Tag Archives: periodicals

Ever been to Cornbread Road?

My favorite amateur radio blog comes from Jeff Davis, KE9V. If you have been following Jeff’s blog through the years you’ll have seen a constant evolution of his site and content. In addition to his ponderings of the current state of ham radio, Jeff has produced a number of engaging podcasts. Long Delayed Echoes was Jeff’s podcast series that covered a great deal of the early history of amateur radio. It featured selections from Clinton B. DeSoto’s 200 Meters & Down as well as other significant historical sources of ham history. In addition to his written contributions to QST (see the May 2005 issue on page 56) Jeff has also shared his talent for fiction with us. He has several other ham radio related stories that he posts now and again on his blog (… it is worth checking his blog frequently because once in a blue moon he will put links up to his stories… my favorites are QRP Christmas and Tragedy on the Trail).

Besides his blog, Jeff prodigiously uses social media and you would likely enjoy his ham radio musing that can be read via Twitter and Google +.

Jeff combined his podcast talents along with his fiction writing skills with the production of Cornbread Road. All 13 episodes of the serial are currently available and on the 30th of September, Jeff has promised us a final installment. I’m looking forward to that!

In the beginning……

… there was Hugo Gernsback. Here are a few of his contributions:
- Established one of the first companies to sell equipment to radio amateurs in 1904.
- Founded the Wireless Association of America in 1909.
- Published two amateur radio oriented magazines: Modern Electrics in 1908 and The Electrical Experimenter in 1913.
- Initially proposed the idea of allocating 200 meters and down to amateur radio in 1912.

Why don’t we know more about Hugo Gernsback and his early contributions to the hobby? At what point did the momentum shift from Hugo and his Wirless Association of America to Hiram Maxim and his ARRL? … and why?

Hugo made a huge contribution to science fiction but it seems his contributions to amateur radio have been overlooked.

Autumn = amateur radio time

Out here in Kansas, on the eastern edge of the prarie, the leaves are turning and the first frost is upon us. The time is NOW to get the hamshack in order.

(1) My VHF/UHF antenna and Davis weather station NEEDS to get mounted up on the chimney. I have the mounting brackets – thin aluminium straps that circumnavigate the chiminey. However, the roof at the new QTH is basically three stories high and the roof itself is pretty steep. Too steep for me. The solution? I am trying to get a local roofing company to give me an estimate for the job.

(2) The HF antenna. In the course of sorting through all the hamshack flotsam, I’ve started to identify “stuff” I can part with. Already I’ve said goodbye to some old MFJ TNCs, the Kenwood TS-930S, and my old TinyTrak (thank you Craigslist!). There’s more to part with and I’m still in the process of identfying them (… like an ICOM PCR-1000, TenTec RX-320, and a D-STAR DV Dongle for starters). More importantly (and back on topic), I unearthed two in-the-package wire antennas. The first is an 80M OCF dipole from RadioWavz and the second is a G5RV+ from RadioWorks. Now I need to dust off the CSV19 Pneumatic Antenna Launcher and let the tennis balls fly.

(3) Once I have my antenna situation under control, I can take the hamshack innards to the next level.

Questions to ponder:

Do I retain the hardcopy collection of QST magazines I’ve been carting around since 2005ish? Starting for the late 40′s, it is a solid collection up to 2000. It takes up a great deal of space and I have the same issues on CD. I’d like to find the collection a new (local) home, if possible.

My new job has me on the road – it would be great to take some gear on the road with me. What to take? Needs to have a small footprint. Sounds like a job for the KX1. What to use for an antenna?

Hamfest: Lufkin, TX

I recently took a trip back to the states to attend an exercise at Fort Hood, Texas. I arrived a day early and had a free Saturday. Checking the ARRL website for nearby hamfests, I saw that there was one scheduled in town of Lufkin. Early Saturday morning I hoped in my rental car and sped east along Texas Hwy 7. I arrived around 10am. The hamfest was held at a church and I parked in the front lot along with a healthy population of vehicles bristling with antenna.

Making my way to the rear entrance of the church building, I saw that there was a small group of tailgaters with their wares out. I headed inside to the entrance table where I was told there was no charge to attend. Excellent! Now, this wasn’t a huge hamfest – but what it lacked in size, it made up in spirit and the friendliness of the local hams.

I perused the tables inside, arrayed around an indoor basketball court, not seeing anything that immediately caught my eye. Then again, I really wasn’t in the market for anything. There was a MARS booth – which impressed me that they would be present at a small event like this. In one corner the hamfest organizers were selling Lufkin Hamfest t-shirts. I scooped one of those up. Next I ran across some late 1990s issues of QRPp, the journal of the Northern California QRP Club, which I picked up for 50 cents each.

I always enjoy cruising the parking lot at a hamfest to see the variety of mobile installations. I had never seen such a large HF antenna mounted on a sedan before. The antenna mount was rock solid and I imagine this ham enjoys his mobile HF QSOs.

The future is an abstraction, the ‘present’ but a fleeting moment, all else history

Today I got the opportunity to conduct another phone interview with a radio amateur who served in World War II. The gentleman has been a licensed ham for 72 years and still has an active license. I found his name in a pre-World War II QST. He’d written a letter after he’d answered the call to duty and had been sent to Fort Monmouth, NJ to undergo training in the Signal Corps. His letter to QST laid out the process of what a ham would experience once he made the jump from the civilian world into the Army. I wanted to ask him about his experiences during training, had there been other hams in his unit? Did his amateur radio skills help him become a better Army signalman? Where was he sent after Fort Monmouth? Europe… the Pacific? The gentleman had served his country along with our greatest generation and I wanted to honor his service by hearing his war stories. Unfortunately the years had eroded his memories and he couldn’t recall much more than that he had been in the Army for five years and had briefly served at Fort Monmouth. He immediately recalled his holding of an amateur radio ticket for 72 years and it was heartening to think that amateur radio had played a major part in his long life. I sincerely thanked him for his service to our nation but was somewhat saddened by the fact that his wartime experiences are lost in the shadows of history.

The Ham Notebook

I got my March issue of CQ Magazine and enjoyed the renaming of the Beginner’s Corner column to The Ham Notebook. Columnist Wayne Yoshida, KH6WZ, explains the name change to reflect a column that contains information that every ham should know. Continuing on the notebook theme, Wayne notes the importance of record keeping for on air activity, a way to track contacts for the various awards, changes to the station setup (to include antenna modification, addition of new radios, etc.), and as a project log to reflect what’s on the bench. He points out this “notebook” can be kept in a hard copy format or digitally based to take advantage of quick searches for what you are looking for.
I couldn’t agree more with Wayne. To an extent, I’ve used this blog to keep notes on what I am doing and record successes and failures. I use the blog as a reference consistently. I am a little less disciplined about keeping a dedicated hard copy notebook. I have many of them floating around but I need to make it a regular habit of using the hard copy journal to keep track of what’s going on in the shack.
Speaking of what’s going on – I had the computer that was running my weather station and APRS go down.

The Shuttle K45 is a minimalist piece of hardware that I picked up about 18 months ago. Friday at 6pm the K45 died. I did a cursory inspection of the computer and didn’t notice anything miss. I did some minor troubleshooting to no avail. I figured it was probably the power supply. I took the computer to a local repair shop who determined that it was the motherboard that had gone bad. Back home with a bit of internet research I found that the dead motherboard was an epidemic caused by a handful of bad capacitors. I am going to try to swap out the bad ones and see if I can bring the K45 back to life.
Meanwhile I have swapped in an older computer that I had been using some time back to run the weather station and APRS.

Sunday Snowy Sunday

Lots of snow here on the eastern edge of Kansas. We got a good dump of slush on Friday but with the temp too high none of it stuck. Then Saturday afternoon the temp dropped below 32d F and decided to stay around 29d F. Saturday night the snow started coming down and has not stopped since.
The snow has been a big hit with Sarah:

My trusty Toyota Tundra (no recalls yet… keeping my fingers crossed) is wearing a nice, thick coat of snowy goodness:

I’ve rekindled my interest in EchoLink and now have a full blown EchoIRLP node (EchoLink Node #496698 and IRLP Node #3370) and am using a TM-D710A to run the node as well as my APRS weather station. What I have been enjoying most so far about IRLP is the ability to tweak and play with the linux software via a (or multiple) terminal session(s). It is helping me improve my linux skills.

Speaking of linux, I have been piecing together my iPORTABLE-mounted station. Each box comfortably fits two components. Box #1 has an IC-7000 and an LDG AT-200pro tuner. Box #2 has a Dell Zino HD and an Alinco DM-330MV power supply. Box #3 will have an embedded EchoIRLP node and a TM-D710A. Box#1 and #2 are already assembled and it makes for a nice, portable working station. Back to linux… it has long been a desire of mine to switch as much of my computing to Ubuntu as possible. Currently the Dell Zino has a dual boot configuration of Vista (which was already installed) and Ubuntu 9.10. I have been trying to put together a nice amateur radio software collection on the Zino and have had mixed results. For rig control, it is hard to beat the Windows program Ham Radio Deluxe. The closest linux version I’ve been able to find is an application called Grig. Not quite what I want to take advantage of all the bells and whistles that the IC-7000 has. I’ve been listening to the excellent podcast Linux in the Ham Shack for recommendations (episode #13 is dedicated to rig control), perusing the January 2010 issue of Linux Journal (the issue is dedicated to Amateur Radio and Linux), and am also looking at shackbox, which is a linux distribution designed with amateur radio in mind. I think I am going to give shackbox a try and see how it goes.

… all of this on a snowy Sunday.

If you get a chance, connect to my EchoIRLP node (EchoLink Node #496698 and IRLP Node #3370) and say hello. You’ll help me procrastinate in finishing my paper on the Army Amateur Radio System.

Final Statement Of An Infamouse Booze Hister

The Signal Corps Bulletin was the professional journal of the US Army’s Signal Corps from 1920 to 1940. After the establishment of the War Department’s radio net, a section was included in the back were individual stations could make comments about their equipment, personnel transfers, and sometimes snipe at rival stations. Station WAR, located at Ft. Meyer, VA (near Washington D.C.) was net control for the net that reached all the way out to San Francisco, Seattle, Alaska, Hawaii and even the Philippine Islands. The following is taken from a Bulletin from the late 20s which I found pretty amusing:

It is with great regret that I leave members of the radio station and take this means of expressing to each and every one my hearty appreciation of the many kind favors and good fellowship shown by all during my stay. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and for the New Year may you all be staff sergeants. I shall always hold a warm spot in my heart for the members of this outfit and if at any time one of you needs succour don’t call on me because I will probably be broke too.

Usually when leaving a station it has been my practice to donate my sign to some member of the station to filly able to hold up the traditions of this fine old sign so I hereby solemnly will bequeath my sign to A to operator TN as he has been wanting a good sign. The sign may only be accepted by TN on the following conditions: 1. That he will discontinue all prevarications. 2. Discontinue the practice of bumming cigarettes or smoking butts. 3. Will not try to get excused from duty through subterfuge such as a lame wrist or shoulder.

When I am again battling the bitter cold and nearly unconquerable obstacles of the primeval wilds of the northland and my tea is running low and I am completely out of whiskey I will be cheered and spurred on to greater efforts by the thought that I am an ex-member of the undefeatable gang at WAR. I am crying so much that I can not see to write more. Goodbye. – Avery
(Former operator WAR now en route to Alaska)

NOTE: a booze hister was defined back in those days (of Prohibition) as a drunkard.

This Weekend…

Joseph Sheehan Bicycle Road Race: Today I helped support a 52.9 mile bicycle race between Leavenworth and Atchison, KS. The weather was miserable. A cold morning to begin with. Then rain… and sleet. Even snow. I was positioned at a intersection that crossed the highway which served as about the 10 mile mark and then 40 mile mark on the route back. 52 cyclist made it to the 10 mile point and not more than 20 went on to finish the race. I couldn’t believe that many of the guys hung with it. Those were some dedicated folks.
There were four of us supporting the race, positioned at key spots along the route (inside our nice, warm vehicles). I was able to have several “lessons learned” for this event. I had a distinct lack of planning and preparation.
(1) I didn’t fully check my rig prior to the event. I was at the event site trying to do a radio check with net control with no results.
(2) When it is time to troubleshoot, you have to use logic. When time is short (because of lack of preparation) and problems come up, you have to keep your head. Troubleshooting a radio system is pretty basic. Start from one end and work to the other. Finding that the antenna feedline isn’t properly connected to the rig should be an easy fix.
(3) Having an HT as backup is good. Knowing how to change the settings on it is critical. One of those Nifty manuals or smart cards does the trick.

That being said, thanks to the quick thinking of the net control I was able to initially talk to him on my HT using a repeater that didn’t require a tone (I’d forgotten how to change the tone setting on my Kenwood TH-D7A). I eventually figured out how to set the tone and was on the repeater with the other folks. Then with a bit more thought and troubleshooting, I discovered my feedline connection to the rig had come loose and with that fixed I was back in business. Part of the problem is that I have a relatively new rig in the truck, the Kenwood TM-D710A. It is a very complicated rig and I have only scratched the surface on how to operate it. I was able to interface it with the Garmin Nuvi 350 thanks to a cable from Argent Data Systems. The cable allows the D710A to pass APRS data to the Nuvi and the Nuvi plots the data as waypoints. It works pretty well.

Big week ahead. I mentioned before that I have some specific graduation requirements for the course I am in at Fort Leavenworth. This week I should be able to complete another of the requirements: speak to a community group, school, or other organized gathering of citizens. I have put together a presentation concerning my operations of both amateur radio and MARS station while in Iraq and will be giving the presentation to one of the local amateur radio clubs. The presentation, in addition to my operations, covers the history of the US Army and amateur radio while deployed overseas. It has been fascinating researching the operations of previous Army hams from WWII (Germany and Japan), Korea, Vietnam,

Spec/5 Dennis Vernacchia operating MARS Radio Station AB8AY, out of relocated radio station in quonset hut, puts radio-telephone calls through to the states for the troops stationed at LZ Betty and to co-ordinate Operation Vietnam Merry Christmas
Spec/5 Dennis Vernacchia operating MARS Radio Station AB8AY, out of relocated radio station in quonset hut, puts radio-telephone calls through to the states for the troops stationed at LZ Betty and to co-ordinate "Operation Vietnam Merry Christmas"
Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq. I also cover the history of amateur radio in Iraq from the early days in the 1920s through the Saddam period and then today. Once I get my slides spiffied up a bit more and add some notes, I will post a link here so those who are interested can take a look. My final requirement is: write professionally by submitting a letter to the editor, Op-Ed piece, or article for publication. My intent is to turn the presentation into an article and then send it to ARRL’s QST. Most of the article is done – I hope to get it completed this week as well.