ARRL

ARRL Letter

 

The ARRL Letter

Volume 19, Number 26
July 7, 2000

IN THIS EDITION:

+Available on ARRL Audio News

FCC SAYS "NO" TO SSB, DIGITAL MODES IN VHF CW SUBBANDS

The FCC has turned down a request asking it to permit SSB and digital modes in the 6 and 2-meter CW-only subbands. The petition was filed last August by the California Six Meter Club and was assigned rulemaking number RM-9806. The FCC sought comment on the proposal early this year.

The CSMC said it requested the additional emission types because its survey of weak-signal operations indicated that the CW-only segments are hardly used. The club said most DX and weak signal work takes place on frequencies above the CW subbands.

The FCC said it received one comment, which opposed the petition.

In denying the request, the FCC said it did not believe the requested revisions were necessary or had the support of the amateur community. The FCC said the petition's premise that the segments 50.0 to 50.1 MHz and 144.0 to 144.1 MHz appear "virtually unused" was contradicted by an earlier petition filed by the Central States VHF Society. The CSVHFS had sought additional spectrum to protect so-called weak signal operations from wideband modes. The FCC dismissed the CSVHFS petition last November.

The FCC concluded that authorizing additional emission types in the 6-meter and 2-meter CW subbands "could have an adverse impact on the operating activities of other licensees." Additionally, the FCC said, CSMC did not show that any improvement in communications capabilities would result from opening up another 100 kHz of spectrum for other emission types, which the FCC said already were "adequately accommodated."

The FCC action was released June 28.

HAMS FILL IN DURING TELEPHONE OUTAGES


Ron Lancaster, KB5VDB, volunteers at the Tulsa, Oklahoma, EOC. [TRO photo]

Hams in three states have been able to fill the communication gap during recent unexpected telephone outages.

In Texas, telephone communication in the New Braunfels area was disrupted June 30 due to major problems in the telephone switching network. The cause and extent of the problem were not clear, but, according to ARRL Official Relay Station Dan Whelchel, K5IQZ, the only telephone services left working were cellular-to-cellular and cellular-to-911. He said hams filled in during the early hours of the outage, handling messages between New Braunfels and San Antonio.

In southern Oregon, telephone service was interrupted June 26 when fire severely damaged a central telephone switching facility in Medford. Sacramento Valley (North) SEC David Thorne, K6SOJ, reported widespread interruption of telephone, Internet, and other services in Jackson County. Thorne says the telephone system's emergency generator was shut down at the request of the fire department, and the battery back-up system was depleted within hours due to high usage.

Thorne says Jackson County ARES was activated, and the Douglas County ARES/RACES team was on duty at the EOC in Roseburg. Hams were able to handle at least one piece of emergency traffic involving blood from the Red Cross Blood Center in Portland to a hospital in Klamath Falls. He said the landline message from Portland was received at the Roseburg EOC and relayed via ARES operators to Bill Mason, KA7RAM, in Klamath Falls. Mason delivered the traffic via landline (local service was operational in Klamath Falls), then promptly relayed the reply back to Roseburg. The EOC delivered the message to Portland via telephone. Telephone service was largely restored by late the next day.

In Oklahoma, a power failure early on the morning of June 20 took out almost all land-based telephone systems in the 918 area code around Tulsa for several hours. Although some pagers and cellular phones still had limited capabilities, most of the calling public could not even call 911.

ARRL PIO Mark Conklin, N7XYO, reports that, with the phones out, hams initially were out of the notification loop. Conklin says a few members of the Tulsa Repeater Organization overheard the radio traffic on scanners, however, and, before long, an ARES net was established on a local repeater with Ron Lancaster, KB5VDB, and Merlin Griffin, WB5OSM, at the Tulsa EOC.

A hospital net followed suit, and hams were dispatched to emergency rooms as they checked in. By 7 AM, Conklin reports, nearly 20 hams were helping out with the emergency, and hospitals 50 miles north and south of Tulsa were staffed by ham volunteers. All telephone service was restored by around 7:30 AM.--thanks to Dan Whelchel, K5IQZ, and David Thorne, K6SOJ, and Mark Conklin, N7XYO

FCC QUESTIONS W5YI-VEC OVER CODE TEST COMPLAINT

Citing past complaints about W5YI-VEC test sessions, the FCC has written Fred Maia, W5YI, with yet another. But Maia says it's much ado about nothing. The FCC letter to W5YI-VEC June 28 included a complaint from Technician licensee Simon Clowes, KD7IEB, of Baker City, Oregon. Clowes protested to the FCC about a Morse Code exam administered at an April 22, 2000, test session by W5YI VE Elwood Fennimore, N7BZ.

Clowes asserted that numerals were not counted as two characters as required by the rules, that the tape was noisy, that other VEs were discussing the text of the tape before the grading was completed, and that the tape speed was erratic. Clowes further complained that Fennimore and the W5YI-VEC were unresponsive to his complaints.

"We have received numerous complaints regarding your testing sessions, and we view the lack of response of Fennimore as extremely serious," wrote FCC Special Counsel for Amateur Radio Enforcement Riley Hollingsworth.

"We're a little confused by this," Maia told the ARRL this week. "Mr Clowes' charge that we didn't respond is totally false."

The April 22 session was a "paperwork only" session, Maia said, and the Baker City VE team went out of its way to accommodate Clowes with a code test. Maia said that Clowes--who once held a license in Australia--first tried to get code credit on the basis of his old Australian ticket. Failing that, Maia says that Clowes--according to an account provided by Fennimore--sat twice for the code test but was able to copy very little and left with his code test answer sheet in hand. Maia says Clowes didn't complain about the administration of the test until a couple of days later. That complaint arrived via e-mail from the account of another ham. Maia says the W5YI-VEC responded to the same e-mail account, then followed up to ensure the message was delivered to Clowes.

Hollingsworth requested that Maia "fully address" Clowes' complaint within 20 days and provide Clowes with a copy of his response. The FCC also requested a full response from Fennimore, with a copy to Clowes, as well as copies of all documents related to the examination session. Maia said he's preparing a formal reply to the FCC.

WRTC-2000 UNDER WAY IN SLOVENIA

World Radiosport Team Championship 2000 is under way in Slovenia. While the on-the-air competition doesn't begin until Saturday, July 8, at 1200 UTC, individual World Radiosport Team Championship contenders underwent the pile-up tapes event July 6. During the pile-up simulation tests, team members were called upon to decipher as many as possible correct call signs in both CW and SSB.

Ward Silver, N0AX--a WRTC-2000 referee and a columnist for National Contest Journal--witnessed as the contestants exited the pile-up tape competition, "some with longer faces than others, regaling us with tales of how hard it was." Silver is part of the NCJ team that's posting late-breaking WRTC-2000 news on its Web site.

As the on-air competition neared, Silver said, competitors became less relaxed and casual. "The conversations are becoming a bit more intense, and the topics starting to become more focussed on operating and equipment," he said.

All WRTC-2000 competitors--including 15 teams from North America--arrived earlier this week in Bled, Slovenia, which Silver describes as "a little bit of Austria, a smidgen of Italy, and a great deal Slav." Chief judge at the worldwide competition is David Sumner, K1ZZ, ARRL's Executive Vice President. The WRTC-2000 Organizing Committee President is Tine Brajnik, S50A, of the sponsoring Slovenia Contest Club.

Temperatures in Bled have edged up into the 30 to 35 degree Celsius range--in the mid 80s Fahrenheit. Friday morning, teams and referees were whisked off to their stations to prepare for the big battle, which is concurrent with the IARU HF World Championship. Each team will use a call sign with a prefix from the S500A-S599Z block.

During this third WRTC, world-class contest operators will compete using modest stations running 100 W on CW and SSB on 80, 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters. The WRTC-2000 Organizing Committee is providing all sites with equivalent antennas--three-element triband Yagis for 10, 15, and 20 meters, and a Windom antenna for 80 and 40 meters, both mounted approximately 12 meters (just under 40 feet) above ground.

The top-scoring team from the last WRTC in 1996--Jeff Steinman, N5TJ (ex-KR0Y) and Dan Street, K1TO--will defend its title as one of two special teams.

Rules for the IARU HF World Championship are in April QST, page 106. For more information on WRTC-2000, visit http://wrtc2000.bit.si/ or contact the Organizing Committee at scc@bit.si.

CALIFORNIA GROUP ADDS LASER MODE TO FIELD DAY REPERTOIRE

One of two full-duplex voice-modulated laser setups constructed by Kerry Banke, N6IZW. The apparatus is aimed with the aid of a rifle telescope, the black cylinder on top. Precise positioning is accomplished with micrometers. The laser itself is mounted on the white block just under the right end of the rifle scope. The laser appears as a small black object on the right side of the white block, and is about the diameter of a fountain pen. The far white PVC pipe contains simple voice modulating electronics and a low powered LED that's for short-range communications and testing. The near PVC pipe contains the laser beam receiving equipment. [Photo by Bob Gonsett, W6VR, used by permission of the author]

Participants at the Palomar Amateur Radio Club ARRL Field Day site in Valley Center, California, this year completed a two-way voice contact via laser beam. In typical ham radio tradition, communicating over the nearly 13-mile path on a beam of light involved minimal cost and readily-available parts.

"The first step in establishing a laser QSO is determining that a clear optical path exists," says Bob Gonsett, W6VR, one of those involved in the experiment. Stan Rohrer, W9FQN, at the PARC Field Day site simply "transmitted" a mirror flash to Gonsett, who was on Boucher Hill at Palomar Mountain.

"Flashing this 12.7 mile optical path confirmed that there were no trees, bushes or buildings in the way--constant problems in optical work," Gonsett said. Hams have conducted laser communication over paths of 100 miles or so, he noted, so the distance was not record-breaking. The PARC experiment showed that laser communication can be accomplished with simple, inexpensive gear.

Equipment involved two full-duplex voice-modulated laser units constructed by Kerry Banke, N6IZW, and Chuck Houghton, WB6IGP, using PVC pipe housings. Each uses an ordinary 0.5 mW red "pointer" laser costing less than $3 apiece as a transmitter. The lasers were mounted outside the PVC tubes. "Because a laser beam is very narrow, the apparatus is aimed with the aid of a rifle telescope," Gonsett explained. Precise positioning was accomplished using two micrometers salvaged from microwave tubes.

At the transmitting end, a "stock" pointer laser is powered by a 35-kHz oscillator. A microphone frequency modulates the 35-kHz oscillator at 5 kHz deviation. At the receiving end, the incoming red laser light hits a plastic Fresnel lens that focuses the light onto a photo detector. Out of the photo detector comes the 35-kHz FM signal. That signal is mixed with a 145.000 MHz local oscillator, producing a signal on 145.035 MHz. That signal is run through coax to a ham radio H-T tuned to 145.035 MHz--the H-T serving as the FM demodulator/receiver. The system is full-duplex.

Gonsett said observers at the PARC Field Day site were "blown away" by the brilliance of the one-half milliwatt red laser beam coming from the distant mountain. "While the beam shimmered with atmospheric turbulence, voice communications were clear and steady with only a hint of rumble, thanks to the use of FM," he reports.

HISTORIC KPH SETS COMMEMORATIVE MORSE TRANSMISSION

Dick Dillman, W6AWO, at the KFS/KPH key, sending a farewell message from the Maritime Radio Historical Society last July 12. [Tom Horsfall, WA6OPE]

To mark the first anniversary of the last commercial Morse code transmission in North America, one-time Marconi and RCA Morse code station KPH will make a commemorative broadcast Wednesday, July 12. Dick Dillman, W6AWO, of the Maritime Radio Historical Society says the station will operate on 4247.0, 6477.5, 8618.0, 13002.0, and 17016.8 MHz and on 426 and 500 kHz. Transmissions will begin at 5 PM Pacific (0000 UTC July 13).

Dillman says KPH began life at the dawn of radio. "Its first home was the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, from which it derived its first call letters, PH," he says. "When the Palace Hotel was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire the station moved to several different locations, eventually finding a permanent home on the mesa west of the small California town of Bolinas." With the onset of federal licensing and regulation, the call sign became KPH.

On July 12, 1999, KPH's new owner Globe Wireless sent the last commercial messages in Morse code from KFS, their master station near Half Moon Bay. Today the former KPH facilities are part of the Point Reyes National Seashore. Dillman says the Maritime Radio Historical Society has been working with the Point Reyes National Seashore to preserve and restore KPH with the goal of eventually creating a museum.

The July 12, 2000, transmission will be from the original KPH location using its original frequencies. Commemorative messages will be sent by hand by the operators who once stood watch at the station. They then will listen for any calls from the few remaining ships at sea with Morse capability.

"While this event does not signal the return of KPH to commercial Morse service, we intend it to acknowledge and honor all the radio operators who have 'worn the earphones' and played a role in the history of maritime radio," Dillman said. For more information, contact Dick Dillman, W6AWO, Maritime Radio Historical Society, 415-512-7137; ddillman@igc.org.

SOLAR UPDATE

Solar sage Tad Cook, K7VVV, Seattle, Washington, reports: Solar flux and sunspot numbers declined again this week. Average solar flux was off nearly 14 points, and average sunspot numbers were down by seven.

An updated projection shows solar flux reaching a short term maximum near 205 around July 12-13, then drifting slowly toward a minimum around 165 from July 23-26. Projections also show geomagnetic conditions as unsettled over the next month, except during a quiet period from July 12-13 when planetary A indices should be in the single digits.

Expect fairly good conditions for the IARU HF World Championship this weekend. Predicted solar flux values for Friday through Tuesday are 180, 185, 190, 195 and 200, and predicted planetary A indices for the same days are 15, 10, 12, 10 and 10.

Sunspot numbers for June 29 through July 5 were 189, 159, 175, 185, 166, 165 and 200, with a mean of 177. The 10.7-cm flux was 163.3, 159.6, 163.7, 162.4, 156.3, 158.4 and 168.7, with a mean of 161.8. The estimated planetary A indices were 12, 7, 9, 6, 10, 9 and 13, with a mean of 9.4.

In Brief:

  • This weekend on the radio: The IARU HF World Championship is July 8-9. See April QST, page 106, for details. The CQ WW VHF Contest is the weekend of July 8-9, and the QRP ARCI Summer Homebrew Sprint (CW) is July 9. Just ahead: The Six Club Six-Meter Sprint, the Pacific 160-Meter Contest, and the North American QSO Party (RTTY) are the weekend of July 15-16. See July QST, page 100, for more information.

  • Florida hosts W1AW for IARU event: The Florida Contest Group will activate W1AW/4 during the 2000 IARU HF World Championship July 8-9. Six stations in Florida will operate W1AW/4 during the event. The station of W1CW/W1YL/K4OJ near Tampa will operate 15 and 20-meter CW. N4TO in Sebring will operate 40-meter CW and 15-meter SSB, and K4XS in New Port Richey will operate 20 and 75-meter SSB. The station of N4PN on St Simons Island will have 10-meter and 40-meter SSB. Broadcast station WEAG has donated the use of its broadcast tower for 160 meter CW and SSB operations. N8PR in Hollywood will host 10-meter and 80-meter CW. For more information on W1AW/4, contact Jim White, K4OJ, k4oj@arrl.net.--Dave Armbrust, AE4MR; Jim White, K4OJ

  • Correction: In The ARRL Letter, Vol 19, No 25 (June 30, 2000), we incorrectly identified ICOM President Tokuzo Inoue, JA3FA, as a past president of the Japan Amateur Radio League. Inoue was chairman of the Japan Amateur Radio Industries Association and currently serves as its vice chairman. The association sponsors the JAIA Fair each summer.

  • Museum Ships Weekend event set: The annual Museum Ships Weekend will take place 1330 UTC on July 15 through 1900 UTC on July 16. More than 40 museum ships are expected to take part. Suggested operating frequencies are 3860, 7260, 14,260, 18,160, 21,360, 24,960 and 28,360 kHz on SSB; 3539, 7039, 10,109, 14,039, 18,099, 21,039, 24,899 and 28,039 kHz on CW. Several ships will operate original radio equipment on AM and CW. The USS Salem (K1USN) is sponsoring this event. Certificates will be available for a large SASE for stations working at least five ships. Certificates and QSLs for K1USN are available via W1QWT. QSL all other vessels via their instructions. A list of ships is available.--thanks to Pi Pugh, K1RV

  • All aboard for special event W9G: Special event station W9G will be on the air during the annual Great Circus Train run from Baraboo to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, July 8-10. In addition to Amateur Radio, the train will haul more than 60 restored circus wagons for the Great Circus Parade on Sunday, July 16. W9G operation will focus on 7.240 or 14.240 and possibly on 21.340 MHz. Limited operation will take place on 146.55 MHz FM simplex. Full information is at http://www.bsss.org. The call sign honors the Gollmar Bros Circus, one of three shows with roots in Baraboo. The others are Ringling Bros, and Deppe's Classic Country Circus. QSLs for W9G go to K9ZZ.--Jim Romelfanger, K9ZZ

  • Net Directory Registration now open: Registration for the 2001-2002 edition of the ARRL Net Directory remains open until September 15. Even if a net appears in the current edition, net managers are advised to provide current net information to ensure that the most up-to-date data will appear in the new edition. You may register your net via the Web, sponsored by ARRL Great Lakes Division Director George Race, WB8BGY. Information submitted is automatically sent to Net Directory editor Steve Ewald, WV1X, at ARRL HQ, sewald@arrl.org. The Net Directory form (FSD-85) also may be mailed to ARRL Headquarters. See July 2000 QST, page 46, for a copy of the form, request a copy from ARRL Field and Educational Services, or download a copy from ARRLWeb.--Steve Ewald, WV1X

  • ARRL emergency communications pilot project outline available: A complete outline of the ARRL Certification and Continuing Education pilot project in emergency communications is available. Volunteer Coordinator Pat Lambert, W0IPL, seeks additional member input for Section I (Overview and Generalized Training). Address ideas suggestions, and constructive criticism to Pat Lambert, W0IPL, W0IPL@arrl.net and Dan Miller, K3UFG, k3ufg@arrl.org.

  • Gulf Coast drills announced: The National Weather Service in Corpus Christi Texas will host the third annual Gulf Coast Ham Hurricane Drill Saturday, July 8, 10 AM until noon CDT (1500-1700 UTC). This drill will be coordinated with the City of Corpus Christi emergency communications drill. The purpose of the NWS drill is to test communications between the NWS and Texas ARRL, state and local agencies, local emergency operations centers, Gulf Coast NASA centers, Gulf Coast industrial plants and the National Hurricane Center. This drill will ensure proper communication channels are functioning for this hurricane season. The Corpus Christi EOC will test Amateur Radio communication to San Antonio, the host evacuation city for many communities along the Texas midcoast. Proper wording for transmission during this drill is: "This is a drill, no real emergency exists" HF communication will be handled through South Texas Section Manager Ray Taylor, N5NAV, Austin, Texas. The HF net will be on 7.285 kHz LSB. The Corpus Christi frequencies for the EOC drill are 147.06 (107.2) MHz for Phase I, with 146.88 MHz (107.2) as a back-up channel; 146.52 MHz simplex Phase II; 443.95 MHz (156.7) Intertie, with 443.50 MHz (156.7) in Odem as a back-up. For more information, contact John Metz, john.metz@noaa.gov, or Ray Taylor, N5NAV, n5nav@texas.net.--John Metz, NWS

  • LF test transmissions under way: Larry Kayser, VA3LK, in Eastern Ontario, Canada, has commenced a series of test transmissions on 137.710 kHz, with very slow CW at 0.4 WPM. The test transmissions will continue until July 30. Kayser asks those able to copy the signal to forward signal reports to va3lk@arrl.net. VA3LK is testing equipment and processes in preparation for the TransAtlantic II attempt on LF set for November 10-27 from Newfoundland. Contact Larry Kayser, VA3LK, va3lk@arrl.net, for more information.--Larry Kayser, VA3LK

  • Vermont eliminates annual ham plate fee: The state of Vermont has dropped the annual $10 surcharge to renew an Amateur Radio call sign license plate. Starting July 1, hams in Vermont now must pay only an initial $10 registration surcharge for an Amateur Radio call sign plate.--Bob McCorkle, WB1AJG

 

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