Going to Dayton? Visit Ears to Our World’s booth–and meet us!

For the second year in a row at the Dayton Hamvention, fellow volunteers and I will be representing the charity Ears To Our World (ETOW). We will be in booth 601 in the East Hall. Stop by and introduce yourself! Here’s a map of how to find us.

If you’re not familiar with Ears To Our World and our mission to empower children and teachers in the third word through radio, check out our website and this article from the Wall Street Journal.

Look forward to meeting you there!

The Ten-Tec Argonaut VI: the Model 539 QRP transceiver follows the legend (while we follow the spec sheet!)

I well remember first speaking with a Ten-Tec rep at the Ten-Tec Hamfest last year when the company first displayed the concept Model 539 transceiver, which was beginning to generate enormous interest.  After viewing it, I casually asked the representative what the name of the new radio would be–? When he shrugged his response, I came to the point: “Will it be called an Argonaut?” “Time will tell,” he eluded.  But in retrospect, I realized his response was not so much evasive, as it was fair–an honest attempt to protect the original Argonaut line’s name.  Ten-Tec apparently wanted to finish the rig, to vet it thoroughly, and deliver performance that would live up to the legendary Argonaut status.

Now, it appears they’ve done it.  And the name?  Yes, folks–Ten-Tec has officially christened the new rig the Argonaut VI.

Introducing the Ten-Tec Argonaut VI

Ten-Tec, having been made aware of our avid interest in their new product, has been kind enough to provide QRPer with a preliminary spec sheet for the Model 539, and they’re permitting me to post it here, for the first time, today (see link below).  As you can see at the top of the page, it very clearly states that the ‘539 will be called the Argonaut VI.

Ten-Tec also allowed us access to the spec sheet for the new Model 418 Amplifier, which (to keep this post brief) will be featured in this separate post.

Click here to download the Ten-Tec Model 539 preliminary spec sheet

Ten-Tec tells us that the receiver on the Argonaut VI will perform much like the one in their Ten-Tec Eagle (Model 599). But you can hear it for yourself at the Hamvention: There, they’ll have a recorded contest playing over all of their rigs–including over the new Argonaut VI–so that hams can listen to and compare their receiver performance.

Specs

You can download the Argonaut flier that Ten-Tec will hand out at the Dayton Hamvention by clicking here. It covers these vital specs of the radio:

  • Modes: CW, LSB, USB, AM
  • Receiver Type: Double Conversion, ASR
  • RIT: +/- 8.2kHz
  • CW Keyer built in: Curtis Mode B, 5-50wpm
  • Typical receiver sensitivity: < 1 uv
  • DSP Selectivity: 100 built in DSP filters from 100Hz.
  • Dynamic Range: 91db
  • Display: Multicolor back lit LCD
  • Rf Output power: 1 to 10 watts
  • Transmitter Duty cycle: 100% for up to 10 minutes
  • Frequency Coverage: 160 through 10 meters with the exception of 60 and 12 meters.
  • Power Requirements: 9.5-14 Volts DC (550ma on receive, 3 amps at 10 watt TX)
  • VFO: Two independent “VFOs” for single or split operation
  • Speed Sensitive VFO tuning rate
  • Frequency Stability: +/- .5ppm
  • Memories: 100

Availability and Price–?

The Model 539 Argonaut will be available late fall of 2012. Though the software is in final stages and almost ready for Beta testing, Ten-Tec says they are still ironing out the parts list and firming up lead times and prices. They will not, alas, have a price for the Model 539 Argonaut VI at the Hamvention, but say that they will have firm pricing on the Model 418 Amp by then (more on that here, and to come).

Some questions answered…

The Model 539 will only draw 550 mah on receive unsquelched. That’s not as low as an Elecraft rig, but for a Ten-Tec rig (that consumes a little extra juice for audio fidelity) that’s a fairly miniscule number. Especially considering that its predecessor, the Argo V, consumed nearly double that figure on receive.  In fact, I’ll bet it’s the lowest receive current on any digital/DSP transceiver they’ve ever produced. Indeed, this Argo VI is almost as good as the venerable Yaesu FT-817 unsquelched. As a result, I imagine this new-generation Argonaut will be a great radio to take to the air on Field Day, or even to take backpacking/HF-packing.

If the price is competitive, and that’s still an if, this could be a real winner for Ten-Tec, offering high-performance on a QRP budget. If so, this may be an affordable way to get into a top-quality new radio whose performance is benchmark-able.  Couple it with the Model 418 Amplifier to provide 100 watts output as needed…Quite promising!

The Argonaut VI (and Model 418) will be on display at Dayton, and will be fully-functioning.  I’ll be one of the first visitors at their booth in Dayton Friday morning, and plan to post further details (and possibly a few photos) during the Hamvention.  So, check back and follow the tags: Ten-Tec and Dayton.

So, what could the Argonaut name mean for this rig, in terms of performance? Time will tell! 

••••••••••••

Just to be clear, all of this information came from straight from the horse’s mouth at Ten-Tec and is accurate-to-date.

We’re grateful to the folks at Ten-Tec for giving QRPer a preliminary look into these two products prior to the Hamvention, and allowing us to post their sheets so our readers can take a first peek. Thanks, fellas!

The Ten-Tec Model 418 100 Watt Amplifier update and spec sheet

The Ten-Tec Model 418 100 Watt Linear Amplifier (Click to enlarge)

Along with the newly released specs of the Ten-Tec Model 539 Argonaut VI transceiver, Ten-Tec has kindly provided QRPer with a spec sheet of their new Model 418 100 watt solid-state linear amplifier.

This versatile amp shows promise, and may turn out to be a really big seller for Ten-Tec. Perhaps their biggest.  Here’s why:

  • The Model 418 amplifier will work with almost any QRP rig on the market (new or used)
  • Just 5 watts in, delivers 100 watts out
  • It covers the full HF spectrum plus 6 meters
  • It has 2 HF antenna inputs with a manual switch, and a separate 6 meter antenna port that is automatically engaged when you switch to 6 meter operation
  • It offers an easy bypass mode
  • It offers auto or manual band selection
  • Power, SWR and voltage are all displayed on the back-lit LCD panel
  • It offers 13.8V DC input with standard Anderson Powerpole connection
Click here to download the Ten-Tec Model 418 spec sheet

Ten-Tec will announce the price of the Model 418 at the Dayton Hamvention this Thursday. We look forward to that, and once announced, will be sure to post it here, same day.

The upshot: If priced competitively, the Model 418 is basically a little box that can turn your Argonaut V, Argonaut VI, Yaesu FT-817, Icom IC-703, Ten-Tec Cub, Elecraft K1, K2/10, K3/10,  KX3, Index Labs QRP+, or most any other QRP radio on the market into a 100 watt rig. It appears to be truly plug-and-play, too, with auto band switching.

In my case, for example, this would be a very useful product. Though I primarily operate QRP, I do on occasion like a shot of extra power, such as when conditions are bad or I’m trying to bust through a particularly heavy pile-up. I rarely–if ever–run more than QRP when operating portable, though. The Model 418 could plug into my K2/10 while in the shack, and I could pump up the wattage as needed. It would also work with any future QRP rigs I may buy. When operating Field Day with my club, I could take the K2 and ‘418, which would give me a 100W transceiver without adding the 100W module to the K2, thus keeping the K2 lighter for my portable operations outside of Field Day.

Yep, as you’ve guessed, I want one already…!

••••••••••••••••••••

Again–just to be clear–this is not idle speculation; the facts I’ve posted above, including the spec sheet, came directly from Ten-Tec today. We appreciate that Ten-Tec has provided us with the spec sheets for the Model 539 and the Model 418 prior to the Dayton Hamvention, exclusively for QRPer readers. Thanks, fellas!

FlexRadio Systems announces a “game changer”

This year at the 2012 Dayton Hamvention, FlexRadio Systems will be joining the line-up of manufacturers introducing new products.  On the FlexRadio front page, they’ve posted the following graphics along with the promise of more to come.  It’s a Dayton teaser, but I will be posting updates with firm facts as they become available. Follow our tag FlexRadio for more…

Telegraph operations in the Great Auroral Storm of 1859

Sunspots of September 1, 1859, as sketched by Richard Carrington A and B mark the initial positions of an intensely bright event, which moved over the course of 5 minutes to C and D before disappearing. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

These days, CMEs and solar flares get a great deal of media attention. But it’s mostly speculation–for even with our advanced abilities to measure the potential impact, we can’t be sure what will happen each time this occurs. Might this solar flare be strong enough to damage our satellites and electrical infrastructure? we may wonder. Could it ‘fry’ our electrical grid?

The concerns are merely speculative. But is there actual cause for concern? Surely. A massive solar flare could damage much of our technology in space–such as our satellites–and could also certainly cause headaches for those who manage our electrical grids.

But do we know how powerful solar events can be? History may hold the answer.

In September of 1859, a solar flare was so massive that there were newspaper reports of it across the globe, and many found the strange light it created baffling. Of course, now, there’s no speculation as to what happened then–eyewitness accounts and plenty of written evidence in this pre-internet era paint a clear picture of a massive coronal ejection. This event has been referenced many times as a benchmark–one that, should it happen now, would certainly give us pause.  Technologically, that is.

I happened upon a fantastic article about the 1859 flare on arstechnica called: 1859’s “Great Auroral Storm”—the week the Sun touched the earth.

The following is an excerpt:

It hit quickly. Twelve hours after Carrington’s discovery and a continent away, “We were high up on the Rocky Mountains sleeping in the open air,” wrote a correspondent to the Rocky Mountain News. “A little after midnight we were awakened by the auroral light, so bright that one could easily read common print.” As the sky brightened further, some of the party began making breakfast on the mistaken assumption that dawn had arrived.

Across the United States and Europe, telegraph operators struggled to keep service going as the electromagnetic gusts enveloped the globe. In 1859, the US telegraph system was about 20 years old, and Cyrus Field had just built his transatlantic cable from Newfoundland to Ireland, which would not succeed in transmitting messages until after the American Civil War.

“Never in my experience of fifteen years in working telegraph lines have I witnessed anything like the extraordinary effect of the Aurora Borealis between Quebec and Farther Point last night,” wrote one telegraph manager to the Rochester Union & Advertiser on August 30:

The line was in most perfect order, and well skilled operators worked incessantly from 8 o’clock last evening till one this morning to get over in an intelligible form four hundred words of the report per steamer Indian for the Associated Press, and at the latter hour so completely were the wires under the influence of the Aurora Borealis that it was found utterly impossible to communicate between the telegraph stations, and the line had to be closed.

But if the following newspaper transcript of a telegraph operator exchange between Portland and Boston is to be believed, some plucky telegraphers improvised, letting the storm do the work that their disrupted batteries couldn’t:

Boston operator, (to Portland operator) – “Please cut off your battery entirely from the line for fifteen minutes.”

Portland operator: “Will do so. It is now disconnected.”

Boston: “Mine is disconnected, and we are working with the auroral current. How do you receive my writing?”

Portland: “Better than with our batteries on. Current comes and goes gradually.”

Boston: “My current is very strong at times, and we can work better without the batteries, as the Aurora seems to neutralize and augment our batteries alternately, making current too strong at times for our relay magnets.

Suppose we work without batteries while we are affected by this trouble.”

Portland: “Very well. Shall I go ahead with business?”

Boston: “Yes. Go ahead.”

Telegraphers around the US reported similar experiences. “The wire was then worked for about two hours without the usual batteries on the auroral current, working better than with the batteries connected,” said the Washington Daily National Intelligencer. “Who now will dispute the theory that the Aurora Borealis is caused by electricity?” asked the Washington Evening Star.

Read the full and fascinating article, 1859’s “Great Auroral Storm”—the week the Sun touched the earth on arstechnica.

Kenwood publishes first photo of the Kenwood TS-990S

The Kenwood TS-990S. Click to enlarge. (photo: Kenwood)

When you open your June 2012 issue of QST, you will find that Kenwood has published a photo and ad (see below) of their new TS-990S in advance of Dayton.

We also know a few specs/features:

  • Full HF bands and 6M
  • Built-in switching power supply
  • Built-in automatic antenna tuner
  • 200 Watts Output
  • All mode
  • COM port, USB A/B & LAN

For further updates and hi-res photos from Dayton, follow our tag: TS-990S

The ultimate Field Day tent?

The 2 kW "Power Shade" is the right size to cover a full-size military tent.

Power Film Inc. is a developer and manufacturer of thin, flexible solar modules.  The company designs, manufactures and retails their products in Ames, Iowa–a quality made-in-USA product.

Last year, at the Dayton Hamvention, PFI’s booth was very popular. Why? Their sale of small, rollable and foldable solar panels, absolutely perfect for field use, drew crowds of hams, DXers, campers, and/or frequent travelers.  Needless to say, sales were brisk.

While browsing their website recently (just for fun), I came across their PowerShade™ Solar Field Shelters. They’re available in 1 kilowatt and 2 kilowatt versions at 15.4 V or 30.8 V.  Wow…

This paneled tent is primarily focused at the military market.  Perhaps exclusively.  And I readily admit, it would be overkill for QRPers, even for a multi-op QRP Field Day.  After all, aren’t we about “less is more”–?

But is it wrong for me to fantasize about this wonderful 2 kW creation? A tent-topper that sucks in Sol’s readily-available energy and, with the assistance of a battery bank, produces enough juice to fuel several QRP rigs?

I dunno.  I’m too busy fantasizing to care…!

Updates: The Ten-Tec Model 539 QRP Transceiver and the Model 418 Amplifier

Prototype of the Ten-Tec Model 539 QRP transceiver

I just received this update from John Henry (Ten-Tec Software Engineer) this morning:

Hi Tom,

We are making progress in several areas on the 539, it is coming along, and improving every day. We don’t have a price point we can speak about yet, as we are still trying to find the best working parts for a few of the items on the rig. And those parts, may affect our target. But still, we will surely beat the <$1k price that we have mentioned already. The speaker is now enclosed within the unit, similar to the 599. This is something that we knew we would eventually get done, just didn’t have it ready in time for the ham ventions to date. We will have a fully functional 539 on display at Dayton. Pre-orders at Dayton? I don’t think I will be confident enough on a real ship date yet to be able to take orders at Dayton. I don’t want to take orders at Dayton, promise a ship date, and then have it delayed for parts reasons. So, as soon as we know the parts are final, and FCC has passed, and we have all of the lead times and production times worked out and in the schedule, then we will be able to take orders. We do have the 539s in beta testing now, tweaking software here/there, finishing a few features, and soon will be able to send it to others for their inputs.

The Ten-Tec Model 418 100 Watt Amplifier on display at the 2011 Ten-Tec Hamfest. Click to enlarge.

The Model 418 100w amp is in the hands of external beta testers, and we are scheduling production start for end of May, beginning of July. The software is basically done, but of course, we are still tweaking it by adding a bit more protection and user features. We will have those added / tested / approved in the coming week or two. Beta tester input is extremely positive and they are sure we have a big hit on our hands because of everything that this amp provides is phenomenal.

John plans to give me another update just prior to the Dayton Hamvention.

The Toronto Star publishes my thoughts on the cuts to Radio Canada International

Other than being a QRPer, I’m also an avid shortwave radio listener and international broadcasting supporter. Below is a post from my other blog, the SWLing Post, that I hope you will read and share:

(Originally posted on the SWLing Post)

As many of you know, I find the downsizing of major shortwave broadcasters around the world deeply concerning, especially since so much of the world still relies on the medium as a source of news and information, and for some the only source of potentially life-saving information.

The recent cuts to RCI, however, were particularly painful. In one stroke of a pen, many people lost their jobs, and RCI’s already-skimpy budget was reduced to virtually nil. What’s more, their only international transmitting station–in Sackville, New Brunswick–is slated to be shut down, meaning there is no intention to continue the service, ever.

The Toronto Star has kindly published my thoughts on the matter.  You can read the full article here.

 

Vlado’s challenge: home-brewed QRP DXCC

Vlado (N3CZ)

My good friend, Vladimir (Vlado) Karamitrov (N3CZ/ZS6MG) is someone who likes to challenge himself. Perhaps this is why he’s such an accomplished DXer and contester.

Recently, at his QTH, he showed me one of his latest projects: a home brewed QRP transceiver. Vlado wasn’t content to simply build his own high-performance transceiver; no, he needed a built-in challenge.

Here is the story of his QRP radio, that he built mostly from junk parts, in his own words:


N3CZ's QRP rig front face

Challenge for all of us ….”Built your own radio”

By N3CZ / ZS6MG, Vladimir Karamitrov, 114 Russet Ln. Asheville, NC 28803 USA

Building your own radio is a challenge on its own. Using it to work DXCC is another challenge, probably less difficult. But combining the two brings a new spark and joy in our hobby. Isn’t ham radio about radios?

The purpose of this article is not to argue the need for building but to give ideas to those who have the time, like a new challenge and open up for ideas of building their own radios.

There are many different aspects to look into this. One is to build a radio from a kit. A search online will provide a list of manufacturers who offer these kits from basic thru intermediate to advanced designs.

The other approach is to build it your self. Yes, from scratch. Well, why not? Remember, time is what is needed most and of course some money and/or spare parts or junk parts. Time is not what I have available a lot, money is always on the agenda but having spare parts and stuff lying around your garage is another good resource.

N3CZ's workbench

So I decided to put something together. No time –means I can’t spend a lot on making this new rig look like a factory made, I have to use dead-bug design techniques and other easy methods to “glue” everything together. Available time is only after work and weekends and that is not much.

What kind a circuit and design to use? This was really the main question, because the answer will dictate what approach to take. First rule is check what parts and components you have available. There is something you have to remember here — when you go to a hamfest always bring some “junk” back home. You never know what you going to need. We all know this rule don’t we? Also don’t forget what your buddies have collected over the years, they will be able to help you with some of the missing parts if you need.

One of my passions is building my own equipment. Starting from antennas, to control boxes to switch them, pre-amps for the low bands and from time to time build a small QRP rig. Other interests are DX and Contesting, so while putting this radio together I cannot wait to hook it up to my antenna. This is where a little patience is required and I had almost none, hi. But I knew, bands are down for now, I have worked almost everything that was there to work, so will do this one little different and try to slow down a bit.

With my projects everything starts with the box. Few boxes I changed until the right one was in my hand. Next was to find a properly sized knob for the VFO. I then realized that it will take little more time to build all the components so I decided to use my $$ budget and get my self a nice DDS VFO. There are few different ones available online and for around $80. I got a nice programmable one with dual VFO’s and memories, with settable IF offset etc. This seemed to be the perfect fit for the project.

Transmitter

I thought I had all I need to start working on this project, but…..I wasn’t really sure about it yet. While looking for the “start” button and to actually take off with this project, I had yet to find that “trigger” that ignites the spark inside me, so I can say to myself, “yes I am ready, let’s just do this.”

You know the feeling – you feel a bit lazy at the beginning until that moment when that spark gets you. It’s like when you have to mow the lawn, and then you think, “no, it can wait another week, don’t feel like doing it now.” Well, I found my spark – it was not in the box, it was in the tuning knob that I got from a colleague also a ham and one who builds little QRP’s. I was actually explaining to him what I was planning to do, but not sure yet of the concept and how to handle certain parts of the circuit. While discussing all of this, he said he had some parts that he would bring for me and see if I could use some. He did not mention about any knobs, but when I saw them I knew I had what I was missing and now it iss the time to start working on this.

Transmitter PA

Now that I have the heart and the body, and the knob, I did some study of a number of different circuits published in ham radio literature including ARRL’s handbook and many online QRP resources. The goal was to build a simple radio easily reproducible, with reasonably good specifications so you can use it daily. Selection of IF frequency was the next and I decided on using 4MHz as I had access to a pile of some computer xtals of 4.032MHz.

Transmitter keying circuit and low pass filter

Junk stock provided the following:

  • Double balanced mixer SBL-1,
  • some 2N5109’s, J310 FET’s,
  • a few IF amps MC1350,
  • some toroids and
  • wire

I was ready to take on my own challenge – build it and work 100 countries with it!

Associated pictures with this article represent certain stages of the building process. As you can see I picked up an easy method for putting all together. I liked this approach for a simple reason that I can go step by step, keep adding components and test each stage as I move forward. There was no need for making PCB…who needs a PCB. In the old days, radios were built on a chassis and components hanging in the air and radio worked.

RX/TX antenna relay

On the other hand there was that perfection starring at me and making me feel a bit guilty, but I had no time to waste but hurry and build this radio in the short time I had available to me. Because you know what, the bands will just open up again, and then I had to do my other part – the DXing, hi so I may not be able to get this done.

I actually put the receiver in a working shape in one afternoon. I had the front end bandpass filter , double balanced mixed, post mixer amp, xtal filter, IF stage and audio section. All tested and worked first time. I spend the rest of the evening listening on 20m. Nothing much there but I found few stations up the band. There were few UA0’s as well. I managed to pick them up but signals were tiny. I decided to check my main radio and compare. I see now…signals were stronger, much stronger, S9 + on my TS850. So I checked few things and found few problems with my initial design: I had to amplify the input signal and my LO signal was too low to produce satisfactory mixing with SBL1. I used a J310 FET transistor for my front end pre-amp, and used single NPN transistor to boost the output of the DDS oscillator to appropriate level.

The receiver

I was ready to fire this thing and …wow, what a difference. I could still hear the UA0’s calling CQ and working others, and the signals were just incredible. Next obstacle was the Xtal filter. I had choose computer xtals that were somewhat matched in frequency, but the filter was way too narrow. I started experimenting with the capacitors around it and found a good medium that showed some good response on the signal quality and bandwidth.

Received signals now sounded “almost” like my ‘850. But I wasn’t happy yet. I was missing some “dynamics” in the signal. It was just a plain CW signal and nothing more to it. Next few days I experimented with an AGC circuit and variable bandwidth for the Xtal filter. After number of changes, I came up with a solid audio AGC circuit and S-Meter. That made a whole lot of difference. Everything was still sitting on the bench, loosely connected together and I was listening up and down the band. There were more stations now…hmm the bands must be opening up or something?

Receiver (left) & Transmitter (right)

For the xtals filter I ended up replacing the fixed caps with varicap diodes which I pulled out from an old TV tuner found at one of the local hamfests. You know that feeling when you can actually adjust xtal filter bandwidth. That is what was missing. I spend hours listening and trying to get into motion for my next step. I was simply amazed what I could pick up with the receiver and how I was able to select different signals, some of them very weak.

I went back and forth between my main radio and this little receiver that was sitting in front of me, still in pieces. “Not much difference is it?”–I was thinking to myself. I actually ended up spending hours in this year’s CQ WPX CW contest and only listening on my new receiver. I was able to pick every signal I wanted, even thru some heavy pile ups. It passed the test! Now I wanted to call these all these stations, so it was time for me to start thinking about the transmitter part.

Receiver front end and mixer

This was nother challenge. I tried one circuit and it worked. Straight forward a TX mixer, bandpass filter, couple stages amplification, low pass filter to the antenna. But I could not get the output power I wanted. I was getting something like 1 W barely making it to 2W. I figured out the reason. It was the transistors I used. Each stage must have enough gain to drive the next one. My final transistor was capable of producing an easy 10 watts out, but I was lacking drive power. I checked the complete circuit and components I had available on hand then decided to make few changes. Remember: the goal was to use what was available and not to go and spend any extra money. I ended up adding extra amplification after the TX mixer. Yep! That was it. That is what I was missing. I was now getting an easy 8W out. I couldn’t wait to hook up the antenna. I had no antenna switching circuit yet, so I hooked up my 3 element SteppIR on the little transmitter and used my vertical antenna on the main radio. Nothing easier than this. I was able to hear my transmitted signal and, at the same time, I could listen on frequency. First call and into UR land…559, “not bad,” I though. I then moved up the band and found a French station ending up a QSO, so I called him and worked him too. I got 579 for my signal. This was getting exciting. I ended up working 10 different countries that evening, mostly Europeans.

I spent the next week or so working on the box and figuring out how to implement the mechanical part of this project and get everything together. I tried using the little radio on 2 different bands (20 and 17M) with excellent results. These have been my main bands this year after they stabilized somewhat and we have them open after work until late. This is the perfect time for experimenting.

Receiver bandpass filter

Final touches can be seen on the rest of the pictures displayed here. I actually used this rig in the IARU CW contest for a while as well as in few QSO party’s on 20m, all with great success. The crown of everything was still to come.

It was getting close to the end of ST0R operation and I had them worked with my main station and KW into antenna on every possible band and mode I could hear them, but that one evening I was listening to their easy going pile-up on 20m working NA stations. The pile-up wasn’t that big and I was thinking,
“should I try this little rig and see if maybe somehow they will hear me?” I wasn’t sure this was going to work, but I hooked up my memory keyer and started pushing the button to send my callsign out. I did this for almost 2 hours. Yes, there was nothing else to do, while I was reading a magazine, I just used the preprogrammed call sign and kept sending it over and over.

Top view of N3CZ's QRP transceiver

Then I heard Lynn W4NL working ST0R with his QRP rig…NO WAY! What is he doing differently then me? And I am going crazy and about to give up, but….I was careful enough to check what frequency was W4NL transmitting so I tune up a little higher then he was. At the same time I received email from Lynn saying he worked ST0R QRP! Yes, I know I heard you Lynn…so I pressed few more time on the keyer. Guess what? It took couple more calls and there he was….smiling at me ST0R called me N3CZ 599 BK. There must have been another CZ I thought, so I send my call, then 599 and then my call again. Sure enough he came back with N3CZ TU. That was it! I did it! I just worked ST0R–a new country in a pile-up with my little homemade radio. I had them worked already on 20 CW , so what if it was a dupe? I knew I did it with my little radio and that was good enough for me. This is where I actually stopped and realized that I have accomplished my challenge. At least I have made it to a milestone, a major milestone. At that time I had well over 60 DXCC countries worked with the little radio, and it was barely 2 and a half months since I started working on this project.

I found this encouraging and I would challenge those readers who are thinking about a similar endeavor to not think twice–just do it!  Order yourself a kit at least and put it together. The reward cannot be described here or told by anyone. You have to feel it on your own. Put a challenge for yourself. Make a goal to work 10 states maybe or 10 DXCC countries, or 100. It doesn’t really matter. What matters most is that you give this hobby of ours another chance. A chance that makes it different from any other hobby on this beautiful planet we live on. What better can it be than communicating with others over a the vast emptiness of the space around us and bounce few signals now and then of the ionosphere?

“DX RULES” as my good friend Bill N2WB from Florida say.

N3CZ's QRP rig front face

I say “HAM RADIO RULES!” nourish it with everyday ideas, build your own stuff, don’t just buy that new radio and antenna, ready assembled and waiting for you to simply push few buttons and “work that rare DX”. There are many aspects of this hobby and like with anything in life we have to find it on our own. Sometimes we get help from another ham, sometimes a complete stranger to us, but with the same ideas.

Thanks to Dave K4SV, Phil W9IXX, Lynn W4NL and Carl N4AA who insisted on getting this article done [originally for The DX Magazine]. And all the stations who logged N3CZ/QRP. That was me who called you with this little homebuilt-junk parts radio. Drop me a note if you find this interesting and inspiring, because that was my intention anyway. By the way, I am already gathering parts for my next project. This time it really started with a nice box, but we’ll see. I don’t see that spark yet. I will let you know how it goes.

Until then,
73 & CU on the bands.
TU de N3CZ / ZS6MG / Z35C
Vlado

And thank you, Vlado, for sharing this article for QRPer.com readers! To contact Vlado, grab his email from QRZ.com.

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