Greetings, and thanks for the look up!
MORSE CODE (From never to always): Learning Morse is about setting new habits including regular, consistent, and repetitive practice. If you put some time to it, you can do it!
After the misery of listening to Morse code (CW) practice tapes starting in 1984, I finally took a Novice class in '86 and landed a Novice license in Jan ’87. I had a desire to get privileges on the low end of the HF bands, so after some CW practice my speed was good enough to pass the 13 wpm General Class by June of '87. Contacts on the 30m band then became a daily habit that contributed the most to a final upgrade to the 20wpm Extra in Sept ’87 (9 months after the Novice). Since then, I've seldom had microphones plugged into the HF rigs as voice modes are not as fun to me as CW turned out to be.
THE DX BUG (How far can you go?): At around age 7, Santa Claus left a few Walkie-Talkies under the Christmas tree. I was intrigued to find out just how far I could reach with them and then first discovered the importance of antenna height by climbing higher up in neighborhood trees to make a farther contact. The eye for tower height already began! CB-SSB radio and Short Wave Listening supplemented my curiosity into the 1980s. An expanded world of HF DX was found after passing the final Extra Class license. I then began pursuing the ARRL DXCC awards on CW which is still a prime interest to this day.
AWARDS: Wall paper in the shack includes the following awards:
DXCC COUNTRY TOTALS: single mode (CW), (worked/confirmed):
I have 2063 “band countries” confirmed on CW, and 2449 worked on CW. Even though the DXCC "Challenge" award is currently a mixed mode type award, we only apply CW contacts to it. Maybe someday this award will be "mode" selective??
LOW BAND DXING FROM A CITY LOT: (153 countries on 160m and counting): I’ve been active on 80m/160m since Dec ’02 with an 18 month intermission in between. Some memorable and even sometimes repeated 160m contacts have been Australia (VK), Willis Is. (VK9), Japan (JA), New Zealand (ZL), and Asiatic Russia (UA0), along with Mongolia (JT) on 80m CW. Some of the 160m contests have been fun with most 50 states ‘workable’ at only 100w of power in just one contest weekend if conditions are just “average”! I’ve logged all states on 160m including HI and AK and all contacts on 80m/160m have been with less then 200w to this point. Caribbean contacts using 5w/QRP on 160m are achievable and makes for some fun on cold December/January evenings. 160m has been the most challenging band due to the common high QRN found in a city sub division. 160m from a city sub-division can be done, but get used to the frustration of hearing many stateside fellow DXers working stations that you can’t come close to hearing. Receive antennas and noise floor levels at ones location on 160m dictate who the big guns are on the band and not the amplifier. It’s all about signal-to-noise ratios on this band, and if you can’t hear them, you’re surely not going to work them! If your interested in working the low bands, I highly recommend visiting the website www.w8ji.com by Tom Rauch W8JI. His web site has an enormous amount of information regarding anything about 160m. Another great source of info is the book “Low Band Dxing”, by ON4UN and published by the ARRL.
QRP DXING ON CW: I’ve worked 169 DXCC countries using 5w/QRP power and even a few dozen countries using only 1 watt (QRPp). Contacts into Japan on 10m using 1 watt of power are some not to forget! I’ve seldom used an amp over the years and have been without one since 2003. Long path propagation on 40m and 80m deep into Asia is about the only times I find the need for more power. One thing to note to fellow QRP enthusiasts is that the guy you’re trying to work must have the good antenna and operating skills to pick 'your' weak signal out of the weeds. Just remember, there's allot more work on his end than there is on yours to make a QRP low power contact. PROPAGATION DICTATES WHEN AND WHEN NOT TO USE QRP!
DX PILE UPS (Bust em under 200w!): A good recipe is rare DX on 40m, 80m, or 160m in the evening. A big massive pile-up pins the S meter to the corner and snowballs to 5-10 kHz bandwidth of stations calling. These don’t happen often, but when they do, you will find out real quick if you have a good receiver front end! Skill, patience, DX station operator mind reading, and persistence are all needed for busting through pile-ups. For 99% of the time, if we can hear them, we'll put them in the log at 200w or less. There’s just something about busting a big pileup without an amp and knowing there’s a lot of power in that pile up you just busted through! Sometimes it can take a while, but once you plow through it at low power its a great feeling. It's even better when you work a rare one running 5w/QRP. Those QRP pile-up busting contacts are some of the most memorable contacts. None of us are perfect, but before you jump into pile ups, please read and understand this DX code of conduct that we should all abide by: http://www.dx-code.org/
THE DX CLUSTER: I sincerely thank all of the DX Cluster Sysops for the many years going back to the VHF “Packet-Cluster” days of the 1980’s, for the effort, time, and money they’ve put into the system. These fellow Hams have provided one of the best tools for DXers to use in the pursuit of DX. We all take for granted the present day of connecting via the internet to the DX Cluster Network. There was a lot of work back in the day to make a network of DX Cluster nodes via HF/VHF/UHF packet radio. Now, of course, many of these fellow Hams have transitioned connections of their nodes to the internet for all of us to use and enjoy.
THE REVERSE BEACON NETWORK: (http://www.reversebeacon.net/ ): The Reverse Beacon Network is a network of stations listening to the bands and reporting CW stations they hear and how well. In essence, ‘you’ become the beacon when you call CQ on CW on any HF band! This information is then instantly spotted onto the DX Cluster network. This has been one of the greatest tools for the study of HF propagation that I’ve run across in years of working HF. I’ve been amazed at the findings where my signal is heard, such as QRP/5w openings on 160m into the Caribbean, and very common 80m openings in the local mornings into Hawaii (KH6) and New Zealand (ZL) when you think the band is dead. You can compare your antenna systems to see which one does better in various directions on each band. This network is comprised of some of the same dedicated Hams that allow access nodes for the DX cluster, but in this case with the Reverse Beacon Network, they must “tie up” HF antennas and receivers across the bands at their location. Big thanks go to all of them for the making of this network!
RADIOS: HF transceivers are the “bread and butter” of the hobby. Many have asked if there are really big differences between a $1500 and a $7000 dollar radio. One analogy I've used in answering this question is using car prices and what you get for your money. Multiply the price of a new HF rig times 10; now take that amount and correlate it to what car you can buy with that amount of money, and think to yourself what the difference between them is. A $15k vs $70k car; both cars will get you from point A to B. The differences are………well, you be the judge, it's your money! If you wouldn't really notice a difference, then keep the money in your pocket and enjoy what you already have! Personally, I don't like getting fatigued in the drivers seat of a vehicle on long trips or in front of an HF rig during a 48 hour contest. A cheap HF rig with an annoying receiver front end that cant provide the selectivity required to dig small signals out in between very large ones is a rig I would not like. But, if your just a casual operator, and don't push things to the limit to make contacts, or don't sit in front of the radio for long periods of time, you will be just fine with most economical HF rigs.
We’ve had a few HF rigs over the years with a favor towards ICOMs. Here’s a list of them to share, along with a few comments:
PROFESSION:Senior Battery Test Engineer: R&D, testing-validation of LiION & NiMH battery systems, State-of-Charge (SOC) / State-of-Health (SOH) algorithms, battery system sub-components, and battery thermal management systems.
GIVING A HAND: (Helping others with HF operating interests): There are many facets in the HF segment of Amateur Radio, and it's nice to support and help fellow Hams or soon-to-be Hams with the understanding of antenna theory, operating techniques, station set up, contesting, DXing, propagation, and QSLing.
If your in the South East MI area and need some help with antennas or have some technical questions, please don't hesitate to send me an email as I will be glad to help out where ever I can. I'm also QRV in the local Detroit area on 145.780MHz FM simplex.
73 de WB8B / Bob
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