|Tinfoil Phonograph||Museum Ships on the Air||Secretary's Minutes|
|Congratulations||Editor's Notes||On the Road with FT8||Marathon and Parade||Field Day in 2 Weeks|
It has been more than a few years since David, W1KR visited a RANV meeting when he presented his work making miniature telegraph keys. At other RANV meetings of yore he Offered presentations about an antenna farm in a box (small models of various wire antennas he made), an HF mobile antenna presentation, and one about the ways that he put together 2 different compact and portable HF stations. This time he’s going to do a show and tell about his recent study of the very first phonograph which Thomas Edison once called his favorite invention.
Thomas Alva Edison started out as a telegraph operator and soon became one of the biggest innovators in the telegraph industry by developing a multiplex telegraph system that allowed more than one telegraph signal to be sent on a single telegraph line. After amazing the world with his “speaking phonograph” in 1877, Edison went on to develop the electric light and was issued over 1000 patents rightly earning his status as America's greatest inventor and the Wizard of Menlo Park.
David is a teacher, artist and machinist who will demonstrate and discuss this
earliest of recording technology on a 1/2 size museum model he built
representing the kind of demonstration tinfoil phonograph that was first made
available for sale to the public in 1878. Edison's tinfoil phonograph was a
purely mechanical method of recording and playing back sound by embossing the
sound vibrations of speech onto foil wrapped around a rotating cylinder. Over
the course of 140 years this simple idea was developed into the recording
industry and ultimately into the audio and video that is endlessly streamed
into earbuds and eyeballs around the world.
On June 1 and 2, 2019 a group of hams activated the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
in Vergennes for the Museum Ships on the Air weekend event. Our special event call was
W1M. The participants were: KB1FRW, AB1DD, KB1ZEB, KC1IFK, K1ZK, KC1JGM, W4YFJ, KB1THX
and K1BIF. We ran from 8 pm Friday through 3 pm Sunday, quitting each night
somewhere between 11 and midnight. Bob, KB1FRW and Carl, AB1DD pulled the night shifts.
The station was Elecraft equipment; a K3 and KPA500 amp with the tuner. The
antenna was a Cobra Ultralight 80 through 10 meter dipole up only 35 feet (the tallest
trees around). It would tune very well on 6 meters, but no one was there that weekend. Most of the
contacts were on 20 and 40 meters. 20 meters ran well into both nights, yielding
New Zealand around 11 pm on Friday night and Cook Islands about the same time on Saturday night,
both SSB contacts. By 3 pm on Sunday, there was 1,277 entries in our log.
A short video is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gwojj1e-YE&t=2s
There were about 15 in attendance. Bob, KB1FRW called the meeting to order at 7:05.
Beverly KI6ISG is running a RACES net on Cabot repeater, Wednesday evening. Museum Ships on the Air project was discussed. Essex Memorial Day Parade was discussed. Vermont City Marathon was discussed. Bob H. agreed to bring snacks for the June meeting.
This event is coming up starting with setup on June 21st and running through June 23rd. Our club placed first in the 2-alpha category last year, and has placed in the top 10 for 20 years. We need GOTA operators. Setup begins at noon on Friday the 21st at Redmond Road not far from the landfill.
Bob K1BIF talked about a new antenna analyzer that he has that can display a variety of graphics on a computer. It is a Sark 110 http://www.sark110.com/home The plan was to have a second presentation on FT8 and using that at Field Day. Paul AA1SU arrived to assist, and both men worked on getting the software to communicate. While this was going on, Bob A. talked about items available on craigslist, and showed some items he picked up recently. Attendees chatted for the remainder of the meeting.
Jonathon Landell KC1LDD upgrade to General
I will be assuming the editor of the newsletter from Dave this month. I am
retired from IBM. I had an interest in amateur radio in grade school but
never had an opportunity to pursue. My wife asked me why the interest in
amateur radio now you're in retirement. My reply was I wanted someone else to
I am an active HF mobile operator. Each year, I fire up on HF during the 13-hour trip out to Dayton and also during trips to New York. Lately, I've been less successful in making QSO's during these trips. As we all know, conditions have not been great, with 20 meters closing down in the evening, which is usually when I travel. With a small, inefficient antenna, mobile operation depends on finding loud stations calling CQ, and there have been far fewer of these stations around. And with increasing amounts of vehicular traffic at all hours of the day and night, the level of distracted driving which goes along with HF operation is not very safe. A typical SSB HF mobile operation out to Dayton consists of checking into the East Coast Amateur Radio Service (ECARS) net on 7255 kHz and telling them I'm on the way to Dayton. And then, a few contacts might be made on 20 meters in the afternoon. Most of the time is spent listening to noise.
On the trip to Dayton last year, I though it would be neat to totally automate the station on FT8 so it would do the work and I could be freed up to do other things (like driving or sleeping). The usual setup on FT8 requires operator intervention at the end of the QSO. Namely the QSO must be logged (hitting enter) and the “Enable Transmit” button must clicked on with the mouse or the Alt-N shortcut can be used. As anyone knows, working a mouse while driving is difficult and just plain crazy. There had to be a better way.
I found that someone had indeed automated FT8 so that no operator intervention was needed. Stathis SV5DKL wrote a program called FT8 Robot which uses automatic macros to simulate the keystrokes an FT8 operator would use. Just what the doctor ordered! For $25, I got the software from him and set it up. Unfortunately, it would not work on my tiny Netbook (Windows 7 Home OS), but it worked fine on my ancient Dell running XP. In my driveway, I quickly had it running on 40 meters, calling a CQ, working a station, logging it and going back to calling CQ. This will be great!
Some discussion about the legality of all of this is in order. Unattended operation is not permitted on the HF bands and this should never be attempted. My operation was an automatic operation, but under my control. I glanced at the screen every so often. Ideally, I would see mixed red and yellow bars on the right side of the screen (my working frequency), meaning that I was calling CQ and working people. If I saw all yellow that meant that I was not getting answers to my CQ's. If possible, I would check the waterfall to make sure someone wasn't on top of me and perhaps make a frequency adjustment, if I was able.
The trip started at 8AM on 40 meters, and I quickly had a good run going. Mind you, this is with a 10 foot whip and 100 watts. The program worked great for a while, but then reverted back to the normal FT8 mode which required operator intervention. I later found this was due to the screen saver coming on and disabling the macro. This was later fixed. However, the larger problem was that I was MOVING - meaning that my grid square was changing every hour or so - a total of 15 grid squares for the trip. This required hitting F2 to bring up the “Settings” menu and typing in the new grid square. To facilitate this, I had a cheat sheet which told me exactly where the grids would change. For a while, I had Debbie doing the grid changes, but after several of these, she mutinied and I had to deal with it myself. Ugh!
Another problem was working everyone who could hear me to the point where no one was left to call me. Normally, this would mean a necessary band change. However, a band change required a stop to change the antenna resonator, and this was not done unless it was a gas or food stop.
Ultimately, the computer banged out 50 QSO's outbound and 28 on the return - I ran less time on the return trip. How good was FT8? When I pulled the plug out of the phone jack all I could hear was that confounded ignition noise and not much else. FT8 was amazing that it pulled signals out of that mess.
Continuing on the same theme, a few days after I returned, I fired up FT8 on 30 meters as my van rolled in the Essex Memorial Parade and made 9 contacts during the 45 minute parade route while I was waving to the crowd!
What's the point of all this? That's what Debbie kept asking. She correctly pointed out that I spoke to no one (not such a bad thing, really…) and the computer did all the work. In reality, weak HF mobile conditions are tough and meaningful QSO's are quite rare. And those who know me know that I hate automation and prefer a mostly manual operated station. The fun I had was facilitating all of this to occur. That is, properly setting up the radio, power system, antenna, computer connections and software to allow the system to seamlessly work and allow me to do other things. And it did work well - most of the time.
How can I make this better? Certainly the Robot program can be a bit more robust so that little things like screen savers a nd other resident programs don't stop it. Another big question is how to automatically update my grid square location. This could be done with a GPS input to the computer to compute the grid and populate it into FT8. Some VHF Rovers have been known to do things like this. Or else, the poor man's way to do this is that since I know the mileage and approximate time I'm in each grid, I can set a timer to pick the next grid from a list.
While in Dayton, I went out with some friends who were driving a Tesla Model 3. This car has no dashboard - just a large 15” touch screen which has all the operational parameters. Now if I could input the video and controls from WSJTx onto that, it would be a snap to view and to keep tabs on the FT8 operating parameters!
I'll continue to have fun with this, especially when I have to figure out how
to upload the QSO's I made from 12 different grid squares into LOTW!
The Vermont City Marathon 2019 opened up to a storm cell doing a direct hit on downtown Burlington. The radio network quickly gave the word to evacuate the course to designated shelters to ride out the storm. The lightning was pretty spectacular on the Beltline! After the storm passed, everyone got back out and the race started 45 minutes late. Although heat conditions climbed steadily through the day, there was only a small handful of medical calls handled. A good deal of time was spent tracking runners who travelled the course after the course services had closed. Repeater performance and radio communications were spot on all day. The 30 ham operators in the event included RANV members K1BIF, KB1FRW, KB1OAH, KB1RQX, KB1VJD, KB1ZEB, KI6ISG, KK1L, N1LXI, NJ1S, W1DEB, W1SJ and WL7CVD.
The day before, a group of ham operators served as parade marshals for the 2019 Essex Memorial Parade. We had parade perfect weather! Since my go-kart was in the shop, I was back driving the van this year. This was set up for full communications, with FM communications, a UHF repeater and 30 meter FT8 all running while on the parade route. Thanks to K1BIF, K3BH, KB1FRW, KB1YGP, KB1ZEB, N1LXI, N1WCK, N1WQS, W1DEB and W1SJ for their help.
On a personal note, we bid farewell to John N1LXI serving in his last events
in a long ham radio public service career in Vermont. John and family are
moving to Indiana in several weeks. Best of luck!
Field Day is only two weeks away. We have a tough mission - to defend our 2A Class Championship! Winning is real hard - repeating is even harder. We will have to do real well and get lucky with the propagation.
One of the most important planning items is to make sure we have enough people to do the various jobs. Please fill out the Field Day survey you receive as this tells us who is available at what times.
If you have never participated at Field Day, please consider joining us. Field Day is all of ham radio rolled up into one weekend. We build stations and antennas, operate on various bands and modes, argue about the best approach for making contacts and have a ton of fun with each other. The details on how to get involved follow.
The next RANV meeting on June 11 will feature a discussion on Field Day and operating the FT8 digital mode. We want to get many operators trained to use this mode for night and early morning operations when phone contacts are slow in coming. It is easy to use and you can download the software and start making contacts right away.
The Field Day planning meeting will be on Monday, June 17, 7PM at W1SJ. At this gathering, we discuss the nuts & bolts of planning the various details - who, what, when, where and how. We'll skip the why!
Field Day setup will commence Friday, June 21 at 11AM. At that time, the towers and tents and equipment show up and we hoist it all into the air. With the early start, we hope to be done by dinnertime.
Field Day setup continues Saturday morning at 10AM when the stations are installed. We have precious few hours to get everything in and working properly for the 2PM start. The operation continues for 24 hours, ending at 2PM Sunday, when we systematically take everything down and put it all away.
If you have never been to Field Day, I'll repeat this important advice. If
you plan to participate, be sure to sign up ahead of time and let us know what
you want to do. In that way, you will most likely end up with the activity
you desire and the knowledge you need to do it well. If you simply show up,
you will end up being a spectator. While there is nothing wrong with this, if
you want to be involved you should let us know ahead of time. And, if you are
not doing anything, be sure to con tact us on the air!