SC QSO Party 2023

Made it back to participating in the SC QSO party this year after missing it last year. Apparently, the county we’re in wasn’t activated at all last year, so several of the SC contacts I made were a bit surprised they were able to add the county to their list. Surprised me too considering how many hams there are in my neck of the woods.

We put the Half Wave Society club call, W4BXC, on the air for the QSO party this time and had some friends over to participate. Had a lot of fun and made a bunch of contacts in both run and search/pounce modes.

Most of the SCQP activity ended up on 40m with a smattering on 20m. 20m was pretty crowded with a lot of POTA activations, and I didn’t hear a lot of stations calling for SCQP. I was even able to make a contact down on the upper portion of 75m although the radio wasn’t very happy with the antenna there, judging by the SWR meter.

Ended up getting the two bonus stations as well (W4CAE and WW4SF), but the highlight stations were OM2VL (Slovakia), Connie’s dad WA4BXC, and NT7S and his boys in Oregon.

Had a good time getting back on the radio for the QSO party. Looking forward to doing again next year.

 Band     QSOs     Pts  Mul  Mt2  Pt/Q
   3.5       1       2    0    0   2.0
     7      63     184   29    1   2.9
    14      11      44    5    0   4.0
    28       3      12    3    0   4.0
 Total      78     242   37    1   3.1
Score: 9,946
1 Mult = 2.1 Q's

Orlando Hamcation 2023

This year’s edition of Hamcation was pretty good. Definitely seemed more crowded this year than last year, which was good to see. By the time I got there on the first day (about 20 minutes before the gates opened) the parking field was pretty much full. On the second day, they were sending people over to the overflow parking area by the time I got there when it opened.

Didn’t find quite as many things to purchase this year as I found last year, but did pick up a few nice things.

Begali had a table with a bunch of their keys and paddles on display. It was a very popular booth with lots of people stopping by to check things out and send out some Morse code. After stopping by the table a few times to play with the paddles, I decided on the last day of Hamcation to pick up one of their Camelback straight keys.

Begali Camelback straight key

It’s a very nice straight key with a nice responsive action and a solid heavy base that’s not moving anywhere when I’m keying. Very happy with it. Just need to wire it up with a suitable cable now.

Out in the flea market/boneyard area, there were quite a few people with tables set out. Seemed like not quite as many as last year though.

An interesting item I found out in the boneyard was this board with an LCD display on it.

Gabotronics Xminilab oscilloscope module

At first I thought it was just an LCD display module, so I bought it along with a couple ESP32 boards and a book for a few dollars. When I had a chance to take a closer look at it, I discovered that it wasn’t a display module at all, but a tiny little oscilloscope! Should be fun to get it running and see what it can do.

For the workbench, I found this arbitrary signal generator. I’ve been wanting to have one for the workbench for a while. Haven’t tried plugging it in and turning it on yet, so it might be a great addition, or it might become a project.

Pragmatic 2416A arbitrary waveform generator

Looking forward to playing with my new acquisitions when I have some spare time.

The Radio Handbook

Another radio handbook has joined the collection, but not an ARRL handbook this time.

This one comes to me courtesy of a local ham friend who’s been downsizing a bit. A very nice gesture for which I’m very grateful.

The Radio Handbook (14th ed), edited by William Orr/W6SAI and published in 1956 by Editors and Engineers Ltd. It’s a well used copy and the spine is not in the greatest shape. It’s come unglued from the book and is quite literally hanging on by the threads of the cloth covering. I’ll have to see if I can do something about that. The rest of the book seems in reasonable shape for a 66 year old book.

I haven’t gone through a lot of the book yet but based on the table of contents, it seems to cover many of the same topics the ARRL handbooks cover.

It might be an interesting and fun exercise to compare this edition of the Radio Handbook with the 1956 ARRL Handbook.

A 1985 ARRL Handbook

In this year’s ARRL Auction, I managed to score a 1985 ARRL Handbook to add to the collection.

Front cover of the 1985 ARRL Handbook

It’s in pretty decent condition, although the binding is broken in about the middle of the handbook. Going to have to see if there’s a good way to patch or fix that.

This handbook probably would have first gone on sale in late 1984, so I would have been in the middle of my first year of high school when this handbook came out. Even as late as 1985, there’s still a pretty big section devoted to vacuum tubes and vacuum tube gear. Aside from an old broken radio that was in our basement, I don’t think I had encountered any electronics that used vacuum tubes back then (well, televisions perhaps, but those are a different kind of vacuum tube).

The table of contents covers radio topics you might expect for radio technology from 37 years ago.

1985 ARRL Handbook table of contents

Interestingly enough, there seems to be more on vacuum tubes in the 1985 Handbook than there is in the 1980 Handbook. At some point between the 1980 and 1985 Handbooks, the Handbooks gained a considerable amount of weightpages.

Size comparison between the 1980 and 1985 ARRL Handbooks

Might be interesting to go through the two and see what kind of content got expanded on with all the added pages.

Tuning up the Heathkit IG-102

After spending some time figuring out how to use the Digilent Analog Discovery 2 USB oscilloscope I picked up at Hamcation earlier this year, I was able to use it to look at the output from the Heathkit IG-102 signal generator.

The Digilent AD2 is pretty cool. The software lets you use the AD2 as an oscilloscope, signal generator, spectrum analyzer, and several other things.

Using the spectrum analyzer function made it pretty easy to set the IG-102 to a frequency, see what the actual frequency was, and then tweak the variable inductor coil for each band setting to tune the output to the dial setting.

The output of the IG-102 is pretty low though, less then 0.3 V peak-to-peak. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be that low, but I expected it would be in the 3-5V range.

Well, at least it outputs something that’s reasonably well calibrated now. I suppose if I had to, I could build an amplifier to feed the signal into. I’ll see if there’s anything else I can do to get the signal amplitude up to where it seems like it should be. Maybe the IG-102 needs the tubes replaced as well.