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I’ve Got My Ham Radio Hobby Back

10/13/2009

“QRZ, is the frequency in use?” I asked, then unkeyed the transmitter. I heard nothing, so I gave a CQ on 20 meters. This first time there was no response. So I sent another CQ and unkeyed the transmitter.

I wondered, “Is this thing even getting out?”

Then, to my amazement, I heard, “Whisky delta 8 oscar echo papa, this is victor united 3 victor quebec united, you copy?”

Did I copy him? He was 59 plus and no noise or fading either. I had worked my first DX contact from India since getting my ticket in 1977. His name was Mrinal and his location was Calcutta.

Folks, I was in ham radio nirvana. What’s so special about this contact? I made it on something that many hams say is not radio, but for hams who live where they can’t have any HF antennas it makes operating possible. If you have a computer and an Internet connection it can bring you back to ham radio. What is it? A software program called CQ100 that is used to access QsoNet, a virtual net of ham radio operators. Even with our current horrible HF band conditions I am working the world. All from an apartment building where I have tried every HF antenna known without success.

I participated in the Michigan QSO Party and made 7 contacts, one right after the other. I also worked the CQ-M International DX Contest and made 24 Qs. So much for not being able to participate in contesting any more.

Virtual Radio

CQ100 is a program that lets licensed hams use their computer as an HF rig — virtually. You read that right, folks. I don’t have to worry about sunspots or terrible band conditions. Noise? It never exists. Fading? What fading? No stations fade on my receiver, none at all. If there is a station a kHz below or above me, I don’t hear that station. So much for splatter. You can even use VOX or PTT — your choice. For CW, CQ100 lets you use your built-in keyer, a straight key or the keyboard on your computer to send anywhere from 5 to 100 WPM.

Now I’ve been an avid contester and rag chewer since 1977 and to be honest I was going to let my license expire this time. I couldn’t work HF and that’s my bread and butter, that’s where I have all my fun. Then a ham told me about CQ100. So, I thought to myself, what do I have to lose?

So, I went to QsoNet.com and downloaded CQ100 to my Windows XP laptop. I installed it and since I already had an account set up with Doug, VE3EFC, its inventor and author, I clicked on the CQ100 icon on my desktop and a box came up for me to type my password. It knew my call sign already, since Doug strictly enforces the rule that hams must send a copy of their license to him or they don’t get to use the software.

So, I made that CQ call on 20 meters and I began a contact with my new Indian ham friend. It’s even better than EchoLink, because there are no ports or routers to configure. You just go to the Web site, set up your account, then download and install the software and you’re up and running with a 3 month free trial. If you like it, it’s $32 a year. Anyway, back to my contact with VU3VQU. We had about a 30 minute contact. Then, in the middle of it, another ham, Mike, KB8RWI, in Cadillac, Michigan, broke in, so now we had a round table. CQ100 uses digital tuning. Every time you press the right or left arrow key, you go up or down 1 kHz.

Virtual Advantages

But Trippy, people say, this isn’t real HF — you don’t have an antenna up. Oh, I know that and I also don’t have any SWR issues, I don’t have to worry about tuning rigs, I don’t have to worry about tubes blowing up on old rigs, I don’t worry about the weather bringing down my antenna or wet connections making my SWR go through the roof.

Yes, my friends, that’s the joy of it. Now, I can just be a ham and have my contesting or rag chewing fun and none of those problems to worry about. I’ve got my ham radio hobby back and now I am in it to stay. I can go mobile or portable, too. Right now, though, I’ve been using it from my home location. So if you contesters are looking for a place to make your Qs, there it is.

You rag chewers out there, if you’re tired of noise, fading and bad band conditions, download and install the CQ100 software. You’ll be saying, “man, I got my hobby back.” There are over 26,000 hams worldwide who use it. Now that I’ve got my contesting fever again, I subscribed to Bruce Horn’s contest calendar, which you can get via e-mail. Bruce, WA7BNM, is an avid contester, like myself.

Now that I had my hobby back, I couldn’t wait to fire up my computer and get on the HF bands. My first chance would come April 18, 2009, working the Michigan QSO Party. I absolutely love that contest. So, on Saturday evening, I fired up the laptop and went on 20 meters. I worked 7 stations in a row.

These folks were new to contesting, but they wanted to learn, so I told them about the contest and they gave me the exchange I needed. I worked three states and two DX countries that night. A West Virginia station told me, “I’m going to have to use this when our QSO Party comes up in June.” I worked a station in California who told me he was a contester and would use it to work the California QSO Party in October. Now, I can’t wait to get Bruce’s e-mailed contest calendar each week.

Antenna Restrictions Alternative

More and more hams will not be able to put up antennas, because we’re all getting older now and apartment buildings, condos and retirement homes often don’t let you put them up. But now, every ham has an HF alternative. With CQ100, you can run phone, CW and PSK31. I’ve worked the world and had many contacts and many round tables. I have no antenna problems anymore and I get on HF any time I feel like it.

I can work 10, 15, 20, 40, 75 and 80 meters. My antenna is the Internet and by the way, any of you folks out there having TVI problems? I have no more TVI problems with neighbors. I don’t have problems hearing stations through static crashes, as well. I can work HF anytime and anywhere that I want.

In a time when young people like computers and voice chat more than putting up antennas for HF, let’s give these youngsters something about ham radio they can relate to — computers and the Internet.

I’m not getting paid by CQ100 for this article. I just want to share this good thing with other hams. So if you’re living with radio restrictions and haven’t tried CQ100, please go and try it and you’ll be hooked like I am. If you’re a contester, I hope to work you real soon on the HF bands. If you’re a rag chewer, I hope to have a nice chat with you very soon. Where will I be contesting and rag chewing in my shack? I’ll be doing it on CQ100. 73 and I’ll see you on the air.

[Note: While QsoNet can provide a means to enjoy ham radio for those who may not be able to set up an actual radio transmitting station, it must be remembered that contacts made using CQ100 are virtual — not radio —contacts and cannot be used toward any ARRL sponsored contest or award. — Ed.]

In 1974, Trippy Brown, AC8EP, received a ham radio receiver from his brother and started listening to the HF bands. In 1976, he went to a friend of his brother and got on the air at his station, working the WAS bicentennial contest. Then, the ham radio bug really bit hit and he went back to The Michigan School for the Blind in Lansing, where he stayed as a dorm student. Whenever he had time, he learned the code and the theory for his Novice license, using a Braille copy of the license manual. He passed his code test in June 1977, the day before that year’s Field Day and passed his Novice exam in July of that year. Trippy has participated in many contests and also loves nets and rag chewing. He can be reached at 2631 Krafft Rd, Apt 211, Port Huron, MI 48060-1540.
 

Trippy Brown, AC8EP



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