This Week in Amateur Radio

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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 54 min ago

via HACKADAY: These Capacitors are a Cheap Gimmick

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 13:49
If you search through an electrical engineering textbook, you probably aren’t going to find the phrase “gimmick capacitor” but every old ham radio operator knows about them. They come in handy when you need a very small capacitor of unknown value. For example, if you are trying to balance the stray capacitance in a circuit, you might not know exactly what value you need, but you know it won’t be very much. That’s when you want a gimmick capacitor. A gimmick capacitor is made by taking two strands of insulated wire and twisting them together; the length and the tightness of the twist determine the capacitance. Tightening or loosening the twist, or trimming some of the wire off, makes it tunable. These are most commonly found in RF equipment or high-speed logic because of the small capacitance involved — usually about 1 to 2 pF per inch of twist or so. The thicker the insulation, the less capacitance you’ll get, so it is common to use magnet wire or something else with a thin insulating layer. You can take this one step further and decrease the spacing by stripping down one wire as long as it isn’t going to touch anything else. Obviously, the insulation needs to be good enough for the voltage on them, an important consideration in tube circuits, for instance. But other than that, a gimmick capacitor is a straightforward tool to have in your box of design tricks. Can we take this further?

Radio ‘hams’: The legacy of Iraq’s amateur operators lives on

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 13:32
Ahmed Al Amshawi was just 17-years-old when he first discovered the underground world of ham radio in his native Baghdad in 1996. A brotherhood of Iraqi men from all walks of life united by a common, clandestine passion: amateur radio communication. One of Iraq’s first ham radio operators is thought to have been King Ghazi in the late 1930s, paving the way for the rest of Iraq. Saddam Hussein was in power when Ahmed first picked up the crackling microphone that would connect him to the outside world. The adrenaline rush he felt lives on with him today. So too does the hobby and its enthusiasts. “It’s like a drug in the system, once you take it you can’t leave it,” says Ahmed, now 40, sitting at a coffee shop in Baghdad’s Mansour neighbourhood. At the time, Saddam’s regime had prohibited ham radio operators from using their equipment – typically a transmitter and a receiver – at home. Instead, licensed operators were made to gather in government-sanctioned communal rooms where they each took turns having conversations with fellow ham radio operators. Meanwhile, the government listened in.

Now-Hurricane Chris Poses Possible Threat to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland-Labrador

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 12:53
Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) has reiterated a call to Canadian radio amateurs to keep a close watch on Hurricane Chris. The storm was just upgraded from Tropical Storm to hurricane status and has gained considerable forward motion as it bears down on the Canadian Maritimes and Newfoundland-Labrador with winds of 155 kilometers per hour (100 MPH). The storm is moving to the northeast at 37 kilometers per hour (22 MPH). Hurricane Chris is expected to make landfall on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula late on July 5 as a post-tropical depression. Rainfall in the affected area could amount to 50 to 70 millimeters, with 80 to 100 kilometer per hour winds and heavy surf. Environment Canada issued a Tropical Cyclone Information Statement on July 11. Amateur Radio operators are encouraged to monitor local repeaters and IARU Center of Activity frequencies, and in the affected area, to provide updates to the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) on 14.325 MHz. The HWN has not activated and remains in Alert Level 2 — monitoring mode.

ARRL Urges Regulatory Regime to Keep Non-Amateur Satellites off Amateur Spectrum

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 11:44
ARRL wants the FCC to facilitate bona fide Amateur Satellite experimentation by educational institutions under Part 97 Amateur Service rules, while precluding the exploitation of amateur spectrum by commercial, small-satellite users authorized under Part 5 Experimental rules. In comments filed on July 9 in an FCC proceeding to streamline licensing procedures for small satellites, ARRL suggested that the FCC adopt a “a bright line test” to define and distinguish satellites that should be permitted to operate under Amateur-Satellite rules, as opposed to non-amateur satellites that could be authorized under Part 5 Experimental rules. “Specifically, it is possible to clarify which types of satellite operations are properly considered amateur experiments conducted pursuant to a Part 97 Amateur Radio license, and [those] which should be considered experimental, non-amateur facilities, properly authorized by a Part 5 authorization.” ARRL said it views as “incorrect and overly strict’ the standard the FCC has applied since 2013 to define what constitutes an Amateur Satellite, forcing academic projects that once would have been operated in the Amateur Satellite Service to apply for a Part 5 Experimental authorization instead. This approach was based, ARRL said, on “the false rationale” that a satellite launched by an educational institution must be “non-amateur” because instructors were being compensated and would thus have a “pecuniary interest” in the satellite project. ARRL said well-established Commission jurisprudence contradicts this view.

via HACKADAY: The Bad Old Days of Telephone Answering Machines

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 11:44
Telephone answering machines were almost a fad. They were hindered for years by not being allowed to connect to the phone lines. Then a mix of cell phones and the phone company offering voicemail made the machines all but obsolete. Unless you are really young, you probably had one at some point though. Some had digital outgoing messages and a tape to record. Some had two tapes. But did you ever have one that didn’t connect to the phone line at all? Remember, there was a time when they couldn’t. My family had one of these growing up and after doing enough research to find it in an old catalog, I decided you might like to know how it really worked. Even if you grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, it is hard to imagine how little technology there was in an average person’s home at that time. You probably had one TV and one wired telephone. You probably had a radio or two and maybe even a record or tape player. If you were very fancy, you had a big piece of furniture that had a TV, a turntable, a radio, and a tape player in it. No cell phones, no computers, no digital assistant, and appliances were electro-mechanical and didn’t have displays. So when you saw a new piece of tech — especially if you were a kid who didn’t know what a hacker was, but still wanted to be one — it made an impression. I still remember the first time I even saw a tape recorder. I was amazed! But a tape recorder is a far cry from a telephone answering machine.

CubeSats to Deploy from International Space Station on July 13

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 11:44
Japan’s space agency JAXA has announced that nine CubeSats will be deployed from the International Space Station on July 13. Three of the satellites — EnduroSat AD, EQUISat, and MemSat — will transmit telemetry in the 70-centimeter Amateur Radio band. EnduroSat AD will transmit on 437.050 MHz (CW, 9.6 kB GFSK); EQUISat will transmit on 435.550 MHz (CW, 9.6 kB FSK), and MemSat will transmit on 437.350 MHz (9.6 kB BPSK).

via the RSGB: Beware scam emails

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 11:44
We understand that a poorly-worded online message has been circulating, purportedly from the ARRL, seeking donations supposedly to cover the medical expenses of a poorly child, ‘Dawn’. The ARRL has confirmed that this email is a scam, and describes as “despicable” the attempt to prey on the willingness of amateurs to help others in need. If the ARRL, RSGB or any other responsible organisation launches an appeal it will normally be announced on their websites, which you should NOT access by clicking on a link in an email.

BIRDS-2 Constellation CubeSats Transported to ISS for August Deployment

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 11:44
The second generation of CubeSats in the BIRDS constellation now is on board the International Space Station (ISS) and set for deployment in early August using the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) module’s remote manipulator arm. The June 29 SpaceX Falcon 9 launch carried the BIRDS-2 CubeSats — MAYA-1, BHUTAN-1, and UiTMSAT-1, built by students from Malaysia, Bhutan, and the Philippines at the hosting Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan. All CubeSats have identical designs and utilize the same frequencies. While independently made, operation and control of the three CubeSats will be shared by three teams after the spacecraft are released into space. All three CubeSats will transmit a CW beacon on 437.375 MHz. They will be operational for 6 months. “The three will form a constellation, orbiting the Earth from different places. This will provide the countries more opportunities to make measurements and run experiments than just with using one CubeSat,” explained Joel Joseph Marciano, Jr., manager of the PHL-Microsat program in the Philippines. The primary mission of BIRDS-2 CubeSat constellation is to provide digital message relay service to the Amateur Radio community by means of an onboard APRS digipeater on a frequency of 145.825 MHz. Another mission of the BIRDS-2 CubeSat constellation is to demonstrate a store-and-forward system, investigating technical challenges through experiments on appropriate data format, multiple access scheme, and file-handling protocol while complying with limited operational time and power constraints.

ARRL Volunteer Examiner Team in Australia Holds First Technician Test Session under New Element 2 Question Pool

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 11:22
An ARRL VEC Volunteer Examiner (VE) team in Bankstown, New South Wales, Australia, conducted the first Technician test session under the new Element 2 Question Pool that went into effect on July 1. The newly revised pool, released in January 2018 (and subsequently updated and re-released in February) by the Question Pool Committee (QPC) of the National Conference of Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (NCVEC), which must now be in use. Three graphics are required for this pool, which includes 423 questions — down slightly from 426 in the previous pool. In the Australian session, two candidates passed the Technician exam “comfortably” and then went on to pass the General class exam, Australian VE (OzVE) team spokesperson Brad Granger, VK2QQ/AK2QQ, said. They struck out on the Amateur Extra exam, however, although neither had really prepared for it, and both promised to come back and try again later in the year. “The OzVE team has been growing steadily since our first exam session held in 2016, with teams now active in Queensland (VK4), Victoria (VK3), and New South Wales (VK2),” Granger said.

Radio Amateur to Pay $7,000, Face Restricted Privileges to Settle FCC Interference Case

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 11:22
The US Department of Justice and the FCC have reached a settlement with Brian Crow, K3VR, of North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, to resolve allegations that Crow intentionally interfered with the communications of other Amateur Radio operators and failed to properly identify. The core component of the settlement calls on Crow to pay $7,000 to the US Treasury, the FCC and US Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania Scott W. Brady announced in separate July 3 news releases. In addition, Crow’s Amateur Extra class license will be restricted to Technician class privileges for 6 months, and he has agreed to discontinue contact with the individuals involved in this case. Crow’s Amateur Extra privileges will be restored after 6 months, “if no new violations have been found,” the FCC said. “Amateur Radio licensees know that the rules require them to share the airwaves, which means that bad actors cannot plead ignorance,” FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Rosemary Harold said in the FCC release. “This settlement is a significant payment for an individual operator, and it sends a serious message: Play by the rules in the Amateur Radio band[s] or face real consequences. We thank the US Attorney’s Office for understanding the importance of this type of case and pushing it forward to ensure a resolution that included strong penalties for substantial violations of the law.”

Radio Technology Designed by Radio Amateur Used in Thailand Cave Rescue

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 10:32
UK radio amateur John Hey, G3TDZ (SK), was the original designer of special low-frequency radio equipment — the HeyPhone — used in the recent cave rescue in Thailand. Al Williams, WD5GNR, reported in Hackaday that the British Cave Rescue Council (BCRC) was asked for its help and equipped the rescuers with HeyPhones. The HeyPhone is “now considered obsolete, but is still in service with some teams,” Williams wrote. The radio transmits on USB at 87 kHz, which can penetrate deep into the ground, typically via electrodes driven into the ground. In a 2018 update, the British Cave Research Association (BCRA) Cave Radio & Electronics Group (CREG) HeyPhone Cave Rescue Communication page called the HeyPhone “a pioneering development in cave radio” that “can no longer be recommended for construction.” Several successor products — including the Nicola Mark III, which has been tested by the BCRC — have been developed.

via the RSGB: International Youth at Sea begins

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 10:32
A new cultural exchange-based radio activity, International Youth at Sea, has been organised by the Finnish Lighthouse Society, the Amateur Radio League of Finland, the OH-DX-Foundation and DX University. The first team will activate Market Reef Lighthouse as OJ0C, from the 21st to the 28th of July. The 2018 youth team members are Nuuti, OH1UBO; Elias, OH2EP; Otava, OH3OT; Mikael, OH3UAF; Pieter, ON3DI; Florian, OE3FTA, and Ilie, YO3IMD. They are all between 6 and 25 years old. They will be participating in daily workshops of safety and survival at sea in the remote lighthouse. In addition, they will become familiar with the latest digital modes and, most important, learning how operating the radio efficiently, providing OJ0C with contacts and handling pileups. Their instructors are Martti, OH2BH; Henri, OH3JR, and Pasi, OH3WS. QSL OJ0C via OH3JR.

FCC Administrative Law Judge Dismisses Radio Amateur’s Long-Standing License Renewal Application

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 10:32
A California man embroiled in a long-running license renewal proceeding has lost the next step in his fight to remain a radio amateur. In a July 9 Order, FCC Administrative Law Judge Richard L. Sippel terminated the decade-old license renewal application of William Crowell, W6WBJ (ex-N6AYJ), of Diamond Springs, California, upon a motion by Enforcement Bureau Chief Rosemary C. Harold. Sippel’s Order followed Crowell’s refusal to appear in Washington, DC, for a hearing to consider not just his license renewal but related enforcement issues dating back 15 years or more. “Crowell’s decision not to appear at the hearing has the same practical effect as if he had initially failed, pursuant to Section 1.221(c) of the Rules, to file a written notice of appearance or otherwise signal his intent to participate in the hearing on his pending renewal application, i.e., he has waived his right to prosecute that application,” Harold said in the Enforcement Bureau’s June 12 motion to dismiss Crowell’s license renewal application.

via HACKADAY: Ham-designed Gear Used in Thailand Cave Rescue

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 10:32
Unless you live in a cave, you’ve probably heard a little about the thirteen people — mostly children — trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Thailand. What you may have missed, though, is the hacker/ham radio connection. The British Cave Rescue Council (BCRC) was asked for their expert help. [Rick Stanton], [John Volanthen] and [Rob Harper] answered the call. They were equipped with HeyPhones. The HeyPhone is a 17-year-old design from [John Hey, G3TDZ]. Sadly, [G3TDZ] is now a silent key (ham radio parlance for deceased) so he didn’t get to see his design play a role in this high-profile rescue, although it has apparently been a part of many others in the past. The HeyPhone is actually considered obsolete but is still in service with some teams. The radio uses USB (upper sideband, not universal serial bus) at 87 kHz. The low frequency can penetrate deep into the ground using either induction loop antennas like the older Molephone, or — more commonly — with electrodes injecting RF energy directly into the ground.

via the RSGB: Ham-designed comms support cave rescue

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 10:32
The dramatic rescue of twelve young footballers and their coach from a cave in Thailand was facilitated, in part, by communications technology developed by British radio amateur John Hey, G3TDZ. Ordinary radio signals don’t penetrate the solid rock surrounding caves, but very low frequency signals can do. Around the turn of the Millennium John designed a system that became known as the HeyPhone, which could penetrate some 800m of solid rock and provide reliable two-way voice communication. It used single sideband operating at 87kHz, with novel antenna techniques to couple the signals between units. The HeyPhone was featured in the January 2002 edition of RadCom. Unfortunately John became a silent key in 2016 but he saw his equipment used in countless cave rescue and other applications. You can read more about how his work helped save the Thai footballers on the Hackaday site, via

via the ARRL: Friedrichshafen Emergency Communications Gathering Hears Reports

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 10:32
IARU Region 1 Emergency Coordinator Greg Mossup, G0DUB, has posted a report on the Emergency Communications Meeting held at June’s Ham Radio event in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Mossup said some 20 emergency communicators attended the June 1 meeting, sponsored by the IARU. “After the introduction and Region 1 report, there were interesting presentations followed by a good exchange of information in an open forum session, which carried on beyond the official closing time of the meeting,” Mossup said in his report. He said Michal Wilczynski, SP9XWM, and Krzysztof Gaudnik, SP7WME, presented on emergency activities in Poland, followed by Herbert Koblmiller, OE3KJN, who discussed “Exercise Solar Flare,” which saw good cooperation between Austrian radio amateurs, the military, and service providers. Finally, Alberto Barbera, IK1YLO, and Marco, IU1GJE, spoke about the internet-linked DMR network they have been working on for use in emergencies and disasters.

via HACKADAY: Philo Farnsworth, RCA, and the Battle for Television

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 10:32
The parenthood of any invention of consequence is almost never cut and dried. The natural tendency to want a simple story that’s easy to tell — Edison invented the light bulb, Bell invented the telephone — often belies the more complex tale: that most inventions have uncertain origins, and their back stories are often far more interesting as a result. Inventing is a rough business. It is said that a patent is just a license to get sued, and it’s true that the determination of priority of invention often falls to the courts. Such battles often pit the little guy against a corporate behemoth, the latter with buckets of money to spend in making the former’s life miserable for months or years. The odds are rarely in the favor of the little guy, but in few cases was the deck so stacked against someone as it was for a young man barely out of high school, Philo Farnsworth, when he went up against one of the largest companies in the United States to settle a simple but critical question: who invented television?

via the RSGB: World Radiosport Team Championship looms

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 10:32
The World Radiosport Team Championship takes place this week, running from Thursday the 12th to Monday the 16th. This invitation-only event pits the world’s elite contesters against each other in two-person teams. To level the playing field, all the contesters use similar stations with similar antennas, all within a relatively small geographical operating area to ensure no-one is aided or disadvantaged by local propagation conditions. We have more details on how you can take part in the Contests section of this bulletin. This year’s event takes place in Germany and you can find details of all parts of the event at

Excitement Builds for World Radiosport Team Championship 2018

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 10:32
The days are dwindling down to a precious few: Following 4 years of preparation, World Radiosport Team Championship 2018 (WRTC 2018) is primed to start, and excitement is building to see how the 63 competing teams fare in the 24-hour event, July 14 – 15 in Germany. Fourteen North American teams are on the roster, including the defending champion team of WRTC 2014, Daniel Craig, N6MJ, and Chris Hurlbut, KL9A. Several well-known US contesting personalities are among those serving as referees at each site. As the July 12 opening ceremonies neared, WRTC 2018 organizers were searching for a last-minute replacement for a team leader who had to drop out. WRTC 2018 takes place in conjunction with the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) HF Championship, although with different or additional rules. Both events get under way on Saturday at 1200 UTC and conclude on Sunday at 1159 UTC, and all radio amateurs may take part in the IARU event. The object of the IARU is to contact as many other stations on phone and CW, especially IARU member society headquarters stations, on 160 through 10 meters, except for 30, 17, and 12 meters.

via HACKADAY: Bandpass Filters from the CNC Mill

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 10:32
A bandpass allows a certain electrical signal to pass while filtering out undesirable frequencies. In a speaker bandpass, the mid-range speaker doesn’t receive tones meant for the tweeter or woofer. Most of the time, this filtering is done with capacitors to remove low frequencies and inductors to remove high frequencies. In radio, the same concept applies except the frequencies are usually much higher. [The Thought Emporium] is concerned with signals above 300MHz and in this range, a unique type of filter becomes an option. The microstrip filter ignores the typical installation of passive components and uses the copper planes of an unetched circuit board as the elements. A nice analogy is drawn in the video, which can also be seen after the break, where the copper shapes are compared to the music tuning forks they resemble. The elegance of these filters is their simplicity, repeatability, and reproducability. In the video, they are formed on a CNC mill but any reliable PCB manufacturing process should yield beautiful results. At the size these are made, it would be possible to fit these filters on a business cardor a conference badge.