Another New Toy

Anyone who knows me has to realize that I love my toys.  Well, yesterday I got another one.

It’s an Icom IC-T90A, tri-band band handheld radio.  It puts out up to 5 watts on the 6m, 2m, and 70cm ham bands.  It has a general coverage receiver from 495 KHz to 999.99 MHz (minus cell phone frequencies.)  Full specs can be found here.

I am just starting to learn how to operate it but already I know I really like it.  It has (IMHO) only one drawback.  The antenna is way huge!  The antenna performs well but is a little awkward to carry on a belt clip or in a pocket.  Fortunately there are after-market antennas which are more reasonably sized available for a low cost.

I’ve already got all the local repeater frequencies programmed into it and I’ll be taking it with me often to see what sort of coverage I get in the area.

Such fun!

A Week In Radio + Contesting

For those not too familiar with the hobby of Amateur Radio I thought I would do a post about what I’ve done on the air for the last week.

In the table below are some of the stations I’ve contacted in the first week in February, 2010.  Under ‘Mode’,  CW means Morse code while USB (or LSB) means voice.  The ‘Prefix’ column is the standard way that hams designate a particular country.  I’ve linked the less familiar locations to their Wikipedia article in case anyone is curious.

Date     Call    Freq(MHz) Mode Prefix Location
02/01/10 TX3D       10.11  CW   FO/A   Austral Islands
02/01/10 KE7NCO     18.15  USB  W      Nevada
02/01/10 ZD8RH      18.07  CW   ZD8    Ascension Island
02/01/10 OH1VR/VP9  21.27  USB  VP9    Bermuda
02/03/10 6W/PA3EWP  18.09  CW   6W     Senegal
02/04/10 E51WWB     14.02  CW   E5/N   North Cook Islands
02/04/10 V31YN/P    18.09  CW   V3     Belize
02/05/10 5X1NH      18.08  CW   5X     Uganda
02/05/10 EI7JN      18.14  USB  EI     Ireland
02/05/10 TL0A       18.16  USB  TL     Central African Republic
02/05/10 EA9PY      18.08  CW   EA9    Ceuta/Melilla
02/05/10 5N7M       14.01  CW   5N     Nigeria
02/05/10 J6/N7UN    21.03  CW   J6     St. Lucia
02/05/10 K7SFN      18.12  USB  W      Nevada
02/05/10 CO8LY      18.07  CW   CO     Cuba
02/05/10 E51WWB     18.07  CW   E5/N   North Cook Islands
02/05/10 ZL4PW      18.07  CW   ZL     New Zealand
02/05/10 VK7SM      18.08  CW   VK     Australia (Tasmania)

On a daily basis, I’m not extremely active compared to some hams and the radio propagation has not been the best lately (though it is improving.)  In a couple of weeks there will be a contest and, with luck and effort I may contact several hundred stations, all over the world, in a single weekend.

Although it doesn’t seem that it should be difficult, contesting can be quite taxing.  Imagine sitting in front of a radio for many hours listening to signals from all over the world and trying to sort them out from one another.  Add in various kinds of noise and interference to make the task harder.   You  need to accurately log the call sign, time and other details for every contact, avoid ‘dups‘ (working the same station twice) and checking for changing conditions on 5 or 6 different frequency bands.   When I was younger I would go for a whole contest weekend with 4  hours or less of sleep a night.  I’m not sure if I have that stamina now but I’ll give it my best try.

Why? Well, for the personal challenge mostly.  It’s a way to test your equipment and improve your operating skills.  There is also the fact that scores are published and you can compare your performance with other amateurs.  Finally, there are awards for the top scorers in their category.  Here is a certificate I won 20 years ago and  I haven’t done that well since.  But I keep trying.