#WATwitter QSO Party fun

This past Thanksgiving week was busy, but managed to get some time to play radio on a few days. It was the first significant amount of playing on the radio with my new call sign, AB4UG.

Broke out the radio in Connie’s car on the way up to Chattanooga, TN and managed to work a few stations while mobile. Even managed to get a SOTA (Summits On The Air) station in Pennsylvania while we were on the road. Worked stations as far away as San Diego, CA and up north into Ontario and Massachussets. Most of my contacts were on 20m, but I managed to get in a few on 80m and 40m. On my handheld radio, I got Connie on 2m simplex from across the parking lot. Hey, that still counts, right?

After playing around with a few different logging programs, I decided I liked the way CQRLog worked under Linux. Transferred the paper logs to CQR and uploaded an ADIF export to eQSL. Waiting on the postcard from ARRL to finish setting up my new call sign on LoTW and once that’s done I’ll send the logs there as well.

I counted up 32 contacts (including a duplicate or two) over the #WATwitter week. It was pretty cool making contacts and handing out 2-for-1 QSOs. Richard/N1KXR was even lucky enough to score a 3-for-1 QSO when Connie’s dad (WA4BXC) happened to walk by.

It was a lot of fun making contacts with people I see talking about radio on Twitter. Looking forward to doing more #WATwitter in the future once we get the shack set up.

#WATwitter QSO Party

This is an article about the #WATwitter Thanksgiving QSO party that I was asked to write forĀ DXCoffee. You can see the original post here.

Twitter is one of many social media sites that helps connect people around the globe by letting people send short 140 character messages. As it turns out, there are a great many amateur radio operators around the world who also use Twitter. Some of them use their call signs as their Twitter ID, or might use something else. How do you find Twitter-using amateur radio operators? Try searching for a call sign, or look at the #hamr or #hamradio hash tags.

The idea for the Worked All Twitter Thanksgiving QSO Party started in 2011 when Connie Bird/NR4CB (@Bionic_Nerd on Twitter) came up with the #WATwitter hash tag to help arrange QSOs with other Twitter-using amateur radio operators over Thanksgiving. That grew into Twitter hams trying to work other Twitter hams. Like the Worked All States or Worked All Continents, the idea behind Worked All Twitter (WATwitter) is to make contacts with as many Twitter-using amateur radio operators as you can.

In September 2012, the idea of making Thanksgiving WATwitter a regular annual event was proposed. In the US, Thanksgiving is perhaps the largest holiday of the year involving mass migrations of people traveling to visit family. Many people are off work or school and close to their radios, which makes it easier to make contacts.

WATwitter Guidelines
This year the WATwitter Thanksgiving QSO party will take place between November 21-25, 2012. These are some guidelines proposed by Connie/NR4CB for the WATwitter Thanksgiving QSO Party

Who: Any licensed operator who also uses Twitter
Where: All bands, all modes. To let as many people as possible participate, use the portion of the band open to the most people, i.e. the technician portion of 10m, the general class portion of 20m, etc
Exchange: Your normal exchange plus your Twitter handle, especially if it’s not your call sign
Spotting: Self-spotting is practically required. Tweet your frequency, interact with people on Twitter, and get other people to meet you on the air at a specific time and frequency.
Hashtags: #WATwitter and either #hamr or #hamradio
Why: Connect with people using both social media and on the air

Have fun! Log your contacts, tweet your tallies to others, but there are no scores or awards. A niceĀ twitter app created by Tomas/OK4BX (@ok4bx) will keep track of the activity during the event. Include@twQSO in all the QSOs you tweet.

WATwitter doesn’t have to happen at Thanksgiving though. It can happen at any time. If you’re on the air, throw your CQ out onto Twitter (using the #WATwitter and #hamr/#hamradio hash tags) and see who responds.

Learning about digital ham radio

Yesterday was one of ARRL‘s Rookie Roundup contests, so some of the CARS members organized a rookie radio day to show off some of the digital amateur radio modes.

The idea is pretty simple. Instead of piping the audio output of the radio signal to speakers, it’s sent to a computer (with some intervening hardware) where the digital signals are decoded and displayed by software. The computer’s sound card generates audio tones that are sent to the radio for broadcasting and for other computers to decode. Everything is handled through the computer and software (fldigi in this case) using pre-programmed F-key macros (manual typing works too) except for changing radio frequencies (with the right set-up, even that can be done on the computer). Pretty neat stuff.

There were three of us rookies around and we all got to play digital RTTY (radio teletype) radio, sending out calls, responding to other operators and learning how to use the software. I think we made a total of 6 contacts, which isn’t huge but there might have been some power and/or antenna problems. It was still a good learning experience.

Another member set up a battery powered radio with a 40m dipole antenna and demonstrated sending emails over the radio via Winlink, another pretty cool amateur radio service. Find a reachable Winlink server to broadcast to, compose your message and the software sends the appropriate signals to the radio (via intervening modem) to the listening server, which in turn sends out the emails over the Internet. You can also download any received emails stored up for you. Using this method, even if you’re out of power, have no other form of internet access, or are in some other kind of emergency communication mode, you can still send out emails to other people as long as you can reach a server with your radio. Pretty awesome stuff. The data rate is pretty slow, but you can still get communications out.

It was a fun three hours we spent playing radio, and a good introduction to digital radio. Makes me want to do more

I’m playing radio!

Tom (AJ4UQ) managed to catch me playing radio this morning for the last half of Field Day. I spent a few hours logging, and then finally got onto the radio to make some contacts on the 20m and 40m bands.

I operated the radio for a few hours and managed to make a dozen or so contacts from Ohio, Georgia, south Texas and as far away as eastern Massachusetts and Vermont. This was the first time I actually played radio and did any transmitting. It turned out to be a lot of fun and it didn’t take long for me to get too caught up in finding people to contact to be nervous about being on the radio.

The second half of Field Day was noticeably less crazy and frantic than the first half. 20m was still pretty busy, but not nearly as crazy as it was yesterday. 40m was relatively quiet compared to yesterday, and after a few hours it felt like we had run out of people to contact, because we kept running into the same ones while sweeping through the band.

I did manage to catch W1AW (ARRL’s station) on the air and tried to get them in the log, but I’m not sure they were able to receive me, or else I was just too caught up in their pileup. Also tried to see if I could get Bionic_Nerd too, while she was up in the Boston area on her road trip, but no such luck. She did manage to hear me calling part of the call sign I was using (WA4USN belonging to CARS), but I wasn’t able to pick her up at all. Maybe another time.

Field Day wrapped up at 2PM with just over 200 contacts logged at the phone station. Not sure how the other stations did. After spending a couple more hours cleaning up, putting things away and loading various vehicles it was time to call it a day.

Field Day turned out to be a pretty fun experience on the radio, and there’s nothing like a baptism by fire to get you involved in something.

My pictures from Field Day are up in the photo gallery and also on Flickr.

Field Day 2012

What do you get when ham radio operators all over the country get on the air to contact as many people as they can in 24 hours? A madness filled event called Field Day.

Yesterday I participated in my very first amateur radio ARRL Field Day, and it was in a word, madness.

The Charleston Area Radio Society (CARS) held their Field Day event on board the USS Yorktown, where they had a few radio rigs set up for phone (voice), digital, satellite tracking and CW (Morse code) from the trailer.

The CARS Field Day activities were well organized. The madness was happening on the air, with everybody trying to contact everybody and making for just a chaotic jumble of overlapping voices on top of the static (at least to my noob ears). Most stations came in pretty loud and clear on the phone (voice) station, although a bunch more we were struggling to pick up out of the static.

I spent a most of my time at the phone station logging contacts and helping to decipher the contact info from the static so I didn’t get on the air. It’s a little bit intimidating at first with all the activity happening. It was pretty cool making contacts with other operators though. Managed to get people from Ontario and Saskatchewan, across the country in Los Angeles and even heard someone from Croatia. We spent a while trying to pick out his call sign from the static and trying to establish a contact, but I don’t think he was receiving us. Would have been a cool contact to make.

Had a really good time helping out with the Field Day events (I only smacked my head on a bulkhead once) and am looking forward to getting back to it today until it wraps up at 2PM this afternoon. I’ll probably even try operate the station and get on the air for a few hours.