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I've been licensed since 1968 and started The Radio Club At A. W. Dimmit Jr. High in the 7th grade. I am only 13 years older than my call sign! I was WN7KWM then. (Seated on the left) We had a Hallicrafters S-38 Receiver (behind my left elbow)  They were very inexpensive in those days.  Retail: $45 (1955) I'm sure we got this one used. I do not recall what kind of transmitter we had.  I know that our club sponsor (Librarian Mr Hall) helped us put on a 40 meter dipol on the roof of one of the wings of the building.

Digital Modes (CW "IS" a digital mode)
My brother (W7CRV) and I were probably some of the earlier ones on the digital modes- with the old RadioShack MOD-III computers in 1983 running CW up to 90 WPM over the airwaves. We had to 'build' our own filters and tone decoders and interface them to the computers.

TRS-80 Tone Board interface

Back then, the computers were noisy and caused significant QRN being in close proximity to the RCVR. When the new modes were granted in '85, well, we just zoomed ahead with as many different types of authorized codes as we could with the advent of the home computer. We've had a great time tinkering with the digital modes before there were 'appliances' to 'buy' that didn't teach you anything about computer interfacing or how the signals get sent out on the radio.

The folks at NRI (National Radio Institute, when it was still in the home study business) were very interested in how I married the computer to the radio. (Interface Board above) It won me the distinction of being their graduate of the year in '83. They are no longer providing home study- went the way of Heath Kit... Too much competition and specialization and cheap out-sourced throw away junque.

My interests now include antenna design, QRP and radio direction finding. Now there's an interesting challenge; finding offending radios that are rogue transmitters being used illegally.

More Pirviliges:
The Saturday before Christmas 2013 was a pressent to myself passing the Extra class exam . I'm just a bit disappointed, but will not complain...the questions weren't quite as many of the technical questions I had to dust off my brain cells to refresh the technique. What the heck, all you can do is pass or fail. So, success is sweet! I passed!

I'll be brushing up on the CW so I can use the little bit of extended spectrum now.

Update Sept, 2014
I just had to dabble with a loop antenna.   I have to say thank you to my dad for his strictness about building  ham gear before buying a radio appliance.  So, that is exactly what I did.  I made a 40mtr loop just to see how these things worked. It worked great! Just had to manually tune it with a fiberglass rod connected to the capacitor rotor to keep the high voltage off my hand.


Incredibly sharp resonance:2:1 SWR range was 25KHz.

So, to get the HUGE capacitor needed to cover 40-15 meter bands I purchased MFJ's loop. 

I'm comparing it's operations to my homebrew loop.  We'll see if it lives up to the design claims.  I will probably not be in a place where I will have much real-estate to put up some of the enormous wire antennas, but low power and high sensitivity seem to have the digital modes covered. Look me up on PSK Reporter ( http://pskreporter.info/pskmap.html)  I've had great luck on SSB with my own loop.  Surprised me! So, I took the plunge with MFJ.  We'll see.

So, find me cruising the digital bands.

APRS?

About the same time I got bitten by the APRS bug. Well, there weren't any-all-in one type handheld radios to drool over. I wanted to participate anyway. So, I assembled an AD-HOC APRS setup:

Garmin eTrex handheld GPS on the dashboard
Japanese ViliV micro-netbook
Power inverter for the netbook wall wart
25 watt 2-mtr AMP
SWR bridge
Signalink interface
FT-817 Radio (Yaesu)
RS-232-USB converter for the old style GPS
Software: AGW Packet Engine, AGWTracker

This wasn't exactly 'building it before you buy it' but it was assembling the pieces I knew that would function as a workable system.
Worked GREAT! Wasn't very transportable from the car to the house, tho.

73's Mark

Update: October 9th, 2014

Since I had open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve which had genetic bicuspid flaps that wear out in 60 years, I decided to remove something from my call sign.  I lost the "B".  This was traditionally the method to indicate an Extra Class License.
It's tough to keep from saying something that has been around for 49 years.

Since I had to be 8 weeks without using my upper body about the most I could do was to build a new Peaberry SDR radio.

Yes, I did solder all the SMT chips. It took 2 weeks and a magnifier and tiny solder tip. I could NOT believe what I heard as far as sensitivity. I really think the BIG 3 radio manufacturers should take notice. This Peaberry was easily as sensitive as my $3000 BIG BOX radio from one of the BIG 3. With the sensitivity and QRP this does JT-65 just fine. It's just super with WSPR.net.

Update: August 2016

Changed Grid Square to reflect new QTH. I'm going to miss the lush garden but the new QTH has 4-90ft Douglas Fir trees. Nice antenna hangers. Too bad they weren't in the 4 corners of my lot.  I could have had the biggest rombic ever!

Update: September 2016

It appears the MFJ HI-Q Loop is performing as well as my homebrew loop. It is showing its age with some gear 'stick-sion' that tends to overshoot the tuning sweet spot. I have to toggle the fine-tune buttons to jog the motor just enough to move it ever so minutely.

UPDATE July, 2017 (edited 11/28/17)

Here is the latest from MultusSDR: (I had to have one!)


http://www.multus-sdr.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=65&products_id=190

It is not a "band group" radio like the one above, but all 160-10 meter SDR kit. It already has the SMT devices installed so all you do is put in the through hole items. You can order it pre-built. Had I known these were coming out I probably would NOT have plunked down close to 3-grand for one of the BIG-THREE radio companies.  These are 15db better on the noise floor than the mid-range priced BIG-THREE radios.  AMAZING! There is a new SDR radio from one of the BIG-THREE radio companies. This has them beat by $1000. I did some reasearch and this one has all the other SDR kits beat because no HIGH-END sound card is needed. It's all on board with PSoC (Programmable System-on-Chip). All control is over USB. Firmware is field programmable.
The software to run them is all FREE. See: HDSDR ( http://www.hdsdr.de/ ) and you're on the air with SDR.

Mark / 73 (Rev 2.0)

Update August 2017 (edited 11/28/17)
I was listening late one night around 14.074 and heard this new modulation type. I went through the website that gave examples of all the modulation types. None of them even came close. When that happens it drives me nuts trying to figure it out.
Finally came upon an article about an extension to WSJT-X called FT-8. Well, instead of waiting about 4 minutes to make a QSO confirmation it takes only 1 minute. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3iuPyIFhco
If you thought JT-65/9 modes modes sounded creepy, wait until you hear FT-8.
It might not be quite as sensitive as the JT-65/9 modes but you can sure rack up the contacts in a hurry.

These new sound card digital modes have started to make all the desk top TNCs obsolete. Your SDRs can no longer support any of the older modes like AMTOR because of the signal latency in the receiver. You really have to be careful when it comes to any of the hand-shaking modes. The digital latency through the SDR will probably kill it.

Mark / 73 (Rev 2.0)

8559355 Last modified: 2018-01-04 21:24:56, 9727 bytes

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