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I am a 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 first license as a Technician operating in the Novice portions of the HF bands (KB4BDL), then Advanced (KF4GT), first Extra class call (WU4Z) -- which expired and was reissued to another ham -- and, of course, my present call after going through all the tests again in June of 2011.

Looking for something to "pick up" your ham experience? Tired of the ho-hum just-snagged-another-one-with-100/400/1000/1500-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 you with a sense of pride that you may have long ago lost, something similar to those first contacts you made as a new ham. If you like a challenge, QRP is, to me, a logical progression for someone who has been in ham radio for a while.  Learn to do more with less.  

Some say life is too short for QRP.  The truth is that ife is too short, period! If you lived to be 150 years old, you'd end up thinking life was still too short.  That's because it is.  

My preferred operating mode is CW at QRP, or QRPp, power levels; second love is homebrewing vacuum tube gear.  I also greatly enjoy 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 that I use mainly for a mobile rig now. For a HF mobile rig antenna I use a MFJ-1662 "manual screwdriver" model and have been very pleased with it. One of my favorite contacts using it was when I worked New Zealand on 30 meters CW one early morning while driving my car down Interstate 75 in central Georgia when I was on a road trip to Florida.  The other favorite mobile contact was working, Steve, VK7CW in Tasmania from my mobile on 5 watts on 30 meters while traveling in Tennessee.

I have worked all US states on 30 meters CW at QRP power levels. I also have earned a WAS certificate (mixed CW and digital) from the ARRL. I also have 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) while operating portable from Cheaha Mountain State Park near Talladega, AL. That worked out to be over 8,000 miles per watt and was a hoot.

I do a fair amount of digimode work -- mostly JT-9 now -- as well,  I also operate JT-65 but do not prefer to use it over JT-9.  While not exactly a conversational QSO mode, it's (JT-9) a great low power operating mode. One thing for sure, you don't have to be a fast typist to use JT-65 or JT-9 effectively and JT-65 or JT-9 will probably never be Field Day operating modes that will garner a lot of points unless they change the standard format used for QSOs while operating JT-65 or JT-9.  Like JT-65,  JT-9 is also a weak signal operating mode.  I prefer to use it because it is more efficient bandwidth-wise, but, regrettably, it is not nearly as popular as JT-65. If you run JT-65 or JT-9,  please follow the recommendation of the operating mode's author, Joe Taylor, and reduce your power and audio feed into the signal to the minimum needed.  Regrettably, overmodulated and overpowering signals from JT-65 are terrible about bleeding over into the JT9 operating frequencies, due to receiver overload and intermodulation, and it's something that happens almost every day.  If you can't make the contacts with the recommended power,  you most likely don't have decent enough propagation and are "trying to force the issue" by jacking up your audio and your power, which usually results in interference to your fellow hams.

As I mentioned before, I would prefer to operate using JT-9 because it is more efficient bandwidth-wise but there just aren't as many JT-9 operators on the bands as there are JT65 operators.  That's a shame, I know, but it's a fact.  Having more of those digital operators on JT9 would help with that.  I'm guessing that you could easily quadruple the number of QSOs in the same space as JT65 occupies without causing interference and overlapping of signals that you have on JT-65 frequencies at times. WJST-X software allows you to work either JT-65 or JT-9 and it currently is a great program for those two modes.  I use a Linux computer and a Tigertronics SignaLink interface for my digital contacts. I use WSJTX for JT-65 and JT-9 operation and FLDIGI for most everything else.   Both are excellent programs and work well in Linux.

I have also done a little PSK31 digital operating. 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. A new world record? Nope, not hardly but 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.

But even though the currently popular digital operating modes are fun, to me there will never be a better operating mode than CW - the original digital mode.  No mode can offer so much for so little.  A CW transmitter is the epitome of simplicity and a CW receiver is the same.  No computer is required to decode CW.   If someone with half a brain and with enough get up and go in their system to learn it does so, CW offers the ultimate in bang for the buck returns.  Up to this point in my operating experience, CW has beaten the other digital operating modes as far as miles per watt contacts are concerned.  CW and QRP were made for each other.  If you haven't learned CW, put the effort in to learn it and get on the air.  Making contacts is the very best way to increase your speed to the next level.

I just recently built my first Jones Style tube transmitter (not my first tube transmitter, but my first Jones Style tube transmitter). It was sheer joy to hear the little transmitter right on frequency and steady when I first fired it up.  You can follow my Jones Style homebrew transmitter escapades here: 




Just yesterday (September 4th, 2013) I worked K4AXF, Jim, in Virginia using CW on my new Micronaut transmitter that I built from scratch. Power output from the Micronaut was 10 milliwatts. K4AXF was 470 miles away from me and that works out to be 47,000 miles per watt. I'm still on cloud 9 from that contact! (Thank you, Jim, for a great receiving station, with the TenTec Corsair receiver's outstanding performance helping make it happen)


I just worked (09/16/2013) Jay, WB5UDA, at the KC5NX Club Station in Nemo, Texas on 14.060 MHz using my homebrew 20 meter version of a Micronaut transmitter while running 5 mw. The KC5NX Club station was 755 miles from me and 755 (miles) divided by 0.005 (5 mw) works out to be a 151,000 miles per watt contact, a new record for me. Just when I think things can't get any better, the thrills just keep on getting even better than before. Needless to say, I'm hooked on milliwatting now. Note: there is a picture of the homebrew transmitter I built and used to make the 151,000 miles per watt contact further below.  For a receiver I use my FT-817 and a separate simple dipole receiving antenna, which gives me the added bonus of full QSK as well.

EVEN FURTHER UPDATE:  Tonight (March 3, 2014 at 08:35 UTC) I worked VK4TJ, John, in Top Camp, Australia on 20 mw.  John is 9802 miles from me and that works out to be a 454,100 miles per watt contact, which is my best contact yet, miles per watt wise, and another personal record for me.   Thanks, John, for a super job of pulling me out of the noise -  another thrilling contact thanks to your excellent help!

Can you believe it? Hold those presses once more: LATEST, LATEST UPDATE:   This morning, April 19th, 2014 at 08:55 UTC, I worked John, VK4TJ, again but this time I was running 4 mw.  Since John is 9,082 miles from me that makes this contact to be a 1,816,400 miles per watt contact.  That contact left me breathless.  With sunspots being near 300 the day before and unsettled conditions that can be conducive to some really long contacts we gave it a try and, lo and behold, it worked! The antennas used?  I used a dipole at 45 feet above ground level and John used a yagi at 9 meters high. Whoa, there's even more.   A few days after I worked John, I worked Steve, VK7CW, on 4 mw and Steve is 9,657 miles from me - even further than John.  That works out to be 2,414,250 miles per watt.  Can the thrills get any better? I'm almost afraid to find out!  A picture of the transmitter I used to make the contacts is shown below:

The little transmitter is a one transistor (2N4401) oscillator/final transmitter with variable output power through a potentiometer in the emitter circuit of the oscillator.  The circuit board design uses "islands" created with a modified drill bit for the connecting points and the remainder of the board forms a "ground plane". Using that method is my favorite method at this time to homebrew transmitters and receivers. The transmitter is keyed via a switching transistor that interrupts power to the oscillator. The transmitter is crystal controlled and a ton of fun to use, especially on 20 meters, where I have had the greatest success so far with my QRPp operation. I have also built similar transmitters for 80, 40, 30 and 17 (and just within the last week - May 25, 2015) on 60 meters.  Thank you, Larry, K5ZRK, for that 60 meter CW contact on 5.348 MHz.   Eventually, I plan to build transmitters for 15, 12 and 10 meters using similar designs.  For me, homebrewing low power transmitters is nothing less than addictive.

Here is a copy of an award garnered through this little unit in the picture above. I want to point out that the award would not be possible without the yeoman's work at the other end of the QSO by Jay Stanfield, WB5UDA, who, with the help of an excellent station, did more than his part to make this happen. Thanks, Jay!

NOTE: I have circled the section in this copy that shows the miles per watt achieved in this contact.

Just to put this contact in perspective though, follow this link: http://www.naqcc.info/qrpworks.html.  From there you will see what can be accomplished when conditions are right and everything falls into place. My accomplishment above pales in comparision. Like the link shows, QRP works and can amaze at times.

I also like to make antennas. So far I have built and used the following wire antennas: 160 meter band doublet fed with 450 ohm line (makes a decent 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. One of the antennas I've made is a 140 foot long doublet, center fed with 300 ohm twin lead and using a tuner to operate it as a multiband antenna on 10 through 160 meters. While the antenna is short for the 160 meter band, nonethless I have made several 1000 mile per watt 160 meter band contacts using it.  Also, I have built some portable mono-band dipoles for 60, 40, 30, 20, 17, and 12 meters as well as various antennas for the 2 meter band and the 70 cm band.  Latest addition: attic doublet fed with 300 ohm twin lead and a balanced output tuner. It's my "bad weather" digital modes antenna.  I've worked stations on the other side of the world with it, using JT-9 digital mode, even though it is a compromise antenna.  Even though it's far from an ideal antenna, nonetheless by using some of the very efficient (albeit slow) digital modes, like JT-9, amazing distance contacts can still be made.

I currently hold QRP Amateur Club International (www.qrparci.org): 1000-Mile-per-Watt awards on the following bands: 6, 10, 12, 15, 17, 20, 30, 40, 60, 80 and 160 meters. I also have a QRPARCI 10 band, all CW, 1000 mile per watt award certificate for that accomplishment. I need to submit my application for 11 bands with a 1,000 mile per watt contact or more.  Re:  making 1,000 mile per watt contacts: if you are persistent, if the propagation is good on the band, if the station on the other end is willing at times to work a weak signal station, and if you love a challenge,  then you'll be right on track.  Based on personal experience, the absolute best time to add to your 1,000 mile per watt contacts is during a major contest.  Most operators during contests will go the extra mile to work weak signal stations, especially near the end of the contest period.

I also have a WAC (worked all continents) award on 30 meters using QRP power & CW only. Additionally, I just completed working 400 Grid Squares on 30 meters and have received my CW QRP 400th Grid Square award -- again, all CW and all QRP. I also have a DX QRP Award on 30 meters, in which I worked over 100 countries (115 at last count) via QRP power - on the 30 meter band alone, all using only one mode - CW. Up to this point 30 meters has been the band on which I have made the greatest number of DX CW contacts. 

I am also active in the Straight Key Century Club - member number: 10535T - an excellent club that promotes the use of CW. I am a CW fan and operate CW for the vast majority of the contacts I have made in Ham Radio. Please check out the SKCC at: www.skccgroup.com

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:

97.313 Transmitter power standards.-

(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 many hams to reduce their transmitter power to the minimum needed is, in their minds, "crazy talk", or something akin to sacrilege.



8417904 Last modified: 2017-10-29 12:08:23, 16792 bytes

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