Mike Meltzer, K2SDD
This appeared in the September 1999 edition of the "RAGS Review", the newsletter of the Radio Amateurs of Greater Syracuse, Nita Soper, WB2HGO Editor.
Most mobile radios are so complicated that they are nearly impossible to operate while the user is involved with the important task of safely (?) driving a car. This is a result of two radio characteristics that are highly desirable to hams whom are shopping for what they believe to be the best mobile radio: (1) many features, also known as bells -and-whistles, and (2) small size so the rig will fit in today's smaller automobiles. To accomplish this, the designers know that they must keep the numbers of space occupying push-buttons to a minimum and that means that each button must control multiple functions. This is done two ways (although occasionally a third technique is used that I shall mention later). Whether the button is held for a short time (momentarily) for a long time ( about one second ) will allow a single button to activate 2 different operations. Another technique is to use a "Function" button. If this function button is pressed immediately preceding the pushing of the operation button, the operation will be changed and an alternate use of this operation button will occur.
Now imagine yourself driving in traffic and attempting to change the frequency offset from plus to minus. Even if you do remember which is the correct button that will perform this operation, will you recall if you should press it momentarily or for a full second, or must it follow the function key or be used without the function key? If you have been keeping score you will realize that each operation button can do up to four operations. Can you remember which is which? Not me. But it can be even more confusing than this because what I have not told you yet is that the function key can select Multiple features depending on whether you press it momentarily or for a full second. This means that a single operation button can control up to 6 operations. Obviously there is not enough space on a button to label the 6 different uses for that one tiny key. So they do not label it, and it is up to you the user to either memorize them (good luck) or to read the manual each time (I thought you were driving the car). But wait, it gets worse.
A dual-band rig will have about twice as many features to control as a one -band radio, but size is still important so they sure can't double the number of keys. What do they do? They require the user to activate additional functions by holding various buttons as he powers up (turns on) the radio. Of course this means that you must first turn off the radio. So now each button can control up to 7 features. Don't forget to look at the road every once in a while because remember, you're driving. People who buy these mobile radios end up feeling that they are stupid. I bet even the average genius (is there such a thing as average genius ?) can not handle one of these things and drive a car simultaneously.
We think we want a do-everything radio but maybe we really don't. There are many fancy features that the average ham can live without and still be happy. Do you really need the feature that checks every, 15 seconds to see if your friend who owns a radio like yours is near by and warns you with a beep if he is out of range? Do you need the function that puts out a ultrasonic sound to repel mosquitoes? Or a loud alarm to fend off attackers? Or the pager-beep sound?
Or the squelch that can only be opened by the correct tone? These things sell radios but most owners never use them.
Someday, sit down with your do-everything radio (or its operating manual) and make a list of the minimum features that a mobile radio would have to have to satisfy you. The emphasis here is on minimum. The smaller the number, the less complex the radio would be and the easier it will be to operate. The price will be lower too. I’ll get you started.
I would like to see a very big readout with numbers that can be read so easily that I would only have to take my eyes off of the road for a fraction of a second to see it. This may mean a larger size radio but I can live with that. I want at least 50 watts on high power with lower power levels select able. Direct frequency entry from a tone pad located on the microphone. At least 100 memories. Public service band receive. PL-tone transmit. Squelch and volume adjusted with standard rotary knobs. Real S-meter. Repeater input/output reverse switch. Memory scan. I can get by without full frequency band scan.
I think you get the idea. We tend to buy radios that are so complicated and confusing that they make us feel stupid, discouraged, and inadequate. What is really needed by a ham who must operate his radio and his automobile simultaneously is a very basic, easy to see, easy to operate radio. If we would buy them, they would make them. But we don't always do what is good for us. And we don't always buy what we really want.
What about you?
Entertaining Uncle Oscar
Reprinted from the August 1939 issue of QST with the permission of the ARRL. Some things change, some never do.
HAM is faced with the pleasant task of demonstrating his station to Uncle Oscar just in from the country. Leads uncle into the shack and heartily hopes that everything will work, since uncle shows signs of great enthusiasm. Recalls final tank condenser arced four times on last transmission; hopes uncle will accept same as natural phenomenon should it occur again. Prepares for ordeal by turning on receiver, transmitter and soldering iron since past experience has shown that this last item must be used at least once per QSO on the average.
Is glad he has returned to 160 'phone since Uncle Oscar will no doubt find 'phone far more interesting than CW. Uncle mentions that he has heard much about inter-continent amateur contacts and casually requests that his nephew raise Africa or Europe. Ham explains that such things are not done on 160 'phone (and feels like adding, "Or any other band," as far as he is concerned).Uncle Oscar gets very excited and shouts, "I knew them newspaper articles was lies! It's agin the laws of nature to talk to fellers in them places! How could a body talk to someone in China when it ain't every feller what speaks Chinese? Take me for example, I don't reckon as how I know a word of anything but English."
Ham is not impressed with his uncle's English and feels like telling him to improve it before worrying too much about his inability to speak Chinese, but respect for his elders throttles this remark. Ham decides to impress uncle by drawing sparks off the antenna with a pencil. Sparks are too feeble to excite the ham-mind but nevertheless uncle is interested and promptly wants to light a cigar on the antenna condenser. Ham says it can't be done and leaves room to get matches, since he is afraid of his lighter ever since he "fixed" it and it emitted a seven-inch column of flame, nearly setting his hair on fire.
Ham returns and is horrified to find Uncle Oscar kneeling behind rig with one hand on rack and his nose about a quarter of an inch from cap of one of the 866's. Wonders if it would be best to shout warning, or take more definite steps to enable Uncle Oscar to continue living. Decides on latter course and gently but firmly drags uncle backwards by the ears amid S9 protests at such unfriendly handling. Protests cease after ham explains exact details, taking care to point out that an arc jumping from the end of one's nose looks silly, even though the victim is in no condition to worry very much.
Uncle says he only wanted to see inside of rig and proves his genuine interest in radio by asking: (1) What would happen if a bird sat on the antenna? (2) Does steam come off the antenna if the rig is on while it is raining? Ham is not very sure about the first question and idly grabs the Handbook to look up under "bird." Is somewhat disappointed to find nothing so devotes his remarks to second question and emphatically denounces idea of steamy antenna.
Hunts over band which shows little sign of activity, so puts rig on and calls a long CQ, interrupting same with frequent insulting remarks directed at local hams who might be listening and who might come on the air to defend their honor. Allows uncle to hear transmission by using earphones on receiver. Uncle listens attentively and finally remarks, "Say, this feller's voice sounds a little like your own, don't it?" Ham slops CQ long enough to point out that it is his own and that is possibly why there is some resemblance. Explains to uncle what is happening and continues calling. Looks over the band and is rather pleased to hear local calling him in an irate voice suggesting a QSO of the 160-meter-feud type.
Station calling seems to be using a telephone mike and modulating about seventeen per cent; the quality being very hard to read. Ham opens QSO by asking, "What did you say you were selling?'' which remark is calculated to at least trigger off a "different" contact. Meanwhile uncle asks what country the station they are working is located in, and if the operator can speak English. Ham explains station being worked is four blocks away and that the operator is speaking English. Uncle replies that he cannot make out a word that is being said and why not use the telephone if the other fellow is only four blocks away? Ham decides poor quality is main reason for his uncle being unable to understand QSO, so on next transmission withdraws his report of Q5 S9 and substitutes Q-zero S9, after which he signs off with a few "73’s " and several other CW abbreviations which were never meant to invade the 'phone bands.
Ham looks over the band again and hears another local calling an out-of-town station which he happens to know is right on his frequency, so when local stands by he conveniently comes on shouting, "Hello test!" Needless to say other local comes back bewailing fact that out-of-town station was put out of the picture. Ham says he is very sorry and obligingly supplies a Q5 S9 report followed by a series of highly complimentary and exaggerated remarks regarding fidelity, etc. Lengthy QSO follows during which such topics as rotary beams, 5-meter DX, and YL's are discussed in great detail, most of the detail being reserved for the YL portion of the transmission. Second transmission is utilized to take apart several of the more popular transmitting tubes, which are heartily condemned by both hams. The fact that neither ham owns, or knows anyone who owns, one of the tubes is a matter of apparently little importance, Third transmission deals with popular commercial receivers which are treated with the same derision given the tubes previously. Both hams are unanimous in stating that they wouldn't dream of trading their own home-made receivers for any one of the commercial models which they have just discussed. Neither ham bothers to mention he recently looked over a few catalogs and cast many envious glances at the receivers just panned with such gay abandon.
Ham suddenly remembers his uncle and turns around to find that gentleman sound asleep, despite the fact that radio history is being made. Finally wakes uncle by shouting violently. Uncle .jumps up, mumbling unintelligibly, but quickly quiets down and devotes a rather sleepy interest to the QSO which terminates three minutes later when the other ham remembers a date with his YL. Ham feels very disgusted with everything, especially his uncle, and resolve never to undertake further demonstrations for anyone; then mentally decides to make Susie the one exception. Telephone rings and ham finds next-door neighbor wants to know if he is onthe air since said neighbor has been bothered with considerable QRM for the last few minutes. Ham simply states he is not on the air, which remark he feels is the solemn truth, as he is speaking on the telephone at that exact instant and, therefore, is not on the air, whether he was on or not a few seconds previously is a side-issue which ham does not consider necessary, to discuss.
Loud and unpleasant snores, very similar in tone to some foreign (and domestic) CW. signals, give audible evidence as to Uncle Oscar's condition. Ham is completely fed up with both Uncle Oscar and 160-meters. Decides to leave them both strictly alone and goes downstairs to to listen to Jack Armstrong on b.c.l. set.
Stringing Wire Antennas On The Fly
By KG8JK. Reprinted from the October 1999 edition of "The STATIC", the newsletter of the Straits Area ARC, Dirk Esterline, KG8JK Editor.
Okay, so you've got that great dipole antenna cut perfectly for the hottest frequency on the band, you see the perfect spot at the top of that forty foot maple in your back yard, but how do you get it up there? The following method has gotten me the honorary title of "Field Day Antenna Raiser." It is much easier and more accurate than a bow and arrow or sling shot.
First thing you will need is a fishing rod. I prefer my salmon rod because the length and flexibility allow for maximum height, something everybody wants with their installation. You will also need some fishing line with enough strength to handle getting the antenna unstuck from that notch in the tree branches that you will inevitably find, yet thin enough to be cast easily. I personally like the newer lines that boast 30# test at 6# test diameter. An open face reel is a must. Closed faced reels won't be able to handle that heavy a line. Next you need a heavy sinker. One quarter oz, pyramid sinkers work well. To make the job easier, paint the sinker a bright color. I would stay away from green unless it's winter and the leaves are gone Finally, you need some rope for stringing up your antenna. Try to keep it as thin as possible. Yon can buy 200 yd. spools of nylon cord that will work great for about $3.00.
The rest is easy. Tie the sinker on the end of the line and find your perfect spot in the tree.
I do an overhead cast and try to make a nice straight line with my arms. It may take you a couple of times to get the hang of it but soon you will be able to hit the exact spot you are aiming for. If you miss, just cut off the sinker and reel the line in to try again, Don't try pulling the sinker up through the tree because you will get it stuck for sure.
After you hit that perfect spot let the line out until the sinker hits the ground. Reel in enough line to make the sinker be at eye level. Now it's time for the hunt. if you only have a few trees in your yard it will be easy but if you are like me and have a forest behind your house you may have to look for a while. The bright color of the sinker will make it easier.
Next, cut off the sinker and tie the string on to the end of the fishing line. Now it's time to reel in your catch. Reel the line in until you can get hold of the string. You may find that the string gets caught in the notch of a branch right where the you tied the knot to attach it to the fishing line. The easiest way to get it unstuck is to pull back on the string about two or three feet and then lift up and back sharply on the fishing rod, a motion similar to setting the hook. You may have to try it a couple of times.
Once you have the string in your hand, simply tie the string on to the antenna and pull it up to the desired height. Be sure to leave enough string to allow the antenna to be lowered for routine maintenance. You might also tie some fishing line on to the insulator end of the string before pulling it up, just in case the wire breaks off the antenna. That way you won't lose that perfect spot.
After a couple of times you will become and expert antenna stringer. Soon you will be getting calls from your Ham buddies asking you to come help them with their installations. You will surely get some strange looks from passers by and don't be too surprised if the neighbors ask, "How's the fishing?".
GRUMMAN AMATEUR RADIO CLUB
MINUTES OF GENERAL MEETING 12/15/99
BY Pete, N2PYV
The meeting was called to order by Pat at 5:15 PM.
All present introduced themselves.
TREASURER'S REPORT Ted, KD2UB
Ted read the financial statement. Finances continue to be in good shape.
REPEATER REPORT Gordon, KB2UB
.Nothing new. Repeaters continue to work well.
VE REPORT Bob, W2ILP
No applicants again this month. Rumors abound concerning the FCC Report and Order. VE sessions will continue to be held in Plant 5.
WAG REPORT Bob, W2FPF
The Ten-Tech Radio is back from repair and is working great. We have a new CW keyer. The Wednesday 20 Meter Net today had 12 check-ins on 14.275 mc. The Sunday morning 40 Meter Net was well attended.
Dave Anderson, KA2FEA, has provided 2 floppy disks with all of the 1998 newsletters on them. Anyone who would like a set should contact Pat.
There is a rumor that Jack Erickson, AD4N, the first Club president, fell and hurt himself. Dick, W2INJ, had a stroke and is recovering in West Palm Beach.
This will be the last general meeting at Plant 5, Bethpage. The January meeting will be held at the Underwriter’ Lab in Melville at 6:30 PM.
There were 36 members and guests present for the Holiday Party. It was held in the Plant 5 Executive Dining Room and was catered by the Northrop Grumman Cafeteria Staff. A good time was had by all.