Monthly Archives: November 2014

In the News: AP Wire-Iowa men keepers of fading communication mode

The Hawk Eye newspaper in Burlington, Iowa published a story last week (the article is behind a paywall, luckily you can views it on the AP Wire for free) about Sam Burrell KØAFN and Mike Rosenblatt KØBMW (the article really butchered the callsigns but your intrepid blog editor was able to search for the correction).  Although I disagree a bit with the terms “dwindling” and “fading” when it comes to the hobby (there are nearly 724,000 licensed operators in the US–and that seems to increase every year), the article was pretty interesting.

In comfortable basement rooms, surrounded by dials, buttons and knobs, Sam Burrell and Mike Rosenblatt each has the world as his fingertips.


Using radio waves bounced off the ionosphere, a conversation with a fellow ham in South America, California or some remote island in the Indian Ocean, is just a frequency adjustment away, The Hawk Eye reported.

“You never know who is listening on the radio,” Rosenblatt said, explaining that during a conversation with a friend earlier this year, a ham from Tokyo chimed in.

But in the age of the smartphone, the amateur radio network is a dwindling hobby whose aging practitioners are the keepers of a fading but potentially still vital means of communication.

If the power grid goes down, if a mass ejection from the sun wipes out electronic equipment all over North America, or if the New Madrid fault someday wreaks havoc across the middle of the country, it will be people like KA AFN and KA BMV [KØAFN and KØBMW (AD8BC EDIT)] — Burrell and Rosenblatt, as their call signs respectively identify them — who will be able to receive and disseminate information from the outside world.

Fun for now and then.

Se the rest of the story here.

(Published from DFW, Texas)

Projects: Arduino-controlled Solar Charge Controller

Front panel display from Pascal Foglietta’s Arduino-controlled Solar Battery Charger Controller

So I was cruising Instructables again today.  Once in a while, while weeding out the fairly boring crap like the thousand-and-one uses for Sugru or 3D printing an entire person, you find a real gem.  While I am not a tree-hugger by any remote stretch of anybody’s imagination, I am a ham radio operator, and having a good source of DC power away from any kind of commercial hookup can be important, and I have been interested in solar and battery projects on-and-off for quite a while. 

Stripboard for Pascal Foglietta’s solar charge controller

Pascal Foglietta from Sydney, Australia has put up an article–er, Instructable–about his Arduino-controlled solar battery charger controller that is a real work of art — not only the finished product itself (the protoboards, display, and enclosure are extremely professional-looking), but the documentation that goes along with it.  The instructions, illustrations, and schematics makes this project better suited for a magazine like Make: Magazine or Nuts and Volts than an Instructables article.  And while I’m getting sick of hearing about the Internet of Things (where everything you own needs to connect to everything else that you own), this project does a nice job of putting all of it’s data in human readable form on the Internet.

Here are the specifications of Pascal’s project (after the jump): Read more

Hams In Space: Samantha Cristoforetti IZ1UDF is new ISS resident Amateur Radio operator

Amateur Radio Newsline report 1946 for November 28 (Audio (@5:15)|Text) reports that Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti IZ1UDF has safely arrived at the International Space Station:

Ham radio has returned at the International Space Station.
This with the arrival of European Space Agency
Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, eye-zed-one-U-D-F, after a
5 hour and 45 minute trip that began at the Bikenour
Cosmodrone in Kazakhstan.

Cristoforetti made the trip along with United States
Astronaut Terry Virts and Russian Cosmonaut Anton
Shkaplerov. The three new arrivals were welcomed to the
orbiting outpost by Commander Barry Wilmore along with
Cosmonauts Yelena Serova and Alexander Samokutyaev. Virts,
Shkaplerov, and Cristoforetti will remain aboard the station
until mid-May. The current crew I slated to return to Earth
in early March.

(Published from DFW, Texas)

Crosstown Traffic: KB6NU explaines why the first hacker in history was an amateur radio operator

My friend Dan KB6NU posted this supporting evidence that he found on the Royal Institution website that a radio amateur was one of the first hackers to successfully hack a “secure” radio system:

I’ve often maintained that amateur radio operators were the first hackers. Now, I have some supporting evidence.

As reported in this post on the Royal Institution website, a public demonstration of Marconi’s wireless communication system, aka radio, was hacked by a British magician. Apparently, Marconi was touting his system as not only being able to send messages over long distances, but as also being secure. Well, now we know that radio transmissions are anything but secure, but they didn’t know that back in 1903.

So, when a public demonstration was set up at Great Britain’s Royal Institution, a British magician and inventor, Nevil Maskelyne, was hired to “hack” into the demo. Before Marconi could send his message from his Cornwall station to the receiving station set up at the Royal Institution, Maskelyne sent the message, “RATS RATS RATS from his transmitting station, presumably somewhere near the Royal Institution. This was picked up by the receiving station, thereby demonstrating that Marconi’s wireless system was anything but secure.

Thanks for that interesting post Dan!


(Published from 30,000 feet over the southeast corner of Oklahoma)

Crosstown Traffic: Adafruit blog features website with EVERY issue of Popular Electronics Magazine (1954-1982) in .PDF format for FREE download

The Adafruit blog turned me on to this website which has EVERY issue of Popular Electronics magazine available for free .PDF download from their first issue in October 1954 through the last issue in October 1982 (right before they changed their name to Computers and Electronics).

Also available on this site are almost all of the issues of Radio Electronics, most of the first ten years of BYTE Magazine, and a number of other electronics hobby magazines.



(Published from Chicago, IL)

In the News: Tower fight pits federal PRB-1 pre-emption against Napa, California planning commission

Here we go again.  As we talk about expanding the FCC’s PRB-1 amateur radio antenna preemption to homeowner associations and covenants and deed restrictions, here comes a classic ham operator-vs-city fight that will likely end up with a lawsuit and the city as a loser.  From the Napa Valley Register:

Since the longtime amateur radio enthusiast raised the spidery metal mast in April, some homeowners have attacked it for spoiling their views, and others claim the antenna has even disrupted their electronics – or, in one case, disabled a woman’s electric wheelchair.

But their efforts to fight the mast in their midst has bumped against federal law Hullquist argues protects his right to build and use the antenna, even without a city permit.

On Thursday, the city Planning Commission granted him a use permit for the ham radio antenna – but with limitations including a requirement to lower the mast to 21 feet between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. to avoid intruding on his neighbors’ views. (The city allowed an exemption to transmit during a local emergency.) Hullquist also was barred from operating his transmitter while the antenna is retracted. (Emphasis mine — AD8BC)

Afterward, Hullquist promised to appeal his case to the City Council – which also is scheduled to hear a counter-appeal from an opponent of the antenna.

The decision continues a seven-month stalemate pitting Coombs Street homeowners – who say the antenna also disfigures the Napa Abajo-Fuller Park Historic District that includes the street – against Hullquist, who has argued a Federal Communications Commission memorandum from 1985 blocks cities from passing laws that make ham radio use impossible.

In as much as the city is overstepping it’s bounds here, the statement I emphasized above in the quote is beyond scary:

Hullquist also was barred from operating his transmitter while the antenna is retracted.

The city has absolutely no authority to bar him from transmitting his radio on his property.  This is purely federal FCC jurisdiction here.

This will be one of those fun cases to follow.  We’ll keep up with it here.


(Published from Chicago, IL)

Crosstown Traffic: KB6NU talks “1Nxxxx” and “2Nxxxx” diode and transistor part numbers.

Dan KB6NU posts interesting information from Wikipedia about how diodes and transistors got their “1Nxxxx” and “2Nxxxx” part numbers.  Turns out these numbers spawned from the old vacuum tube part numbering systems:

The early work began as a part numbering system for devices which became popular in the 1960s. The first semiconductor devices, such as the 1N23 silicon point contact diode, were still designated in the old RMA tube designation system, where the “1” stood for “No filament/heater” and the “N” stood for “crystal rectifier”. The first RMA digit thus was re-allocated from “heater power” to “p-n junction count” to form the new EIA/JEDEC EIA-370 standard; for example, the 1N4001 rectifier diode and 2N2222 transistor part numbers came from EIA-370. They are still popular today. In February, 1982, JEDEC issued JESD370B, superseding the original EIA-370 and introducing a new letter symbol “C” that denotes the die version, as opposed to “N”, now meaning the packaged version. The Japanese JIS semiconductor designation system employs a similar pattern. JEDEC later developed a numbering system for integrated circuits, but this did not gain acceptance in the semiconductor industry. The European Pro Electron semiconductor numbering system originated in a similar way from the older Mullard–Philips tube designation.

Thanks, Dan, for sharing that interesting fact!


In the News: KERO-TV News in Bakersfield, CA “Ham Radio operators can help save lives in times of crisis”

After this news disaster, it’s nice to see a well-formed profile of ham radio on the news.  Bakersfield California ABC affiliate KERO presents a 2 1/2 minute segment on ham radio and the support they provide during emergencies (click link for video):

Not only is it a hobby for people, but it could also save lives in times of crisis and danger.

Over the years many emergency communication centers throughout the country have relied on Ham operators. When all other forms of communication go down, the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service can still communicate.

They have been called to action during events like Hurricane Katrina and the Boston Marathon bombing.

Amateur radio operators were on scene and helped coordinate evacuations and assisted with emergency communications.

The Kern County Emergency Operations Center received a Homeland Security grant to purchase equipment and are currently constructing a permanent spot at the center for the group to operate during a crisis.

Nice job, Kern County hams!


Crosstown Traffic: KC5HWB-Ham Radio’s Forgotten Bands: 220MHz and 900MHz

Great blog post and discussion from Jason KC5HWB over at the Grapevine Ham Radio blog about 220MHz and 900MHz, the “Forgotten Bands” of ham radio:

When I was first licensed in 1994, the most inexpensive radio I could buy was the Radio Shack HTX-202 mono-band, 2 meter only, 12 memory channel HT. This radio sold brand new in the store for $189. You could also buy the 70 centimeter version of this radio, which had the same memory channels and features, for the same amount of money. Back then, if you wanted a dual-band HT, you were going to spend $300 or more. Today, however, anyone can buy a Chinese dual band for under $50.  20 years ago, if you wanted a 220mhz radio, you’d have to pay several hundred dollars. I don’t remember anything about 900mhz back then, the frequency spectrum belonged to us, but to my recollection there were little to no radios at all.

Today, you can buy a mono-band 1.25 meter radio from Anytone or TYT for under $200. Also, there are many 900mhz radios on the market, most of which are used, but many are obtainable for $100 or less. A good example of this would be the Kenwood TK-981 radio. I constantly see these radios sell used on eBay for $100-$125.

So the question is, why are these two bands forgotten? Today you can get a radio in either of these bands for a decent amount of money, and some people are using them, but they are not nearly as popular as the 2M and 40 bands in amateur radio.  The 1.25 meter band is widely unused in the DFW area, and the band itself, being VHF, could be as reliable as 2 meters.  The 900mhz band is becoming more popular in DFW, but radios are mostly purchased from used markets and surplus of businesses of local government agencies.

Read more

Hamfest Review and Editorial: Fort Wayne Hamfest 2014

The Fort Wayne (Indiana) Hamfest has always had a place in my heart.  My first time in Fort Wayne was in 1989, just a few months before I passed my novice license test at the age of 14.  My elmer Bob Kehr KA9MDP took me to that swap, I think it was a couple of months after he took me to my first hamfest in LaPorte, Indiana.  After the LaPorte swap, which was held at a fairground, the Fort Wayne Hamfest was like going to a professional trade show — it was (and still is) held at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, which is a very nice, clean, well lit facility.  I can’t remember if it was a one-day or a two-day swap, my memory is telling me that it was Saturday only but that may have been because we only went on Saturday.  Also, I’m relying on my memory here again, I believe that it was only held in the EXPO1-2-3 hall.  At some time in the future it got too large and for some time the Hamfest also used the EXPO-4 room (I think that’s the room under the ice rink/basketball arena, I’m not sure).  Sometime in the last 5-8 years the Hamfest has shrunk back into EXPO1-2-3.

Last weekend (November 15 and 16) was somewhat of a disappointment that started at the beginning when I bought my ticket and walked to the EXPO rooms.  Instead of buying the ticket in the rotunda and walking straight into EXPO-3, I had to walk all the way down the hall to the side entrance to EXPO-1.  I discovered why as soon as I walked in.  EXPO-3 had been partitioned off.  This had the initial effect of making the place seem more crowded, as they had stuffed the Hamfest into a smaller space.  I think I know why they did this, over the past few times I have visited the Hamfest, it had some wide open spaces where tables had been in the past.  So this had the effect of mitigating the negative effects of seeing open space.

The physically smaller event could be blamed on the smaller number of vendors and dealers.  Attendance seemed kind of bleak this year as well, and some of that could be blamed on the smaller number of vendors which could in turn be blamed on the smaller number of people, ad nauseum.

The first thing that people bring up when someone complains about a dying hamfest is the “eBay excuse.”  People don’t wait to go to a hamfest to buy something when they can get it almost instantly on eBay or from a commercial online vendor like AES or Ham Radio Outlet or the countless other vendors online.  I have never accepted the “eBay excuse” because there are more reasons to go to a hamfest than just to buy stuff. Read more

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