Saturday, March 22, 2014

Laid up

Well it's been a busy week so far.  After passing my General Class exam last weekend, I've only made one contact on the 20m band, and that was with W1AW/07.  I think my major hold up on getting contacts is my antenna.  I'm currently using a hand built 10m dipole connected to my HF rig, and trying to autotune that.  Although I can hear some folks on the lower bands, I don't think it works quite like it does on 10m.  And the 10m band has been flaky the past week or so.  But all of that is ok, since I just had surgery on my knee the other day.  I've been spending a lot of time on the couch, researching Amateur Radios.  I have to say, I've become quite curious about the more digital modes, like D-STAR and EchoLink.  D-STAR sounds like a fantastic idea, which mixes ham radio with the internet.  Originally I thought it sounded like "cheating," but I've seen come around a bit, and considering it more like an extension of ham radio.  Besides, for Amateur Radio to continue to grow, I think we need to embrace all modes that come into existence, but remembering where we came from.

Which, brings me to my next topic: CW or Morse Code.  Besides attempting to DX, and now looking into the digital modes, CW is next on my plate.  I've already started to learn it, using a method based on Koch and Farnsworth.  The idea is to take the code, play each letter at the speed with which you want to be at; in my case I'm looking at 30wpm, and then slowing down the spacing between the letters, which I've set to 5wpm.  What this does, is to train your ears to hear the characters as the speed you want, but slowing it down enough that you don't get overwhelmed.  Then as you improve, you can increase the speed between characters.  What you don't want, is for your brain to try to hear dits and dahs; rather, you want to hear the patterns that the letters make.  It's like learning a language. You don't learn the individual letters in a word and sound out each letter till you know the word, what you do is to hear the whole word and repeat it back.  It's the same with Morse Code.  Although I'm only 5 letters in, I can see the value in learning with this method.

I'm also looking at getting another radio.  I currently have two radios, one HF rig IC-761, and a Bao Feng HT, 2m/70cm.  And they both work exceptionally well.  Especially my HT, which I hook up to a mag mount antenna while I'm in my car.  However, this is not the best solution.  What I am interested in now is an ID-880H.  What this will do for me, is replace my HT for in-car use, on the 2m and 70cm bands, but will also allow me to do D-STAR.  My thought, is that I can mount the radio is such a way, that it is easily transferable from car to shack.  While in the car, I can use it as I have been using my HT, but also make distant connections using the D-STAR mode.  But, I'll also want to be able to do this in my shack.  What I don't want to do, is to purchase 2 radios, when one will do the job.  Although, what I may find is that it is too much of a hassle to move it, and I may find one location for it to rest at.  If I had unlimited funds though, I would want this radio in my car exclusively, and an IC-7100 all mode (including D-STAR) in my shack. The 7100 would allow me to work in the field as well, in a mobile fashion, without having to lug around a big radio like my 761.  I will tell you this though, I'm pretty sure that ICOM is going to be my company of choice from now on.  They seem to have fantastic quality, good user reviews, and D-STAR built in.

Ok, so...what else is new.  I'm contemplating working on my Extra Class exam.  This would allow me to get a shorter call sign, such as a 1x2 or a 2x1, making exchanges even easier.  I'm also going to try to do a contest tomorrow, very early, with Kazakhstan.  I don't know if I'll even be able to make any contacts, but it's worth a try.  Worst case is that I'll lose some sleep...

Our club is coming around, we've got a call sign KD9AOQ, we have an official name through the state of Indiana, Off the Grid Radio and Electronics Society, INC., I've applied for ARRL membership, and we've made it through the initial stages of that; and lastly, we've got a bank account and multiple cards for our founding members.  The next steps are to get our non-profit status, and begin recruiting members.  Which speaking of, we have a few of those in the works.  I'm so excited about where our club can go, and what we'll be able to do once we grow a little.

In closing, I have to say that I am surprised at how absorbed I am into this thing called Ham Radio.  I tend to flit around from one thing to another, but Amateur Radio seems to have caught my attention more than things usually do.  I'm hoping some of this excitement continues to rub off on others as well.

Thanks for listening, and 73!

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