I finally finished the Survivor. Truthfully, I thought I finished it over two weeks ago, but I didn’t take it to the field with me for QRP to the Field this year like I planned because, well, my plans changed. I still went out for QRPTTF, though, which is what counts. I picked up the Survivor again when I got back, ostensibly to make sure it was all ready for use. And it’s a good thing I did–it was definitely not working right.

Continue reading

In a previous post I told you about my purchase of the Survivor 75-meter SSB/CW rig from Hendricks QRP Kits. I’m taking a “build a little, test a little” approach to building this kit, having a great time and learning a bunch of stuff. I’ve been making some notes and adding them to my site. If you’re interested, here’s the main page for those notes. So far I’ve built up the voltage regulation, VFO, BFO, TX/RX switching, tune mode oscillator, and the balanced modulator. My goal is to have this thing completed and ready for QRP to the Field on April 27th. If this is the kind of thing that interests you, check back every few days for updates.

So, it’s been quite a while since I did any significant electronics construction. The reason is probably that it’s been a while since a new kit has come along that interested me enough to want to build it. Sure, there are plenty of ham radio kits out there, but I’ve built plenty of CW transceivers and really don’t feel like I need another one. But when Doug, KI6DS announced a new SSB/CW transceiver kit over at QrpKits.com earlier this year, my interest peaked. Dubbed the “Survivor,” it’s a fairly compact but usable rig for the trail. I decided to take the plunge and placed my order, and I’ve just begun the building process. I’m documenting the build as I go, trying to learn a few things about its design along the way. You can follow along if you’re interested:

Building the Survivor

I’ll be adding to the content as I get farther along on the build. Comments and corrections are always welcome!

If you’re an ARRL member, you probably know that their flagship publication, QST, is now available in a digital edition. It’s good to see that the ARRL has followed many other publications down this path. I already receive digital editions of Sky & Telescope and American Rifleman magazines. What these other magazines allow me to do that QST does not, however, is save the digital edition to my computer as a PDF file so I can view it offline. It’s possible to overcome that limitation with a little work, however.

Continue reading

QRP to the Field is an annual event, held the last weekend in April, when amateur radio operators who have an irresistible case of spring fever pack up their QRP (low-power) ham gear and head for the great outdoors for the purpose of making contacts with other equally-afflicted amateurs. I am, of course, proudly standing in the ranks of those impaired individuals. I usually use QRP to the Field as an excuse to embark on my first backpacking trip of the year.

Continue reading

The hams among you know that ARRL Field Day, held the last full weekend in June, is fast approaching. A few of my ham buddies and I usually try to pack up our QRP gear and head into the forest or to the top of a local peak for a weekend of sleeping on the ground and seeing how many contacts we can scare up with just a few watts of power and a wire thrown into a tree. This year I’m trying to get a head start on preparations. I’m planning to take my four-band Elecraft K1 with internal battery pack and run off lithium AA’s for the entire weekend. My antenna’s going to be an old stand-by, a half-size G5RV hung from the highest tree I can find. My K1 has the internal ATU and it’ll tune up the G5RV with no trouble, so I’ll be able to work 40, 20, and 15 meters. I even decided to dust off my old mouse paddle–a computer mouse modified so that the left and right mouse buttons act as the dit and dah paddles (you laugh, but it works great because it’s easily managed with one hand–no need to hold it with the other hand or anchor it to something).

Continue reading

I just read this op-ed piece in the Jan 2011 QST Magazine (p. 82). Hilarious–and so true! KL7AJ begins with:

I have, at last, identified the one glaring difference between my generation of Amateur Radio experimenters and the current batch of 2 meter obsessed appliance operators.

In our day, it was our job to create emergencies. The new EmComm oriented hams are intent on “fixing” emergencies.

Although I didn’t become a ham until I was in my late thirties, I was an experimenter by the time I was ten. My parents detected the “mad scientist” gene in me at an early age, and foolishly nurtured my tendencies by giving me a chemistry set. Remember, this was back in the 60’s, when chemistry sets hadn’t yet had all the fun extracted from them by product liability lawyers. Mine had an alcohol lamp, glass test tubes, and plastic bottles of a variety of chemicals whose names I couldn’t even pronounce–the potential for both fun and disaster was thrillingly high.

Continue reading

If you’ve read my past posts here about my antenna projects, you know that I live in a covenant-restricted neighborhood that supposedly doesn’t allow outdoor ham antennas (at least none visible from the street). Thankfully, there is no homeowners association or dues that support covenant enforcement, and none of my neighbors had thus far even mentioned the short vertical antenna I built and installed in my back yard.

Up until now, I hadn’t really given that antenna a good workout. But last weekend was Field Day, and this year I had to settle for working Field Day from the shack. Sadly, I was disappointed by my antenna’s performance. Although I managed to work 50 QSOs in four or five hours, I struggled to hear and contact other stations, even when running 100W. The noise level was very high, and signal levels were underwhelming. I worked only two SSB stations, the rest being CW contacts. It was time to rethink my antenna situation.

Continue reading