Category Archives: Operating

QRP ARCI adds nifty new way to log awards data

If you’re into collecting awards for QRP operating, consider stopping by a new QRP ARCI site just set up buy Julian – AK4VL. He’s done a very nice job of creating a web page that allows quick efficient data entry for claiming QRP operating awards. Currently, the site is set up for Kilometers Per Watt (KMPW) award. So, if you’re running 5w or less and QSO with stations over about 5,000 Km away (regardless of their power) you can stop by Julio’s site, enter you QSO data and submit the information for an award through QRP ARCI.

He’ll be adding interfaces for more awards soon. Stop by and have a look. He’s done a very nice job.

Julio is also the creator of the HAMjitsu QRP site.

Thanks Julio!

QRP operating awards

The January issue of QST features an article entitled, “One-thousand Miles Per Watt” which focuses on operating awards the QRP enthusiast can earn. I went back through my logbook and discovered I had more than half a dozen QSOs in 2013 that qualified for the 1,000 miles per watt! Although the QST article talks primarily about NAQCC and QRP ARCI awards, there are many other organizations that offer QRP awards. For example, DXAwards.com list dozens of these awards from around the world (some links have gone stale but the page is actively updated).

This past weekend I submitted the required log info on my Thousand Miles Per Watt QSOs to NAQCC and QRP ARCI. Both clubs give you the option of having the awards sent FREE via email or, for a nominal shipping fee, sent via snail mail. I used info from my LoTW entries, which also includes a QSO confirmation number and date. For the most part the awards are done on the honor system, but I felt better including LoTW proof of my QSOs.

Can’t wait to receive my awards, get them framed and up on the walls of my shack. At 5w or less and with my simple, fixed wire antenna I know I’ve earned each of those awards, so I’m proud to show them off.

How about you?

To master CW at higher speeds: stay behind to get ahead

After reading more of The Art and Skill of Radio Telegraphy I agree that a good way to be able to read (and copy) high speed CW is to resist the temptation to write (either literally or in your mind) each character as you hear it. Instead, let the code you are receiving get 1-2 characters ahead of where you are actively hearing, so you are always “copying behind.” Your mind has a buffer you can tap into. Use that buffer to store those few characters being sent just ahead of where you are actively listening and copying.

By so doing, you can relax. But you must remain calm and confident you’re not going to worry about missing a few characters along the way.

It takes a little practice, but it can be done.

I’ve also bumped up my practice to include 35 wpm, even though I’m only able to get a word or two here and there. As the book says, listening to code well above what you can copy is also beneficial. I agree. One thing for sure is that after listening to 5-7 minutes of CW at 35 wpm, 25 wpm is practically a breeze.

Improving CW receiving speed

I’ve been reading “The Art and Skill of Radio-Telegraphy” by William G. Pierpont, N0HFF (SK – 2003), 3rd revised edition July 6, 2001. According to Pierpont, a “skilled” operator can copy and send 35-40 wpm (p. 37). Although I realize this is a somewhat arbitrary measure, I’ve decided to set myself the goal of solid copy and keying at 40 wpm by December 2013. I’m already feeling more comfortable at 30 wpm, although I still have a ways to go before I am copying 100%. Still, his point is well taken, that to learn CW well you must take practice regularly and from a source sending perfect code. By so doing your brain learns the true sound of words sent.

I agree. A comparison is trying to learn to speak a new language by speaking with someone who has sloppy speech habits such as slurring words, mumbling or mispronouncing words. You may learn the language, but your own skill and accomplishment is diminished because what learned is defective.

As a lifelong devotee of CW it’s exciting to think of mastering code into the 40 wpm range and beyond. I first learned Morse code at about age 11 or 12. My Dad bought a code practice oscillator for me and would send me code to copy, then ask me to send code. He had saved or obtained a 1963 ARRL booklet, “Learning the Radiotelegraph Code” (see below) which, at the time cost $0.50. In it are lessons sung code practice groups. That’s where it all started for me.

Image

 

My desire to double my receiving and sending speed is really a new chapter for me in CW. I’ve spent years stuck in 2nd gear (20 wpm), which, now that I am knocking at the door of 30 wpm (3rd gear), seems relatively slow. That gives me the impetus to go for 40 wpm, knowing with that accomplishment, 30 wpm will seem relatively slow. I guess 50 wpm would be overdrive.

An ultimate goal is summed up in the book for as, “The “pro” in
code is completely relaxed: he knows he can read and copy it, even while doing something else.”

The book makes important points about best practices to improve CW skill and speed: “first, listening at any speed where we can understand all or nearly all of what is sent; next, there is listening at speeds where we can “read” maybe 75% of it; and finally there is listening to sending so fast that we can only catch some letters or a word here and there. Each kind is valuable.” And, “The essence of code learning, like language, is familiarity that means over-learning. That is, learning to the point where it is automatic, without thinking about how we are doing it: the dit and dash, or even the words.” And this too, “…the less hard we try, the better
we will receive. Don’t ever stop to try to figure out something you didn’t catch. Keep following the sender – keep listening and you will soon be getting enough to make sense out of every sentence, and in time you will get all of it.”

One final note. I’ve found Ham Morse to be an excellent app for CW practice (at any speed). This iPhone app provides multiple types of practice (words, pro signs, numbers, callsigns, QSOs, alphabet, punctuation, BBC news clips, or everything) along with fully adjustable speeds: from 5-50 wpm in 1 wpm increments. Highly recommended.

Image

 

72 for now. Back to practice!

Breaking the 30 wpm barrier – update

It’s been nearly 2 months since I set a goal of being able to copy CW at 30 wpm. I’m now doing 25 wpm at nearly 100% copy. At 30 wpm I’m about at about 50% copy but improving steadily.

I practice 3-5 times per week for about 15-20 minutes per session using the W1AW code practice site which offers practice up to 40 wpm. At some point I hope to reach and exceed 40 wpm, then I’ll need to find another code practice resource.

Now that my speed continues to improve it’s great to be able to copy at higher rates completely without writing anything. At these higher speeds CW becomes much more like conversing in a language and not just “copying code.”

I find that the W1AW code practice is more challenging than copying CW in a QSO, because it’s more difficult to anticipate what is being received. Concentration is crucial. During a QSO, especially brief QSO’s containing standard information (RST, OP & QTH) it’s much easier to copy at high speed. My sense is that if I can copy even at 50% at 30 wpm from W1AW, I can probably hold my own at 30 wpm in a QSO.

Of course when it comes to contesting, higher speeds are even easier on CW since the exchange is so brief, typically just a few numbers or a location abbreviation.

Perhaps by year-end I’ll be up in the 40 wpm range!

I just stopped by K0RU’s site and listened to a sample of 50 wpm CW. It’s hard to imagine copying at that rate, but Rob notes he can copy above 70 wpm for brief periods. For him CW is a language not a mode. I would have to agree.

Mini QRP to the field

On the evening of July 28th I took a short drive from Moscow, Idaho to Roundtop Park in Pullman, Washington where I set up my S9 vertical against a very tall pine tree, hooked up half a dozen radials across very dry weeds and ground, and then fired up my KX3 on 20m.

Here are a few photos from my setup on Roundtop at about 7pm local time.

20130729-212646.jpg
This is the sign at the entrance to the short trail leading to Roundtop.

20130729-212745.jpg
Here’s the KX3 with the S9 just beyond overlooking The Palouse on a beautiful Pacific Northwest evening.

Conditions at Gray Line time on 20m were very good. Lots of DX activity including Brazil, Russia and Sweden. I was able to work 2 Russian hams and another ham in Belarus. I was running about 3W on CW.

I was impressed considering the radials were, for the most part, not even touching the ground. Proving once again that it doesn’t always pay to get too hung up on all the technical details with antennas and radials.

The propagation gods were smiling down, no doubt!

TFR outside Moscow, ID

Took a short trip to a small, local pond on the east side of Moscow, ID to work the museum ships weekend.

I brought my KX3 and SV9 40-10 vertical and set up a few feet from the pond, close enough to see the fish and baby ducks swimming by.

Condx from my home QTH were not good so I wanted to see what a change of location and antenna might do.

I did work NB6GC – The USS Hornet – in Bend, Oregon. Also heard two other museum ship sites but could not reach them: NI6BB – The battleship Iowa – and N5P – The Museum of the Pacific War – In Fredricksburg, TX.

Band conditions improved greatly at the pond, with 40m going from S9+ QRN to about S4 QRN. Across the rest of HF land QRN was S1 or less. Unfortunately a weekend geomagnetic storm really tamped down propagation from the Idaho panhandle.

Also heard VE3 CWM – The Canadian Cold War Museum – which is actually a real Cold War bunker 100 feet underground, designed for key people in the government to remain in for up to 30 days on the event the unthinkable ever happened. The bunker was officially closed nearly 20 years ago so now it’s just a tourist attraction of sorts. Wish I could have worked them but, no luck today.

Still it was great fun to be outside on the air. Setup took just a few minutes.

Next time I hope propagation is better – heard a few other stations comment on the marginal band condx.

Before I called it a day, had a real nice QSO with Doug – WB6MFV – in Oregon. He was running an FTDX 5K at about 700W – great sigs. Thanks for the QSO, Doug, rock on!

Here are some pix from the operating position.

20130602-183847.jpg
The SV9 is up against the tree. I ran four 20-ft radials off the grounded plate at the foot of the SV9.

20130602-183907.jpg

The view from my seat, pond-side. That’s my battery pack on top of the KX3. If you look carefully you can see two ducks swimming by.
20130602-183919.jpg
Here’s the welome sign to the park, with my setup in the distance on the left.