I am a newly relicensed ham (June 2011) after being out of the hobby for more than 15 years. AK4JA is my fourth Amateur Radio license call, starting with my Novice, then Advanced (KF4GT), first Extra class call (WU4Z) -- which expired and was reissued to another ham -- and, of course, my present call.
Looking for something to "pick up" your ham experience? Tired of the ho-hum just-snagged-another-one-with-100-watts-same-old-same-old experience? One option: try QRP. With QRP every contact will be more of a workout, every contact will force you to hone your operating skills, every contact will force you to have more patience, making you to put up better antennas, and study . . . and experiment. In the end, when you make the contact via QRP it will probably leave with you a sense of pride that you may have long ago lost, something similar to those first contacts when you first got licensed. If you like a challenge, QRP is, to me, a logical progression in ham radio.
My preferred operating mode is CW at QRP, or QRPp, power levels; second love, newly found, is operating portable using a FT-817ND Yaesu, all band, all mode QRP rig. That little rig has been a workhorse and, based on my experience with it so far, I'd buy another one in a heartbeat. I also have an FT-897 Yaesu and a Mantiz FX-2 "pocket-sized" portable rig that works great on both 30 and 40 meters. Power output on the Mantiz FX-2 is 4 watts on 40 meters, 3 watts on 30 meters. It has a digital dial tuning system, memory, built in SWR tester, keyer, and other nice options that make it a nice portable rig at a low cost. I've worked European DX with it on 30 meters several times.
I try to operate portable on all HF bands. Most often you'll find me on in late afternoons and early evenings on 60 meters on 5.3465 MHz "Channel 2", where most of the QRP 60 meter activity is found. I am presently working on a QRP WAS and a QRP all USA grid squares on 60 meters. I also have already made several 1,000 + mile-per-watt SSB contacts on 60 meters. My longest 60 meter, SSB, 1,000 mile-per-watt contact so far was to G0HNW near Leeds, in the UK, on 500 mw (0.5 watt) from Cheaha Mountain near Talladega, AL. That worked out to be over 8,000 miles per watt.
I do a fair amount of digimode work -- mostly PSK31 -- as well, while operating portable. Up to this point, I mainly work 10 meters when operating PSK modes. One of my favorite PSK31 contacts so far was to an Argentinian ham (LU9DGE) when I worked him on 10 meters while I was running 400 milliwatts. That was 4,978 miles on 400 milliwatts, a 12,445 mile-per-watt contact. Man, what a thrill!
Update: I just recently made a contact with ZL3KR in New Zealand while running 500 milliwatts on PSK31 which works out to be approximately 16,700 miles per watt, surpassing -- miles per watt wise, that is -- my previous contact with LU9DGE mentioned above.
I also occasionally use JT65 digimode. While not exactly a conversational QSO mode, it's supposed to be a good weak signal mode -- even though at this point I haven't found it, for some reason, to be better at working weaker signals than I can work on PSK31. One thing for sure, you don't have to be a fast typist to use JT65 effectively and JT65 will probably never be a Field Day operating mode that will garner a lot of points unless they change the standard format used for QSOs while operating JT65.
Another interest of mine is to build small QRP/QRPp transmitters using tubes. My current project is a Jones-style, push-pull QRP transmitter for the new 60 meter allocation that allows hams to use CW and some digital modes on 60 meters. So far, the big hold up on completing my 60 meter transmitter is the cost of crystals for use on the 60 meter band.
I also like to make antennas. So far I have built and use the following antennas: 160 meter band doublet fed with 450 ohm line (makes a great all-band antenna with a tuner), a 1/2 wave dipole resonant on 60 meters (makes a great 30 meter antenna as well with a tuner), a resonant on 60 meters end-fed half wave antenna (made the antenna matching unit for this one which was fun to do and I highly recommend it as a project), an end-fed-resonant-on-10-meters half wavelength vertical -- using a section of 450 ohm window line as the matching stub -- that works well on PSK31. Also, some mono-band dipoles for 30, 20, 40 and 60 meters, an end fed half waveantenna for 20 meters and a multiband 30/20 meter (links at the end of the 20 meter section)and a similar antenna for 12 and 17 meters for use in portable operation.
I currently have submitted forms for the following award certificates issued by QRPARCI (www.qrparci.org): 1000-Mile-per-Watt award on the following bands: 10, 12, 15, 17, 20, 30, and 40 meter bands. Currently, that is 7 bands with at least one (most of them I have several) thousand mile per watt CW contacts on each band. I also have a WAC (worked all continents) award on 30 meters using QRP power & CW only. Additionally, I just completed a 300 Grid Squares on 30 meters CW QRP award and also a DX QRP Award on 30 meters, in which I worked 100 countries via QRP on the 30 meter band alone, all using only one mode - CW.
As a final note on this biography, after over 10 years as an active ham I can't help but imagine what the ham bands in general would be like if hams actually followed this rule in the FCC's Part 97 regulations:
(a) An amateur station must use the minimum transmitter power necessary to carry out the desired communications.
It doesn't say run your radio at its maximum power output level just because it will go that high. If eveyone does, you can bet that guarantees unnecessary interference to your fellow hams. It's also interesting that the rule says "must use" instead of "if you feel like it", or "only if you are causing interference to your fellow hams". This rule (FCC Part 97.313 a) has its base in the spirit of best operating practices and courtesy to fellow hams, not to mention just plain common sense.
What a huge difference there would be, especially in the very crowded 75 meter and 40 meter phone portions of the bands, if hams would only follow this regulation -- a regulation no less important, by the way, than any other regulation that is mandated by the FCC in Part 97. Regrettably, asking some hams to reduce their transmitter power to the minimum needed is, in their minds, "crazy talk", or something akin to sacrilege.
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