Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Communicator - December 2017

Here is the latest Communicator. In this edition you will find:

  • QRM
  • The Rest Of The Story—The Russian Marconi 
  • The Contest Contender 
  • Back To Basics 
  • Radio-Active 
  • What’s Happening This Month In  Local Ham? 
  • News You Can Lose 
  • Club News—SARC 
  • News—OTC 
  • Emergency Comms 
  • Emergency Program News—SEPAR Report 
  • Digital Radio Modes 
  • Amateur Radio News 
  • Tech Topics 
  • Amateur Radio Satellites 
  • RAC News 
  • QRZ
  • and more... 

You can read or download this edition here

My deadline for the January edition is December 18th. If you have news from your Vancouver area club, events or other items of interest please email them to the

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Power-Off Time Delay Relay Circuit

A Communicator Reprise: August 2010
For the original article:

The two circuits below illustrate opening a relay contact a short time after the ignition or light switch is turned off. The capacitor is charged and the relay is closed when the voltage at the diode anode rises to +12 volts. The common collector or emitter follower has the advantage of one less part, since a resistor is not needed in series with the transistor base. However the voltage across the relay coil will be two diode drops less than the supply voltage, or about 11 volts for a 12.5 volt input.

The common emitter configuration offers the advantage of the full supply voltage across the load for most of the delay time, which makes the relay pull-in and drop-out
voltages less of a concern, but required an extra resistor in series with the transistor base. The common emitter is the better circuit since the series base resistor can be
selected to obtain the desired delay time – I’ve added a variable trim pot for the task to make the delay somewhat adjustable.

The common collector time delay would require changing the capacitor or an additional resistor in parallel with the capacitor to alter the time delay. The time delay for the common emitter will be approximately 3 time constants or 3 x R x C. The capacitor and resistor values can be worked out from the relay coil current and transistor gain. For example, a 120 ohm relay coil will draw 100 mA at 12 volts and assuming the transistor has a gain of 30, the base current will be 100/30 – 3 mA. The voltage across the resistor will be the supply voltage minus two diode drops or 12-1.4 = 10.6 volts. The resistor value will be the voltage/current = 10.6/0.003 = 3533 or about 3.6K ohms. The capacitor value for a 15 second delay will be 15/3R = 1327 µf. You can use a standard 1000 µf capacitor and increase the resistor proportionally to get 15 seconds – thus the convenience of a variable trim pot.

This circuit is handy if your APRS tracker is turned off with your ignition switch. Keeps the tracker on long enough to send its last ‘posit’ before shutting down. In hybrid vehicles, the accessory battery does not drop in voltage quickly [or at all] so a tracker that is waiting for a substantial voltage drop to turn itself off or detect a vehicle at rest, will never sense the required voltage drop in the battery... so a power-off timer is put in line
to make sure the tracker has enough time to send a ‘at rest’ posit and then shut down until the vehicle is started.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The December Communicator...

On its way December 1st

It’s been a good year for the Surrey Amateur Radio Club. Improvements to the Operations & Training Centre, a Gaming grant and many successful events have raised our profile in both the Amateur and non-Amateur Community. 

We look forward to the year ahead. In the meantime our best wishes for a happy holiday season ahead. The new issue will be posted December 1st.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Digital Modes Are Gaining Popularity

An Introduction To FT8 Mode

Richard Jannes, PD3RFR

FT8 is a new digital mode, introduced in July 2017 and developed by K9AN (Steven Franke) and KJ1T (Joe Taylor). FT8 stands for "Franke and Taylor, 8-FSK modulate".  It’s similar to JT65, with one big difference. The transmissions duration is only 15 seconds instead of 60 seconds in JT65. This mode was developed especially for contacts where large fluctuations in signal strength occur, QSB for example. A disadvantage is that the sensitivity is 10dB less than JT65. FT8 decodes signals to-20dB.

As in all other digital modes (JT65, PSK31, SSTV etc.) you need to have an audio interface between the transceiver and the computer's sound card. For this I use the MicroHam USB Interface III. Of course you need software that supports this mode, in this case that is WSJT-X version 1.80. This software can also control your transceiver and runs on many versions of Windows (including Windows 10), and is also available for other platforms.

It is very important that your computer clock  is synchronized to the hundredth of a second with the station you are contacting, otherwise you’ll miss a piece of the transfer. For years I’ve used the synchronization of the Meinberg Network Time Protocol. Another option is NetTime, which is easier to get working by a layman.

Here is an example of a QSO as it is intended with FT8, where PA1TEST (fictitious call) responds to my CQ call:

"CQ PD3RFR JO22″ CQ call from PD3RFR (JO22 is the grid square location)
"PD3RFR PA1TEST AB12″ PA1TEST responds to the CQ with its location AB12
"PA1TEST PD3RFR-08″ PD3RFR responds with a signal report
"PD3RFR PA1TEST R-12″ PA1TEST responds (replies) with a signal report
"PA1TEST PD3RFR Rahman" PD3RFR says reception report received
"PD3RFR PA1TEST 73″ PA1TEST says ‘with best regards'
"PA1TEST PD3RFR 73″ PD3RFR says 'with best regards'

Although this passage has lasted only 7x 15 seconds, it seems to be too long for some amateurs. In actual practice, I have regularly seen the following method, in which the actual QSO only takes 60 seconds.

"CQ PD3RFR JO22″ CQ call from PD3RFR (JO22 is the Location)
"PD3RFR PA1TEST-08″ PA1TEST responds with a signal report
"PA1TEST PD3RFR R-12″ PD3RFR responds (replies) with a signal report
"PD3RFR PA1TEST Rahman" PD3RFR says reception report received
"CQ PD3RFR JO22″ PD3RFR goes on to a new general call

It’s handy to use the online PSK Reporter Tool so you can see where your FT8 signal is received with your particular transmitter and antenna setup. Then you don’t need to unnecessarily call stations that you see, but who do not hear you.

On the screenshot of the  WSJT-X program [right] I was in a QSO with an Amateur in Scotland. As with JT65, there is a ‘Waterfall’ display which shows several QSOs. After tuning to an FT8 frequency, you see the received stations every 15 seconds in the ‘Band Activity’ box . If you see an interesting station, click on a CQ message (pink lines) to respond. If you receive an answer, you will see the response in the ‘RX Frequency’ box on the frequency where you send and receive. The colours are set in the software preferences but I just left them at the default. Unlike JT65, the advantage of this software is that it goes through the whole process/QSO by itself. So just click once and the QSO is completed when your contact station responds. If you send out a CQ call, then you can have this answered automatically.

Logging a QSO to an ADIF file is easily done by the program itself. An ADIF file can be opened in settings, or the contact can be imported to another program like HRD Logbook. Of course it’s cumbersome to paste one file into another every time and then also forward it to, for example, LoTW or eQSL. Therefore it’s useful to install an extra piece of software JTAlertX [from version 2.10.1 shown below]. This program allows you to automatically forward an entry to your preferred logbook/application, for example HRD. You can also permit this program to alert you to DXCC and calls that you would like to work in your log.

FT8 is used on different shortwave bands in upper sideband mode. For the novice that is on 10 meters at 28.074 MHz, 20 meters 14.074 MHz, and 40 meters 7.074 MHz.

Because radio amateurs like to unite themselves in clubs, there is a new FT8 Digital Mode Club created through an initiative of two Austrian Amateurs. I’ve joined, you never know what it may be useful for ;-). I received membership number 608, an indication that there are quite a few who have adopted this new mode already.

~ Richard, PD3RFR
   Reprinted with permission
   Translation by Google and VE7TI

For more information and other interesting articles check Richard’s website

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A 6m Loop Antenna

A Communicator Reprise: July 2010

For the original article:

This weekend project is inexpensive,  yields  good  SWR  and works well with an auto tuner. Tune it  for  50.125  and  enjoy  some  DX Fun.

Six metres has some interesting openings.  Sunday evening I worked W7RN in Virginia City Nevada with a crystal clear 59+  signal on USB… was my first DM09 grid square on six metres.  My antenna, a simple horizontally polarized ½λ dipole made with ½” aluminum tubing mounted low on the side of my roof.  I was delighted to say the least.  AND my 6 metre J-pole turns out to work wonderfully on the 10 metre band and I was able to take a New Caledonia QSO this weekend as well.  Ham heaven for those of us not running a lot of power or fancy multi-element antennas on 70 foot towers.  All my antennas barely clear the peak of the roof, and I am amazed every time I make a DX contact.

So,  if you wanted to get on 6m and don’t have  room for, or the permission to install, a  large multi element antenna, here is one that will – when conditions are right – allow you to get on 6 and experience the “magic band.”

The  antenna  is  not  hard  to  build  [assuming  basic  metalworking  tools]  and  takes  basically  one  piece  of aluminum plate and one aluminum ‘strap’ which you can find at Metal Supermarket, ABC Traders or MetalMart, and one 1” dia. piece of ABS or PVC tubing with caps, a SO-239 and 17” of #12 solid copper wire.  The strap is slotted  to  allow  major  tuning  for what 500 KHz of bandwidth you want to work.  It’s a loop, so its hi-Q and thus narrow band. But it’s small(ish) and works horizontally or vertically.

If these are too small, open the original

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The first 'nation in space' has officially left Earth!

Asgardia, a self-declared nation, is now floating above us, drifting toward the International Space Station... and perhaps destiny.

Eric Mack - CNet News

An odd but intriguing experiment in technology, diplomacy, governance and space exploration, among other things, has officially begun its journey.

After being delayed one day, an Orbital ATK Antares rocket carrying a cubesat named Asgardia-1 launched from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia early Sunday. The milk carton-sized satellite makes up the entirety of territory of the self-proclaimed "Space Kingdom" of Asgardia.

"Asgardia space kingdom has now established its sovereign territory in space," read an online statement.

Over 300,000 people signed up online to become "citizens" of the nation over the last year. The main privilege of citizenship so far involves the right to upload data to Asgardia-1 for safekeeping in orbit, seemingly far away from the pesky governments and laws of Earth-bound countries.

But if you really dig down into Asgardia's terms and conditions, you'll find that those privileges are still subject to earthly copyright laws -- they're set up under the laws of Austria.

As of now, Asgardia's statehood isn't acknowledged by any other actual countries or the United Nations, and it doesn't really even fit the definition of a nation since it's not possible for a human to physically live in Asgardia.

For now, though, Asgardia is a tiny satellite inside a Cygnus spacecraft set to dock with the International Space Station Tuesday morning. There, Asgardia-1 will patiently wait while Orbital ATK completes its primary mission to resupply the ISS.

After about a month, the Cygnus will detach and climb to a higher altitude where the nation-in-a-box will be deployed into orbit.

We'll see if the activation of Asgardia-1 heralds the beginning of a new era of extra-planetary citizenship, or if it slowly fades into obscurity with each trip around our planet and its nearly 200 more conventional nations.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

DKARS Magazine

Some English Content... Excellent Articles

The Dutch Kingdom Amateur Radio Society (DKARS) is a foundation to defend the interests of Radio amateurs within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. They publish an excellent monthly magazine which is mostly in Dutch, but with a few English articles. Many of the articles are technical. It is not difficult to cut text from the .PDF file and paste it into a translator like Microsoft or Google so anyone can read it.

The Editor writes:

DKARS does not copyright and you may freely send this link to as many radio-friends as possible. DKARS Magazine normally appears every month and we appreciate any contributions that are radio amateur related.

On behalf of the Dutch Kingdom Amateur Radio Society I wish you a lot of reading pleasure after you click on the link below:

Link to the December issue.

Would you rather download a PDF to browse the Magazine on-line? If so, go to this link:

on behalf of the DKARS

Peter Dan

Secretary DKARS

Sunday, November 12, 2017

CQ WW [SSB] Contest (2)

Canada 150 and VE7RAC Made It Special

As mentioned in a previous post, a number of Surrey Amateurs worked the CQ WW [SSB] contest a few weeks ago. I was fortunate enough to be one of the operators at VE7IO's excellent station. We were using the call VE7RAC as part of the RAC Canada 150 celebration.

Here is a brief recap video

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Science of World War I: Communications

Amateur Radio Matured That Decade

The rapid expansion and even "mania" for amateur radio, with many thousands of transmitters set up by 1910, led to a wide spread problem of inadvertent and even malicious radio interference with commercial and military radio systems. Some of the problem came from amateurs using crude spark-transmitters that spread signals across a wide part of the radio spectrum. In 1912 after the RMS Titanic sank, the United States Congress passed the Radio Act of 1912, which restricted private stations to wavelengths of 200 meters or shorter (1500 kHz or higher). These "short wave" frequencies were generally considered useless at the time, and the number of radio hobbyists in the U.S. is estimated to have dropped by as much as 88%. Other countries followed suit and by 1913 the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea was convened and produced a treaty requiring shipboard radio stations to be manned 24 hours a day. The Radio Act of 1912 also marked the beginning of U.S. federal licensing of amateur radio operators and stations. The origin of the term "ham", as a synonym for an amateur radio operator, was a taunt by professional operators. But the restrictions of the Radio Act of 1912 spurred Amateur Radio forward and Hams experimented, developing new technology to use the restricted frequencies that were first believed to be useless. These innovations passed into the commercial sector and radio use made significant strides in the years that followed.

World War I is frequently referred to as "the first modern war," since a number of technological inventions made their debut during the war, which lasted from 1914 to 1918. Nowhere was this more true than in the realm of communications — the recent introduction of electricity- and radio-based communications revolutionized the art of war, joining other advances such as military airplanes, tanks, machine guns and chemical weapons.

Despite these new technologies, many military leaders were slow to take advantage of them and continued to wage war as if it were a cavalry-based affair. Their reluctance (or inability) to adapt to new methods of warfare has been cited as one reason World War I was such a bloody affair, resulting in more than 17 million civilian and military deaths. 

A portable radio transmitting station in Germany, 1919
World War I had put a stop to amateur radio. In the United States, Congress ordered all amateur radio operators to cease operation and even dismantle their equipment. These restrictions were lifted after World War I ended, and the amateur radio service restarted on October 1, 1919. Many Amateur Radio operators are veterans, some got their start in radio communications while serving. 

Please take a moment tomorrow, November 11th, to remember the many who sacrificed for our freedom in military operations.

To read the entire story above, click:


A Simple Field Strength Meter

A Communicator Reprise... Summer 2011 Anyone use a field strength meter anymore?   It’s kind-of like a radiometer for RF energy...

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