MORSE CODE WON'T SIGN OFF

By

Kerry Webster, special to ABCNEWS.com

For a 160-year-old technology that's pronounced dead at least once the year, Morse code is a pretty lively corpse.

The Morse code signal CQ ("calling anyone") is still heard on short wave radio. Morse gets a message through under conditions that would defeat modern digital modes

I turned on my short-wave receiver the other night with a sense of foreboding. I just read another "Morse code is dead" story and feared the worst. But no, all was well. The familiar rhythmic beeping filled my headphones. There was a ham operator in Newfoundland, chirping away with someone on a South Pacific atoll. Up the band, another ham in Georgia exchanges a chatty weather report with a fellow in Idaho.
Down in the maritime bands, a Liberian-registered tramp negotiated with a ship handler in Panama for a new gearbox stuffing. Somewhere in eastern Siberia, a lonely Russian operator reported the day's weather to Vladivostok. Ail in Morse code. I learned the code 25 years ago to earn my first ham license. I never meant to use it. I thought it quaint and fussy that the FCC still required it. Why bother with dits and dahs when radios have microphones?

Soothing and Lyrical Sounds

But once on the air, I found Morse code strangely addictive. There's something soothing and lyrical about it. I was charmed by the gentlemanly formality of the veteran Morse ops, who addressed me as "OM," for "old man," despite my beardless youth.

I also found, to my surprise, that when it comes down to actually getting the message through, Morse has it all over the microphone. Time after time, trying to dig out of the static some weak, rare Station in Ukraine or Peru, I found myself reaching for the telegraph key.

Compared to modern digital modes, of course, Morse is glacially slow. Twenty words a minute is about average, although a good operator can do 40 or 45. But Morse takes up little bandwidth, requires only the simplest of equipment and is understandable through noise that would reduce the slickest 56K modem to blithering babble.

That's why it's still in use in many Third World countries, even in the age of global satellite communications systems. If you know where to listen, you can hear police outposts in Latin America exchanging wanted bulletins, airports in Central Africa requesting weather reports, Chinese army units reporting the number of cadres fit for duty.

Well into the 1970s, planes of Aeroflot, the Soviet airline, flew transoceanic routes with Morse operators aboard, tucked into a tiny cabin aft of the cockpit. A Fist from Far, Far Away.

There is a beauty to well-sent Morse that can only be compared to fine calligraphy. I used to drift to sleep on late winter nights listening to the lone op at a Russian weather station somewhere deep in Central Asia. The text was nothing more interesting than rows of numbers and an occasional place name, but the man or woman had a wonderful "fist," fluid and lyrical as music.

Inevitably, as satellites and high-speed data connections became more reliable, use of Morse code declined. Last year, the Coast Guard abandoned its watch on 500 kHz, the Morse maritime distress frequency.
Additionally, the International Maritime Organization quietly dropped requirement-dating back to the Titanic disaster-that ships over 300 tons have Morse equipment aboard. Now they will rely on satellites. I can't help wonder if this is wise. On May 19, the Navy announced it would no longer teach celestial navigation to young officers, since satellite navigation had become so reliable. That same day, the Galaxy IV satellite failed, throwing much of the country's communications into chaos.

It's Not '30' Yet. But, Morse lives on. Hams are keeping it alive for the sheer joy of the art. The the owners of many of cargo ship still find it cheaper to pay a Morse operator then installed expensive and quirky satellite gear. The robust clarity of Morse has found it a spot in some surprisingly high-tech applications moon-bounce, for instance, in which experimenters bounce very-high-frequency signals off the moon. And it's not widely known, but tucked discretely into the shining digital control panels of the ultra-high-frequency radio used aboard U.S. space shuttles is a tiny, collapsible telegraph key. Just in case.


The above article was sent in by Fred Gehricke, KG6QV who got it off the net at: http://www.abcnews.com/sections/tech/DailyNews/KWMorse980716.html



PRESIDENT'S PAGE

BY

KE2LJ

At our November meeting, we will hold elections for officers of the GARC for the 1999 calendar year. Our Election chairman this year is John Edell. If you would like to run for an office, or suggest somebody, please call John and let him know. His phone number is 516-536-6561. Phil, our Treasurer, has been released from his Grumman employment. He starts a new job in the city soon, and this will cause him to not be attending board meetings, or general Club meetings most of the time. So, we really need a new Treasurer, and I hope one of you people will step up to the job. If we don't get a replacement, then I have to do all the Treasurer stuff, as well as the President things. And I have a full time job as well as a part time job. Not too much idle time on my hands these days.

We also have 3 Board positions up for renewal. Paul Chalson, Howie Liebman, and Marty Miller are nearing the end of their terms. We may re-elect any of them, or nominate someone else. Candidates for any Club office should be relatively sure they can attend the monthly Board meeting, and of course, the Club meeting.

If we find that attendance at Board meetings is difficult, we can change the time and place to make things more satisfactory for all concerned. Note that Bill, Paul, and Phil have all changed jobs in the last year, making their attendance almost impossible. But the most important thing is this: If we want the Radio Club to continue functioning, we need to give it the necessary support. If we can't support the Club, then we have to bring in new members and turn the reins over to them. But, if we do nothing, the oldest Radio Club on Long Island will soon fade away into nothing.

At our October meeting, Marty (NN2C) related his adventures in the U.K. at the RSGB's IOTA convention. Marty attends every year, and we always find his stories interesting and humorous.

Our November meeting will feature Ken Neubeck (WB2AMU), alleged son of Ray (W2ZUN). Ken has written a lot of articles on 6 meters. His latest is in the current issue of World Radio, and you should try to view it. Ken's articles have been featured in many Ham magazines over the years. He's going to bring us up to date on the recent 6 meter activities, speaking about Dxing, FM repeaters, etc. If there's any specific topic you would like to hear him talk about, let us know by email so he can spend a little time preparing.

There's been no further news on reconfigurations of Company property in Bethpage. Still a little talk about moving some of us out East, back into the Great River building, which we no longer own. We would rent office space there to help seed a business technology center. I believe that it's an important economic boost for LI if that can be made to happen.

That's it for this month. I hope to see you soon. -Pat KE2LJ bat@grumman.com


Your Newsletter -

Another Perspective

By

Victor Madera, KP4PQ

Writing in a foreign language is not easy, but the ARNS Bulletin articles and technical suggestions have improved our publication so much that I would like to share some of our experiences with other editors.




Being the editor of a bulletin seems to be simple, most members of the clubs do not realize the pressure experienced by a club member carrying this responsibility. It's a never ending task. You finish one issue only to start the next, month after month!

Editors usually encounter problems not only with the preparation and distribution of the club's newsletters but with the printing cost, mailing fees and ...usually, the lack of collaboration from fellow hams.

In Puerto Rico it is not much different. Printing costs are forever rising, and mailing costs, in our case more than in the States since 15% of our 400 copies are mailed overseas!

Our paper varies from others for many reasons. First, we do not have the advantage of "cutting and pasting", most of the interesting articles are in English and our bulletin is in Spanish. We have to translate a lot, even the captions for cartoons and drawings. Second, it serves as the ONLY news media in Spanish for amateurs in the island. Most Puertorricans speak English but prefer to read in their native language. Not only do we have to produce an enjoyable bulletin, we have to publish the news while it's still news. This, believe it or not, changes the whole picture of publishing because we have to reduce the time lag and cut to a minimum the deadline for submission of articles. In most instances we have to get the news from sources other than QST, CQ, World Radio and the other excellent publications. By the time we read ham news in these publications they are long past their interest to our readers. We have to go to the source by telephone, fax or eMail, many thousand miles away from home to get the true facts on time. In many instances we have to sacrifice the rules of basic publishing in exchange for page space at its maximum.

Cost of publication

Our ten years of experience may perhaps give some ideas to editors of similar bulletins for clubs in the Continental USA. We are a small club, some 300 members, so we do not have the resources for fancy printing. Our monthly bulletin carries 16 pages. Included are general interest, technical and historical articles, changes in the art, drawings, pictures and cartoons. It's composed using a regular PC with the aid of Aldus Pagemaker and lots of memory and disk space. We found it practical and effective to prepare all the pages as one document. This way we can change, shift, and expand articles easily without losing valuable time. The master copy is printed in an HP Laser and duplicated on 11" X 17' regular paper by xerographic (now laser) commercial means

We were able to negotiate a price of less than 50 cents per printed copy by agreeing to a yearly contract; 4800 copies (16 pages each) plus all other printing work required by the club. In our case we also print a great deal of material for our weekly license preparatory classes.

Material.

For material, try to recruit a few hams willing to prepare a monthly article, (most hate to write). Askthem for ideas, rough articles, information on any interesting subject, clippings, etc. Tell them you'll polish and rewrite the article if necessary but don't forget to give them the credit. Hams love to see their names and call signs in print. Eventually you may find out that you'll have plenty of material coming in every month.

Another source of savings is postage. Check your postal code, it's the same as ours sii~ce we are part of the United States. You can go one of two ways: pay first class postage and cover your costs by selling advertisement or go "Non Profit" without advertising revenues but significant savings in postage costs. Figure it out and select whichever is more profitable for you. If you want to save even more, try the "Non Profit Automation Rates" (DMM C810), you'll end up paying around 9 cents for 3.3 oz.! Call your local postal office, they'll help you to get a "Postal Permit" and suggest the lowest rates possible. Sorting, using Zip +4 codes and bar codes seems to be a complicated task but once you get the hang of it, it's simple and you save lots of money. Automation rates may require a few minor changes to the format of your newsletter. In our case it was simple: We reversed the address page so that the fold is at the bottom. We changed the overall format of the page since no printing is allowed on the right or left of the address line and no staples, the postman hates to get his fingers caught by the sharp ends of the staple wire!

We mail our bulletin to members at no cost to them but have found out that many non-members are willing to pay for a subscription. At the present time we have around 100 copies going to non-members and the subscription cost pays for about half of our production cost. Try it, it may work for you and save your club money.

Electronic or paper.

It's not practical for us to switch to an electronic bulletin. Only 40% of our members have e-Mail facilities. Trying dual publications proved to be costly and not effective. Experience tells us that few people read web pages when they consist of plain text material. We are using a happy medium. Our bulletin is published in the conventional way and mailed monthly but we also maintain a multi-page web site. News is posted in the form of a digest within a few hours of the actual happening and then expanded in the paper issue. Colors, special fonts and animated icons attract the attention of surfers. In return, the web site has increased the interest in the conventional paper bulletin since hams read the summary in the web and can hardly wait for the month end issue to read the details. With the addition of the web page, we expect a 50% increase in individual subscriptions by years end.

The electronic site should not only cover news, it should also display activities, schedules for classes, ARRL/VEC exam sessions, publications, and a page dedicated to DX. Contesting and packet information is also a good idea. Repeater coordination and even photos of recent activities will make the site more attractive. If you get into this project, make sure you update your pages constantly. Old stuff and outdated information only helps to make your site a disaster. An electronic web page can be maintained at practically no cost to your club. Try getting one through a local educational institution, you'll be surprised at how envy it can he. We were able to get a private domain at NO cost from one of the local universities. Try [prarl.LCE.org/prarlnews.html], you'll enjoy it. Don't worry if you can't read Spanish, we publish an English Digest so you can get the taste of it. Incidentally we also use the same facility for the club Gateway (KP4ES), a superservice for ham radio, we think!

Comments on our pages, in English or Spanish, are welcome via kp4pq@isla.net or using our Guest Book at http://prarl.LCE.org/prarl- news.html.

Victor Madera-KP4PQ has held a ham license since 1951. lie is the publisher off "Hacia la Radioaficion" a book in Spanish on radio theory for beginners. (Library of Congress TXU 801-806), and A Translation of Spanish question pools for Novice, Technician and General FCC examinations. (Library of Congress TX 4-064-333)

By training he is an electrical engineer whose career included 15 years as VP and General Manager of Westinghouse PR, and 26 years as Director of Manufacturing for 26 Westinghouse Electric plants.

He is married to another ham (KP4ENJ) and has 6 children - the youngest is 34.
He is currently editor of iEUREKA! & "PRARLNEWS WEB PAGE", official bulletins of the "Puerto Rico Amateur Radio League" a Special Service Club of the ARRL.
Victor welcomes comments or questions about his ham radio activities and may be reached at the e-mail address given above or at:
PO Box 191917 San Juan, P.R.


GRUMMAN AMATEUR RADIO CLUB

MINUTES OF GENERAL MEETING 10/21/98

BY PETE, N2PYV

The meeting was called to order by Pat at 5:10 PM. All persons present introduced themselves.

TREASURER'S REPORT: Phil, N2ZED

Phil read the financial report that indicates that we are doing well.

REPEATER REPORT: Gordon, WB2UB

The PCRC controller for the Hauppauge repeater will be traded for a RC-1000 unit that Bill, N2NFI has. Gordon showed a copy of an issue of QST dated March 1934 that he had found in the Club library on the roof of Plant 5.

VE REPORT:

Bob, W21LP

There was three VE's present. They had one applicant who failed the Advanced test.

MEMBERSHIP

The following applicants were approved for membership pending receipt of dues for 1999: Cathy Davis, KC2YW, Tech Plus, for full membership.

Andrew Mule, N2SEK, Tech, for sustaining membership.

NEW BUSINESS:

Pat reported that the Company was still trying to close all of the Bethpage plants. Governor Pataki has made a statement that Northrop/Grumman will stay on Long Island.

Mike, KJ6XE went to a Suffolk County Radio Club meeting and thanked them for their participation in the Field Day operation. They want to participate with us again next year.

NETS

Twenty Meters: 14.275 at 12:00 PM EST Wednesdays.

Forty Meters: 7.289 at 8:00 AM EST Sundays.

Two Meters: 146.745 at 8:30 PM EST Thursdays.

145.33 at 8:45 PM Thursdays

145.33 at 9:00 PM EST Mondays (ARES/RACES).

VE Sessions

VE exams for all classes of amateur licenses are held on the second Tuesday of each month at 500 PM in the Plant 5 Cafeteria. (See page 7 for directions to exam site.) The exam fee for 1998 is $6.35.

Thanks to Bob Wexelbaum, W2ILP for this information. The meeting was closed at 5:32 PM

MEETINGS

General Meetings of the GARC are held on the third Wednesday of each month, at 5:00 PM in the Plant 5 cafeteria. All who are interested in Amateur Radio are invited to attend. Board meetings are held eight days before the General Meetings and GARC members are invited to attend, but please call Pat Masterson, KE2LJ, at 346-6316 to confirm place and time of meeting.

PROGRAM

An interesting program was presented by Marty, NN2C, who told us about his experiences in England at the Radio Society of Great Britain and Islands on the Air (RSGB/IOTA) conference .


GRUMMAN AMATEUR RADIO CLUB

Fifty Years 1944 - 1994

PO Box 0644

Bethpage, NY 11714-0644


Punning Dictionary

Indecision: Under the whether

Intense: Where campers sleep

Ketchup: What the runners behind in a race want to do

Kinship: Your brothers boat

Laundress: A gown worn while sitting on the grass

Legend: The edge of a cliff

Midget: Center engine of a three-engine fast plane

Minimum: A very small mother

Nitrate: Cheapest price for calling long distance

Observatory: What Washington asked his spies to do

Pandemonium: A housing development for pandas

Paradise: Ivory cubes used in craps and backgammon

Paradox: Two physicians

Paralyze: Two untruths

Praise: Letting off esteem

Protein: 1) An advocate of teen-agers rights 2) Lady of the street too young to vote

Rampage: Section of a book about male sheep

Sarcasm: Quip lash

Sherbet: A tip on a horse race or sporting event

Skier: A person who jumps to contusions

Sleet: A slipcover

Stirrup: What you do with cake batter

Subsidy: A town underneath another town

Received by ARNS in an E-mail message from a forgotten source