Saturday, January 16, 2021

It's Time to Get More Into Amateur Radio

 Out of curiosity, I looked at the topics of my past posts. Man, I was (am?) all over the place. Guns, Linux, Programming, Games, Servers...   Scattered all over the place. 

It has been suggested to me that while being varied in interests is healthy, dabbling all over the place makes me mediocre at most things. It is time to narrow down my interests and hobbies. I decided to invest more time and effort into just a few areas, one of which is good old amateur radio.

Yup, amateur radio. Notice I didn't say "ham" radio. Personally, the "ham" part bugs me. I know, it is silly, I just prefer Amateur Radio.

Now that my lovely lady (VE5TLS) and I (VE5KLS) have been licensed to operate, and have our callsigns, we have a world of cool activities available to us. Amateur radio is sometimes referred to as the hobby that encapsulates a hundred hobbies. There are many things to do that are related to amateur radio. I will only pick a few. Here's my plan for this year, and the near future:

Amateur Radio Satellite Communication

I look forward to tracking amateur radio satellites and using them as repeaters to communicate with other operators that share this interest. The idea of communicating with someone via an orbiting device is exiting to me. Heck, I can even use the International Space Station as a repeater. There is even a chance that I can communicate with someone aboard the ISS. How cool is that? Standing out in an open field near home and chatting with an astronaut up in space sounds awesome. I am really looking forward to satellite communication.

Low Power (QRP) Communications

While it is sometimes suggested that communicating with low power is not exactly a great idea, especially for beginners, I have decided to give it a shot anyways, and take on the challenge. Sometimes the easy way is not the most fun way, and QRP (the Q-code often used to describe low power radio  communication) could be a lot of fun. Many people do it. It is an amateur radio hobby unto itself. I especially like the idea that I can set up equipment to make this all portable. Good. I need to get out more, and get some exercise. Setting up a portable radio rig and antenna on the trails near town might be fun.

A Permanent Antenna Installation at Home

I need to make a decision and create an antenna system at home. I have configured a couple antennas with limited success in the past. Sadly, I have experienced strong winds that have damaged some installations. I have even snapped the wire of a fairly good end-fed antenna. My plan is to determine which HF bands I want to hang out in , and put up some quality, permanent, antenna structure to accomplish this goal. Setting up a permanent VHF/UHF is also a priority, and likely much easier. The last VHF/UHF antenna system came crashing down in very high winds. Lessons were learned.

The challenges:

Either of these endeavours require time and at least a minimum of equipment. I am slowly gaining equipment, and have plenty of time to do research and configure what is needed for success. My second mobile VHF/UHF radio (the Leixen VV-898S), used for satellite communications, is in the mail, and should arrive soon. After that I will acquire the Arrow II portable antenna, along with some cabling, connectors, and a battery system, and I should be almost ready to start bouncing my signals off of low earth orbiting satellites. For QRP, I will have to research a decent low power rig for someone on a tight budget.

An antenna solution for the home will require more time, money and effort. Oddly, for me, the biggest challenge is getting a tall mast up on a budget. I can build a wire antenna easily enough, it is just getting it as high as possible is a real challenge. An antenna for QRP will be easier, and portable.

Another challenge will be related directly to QRP communication. It is best that I try to communicate efficiently, and that means I will use CW mode. CW is Continuous Wave. This means that I will need to learn Morse code. Tammy (VE5TLS) and I have a couple of inexpensive straight keys on order. These look like the old Morse code keys seen in the movies. It will be a lot of fun learning Morse code together. It may even be a good excuse to build one or two code practice oscillators to help us practice.

I will record my adventures in amateur radio as I progress, and post my efforts here. Stay tuned, and wish me luck.

73 from VE5KLS