This Week in Amateur Radio
This Week in Amateur Radio: North America's Amateur Radio News Magazine. Articles on amateur radio and news stories in the media featured here.
Updated: 1 hour 22 sec ago
Given its appearance in one form or another in all but the cheapest audio gear produced in the last 70 years or so, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the ubiquitous VU meter is just one of those electronic add-ons that’s more a result of marketing than engineering. After all, the seemingly arbitrary scale and the vague “volume units” label makes it seem like something a manufacturer would slap on a device just to make it look good. And while that no doubt happens, it turns out that the concept of a VU meter and its execution has some serious engineering behind that belies the really simple question it seeks to answer: How loud is this audio signal? MILES OF CABLE Unsurprisingly, the modern VU meter can trace its roots back to the twin formative technologies of the 20th century: telephone and radio. For the first time in history, the human voice was projecting further than the distance the loudest person could shout, and doing so by means of electrical signals. Finding a way to quantify that signal and turn it into a value that represented the perceived volume of the original sound was crucial to design a system that could faithfully transmit it. Given the nature of their network, the early telephone pioneers’ efforts at sound level metering were based on line losses over a “standard mile” of cable. Meters calibrated to this standard made it easy for them to adjust their vacuum tube repeaters to compensate for the speech power loss over a known length of wire.
Op amps. Often the first thing that many learn about when beginning the journey into analog electronics, they’re used in countless ways in an overwhelmingly large array of circuits. When we think about op amps, images of DIPs and SOICs spring to mind, with an incredibly tiny price tag to boot. We take their abundance and convenience for granted nowadays, but they weren’t always so easy to come by. [Mr Carlson] serves up another vintage offering, this time in the form of a tube op amp. The K2-W model he acquired enjoyed popularity when it was released as one of the first modular general purpose amplifiers, due to its ‘compact form’ and ‘low price’. It also came with large application manuals which helped it to gain users. In order to power up the op amp and check its functionality, +300V and -300V supplies are needed. [Mr Carlson] is able to cobble something together, since it’s very apparent that he has an enviable stash of gear lying around. A 600V rail to rail supply is not something to be taken lightly, though it does give this particular model the ability to output 100V pk-pk without any distortion.
You can get electricity from just about anything. That old crystal radio kit you built as a kid taught you that, but how about doing something a little more interesting than listening to the local AM station with an earpiece connected to a radiator? That’s what the Electron Bucket is aiming to do. It’s a power harvesting device that grabs electricity from just about anywhere, whether it’s a piece of aluminum foil or a bunch of LEDs. The basic idea behind the Electron Bucket is to harvest ambient radio waves just like your old crystal radio kit. There’s a voltage doubler, a rectifier, and as a slight twist, a power management circuit that would normally be found in battery-powered electronics. Of course, this circuit can do more than harvesting electricity from ambient radio waves. By connecting a bunch of LEDs together, it’s possible to send a few Bluetooth packets around. This is pretty impressive — the circuit is using LEDs as solar cells, which normally produce about 50nA of current at 0.5V in direct sunlight. By connecting 12 LEDs in parallel and series, it manages to harvest just enough energy to run a small wireless module. That’s impressive, and an interesting entry to the Power Harvesting Challenge in this year’s Hackaday Prize.
Es’hailSat, the Qatar Satellite Company, has tweeted that it’s anticipating that SpaceX will launch its geostationary Es’hail-2 satellite sometime in the 4th quarter of 2018. The commercial Qatari satellite will provide the first Amateur Radio geostationary communication and will be capable of linking amateurs from Brazil to Thailand. Es’hail-2 will carry two AMSAT-DL-designed Phase 4 Amateur Radio transponders operating in the 2.4 GHz and 10.450 GHz bands. A 250-kHz bandwidth linear transponder is intended for conventional analog operation, while an 8-MHz bandwidth transponder will serve experimental digital modulation schemes and DVB amateur television. The satellite will be positioned at 26° east. Es’hailSat said the new satellite “will allow also the AMSAT community to validate and demonstrate their DVB standard.” The narrowband analog linear transponder downlink will cover 10489.550 – 10489.800 MHz with 100 W output. The uplink will be 2400.050 – 2400.300 MHz. The wideband digital transponder will downlink on 10491.000 – 10499.000 MHz with 100 W output. The uplink passband will be 2401.500 – 2409.500 MHz.
ARRL has commented in “strong opposition” to a Petition for Rulemaking by RADWIN Ltd. that seeks to amend certain Part 15 rules to permit point-to-multipoint (P2MP) communication services in portions of the 5 GHz band, at power levels now permitted only for point-to-point unlicensed systems. ARRL has focused its concern on proposed high-power P2MP operation in the band 5.725 – 5.850 GHz, but points out that the entire 5.650 – 5.925 GHz allocation has been “subjected to a continuing series of overlays domestically” for more than 2 decades. Amateur Radio is secondary to military radars on the band. ARRL said the Amateur Radio national “weak-signal” calling frequency of 5.760.1 GHz already has experienced a “very substantial” rise in ambient noise in many areas that has significantly affected Amateur Radio operation in the 200 kHz centered on that frequency, where extremely weak received signal levels are typical. Only low-density usage and the low-power levels permitted for unlicensed national information infrastructure (U-NII) devices have sustained “a good deal of compatibility” between Amateur Radio and U-NII devices at 5 GHz, ARRL said.
ARRL’s Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative (CARI) will sponsor the first Collegiate QSO Party in mid-September, just as the fall semester gets under way. The new operating event is part of the larger effort to promote a renaissance of Amateur Radio clubs on college and university campuses. “Discussion of this sort of event has come up in multiple forums at hamfests,” the Milluzzi brothers — Andy, KK4LWR, and Tony, KD8RTT, told ARRL. “It gained more interest in the last couple of years and was a hot topic of debate at the ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative Forum at Hamvention® this past May. The rules were formulated by current students, faculty, and alumni of collegiate clubs. We are excited to see things materialize and are happy to help organize the event.” The inaugural Collegiate QSO Party will get under way on Saturday, September 15, at 0000 UTC and continue until Sunday, September 16, at 2359 UTC. Using phone, CW, or digital modes, participants will exchange call sign, college or university name, or abbreviation and mascot, and operating class
If you are in any way connected with radio, you will have encountered the low pass filter as a means to remove unwanted harmonics from the output of your transmitters. It’s a network of capacitors and inductors usually referred to as a pi-network after the rough resemblance of the schematic to a capital Greek letter Pi, and getting them right has traditionally been something of a Black Art. There are tables and formulae, but even after impressive feats of calculation the result can often not match the expectation. Happily as with so many other fields, in recent decades the advent of affordable high-power computing has brought with it the ability to take the hard work out of filter design, Simply tell some software what the characteristics of your desired filter are, and it will do the rest. The results are good, and anyone can become a filter designer, but as is so often the case there remains a snag. The software calculates ideal inductances and capacitances for the desired cut-off and impedance, and in selecting the closest preferred values we modify the characteristics of the result and possibly even ruin our final filter. So it’s worth taking a look at the process here, and examining the effect of tweaking component values in this way.
Amateur Radio volunteers in Indonesia have been taking advantage of the LAPAN-ORARI (IO-86) ham satellite in addition to HF on 7.110 MHz as the Lombok area recovers from two recent earthquakes. The death toll now has topped 400. A second powerful earthquake in the area on August 5 killed at least 98 people and seriously injured more than 200 others. Power in the area has been disrupted, and Kardi Wibisono, YB9KA, and Untung “Adi” Riadi, YB9GV, of the West Nusa Tenggara Region chapter of ORARI, the Indonesian national Amateur Radio organization, have been leading efforts to provide communication to areas lacking cellular coverage. That has included hauling batteries to run repeaters taken down by the power outage. Four repeaters are reported to be operating in the disaster area. ORARI Headquarters has asked for more repeater support from its Bali Island region and issued an official request to help with logistics and additional volunteers in Lombok
Early last spring, we featured a book review, as part of our occasional Books You Should Read series. Usually these are seminal tomes, those really useful books that stay with you for life and become well-thumbed, but in this case it was a children’s book. Making a Transistor Radio, by [George Dobbs, G3RJV], was a part of the long-running series of Ladybird books that educated, entertained, and enthralled mid-20th-century British kids, and its subject was the construction of a 3-transistor regenerative AM receiver. If you talk to a British electronic engineer of A Certain Age there is a good chance that this was the volume that first introduced them to their art, and they may even still have their prized radio somewhere. Making a Transistor Radio was a success story, but what’s not so well-known is that there was a companion volume published a few years later in 1979. Simple Electronics was part of the imprint’s Learnabout series, and it took the basic premise of its predecessor away from the realm of radio into other transistor circuits. Transistor timers and multivibrators were covered, Morse code, and finally quite an ambitious project, an electronic organ.
Following up on an ARRL Board of Directors directive at its July meeting, the Public Service Enhancement Working Group (PSEWG) has contacted all ARRL Section Managers (SMs) and Section Emergency Coordinators (SECs) seeking comments and suggestions regarding the proposed ARES Strategic Plan (attached below), via an online form. The deadline is October 31, in order to give the PSEWG sufficient time to review the comments and suggestions, formulate any necessary revisions, and submit the revised document to the Board for consideration at its January meeting. Created in 1935, ARES has undergone very few changes over the years, while the agencies ARES serves have undergone many. The PSEWG evaluated the ARES program for 2 years and drafted several proposed enhancements aimed at updating the program. The ARES Strategic Plan introduces changes and a platform for future growth. For many, this will represent a major paradigm shift; for others, it will formalize many of the requirements they have employed routinely for several years.
In July, Franz Laugermann, K3FL, of Houston, achieved a milestone that no other VEC has before by taking part as a Volunteer Examiner in his 1,000th exam session. And, he told ARRL, he’s far from finished. “As long as I can be here, I’m gonna go on doing this,” he said, adding that he’s set his sights on 2,000 sessions. “It’s so rewarding to help other people through this.” He estimated that he’s helped about 5,000 people get their Amateur Radio licenses. At one recent session, a 10-year-old boy who passed the exam became the fourth generation in his family to get licensed through Laugermann, who also had conducted the testing sessions at which the boy’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather earned their ham tickets. Laugermann became an ARRL-accredited Volunteer Examiner (VE) in 1991. His wife Barbara, KA5QES, has been a VE nearly as long as her husband. Both are ARRL members.
SAQ, the old Alexanderson alternator transmitter at the World Heritage Grimeton Radio Station in Sweden, received 321 listener reports in response to its three 17.2 kHz transmissions on Alexanderson Day, July 1. A video of the transmissions is available on YouTube. SAQ said five reports indicated that SAQ was not heard. A summary of listener reports and a map of listener reports have been posted. Amateur Radio Station SK6SAQ was active on CW and SSB during the event. This summer’s transmissions were the first Alexanderson Day transmissions since 2016. Last July, the event was cancelled due to ongoing maintenance work.
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) believes it has the key to unlock the decades-old mystery of what happened to famed aviator Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan in their planned circumnavigation of the globe in 1937. TIGHAR’s The Earhart Project analyzed dozens of radio transmissions received by radio amateurs and other short-wave listeners during the frantic search to locate Earhart’s plane when she did not make her scheduled arrival at Howland Island. Many theories have sprung up over the years to explain the mysterious disappearance, but a TIGHAR research paper entitled The Post-Loss Radio Signals, published in July by The Earhart Project, maintains that “the patterns and relationships emerging from the data show that TIGHAR has answered the 81-year-old question: ‘What really happened to Amelia Earhart?’” The Earhart Project “is testing the hypothesis that Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan landed, and eventually died, on Gardner Island, now Nikumaroro in the Republic of Kiribati,” its website says.
Just-completed research at the High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) transmitters in Gakona, Alaska, successfully took advantage of the WSPR digital protocol and the Weak Signal Propagation Reporter Network (WSPRnet) on July 30 through August 1. University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Space Physics Group researcher and HAARP Chief Scientist Chris Fallen, KL3WX, told ARRL that the research — HAARP’s fourth research campaign under management of the University of Alaska Fairbanks — went well. “My ‘citizen science’ experiments were funded by the National Science Foundation and were conducted for approximately 30 minutes at the end of each campaign day,” Fallen told ARRL. “They consisted of 2-minute transmissions using the WSPR digital mode in the 40- and 80-meter bands, with a 2-minute off period between transmissions.” He said HAARP transmitted in full-carrier, double-sideband AM because it does not have SSB capability. HAARP operated under its Part 5 Experimental license, WI2XFX, with Special Temporary Authority (STA) from the FCC to transmit on amateur bands.
US Navy Vice Admiral Charles A. “Chas” Richard, W4HFZ, assumed command of US submarine forces during a change-of-command ceremony on August 4, held aboard the submarine USS Washington (SSN-787). He assumed command from Vice Admiral Joseph Tofalo. An ARRL Life Member, Richard, 58, is well-known in the AMSAT and APRS communities. He had been serving as the deputy commander of US Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. A radio amateur since 1974, Richard said on his qrz.com profile that he is active on 6 and 2 meters, as well as on HF when the VHF bands are closed. He also enjoys digital satellite operations. Richard has been on active US Navy duty since 1982.
Reorganized and updated FCC Personal Radio Services (PRS) Part 95 rules have been published in The Federal Register. Among other things, the PRS covers the Family Radio Service (FRS), General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS), and the Citizens Band Radio Service (CBRS). The revised rules allot additional FRS channels and increase the power on certain FRS channels from 0.5 W to 2 W. FRS channels are in the 462.5625 – 462.7250 MHz range. Effective September 30, 2019, it will be illegal to manufacture or import handheld portable radio equipment capable of operating under FRS rules and under other licensed or licensed-by-rule services. The FCC no longer will certify FRS devices that incorporate capabilities of GMRS capabilities or of other services. Existing GMRS/FRS combination radios that operate at power levels of less than 2 W ERP will be reclassified as FRS devices; existing GMRS/FRS radios that operate above that power level will be reclassified as GMRS devices, requiring an individual license. Radios that can transmit on GMRS repeater input channels will continue to be licensed individually and not by rule. Once the new rules are effective, CBers will be allowed to contact stations outside of the FCC-imposed — but widely disregarded — 155.3-mile distance limit.
The SJ9WL-LG5LG Morokulien memorial station on the border of Sweden and Norway is off the air after a large tree, brought down during a severe storm on August 10, caused extensive damage to the station’s antennas. According to one report, the station’s 100-foot tower was broken into pieces after the tree fell across three tower guys. That pulled the support structure toward the station building, but a third set of guys on the other side of the tower held and kept it from damaging the structure. The tower has been up for at least a decade. “This is a unique place, because the radio shack is exactly on the border, and the users are obliged to use the call signs alternatively — one day SJ9WL and the next day LG5LG,” Henryk Kotowski, SM0JHF, told ARRL. Kotowski has operated from the station in the past, and a photo he shot at Morkulien appeared on the cover of the October 1996 issue of QST. “This was a memorial station devoted to SM5WL and LA5LG,” Kotowski explained. “They both promoted Amateur Radio and supported disabled hams. Swedish and Norwegian hams took over the abandoned border checkpoint house 50 years ago and made a joint club station there.” He said the area is now devoted to recreation and includes a peace monument. With funds from station rentals, the association Amateur Radio in Morokulien (ARIM) maintains and manages the station, which may be the only one located on an international border in what ARIM calls a “ham state.” The station is designed to accommodate individuals with disabilities. The name Morokulien is a combination of the words for fun — moro in Norwegian, and kul in Swedish — plus a suffix indicating “in one place.”
A second group of young operators will attempt a landing at Market Reef on August 18 for a week of operating from the Youth on the Air station, OJ0C, at the remote lighthouse outpost. They hope to take part in the International Lighthouse/Lightship Weekend (ILLW) event. The Market Reef lighthouse is located so low that waves can roll over the entire DXCC entity. With no jetty, landing can be hazardous. Martti Laine, OH2BH, reports the first youth team enjoyed “outstanding success” in July, making 4,634 contacts with 89 DXCC entities. The second group will include Pieter, ON3DI; Florian, OE3FTA; Horia, YO3IMD, and Elias, OH2EP. The weather is also expected to be a challenge, with winds predicted to approach the 10 meters per second limit. The Finnish Lighthouse Society and the Amateur Radio League of Finland (SRAL), in conjunction with OH-DX-Foundation (OHDXF) and DX University (DXU), are organizing the first-ever International Youth At Sea (IYAS) cultural exchange radio activity, with support from the Yasme Foundation.
On 8 August 2018, Norway got an updated amateur licence, allowing all Norwegian amateurs access to 50 to 52MHz with a power of 1kW. Other new privileges include permission for non-amateurs to operate an amateur station, under supervision of a licenced amateur, for training and educational purposes. On higher bands, amateurs received permission to use 1kW for EME and meteor scatter on 69.9 to 70.5MHz, 144 to 146MHz, 432 to 438MHz and 1240 to 1300MHz, all without any additional regulatory application.
Paraguay telecoms regulator CONATEL has authorized Amateur Radio use of a 60-meter secondary allocation, 5351.5 – 5366.5 kHz, with a maximum power of 25 W EIRP. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Communications Regulatory Agency RAK has also authorized Amateur Radio use of 5351.5 – 5366.5 kHz. — Thanks to Paul Gaskell, G4MWO and The 5 MHz Newsletter via ZP4KFX, CONATEL, and W8GEX; The Daily DX