Amateur Radio Week Proclaimed
Amateur Radio Week Proclaimed avatar

Rep. Karen MacBeth (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland) presents a House resolution designating this week as Amateur Radio Week to, from left, Robert Beaudet of Cumberland, American Radio Relay League Section Manager for Rhode Island and Blackstone Valley Amateur Radio Club (BVARC) member, and Richard Langlois of Burrillville, BVARC president.

BVARC invites the public to discover the fun, excitement and services provided by amateur radio during its annual field day starting Saturday at 2 p.m. through Sunday at 5 p.m. on the grounds of the North Scituate Senior Center, the former Chopmist Hill Inn, 1315 Chopmist Hill Road (Route 102). Visitors will have the opportunity to operate radios and make contacts with other amateur stations worldwide.

Charlie’s Whistle, March, 2011
Charlie’s Whistle, March, 2011 avatar

In last month’s Charlie‘s Whistle, Mary and Charlie took the plunge and purchased a second home for themselves in sunny Florida. Having awinter home in a warmer climate had been something that they’ve thought about for a very long while. Most of the time, they would dismiss the idea fairly easily because they love their little home on DXHill and love their friends and neighbors, love the spring and fall and generally considered the weather in winter as little more than anannoyance. But last year, something changed. Mary and Charlie reached their respective limits. The snow, ice and cold simply became more unbearable than either could remember. Is it simply their age? They’re getting up there, well past mid 70s now and although quite spry for their age, they admit that they’ve lost a step or two and cannot do many of the things that were easy just a few years ago.

The deciding factor for each of them is the fear of falling on the ice. Last winter, Charlie nearly fell while walking Rufus because he didn’t see a patch of ice covered by a dusting of new snow. He was able to quickly grab a telephone pole to catch himself, otherwise he wouldhave gone down. Mary did take a fall walking into her craft shop. It was early morning and the new snow overnight had obscured the walkway from the car. The shop owner hadn’t yet gone out to clear the path and put sand and salt down. But Mary was philosophical about it and figured that was what she got for being the first customer of the morning after an overnight snowfall. She wanted to pick up some yarn for something she was making and went to the store very early so that she could get started. Other than an ugly bruise to show for it, Mary was left none the worse but she doesn’t care to fall again.

Nonetheless, they came to their conclusions independently that they simply cannot take that risk any longer. It harkens back to the old lesson that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If they avoid the problems, they’ll not have to deal with recovering from them. So, now they need to care for two homes, separated by a long auto trip or a couple of hours in a plane.

Upon their return to DX Hill last month, they talked about the safety and security of having an empty house at one end or the other of their two home situation. They weren’t as concerned about their home onDX Hill because between Mary and Charlie, they have literally dozens of trusted friends who would probably be able to keep an eye on things. To give them some peace of mind, Charlie contacted a home security firm.

An expert came out and surveyed the house and the tower. He made some recommendations for local detection devices as well as notification to the police if anyone were to trip the alarms. Charlie’s tower was even included in the detection network and for added safety, it was powered by a fully automatic trickle charged battery system so that even if normal power was out for hours or even days, the security system would perform normally. Charlie was far more concerned about the new property near Ocala. Essentially, that place would likely be vacant from May through October every year and if Charlie installed a tower and left valuable radio equipment in the house, that would become a target for vandalism.

The security agent told our good mentor that since his company was a nationwide firm, he could arrange for an associate to survey the Florida property and could include it under his DX Hill contract. In fact, doing it as a single package would save over 50% compared to setting it up independently. It seemed clearly the way to go. After some simple questions were covered, they were given a quote. It was less expensive than Charlie expected and he asked several “what if…” questions. All were answered to Mary’s and Charlie’s satisfaction so they signed up for a three year period. The company would come to DX Hill within a week to install the necessary equipment and left the Florida installation date open until the property was transferred.

The Florida winter home immediately gave both of our friends an incentive to start planning for how they would want their hobby centers to be set up. The next day after returning from their trip to Florida, the spiral notebooks and a bunch of pencils came out. Quietly, Mary and Charlie began sketching out their ideal layouts and ideas for their southern home. Mary’s kitchen was huge! The pantry space alone was nearly equal to the size of her entire DX Hill kitchen. She had wide counters on either side of the sink and granite on either side of the cook top.

Charlie’s ham shack was a bit more modest but still larger than his present DX Hill shack. He had console and desk space filling one corner of the room. He only had a vague idea of the room in Florida that would be his ham shack, so everything was simply conceptual and likely would need to be changed greatly when he tried to fit everything into it.

Fortunately, Charlie had back-up equipment on DX Hill that has only been gathering dust since being obtained. He has a spare military Collins amplifier that he obtained several years ago along with Mike, his horse trader pal and Collins collector. Actually at the time, he picked up three of them as his part of the deal. Mike bought an entire pallet of these unmarked amplifiers for a song in a government auction. A condition of the sale was that upon settlement with the buyer, the units had to be picked up within 24 hours at a US Navy warehouse about 500 miles away from DX Hill. Failure to do that would forfeit the deal. Charlie had gone half with Mike on the bid for the units.They didn’t bid very much because the item was labeled merely, “HFAmplifiers, one skid, heavy”. It was a gamble and Mike pulled Charlie into the deal. When they won the bid, of course Mike gassed up his heavy box truck and called Charlie to get ready to travel.

The auction results were announced at 5:00 PM on a Monday andwinners had until 5:00 PM on Tuesday to claim their goods or the material and their certified checks of deposit would be forfeited. Mike and Charlie each submitted a $100 check to bid on the items and then won the amplifiers with a bid of $1,010.01. Their $200 retainer checks would be deducted and upon pick up, theywould have to pay $810.01 in cash. Sure, it was a gamble but they felt worth the chance. After all, they could end up with some very nice equipment for very short money. They could also own a collection of ancient arc welding equipment. Mike is registered as a dealer and can legitimately buy and resell for business purposes, so any profit seeking would be OK.

A 500 mile trip would be 10 hours, then an hour or so to load and 10 hours back. Mike picked up Charlie at 10:00 PM, figuring that they would arrive at about 8:00 AM, the time the warehouse opens for business. Mike and Charlie drove all night, only stopping once along the way for fuel, coffee, stretch their legs and change drivers. They made quite good time and arrived at the huge Navy warehouse about 7:00 AM. Finding the right gate was a problem and they had to drive to the opposite side of the gated complex to enter. But, showing the papers from the government sale, showing ID and signing the clipboard got them into the monstrous property. They were given a map with their warehouse circled. After a half dozen wrong turns, they pulled up to building N-12-207. The door was closed and the time was 7:30 AM. They were very tired after driving all night but were excited and anxious to dig into that pallet of HF amplifiers. From the description, all Mike and Charlie knew was that there was more than one on the pallet and all the amps together were heavy. Despite the skimpy knowledge, they took a chance in the hope of buying something very valuable.That’s also why Mike brought his big truck, just in case the more than one turns out to be fifty. Whatever it is, you MUST remove everything that you bought.

So they waited and a couple of other trucks pulled up to pick up their goods. Just before 8:00, the large overhead door started upward and two Navy personnel stood in the open doorway flanked by two armed Marines. My Goodness! What have we gotten into? Mike walked toward them with his papers. One of the Petty Officers greeted him with “Good Morning”. Well, that was civil. Mike replied with the same. As the officer checked his papers, Mike asked why the armed guards and he answered simply that there was some very valuable equipment here and we have to secure everything. He directed Mike to park his truck at the loading dock and use the portable lift trucks called pallet jacks to go into the warehouse to get his material. He was provided with row, shelf and bin.

So, Mike and Charlie headed into this monster of a warehouse. Only kidding, Charlie suggested that they leave bread crumbs behind themselves to find their way out. It really is a huge place, as long as two football fields and twice as wide. This is only one of at least 20 buildings in this compound. Talk about huge! This place redefines the word.

They followed the grid numbers and soon found their material. It was on two heavy duty wooden skids, each about five feet wide and long. Large wooden crates were neatly stacked on each skid, four to a row. They were stacked about five feet high. They counted and found there were twenty crates on each skid. The crates were stenciled in black, stating a NAV part number and “HF amplifier for radio set 2000-30-1”. Mike had a screw driver in his pocket and started to pry open the side of one of the crates but didn’t get very far before a Marine stopped him. He was told to remove the material from the building before doing that. OK, so he slid his pallet jack and lifted one pallet. Oh my Gosh!The pallet must weigh a ton! It took the two men, one pulling and one pushing to roll the pallet full of crates to the open door and to the truck. Thankfully, the floor and platform up to the loading dock was level. When they got the first pallet to the platform, Mike went to back the truck up to the dock. Luckily, the trucks floor was just about level with the platform, so they were able to roll the pallet right onto the truck and up to the front to put the weight forward. Before opening one of the crates, they went and got the second crate. Moving that one out became a little bit of a problem because the armed guards thought they had already removed their material. Mike had to point out to them that the paperwork that he received from the warehouse clerk stated that the material was on two skids.

With the second pallet safely aboard, Mike and Charlie took a well earned rest. But both were burning up with curiosity over what one of these amplifiers looked like. So, after only a minute, they removed the strapping over one side of the skid and removed one crate and put it down on the deck of the truck. Mike had a hammer and a crow bar in his truck and used them to carefully dismantle one crate. Inside was a Cosmoline “cocoon”, so typical of the packaging used to store and ship military material. The familiar smell of the Cosmoline is unmistakable. Mike carefully cut through the thick cloth like covering and uncovered a piece of equipment double wrapped in plastic. After removing all ofthat, they finally saw what these amps looked like. There was a thick envelope in its own wrapping to contain field operating manual and a service manual and another pouch with two Eimac final tubes some patch cables and assorted maintenance items.

Mike turned on the small light in the truck and they saw the amp. It was a Collins auto-tuned amp that is marked 1.5 to 40 Mhz on its input tuning. The switch on the panel offers CW, Digital and SSB. So, it’s a linear amp. Time to read the books to learn more about what they‘ve bought.

They pondered for a while whether they should rest for a while before heading home. After all, they’ve been up all night. Mike didn’t want to and offered to drive. So they saddled up and headed back to DX Hill. On the way home, Mike drove more slowly because of the weight aboard. Of course, they had strapped everything down but there is close to two tons back there. In reading the books, Charlie learned that the amplifier and its power supply are packed individually. He also learned that the amp is rated at1 kw on SSB and CW and uses roller inductor and vacuum variable capacitors. The final tube Is an Eimac 3CX1500. It sounds like a honey, made by Collins. Then, he thought about what they paid for these 20 brand new amplifiers. What a deal they got. They paid a total of a little more than $1,000. That means that they paid only $50 per amplifier.The tube alone for the final is worth over $1,200. Boy, Mike will make profit on this deal.

All this happened several years ago and Charlie saved two nice new amplifiers. He has used one ever since coming home with the crates. Mike wanted to split the profit with Charlie but he politely refused. He only took three of the units and wanted to pay Mike for them. Mike laughed and asked, “What do you want to pay? $50 a unit?” Then, he laughed. For helping him, Mike just gave him three of the units for his own use. He put most of the remaining units up for sale and made a very nice profit.

So, in planning for his Florida home, Charlie set one of those amps aside for Florida and then wondered what sort of power is in that house? My Golly, he doesn’t even know if the place has a 220 service or whether it has 200 amp service. There’s so much he doesn’t know. It will give him plenty to have fun with.

There are always deals flying around on HF radios, so he knew that picking up a radio for Florida wouldn’t be any challenge at all. In fact, it might be an opportunity to treat himself to a new radio. There are a lot of nice ones out there. Let’s see, How about a new IC-7800 or an FTDX-9000D? No, I doubt it. That’s not what Charlie would do. Before fall, he will find something and put it aside for the Florida shack. Between now and then, Mary and he must get back down there, find an honest carpenter and contractor and make changes and get everything repaired to code. They need to spend quality time writing everything down that they need to have done. Oh my Goodness! What have they done? More to follow…….

 

Amateur Radio Week in Rhode Island
Amateur Radio Week in Rhode Island avatar

I am very pleased to inform you that Field Day 2011 will be special.
The RI House of Representatives passed a resolution last week that proclaims
the week ending with Field Day in 2011 as Amateur Radio Week in Rhode Island.
The week starting on Monday June 20 and ending on Sunday June 26, 2011 is officially
proclaimed to be Amateur Radio Week in Rhode Island. I have been working with
Rep. Karen MacBeth, District 52 (Cumberland) since January and didn’t tell anyone
about it until now because I wasn’t at all certain that with all the issues occupying the time
of our legislators, that our proclamation would reach the floor to be read and voted upon
in time for 2011 Field Day. But, it was passed last week, without a single nay vote.
I have requested a copy of the official proclamation and will send you a scan of it.
Please publicize this special designation in your local media release and with your club members.
Rep MacBeth and Sen. Roger Picard have prepared a bill for consideration that will
designate the week ending with Field Day every year, as Amateur Radio Week.
Of course, passing a bill is more problematic and it may not be successful this year.
We will reintroduce it again next year if necessary.
Passage of this bill will make Field Day week in RI officially designated as Amateur Radio Week
every year in perpetuity, I believe to be a great goal. But, in the interim, we at least have it for this year.
Good luck to you on Field Day. I hope to see you when I tour RI FD sites. Hopefully, I will have
the official proclamation with me for you to see and read.

Charlie’s Whistle, February, 2011
Charlie’s Whistle, February, 2011 avatar

By Bob Beaudet, W1YRC

In order to break up this long and torturous winter of 2010/2011, Mary and Charlie decided to visit the Southeast Division ARRL Convention in Orlando. Getting away from the snow, ice, cold winds for a few days was a terrific idea. They each have many friends in Florida, some seasonal residents (snowbirds) and some year-round, so visiting them was as good a reason to travel to “HamCation” in Orlando as any other.

Upon arrival, the temperature was a bit cool but improved by the second day. Generally, the weather was wonderful, cool by Florida standards, but great by Mary’s and Charlie’s. Temperature topped off every day in the low to mid 70s,

Hard to take by thin blooded Floridians but there was no snow to be seen anywhere! That factor alone made everything simply terrific! Simultaneously, the hardy and durable couple from DX Hill decided that they would not suffer with another long winter without taking at least one break in it. They have reached the age where physical and psychological limitations make demands on their body and spirit that cannot be ignored. In fact, there was unanimous agreement to make reservations immediately to visit HamCation next year and revisit their Orlando area friends.

The visit to the convention wasn’t remarkable for Charlie. It was far smaller than he expected. After all, it’s a division convention, not just a club hamfest. He expected it to be double or triple the size of the convention that greeted him. Indeed, Charlie has attended many ham fests and flea markets in his years that were much larger. The measure he generally uses is the number and scope of forums and how many commercial vendors were in the program. This convention simply didn’t live up to his expectations.

But, the flea market was what made Charlie’s nose seriously wrinkle. He found several things disturbing. First, it wasn’t in one area. It seemed to be all over the place. There appeared to be no order to it and there were several randomly placed sets of tables, tailgates and piles of boxes to make up the flea market. Some sellers were under cover, some were simply in the parking lot, selling out of their truck or RV. That’s OK except that with only every fourth or fifth vehicle selling goods, buyers had to walk through much of the parking area rather than an organized flea market area. For those older or disabled hams who weren’t especially mobile, they had some difficulty getting around to all vendors. It would have been much more appealing if it was somewhat consolidated. Charlie also noted that asking prices on most items were quite high compared to prices that he is used to on DX Hill. On a couple of different radios, he asked the two sellers why he should buy their used radios when a brand new radio with twelve month warranty could be purchased from any of a dozen commercial dealers for nearly the same price; less than $100 or about 5% more? Neither of the vendors offered an answer or appeared to care.

Generally, Charlie noticed that an uncomfortably large percentage of the vendors were selling non ham related items; plastic jewelry, all sorts of gadgets, camping gear, fishing items, auto accessories, personalized caps, candy, kitchen utensils, etc. In fact, it was unlike most any ham flea market that Charlie had ever attended. He figured that it must be a sign of the poor economy, i.e., selling a table to anyone who wants to buy it, regardless of what they are selling, is good business. Charlie believes that sort of desperate move could easily destroy the flea market’s future since hams who are disappointed by that may not return. It probably would back home at DX Hill. But, then again, one must consider the Florida weather in February which surely deserves some extra consideration. Do you think that the folks running the flea market considered that?

Despite the absolutely delightful weather and whatever the logic was behind the flea, the crowd attending the convention was remarkably small. It was Saturday as well, the major day of the convention.

As stated earlier, Mary and Charlie found little reason not to plan a return to HamCation in 2012, at the height of the snow and cold season back on DX Hill. They couldn’t find a better excuse to visit the Sunshine State. They have many friends to visit in Florida and adding Orlando’s HamCation can justify the timing of the trip.

While Charlie was fighting the “crowds” at the convention, Mary was visiting with some former neighbors and new crafting friends who had sold there northern homes and now live year-round in Florida. Getting caught up on news could take some time, don’t you know? But after a while, Charlie called Mary using his cell phone and told her that he was about to leave the convention. They had made tentative plans to go to dinner at a country cooking buffet that was recommended to them by a flight attendant that Mary became friends with. They were both bakers and could have spent hours talking about their favorite recipes. Mary told Charlie that she was going to bring some friends along so that they could continue their chat and get caught up on grandkids, crafts, recipes and all that sort of thing. Charlie chuckled and said that he would reserve the largest table in the restaurant. Mary agreed that would be a good idea.

Well, over dinner which amply lived up to the flight attendant’s accolades, Mary’s friends gently but unmistakably were applying pressure on her to consider moving to Florida or at least buying a winter home so that they could all be together and see one another more often. There were six lady friends who came to dinner with Mary and Charlie. As luck would have it, one of them was a realtor and another was a retired attorney and you’ll never guess where these two sat….. You’re right. It wasn’t luck or chance, I am sure. The realtor sat between Mary and Charlie at a large round table and the attorney sat to Charlie’s right. That wasn’t random choice of seating, do you think?

The pressure was subtle but steady. House prices are low, very low. There are dozens of fully furnished homes for sale at 30 to 50% of the level they were selling at five years ago. The lower cost of insurance and taxes in Florida will also save plenty more. But the selling point that resonated loudest with Charlie was one that the nice ladies had not mentioned. It’s mid February and there’s no snow and the temperature is 74. That alone would get Charlie’s attention faster than all the other reasons that the ladies were politely but firmly promoting.

Everything that they presented over the fried chicken, mac and cheese, fried okra, salad, sweet potato pie and sweet tea was appealing. But, Mary knows Charlie like a well read book. One could even say that Charlie is a bit “dog-eared” but that could be the result of his close friendship with Rufus. She asked her friends to talk about any real estate that they knew to be affordable property where Charlie could install a tower and antennas without necessity of resorting to Devine Intervention or devious tactics with the town government. She knew that would have a far better chance of becoming a winter retreat for them than the restricted parks and communities that are extremely popular most everywhere in Florida.

The realtor who was sitting between Mary and Charlie nearly spilled her iced tea as she dove for her briefcase under her chair. This lady, always queued up for a sale, flipped through a loose leaf note book of listings, stopping at one that she showed to Charlie and pulled out another book for Mary to see. Charlie doesn’t like this sort of pressure and closed the book and put it back on the floor without looking at it. Mary knew that the realtor was not going to gain any footing with her tactics, so she asked, “May we come see you later and look at your listings?”. Of course, the realtor lady caught the obvious hint and agreed.

Picking up on Mary’s question, a fellow crafting lady across the table said, “Well, I live up toward Ocala. A fellow came down from Ohio a couple weeks ago to see his elderly mother who was living alone in her home. Her husband passed away a few years ago. I guess that the family decided to move mom into a senior home and sell the place because she can‘t take care of it any longer. He dropped this information sheet by all of the neighbors‘ places. It may be something that you would be interested in.” The realtor wanted to get hold of that sheet of course, but Mary took it first. After briefly looking it over, she smiled and said across the table, “Yes thank you. This may be perfect for us.”

The group enjoyed the rest of their lunch but all the while, were wondering about that property toward Ocala. Mary didn’t talk about it but her body language made it plain to her crafting friend that she’d appreciate keeping it between them for the present.

After lunch, the group went their ways and Mary kept the Ocala lady behind the others by asking her questions about crafting, cooking and her grandkids. Clearly, she was simply detaining her so that she and Charlie may have some private time with her without being rude to the others.

Mary saw immediately what she knew Charlie would like very much. The property had several tall trees and the fact sheet claimed that it included five acres of land. The price was very reasonable and even stated that it was negotiable. On the way out of the restaurant, Mary slipped the sheet with the property information to Charlie who excused himself for a side trip to the men’s room.

There, he skimmed over the property data sheet and decided that they must see this place. Returning to the front door of the restaurant, he found Mary chatting away with the crafting lady. Charlie asked, “What are the zoning restrictions in your area?” To that, she replied with a grin, “If you mean can you put up a tower or two?, the answer is certainly yes. We have horse farms a few blocks away and the towns around us are not at all restrictive except when someone wants to do dangerous things like operate a still or gun range.” Charlie asked if they could follow her home and possibly see this property to which she agreed.

Well, to make a longer story shorter, Mary and Charlie found the son at his mother’s place and saw the property. Charlie paced off some approximate distances between a few likely tower locations. The house was small but actually larger than their home up north on DX Hill. It appeared to be in fairly good condition with small things in need of repair. The asking price was very reasonable. The neighborhood was quiet and well kept.

The son explained that he was taking mom back to Ohio so that he could take care of her better than if she was so far away. Mom didn’t care that much for warm weather, especially in summer and was lonely in Florida. The son said that he was a CPA back in Cincinnati and owned several condo units back there. Mom could live in one of them. He owned other property near Disneyworld that was much bigger for his family of seven to use when they wanted to escape the cold and snow. He didn’t need this property at all. It was entirely surplus. He didn’t want to involve a realtor to keep the price down.

So, Charlie and Mary decided to bite and wrote a check as a deposit and told the son that their lawyer would contact his to handle the transfer of title and take care of other details and arrange the payment of the balance. As they drove away, Mary was already planning how she would change the kitchen and Charlie mentally had two towers in place with a third one in mind. For low bands, he was planning a four square on 80 and maybe 160 meters. He would put a 40 meter Yagi on one tower and probably an 11 element log periodic array on the other. The towers will be 150 feet apart, so a simple dipole, doublet or lazy H could hang between them and favor the states.

They needed to get back the DX Hill and rescue Rufus from the dog boarding facility and while waiting in the airport for their flight to board, Charlie turned to Mary and asked, “Dear, can you believe that we own a home in Florida that’s larger than our home on DX Hill?” Mary smiled broadly and replied, “Isn’t that nice? I already know how I want to design the kitchen. Can we come back soon so I can hire a builder and get these things done before fall?” Charlie agreed of course and just grinned. Mary was in her glory with plans for a new kitchen and crafts room. Charlie was in his as well with plans to expand his antenna farm well beyond his situation on DX Hill. In Florida, he will be able to have two or three towers, a couple of four squares, beverages in all directions and have five acres to access compared to DX Hill where he only has a little more than an acre. True, DX Hill has a magnificent 360 degree horizon that is ten miles or more from the antennas. The Florida house is not on a hill. The terrain is fairly flat. But, there are no obstructions all the way around other than trees. Getting his /4 station on the air will be lots of fun! Both Mary and Charlie can hardly wait to tackle their remodeling.



Charlie’s Whistle, January, 2011
Charlie’s Whistle, January, 2011 avatar

Regular readers of Charlie’s Whistle have met all the characters in Charlie’s family and circle of friends such as his wife, Mary and his favorite student, Brian who started learning about ham radio at Charlie’s knee and went on to complete his PhD at MIT in Signal Processing. We learned about Charlie’s friend, Mike who is a big flea market fan and Collins collector and many club members who pass through the different monthly stories. But never have we gone very deeply into Charlie’s background; the years before college where he met Mary or the time before he was a ham. No, Charlie wasn’t born a ham although some might think so after all that we’ve been through with him.

Charlie was a young boy during World War II and was fascinated by the campaigns of Generals Patton, Eisenhower, MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz. He couldn’t yet fully understand the emotions and motives that drove both sides but found the technology very interesting. Charlie’s dad was drafted into the Army Air Corps and was stationed in southern England for the duration of the war. Charlie was 8 years old when Pearl Harbor, HI was attacked. Like most boys at the time, Charlie was interested in the aircraft, weapons, vehicles and ships used by all sides. As I said, he hadn’t yet matured to fully understand the significance or comprehend the terrible price that everyone pays in conflicts like a world war. By the time the B-29 bomber named Enola Gay, piloted by Col. Paul Tibbets, dropped the super secret atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Charlie had grown into a fine young man of 12. The event, of course, abruptly ended the conflict with Japan, in 1945. The Japanese surrendered within a week and very likely, despite the devastation caused by the single bomb on Hiroshims, millions more of lives on both sides were saved. If the war had continued on, conventional bombing and invasion of the Japanese mainland was next in line which would certainly have killed many millions more people.

Charlie had become extremely interested in learning about military aircraft and other high tech equipment. He had built some simple circuits during the war years that were presented in hobby magazines. He had built a three tube radio, containing a beat frequency oscillator (BFO), so he could hear Morse code traffic from different ship to shore stations. Earlier, Charlie had become fascinated by the works of Marconi, Morse, Jansky, Armstrong and others. Even though he was a very young boy, he studied everything he could find in the news about the technology used in the war. He was an especially avid reader of Popular Mechanics magazine which carried many articles during the war years about devices and equipment used by the military. With very little doubt, this experience in Charlie’s life strongly influenced young Charlie into the lifetime career path he eventually chose to pursue, an engineering career dedicated to design and manufacture of high technology electronic equipment for our military.

When World War II ended, the blackout that had been imposed on Amateurs following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, was lifted. During the war years, hams were not only forbidden from transmitting. They were ordered to dismantle their stations and violators faced severe penalties. Charlie’s mother used an Atwater Kent radio every evening when signals were stronger to listen to the BBC Overseas Service and Radio Vatican to hear news of what was happening in Europe. The radio’s shortwave capabilities did not go unnoticed by budding ham, Charlie, even during the early years of the war. He soaked in what frequencies produced the stronger signals at dusk and later and what higher frequencies were more productive before dark. He studied the propagation chapters of his old ARRL Handbook to better understand what he observed.

When the war ended, slowly but surely hams returned to the air. Using the Atwater Kent console radio, Charlie faithfully listened to these 75 meter AM signals appearing during the evening hours. Along the way, he taught himself a fair amount of “ham talk” as well as the basics of propagation on that band by his listening and matching where the hams said they were and Charlie compared hearing them with the hour of sunset, in similar fashion to what he had done earlier with shortwave broadcast stations. He observed early indications of sunset propagation conditions. On weekends in the winter, he had permission to come downstairs at midnight and later to listen to the west coast stations and chart them against his map and the time. The Atwater Kent only tuned up to 9 MhZ, so he could never hear 20 meters which he really wanted to hear. Very possibly, his acute knowledge of the 40 meter band may be tied directly back to what he learned during the war, listening to the BBC and other European stations. With the overboard enthusiasm of a 12 year old, he was totally hooked on ham radio. It is safe to say that for his age, he had a remarkable grasp of propagation knowledge. It was self taught and not terribly detailed or supported by documentation but he surely knew what time of day certain frequencies around 40 meters would most likely be productive.

For about a year, Charlie had been doing small jobs around the neighborhood to earn some money and eventually, had saved $80, enough to purchase a real shortwave receiver. He told his mother the news and she said that she was very proud of him.

She asked him to be sure to tell his father when he came home from work. Charlie’s dad had recently been discharged and returned home from the Army Air Corps, later called the Air Force. He had served as a ground and flight mechanic on B-17 and B-24 bombers, flying out of Royal Air Force bases in England. Finding a good job back home was no problem at all. There was work everywhere, especially for veterans who were well trained mechanics. He chose to work at a trucking depot where he serviced large transport vehicles, not exactly B-24s but he enjoyed his work and it paid very well. But most of all, he was just glad to be safely home again with his family.

Charlie returned to reading his very dog-eared copy of the 1938 ARRL Handbook that his neighbor who was a ham had given him before he went off to serve in the Pacific with the Marine Corp. He had been studying the chapters on amplifier design and power supplies. This drew him into wanting to learn even more. He found amplifiers fascinating and magical, how they are so efficient in converting DC to RF power just by feeding a small signal into them and feeding their anodes with some serious high voltage through a tuned tank circuit. Then, you get high power RF! That is so cool!

Remember, Charlie is only 12. He thought this was the coolest thing he had ever learned. He truly had the heart of an engineer. Most kids of his age are out in the woods playing cowboys and Indians or war games, outsmarting the enemy. On this day in the fall of 1945, Charlie prefers to study the differences between Class A, B and C amplifiers and how to design the most efficient amplifier for the least cost. Even at his tender age, he plainly had the pure instincts of an engineer.

Little did he know that in the next few months, literally tons of war surplus equipment would be flooding the market at ridiculously low prices. No one realized that converting military surplus gear would be an economical way to build up a ham station on a nickel and dime budget.

Charlie’s dad arrived home shortly after 6, just about on schedule. He kissed his wife hello and scratched Charlie on his head which had lots more hair than it had later in life.

Charlie had a younger sister, Elizabeth, who was born just before he was deployed to England. She was four and running all around the house. “Hi papa, papa”, she yelled as she came running toward her dad. He picked her up and held her high above his head. She giggled hysterically as he swung her around his head. He was so strong that he did it easily. Then, he gave her several kisses and put her down saying, “Hello princess. How’s my big girl?” The answer was always the same, “I fine papa. I love you.” Then she would run to the kitchen to help mommy.

Charlie waited for the right time and finally said, “Dad, I have something to tell you.” He sat in his old broken in chair as he asked, “What is it Charlie?” Charlie explained that he had been working around the neighborhood, doing chores and earning some money and he finally had enough saved to buy a radio. He started right in telling his dad all the things that the radio would do and how it was worth every cent and how he wanted see if his dad approved. Dad just looked at Charlie without saying anything. It seemed like a very long time before he cleared his throat and wiped his eyes. Then he asked Charlie, “Son, do you remember Mr. Erickson down the street?” Charlie nodded and said, “Oh sure, I sure do. He’s a ham and he gave me a copy of the ARRL Handbook that I read all the time. He told me that he’d help me get my license and get a station set up after the war when the Marines let him come home.”

Charlie’s dad said, “Well, Mr. Erickson isn’t coming home. Do you remember that he landed on Iwo Jima last February?” Charlie nodded that he knew that. “Well, his Marine unit was ordered to remain on the island after the invasion to comb through all those caves and tunnels that the Japanese had dug into the mountain. Not all of the Japanese soldiers had surrendered. Some of them didn’t even know that the war was over and their leaders had surrendered. Some had hiding places that were far out of the regular passages and Mr. Erickson’s squad of five men came upon one of these Japanese holdouts. Everyone fired their weapons. Everyone was hit. They rushed Sgt. Erickson to the medical facility but the doctors couldn’t save him, son. It just happened a few days ago. The Marine Corp is working with Mrs. Erickson now to arrange his funeral.” This sort of thing is mighty tough for a 12 year old to deal with. Somehow, it doesn’t seem fair to force a kid to grow up so quickly. But war does that to thousands of kids in thousands of families. It’s been that way since the beginning. I imagine that caveman children were shocked into growing up before their time also. Some things never change, it seems.

Charlie cried at hearing the news about Mr. Erickson. Dad held him until he asked about Mrs. Erickson and if there’s anything he could do for her. Dad smiled and said softly, “What a son! I’m very proud of you for asking that, Charlie. But, she‘s really OK. Her brother lives nearby as well as her father. He’s a veteran and he prepared her very well for what could happen. She‘s in very good hands.” That seemed to satisfy Charlie, at least for the moment.

Charlie, this radio that you want to buy. What will it do that the Atwater Kent won’t do?”

Charlie explained, “It’ll receive 20 meters and most of all, it has a BFO so I can receive code. I really want to do that.” Dad asked, what sort of radio does Mr. Erickson have?” Charlie’s eyes lit up. “Oh Golly. His station is a Hallicrafters SX-28 receiver and a home made transmitter. That’s a great receiver. The military uses lots of them.”

Dad cleared his throat again. “Well, Mrs. Erickson told your mother to ask you to phone her when you told us that you had saved enough to get the radio that you want.”

Charlie was surprised, “Are you sure it’s OK to call her? After all….” Dad said, “Yes, I’m pretty sure it’s OK. Charlie stood up straight and nodded his readiness.

He made the call and Mrs. Erickson answered. He explained, “I had just told Charlie about Mr. Erickson and today, he informed us that he had saved enough money to buy the radio he wanted.” After a few more words, dad handed Charlie the phone. “Mrs. Erickson, I’m so sorry about Mr. Erickson. He was a wonderful man.” Mrs. Erickson replied in a strong voice, “He surely was, dear. He was a hero. They’re going to award him a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for what he did.” Charlie knew what those medals signified and he started to cry. Mrs. Erickson said, “Now, now Charlie. Hams don’t cry. We must be strong. You know, I spoke with your parents after the Marines told me about John and they said it would be OK with them for me to do this. Since John won’t be needing his ham station any longer, I want you to have it. I know that he would want that too.”

Charlie didn’t say anything. Mrs. Erickson, holding back her own tears, asked, “Are you all right, Charlie?” Charlie was stunned but quickly regained himself. “Oh yes, Mrs. Erickson. But, I don’t know what to say. Thank you very much. I surely will put it on the air after I get my license.” Mrs. Erickson added, “I have just one request. Take that money that you saved up for a radio and put it into your savings account for college.

No spending it on ham radio stuff. Do you promise?” Charlie couldn’t help himself and chuckled, “Oh yes, I will. I promise.” “Thank you so very much but I wish that Mr. Erickson were here to get me started.” She replied in a soft whisper, about all she could manage, “So do I, dear. So do I and you are very welcome. May I please speak to your dad again?” He gave the phone to dad and fell into a chair, trying to absorb what she had done for him.

After saying good-bye and adding his thanks, dad asked Charlie how he felt. Charlie couldn’t put it into words but for a 12 year old, did pretty well. “uhh, I really don’t know what to say. That’s so kind of Mrs. Erickson. I’ll cut her lawn from now on and take out her trash and wash her windows and……” Dad stopped him, “Charlie, that’s very generous but I’m sure that Mrs. Erickson wouldn’t want or expect you to do all that, nor was it why she gave you her husband‘s equipment. She just would want you to be a normal good kid. OK?” Charlie nodded and thought about Mr. Erickson again. It’s so sad. A 12 year old hasn’t matured enough to fully appreciate the depth of the feelings that Mrs. Erickson must be feeling at this time. Maybe after losing her husband, she wants to see his love for ham radio continuing in the hands of a new and promising young neighbor. Possibly by having another ham in the neighborhood use his equipment, she can keep the memory of her husband a little longer. Possibly she simply wants to remove anything in the house as soon as possible that brings back memories that she may be trying to suppress. Maybe she is just realizing the new life that she must adjust to. We’ll never know. Regardless of the reasons, doing it will likely give her some positive relief as well as greatly encourage Charlie who is just starting out as a ham.

At that time, the FCC offered Class A, B and C licenses. Charlie felt confident that he could pass the Class B test after of course, he passed the Class C. But, being only 12 and obviously without a driver’s license or car, he had to find a way to get a ride to an FCC office. That was his greatest obstacle. This was decades before the FCC established the Volunteer Examiner program. The closest FCC office was 50 miles away and getting there became the objective for the following few months, because he had to get his license to get on the air.

Charlie had been studying regularly to take his Amateur test, 30 minutes at a time, and several times per day. He was sure he was ready to pass his test. He had been studying the code as well and practicing by sending on a home made key and buzzer. Getting a real receiver with a BFO in it was frankly, the primary reason that he wanted the new radio he had been saving to buy, so he could receive CW on the air. The code was not easy for him, which is most ironical in view of what he became as an adult ham. The problem was that he had no one to work with him, one to send to the other. Learning code when you’re alone was difficult but he managed to get his fairly solid and error free sending speed up to about 15 words per minute. But, how could he sure that he could receive that speed without someone else sending to him?

The following day was Saturday and Charlie’s Dad didn’t have to work on that particular day. It was morning and Charlie came down to the kitchen quite early, before 7AM. As he poured himself a bowl of corn flakes, his Dad joined him looking for a cup for his coffee. Among other things, Charlie asked his Dad if he could go to the funeral service for Mr. Erickson when they have it scheduled. That choked his Dad up but he eventually nodded and said, “we’ll all go, son even your little sister“. Charlie quietly finished his cereal and then Dad asked Charlie, “What do you think of going into the basement this morning and making some space behind the laundry room? Then, maybe we can start moving some of Mr. Erickson’s gear into it.”

That made Charlie quite happy and he headed for the basement door. He said, “I’ll meet you downstairs, Dad.” Charlie’s Dad just said, “OK, I’ll be there in a minute.” He sat and finished his coffee, spending a moment thinking what kind of person Charlie was all too quickly becoming. He was confident that the signs were good for him.

To borrow a description from the famous writer, Tom Wolfe, Charlie is definitely made of “The Right Stuff”.

RI Section Manager’s Newletter, January, 2011
RI Section Manager’s Newletter, January, 2011 avatar

Greetings fellow RI Amateurs:

Happy New Year to all. I have personally asked, on official Section
Manager letterhead, the Sun Dancers in the hills to dance extra hard
every morning for the return of sun spots and improved propagation to
the deserving DXers of Rhode Island. We’ll find out how much clout
that has. J Cycle 24 so far has turned out to be a dud, hasn’t it?

On a far more positive note, I am happy to report that our list of RI
DXCC qualified Amateurs gained two new members this month; Debbie,
W1GKE with a score of 102 and Al, W1SNE with 100. An added plus to this
news is that I believe Debbie, W1GKE is the first YL on our list of 102
DXers. Congratulations and warm welcome to both! The updated list may
be seen at http://www.w1ddd.org/dxcc.html. These two new list members
have not yet actually applied for their DXCC membership, but my rules
only require that they be qualified by having 100 or more confirmed
entities in Logbook of The World plus QSL cards. Whether they ever
actually apply for DXCC certification, as I hope they do, is a personal
matter.

Speaking of LoTW, the February issue of QST, on pages 70 and 71, you
will find a fine article titled, “LoTW-A Modern Tool for
Awards-Hunting” by Parke Slater, N4KFT. The story describes many
advantages to using LoTW in saving money to gain contact confirmations,
whether for DXCC or WAS. It is an honest and easily read article and is
highly recommended.

The CT & RI Contest Group, at their last meeting, put on a very well
received presentation by CTRI member Pat NG1G on Logbook of The World.
It was detailed but easily understood, a tribute to Pat‘s skill in
presenting what can be seen as a complex topic by some. More of this
outreach work is needed to help those of us who are not highly skilled
in computer work. Thank you Pat for your fine work.

I try to call attention to our nets on a regular basis, so here they
are:
YL Net, Thursday at 7 PM, KA1RCI Repeater Network 145.19, 146.075 PL
67
CW Net, Monday at 9 PM, 3.549 MHz
RI-EMA Traffic Net Wed/Fri at 9 PM 147.075 PL 67
Yankee 6 Meter SSB Net, Sunday at 9:30 AM 50.275 MHz.
BVARC Simplex Net, Wednesday at 7 PM, 146.565 MHz.
RI Skywarn Net, Wednesday at 8:30 PM, 146.70 repeater
RI Swap & Sell Net, Saturday at 9 AM, 146.70 repeater

Actually, some of this net information may be incorrect. Please advise
me with corrections or updates. Thank you. But, please try to check in
to these nets and support them. Net controls and managers, please send
in your net reports for my monthly summary. Thank you all for
participation.

Well, here we are buried in snow. Spring and tee shirt antenna weather
seem so far away. But, we have many contests coming up in the next few
months. That should keep the shack warm. I have found WA7BNM’s
Contest Calendar at http://www.hornucopia.com/contestcal/ to be very
convenient and useful to quickly find out what test is coming up next
weekend and all the details regarding it. Of course, I am not a
contester and always have to look up what the event is that’s causing
the ruckus on the band. I always look up what the exchange is.

There are plenty of contests every weekend between now and the arrival
of warmer weather. So, we have plenty of incentive to be radio active.
Many states host QSO Parties during winter and there seems to be at
least one on every weekend. Rhode Island hasn’t had its own QSO Party
in many years since the WARI award was offered. (hmmm now there’s an
idea for the clubs to sponsor) However, RI is included in the New
England QSO Party Held on May 7-8 this year. See details at
http://www.neqp.org/ .
For those who wish to chase counties all year long, you might check out
Worked All Rhode Island Counties Award and Worked All New England Award.
In these competitions, other hams in US and overseas are also seeking
contacts with you, especially if you are in a rare county like Kent or
Washington. Winter time, especially February and March provide the most
on-air activity for the contest folks. For obvious reasons, hams spend
more time indoors and in their shacks. Pick your contest and get in
there, even if it’s only for an hour or two.

As I’m writing this on Tuesday evening on Jan 11, the state is
preparing to be hit by a serious snow event. My town of Cumberland is
expecting a foot to 15-18 inches. Tomorrow, nothing will move around my
neighborhood, well except the dogs and their humans who will take their
walks regardless of anything else that happens on earth. The Skywarn
group will be taking snow reports on the 146.70 repeater to report
their information to the National Weather Service in Taunton. Why
don’t we have an active statewide ARES network functioning? The
simple answer is because we have no viable state leadership to work
with. Possibly one day, we will have one once again.

New England Section Managers, club presidents, leadership officials
were invited by ARRL Director Tom Frenaye, K1KI to his semi annual
Cabinet meeting held on Saturday, January 15, 2011 in Springfield MA at
the Sheraton Springfield. As of the time I am writing this, at least
three of us are planning to attend; Asst SM and ACC, W1PN, Tech Coord.
W1TSR and I are planning to attend the all day conference. This meeting
normally precedes the regular meeting of the ARRL Board of Directors by
one week. Attendees to this meeting receive a fairly good preview of
what will be discussed a week later.

Now is the time to file if you are interested in running for elected
ARRL office in RI. My fifth term as Section Manager ends on June 30.
The filing closing time for nominations is March 4 at 4PM. I am
planning to file my papers for a sixth term but will support any
qualified candidate who steps up, showing interest in running for the
post. More information and nomination forms may be found at
http://www.arrl.org/section-terms-nomination-information .
From Asst Section Manager KA1RCI:
I’m very sad to report that the historic Edgewood Yacht Club in
Cranston burned to the ground in the early morning hours of Jan 12th
2011. The building, rebuilt after a fire in 1908, overlooks
Narragansett Bay and is a beautiful spot. The Narragansett Bay Amateur
Radio Club has been meeting at EYC for several years and the NBARC
membership help fund the restorations that were just completed a few
months ago.

The KA1RCI 224.040 repeater in Lincoln RI is running on a new antenna
and hard-line, coverage is now as good and in some cases better than it
has been in several years, with users checking in from Franklin, MA to
West Greenwich, RI. If you have a 220 radio give it a try and enjoy the
wide area coverage.

De W1YRC again: I must add that I have gotten into this repeater from
Framingham, MA and Middletown, RI. from my mobile. It is a good
repeater indeed and is not busy at all. As Steve asks, please give it a
try if you have a 220 radio. If not, why not? They’re fairly
inexpensive and 220 is a great band.

Stay active on the air and stay warm. Spring is coming, not soon
enough. But DX and contesting will keep you busy until nicer weather is
here in Rhode Island. Stay warm.

Charlie’s Whistle Number One
Charlie’s Whistle Number One avatar

It was an hour before dawn on a cold Saturday morning in late November. Charlie had been in the CQWW Contest working Pacific stations on 40 CW and was watching for the first signs of sunrise. The wind was howling outside and Charlie was hoping all of his tower anchors were secure. Charlie’s old dog, Rufus, was curled up on the shack sofa, all four feet twitching as he dreamed of chasing that big fat Angora from next door. As first light caught Charlie’s eye through the shack window, he thought, “Let’s see if I can hear that 9M6 that’s been running Europeans. His signal rose from the noise and grew in strength from nothing to S5 in minutes. A call between those Italian stations should do it. Don’t they ever stop calling? There..now! Call him…… OK, one call…..hmmm, not bad for an old timer.”

The grayline opening this morning was a good one. Charlie had logged almost a hundred stations by the time his patient and wonderful XYL, Mary came to the kitchen to find some coffee that she knew Charlie must have made. She brought him a fresh cup and sat for a moment to sip hers with him. “How’re you doing today?” she inquired. “Great” Charlie said. “I worked a hundred stations in 40 countries in only 3 hours.” With her sly grin, Mary asked, “What did you say to them.” Charlie knew she was teasing but he answered anyway, “59905”. “My, that’s not very interesting to say.” She remarked and gave his shoulder a friendly tap and returned to her den to finish her coffee.

Later in the morning, the club’s new ham, Brian knocked at their door. He always visited Charlie on Saturday mornings. Mary greeted him and took his coat to hang. “Have you eaten anything, dear?” she asked. “Well, yes thank you. I had some cereal at home.” he responded. Mary grinned and said, “I’ll bet you can find some room in that growing frame of yours for some blueberry muffins I just baked.” By that time, Charlie had been drawn out of the shack by the sound of the oven door and the wonderful aroma. “Hi Brian. You on the air this morning?” he greeted his young guest. He beamed at his mentor and said proudly, “I worked a YL in California just after midnight. It’s my first real DX.”

Mary set two places for them at their cozy kitchen table. Charlie thought about Brian’s reference to “real DX” and decided not to get too picky. “Well, that’s terrific. What band? What’s her name?” Charlie wanted to know. Brian was so proud. He had just passed his Tech Plus at Slatersville last month and hadn’t contacted more than a few locals on HF yet. He knew that a CW DX contact would make Charlie happy. This California contact was his first distant contact, which is one definition of DX. Charlie prefers to consider exotic countries as DX. It’s OK because both fit just fine.

“Her name is Jenny and she’s 14. She lives in Paso Robles and her father runs a big farm.” Brian said excitedly. You could see the electricity in him as he spoke. “You know, Charlie, afterward I went out into the yard with a flashlight just to look at my dipole. I wanted to see the antenna that sent my signal 3000 miles.” Charlie smiled and recalled doing the very same thing many years ago after his first contact over the pond to Europe. “It was nearly 1 in the morning and my Dad yelled at me to get in the house. I tried to explain but he was kind of upset. Would you talk to him?”

Brian’s dad had started the radio classes to get his ticket but dropped out because of work conflicts. The ham radio bug hadn’t bitten him yet so he couldn’t understand Brian’s excitement. “Brian, I’ll call your dad and explain but I’ll also bug him to get his ticket so he can have some fun with us on the air.” I told my guest who was halfway through his third muffin. Then I called into the den, “Mary, how many muffins did you make?”  Mary assured us she had made plenty and had even put some in a bag for Brian to take home to his family.

He was still quite excited from his experience overnight and he asked,  “Charlie, is it more fun to contact a foreign country or another state?” Charlie took a sip of his coffee and carefully answered, “Well, Brian, it doesn’t get much better than what you did last night. Your first DX QSO is one you’ll never forget. It’s the best one. But the thrill of adventure and exploring the unknown in having a QSO with a new location far away is still a kick even for an old timer like me.”

Brian started eating another blueberry muffin and asked, “Can you remember your first DX contact?” Charlie sat up straight and cleared his throat, “Sure I can. It was January 14, 1946 and I had just gotten my ticket the month before. The War was over and hams were permitted back on the air. At about 6PM, I worked a British operator at an RAF base in the south coast of England. We were on 20 CW and I was using a home-brew two-stage transmitter from the handbook running 25 watts and a regenerative receiver, also home-brew. I was 14, your age. I’ll never forget what he said to me.”

Charlie paused at that point and Brian looked at him carefully, “Are you OK?” he asked. Charlie apologized explaining that it still touched him to think of it. “His name was Colin and he said to me, ‘Cheers, Yank and pass our thanks along to your country for all you did for us.” Charlie remained quiet for a few seconds gathering himself.

“Did you ever talk to him again, Charlie?” He sparked right up and answered, “Yes, I did a few years later. He had gotten out of the military and had a new call and he somehow remembered my call. He lived near London and had gotten married. I was in high school and as soon as he said who he was, the thrill of our first contact and my first DX, came back. I’ll never forget the thrill, Brian, and you won’t either.

Brian asked, “Do you think I’ll ever talk to Jenny again?” Charlie said, “I’m sure you will and I’ll bet you’ll even meet her.” Brian wasn’t sure he was ready for that but he said, “Gee, I’d like that.” Charlie explained how hamfests like Dayton, the big DX meeting in Visalia and ARRL National conventions work. “You will certainly go to these events, Brian and meet many friends you’ve worked. Some will become lifelong friends and when you get to be my age, you will be happy that you’ve made so many friends around the world.”

“Watch for her call again tonight at the same time. I’ll bet you another muffin that she’ll be on the same frequency looking for you.” That made Brian blush and he said nervously, “What could we say? Why would she look for me?”

Clearly, at 14 he hadn’t yet understood what was obvious to Charlie. They talked a few more minutes about Brian’s dad and how he should get his ticket and his mom’s new interest since his contact with young Jenny. “It’s Saturday. I’ll call your dad and I’ll bet he’ll stay up with you tonight.” Brian put his coat on and thanked Mary for the muffins as he headed for the door. “Don’t forget the take-home muffins,” Mary called to him.

Brian’s home was about a half-mile away and an easy bike ride but on a cold windy day like this one, Charlie asked, “Want me to run you home in my truck?” “Naw, I’ll be fine but thanks, Charlie. Thanks for everything.” he said and with a broad smile and a wave, he was off down the hill from Charlie’s.

Sunday morning, Charlie received a call from Brian’s dad. They had successfully contacted Jenny the night before and talked for nearly an hour. Now dad wants to know what they said on CW. Charlie chuckled and said, “The bug has bitten, huh? Come on over later and I’ll talk to you about it. Bring Brian too.”  After the call, he suggested to Mary that it might be wise to get some more blueberry muffins ready.  We may be a while.


Charlie’s Whistle, Christmas 2010
Charlie’s Whistle, Christmas 2010 avatar

[Admin’s Note: Charlie’s Whistle begins monthly publication on January 1, 2011, however this special Christmas 2010 edition was just received and is presented here for your holiday enjoyment.]

What is discussed in this month’s story has been covered before but it’s a recurring issue that Charlie and other older hams deal with regularly. It warrants being repeated for the newer readers and newer hams.

One of the club’s newer hams had been whining on the club repeater for the last few weeks. “Band conditions are terrible“, he would say. Charlie and others know quite well that the bands are relatively poor with sun spots asleep as they are, but he manages to make several DX contacts every day. “My radio isn’t any good. You guys all have a better radio than I have. That‘s why you work more stuff”, he would say. When Charlie hears this sort of whining, his reaction is completely predictable. “Rubbish!” is usually Charlie’s reaction .

This difference of belief between friends took place before dozens of others during a coffee break at the last club meeting and Charlie issued the new ham making the statements a challenge. He bravely suggested, “Let me come to your shack, sit in your chair in front of your station and I won’t get up until I work a dozen DX stations.” The new fellow replied, “Well Charlie, I appreciate that offer but I don’t want to embarrass you or take advantage of you. My station is junk compared to yours.” Charlie asked him what he was using and he replied, “I only have an IC-718 transceiver and an MFJ tuner to a Gap vertical antenna. All I hear is noise.”

Charlie grinned and said, “OK. You need a better antenna. Please let me adjust my challenge. Let me put up a fan dipole for 40, 20 and 17 meters at your place. I’ll use your radio without your tuner and leave the antenna with you when I go home.” The new ham smiled broadly and said, “You’re on, but I still think that I’m taking advantage of you. You won’t contact anyone on these dead bands.” Charlie politely replied, “Thank you for being so considerate. But, this isn’t my first trip to the rodeo. I know what I’m doing. I’ll take your help in installing the fan dipole at your place, though. Do you have a few lengths of light Dacron line?” He replied that he didn’t and Charlie said, “OK, I’ll make up the antenna. You go to the hardware and buy some Dacron line. Can we do it next Saturday? The reply was that they could. They agreed on starting at 9 AM and get the antenna up, make the contacts and breaking for lunch.

The club meeting took place on a Monday and on Tuesday morning, right after Charlie performed his ritual of opening the 40 meter band at sunrise, he went out to his storage shed and pulled out a roll of single conductor insulated wire along with his small tool box that he uses when he is on his tower. The box normally contains a small pair of side cutters, wire stripper, pliers, knife, file and an adjustable wrench. It’s light enough to hook to Charlie’s climbing belt when he climbs his tower.

He measured out six lengths of wire; two that were 33 feet, two that were 17.5 feet and two that were 13 feet long. He rummaged through his “junque” (high value junk) and pulled out a couple of lengths of half inch PVC tubing. He knew that he had some short pieces also and dug down into his box of odds and ends. Sure enough, he found several short lengths of PVC and, with the PVC in hand, headed for his small work bench in the basement. There, he cut several 5 inches lengths of PVC and drilled holes
In the ends of each of them. He then cut the two five foot lengths in half. Then, he headed back outdoors and laid out the two 33 ft lengths of wire on the ground. He slipped each wire through holes drilled in one end of the 2 ½ ft lengths of PVC and slid the tube half way down the wire and placed it on the ground. He then laid out each of the 17.5 ft lengths under the longer wires and slipped the ends of the wire through another piece of PVC and slid it down a few feet down each piece of wire. He then secured the ends of the shorter wire to the end of the first PVC piece which is hanging from the 33 ft piece of wire. Finally, Charlie laid out the two shortest pieces, only 13 ft each. He secured the outer ends of each of these lengths to the end of the PVC which is hanging just above. Finally, he wrapped the three inner stripped ends of each of the two sets of spread out wires together. He had a 1:1 balanced to unbalanced transformer (a balun) that was made like a center insulator. Charlie carefully soldered each end of wire to one of the eyelets. Voila! A four band fan dipole is born.
Here is a drawing below of what Charlie put together. He used PVC spreaders instead of Nylon rope.

It took Charlie about two and a half hours to fabricate this antenna. He attached the ends of the longest section, 33 ft each side, to a 5 inch piece of PVC to serve as an end insulator.

On Saturday morning, they will likely have to shorten each antenna section because Charlie intentionally calculated the dimensions on the long side. When finished tuning the antenna to the desired frequency, Charlie will dab some hot glue from an ordinary hot glue gun to each end of wire and where the wire threads through a PVC spreader to keep everything in its place. He wrapped up the antenna and found a hundred foot roll of RG-8X in the shed that he won at one of the flea market raffles. Everything went into Charlie’s truck to be ready for Saturday. He installed PL-259 connectors on each end of the coax to speed things up on Saturday.

Well, Saturday arrived right on schedule and Charlie drove over to the new ham’s home, following the directions provided by his GPS unit. He arrived at 9 and other friends were there, mostly club members. The new ham, whose name is Ken, came to greet Charlie with a hot cup of coffee. “Good Morning, Charlie”, he said, extending the coffee to him. Charlie smiled, accepted the coffee which smelled fantastic, and thanked Ken very much. Ken explained that a few of his friends wanted to see you try to work DX from my puny station. Charlie exclaimed that was a good thing that these extra hands showed up because we need some hands to get your new antenna tuned.

Charlie checked his compass to determine where north was and then mentally lined up the broad side to face Europe. That defined where to hang the wire. So, they strung the fan dipole between a tall tree at one end and something strange at the other end. Actually, Ken had nothing in his yard that was even close to where Charlie wanted the antenna to hang. So, what he did was tie a long length of Dacron between trees at opposite sides of the yard, 90 degrees from the spot the fan should hang from and use the middle of the line as an antenna tie point.

The Dacron line was about 150 feet long but very high up into a tall oak tree on one end and a neighbor’s weather station and bird feeder pole on the other end. Of course, the line was slanted but the where Charlie tied a knot through the line was near 50 feet above the ground. The line splayed toward the fan dipole, of course, because of its weight but at least it was up for the test.

They finished the antenna work after being at it for more than two hours and headed to Ken’s house. Ken laid out the coax toward a side window where one of his boys pulled it into the ham shack and connected it to dad‘s radio. Then Ken led the way into the back door of the house and found that Ken’s wife Patty had prepared lunch for everyone. She said, “You boys can’t play with the radio on an empty stomach. Sit and have a little lunch. Who wants coffee?” The crew wanted to wash hands before sitting and Ken directed them to the kitchen sink and pulled out a couple of clean towels from the cupboard.

Patty had made little sandwiches of chicken salad, ham salad, tuna and all veggie. There was a large bowl of potato salad and garden salad as well as another full of potato chips. Ken passed out cans of soft drinks and Patty poured coffee for those who wanted some. It was just what they needed after their work. It hit the spot. Ken was also impressed, as a new ham, that a seasoned old time expert like Charlie and a half dozen total strangers would give up their time to come to his house to help, not expecting anything in return. That’s ham spirit. We all help one another. None of us can possibly do everything alone. But, together there’s very little that we cannot do.

Everyone enjoyed lunch and thanked Patty very sincerely. She was happy that the boys appreciated her work. Charlie told Patty that he would tell his wife Mary about her ability. Mary is quite a cook and baker also. They probably have lots in common.

Charlie sat in the chair in front of the little IC-718 radio. Everyone crowded around to see something take place that they probably wouldn’t believe if they were told about it.
The 718 surely is a simple radio to operate, but it has the basic tools necessary to make contacts. It was set up on 40 meter phone. Charlie quickly switched the radio to 17 meters, turned the power control all the way down and hit the tune button. He found that the antenna resonant point was just about 18 MHz. He switched to 20 and did the same. Resonance was at 14.020 MHz, He switched to 40 and found the sweet spot at 7.030 MHz. Since the 40 meter portion of the antenna presents three half waves on 15 meters, it will present a resonant and quite usable antenna on that band. Charlie switched to 15 meters and found that the best SWR occurred at 21 MHz exactly. All were too low for Ken. He had made the antenna segments long intentionally. You can always trim wire off but adding more wire gets a little difficult. He told Ken that after he leaves, he might want to drop the antenna down and simply pull about 5-6 inches more through the end insulators and rewrap the ends of the three antenna fan. He doesn’t need to cut any wire, simply pull more wire through the insulator and wrap it back on itself, making it electrically shorter. That way, you may easily lengthen the antenna later if you wish to lower its resonant frequency.

Charlie was pleased that the antenna was long because it favored CW. He started on the low end of 17 meters. He brought his bug because he figured that Ken wouldn’t have one. A loud signal appeared from a DL7 who was calling CQ. Charlie called him once using Ken’s call. He came right back and gave a 579 report. Charlie gave him the same and told him that they were doing antenna testing. The DL wished us good luck and said 73. Charlie then heard a small pileup on a TL8. He found the offset calling frequency and set up the radio to do split. He called a few times without luck. The TL sent QRZ JA only. Again, QRZ JA. There was no response. He called QRZ again and Charlie called quickly with a single sharp call. That got the TL8 who gave a 599 report. Charlie knew that the 599 was not meaningful but replied with the same and thanks and good luck. Moving up the band, Charlie worked a ZS5, an SM, OE, HB9 and CN8.

Then, he went to 15 meters and found only a few stations. They weren’t strong. He found a hole and parked the rig there. He called CQ and got no reply. He called again
And snagged a W4 who gave a 579 report. Of course, Charlie wanted DX. He called CQ DX and snagged a DJ8 in Germany. Signals were only S5 at best. So, he went to the money band, 20 meters.

Tuning around 14.020, he found several signals to copy. He tuned carefully up the band and found HV0A in the Vatican calling a slow CQ. Charlie waited and called him slowly. Others called also. HV0A didn’t reply to anyone. Charlie quickly called again. There was a pause and then he came back sending Ken’s call very nicely and slowly. After sending a 599 report, he turned it over. Charlie gave him a 599 report and wished him 73. Tuning up the band, he found CQs from many European and African stations.
Calling each one resulted in a QSO logged in the book. Then, Charlie’s great ear for DX heard a VK6 calling CQ LP. No one answered him and he called again. Charlie called him and got him. He gave a 579 report and gave his name as Ian. Charlie returned with the same report, giving his name as Charlie. They bid one another cheers and 73. The VK6 attracted business and created a small pile-up. A long path contact to Australia is when our signal travels east over the Atlantic, over the Med and Africa, over the entire Indian Ocean, a large distance, and finally into Australia. The long path distance is probably 2-3 thousand miles further than the short or conventional path to VK land, going west over the US and the huge Pacific Ocean.

Charlie tuned up to the phone band and found a CQ up around 14.265. He answered and engaged a very nice fellow in Texas. The path was good and gave each station a good report, about S9 with some fading. So the 100 watt radio was working quite well. Charlie turned to Ken and asked, “Well, do I win the bet?” Ken laughed and said, “Oh man! You surely do. But you used CW. It’s easy on CW.”

Charlie acknowledged that CW has advantages and he should use it. He then asked Ken to connect his regular antenna that he used before we put up the fan for him. He wanted to compare the antennas. Ken reached in back of the IC-718 and made the change. Signals on 20 meter phone dropped at least four S units. Charlie tuned the band and it sounded like the radio was connected to a dummy load. Charlie looked at Ken and said, “There’s your problem, my friend. The old Gap isn’t doing its job. I don’t want to know anything about it. Just take it down and use the fan dipole.” Ken agreed. They quickly reconnected the fan dipole.

The guests who came to help and see how Ken was going to make a dozen DX contacts were genuinely impressed and told Charlie that they were. They asked if they could attain the same results with a fan dipole. Of course, Charlie told them that they probably could and offered his help if they needed it. That’s an easy and inexpensive solution, on limited space property when you want to get a signal out. The darned things really do work and don’t cost much at all, even if you don’t have someone like Charlie around to pull “junque” from his surplus material to make the antenna and personally direct its installation.

The other thing that Charlie always recommends is that each element of the antenna must be cut to the resonant frequency that the operator uses most of the time. You will transmit and receive with maximum efficiency if you use resonant antennas for the band and frequency you are using rather than an all band miracle thing, forced to load your transceiver by your tuner. That is NOT the way to put out a good signal and hear more stations. You are simply kidding yourself, making you think that you have a good all band antenna.

In a discussion with the group, Charlie gathered from them that many placed great importance on getting a high performance radio. But Charlie realized that the radios wanted were quite likely above their comfortable budget as well as beyond their knowledge of how to use that equipment. Charlie asked them if they saw what he had just done this morning with a simple basic radio? They all nodded that they saw and it was a good show. “OK”, Charlie replied. “Now Ken is going to sit in the chair and make as many contacts in the same amount of time”. Ken looked as though he had just seen a ghost. “What? I can’t use CW! I am not the operator that you are!” Charlie calmly said, “Now just sit down and tune the phone bands. Go look for an opening to make a call or someone calling CQ.”

Ken tuned in an EI station in Ireland calling CQ and he looked up at Charlie, waiting to be told what to do. “Call him”, said Charlie in a firm voice. He called him with one single soft spoken quick call. The DX station called, “QRZ, who was that?”. Charlie told Ken to speak slowly and more firmly and say his call twice. That did the trick and Ken worked the fellow. They made a few more contacts before switching back to 17 meters. There, Ken made some more contacts on SSB and was quite happy. Charlie was coaching Ken to speak more assertively and not sound like he wasn’t afraid of being there.

After he worked a dozen stations in just a little more time than Charlie, the group moved to the kitchen and sat down around the kitchen table with a cup of fresh coffee that Patty had made for the boys. Charlie then asked one of his favorite questions, “What is more important in your ability to work DX stations?” There was some talking among the group and one fellow shouted out, “a good radio”. Then someone else said, “a good antenna”. Then another fellow said “Good band conditions and some luck.”

Charlie smiled and said, “Well those are all good answers but you missed the primary and most important factor in working DX. He was quiet and looked over the blank faces. “No ideas, guys? ………Think….I’ll give you a hint. Who works the station?”
Ken replied, “A good operator.” Charlie reached over and patted Ken on the back.
“Bingo, my lad. The most important element by far, in being successful as a DX station on either end, is the operator. Second is the antenna as this fellow said and third is the radio as this other fellow said.” Charlie looked over the faces as this settled in.
Charlie said, “The radio is third most important and I might add, a distant third, not first as so many people believe. A fancy radio in the hands pf a marginal or poor operator is not anything special at all. But yes, a good antenna is vital. A good operator is absolutely critical and essential. Let me say that again…..a good operator is essential to having a competitive DX station. We all must improve our operating skills and learn and use the tricks that top operators use. Emulate them when you are operating your stations.”

Charlie again looked over the crowd. They were silent. Charlie broke the silence by asking, “Do you believe this?” Nearly everyone nodded. Charlie picked one fellow who didn’t nod and asked, “Do you disagree”. The fellow, squirmed and said, “Well ya, sorta. Someone with an FT-1000D will beat out a fellow with a radio like Ken, an IC-718 any time.” Charlie asked him, “So the guy on the other end will always pick out the FT-1000 over the 718? How can he know what radio he‘s hearing? There’s very little difference in signal produced between any 200 watt transmitter and any 100 watter. They‘ll essentially sound the same on the other end”

The fellow didn’t challenge but wasn’t going to believe Charlie just yet. “That’s OK“, Charlie would say. “He needs to learn it for himself but at least, he heard it here and will test it out. One fellow suggested that good band conditions and a measure of luck would help. Well, yes indeed. You are so correct but it doesn’t make the top three. But, that’s a darned good one, young man. Thank you for pointing it out.”

Charlie summarized what the group had seen today. “In the hands of a good operator, using a good resonant antenna, you will be effective in working DX using a simple radio. You absolutely do not need to have a four, five or more thousand dollar radio that will be difficult to use and actually slow you down. New hams should consider purchasing something basic and easy to use with minimum menus and controls, that are well marked and simple to use intuitively. Eventually, as they gain experience, these same hams can and will appreciate more complex radios and may consider moving up to them. But their early radios should be basic, something like the IC-718 here.”

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays from the staff of Charlie’s Whistle.