Saturday, 31 October 2009

I have the power

With my 830S “data Rig” I use an MFJ 945 tuner. This is a compact ATU which seems to work quite well. One of the handy features it has is that there is a built in SWR/Power meter. The power meter has two ranges  0 to 300 watts and 0 to 6 watts.
Now I wouldn’t like to try running 300watts through this ATU, I really don’t think its up to that but it works quite well at 100 watts and the built in meter seems fairly accurate.
Whilst setting the rig up for WSPR I was trying to measure my power at 5 watts. I have a fairly high quality  AVAIR power meter and used this to set the 830 at the QRP level. I was surprised to notice that with the external meter showing 5 watts out, the meter on the MFJ on its low range was showing just 1 watt. Switching the MFJ meter to its high range it was showing approx 5 watts like the external meter. Its obvious that the low range setting on the MFJ meter is pretty useless. At least I know that the high range is OK and I can set my power based on that.

WSPR has been working well for me.  I ran it overnight last night and for much of the day today, all on 10mhz (30 metres)I note that I have been heard now by several U.S stations and much of Europe. This morning I noted some G Stations on my heard list but it seems they didn’t hear me.

When I was a youngster and just getting interested in Shortwave I used to love visiting the local “Tandy” shop and used to look forward to the annual Tandy catalogue  . This contained details of all sorts of Hi FI, computer, Electronics CB and of course shortwave radio equipment. In the 80’s I really wanted their flagship communications receiver the DX302, very impressive with its digital readout. I ended up with the cheaper analogue DX200 receiver but still had lots of fun with that. If you would like the chance to look at the “Tandy” catalogues of long ago and relive the 70s, 80s and further back, take a look At this excellent site

Friday, 30 October 2009

I heard a Whisper.............

On my last blog entry Bas PE4BAS, pointed out that it was easily possible to go QRP with my TS830s simply by altering the output of my PC soundcard! Now why didn't I think of that?? Its a lot easier using data, with a voice transmission simply cranking down the mic gain won't work.
Anyway having set the power to 10 watts using the TS830 Mic gain, a liitle tweak of my soundcards volume setting and I was running under 5 watts.
Incidentally whilst experimenting and trying to reduce power I had 3 PSK31 contacts on 30 metres. 2 Russian contacts and one into Germany, all on around 4 watts!

Anyway last night I downloaded the WSPR software and after studying the excellent instructions written by Julian G4ILO I was up and running. I am still finding my way around the software and need to do a bit more reading up on WSPR but last night I was rewarded with being heard by an OH2, a WB3, two W3's and A W9. All with 5 watts on 30 metres. Now I have worked Stateside on PSK31 on 30 metres in the past but I was running around 40 watts then. WSPR looks a really interesting mode. I intend to run it when I am not using the 830s for anything else. Of course not being licensed to run an unattended station it means that I cannot run WSPR when I am not at home. It would be most interesting to run 24/7 for a while. As i understand it this is not a mode that could be used for a QSO but it is a very good way of measuring propagation conditions.
Interstingly the PSK section of 30 metres seemed all but dead just before I set up WSPR so I was suprised that my signal made it to the USA!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009


One of the most useful features of the internet  amateur radio wise in my opinion is the website. Here you can instantly look up someones callsign, QSL details and in many cases a picture and additional information. The Digipan PSK program I use has a 'Lookup' button which automatically links a callsign that you are working or have worked to the appropriate QRZ page. All very useful. Of course the information isn't always up to date and occassionally, but in my experience not that often a callsign may not be listed but all in all its a very useful tool.
A little while ago the QRZ system was revamped a little and I note that it also provides you with a google map of the area in which your QSO partner is located. Most of the time it cleverly draws a line between your QSO partners location and yours showing the direct path.
I have noticed however that although there is always a map there is not always a line drawn between the two locations. I wonder why this is? Does anyone know? I guess maybe I should post a query on the QRZ forums!

I notice a number of "radio bloggers" talking about the WSPR system. This looks interesting and I wouldn't mind giving it a go. The only thing is I believe it requires you to run QRP power levels. now my Data station is based around an old Kenwood TS830S. I can get that rig down to around 10 watts, in fact I worked a CT1 on 30metres on around 10 watts tonight! But is that low enough power for WSPR? It can be difficult to get the older equipment with valve PAs down to QRP levels, although I have worked several foundation licence holders using old FT101's  and similar rigs who must have managed it!!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Casual contester?

Well I managed to work a few interesting (for me!) stations over the weekend. In addition to those I mentioned in the last post I managed Greece and Cyprus on 10 metres as well as Morrocco. I didn't bother with 20 metres much as it seemed so crowded but did manage one stateside contact.
Isn't it strange how you can a 59 report from all of these stations, even though they are clearly struggling to hear you?I have been in the hobby now for over 20 years and it has always been the same for that time at least. I wonder when it started though? I guess it allows stations to complete a large part of their logs in advance as they know what the reports are going to be!

The bands seem back to normal now, with 10 and 15m dead here, for now at least. Lets hope that conditions are picking up slowly as 10 metres is one of my favourite bands.

The picture accompanying this post is of my trusty Trio/Kenwood TS830s. I have had this set for many years now, and for the last two or three years it has sat largely unused. Since August however it has been working hard as my "data" station running on pSK31 on 30 metres and has been working very well. I guess this rig is around 25 years old or so now and is still going strong.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Conditions or Activity?

I'm not a great fan of contests but they are a useful way of getting some contacts in the log as contesters want to work as many stations as possible! I had a tune around the HF bands this morning and early afternoon and found the CQ Worldwide contest underway.
I have been at this QTH now for 18 months and since then I don't think I have had one contact on 15 metres. Maybe I have not been around at the right time but whenever I have tuned the band its been dead. Today I have been working 15 metres and the band has been full of contest stations. Mainly European stuff but I did work into Tunisia and heard (but not worked) a stateside station. On 10 metres there were a few Europeans again and I heard (but sadly could not work!) ZS9X, A surprise signal on 10 metres.
All this makes me think, when we think the higher bands are dead  are they really dead or is it simply a lack of activity? I think I should call CQ more often.

At least today I was able to give my ground mounted vertical, the HYgain AV12 an airing. It seems to work quite well, although I have never been able to get the tuning quite right on 15m. I will have another go at it in the spring but at best the SWR on 15M is around 2:1. It still seems to work OK though and the matching is pretty good on 20 metres and 10m. The picture shows the AV 12 ground mounted in the corner of my garden. Its pretty low profile but I have been toying with the idea of mounting it on a pole and risking the wrath of the neighbours.....maybe next year!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


In the past week or so I have been going through my log book and filling out my QSL cards. I have always maintained a manual logbook. In the days when I first had my licence it was mandatory in the UK to maintain a log of your transmissions. That requirement was lifted some time ago now but I still kept my log!
I have flirted with computerised logging software and in fact most of my contacts up to the year 2000 or so are saved electronically (somewhere on a disk I think!!) but I find it easier to maintain the written log as well. Certainly when filling out my QSL cards it saves me staring at a screen.Perhaps its because I am not incredibly active on the air or perhaps its because I still find it much easier to write than to type but I prefer the manual log.
I wonder how many Amateurs no longer keep a log? Apart from making life easier if you have QSL cards to write its also nice to look back from time to time on the contacts you have made. I totally accept that computer loogging is invaluable if you need to generate statistics, check which prefixes/countries you have worked etc. In fact "one day" I will get around to inputting all of my contacts to a computer log. But there is still something about the old manual logbook and I can't see me giving that up for some time to come.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Radio Rallies/Real Radio

I went to a local radio rally today, run by the Blackwood Amateur Radio society, the rally took place in the village of Crosskeys around 30miles from my home. The rally seemed to be quite well attended and its always nice to meet up with old friends and put a face to people I have spoken to over the air but never met. Myself  I came away with a 2010 RSGB callbook In which I find my details are wrong!(despite the fact that I notified Ofcom last year!) and some PL259 plugs, not much, but then again there isn't a great deal I need at the moment. I did keep and eye on the bring and buy stall there but didn't see much of interest to me there.There always seems to be less equipment on bring and buy sales these days. I wonder is that because people are increasingly using Ebay and other internet sites to sell their gear?

There has been quite a bit of debate lately on some of the radio blogs I follow about the program CQ100. This is basically an internet chat program for use by licensed amateurs. In that respect its not unlike Echolink or EQSO. In the case of cq100 however most users are operating PCs and the program has a visual interface that resembles a radio and you are able to pick the "frequency" or "band" you wish to use. Of course its not radio at all and it doesn't matter which "frequency" you tune on the CQ100 "radio" you are just chatting via the internet.
What I haven't heard mention of on the blogs I have read is that there is another program called "Hamsphere". Unlike CQ100 Hamsphere is more of a simulator and tries to mimic HF conditions with noise, interference and fading. Listening to Hamsphere the "signals" sound more like SSB too. More details can be found here .
Is it radio? Of course not! It could be fun for some maybe and its undoubtedly a very clever program. Myself I will stick to my PSK and SSB signals from my HF radios, with a bit of broadcast band listening. Thats what keeps me happy but each to their own.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

New QSL Cards

My new QSL Cards arrived today. I have been at this QTH for 18 months now so I thought I had better get some done. The picture is of Coity Castle, which is just down the road from my location. This is the first proper QSL card I have had for many years. In the past because I haven't been that active on HF if anyone really needed a card I printed one up on my PC. I also use EQSL which is a very useful facility but many people still prefer the traditonal paper QSL. Now all I have to do is sit down and write out about 200 of these to cover the recent PSK31 QSOs that I've had!
QSL cards are of course not just confined to amateur radio. For years most of the broadcast stations on shortwave issued QSL cards to their listeners in return for reception reports. As a youngster I sent many reports to broadcasters and still have the QSL cards.The Broadcaster Radio Sweden has recently announced that it is going to stop issuing QSL cards. It got me wondering how many broadcasters still QSL? Maybe I should try sending some reception reports , of course many of the well known shortwave broadcasters have left the airwaves, in favour of the internet. I wonder if electronic QSLing will eventually overtake the paper QSLs? I believe for DXCC awards paper QSLs are still required Anyway here is a QSL card from Radio Sweden which I received back in 1984!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


I am not someone who uses VHF/UHF repeaters from home as a rule, but I do have a mobile 2m/70Cms set in my car and have been known to make the odd contact via a repeater when mobile.One of the strangest things I have heard on a repeater was an amateur, clearly operating from home, telling his QSO partner that he refused to speak to mobile stations using the repeater as he thought mobile operation was unsafe! Now of course this may be a reasonable point of view but the irony is that the repeater network was intended for use by mobiles and portables, so really- no mobiles-no reasons for repeaters. I couldn't resist calling into this conversation and making this point, and yes the station in question did speak to me even though I was mobile! I think though my point was lost on him.
When I first became interested in amateur radio it was drummed into me that repeaters were for mobiles and that if fixed stations were using the "box" that they should always give priority to mobile stations. From the repeaters I hear whilst mobile day to day this doesn't always happen. If you are interested in operating procedure and the ethics of amateur radio try this link its a very interesting document. Maybe it should form part of the current exam strucure. What do you think?

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Good Conditions today

Spent quite a bit of time shortwave listening this morning, for once the noise level here was fairly low (its often quite noisy on weekends) so it made a nice change.

Later on I did a bit of PSK on 30 metres and that band seemed in good shape too. Perhaps conditions are on the up, I noticed some CW activity on 15m yesterday, its been quite a while since I've heard anything on that band.
I thought I'd include a run down on the station equipment in this posting, as you will see its nothing spectacular at the moment but it keeps me busy!

On the HF bands I have the Yaesu FT1000MP. Its one of the few pieces of equipment that I have had from new. I also have an old Trio TS830s, I use that rig for data (PSK) and the Ft1000 for phone. HF antennas are either my home brew inverted L or a ground mounted Hy Gain AV12 verrtical which covers 10-15-20 metres.

On VHF/UHF I have a Yaesu FT857D, running into a dual band vertical and also a loft mounted dipole for 6metres. Oh I also have an Ascom PMR rig for 4 metres (70Mhz) running into a loft mounted dipole.
My main receiver is a Kenwood R5000 and this uses a longwire fed by a 4:1 balun. The Kenwood was a top flight receiver in its day. I didn't pay a lot for mine as its a little bit scruffy cosmetically but it works well. My R5000 is pictured above.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

PSK on 30 Metres

Despite being licenced for quite a number of years, in the past, I had never used the 30 metre (10mhz) band.I'm not sure why, in my early years on the HF bands I used to use CW, later on I was keen on data modes, I just never used that particular band. This summer, after a break of many years I set up again on data, mainly, for now at least PSK 31 using the Digipan software.I also decided to concentrate on the 10Mhz band. Since August this year I have had a few hundred qso's using my inverted L and power of between 20 and 50 Watts. My contacts have admittedly been mainly into Europe but I've been having a lot of fun and found it to be a fascinating band. Tonight however my PSK signal made it "across the pond" to the station of K1NOX. It just makes me wonder how much better I could do with an antenna resonant on 30metres. I'm just not sure whether or not I can get away with another antenna in the garden!


Hello! Welcome to my blog. I hope to be posting here regularly about my radio activities. I live in a modern house with a garden roughly 30' by 30'. Although this is probably more space than some people have it isn't ideal for amateur radio antennas.
However I do manage to operate a simple station that is capable of transmitting from 80metres up to 10.The picture shows my inverted L antenna (lying on the lawn just prior to me putting it up!) which is based around a fibreglass roach pole, its a quarter wave on 40 metres with a trap in it to allow operation on 80. In this Picture you can see the base of the antenna with the 1:1 balun at its feedpoint. This antenna was based on an article in 'Practical Wireless'magazine, there is a link to the design here it really works quite well and fits easily into my garden.