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AM on HF - Are you with us ?

AM on HF - Are you with us ?
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Jul 26th 2011, 21:28

WA3VJB

Joined: Nov 24th 2010, 16:05
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Please help establish through your responses whether the ARRL should place a greater emphasis on the activity of AM on HF.

A survey among three League regions found nearly 20 percent of the respondents listed AM among their activities on HF.

The survey, conducted by regional Directors, was never published nor distributed widely. The ARRL's Forum is another opportunity.
Jul 26th 2011, 22:01

w1rfi

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Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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Hi, Paul,

Welcome to the forums area. I just cast my "vote." I wold have added another category to the poll that simply said "I don't operate AM" (altough that wasn't the button I would have clicked), as some who don't operate AM may not know that it is popular. Most who simply don't operate AM will probably check the fourth box. From all incidications, I'd say that interest in AM is holding steady or growing.

If the Directors posted the results in their newsletters, I'd think they'd be fair game for posting here. Just today, the ARRL Lab guys held a meeting to discuss the other technical forums we want to create and AM technology and activity was among them. We're approaching this forums things slowly, as we want to make sure that ARRL's forums avoid some of the pitfalls found in other forums, but with two of the Lab guys having a strong interest in AM operation, I'd think that there would be some support coming from that direction, too. My own operation is 99% CW, but I had felt a strong affinity for the AM community because there is a lot in common the QRPers in terms of the passion toward the mode and the way of operating. :-)

I will watch the poll with interest, as well as the discussion.

I will also add that the ARRL Technology area has an AM page. It also links to a number of good sites on AM operation.

I hope that a wide range of hams respond, in whatever direction they think best represents their interest in the mode.

73,
Ed Hare, W1RFI
ARRL Lab
Technical forums moderator
Jul 27th 2011, 11:58

N0NB

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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Somewhat earlier in my ham radio career I would have advocated that full carrier double sideband AM be banned below 29 MHz. I have since softened that view somewhat, due in large part to the quality work of restoring the older radios I have seen documented.

Fortunately, AM has several well known watering holes of interest that the rest of us can steer clear of easily. It seems as though the AM and SSB ops do respect each other rather well these days so carry on. Oh yeah, do post pics. :)
Jul 27th 2011, 12:30

WA3VJB

Joined: Nov 24th 2010, 16:05
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Thanks for reconsidering, and believe me, the "softer" stance such as you've taken is appreciated on the air, too.

I encounter folks who have no interest in AM, and have either heard about or directly carried a chip on their shoulder about our part of the hobby, for whatever reason historically.

When I compare it, in a discussion to the "old car hobby," the analogy seems to apply where older cars have their own merit as a snapshot in time. And as with vintage radios, working on them, using, and enjoying them, can build confidence and understanding for interest toward other, more contemporary projects.
Jul 27th 2011, 16:04

WA2CWA

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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There are also a number of us who operate AM on 6 and 2 meters.

I see the gang is starting to form. Hi Paul, Ed...
Jul 27th 2011, 17:01

N0NB

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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Quote by WA3VJB
Thanks for reconsidering, and believe me, the "softer" stance such as you've taken is appreciated on the air, too.


You're welcome. :)

When I compare it, in a discussion to the "old car hobby," the analogy seems to apply where older cars have their own merit as a snapshot in time. And as with vintage radios, working on them, using, and enjoying them, can build confidence and understanding for interest toward other, more contemporary projects.


As I have a couple of vintage motorcycles, I can relate quite well. No question, the older stuff is easier to work on even if parts availability is slim.
Jul 27th 2011, 18:05

KB2FCV

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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I occasionally use AM on HF with some of my vintage gear but it's not really a regular thing. I don't ragchew much, and any of my friends I ragchew with are either in SSB or CW.

I'd love to get a few more people with 2m or 6m AM gear and get on the air once in a while. I have a few of the Gonset Communicators that would be fun to use with others from time to time.

AM is a nice sounding fun mode to use and you don't even need older vintage gear to get on and try out .Although I will say I do prefer using the older gear with tubes, glowing pilot lights, lots of knobs and plenty of weight!
Jul 27th 2011, 19:49

w1rfi

Super Moderator

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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Don't necessarily equate AM operation with "vintage." A lot of AM operation is done with the same modern transceivers as used for other modes, as most HF rigs have an AM mode. Some have surprisingly good audio quality. The downside of that is that at least by the comments on the AM forums, some of the AM folks that appreciate vintage gear, vacuum tubes and iron in the modulator can be somewhat condescending to the guys using modern solid-state transceivers.

We just had a staff meeting in the ARRL Lab to discuss adding new forums. Among those on my list was an AM and Vintage gear forum. WB1GCM and W1MG (two AM enthusiasts in the ARRL Lab) set me straight pretty quick that "vintage" and "amplitude modulation" are NOT synonyms. :-) With modern transceivers being used and nifty techniques such as Class E amplification and modulation, there is modern technology aplenty in the AM world, even though there more vintage interest there than in most arenas.

The live-and-let-live approach is what is needed more in Amateur Radio. Far too often, I see hams take the attitude that they like what they like in Amateur Radio (fair enough!), but that they don't even want to HEAR hams doing anything different. They make up terms like 'ancient modulation" and "slopbucket" to deride each others' interests and generally drag Amateur Radio down a notch when they do.

I'm a CW guy; that's what I like, but I would hate to see an Amateur Radio that consists only of CW operation. CW is good. Phone is good. SSB is good. AM is good. Digital operation in it wide range of possibilities and integration with other technologies is good. And without a single ham being forced to do anything that he or she doesn't want to do, Amateur Radio gets 'er all done.

There is a small price we pay for all this diversity. We may hear other people doing things different that the thing we are doing on our shared bands. As a CW operator, I hear more digital operation than I did in 1963. But it was there then, too, as RTTY is a digital mode. But you know, even with all the other digital stuff on the bands, I have never had trouble finding 50 Hz for my narrow CW signal.

So there is no need to "dislike" a mode. All we can do is dislike using it, but that's our personal choice. Are there a few AM bad eggs. Yes, there are. I have tuned into 3885 on the nights when a few of those eggs choose to present the fine AM tradition of having an on-the-air belching contest (or worse). There are other bad eggs that crank their bandwidth to an extreme and operate at the most crowded times possible, complaining all the while that they are experiencing inteference from SSB stations. But there are bad eggs on every mode, and the SSB stations that intentionally cram up 1.5 kHz away from the AM operator is just as bad an egg, and there are more. In my narrow(band) CW world, I have suffered QRM far more often from CW ops than I have from digital ops. The bottom line is that rather than blaming a mode for the bad eggs, I think we want to all make sure our operating on the air is proper, and shows the proper respect for other hams that may be doing something different from what we like to do.

Back to AM, its proponents enjoy it for its great sound, for one. Others really like restoring that old equipment or putting lower-power broadcast transmitters on the air. And, like any mode legal to use in Amateur Radio, we need no more justification for using it than to say, "I like it."

Just a few ponderings from this old time ham.

73,
Ed Hare, W1RFI
ARRL Lab
Technical forums moderator
Jul 27th 2011, 22:53

K0HB

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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My radio, a Yaesu FTdx-5000D does in fact have a mode selector button labeled AM/FM.

Using either of those modes is not of interest to me, but I'm sure they're fun for some sub-segment of our hobby, and should not be discouraged. At the same time, I don't see a need for any specific attention by ARRL.

73, de Hans, K0HB
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Jul 28th 2011, 17:54

w1rfi

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Quote by K0HB
At the same time, I don't see a need for any specific attention by ARRL.

AM is as deserving of attention as any other mode, of course. The amount of attention that a particular mode should receive is dependent on a number of factors, including, but certainly not limited to:

    The number of hams interested in using the mode
    The amount of time they spend using that mode vis a vis other things they do in ham radio
    The amount of information and instruction needed by hams to be able to understand and use the mode
    The availablity of material to publish and the staff resources available to pull together information


Taking the 20% figure at face value, that would not mean that 20% of what ARRL publishes would be specifcally about AM. Much of what is published by ARRL is mode neutral, applying across the breadth of Amateur Radio.

AM is a proven technology, not requiring a lot of specific instruction to learn and use. There is a wealth of information on AM in the pages of older QSTs. By page count of those articles, AM probably is in 2nd place on the ARRL web page, right after CW. :-)

ARRL does have a web presence for AM, with a page authored and maintained by someone active in the AM community. It has repeatedly sought articles on AM from that community, so far with very few results.

It's ironic, but if you added up all the words posted that lament the lack of AM information from ARRL, there would be enough words to make several articles. Unfortunately, the are not the words that would help hams be encouraged to learn and use AM on the air.

A more helpful discussion, IMHO, rather than a non-specific statement that ARRL needs to "do more" wrt AM material would be a discussion about what specific, achievable things can be done right now and going forward, and some planning on how those things can be done.

My part of that has a good foundation, with an AM page in the Technology area. But I'd welcome discussion on how it could be improved.

73,
Ed Hare, W1RFI
ARRL Lab
Technical forums moderator
Jul 28th 2011, 21:50

KB2CRK

Joined: Nov 8th 2010, 13:43
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I have not used AM as of yet but i do plan on trying it. For years i have had gear only capable of CW and SSB but I have upgraded over the years...
Jul 28th 2011, 23:35

AB7ZU

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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Ed,

I have to disagree (a little) with the statement "AM.... not requiring a lot of specific instruction to learn and use." If the transmitter and/or amplifier are poorly adjusted, it is horrendous. It is already a "wide" mode, which simply amplifies the negative impact. Yes, some SSB guys are as guilty as sin of that very thing, but it seems to have a bit less impact that it does on AM.

Having said that, as a ham with over 50 years on the bands, a properly adjusted AM transmitter is a joy to hear. The fidelity of a quality microphone comes through loud and clear (in the best meaning of the word "clear"). I love it for that and, of course, the nostalgia. I know I'll get banged for the nostalgia comment, but it is meaningful to me in a very good way. I loved my early ham years and remember them like it was yesterday..... really. While AM appeared to be dying a fairly significant death at the time, I think the equipment manufacturers had as much to do with that as anyone.... Remember "sweep tube amps?" AM and sweep tubes just didn't get along very well together. Something owners of even modern amps that are pushing the tube and/or power supply limits on SSB/CW should take note.

Anyhow, that is my 2 cents worth. Like several who have commented already, I rarely use phone (as my current dxcc count would clearly indicate). I am one of those old geezers who wear t-shirts with "CW Forever" on them..... well, not really, but only because I can't find a good one that I like. I like all of the digital modes, as well...... but RTTY is best as far as I am concerned. I don't use it for traffic handling, so perfect copy is unimportant to me..... I can mentally fill in the blanks..... even if I am filling them in wrong.... he he he.

There is room for all of the modes (within limits of course). We can't put wideband modes that are 10 mhz wide on a band that is 450 khz wide, but there is certainly room for AM..... in moderation and respect for other band users. A contest weekend, for example, is not a good time to crank up your AM transmitter. But that is why our rigs have more than one mode on the switch, yes? If I don't feel like contesting and don't want to get in the way of what is happening on that particular weekend, out of respect for the thousands that DO, I would move to another mode...... Although I do love a good CW contest. :) :)

So go ahead and beat me up for saying it isn't all THAT easy to properly adjust an AM transmitter for the best sound (which is why you are using it in the first place, right?). I think a little Elmering is called for with any mode you have never used prior. Or, at the very least, a serious read of a good manual on the subject.... :)

Mike
AB7ZU
Jul 29th 2011, 00:31

KB0HAE

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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I agree that there are a few bad eggs using all modes. The worst (to me) are the folks that try to increase the audio bandwidth of their signals beyond the traditional limits for the mode they are operating. Such as using more than about 2.8 -3Khz in SSB, or about 5.8-6Khz on AM. Almost as bad are ops that over-modulate their transmitters trying to get the last few watts out of the transmitter. Just as bad are those that do not understand that using more than 50 watts in PSK mode is overkill. Many PSK ops seem not to understand that they need to learn how to properly adjust their transmitters, and computers so as not to produce distorted signals. PSK is NOT a plug-n-play mode!

The point of all of this? The point is that we need more elmering, and education of both new Hams, and those new to a particular mode! Name calling, being insulting is not going to help, we have to be possitive and helpful.

We can all get along better if we try to properly operate our equipment so as to not cause un-necessary interference to others, and so as not to use more bandwidth than necessary.
Jul 29th 2011, 02:05

w1rfi

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Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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Quote by AB7ZU
So go ahead and beat me up for saying it isn't all THAT easy to properly adjust an AM transmitter for the best sound (which is why you are using it in the first place, right?). I think a little Elmering is called for with any mode you have never used prior. Or, at the very least, a serious read of a good manual on the subject.... :) Mike, AB7ZU

I wouldn't dream of beating you up, Mike. It's a valid point and I'm glad you pointed it out. I was thinking more in terms of comparison to some of the digital modes or satellite operation, where there is usually a lot to learn to set up an effective station. But you are quite right -- especially on older rigs where there is no internal ALC to take up the slop on misadustments, getting the audio levels right, the modulation right and learning the forgotten art of dipping a plate for resonance and adjusting the drive level for proper grid current and the load control for proper power output (all interacting) is a learning experience.

If you take a look at the AM page on the ARRL web page, if you think you'd like to pen a few paragraphs to describe how to properly configure an AM station, I can add it to the page (with some editing, perhaps). Even if you can just offer some suggestions on improving the page, I'd welcome them.

So thanks for disagreeing with me. I learn more from people that disagree with me than from people who tell me that I'm always right. Just ask my wife!

73.
Ed Hare, W1RFI
ARRL Lab
Tecnical forums moderator
Jul 29th 2011, 02:11

w1rfi

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Quote by KB0HAE
We can all get along better if we try to properly operate our equipment so as to not cause un-necessary interference to others, and so as not to use more bandwidth than necessary.

The first is just good ham-radio tradition. The second is a matter of FCC regulation.

"Necessary" is a matter of defintion, though. I can copy a human voice in a 500 Hz bandwidth, so is 2000 Hz voice bandwidth more than necessary? Most would think not, as it sounds better.

If someone is experimenting with wideband modulated voice when the band is lightly occupied, is that really a bad thing? Like my 500 Hz/2000 Hz analogy, it sounds better.

And do remember, there are probably more wide-bandwidth SSB stations than wide-bandwidth AM stations.

I think its all a matter of common sense and common courtesy. Unfortunately, there days when neither seems common, but remember that most hams are decent people that want to do the right thing for amateur radio.


73,
Ed Hare, W1RFI
ARRL Lab
Technical forums moderator

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