Tag Archives: ham radio

In the News: Ham radio operator featured in Bermuda newspaper for service during Hurricane Gonzalo

John Stevens VP9NI, an amateur radio operator in Hamilton, Bermuda (where my wife was born!), was featured in The Royal Gazette (a Bermudian newspaper) for his service during Hurricane Gonzalo last month:

Canadian-born Bermuda resident John Stevens was the first to confirm to the NHC that Gonzalo had made landfall on the Island and his work was later credited by the centre.

His report, which included barometric pressure observations, made the 9pm AST Tropical Cyclone Update just after Gonzalo hit, and he continued to send regular reports after the storm had passed. As well as anecdotal information such as rainfall and wind direction, Mr Stevens was able to confirm to the NHC when the winds first reached hurricane force. He also told them when the eye of the storm landed and passed, and continued to deliver hourly check-ins. While Mr Stevens was not credited by name, there was an NHC report that credited a “Bermuda Amateur Radio operator with providing valuable information”.

Mr Stevens told The Royal Gazette: “When I got the confirmation I’d been mentioned in at least one of the updates from the National Hurricane Centre, I thought it was pretty cool. I thought I’d made a decent contribution despite having no [Belco (commercial)] power. There’s a bit of satisfaction and sense of accomplishment, I’d say.”

Also mentioned in the article were Craig Nikolai VP9NL of St. George’s Parish, Glen Cuoco VP9ID of St. George’s Parish, and Ed Kelly VP9GE of Hamilton, for their service during the hurricane.


(Published from DFW, Texas)

Ham Radio History: The Vibroplex Morse Code key and Carpal Tunnel syndrome in the late 1800s

Vibroplex “Original Bug” model (picture from Wikimedia Commons)

On Saturdays, I try to visit the weekly Hams and Eggs gathering in Carrollton (please come and join us every Saturday from about 8 AM to 10:30 AM at the Whataburger off the Prresident George Bush Turnpike at the Old Denton exit).  This morning my friend Kevin N5KRG brought in an antique Vibroplex Morse code key and was mentioning a book he had read about this key which has been in continuous production for over 100 years.   The key was developed to help telegraphers avoid “Telegrapher’s Paralysis” or “Glass Arm” syndrome – today we call it “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.” From a 1997 website titled the Telephraph Office: by Neal McEwen K5RW (from here in the DFW area-I wonder if I’ve met him).

Telegraphers, making the up and down motion on their keys all day, were often the victim of an occupational hazard related to the muscles of the wrist and forearm. Today we call this malady “carpal tunnel syndrome.” In the 19th century it was called “telegrapher’s paralysis” or “glass arm.” To alleviate some of the stress, the “semi-automatic” key was invented at the turn of the century. Today we are more familiar with the name “bug” to describe the semi-automatic key. The “bug” has a lever such that when pushed to one side, the operator can make a dash similar in manner to making a dash on the older style key. When the lever is pushed in the opposite direction, the “bug” makes dots in rapid succession until the operator releases the lever. This action, besides being in the horizontal plane rather than the vertical plan, has reduced significantly, the required manipulation to form the characters of the code.

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In the News: Two ham radio satellite payloads destroyed in Antares launch explosion

The ARRL reports that two Amateur Radio payloads were destroyed in the October 28 explosion of the Antares 130 rocket:

The RACE  and GOMX-2 CubeSats were among more than 2 dozen satellites lost after an unmanned Orbital Space Sciences (OSC) Antares 130 vehicle exploded spectacularly shortly after launch at 2222 UTC on Tuesday, October 28, from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Both satellite packages carried Amateur Radio payloads. The Antares is a new medium-class launch vehicle developed by OSC. The rocket exploded about 6 seconds after launch, sending a huge ball of fire hurtling toward the ground, which set a massive fire at the NASA launch site.


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Ham Radio History: K3DSM, Roller rinks, and the Autopatch.

I found this website many years ago by accident when I was doing some research about the old AT&T Long Lines microwave system (My friend owns an old Long Lines concrete tower in Valparaiso, Indiana).  This is the story of Gene Mitchell K3DSM and the trouble he got into with the autopatch on his amateur repeater back in the 1960s.  It’s a good story that unfortunately ends with the loss of his job from AT&T Long Lines because of his “illicit” mobile telephone connection.

Hybrid phone patches were readily available because of this, so this was used to connect the repeater to the phone line. A mechanical phone lift was used to take the phone on and off hook. Soon after the project was working, I found some touchtone equipment at Greybar Electronics and changed over to a touchtone system.

From my house in Merion, I used the tone pulse system while refining the repeater system. The radio range was not great in Merion, but I was able to develop the system and refine it. I moved to Devon in 1967 where I had an excellent high location and converted to UHF (446 & 449 Mhz)

I had a range of 30 to 40 miles and sometimes more from there and the system was impressive. I even bought a used Motorola handie talkie and mounted a touchtone dial to the back of it. This made a very portable wireless system that worked 10 to 20 miles from my house. I could make and answer calls from almost anywhere I went.

I even demonstrated the system to over 300 ham radio operators at a meeting at the GE Space Center in 1970 where 2 ham radio groups (Las Voyagers and Main Line VHF Association) merged to form a larger group (the Philadelphia Area Repeater Association) to build their own autopatch system for all to use on the 2 meter ham band.

What I didn’t mention so far, is that in 1965, I started working for AT&T Long Lines after I graduated from Valpo Tech. Mention of the system at work drew lots of questions and skepticism. The system was simply not understood. Remember now, that connecting anything to your phone line during this period of time was considered taboo. I even went so far as to pay for what was called a coupler from Bell Telephone to try to stay on the up and up.

Everything was great for years until one day, my mobile phone rang while I was waiting for a roller rink to open. As I answered the call, the guy in the car next to me became curious and started asking questions. I explained what I had and how it worked. He then told me what he had. He said he had a device that could call anywhere in the world and that the calls would be free of charge. I listened carefully. The next day, I told my supervisor at work. I also told a ham friend who worked in the district office at AT&T. Both told me it was not possible for him to have such a device or he would be caught.

(Gene Mitchell, K3DSM, http://www.g-c-o.com/k3dsm/repeater.htm)


(published from DFW, Texas)

Hams in Space: ARISS taking applications for kids to talk to the International Space Station in 2015

Want to really wow some kids in your school?  ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) is taking applications for school-to-ISS QSOs in 2015.  From the ARISS News Page:

U.S. Partners Now Accepting Proposals for Contacts in 2015
The ARISS U.S. partners have opened a window seeking formal and informal education institutions and organizations in the U.S., individually or working together, to host an Amateur Radio contact with a crew member on board the ISS during 2015. The proposal window is October 17 – December 15, 2014. Read the announcement at: http://www.arrl.org/files/file/ARISS/ARISS%20Proposal%20Window%20Announcement-Oct-2014.pdf

To maximize these radio contact opportunities, ARISS is looking for organizations that will draw large numbers of participants and integrate the contact into a well-developed education plan.

More details on expectations, audience, proposal guidelines and proposal form, and dates and times of Information Sessions are available at www.arrl.org/hosting-an-ariss-contact.  Please direct any questions about hosting a contact in the U.S.to ariss@arrl.org.


Published from DFW, Texas

Crosstown Traffic: Hackaday Hacklet #19 – Ham Radio – SDR, Foxhunt Attenuator, and Ethernet to Radio Adapter

The folks over at Hackaday featured Ham Radio in their latest edition of the Hacklet, their weekly newsletter covering projects posted on their hackaday.io site.  The first project, titled “RTL-SDR With Upconverter and Case” features the use of an upconverter to enable the SDR dongle to pick up HF.  Pretty handy, considering the stock RTL-SDR has a low limit of about 24 MHz. I just picked up one of these SDR dongles, so I’ll have to look into getting the upconverter.

Like fox hunting?  Attach the “Ham Radio Fox Hunt Attenuator” to your HT to reduce the sensitivity of your portable as you close in on that tiny low-powered transmitter.  This one uses a couple of 1K potentiometers abd boasts a “…first of its kind variable attenautor vs multiple switches. 1-20 and 21-60 db. with a 3rd option of bypass/straight through.”  The ones I’ve used in the past have a bank of switches that switch resistors in an out, so their might be some advantage to the variable unit. Read more

In the News: Two sisters aged 9 and 11 pass the General exam


Photo credit: Joyanna Love, Cleveland Daily Banner

From the Cleveland Daily Banner in Cleveland, TN (via KB6NU’s Ham Radio Blog)

Estee (KK4MVS) and Rebecca (KK4OAU) Ratcliff, ages 11 and 9, passed their General amateur license exam and are among the youngest in the nation to have done so.  Hopefully they will go on to take the Extra exam.  I’m pretty impressed — I got my Novice at 14 years old and it wasn’t until I was 24 that I passed my General and Extra.  Great job, girls!


(published from Hagerstown, MD)

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