A Photographic Tour of Universal Radio’s New Location

In October, 2017, Universal Radio moved from their large Reynoldsburg, Ohio retail store and warehouse to a smaller retail store and warehouse at 651-B Lakeview Plaza, Worthington, Ohio. This is actually Universal Radio’s fourth location in its 75 year history. In 1942, Universal Service opened on North Third Street in downtown Columbus. In 1977, Universal Radio moved to Aida Drive in Reynoldsbutg. In 1992, Universal Radio moved to Americana Drive in Reynoldsburg. Finally, in 2017, Universal Radio moved to the current location in Worthington.

On Friday, November 17, I had the opportunity to visit the new location of Universal Radio  for the first time and I prepared a photographic tour of the new location.

The new location is smaller than the previous location and instead of consisting of one large showroom space, the new location consists of several smaller rooms. (Indeed, the new layout reminds me the layout of one of my all-time favorite bookstores, the Book Loft in Columbus’s German Village neighborhood, which now has 32 (!) rooms of books. No, Universal Radio’s new store does not have 32 rooms!) As can be seen in the following photographs, these rooms are densely stocked. Universal Radio still offers all the items that were available in the previous store location. Of course, just as at the previous, larger, location, some items aren’t on immediate display but are available upon request.

The new Universal Radio storefront at 651-B Lakeview Plaza Blvd, Worthington, Ohio

The new Universal Radio storefront at 651-B Lakeview Plaza Blvd, Worthington, Ohio. There’s more than ample parking.

The sign and entrance to the new Universal Radio store

The sign and entrance to the new Universal Radio store.

Books, with Barb stocking the shelves with the newest "The Worldwide Listening Guide"

Immediately upon entering the store, one will find hundreds of book titles. Here, Barb is stocking the shelves with the newest, just-released, “The Worldwide Listening Guide”.

Magazines

And, of course, Universal still offers several issues each of the two major American amateur radio magazines.

Antennas, shortwave receivers, HTs, scanners + VHF/UHF mobiles

In the main showroom: antennas, shortwave receivers, HTs, scanners, and VHF/UHF mobile transceivers.

HF transceivers

In the same showroom, the HF transceivers, available to operate.

The Heil microphone display

The Heil microphone and headset display.

Used equipment

The Used equipment display: HF transceivers, shortwave receivers, VHF/UHF transceivers, handhelds, and accessories.

Antennas!

Antennas!

More antennas!

And more antennas!

The warehouse area, with Barb and Cathy

Just as with nearly any other modern retailer, Universal Radio’s bread-and-butter is internet and telephone orders. This is just a small portion of the new warehouse and shipping area, with Barb and Cathy busily filling orders.

The warehouse area

A small portion of the warehouse and shipping area.

The well-equipped service area

Universal Radio still has a nicely-equipped service area.

Just as at the previous Reynoldsburg location (and at the even earlier Aida Drive location), the new Universal Radio store is home to several cats which, sadly, I neglected to photograph.

The new store is staffed by the same friendly and helpful people we’ve come to know from the Americana Drive location. During this visit, I saw and spoke with Josh, Eric, Barb, and Cathy.

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CommRadio CTX-10 approved by FCC

The CommRadio CTX-10

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, R. Lewis (KF5GV), who writes:

Just noticed on Universal Radio web page the Comm Radio CTX-10 has been approved by the FCC. They are accepting pre-orders on Dec 1. No indication of pricing but hope they announce it soon.

Thanks for the tip!

I’m looking forward to checking out the CommRadio CTX-10. For one thing, it’s in one of my favorite radio categories: portable general coverage QRP transceivers!

Since the CTX-10 receiver is likely an iteration of the excellent CommRadio CR1 series, I expect it’ll perform well on the broadcast bands as well as the ham bands. I look forward to reviewing the CTX-10.

Follow the tag CommRadio CTX-10 for updates.

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The ARRL International Grid Chase: The ARRL’s new year long operating event

One of my Ohio NPOTA activations in 2016.

(Source: The ARRL)

The ARRL International Grid Chase

Get ready to kick off 2018 with a new year-long operating event!

Bart Jahnke, W9JJ
ARRL Contest Branch Manager

You may not know this, but your station is in a Maidenhead grid square. The entire world is divided into thousands of these 1° latitude × 2° longitude squares, each one with a unique designation. They’re all part of a geographic location system adopted in the 1980s at a meeting of the VHF Working Group in Maidenhead, England.

Unless you are a VHF enthusiast, this nugget of information may not mean much. But at 0000 UTC on January 1, 2018, the global Amateur Radio community will be very interested in grid squares.

Get in the Chase

The objective of the ARRL International Grid Chase is simple: Work stations in as many grid squares as possible and upload your log data to ARRL’s Logbook of The World. If you are not currently registered with Logbook of The World, this is a good reason to get started. Go to https://lotw.arrl.org/lotw-help/getting-started/. Registration and uploading are free.

Every new grid square contact confirmed through Logbook of The World counts toward your monthly total, so you have an incentive to start the chase as soon as you ring in the New Year.

Just turn on your radio and start calling “CQ Grid Chase,” or listen for others doing the same. Make the contact, enter it into your log, and you’re on to the next (see the sidebar, “Tips for the Chase“).

At the end of each month, your totals on the Grid Chase leader board will reset to zero. Fear not, though. The online scoring system will maintain your monthly totals for a grand total at the end of the year, when an annual summary will be released and awards given to top finishers in various categories.

The ARRL International Grid Chase is open to all amateurs, regardless of location or license class. Any operating mode is eligible as well as every band, except 60 meters. You’ll find the complete rules at www.arrl.org/aigc2018.

But What’s My Grid Square?

Determining your grid square is easy. David Levine, K2DSL, has a great online calculator at www.levinecentral.com/ham/grid_square.php. Just enter a postal address, zip code, or even a call sign, and David’s site will tell you the grid square for that location.

For example, enter “W1AW” and the site will return “FN31pr.” The letters “pr” designate the grid square field, but you won’t need that for the Chase. Just FN31 will do.

The ARRL online store (www.arrl.org/shop) also offers grid square maps of the US and Canada, as well as a grid square atlas of the entire world.

Plenty of Pileups

Grid map section

Figure 1 — Grid square FN51 is mostly salt water, except for a narrow strip of land along the “sole” of Cape Cod and a portion of southeastern Nantucket Island. This image is taken from the ARRL Amateur Radio Map of North America, available at www.arrl.org/shop.

Some grid squares have thousands of amateurs in residence, but others have only a few, or none. Those “rare” grid squares will be hot properties in 2018, and hams operating from those locations can expect serious pileups.

Of course, nothing prevents you from hopping into your car and driving to a grid square where you are the only amateur on the air. There are some grid squares in coastal areas, for example, where most of the territory is comprised of water. Look at Figure 1 and notice that grid square FN51 is mostly in the Atlantic Ocean, except for a relatively narrow strip along the “sole” of Cape Cod and a small portion of southeastern Nantucket Island.

If you’re taking to the road, some vehicular GPS systems will display grid square locations. You can also use apps for your smartphone or tablet, such as Ham Square (iPhone, iPad) or HamGPS (Android).

However you play it, the ARRL International Grid Chase is going to be big. By the time you read this, “opening day” will be less than 2 months away. Better sign up with Logbook of The World (if you haven’t already) and prepare your gear!

Questions? E-mail contests@arrl.org.

Tips for the Chase

  • Any contact can count for your Chase score; it doesn’t have to involve an exchange of grid squares. As long as other operators participate with Logbook of The World, you’ll get the credit automatically when they upload their logs. This means that contest contacts will count, as will contacts with special-event stations, or any other on-air activity. As long as stations upload their logs to Logbook of The World, you’re good.
  • The new FT8 digital operating mode is ideal for the ARRL International Grid Chase. You can set up FT8 to call CQ and automatically respond, completing a contact in a little over a minute while you watch. When the contact is complete, simply click your mouse to trigger another CQ. You’ll find FT8 within the free WSJT-X software suite at https://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/wsjtx.html.
  • Watch for Logbook of The World users on your favorite online DX clusters. Most clusters have the ability to filter and display only stations that participate in Logbook of The World; other clusters can at least flag the stations with a symbol. This will save time when you are looking for contacts to increase your score. If you enjoy JT65, JT9, or the FT8 digital modes, check out the free JTAlert for Windows at http://hamapps.com. This software works with JT65-HF or WSJT-X applications to automatically flag Logbook users and will even alert you when a station is on the air in a needed grid square.
  • Upload often. Grid Chase totals are refreshed at the end of each month. With that in mind, it pays to send new data to Logbook of The World every couple of days, or even daily.
  • Satellite contacts count. Contacts made through earthbound repeaters do notcount for the Grid Chase, but repeaters in outer space are the exception. There are low-orbiting satellites that support CW, SSB, and even FM contacts. See the AMSAT-NA website at www.amsat.org.
  • Try “circling” grid squares. It’s easy to set up a portable or mobile operation at the intersections where corners of grid squares meet. For example, you could operate in one grid square and then drive west across the “border” into the next square. Make some contacts there and then drive north into the adjacent square. Bang out more contacts, and then head east into another grid square. This is a very common technique used by VHF “rover” operators. In a single day, you can operate from four different grid squares!
  • Take the Chase on vacation. Take a radio along when you travel and work new grid squares at your destinations. Even a handheld FM transceiver can be used to work a new square on a simplex frequency.

© December 2017 ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio® www.arrl.org

2018 International Grid Chase Rules

2018 ARRL International Grid Chase Rules

In the spirit of the Fred Fish Memorial Award, VUCC, DXCC, WAS and WAC, we bring you a world-wide event in which all Radio Amateurs can participate where the goal is to contact (each Month during 2018) as many maidenhead 4-digit grid squares as possible on all amateur bands.

Building on our successful 2016 National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) event (providing a year-long focus of fun activating or contacting US National Parks), and considering ARRL’s existing grid-square based award events (including our Fred Fish and VUCC Award programs where the objective is to contact stations in as many 4-digit maidenhead grid squares as possible), we introduce for 2018 the ARRL International Grid Chase to bring international grid-chasing on all amateur bands (HF, and VHF and above) to an all new level.

In a fashion similar to NPOTA, using Logbook of the World (LoTW – see http://www.arrl.org/logbook-of-the-world) as the QSOs data source, the 2018 ARRL International Grid Chase activities will be scored MONTHLY on the ARRL web site at http://www.arrl.org/aigc2018. Each month we will start fresh, recognizing participation through various tables and data selection options on the web page. Monthly pages will be added to track each calendar month’s activities. Once the year is completed, an annual summary will be released.

Rules:

  1. 1. Objective: On a Monthly basis, on amateur frequencies from HF to Microwaves, to contact amateur stations in as many different 2 degrees by 1 degree maidenhead 4-digit grid squares as possible.
  2. 2. Dates/Event Period: The event runs from 0000 UTC January 1, 2018 through 2359 UTC December 31, 2018. At the beginning of each month during 2018, the monthly scores will be reset to zero to begin the new month of competition.
  3. 3. Bands: All FCC-authorized frequencies (excluding the 60 meter and 600 meter bands). Permitted bands: 160m, 80m, 40m, 30m, 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m, 10m, 6m, 2m, 1,25m, 70cm, 33cm, 23cm, and all higher FCC-authorized microwave bands.
  4. 4. Modes: Three mode categories will be recognized – CW, Phone and Digital (all voice modes count as Phone, all digital modes count as Digital).
  5. 5. Methods of contact: All methods of contact are permitted (excluding QSOs made through repeaters, digipeaters, Echolink, IRLP, or non-satellite cross-band QSOs which do not count in this event). Satellite and EME QSOs are permitted.
  6. 6. Station types: Fixed, Portable, Mobile/Rover and Maritime Mobile (MM) stations may participate (MM stations are not eligible for DXCC, WAS or WAC credit however).
  7. 7. Exchange: Call Sign and Maidenhead 4-digit grid-square locator (see www.arrl.org/grid-squares). Exchange of signal report is optional. When operating during a contest, the contest exchange takes precedence over the grid square exchange. QSOs made with a club or special event (eg, 1×1) call count only for the club, not for the operator. As with other similar award’s criteria, if a station is located on the intersection of 2, 3 or 4 grid squares, the over-the-air exchange need only include just one grid square (confirmation for the adjoining grid squares will be made by the station operating from the intersecting grids through the station location in TQSL https://lotw.arrl.org/lotw-help_devel_en/stnloc/?lang=en).

    TQSL Station Locations will allow multiple adjacent grids (formatted as “grid,grid,” etc).  MM stations would have DXCC Entity set to “none”.  For information on LoTW TQSL, see http://www.arrl.org/quick-start-tqsl.

    All QSOs within your DXCC entity qualify.
    See also section 9 below for Awards with specific requirements.

  8. 8. Event participation – contact submissions: All submissions are made through LoTW. See https://lotw.arrl.org/lotw/default
  9. 9. Awards: As all contacts are being uploaded to LoTW, in addition to the overall monthly and annual recognitions of the ARRL International Grid Chase, participants may use their contacts toward other ARRL awards (see the list of ARRL awards at http://www.arrl.org/awards). These include ARRL’s grid-based awards of VHF-UHF Century Club (VUCC) and the Fred Fish Memorial Award (for contact with all 488 US 4-digit grid squares on 6 meters), as well as Worked All States (WAS) and WAS Triple Play, DX Century Club (DXCC), and Worked All Continents (WAC).
  10. 10. Recognitions: Achievement in collecting grid squares in the ARRL International Grid Chase will be recognized by categories of Band, Mode, and Continent (other leaders types will be developed as warranted) through our interactive web page monthly and at year end summary. Online certificates of achievement will be developed for Monthly and Annual recognition.
  11. 11. Resources: A variety of resources offer grid-square maps and mapping tools.
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Videos featuring the QCX Transceiver kit

Many thanks to Pete (WB9FLW) who shares the following videos and notes:

Hans Summer G0UPL has released an excellent YouTube Video describing the QCX Transceiver Kit, its Design, and Operating Features:

Click here to view on YouTube.

[And] Roberto IZ7VHF has a much more detailed video of The QCX Transceiver.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Looks like people are catching QCX Fever! What an amazing Radio!

I agree, Pete! It’s simply amazing how self-contained this transceiver is. I like the fact that the kit is through-hole and that the board appears to be high quality. I will soon have one on order. This will be a fun winter project!  Thanks for sharing, Pete!

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QRP Labs’s $49 QCX 5W single-band transceiver kit

Many thanks to Pete (WB9FLW) who notes:

“QRP Labs has just come out with the full feature CW Transceiver Kit for $49.00!”

(Source: QRP Labs)

The “QCX” is a 5W, single-band, high performance CW transceiver kit with WSPR beacon, and built-in alignment/test equipment. It is available for 80, 60, 40, 30, 20 or 17m bands. See below for the long list of features! This is a kit of parts that you assemble yourself. There are NO surface mount components to solder (two SMD ICs are already factory pre-soldered). We do not currently have any enclosure available for this kit, it may be something we investigate in the future.

Features

  • Easy to build, single-board design, 10 x 8cm, all controls are board-mounted
  • Professional quality double-sided, through-hole plated, silk-screen printed PCB
  • Choice of single band, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20 or 17m
  • Approximately 3-5W CW output (depending on supply voltage)
  • 7-16V recommended supply voltage
  • Class E power amplifier, transistors run cool… even with no heatsinks
  • 7-element Low Pass Filter ensures regulatory compliance
  • CW envelope shaping to remove key clicks
  • High performance receiver with at least 50dB of unwanted sideband cancellation
  • 200Hz CW filter with no ringing
  • Si5351A Synthesized VFO with rotary encoder tuning
  • 16 x 2 blue backlight LCD screen
  • Iambic keyer or straight key option included in the firmware
  • Simple Digital Signal Processing assisted CW decoder, displayed real-time on-screen
  • On-screen S-meter
  • Full or semi QSK operation using fast solid-state transmit/receive switching
  • Frequency presets, VFO A/B Split operation, RIT, configurable CW Offset
  • Configurable sidetone frequency and volume
  • Connectors: Power, 3.5mm keyer jack, 3.5mm stereo earphone jack, BNC RF output
  • Onboard microswitch can be used as a simple straight Morse key
  • Built-in test signal generator and alignment tools to complete simple set-up adjustments
  • Built-in test equipment: voltmeter, RF power meter, frequency counter, signal generator
  • Beacon mode, supporting automatic CW or WSPR operation
  • GPS interface for reference frequency calibration and time-keeping (for WSPR beacon)

Pete adds:

Check the manual out, it’s 138 pages! Even a rank beginner can successfully build this rig.

https://qrp-labs.com/images/qcx/assembly_LT.pdf

Thank you for the tip, Pete! That’s an amazing amount of transceiver for the price. You’re right, I believe even a new kit builder could build this transceiver.

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Elecraft discontinues the K1 and KX1

My Elecraft KX1

After rumors surfaced about the demise of the Elecraft “K1” line, Wayne Burdick (N6KR) made the following announcement on the Elecraft email reflector, specifically mentioning the original K1:

We should have made a formal announcement here. Yes, we discontinued it because certain parts are hard to come by now, making it no longer cost effective for us to manufacture.

It was a great product for us, and I used mine for years, taking it on many trips. I thought of it as a “Sierra on Steroids” at the time (referring to an earlier design I did for the NorCal QRP Club). But we’ve moved on to more versatile field radios, including the KX2 and KX3.

73,
Wayne
N6KR

I’ve owned both the K1 and KX1 and they performed amazingly well. I suppose that’s why I also invested in both the KX3 and KX2 transceivers. I suppose all good things must come to an end.

I still own a K2/100 and I certainly hope Elecraft continues to support this fine transceiver. It’s unique in that it’s about the only American-made transceiver kit on the market that’s easily serviceable by a non-technician.  It’s also a rock-solid performer and, frankly, has a cult following of its own.

Vive le K2!

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QRP Activities at Shelby Hamfest

Many thanks to Bill (W4SFV) who shares the following announcement:

QRP advocate Bill Minikiewicz, of Breadboard Radio, will present a talk on QRP at this years Shelby Hamfest. Although the presentation will focus on the why and how of QRP operation designed to get hams excited about low power operating there will also be time for discussion about your experiences as QRPer’s.

Hopefully, this will turn into an annual QRP get together for the Southeast QRP gang. Several Breadboard Radio Kits will be given away, so be sure to attend. Also look for W4FSV operating QRP pedestrian in the Tail Gate area!

The Shelby Hamfest will be September 1, 2 and 3, 2017 at the Cleveland County Fairground, Shelby, NC. Bill’s talk is at 12 noon. Check out www.shelbyhamfest.com.

Excellent, Bill! Though I’m hosting a table in the flea market at Shelby this year, I will certainly plan to attend your QRP session!

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micro-BITX: a homebrew general coverage SSB/CW QRP transceiver

Image Source: uBITX)

Many thanks to Pete (WB9FLW) who shares the following:

Farhan VU2ESE Does It Again!

http://www.phonestack.com/farhan/ubitx/ubitx.html

A compact 10 watts, easy to build, general coverage SSB/CW transceiver for HF bands

Homebrewers have traditionally avoided making multiband transceivers as they can get extremely complex and difficult to make. There have been some remarkable successes in the past, the CDG2000 (designed by Colin Horrabin G3SBI, Dave Roberts G8KBB and George Fare G3OGQ)is one such design. The SDR route as followed by several designs offer some simplification at the cost of bringing digital signal processing and a PC into the signal path.

On the other hand, many of the homebrewers do need a general coverage transceiver on the bench as well as as a base transceiver for bands beyond the HF. I ended up buying an FT-817ND that has been a reliable old warhorse for years. Two years ago, I attempted a high performance, multi-band architecture with the Minima transceiver. The KISS mixer of the Minima, though a very respectable receiver front-end, had serious leakage of the local oscillator that led that design to be abandoned as a full transceiver. Over months, I have realized that the need for a general coverage HF transceiver was wide-spread among the homebrewers. Most of us end up buying one.

While achieving a competition grade performance from a multiband homebrew is a complex task as evidenced by the works like that of HBR2000 by VE7CA, it is not at all difficult to achieve a more modest design goal with far lesser complexity. The uBITX shoots to fulfill such a need. It is a compact, single board design that covers the entire HF range with a few minor trade-offs. This rig has been in regular use on forty and twenty meters for a few months at VU2ESE. It satisfies for regular work, a few trips to the field as well.

A key challenge for multiband transceivers has been to realize a local oscillator system with such wide range. Silicon Labs has now produced a series of well performing oscillators that solve this challenge trivially : You connect the oscillator chip over a pair of I2C lines and it is done. The Si5351a is one such a part that provides 3 programmable oscillator outputs in a small 10 pin TSSOP package. We will exploit this chip to build the multiband transceiver.

Having exclusively used homebrew transceivers all the time, I get very confused whenever I need to use a commercial radio. There are too many switches, modes and knobs to twirl around. The uBITX use an Arduino to simplify the front panel while retaining all the functionality in a simple menu system that works with the tuning knob and a single ‘function’ button. The rig supports two VFOs, RIT, calibration, CW semi break-in, meter indicator, etc. In future, more software can be added to implement keyer, SWR display, etc.

Click here to read the full description of this project and download diagrams/schematics!

This is brilliant!  Thank you for sharing, Pete!

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Ham takes SOTA activation to new level

(Source: Southgate ARC)

Amateur takes unusual route to SOTA

Colin Evans, M1BUU, from near Haworth, West Yorkshire attained SOTA Mountain Goat on Saturday 28th January on the summit of Whernside, G/NP-004.

Colin took rather an unusual approach to his activation of Yorkshire’s highest mountain, by constructing his equipment whilst on the summit.

Colin had taken a QRPme 20m RockMite kit, a home made key kit, a home made vertical antenna kit and a gas powered soldering iron along with him. Sheltering from the wind, rain and snow in a small tent, Colin successfully constructed the RockMite, key and antenna in just under 4 hours.

The first QSO for Colin with his 250mW RockMite was with N1EU near Albany, New York, over 3000 miles away, the three subsequent QSO’s were with European stations, satisfying the SOTA rule requirement of four QSO’s to claim the activation points.

SOTA Mountain Goat is awarded for gaining 1000 SOTA Activator points. For more information, visit www.sota.org.uk

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BITX40 Goes Digital

bitx40v3_main-1

Many thanks to Pete (WB9FLW) who notes that Ashhar Farhan (VU2ESE) has upgraded the BITX40 Transceiver with a Arduino Nano/Si5351 VFO:

http://www.hfsigs.com/

Thanks for the tip, Pete!

 

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