed the heyday of amateur packet radio during the 80/90s. However, there is now some local interest in Bay County, Florida since Bob KK4DIV set up a packet BBS on the two-meter band. I am now active on packet using a hardware Terminal Node Controller (TNC) and an older radio. The TNC is a Timewave PK-96. I found a new PK-96 with a USB interface at Ham Radio Outlet. There are many used TNCs on eBay, but I wanted the convenience of a USB interface to the computer.

Diagram from this Packet Introduction
I am interested in packet radio to transmit radiogram messages off my site during ARRL Field Day in June. Radiograms are worth ten points each up to 100 points. Also, a message to the ARRL section manager is worth 100 points.

I could not find many software programs for Windows 10 to talk to the serial port on hardware TNC except for Putty. However, my favorite tool is the Outpost Packet Message Manager that runs on Windows 10. It makes handling messages just like an email client. That is perfect for entering the Field Day messages and have them ready for a bulk transfer to a BBS. Outpost can support NTS style messages. I expect all my messages will be for local delivery except for the Section Manager message. The routing to the final destination could be via sneakernet or email

I believe I am set for doing the message passing via packet in Bay County. However, I am planning Field Day at Falling Waters State Park in Washington County at least 50 miles away. If I can't get back to Bob's BBS on simplex, I may try using a mobile packet station located off the Field Day site as a relay. In fact, the mobile packet station can store the messages in its own personal maildrop and forward them when it is in range of a BBS, Using a local repeater is another idea.

Winlink may even be the better approach since you can get messages out via HF. By ARRL Field Day, I may be set up for Winlink as well.

I find that using packet has given me some perspective on digital communications that I missed. It helps me understand APRS type packet radio also. I am exchanging messages locally for fun. You know if our phones and internet are out of service during a disaster, packet radio could come in handy.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Get Ready For the November 3rd 2018 RaDAR Challenge

RaDAR Is Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio

RaDAR Challenge Rules from

1. Aim
The RaDAR “Challenge” is a unique event aimed at promoting the use of Rapidly Deployable Amateur Radio stations. Categories (Fixed / Field / Moving) may be changed at any time during the challenge. The points system is so structured as to encourage portable RaDAR operations especially moveable RaDAR stations.
RaDAR operators are encouraged to be self-sufficient during each challenge, with not only power supply and communications equipment but food, water, protective clothing and shelter.
2. Date and Time
RaDAR operators define their own operating time schedule. It’s up to each individual to plan his / her MAXIMUM, SINGLE PERIOD, FOUR HOUR ops. He / she should consider propagation with the ultimate goal of inter-continental RaDAR to RaDAR communications in mind.
00:00 UTC to 23:59 UTC on Saturday 7 April 2018, Saturday 14 July 2018 and on Saturday 3 November 2018. Twenty four hours will give equal opportunity to the international community of RaDAR operators.
3. Bands and Modes
All amateur bands are allowed including cross band contacts via amateur radio satellites. Modes – CW, SSB, FM or any legal amateur radio digital mode. As from 2018 the WARC bands will be excluded even though the RaDAR Challenge is not a “contest” as such.
QSOs via terrestrial FM repeaters should preferably not be used for the purpose of the challenge.
4. Suggested HF calling frequencies
See for the RaDAR Calling channels, the latest suggested international list of calling frequencies
5. Exchange
The RaDAR challenge requires more than a minimalistic information exchange. Accurate information exchange is considered more important than a large QSO count. Call sign, name, RS (T) report and grid locator. The grid locator of six characters is acceptable but should preferably be accurate to 8 or 10 characters for higher position accuracy (especially for moving RaDAR stations).
6. Scoring (For determining your own success rate)
1 point per QSO. Individual QSOs could be per mode, per band, per satellite, per grid location. If the moving RaDAR station has moved the required distance contact can be made with a previously worked station, again. Suggestions have been made to call CQ including grid location, for example CQ RaDAR from grid KG34acXXyy, to help callers determine whether it is possible for a new contact with a previously worked moving RaDAR station
7. Categories and multipliers
The following multipliers are applicable to determine the final score. If category/mode of transport changes were made during the challenge, than calculate accordingly.
X 1 – RaDAR Fixed station (in a building away from home)
X 2 – RaDAR Field station (camping)
X 3 – Moving RaDAR station – see modes of transport below.
8. Moving RaDAR stations
Modes of transport and required movement distances (moving RaDAR stations only)
Vehicles, motorcycles and motorboats (motorised transport) – 6 km
Bicycles – 2 km
On foot and paddle canoes – 1 km
Wheelchairs – 500 m
Aeronautical mobile stations are considered moving stations and can communicate at any convenient time.
Note (Changes for 2018) : Moving RaDAR stations need to make five QSO’s before moving to the next deployment point, thereafter they are required to move to their next destination. The move needs to cover the required distance before further contacts can be made. This requirement tests the ability to rapidly and successfully re-deploy your amateur radio station. If it be gentlemanly to make further QSOs before moving then please feel free to do so but the QSOs in excess of five per deployment point can not be counted for points.
9. Bonus points (All categories)
Five (5) points for a minimum of one satellite OR digital modes QSO involving a computer, smart phone or digital modes device. (For clarity thereafter 1 point per Satellite / Digital modes QSO).
Five (5) points for the first successful same continent RaDAR to RaDAR QSO.
Five (5) points for the first intercontinental (DX) QSO
Ten (10) points for the first successful inter-continental (DX) RaDAR to RaDAR QSO.
10. Log Sheets
Log sheets must be submitted by 14 April 2018, 28 July 2018 and 10 November 2018 and sent by e-mail to Note: A photo of the station should accompany every log entry including each new location that moveable RaDAR stations visit. The results and photos are used to promote RaDAR and amateur radio.
Please visit and Google+ RaDAR Community for more info about RaDAR.

I encourage all hams to participate  Let us know your plans and results. Good luck and be safe!

Greg N4KGL

Friday, August 24, 2018

Bye bye Miss AMSAT Pie: Roved the satellites on the levee, But the levee was dry

On my recent trip to the Lawrence, Kansas, I took advantage of the EM28/EM29 gridline running across Riverfront Park on the Kansas River. I did AO-92, and AO-91 FM satellite passes. My ops will apply to the AMSAT Rover award. At the entrance to the park, I crossed a railroad track and a levee. After looking at the options along the gridline, the levee had an excellent view of the pass. My gear was the Yaesu FT-60 and an Elk antenna. The AO-92 pass yielded five confirmed contacts and three more on the AO-91 pass. The AO-91 pass had two trains passing making QRM. I also did HF ops on 20 meters between the passes. I worked Tom WD0HBR in Dothan, Don KK4DWC in Panama City, Florida and Fred VE3FAL in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I will be looking for more roving opportunities in the future to achieve more rover award points. The reference to the song American Pie got a flurry of comments on Twitter. Apologies to Don Mclean

The levee

Suzy Rock Climbing
The Kansas River

Friday, August 17, 2018

Parks On The Air Activation for Clinton State Park, Kansas.

I had the opportunity to do a Parks On The Air (POTA) activation at Clinton State Park, K-2332, while on vacation visiting relatives in Lawrence, Kansas. It has been a while since I did POTA. POTA is now administered on the website. Jason W3AAX and his team have done an outstanding job of providing the notifications, spots and logging for the program.

POTA at Clinton State Park, Kansas

My rig for this activation was the Elecraft KX2. I added the Elecraft KXPA100 amplifier for the first time in the field to give me up to 100 watts. The antenna was the N6BT Bravo 7K vertical. I feel the vertical was a better choice than a low dipole for 20-meters. The vertical did perform well in all directions.

The Elecraft KX2 paired with the Elecraft KXPA100 amplifier

My contact rate was about 20 per hour. I was pleased that so many stations support POTA even for a weekday activation. I had six Canadian contacts. I worked N4EX/P at K-0027 for a park to park contact. I got support from friends including Jim K4LIX and Dennis WA6QKN. I got a surprise call from AK4JA in Georgia. I am pretty sure he was running a homebrew tube QRP rig.

The N6BT Bravo 7K vertical

The venue at Clinton was on a large field with a few trees. That is a good formula for a vertical. The weather was warm with some clouds holding the temps down. Suzy was my partner. I had only a few visitors. After about two and a half hours Suzy was actually ready to get back in the van. I finished up with an AO-85 satellite pass. No joy, my HT did not break through the pileup for Robert KE4AL doing a grid-line.

Suzy chilling in the shade of the van.

I hope to pick up my activations as we move toward the fall. POTA is lots of fun. Try it!

The scene at Clinton.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Flight of the Bumblebees 2018 was a QRP Swarm

You can have fun with QRP even at the bottom of the solar cycle. The annual Flight of the Bumblebees last Sunday is a good example. The bumblebees are portable stations. I had 34 contacts of which 21 were with fellow bumblebees. All of them were using five watts or less.

Bravo 7K Vertical
This year I chose Carl Grey Park in Panama City, Florida as my venue which is on the shore of North Bay. I like to place my vertical antenna on the saltwater shore. My vertical this time was the N6BT Bravo 7K. I setup up the vertical for 20 meters which was the most active band. I also set up a low dipole for 40 meters. The rig was the Elecraft KX2.

Twenty-seven contacts were on 20 meters. I was also pleased to get four on 15 meters. 40 meters had a lot of static crashes and not many stations. However, I did work Steve KF5RY in Texas, Randy KB4QQB in North Carolina and Bob WB4BLX here in Panama City,

Elecraft KX2
It is nice to work your QRP friends on FOBB. Shel KF0UR in Colorado was on, He is with the QRPWorks who makes Elecraft Accessories. I worked Kelly K4UPG. He is a QRP ringleader in the Orlando area.  I worked Randy KB4QQJ in North Carolina on 40, 20 and 15. He heads up the Great Outdoor Radio Club, GORC. In the West, I got Steve KF5RY in Texas on 40 and 15 and Myron WV0H in Colorado. These two are on the RaDAR Community. Local friends included Bob WB4BLX on 20 and 40 and Bob WB8PAF on 20.

Dennis WA6QKN
I better not leave out Dennis WA6QKN who assisted me with logging. He is getting pretty good with CW copy. We also had a friendly squirrel come by to share my lunch. Suzy would have liked that, but I did not bring her this time. The weather held out right up to the last hour. We could see some lightening in the North. In the end, a stiff breeze came up and turned over my Bravo 7K vertical. I never dreamed that could happen, but there was no damage.

The scene along North Bay at Carl Grey Park