A Christmas Story


Bob Wexelbaum, W2ILP




The 2004 holiday season is gone.  I would have liked to have placed this article in the December issue.  Since this is my first chance to submit an article, while being an editor, I thought that I would start late by two months.   My article follows: -


Next to “The Wizard of Oz”, one of the most popular movies that appear on TV during holidays is “A Christmas Story”, which was written and is narrated by Gene Sheppard.   Gene (now a silent key) was a real ham…Not just a ham actor…but a real licensed radio amateur operator.  Gene was also a soft selling commercial radio announcer.   He could sell ice cream to an Eskimo and somehow gently impart a genuine enthusiasm that could melt dry ice.   He told about his childhood when he spoke at a Hudson Division ARRL Convention banquet some time in the 80s.  That is where I learned the rest of his “Christmas Story”, which was never shown on TV.   Maybe some lid had edited it out.

If you paid attention to the TV movie, between the commercials, you might remember that it was a family story and the hero of the story was a kid with eyeglasses called Ralphy.  In his keynote speech, Gene confided that Ralphy was really Gene.  You might also remember that Ralphy wanted a Red Rider bee-bee gun for Christmas and was constantly warned that if he ever got one he would shoot his eye out.   You might also remember that Ralphy listened to the Little Orphan Annie show on commercial radio.  This was in the days before TV.  Ralphy had sent in the required jar labels from his Ovaltine in order to get the official Orphan Annie secret decoder.   When the decoder came Ralphy copied a secret encoded message that was broadcast on the Orphan Annie program, and eagerly rushed to the bathroom and locked himself in so that nobody else could  see the secret  message he was about to decode.   The carefully decoded message read: - “BE SURE TO DRINK YOUR OVALTINE”…. Aw..Just a commercial.    Like the rifle quest, here then started another obsessive quest.   This is where Gene added an addendum, converting Ralph’s frustrations to those of his childhood.  You see, this commercial disappointment led the kid to want to be a ham.   A ham could decode Morse code from anywhere on Earth and it was actually illegal for hams to send commercials.  If you are a ham you can send Morse code signals that nobody but other hams can be able to read.  Even teachers, who give you C minus on your essays, could not copy CW at 13 words per minute.  This part of the story was not in the TV movie; maybe because it would have been harder for the general public to understand that a kid could want to be a ham bad enough to spend months practicing the Morse code and studying rules and theories in order to get a license.  Ralphy practiced code with his friend Shultzy.   They both became hams. You might remember that Ralphy had learned some expletive words from his dad.  His dad was prone to utter such language while changing a tire or adjusting his ancient coal furnace.  Accidentally Ralphy let one of those no-no words escape his lips and he was punished for it.  Tortured by having to suck on a bar of soap; when asked where he had heard such language, Ralphy lied that Shultzy had said it on the ten meter phone band, while getting an RF burn from a home brewed antenna tuner.  This was serious because Ralphy’s accusation, if true, could make Shultzy a federal offender and subject to a fine or to losing his ham ticket. Realizing the possible penalties, the parents of both of the young hams agreed that the matter should best not be remembered.   Ralphy had built the famous Meissner Model EX Signal Shifter VFO from a kit.  This harmonic generator was affectionately known as the Meissner Signal Drifter.  This unit was the first stage of many ham transmitters of the time.  It was the least expensive way to avoid buying hundreds of quartz crystals to wander over the ham bands.  Ralphy’s receiver was a three tube regenerative with plug in coils for the ham bands.  His home brewed station was not very pretty.  He had used a Swiss army knife and a hatchet to make holes for tube sockets because he could not afford Greenlee punches.  He envied the big shot DXers, whose stations boasted expensive Collins equipment, including dual diversity receivers, kilowatt RF amplifiers and six element rotating beams on 90 foot towers.  He decided to trick one of the big guys, just for the fun of seeing if he could.   He built a transmitter, which was driven by the Drifter VFO and ran about 100 watts.   He got a used Variac and slowly raised and lowered his final power to simulate QSB, as he bootlegged the call of a DX station.  He was careful to pick a call from the nation that had the world’s lowest literacy, thereby being assured that such a station would appear to be as rare as hen’s teeth.   Anyway he got this big shot ham to reply to his bogus CQ on the edge of the 20 meter CW band.  He then slowly drifted with his signal drifter until he was approaching…and approaching…and approaching …and out of the band.  Lost in the excitement of what seemed a new country contact, the big shot ham followed, without any verifying beat from his frequency calibrator.  While the big shot was transmitting from below the US ham band limit, Ralphy called the local OO and reported on his crime.  Now Gene did not go into a lot of details about this part of his story but it was accompanied by Gene’s oral simulation of the actual on the air messages that were transmitted.  The audio tones of the drifting CW signals, simulated by gradually changing pitch, drove the banquet audience into laughing so loud that it became more difficult to copy the CW than if the ambient laughter was Gaussian noise. I don’t know if it was funnier for non hams who could not actually copy Gene’s oral CW or the hams who were trying to get the drift of it.

Yep…I had also received a Meissner Signal Shifter kit for Christmas when I was a kid (even before I was licensed).  I guess Santa never read Part 97.  I got it from a mail order to the original Radio Shack of Boston, Mass.  Although it originally sold as a kit for about a hundred dollars, it was marked down to only $65.00, because as a TVI prone generator, it was being discontinued.  Thus the December holiday season reminds me of Gene’s Christmas Story and thinking about Gene reminds me of what ham radio meant to him.  Holidays bring us memories of past holidays.  For me, December also brings memories of ham radio.  Ham radio means different things to different people.  For Gene it meant doing something that was challenging, without shooting his eye out.




As the editor of “CQ de”, I have decided to start a new feature: - ‘The Internet Link of the Month’.   Yes - I have more than a years worth of Internet links that are of interest to the radio amateurs who are also PC users.   I am however open to suggestions from our club members.  Have you found a link to ham software that you have used yourself?  Can you share the address and information with us?  This month I will present a link called Dimension 4.  It’s about time.  I’ll tell you where to get software that will automatically correct the time on your computer clock using the best possible time source available.   All of the software I will describe here is free and has been tested, at least by me, and my firewall, as being safe and virus free. 

Almost any time that you download new software you have to agree to the maker’s disclaimer.  If the software causes trouble you can’t sue the maker of the software.   If you want to use my suggested software and it bombs in your machine, please don’t blame Bill Gates or me.  Maybe you can blame Norton or McAfee.   Conflicts can occur if two different software programs happen to use the same command for doing something different and they get put into the same header.  New machines can use longer commands, but in spite of that, given enough time, it is possible to reuse a command that was used for something else and develop a sub routine around it that is in conflict with the defaulted.   That would be a software problem.

 When I was a kid we had a big AM radio console that was made by the old Victor Company.  It was a TRF, with a lot of type 27 triode radio tubes. One night it suddenly stopped working.  This happened exactly at a time when Fibber McGee was opening his closet and the usual loud sound effects of crashing hardware were being modulated.   Not being technically inclined, my mother didn’t think of the possibility of a burnt open vacuum tube filament.  She said it was all Fibber’s fault for opening his overloaded closet.  Anyway she did get it right…. that it was a hardware problem.   People didn’t sue people then like they do today.  I don’t think that Fibber or Molly ever made radio listeners sign a disclaimer.

The address of the site to download Dimension 4 was originally given to me by Tom Provost AG2A, who is a member of GARC.   Tom needs to accurately synchronize his time with other stations for his meteor scatter work.  I had loaded the software into my old PC, which ran Windows 98, and any time I wanted to adjust my time (as it appeared in the lower right hand corner of my display) and I was on the Internet, I could click on the Dimension 4 web address (which had been added to my favorites list), and a window would come up telling me that my PC’s time had been adjusted; and by how much.   The correction offset was usually only a fraction of a second, since I made a correction at least once per month.  The crystal clock in most PCs runs at a rate that is as good as that of most quartz wristwatches, even when not corrected.  Periodically correcting the clock made it a lot more accurate.

There is an old riddle that asks, “What is more accurate: a clock that has stopped or a clock that is running a minute late?”  The answer is that the clock that has stopped is more accurate because it is going to be exactly correct twice per day, while the clock that is running behind by any increment, but at the correct rate, is never accurate.   Thus we learn that to make a clock accurate you can’t let it lead or lag behind the true time for even a short time, and thus you must keep correcting it as often as possible.

I recently bought a new PC which runs Windows XP.  Not wanting to transfer all on my hard drive from the old PC, I manually typed in the web address and clicked for a new download of the Dimension 4 software.  Things have changed.  Now there is a newer version of Dimension 4.  Updating the clock is now automatic.  It happens without even being asked, as soon as you log on to the Internet.  The freeware is still there but now there is a request for a $10.00 donation.  After corresponding with the webmaster, I found that non-profit hams can use Dimension 4 for free, and the donation is optional.  I also asked permission to publish the address in this newsletter and it was granted by an e-mail from robc@thinkman.com.   So without any more delay of time here it is: -




Next month I hope to be telling you about a very new digital voice mode called Ham Dream, which uses software now known as WinDRM.  The software is still in the state of being developed.  Up to now, all of the new digital modes required typing on a keyboard (just like RTTY).  Some hams, who are happy working with a CW key or microphone, do not enjoy trying to type at a reasonable speed when in a QSO.  I’m a two finger typist myself.  I do OK typing e-mail and editing, but I feel pressured when I have to reply to a multi digital ham at a pace that is as steady as the going baud rate requires.  Ham Dream may be the answer for the hams who like to use a mike and/or camera and want the advantages of real digitally modulated communication.   Ham Dream can also be used to send video. We have seen how well a PC sound card can filter pulses from noise and convert them to analog audio or SSTV pictures.  WinDRM is still in the testing stage.  I’m starting to experiment along with the others, using the same interface connection as I use for RTTY, PSK-31, MFSK and Hellschreiber.  In order to provide for more I/O some hams are trying to use two sound cards in the same PC.  Obviously a world wide protocol convention must be developed for this mode and as of now it is still in the works and its methods are being debated on a reflector.  Like the digital printing modes, it is being developed by foreign software experts and hams and is being translated and revised by US hams.   More about how to try to at least receive digitized voice and video in next month’s Internet Link.

 Don’t fall into a time warp.   Stay synchronized.



The January meeting of the GARC was sparsely attended.  The sparker (I mean speaker) George, W2RKM had cancelled, as had many others.  Shortly before the meeting the snowfall looked like it might deliver more than the few inches that it did, and so many decided not to take the travel risk.  Your editor wasn’t there either.  Thanks to BFU and Jack WA2PYK the coffee and donuts made it and six attendees enjoyed the good fellowship and eyeball chatting that usually accompanies our meetings.   The following reports are thus taken from the minutes of the GARC board meeting which had been assembled by Pete, N2PYUV.


TREASURERS REPORT                                      REPEATER REPORT

Ed had given a written report to Pat as follows:       Gordon was not present.

Balance Last Month: $3286.24                                 Repeaters seem to be working OK.

Income:                         400.00

Disbursements:                 0.00

Present Balance:         $3691.24


VE REPORT – Bob, W2ILP                                  NET REPORT – Zack, WB2PUE

There were six VEs and two applicants.                   The nets have been excellent.  The

Both applicants failed the 5 wpm CW test.               Sunday morning 40 Meter net had a

                                                                                   good turnout, but Florida stations

                                                                                   could not be heard on LI.



No activity.



40 Meters: 7.289 MHz at 7:30 AM EST Sundays.

20 Meters: 14.275 MHz at 12 Noon EST Wednesdays.

2 Meters (via repeaters): 146.745 MHz at 8:30 PM EST Thursdays.

                                           145.330 MHz at 9:00 PM EST Thursdays.

                                            Mondays (ARES/RACES)




General Meetings of the GARC are held on the third Wednesday of each month, starting at 5:30 PM.   The meetings are usually held at the Underwriters Lab, 1285 Walt Whitman Road,  Melville, NY.  Driving directions and maps can be obtained from http://www.mapquest.com     Board meetings are held eight days before the General Meeting and GARC members are invited to attend, but please call Pat Masterson, KE2LJ, at 516-346-7125 to confirm place and time of meeting.



                                               GARC WEB SITE

The web site of the GARC can be found at http://www.qsl.net/wa2lqo/    The webmaster is Pat Masterson KE2LJ.  Pictures of GARC activities, archives of newsletters, roster of members, and other information about the GARC may be found there.



       Below is a cryptogram.  It is a quotation by a famous author (Not an ad for Ovaltine).

The solution will appear in next month’s newsletter.  If I get no negative feedback, there will

be another cryptogram in the next issue.  Your editor.












Hmmm…Typing cryptograms using Word is not easy.  It is a constant battle with the spell checker.


                                       A REMINDER


To those who have not already paid their 2005 GARC dues:   Dues may be mailed to our

treasurer,  Ed Gallender, Grumman Amateur Radio Club,  P.O. Box 0644,  Bethpage, NY














We are continuing to proctor exams for all classes of ham licenses on the second Tuesday of each month, starting at 5:00 PM.


The present exams are: Element 1: 5 WPM CW, Element 2: Technician,

Element 3: General and Element 4: Amateur Extra Class. The fee for 2005 is $14 for all exams taken in one sitting.


Applicants for upgrading should bring a photocopy of their present license and their FRN number.


New, first time, applicants should be aware that their Social Security

number will be required on their application form. All applicants should bring drivers license or other picture ID. The exams are given at the Underwriters Lab in Melville,

unless otherwise noted.   This is the same building where GARC meetings are presently held.


For any further information e-mail: -

w2ilp@juno.com or phone: - (631) 499-2214


Study material information is available at the http://www.arrl.org or the http://www.w5yi.org web site.


All VECs use the same Q & A pools.


Since the beginning of the VE program the GARC has provided opportunities to take ham exams monthly, during all twelve months of every year.


Bob Wexelbaum, W2ILP

and the Grumman VE team.



February 2005

 VOL.  78,  NO.  2



Bob Wexelbaum  W2ILP

(631) 499-2214





And all the members of GARC (we hope!)


CQ de WA2LQO is published monthly by the Grumman Amateur Radio Club for its members and friends. Send articles and amateur equipment advertisements to:




If you want to submit articles or amateur equipment ads via e-mail do the following:

1. For submission direct to editor call him at above number to set up a transfer.

2. For e-mail transfer:

Internet Address





I, W2ILP, am your new editor.  I have lots of stuff to put into this newsletter.  I could write several years worth of articles if you let me.  I need your feedback before I go too far.

When I was a kid adults would say, “Children should be seen but not heard”.   I wanted to be a radio amateur so that I could be heard and not seen.  Now I am an OM and I am not much to look at but somehow I still want to be heard.

Getting to be editor of this newsletter is a way to be heard, if the readers are curious enough to want to read what I write or comment about.  I know it puts me in power…but I am not any more in power than a net controller.  A net control can control nothing if there is no net and an editor without readers and contributors is also good for nothing.  I’m on an ego trip…but then again maybe it is part of being a ham.  Don’t hams yell, using   maximum RF power to out shout others in DX pileups?  Don’t they often call CQ for hours in order to make a 5 minute QSO?  

Enuf sed es 73.

You have to stop me if I talk too much.  I know that the role of an editor is to edit what others write and I must take care not to write only about myself and so fellow hams I am asking you to try to contribute articles and relative news items.  I need your inputs.  I don’t however expect a repeat of something that is in QST, CQ , ASQC Journal or WorldRadio.  Many of us get those pubs and just parroting anything in them that is not urgent news







President               Pat Masterson              KE2LJ              V01-01    516-346-7125

Vice President       Gordon Sammis             KB2UB            Retiree     631-666-7563

Secretary               Peter Rapelje                  N2PYV          Retiree     516-676-0694
Treasurer               Ed Gellender                   WB2EAV         X02-14   516-575-0013

2Yr Board Member    Zack Zilavy               WB2PUE        Retiree     631-667-4628
2YrBoard Member     Dave Ledo               AB2EF

2Yr Board Member   Bob Christen         W2FPF               

1Yr Board Member   Bob Wexelbaum    W2ILP                 Retiree     631-499-2214

1Yr Board Member    Jack Cotterell        WA2PYK            Retiree     516-249-0979

Trustee WA2LQO       Ray Schubnel        W2DKM           Retiree




Meeting Programs       Contact a Board Member

FCC Exam Coord.         Bob Wexelbaum       W2ILP                           631-499-2214






































                                 TECHNICAL BITS


I can remember when kilohertz was kilocycles and Gigahertz was kilomegacycles. The unit of frequency was cycles per sec. It all changed some time in the early 60s, when Hertz became the unit of frequency.  The IEEE supported this change and

even though some members thought that Marconi rather than Hertz should have been honored, the official SI, which includes metric standards, says Hz.   Now in this digital age there is another change.  The usual metric prefixes k (kilo), M (Mega), and (Giga)





prefixes were often loosely used to represent powers of two in the computer world.  This is not mathematically correct, so now there is a new way to represent powers of two when we mean powers of two.  A small “I” is now added to each prefix when we  are working in the two power age of Boole. Thus:   k (kilo) = 1000

            M (Mega) = 1,000,000

            G (Giga) = 1,000,000,000

And now:-

            Ki  = 1024

            Mi = 1,048,576

            Gi = 1,073,741,820

This will make the specs given for RAM and hard drives  more     accurate.  Now  we will get exactly what we pay for.  This will make up for the deceiving kind of accuracy denoted by pricing stuff at $999.99 instead of a kilobuck.

            Hams should not care about this change too much because the RF units are still ” i “less.  I know that even RF prefixes might change, however, when we get computer software to produce an entire radio transceiver. 

            Philosophically we might never have used ten as a radix if we did not have ten fingers.  Maybe some E.T.s only have two fingers,and, like me, can never become expert typists, but were earlier than us Earthlings to be prepared to use Boolean logic and binary computers.  Oh well…      0.073k  for now.        --w2ilp--