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
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.
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.