• [FOAR] The power supply connector dance contest... (21/21)

    From FOAR via rec.radio.info Admin@21:1/5 to All on Mon Jul 18 13:48:30 2022
    [continued from previous message]

    transport, emergencies, physics, competition, camaraderie, satellite, soil, ionosphere, sun, batteries, old, new, invention and exploration?


    In addition to the technical aspects there's the whole library of human interaction, teaching, learning, giving and receiving, socialising,
    friendship, discussion and debate to scratch the surface.


    In amateur terms I'm still a babe in the woods and the more I learn the
    more I realise that this is likely to continue for the rest of my life.


    For me, amateur radio is the binding force between interests. It's about wonder, curiosity and inspiration. It's about trying and failing, about
    testing and learning, about thinking and doing.


    The magic for me is that you can do this at any level. As a 10-year old
    with a freshly minted license, or as a 90-year old with a twinkle in your
    eye. You can approach this as a scientist, or as an educator, as a
    submariner, or an accountant, as a truck-driver or a boiler maker, from
    young to old and anywhere at all, amateur radio is just plain interesting.


    As for giving credit. I'd like to credit you for your contribution, for
    your participation and for your excitement.


    Keep up the wonder and continue to make this community your own. In the end amateur radio means different things to different people.


    What does amateur radio mean to you?


    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20191229.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

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    Lamenting the decline of the hobby.

    Posted: 21 Dec 2019 08:00 AM PST


    Foundations of Amateur Radio


    During the week I received an email from a fellow amateur who described
    that they were feeling deeply disturbed by the decline of the core
    knowledge underlying the education and certification of today's new
    amateurs. This is a topic I've covered previously and some of what I'm
    about to say will touch on things I've said before.


    I come from a long background in information technology. My first
    introduction was around the Motorola 6502 processor in the early 1980's. At that time a computer with 5 kilobytes of memory was a big deal. I learnt to harness every byte and nurture every bit. I learnt machine-code, BASIC,
    Pascal and Modula-2, which went on to form the basis of my current
    profession.


    The reason I raise this is because there are many parallels in the
    evolution of amateur radio and the evolution of information technology.


    For many years I lamented the dumbing down of the skill-set associated with newly fledged computer graduates. In a nut-shell, hand-coded would always
    beat Java. I held that view for a long time, until it occurred to me that
    in the big picture it didn't matter.


    Let me elaborate before you start jumping up and down.


    In computing, every two or so years, everything doubles, speed, memory, bandwidth, etc. The price pretty-much stays the same.


    This means that the inefficiencies introduced by "high-level" languages
    like Java result in very little in the way of performance loss, but in
    return the actual process of writing new software accelerates. This means
    that you end up with more functionality, quicker, at the cost of less
    efficient code. That's a pretty reasonable trade-off.


    If that example doesn't speak to you, it's the difference between rolling
    out turf from the back of a truck to construct a new golf course and teeing
    off in days, compared to spending a week planting grass, from seed,
    nurturing it and waiting at least two months until you might consider
    playing a round.


    Does a golfer care if was rolled turf or planted seed?


    A similar thing is happening in our hobby. The advent of Software Defined
    Radio creates a new category of experimentation. The component count is
    reduced by several orders of magnitude, in return for functionality built
    by way of software and maths.


    Of course that means that the new amateur of today has no idea in the
    operation of a valve and only limited understanding of a transistor, but in return they can create new modes such as WSPR, JT65, CODEC2 and the massive evolution of other digital experiments, and they can do that with tools
    unheard of 5 years ago, let alone 50 years ago.


    I am an example of an amateur who knows of the existence of a valve and I
    have a rudimentary understanding of how it works. I am seriously
    considering building my own Software Defined Radio, from scratch.


    I understand that this might not be something that comes easy and may even
    be seen as detrimental to the hobby, but I dare say that the introduction
    of the valve to a spark-gap operator caused the same experience, let alone
    the introduction of the transistor, the integrated circuit or the explosion
    of cheap single on chip systems that can be had for cents in the dollar.


    The essentials still remain. For example, right now I'm working on an
    antenna. It involves sourcing nuts that seem to be made from unobtainium,
    even though they are completely standard in our community and have been for longer than I've been alive.


    The self-learning of our hobby, the exploration, the investigation, the curiosity will endure. What we're going to be playing with tomorrow is not going to be anything like what we were doing yesterday, and I'm OK with
    that.


    That our hobby is changing is unmistakable. That's true for every human endeavour ever. I don't agree that there is a decline, nor do I think we've lost more than we've gained. I think the future of our hobby, our community
    and our pursuits is strong and bright.


    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20191222.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

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    How did you get here?

    Posted: 14 Dec 2019 08:00 AM PST


    Foundations of Amateur Radio


    During the week I celebrated my ninth birthday. You might think that I'm
    quite eloquent for a nine year old and you'd be right if it was related to
    how I came to be born. My ninth birthday as an amateur appeared in my diary unexpectedly on a Monday and I took the liberty of telling a few people.


    On one forum it started a wonderful series of comments from amateurs and
    would be amateurs about their experience coming to our community. I've
    shared mine before, so instead I'd like to share some of the stories that
    truly show just how diverse our amateur friends really are.




    Floyd KK3Q says: My Dad was into CB radio (back when it wasn't so bad) and
    I was his antenna guy. He had black lung so I was the one who took down and
    put up his antennas for him. In the process I learned a lot (ask me later
    about a "smoke poles" and "buried 12V batteries") Well, Dad and I got into
    the illegal SSB frequencies and one night we visited one of the locals who happened to be using a Kenwood 520 on 11 meters. One look at that rig and I
    was in love. I never heard of ham radio and when I asked about it the owner said the radio was a "ham" radio and you needed a license to run one. Which
    she didn't have by the way. So I says, "Maybe I'll get myself a ham license
    and a rig like the Kenwood." She laughed at me, "You're just a stupid truck mechanic, you'll never get a ham license."


    I never run from a challenge, skipped over Novice and got my Tech, wanted
    on 20 meters so under incentive licensing I had to upgrade to General which meant 13WPM CW and me partially deaf. Next I wanted SSTV but you had to be Advanced class so I upgraded. Finally I lusted after a short call sign so I upgraded to Extra back when 20WPM CW was still required. Been a nice run, learned a LOT from a lot of elmers.


    Floyd has been a ham for 42 years.




    Bill WK2KX has been a ham for 33 years. Will be 34 this January. Licensed
    at age 11. He goes on to say:


    My dad and I did it together, but most of my family are licensed as well.
    My grandfather started it. His main claim to fame is that he served as
    general Eisenhower's radio man during ww2 for about a month. Now I have
    both my parents, a bunch of cousins, aunts, uncles, etc who are all
    licensed - enough that I've considered creating a "worked all (our last
    name)s" award, haha.




    Tyrell KD7TKJ turned 18 as an amateur in September.


    My stepdad wasn't a ham, but one of the kids he grew up with was... And my stepdad told me a story at a young age about how he and this neighborhood
    kid would go to the auto wreckers to pick up scraps to build radios out of,
    and then use said radios to talk to Australia... The details of said story really were never complete, and I've never met anyone since that claimed to have built a radio from car parts... But it was enough to get me to (get my
    mom to) get the ARRL Now You're Talking book and get licensed. I've been addicted to this more than any money making Enterprise ever since.




    One amateur writes: I got my license 48 years ago. In high school, every
    day I'd pass a door with no window, just a sign "W2CXN". When I got the
    courage to knock, I was met with a person I knew liked his job. So happy to help. I remember thinking, how cool is that?




    Peter KD2TCQ has been an amateur for 4 days and got interested because of packet radio as well as the ability to do on HF (which he needs to upgrade
    to do via phone but he's studying for that)




    Ron K7UV says: I'm at 62 years and was licensed at age of 12. My dad and I built two receivers together and I wanted to do more than listen... the
    rest is history. Yup, I go way back before transistors and computers and remember cycles, mmF, aerials and condensers.


    My original Hammarland receiver had around 13 tubes, the transmitter had 6 tubes plus the 2 meter converter had 4 tubes and my SCR522 had at least 7 tubes. It kept my bedroom quite warm in the winter and sweltering in the
    summer when there was no air conditioner, just fans.


    The weird thing... I miss those days, maybe it's just my nostalgia kicking
    in. But radio and my interactions with my father were essentially what led
    me to radio.




    Matt KD2MGM says: I suppose We're only 3. My brother and I put CB radios in
    our trucks in the summer of 16' but we quickly realized living out in the country that there weren't really any people on the air waves and that 4
    watts wasn't enough to talk over the hills to each-other. These days we are
    not super active but still hop on the air once in a while.




    You can find all these stories and many more on the amateurradio sub on
    Reddit.


    For me, reminiscing over how you came to be part of this amazing community brings us all together. Our stories are not that different, we're all cut
    from the same cloth. Curiosity killed the cat, but it just makes amateur
    radio stronger.


    How long have you been an amateur and what got you in the door?


    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20191215.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

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    The SDR earthquake will change our hobby forever

    Posted: 07 Dec 2019 08:00 AM PST


    Foundations of Amateur Radio


    In the early 1990's when I was a broadcaster I would come into the studio
    and prepare my show. That involved hours of preparation, but on the
    technology side it involved vinyl records, reel-to-reel tape on open
    spools, looped tape on cart, running edits and razorblades. If you're not familiar, a running edit is where you're playing the tape at normal speed
    and you hit record at just the right moment to replace the content. Of
    course that also requires that the thing you're recording is synchronised. Imagine yourself with four hands and three ears and you'll have a good
    idea. Razor blade edits required that you mark the tape where the audio started, chop the tape at that point and stick it to another piece of tape.
    The joy of having sticky tape, razorblades and audio tape strewn around the room and hoping that the tape didn't let go when you transferred the audio
    to a broadcast tape.


    If you wanted to play a song at the right time, you had to start it by
    putting the needle on the record, spinning the platter until you heard the song, then stopping the platter, winding back half or three quarter turn
    from where the audio started, depending on the speed and torque of the turntable, and then when you hit play, you'd have about half a second until
    the music started.


    At the beginning of the 1990's that was how it was done.


    Then compact disc came in and we could cue up a song and hit the go button
    and get almost instant sound. You could change tracks at the turn of a
    dial. Vinyl records were phased out pretty quick.


    In 1993 I switched radio station and instead of reel-to-reel we used DAT,
    or Digital Audio Tape. It had the advantage that there was no discernible
    loss of audio quality as you copied material, but there was no editing,
    since the bits on the tape needed to be aligned and you just couldn't do
    that with most of the available gear. The start-up delay was horrendous
    too, several seconds if I recall. A lifetime of dead air if you got it
    wrong.


    You might be wondering why I'm going down memory lane like this?


    The reason is that something changed, fundamentally, almost overnight.


    In 1995 Microsoft launched Windows 95. It was in August and as the local computer show I organised a competition to give away a copy of Windows 95.
    I edited my competition stinger, a 15 second and a 30 second promotional
    audio segment, entirely on my computer. Using SoundEdit 16 on my Macintosh computer I could overly tracks, add voice-overs, move sound tracks around,
    add dozens of tracks, change the left and right channel independently,
    amplify or delete specific beats, all things that were completely
    impossible using the gear in a radio station at the time.


    When I brought my stinger into the station managers office on my laptop computer, the earth shifted. Overnight everything changed. At that point
    radio stations around the globe started the race towards entirely being run from hard-disk. The digital revolution hit broadcast audio.


    That's almost a quarter century ago, but that change cannot be overstated.


    I think that in amateur radio we're looking at the same kind of change with
    the same level of impact.


    Today you can go online and buy a NanoVNA for less than a hundred dollars.
    This device, a touch-screen driven tool, allows you to measure electrical circuits. For example, you might connect an antenna and measure the
    impedance of that antenna. If you connect a reference antenna to the second port, you can even measure radiation patterns.


    Think about that for a moment.


    You can measure a radiation pattern. That means that there is something
    that radiates.


    Does that sound familiar?


    Perhaps like a transmitter?


    So this NanoVNA is essentially a transmitter and receiver in one box,
    currently runs up to 900 MHz, but the next version is already in the works
    and it's slated to manage 3.5 GHz, for the same amount of money.


    So, a 3.5 GHz transceiver for less than a hundred bucks.


    If you look at the internals of a NanoVNA, you'll notice that it's got much
    of the same bits as a software defined radio, because it is a software
    defined radio. Thanks to modern integration, at a component level it has significantly less complexity than the early 1980's microcomputers I grew
    up with like the Commodore Vic 20.


    Yes, I know, it's not quite a radio. There's different filtering, different software, no audio input, or output for that matter, no Morse key, it
    doesn't do FT8 or some other fancy mode, but guess what, it's all software.
    The parts of this device aren't complicated, they're cheap, simple to
    program and I don't think it's going to take long before we see a new
    explosion of software defined transceivers that are begging to be used by
    radio amateurs around the globe.


    We live in exciting times would be the understatement of the year.


    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20191208.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

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    Morse Code and You

    Posted: 30 Nov 2019 08:00 AM PST


    Foundations of Amateur Radio


    With the growing availability of new ways of communicating across the
    globe, from digital voice such as CODEC2, through weak signal modes like
    WSPR, JT65, MSK144 and FT4 to name a few, with Internet linked radio such
    as Brandmeister and DMR and the newly granted access to all Australian
    amateurs to all those modes, it's easy to overlook the one mode that
    started this adventure.


    Morse Code.


    It's no longer required to obtain your amateur license, so if that was
    putting you off from getting your license, you can breathe easy and get
    right to it.


    Among all the shiny new modes Morse Code continues to hold its own and for
    good reason. It's simple, reliable, has an amazing signal to noise ratio
    and if you're driving in your car and you're stuck without a Morse Key, you
    can always just whistle into your radio.


    If you've been following my journey through the hobby you'll know that I've been attempting to learn Morse Code. For a while now. It's been a
    challenge, more so since I spend less and less time in a car and more and
    more time behind my keyboard appeasing my clients. That's not to say that
    I've forgotten, just that what I've tried so far has eluded success.


    A little while ago I received an email from a friend, Shaun VK6BEK who let
    me know that there was a discussion happening on a mailing list he was a
    member of and in that discussion I cracked a mention. Being the shy and retiring type I had to have a look for myself. To read the message I had to join, which is fine, since Charles NK8O has been bugging me to do that for years, well perhaps not bugging, perhaps keying me - hi hi. Turns out that
    the Straight Key Century Club, the SKCC, was having a recurring discussion about the topic of Head Copy or Head Reading.


    To give you a sense of what that is, consider what I'm saying to you right
    now. It doesn't matter if you're reading this in an eBook on your Kindle, reading it on an email or online, listening to it on your local repeater,
    or via your favourite podcast player, for each of those the same process is happening.


    You are not absorbing individual letters or sounds, but getting the meaning from the entire structure of a sentence. For uncommon words you might need
    to calibrate your brain, but for the most part you're just bobbing along understanding what I'm saying.


    In essence you're doing the equivalent of Head Copy.


    In Morse Code the same can be achieved. Ultimately it's a language, a tonal one, but a language none the less. Hearing the individual dits and dahs, followed by letters, words and sentences, eventually you'll get to a point where it all just flows.


    I speak a few different languages, a curse or a blessing depending on your point of view. It means that I've become exposed to how language is built
    up. Initially when you hear a new language your brain is trying hard to
    figure out where the individual sounds belong, which sound belongs to which word, how a word begins and ends, how you make a plural, all the things you take for granted after you've learnt a language.


    In Morse that is no different.


    Within that context of discussing Head Copy, Gwen NG3P mentioned that she
    used the text edition of this podcast to convert into a Morse Code MP3 file
    so she could learn to hear Morse and bring them with her on her mobile
    phone.


    Gwen and I had similar aims. In the past I'd done the same with a book, Huckleberry Finn if I recall, as well as random letters and also the ARRL
    Morse practice downloads, but nothing seemed to work for me.


    For Gwen my podcast was an obvious source, so much so that I completely
    missed it, since they are short and on the topic of amateur radio. The
    language in use is likely going to be things that you'll hear on air and there's a smattering of callsigns, so all good.


    Long story short, I spent last week converting all 454 episodes of the
    podcast to Morse Code for your Head Copy practice enjoyment. They're
    encoded at 25 WPM, or Words Per Minute and the tone is 600 Hz. I even put
    them online and made it possible for you to add them to your podcast player.


    Best part?


    I now get to hear Morse Code at a pace that I'm looking for, on a topic
    that's relevant and I have been receiving plenty of emails from others who
    are just as excited as I am.


    You can find these episodes on the podcast homepage at http://vk6flab.com.
    Let me know how you go.


    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20191201.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

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