Wednesday, October 9, 2013

More Fun With the Rock Mite

Last night I had a few minutes to operate, so I thought I would call CQ with my 20M Rock Mite. I did a little more than CQ however, as I wanted to know how the radio was getting out. First, I measured the output power. I had assumed 500 mw of output during my first QSO's with the radio but after measuring the output, it was closer to 300 mw. Secondly, I wanted to see where the radio was being heard using the Reverse Beacon Network, If you've never played around with this, it is pretty cool. There is an entire network of skimmers out there that will post your frequency and callsign if you are copied calling CQ on CW.

So I called CQ with the beam pointed due north from my Boerne, TX QTH. Withing seconds the RBN spotted me calling CQ on the east coast and shortly thereafter on the west coast. Pretty cool. So clearly I was getting out fine with my 300mw. After a few CQ's, AB4QL, Barry in Alabama, called me.  I swung the beam and he was a solid 559 running his KX-3. He gave me a 329, but he didn't seem to miss anything. The contact was just short of a rag chew but we had nice QSO.

After we signed with each other, I looked up Barry on and learned that his QTH was 820 miles from mine. At 300mw that comes out to 2,733 miles per watt. Any way you slice it, that's good mileage.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Tidbits From the QRP History Book

I've been reading, in small doses, "The History of QRP in the U.S., 1924 - 1960" by Adrian Weiss, W0RSP. So after reading about some of the beginnings of the QRP movement it is interesting to note in 1924, QST Technical Editor, Robert S. Kruse, 1XAM, went on the offensive in  promoting low power operation. His methods however were a little different than might be tried  today.

It seems that Kruse felt that American operators had become too enamored with high power operation and that the QRM and inefficiencies of high power operation were precluding the "grassroots" operator from even hearing DX stations. Weiss writes,

 "QST continually derided the abuse of power among American amateurs by coining a long list of derogatory epithets for the high power types. Such names as "watt-hog", "ether buster", "tribe of ampere hounds", "ampere chaser", "thunder factory', "watt burner" and "most miles per gallon" flowed across the pages of QST, leaving little doubt as to the attitude of the QST staff, and presumably the ARRL, to combat the developing dependence upon brute power by American amateurs in place of the ideals embodied in the QRP Operator...."

In, December 1923, the very first QRP contest, The Station Efficiency Contest, was announced with this subtitle, "Miles Per Watt: An Argument For The Small Set and For Intelligence In Place of Brute Force" Weiss comments, "In other words, the use of low power was inextricably linked with intelligence and diametrically opposite to high power"

Further Kruse argued, "...what if his brute power does let him cover 4,000 miles, isn't he still inferior to the other man who handled his power correctly and went twice as far per watt?"

So there you have it, QRP operation = Intelligence.

Need we say more;-)

The book goes into much more detail about the attack on high power operation and rising credibility of the QRP operator in those early days. Interesting reading and entertaining as well.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Cool 12m SOTA contact

As we all know the high bands have been less than stellar during this solar cycle peak. I was reminded how busy 10m used to be during "real" solar cycle peaks of the past by a recent article on AE5X's blog.  As I remember it you could hardly find a place to call CQ on the novice segment of the band. However, even at lesser solar flux values, the high bands can still produce a lot of fun.

The past Saturday I had a rare weekend with not much on the schedule so I was chasing SOTA summits among other things. It was a fun day on the radio and I worked several Europeans on 12m. Currently the SOTA program has a 12m challenge in place which encourages activity on this band and when open, provides some fairly long haul DX for these QRP summit operations. I wasn't operating QRP, I was using my FT5000 and my Log Periodic Antenna up about 50 ft, however there are always several summit to summit QSO's among the activators that are QRP both ways across the pond. However this wasn't the most fun of the day.

Around 0130z on Saturday evening a SOTA spot came up for VK3ZPF, Peter, on a Mt. St. Phillack in Victoria, Australia on 12m SSB. I swung the beam around, not expecting to hear a peep. I wouldn't be writing the article if that is how it ended;-) I could hear the CQ faintly, but there was deep QSB. Finally on the peak I called and he came right back. We exchanged reports I had him in the log. A few minutes later, Glenn, VK3YY, who was with Peter was calling and I worked him as well. Glenn sent me an email saying that he was using a 40m EFHW antenna through an Elecraft T1 tuner and an FT817. Pretty cool and on SSB as well.

This radio stuff is fun.