Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Where in the World is . . . Brunei (V8) CQ Zone 28 IOTA OC-088

June 19th, 2019 Comments off

Brunei, officially known as the Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace. OR Negara Brunei Darussalam in Malay. It’s located on the northwest coast of the island of Borneo. On three sides bordered by Malaysia and facing the South China Sea.

It’s a good place to live, with its principal product being oil. Considered a “fully developed” country by the IMF. According to Forbes Magazine it ranks as the fifth richest nation on the planet. The country has zero debt.

Brunei’s government is a constitutional monarchy. Under Brunei’s constitution, the Sultan is the head of state with full executive authority. Since 1962, this authority has included emergency powers, which are renewed every two years. The country has been under hypothetical martial law since 1962. The Sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah also serves as the state’s Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Defense Minister. As Mel Brooks observed, it is good to be king.

Petroleum was discovered in 1926. Oil and natural gas have been the basis of Brunei’s development and wealth since the late 20th century.

This is a devoutly Muslim nation; land of gold-plated mosques and wooden water villages, a nation so rich from its oil and gas resources that no one pays tax. It is a seven-hour flight from Melbourne but Brunei is little known and very much underrated for travelers. Brunei is clean and virtually free of crime with pristine rainforests, palm-fringed beaches and palatial resorts.

In this land of over 400,000, there are approximately 400 licensed amateurs. According to Club Log, it is 109th on the Most Wanted DX entity, List

Reporting from the Dark Side,  Ron, K5HM

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Where in the World is Saint Paul Island (CY9) CQ Zone 5 ITU Zone 9 IOTA NA-094

March 30th, 2019 Comments off

Where in the World is Saint Paul Island (CY9) CQ Zone 5 ITU Zone 9 IOTA NA-094

S t. Paul Island is a small uninhabited island located approximately 15 mi northeast of Cape Breton Island, Newfoundland in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  It is at the northern end of the Appalachian Mountains; the highest point is 485 feet atop “Croggan Mountain.”  St. Paul Island is approximately three miles long by one mile wide at its widest point. It is extremely rugged with its shores being completely encircled by rockface cliffs.  To find out more…Where in the World is St Paul Island

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The Great Harvey Wells Caper Part 2 By Ron Litt, K5HM

February 18th, 2019 Comments off

The Great Harvey Wells Caper Part 2

By Ron Litt, K5HM

I stared at her for a long time. A pristine beauty with big black eyes and creamy white face. She looked back at me from the magazine. A salty trail of perspiration formed on my upper lip. Six months earlier, I discovered her buried in the back pages of QST. Each month as a new issue arrived, I grabbed it, turned quickly to the ad to be sure she was still there; the Harvey Wells Band Master Z-Match Antenna Coupler. I had to have it.

For the last two years I had one single band antenna for 20 meters. It was great, but I was getting close to my WAS and I needed practically all the New England states. Connecticut and New Jersey were almost impossible from New York City without a 40 or 80 meter antenna. I was desperate.  To finish the story download and read The Great Harvey Wells Caper Part 2

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The Great Harvey Wells Caper Part 1

February 16th, 2019 Comments off

It was April in New York City. I was on my way home from the regular weekly breakfast with the Queens County Bagel, Bowling and Spark Club.

These were the halcyon days of kid-dom on the cusp of adulthood. I had my General Class ticket now for about two years. Got my acceptance letter from college and it was six months before anybody would hear of Sputnik. Life was good.

As I walked home from the bus stop, I was thinking about getting on the air today and rolling up a few new states for my WAS. I needed South Dakota and my old buddy Ralph from the QCBB&SC said there were only three active hams in the whole state. I could see that South Dakota was going to be a real challenge.

I climbed the front steps two at a time, walked through the front door and headed directly for my basement ham shack. I am halfway down the hall when I hear my old man say, “Where are you going?”

Any kid who has reached the age of five, immediately recognizes the peril in that question. It’s not a question really, it more a combination of Red Alert, General Quarters and Take Cover simultaneously.

I turned around to see the old man advancing toward me. He was upset. I tried to think of anything I did or failed to do in the last twenty-four hours. I aced my Physics quiz, took out the trash last night, and didn’t leave any wet towels in the bathroom; check, check, check.

He was about two feet away when he stopped, thrust a letter in front of me and said, “What’s this?” His hand was shaking so much, I couldn’t read the envelope at first but it looked very important. Eventually, the oscillation decayed enough for me to see better. It was one of those business window envelopes with no stamp. The top right-hand corner of the envelope contained the words, U.S. Government Official Business!

The old man was really wound up; like a pressure cooker ready to explode. He’d lived his life avoiding entanglements with authority. He was 4-F for the draft in WWII, voted at least once in every election and was an associate member of the Police Benevolent Association. Any unexpected things that had to do with “Official Business” made him very nervous.

Desperately, I tried to think of something that would get him in such a lather. I had gotten my draft card six weeks ago. Maybe this was the dreaded, “Greetings from Uncle Sam” letter. Then I noticed the return address; Federal Communications Commission, Washington, DC.

I stopped breathing. The FCC! This was worse than getting drafted. Looking through the window of the envelope I could see the paper inside. A pink ticket!

The envelope was torn open. At the top of the page, I could see the words, Notice of Violation! He’d already read it and assumed the worst; a life sentence for me at Leavenworth. I was doomed!

Flight was the only response I had. I grabbed the letter and ran for the basement. I read and re-read the notice several times. Cold sweat was dripping off me.

The letter said that my signal had been observed operating at a frequency out of the band at such and such time and date. It demanded I explain what happened. That I take immediate steps to prevent this from happening in the future and that I report those steps to the FCC within 30 days. No wonder the old man was upset. Single handedly, I had brought the wrath of the entire federal government down on our home.

I pulled out my log and started flipping pages; hoping this was a mistake. Some other guy with a similar call sign, maybe. The time in the letter was around 2 AM. Was the FCC really awake that late?

I ran my thumb down the logbook pages slowly, hoping against hope. Yikes! There it was. At the alleged hour, I had been on the air. What could I do? “The old man was right, you’re going to Leavenworth “, said the voice in my head.

That night I’d logged several calls to DX stations who were calling CQ on the other side of the 20 meter band edge. The last entry in the log that night was a guy in VK-land that I had finally managed to work. I was so excited, I almost woke the old man out of a sound sleep to tell him. I must have strayed too close to the band edge!

Maybe I’ll just throw myself on the mercy of the court. “Your honor, I’m just a kid. I didn’t know I was committing a crime.” “I fell in with a bad crowd; they dared me to do it!”

In a panic, I called my old buddy Ralph on the land line. Ralph was a charter member of the QCBB&SC. He knew everything about ham radio. He had been a ham so long that he said Marconi was his Elmer.

After an eternity of rings, he answered. Without giving him a chance to say hello, I unloaded on Ralph in one single breath. When I finally finished, Ralph calmed me down and assured me that I was not going to Leavenworth. “Yeah kid (everyone was a kid to Ralph), I got my first pink ticket in ’36”, he said softly, as if someone were listening.

What a relief! My old buddy Ralph, the greatest Elmer of all time had gotten at least a couple pink tickets and he was still walking around a free man. There was a ray of hope for me!

I could swear he was grinning on the other side of the phone. The voice in my head said, “Yeah, they’ll probably confiscate all your radio gear instead.”

It was only two years earlier that I went to the FCC offices in Manhattan to take my General exam under the watchful eye of Lurch, the examiner. I still remember the big bullpen where the FCC guys worked. They were all dressed alike too; white shirts rolled up to the elbow, black ties and black pants. It was the official FCC uniform. I didn’t know what would be worse; just quietly going off to Leavenworth or having a squad of FCC men in black show up at my house in front of all the neighbors!

“Listen kid”, he began; his voice had a way of piercing through the QRM in my head. “You just need an accurate marker for the band edge. A crystal calibrator. You can pick one up at Harrison Radio for about ten bucks.”

I could hear Ralph take a deep breath. He’d been a chain smoker for twenty years, so his inhale had a signature wheeze, just like a good CW operator’s fist.

Then he continued, “The dial markings on your VFO ain’t worth the plastic they’re printed on kid. So, when you are chasing DX, don’t get any closer than three kc to the band edge marker, no matter what.”

“Hey Ralph”, I said “What about the letter I have to write? What should I say?” Ralph started in again, “Listen kid, just tell them the truth, you’ll be fine. See you later kid.” And then there was a click.

I sat for a long time; thinking. The U.S. phone band ended at 14200 KC. Most of the good DX was always just below that great divide. We worked split back then, running full carrier double sideband AM, pushing as close to the band edge as we dared, calling for that rare station we needed.

I wasn’t willing to give up a whole three kc of band, if I didn’t need to do it. Maybe I could just turn down the mike gain. Just listening to twenty meters some nights it was easy to see how everybody pushed the limit. Still, I was willing to do or say anything get back in the old man’s good graces and the FCC off my back! Finally, the beginnings of a diabolical plan began to form in my head. If I played my cards right, I would solve my FCC problem and then some.

To be continued

Reporting from the Dark Side,

Ron Litt, K5HM

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Where in the World is . . . Western Sahara (S0) CQ Zone 33

February 16th, 2019 Comments off

No, not Best Western Sahara, it is really Western Sahara.

Formerly Spanish Morocco, it is disputed territory on the West Coast of Africa, roughly Southeast of the Kingdom of Morocco. Occupied by Spain since the late 19th century, the Spanish relinquished control of the area in 1975. Since then, two thirds of the country has been claimed by Morocco as part of what is calls the Southern Provinces.

A war then erupted between Morocco and the Sahrawi national liberation movement, who proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). Morocco eventually secured effective control of most of the territory, including all the major cities and natural resources.

Western Sahara’s economy is based almost entirely on fishing and phosphate mining which employs two thirds of its work force.

A largely Saharan desert landscape and climate, 40% the country’s population of roughly 500,000 live in the city of Laâyoune near the Atlantic Ocean.

Ham Radio is still in its infancy here. reports only 5 licensed call signs including S01WS, which belongs to the Sahrawi Amateur Radio Union URS.

According to Club Log, Western Sahara is the 73rd most wanted DX entity.

Reporting from the Dark Side,

Ron Litt, K5HM

Categories: Articles

Where in the World is . . . Christmas Island, (VK9X) OC-002 – Ron, K5HM

December 27th, 2018 Comments off

That’s right little Jimmy. Do you think Santa Clause really likes living at the North Pole? He prefers the temperate climes of the tropics. Christmas island is a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean. It has a population of 2,072 residents who live in several “settlement areas” on the northern tip of the island variously called Flying Fish Cove, Kampong, Silver City, Poon Saan and Drumsite (I will leave the visual picture of the last two to the reader). Most of the population are Chinese Australian. It is called Christmas Island because it was discovered on Christmas Day, 1643 by Capt. William Mynors of the Royal Mary an East India Company trading vessel as he sailed past it. In 1957, the island was transferred from the U.K. to Australian sovereignty. Read more, download article here

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Where in he World is . . . Market Reef (OJ0), CQ Zone 15 ITU Zone 18, IOTA EU-053

September 10th, 2018 Comments off

It is cold and uninhabited. Barely 6 degrees of latitude below he Arctic Circle

It’s not an island really, basically consisting of about 8 acres of rocks. Located in the narrow part of the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland, the island guards the strait to the Gulf of Bothnia. In the summer, the Baltic Sea washes over it and in winter drift ice pushes against it. Nothing grows here. The Market Reef lighthouse is located low to the sea, where waves can wash over the entire DXCC entity. At high tides, it can only be safely approached by helicopter or zodiac boat.

The island is shared by both countries – and it is the smallest island thus divided between two nations. Market Reef was formally divided between the two sovereignties at the Treaty of Fredrikshamn in 1809 which defined the border between Sweden and Finland, then part of Imperial Russia.

Read more about Market Reef here

Reporting from the Dark Side,

Ron Litt K5HM

Categories: Articles

Ever thought about Q Signals? – Ron K5HM

September 10th, 2018 Comments off

In today’s amateur world, VHF/UHF repeater communications are commonplace but the use of Q signals in repeater communications is sadly diminished.

The use of “Q” signals is an amateur radio practice that goes back as early as 1915. When Morse code was the exclusive means of communicating, Q signals were a handy way of shortening common sentences into three letter groups.

Q signals have changed with time but are still widely used in voice communications as a kind of shorthand, especially on the HF bands. QSX originally meant, “Shall I change my spark frequency?” Now we use QSY instead.

In the world of repeaters, we don’t QRM people; we “double”. We don’t use QSB or QSA. Instead we say you have full quieting or white noise or bacon frying (ugh!). We rarely are at a QTH where we can QRT or QRV. We are usually at home, work or some other place. We no longer QRX, QSY or QRZ. In the D-star world, we use R2D2 to describe when a signal loses intelligibility.

Q codes are an important aspect of amateur communications. I use them liberally when there are non-hams visiting. It helps to create curiosity about ham radio. Usually, something like, “What the heck did you say?”

QSO’s on repeaters tend to have a lot more local and personal content. In order to revive the use of Q Signals on VHF/UHF, what we need is a set of Q codes more appropriate for this mode of communication.

Some Unique Q Signals for Repeater Use

QWK Going to work. Are you going to work?

QHO Are you headed for home? I’m headed for home.

QTF Is traffic is bad? Traffic is terrible!

QBQ Know a good BBQ place? I know a good BBQ place

QCF I am going for coffee. Are you going for coffee?

QGA I am stopping for gas. Are you stopping for gas?

QHG Did you just pass gas? Phew!

QBR I need a beer. Me too!

QHD Going to Home Depot (Lowes, Ace Hardware, Radio Shack)?

QLT Are you late? I am way late!

QTO Are you on the way to breakfast? QSL.

QNW No way! Way!

QDT Done that. Been there (Interchangeable with QBT)

QBT Been there. Done that (Another way to QDT).

QDW That Doesn’t Work. Yes it will.

QWW That Won’t Work! (QDW with emphasis).

QHF Going to the hamfest? I am/am not going.

QIX XYL is in the car. Don’t mention what I bought at the hamfest. QSL?

Reporting from the Dark Side,

Ron Litt. K5HM

Categories: Articles

Where in the World is . . . Mongolia (JT-JV) CQ Zone 23 ITU Zone 32, 33

August 22nd, 2018 Comments off

Where in the World is . . .

Mongolia (JT-JV)

CQ Zone 23 ITU Zone 32, 33

The thundering Mongol Horde rolled out of the Great Asian desert in the 13th and 14th centuries. Lots of Hollywood royalty played the great Khan on the screen. Led by John Wayne as Temujin, later Genghis Khan; then Orson Wells, Omar Sharif, Jack Parlance Stephen Boyd, or even Murvyn Vye, playing second banana to Richard Widmark as a sad sack Mongolian tribal chief in Destination Gobi; caught up in the backwater of WW II.

The Mongols rode in search of plunder and grazing for their animals. The Mongol horse is purported to be largely unchanged since the time of Genghis KhanNomads living in the traditional Mongol fashion still hold more than 3 million animals, which outnumber the country’s human population. Despite their small size, they are horses, not ponies. In Mongolia, horses live outdoors all year, dealing with temperatures from 86 °F in summer down to −40 °F in winter, and they graze and search for food on their own. Some animals are slaughtered for meat. Other than that, they serve as riding and transport animals; they are used both for the daily work of the nomads and in horse racing.

Learn more here

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Where in the World is Baker Island (KH1)?

July 23rd, 2018 Comments off

Where in the World is Baker Island (KH1) CQ Zone 31 ITU Zone 61 IOTA OC-089

by Ron Litt, K5HM

Approaching from a distance the island, barely 26 feet above sea level resembled the back of some fabled sea monster of 15th century sea tales. Covered with low lying scrub vegetation, Baker Island is less than a mile wide and slightly more than a mile long. Its population of seabirds makes their presence known on anything that offers a perch.

Its terrain is sandy. Along with its neighbor only 42 miles NNW, Howland Island they form the Baker Island National Wildlife Refuge. Not exactly your favorite bird watching spot, the islands lie almost halfway between Hawaii and Australia. Barely north of the Equator and east of the International Dateline, by this odd quirk of geography, they are last pieces of U.S. territory that experience the new day.

Find out more here

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