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.

2 comments on “A Week In Radio + Contesting

  1. Very impressive certificate, Tom! Yowzers! Also didn’t realize you’ve had that call as long as you have.

    What was your first call? Mine was KN8JOK. Never dropped the “N” because we moved to Florida where I took the General and was issued K4YVM (my current call, reclaimed).

    I had dropped K4YVM when I moved to Texas at a time it was required to change to your new district if your permanent address changed. Unfortunately, the FCC coughed up WB5SQV for me because they had run out of 1x3s.

    There was an option to have a 1×3 reissue if you ever held one, and that’s how I ended-up W5VKC, a call I kept for many years. I made the change back to K4YVM in March of 2005 while fairly active.

    I’m still waiting for the FCC to grandfather us Advanced Class blokes to Extra, what with the deemphasis on code, hoping it comes about in my lifetime.

    Enjoyed reading this post. Thanks. Lots of work went into it.

  2. Yes Mike, I’ve had that call since 1986. My original call was KN8JWV but at that time I couldn’t get my code speed up to pass the General. I let the ticket lapse due to college, work etc.

    Got re-interested in 1985 because of some friends at work and started practicing code and studying. I went to Des Moines in the summer of 1986 for the last FCC administered exam at the office there. Took all the tests in one day. (Well, they waived the Novice exam after I passed the 20WPM code test.) Went from unlicensed to Extra in one day but had to wait for the paperwork to go through.

    Glad you enjoyed the post. I hope the FCC will grandfather the Advanced to Extra. I felt the Advanced exam was tougher than the Extra by quite a bit. Now with no-code, there is no reason not to up the privileges.