Should contest rules allow and act upon 599K QRM reports?

Sunday, 21 December 2008


My favourite mode is CW. I was asked during a foundation course why CW was so good, and in the following discussion it became apparent that there is an enormous gap in education about what it's like to operate in CW after you've learnt the morse code. Here is my attempt to hopefully inspire more Hams to give it a go.

I've always thought that learning morse code is like learning to ski. At the start it isn't much fun, you look at how effortless everyone else seems to find it, and you wonder if you will ever get to that level. You can see others enjoying themselves, but it seems impossible to get a rythm going at the speeds you are forced to go at. You make lots of mistakes and the effort necessary to complete one run just doesn't seem worth it.

I'm teaching my five year old how to read at the moment and the books she is learning from just aren't that exciting due to language restrictions. TV to her is just so much more accessible, reading simple stories about Dick and Jane just doesn't hack it in comparison. I've tried to tell her that when you read a real book you can let your imagination run riot and suddenly you are there in technicolor. When the film comes out it's never as good as the way you had imagined it.

It's no lie to say that the effort required to ski or to read is immense, neither can be learnt over night. It's only through watching and listening to others that we can tell that learning how to do them is worth the effort.

I think part of the joy of the cw mode is from the fact that it was such a hard won skill. The other part is when you start to realise the added benifits that this new mode brings you.

1) Less background noise.
CW is a narrow bandwidth mode and as such you can reduce the passband of your receiver (using narrow filters) which causes the background noise to fall from the comparitive raging static required for voice mode communication to a quiet, easy listening hiss.

2) More space within the allocation.
You can fit in at least 10 CW stations in the same bandwidth required for 1 SSB station. Imagine having an SSB band allocation increased by a factor of 10. There would be much more room for everyone, meaning more chance of getting that crystal clear frequency on a wide open band to catch that elusive DX. This is the norm in CW mode.

3) More discernable signals.
A CW signal can be copied easily against this hiss and way down into the hiss unlike that of any voice mode. In voice modes, when a weak signal is heard, it is normal to only be able to hear the 'peaks' of the other stations voice, enough to know that they are there, but not enough to understand what they are saying. In the CW mode, each morse code element sent is a 'peak' so in the above case 100% copy is achievable. This is due to the on/off nature of the morse code against the large range of sounds possible in voice modes. It is therefore possible to extend the range of reliable communications that your setup is capable of.

4) Less QRM.
The on/off nature of the morse code allows the receiver to be open/active during off periods of transmission. This allows the sender to partially hear 'through' their own transmission. The advantages of this are many but imagine calling in on a pile-up and being able to tell that continued transmisson was pointless as the DX was now sending back to someone else.

5) Cheaper Equipment
The circuits involved in the creation of a CW transceiver are very much simpler with less components than that of any transceiver with voice capabilities. This allows for easier home construction, less battery current comsumption, smaller more portable transceivers and ultimately therefore cheaper to buy. You can buy a brand new CW transceiver kit for £25.

The above points are only some of the many benefits that make this mode of communication such a joy. All of the above allow more DX to be worked, but the joy of the CW mode goes further than this. Following the reading/TV analogy made earlier, some people find that during a cw conversation your imagination is on full throttle and is filling your mind with clear pictures on the topic allowing you your own version of what the other station is communicating.

I hope that this added information may help inspire someone out there to go that extra mile and make the extra effort learn the morse code.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

SDMO Booster 1000 petrol suitcase generator

I took advantage of a Christmas offer from Screwfix, £100 off if you spend over £450. The generator was listed at £460 so got it for £360, still a lot of money but I'm hoping it will be perfect for portable operations in the summer. It was delivered the next day (great service) and came with oil, spark plug removal tool and battery charging leads.
I topped up the oil, filled it with fuel and started her up. The noise from it is too loud to have it next to the operating position, but walking about 10m away from it dropped the noise to a level that couldn't be heard through a mic. I recon I could run it at the house without bothering my immediate neighbours.
I plugged a power supply into the mains socket on the side of the generator and connected a rig and dummy load. I scanned 1.8 to 30MHz and found no birdies within the amateur bands, the receiver sounded clean and clear.
The transceiver pulls about 20A at 12V at maximum power output of 100W. With the generator on it's 'turtle' (slow rev) position an indicator lamp lights if you exceed it's current capabilities to warn you to switch it to 'hare' (fast rev) position. Whilst looking at this warning lamp I slowly increased the power output of the transceiver whilst transmiting. I could get the full 100W from the rig without having to change up to the louder, faster rev position.
I have a 110A/H leisure battery and I had thought that if the generator couldn't handle the rig on it own, that I would connect the generator and the battery in parallel with the rig. Hopefully the battery will smooth the generated charging voltage sufficiently to allow this configuration. This will be my next test when I get time.

Monday, 1 December 2008


Well I found it very difficult. The K3 and the K2 in either ear was easy at the start, but when I got tired it was a nightmare.

I can now see why a lot more automation is helpful for SO2R. Having to change the coaxial stubs over was confusing and tiring, but I didn't get it wrong (thank goodness). There were no knocks on the door this time so I continued through till the end of the contest. I probably got about 24 hrs in and enjoyed most of it.

Things that bugged me:
1) SO2R freq hogs, their not using it, but you can't have it!
2) Running a massive pile up of US stns on 40m only to get my RX obliterated by some non-contest station having a QSK QSO with 10KW and key clicks to match! I have no doubt it's propably the first QSO they've made in the whole year, just to hack contesters off.
3) Having my crystal clear freq stolen by a larger EU stn.
4) Trying to eek out that JA on 20m only to have constant hasstle from people tring to steal the freq because they can't hear the DX i.e. QRL? ? ? QRL etc.
5) Watching all the ridiculous cluster entries go by about LID, squeezing, stole freq etc. The best one was unfortunately from a G4 stn who was warning CW stns to stick to the bandplan. He obviously doesn't know CW covers the whole band in most cases.

Things that were brilliant:
1) Worked HC8N from 80-15m :-)
2) K3 receiver
3) K2 receiver
4) Spiderpole 40m vertical wire antenna
5) Massive pile ups!

The cobweb antenna was playing up due to the frost, I have the wrong string type on the antenna and when it froze up the SWR went sky high.

Contest : CQ World Wide DX Contest
Callsign : MM3T
Mode : CW
Category : Single Operator - Assisted (SOA)
Overlay : ---
Band(s) : All bands (AB)
Class : High Power (HP)
Zone/State/... : 14
Locator : IO75XR
Operating time : 23h12
160 58 5 29 0 60 1.03
80 363 16 55 0 518 1.43
40 402 21 68 1 568 1.41
20 451 20 75 0 784 1.74
15 18 7 8 0 48 2.67
10 0 0 0 0 0 0.00
TOTAL 1292 69 235 1 1978 1.53
TOTAL SCORE : 601 312