Tag Archives: Social DX

Radio history videos are a serious benefit of Social Distancing!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill Hemphill (WD9EQD), who shares the following guest post:


Benefits to Social Distancing

I have discovered that there is a positive side effect of social distancing.  With so many organizations using Zoom and other video methods for their meeting, the volume of great videos to watch has drastically increased, with most of it residing on YouTube.  Also everyone is sharing video links that they have found with other.

For example, the New Jersey Antique Radio Club (NJARC) has, for some time, posted their monthly meetings on their YouTube channel.  They have very enjoyable presentations.  Last night was their virtual monthly meeting for June and they had a great talk by Prof. Joe Jesson on “What You Did Not Know About the RCA AR88.”

I am a fairly new member to NJARC and must recommend them to others.  They are a very active group and are currently having Zoom conferences weekly between the members.  They also host the RADIO TECHNOLOGY MUSEUM at the InfoAge Technology Center.

Link to NJARC:

http://www.njarc.org/

Link to NJARC YouTube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/user/njarc/

Link to the Radio Technology Museum:

http://www.rtm.ar88.net/

Last week, I received an email from Mark  Erdle (AE2EA) referring to some videos by the Antique Wireless Museum which is hosted by the Antique Wireless Association (AWA).  From his email:

The Radios (and Filming) of “Across the Pacific”  presented by AWA member Brian Harrison.  Brian served as the radio consultant for the 3-hour PBS documentary “Across the Pacific”, which tells the story of the early days of Pan American Airways and of Hugo C. Leuteritz, a RCA radio engineer who helped make Pan Am’s expansion across the oceans possible with radio communication and navigation systems. Brian explains how he worked to insure that this documentary portrayed the pioneering work of Hugo Leuteritz as accurately as possible. Much of the early radio equipment that Pan American used was custom made for Pan Am, and is quite rare today, but Brian hunted it down.

 

In addition to Brian’s video, you can also see Tom Perera’s updated presentation of “Phil Weingarten’s Fabulous Fakes” which was originally presented at the 2007 AWA conference:

Link to AWA:  https://antiquewireless.org/homepage/

Link to AWA You-Tube Channel:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCX55peBhzeX1qps_VYXdLBA

Here are some other videos that people have passed along to me that I have found enjoyable.  Most of these are radio-oriented and I have omitted the many cat videos:


Thank you for sharing these links and videos, Bill! I’ve been watching Phil Weingarten’s Fabulous Fakes this morning–what a fascinating bit of history!

Post readers: Have you discovered videos and sites while social distancing (a.k.a. Social DXing)? Please comment and share your links!

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Just pulled the trigger on the new QCX+ CW/WSPR QRP transceiver kit

I’m a real sucker for kits of any stripe.

A few days ago, my buddy, Pete (WB9FLW), sent me a tip about the new QCX+ CW/WSPR transceiver by QRP Labs. I posted an announcement on QRPer.com.

I’ve yet to build a QRP Labs kit, but I’ve only heard positive reviews from readers and friends. QRP Labs’ president, Hans Summers (G0UPL), is an amazing kit designer and, indeed, won the 2019 Homebrew Heroes Award.

Hans kindly took a break so that I could snap his photo at Hamvention 2019.

Last year, at the 2019 Hamvention, QRP Labs had a table across from ours and, based on the amount of people huddled around his table all day long, I’m certain he was one of the busiest vendors at Hamvention.

His new QCX+ transceiver is an upgraded/updated version of the original QCX transceiver which has sold nearly 10,000 units. In the following video, Hans describes in detail how the QCX+ is designed and the differences between it and its predecessor:

Since I’ve quite a few things on my Social DX bucket list–including the recent addition of QRP EME (I mean, what am I thinking?)–and since I don’t really need yet another CW QRP transceiver, I required a good excuse to buy and build this kit. So I turned to my editor at RadCom who very much wanted review. Fantastic excuse! Thank you!

The amazing thing about the QCX+ is you getting a full-featured single band QRP transceiver for $55 US plus a modest shipping fee. This means pretty much anyone can afford to buy and build one.

I just placed an order for the transceiver ($55) with a 40M band module, the optional custom aluminum enclosure ($25), and the optional GPS receiver ($23). If I had a 3D printer, I might have skipped the enclosure because I’m willing to bet that shortly after the transceiver’s release, someone will share an enclosure design one can print at home. Then again, since I know I’ll take this little rig to the field, an aluminum enclose will provide excellent protection.

I purchased the optional GPS receiver because I plan to eventually put this rig into use as a dedicated WSPR beacon. The GPS module will calibrate the frequency, time, and Maidenhead Locator grid square in WSPR mode. It can also be used to precisely calibrate the transceiver’s synthesizer reference oscillator.

Kit anticipation time!

According to the QRP Labs website, they plan to start shipping the QCX+ in mid-June. I opted for FedEx delivery, so hopefully it’ll arrive sometime around my birthday (Happy Birthday to me!).

More than anything, I simply enjoy building kits and really look forward to building the QCX+, then putting it on the air! I’ll post updates and a few photos here, but look for my full review likely this fall in the pages of RadCom.

Post readers: Please comment if you’ve built a QRP Labs kit or have any other kits in the pipeline this summer!

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Searching for the perfect dual-band mobile and radio inventory in the wake of shut-downs

The Yaesu FT-100DR

As we here in North America are about to see how deep the Covid-19 pandemic is going to go, some of us are trying to turn lemons into lemonade and make the most of our social distance.

My buddy, Eric (WD8RIF), has inspired me to add another item to my growing Social DX Bucket List: install a dual-band mobile radio in my 2018 Subaru Forester.

I had planned to install a mobile rig shortly after purchasing the Forester, but frankly, I’m a “below 30 MHz” kind of guy, so most of my radio funds support HF gear.  When I’m taking a long trip, or wanting to join a local net however, I really miss the luxury of a proper mobile VHF/UHF radio.

 

Eric has pretty much convinced me the Yaesu FT-100DR is a solid choice at $299 US. At least, it’s the rig he plans to acquire.

He also discovered, last week, that new units of the FT-100DR are completely out-of-stock here in the US.

This prompted me to contact a couple of friends who work in the ham radio retail world–I was curious if radio inventory, in general, is running low.

Turns out, things are okay for now

It seems the shortage of FT-100DR units is pretty specific to this transceiver model and the back-order started before the Coronavirus outbreak and consequent shutting down of factories and supply chains across the globe. Likely, there’s a shortage of a specific part that has brought production to a halt.

In general, ham radio transceiver inventory is healthy for now, but supply chains and import of new units has been slowed or halted by the pandemic. Both of my friends believe production has started again in China (albeit slowly) which would coincide with what Anna recently told us. It’ll take a while for production and supply chains to ramp-up and inventory filled locally.

I wouldn’t be surprised if inventory of lower-cost handheld and mobile VHF/UHF transceivers starts to dwindle. As posted earlier today, there’s been a significant uptick of new ham radio licensees. Newly minted hams might be looking for a first radio.

My advice?

If you’re planning to purchase a new transceiver in the near future, and you feel financially secure enough to do so, bite the bullet! I would also recommend supporting your domestic ham radio retailers like (here in the US) Universal Radio, GigaParts, DX Engineering and Ham Radio Outlet. Your purchase will support them through what is obviously going to be difficult financial times ahead for small businesses.

Otherwise, just sit tight for a while! You may find a deal on the used market. One of my favorite places to check is QTH.com’s classifieds.

Speaking of the used market, this is an excellent time to post the gear you’ve been planning to sell!

Dual band mobile suggestions?

If I find a deal on a used FT-100DR, I might snag it (after giving Eric the opportunity, of course). Otherwise, I think I’ll wait until later this year and simply invest in the mounts, antenna, and wiring in the meantime.

The Icom ID-4100A also seems like a solid choice.

In truth, even the FT-100DR doesn’t really satisfy all of the features I’d like in a mobile radio. Here are the features an ideal dual-band radio would offer:

  • Compact remote head
  • Bluetooth
  • VHF/UHF analog
  • GPS
  • APRS
  •  DMR (because where I live, it’s the best repeater network by far)
  • Extended receiver coverage
  • Easy to program

Yeah, I’m essentially looking for a unicorn. DMR mode would be amazing, but I’m not sure there’s a single DMR/analog mobile with remote head. Please correct me if I’m wrong. I’d love your suggestions and experience.

Also, are you considering making any major radio purchases over the next few months. or do you plan to wait until the economy begins to recover? Please comment!

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Social Distancing: Nothing new to us radio geeks

by Victor Rodriguez

Photo by Victor Rodriguez

Let’s face it: COVID-19 is certainly disrupting “business as usual” across the planet. It’s hurting economies, and of greater concern, hurting people.

Besides washing our hands frequently and not touching our faces, one of the most effective means of slowing/halting the spread of the Coronavirus is by exercising social distancing.

Simply staying home, and if you must go out, keeping your distance from others, makes sense––and since contact between people is how the virus spreads, it will help slow the spread of it. Many in our radio community are older now, so we want to be sure they are not subject to the lung damage or hospitalization (or worse) that can come from contracting the highly-contagious virus, especially among those over 65 or those with other health issues.

But there’s an adjustment we have to make to do this.  All around us, large gatherings are being canceled, universities and schools and suspending in-person classes, and business are closing their doors. Many governments and companies are making their employees telecommute from home. Airlines are cancelling flights and some country-to-country travel has even been banned. This is temporary, but nonetheless these are changes to which we must adapt.

Covid-19 global cases (Source: Johns Hopkins University)

Cancellations due to the coronavirus have even hit our radio world: almost every radio convention and gathering on the horizon has been cancelled or rescheduled for a later date. I was looking forward to attending and presenting at my first Ozarkcon QRP conference in early April, but it, too, has been canceled. To help keep track of event cancellations, the ARRL has even created a dedicated page to list all of the canceled ham radio events.

One very conspicuous omission (at time of posting) is the 2020 Hamvention in Xenia, Ohio. I suspect it will eventually cancel as well along with all of the various associated meetings held in conjunction with Hamvention. Frankly, even if Hamvention does manage to weather the COVID-19-prevention closures, I would expect attendance to be dismal this year. [Update: Hamvention cancelled several hours after this post was published]

Part of the Hamvention Food Court area.

Hamvention attracts a large group of international attendees and vendors and the average age of those at Hamvention is Covid-19’s target demographic (60+). True, it’s two months out yet, but most large vendors have to make flight plans now while things are very much in flux. We’ll see how it all plays out in the coming days.

But why temporary social distancing and exercising a little preparedness triggers some individuals to go to extremes or (worse) try to profit from the panic, I’ll never know.  I have been witness to some pretty wacky behaviors recently, like the couple I saw Thursday who were buying twenty jugs of Chlorine Bleach. Since a simple 10% bleach solution is recommended for virus disinfection, unless they own an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an algae overgrowth, or are trying to disinfect an entire hospital, what could they want with so much of it?

Social DX

Meanwhile, social distancing, for us radio geeks, is less a form of restriction and isolation or  than it is an opportunity. 

Those of you who know me well know that I can be quite talkative when I’m with others, especially those who share my love of radio. Many might even assume I’m an extrovert.  But if anything, I’m perhaps a socially-comfortable introvert. And in truth, it’s easy for me to adjust to staying in.  Like so many SWLs, I enjoy the chance to escape to my radio to tune out the fuss…and tune in the world. A cheerful chat, or listen, over a distance, is my idea of a good time. This is true”social DXing,” if you ask me!

For the next few weeks, here’s what my Social DX Bucket List includes (completed items have a strike through)…

  • Clean the sticky residue off the rest of my radios
  • Explore Weather Fax a bit more
  • Activate and chase a few parks in the Parks On The Air program
  • Tinker with my uBITX V6 code
  • Learn more Linux command line
  • Chase more HF pirates (since many of them will also have more free time!)
  • Take my recently-acquired Eton E1 to the field
  • And perhaps add a few ATNOs (All-Time New Ones) to the logs
  • Deploy a loop on ground (LOG) antenna
  • Make a CW only Parks On The Air activation
  • Start piecing together a QRP EME station

Yes, I definitely welcome a little social DX!

Are you under quarantine or self-imposed social distancing to avoid COVID-19? What are your plans during this time? Please comment!


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