Friday, October 28, 2005

Ham and Eggs Radio - Pt. II - Voices in the Night

I've been doing amatuer (Ham) radio for about 15 years or so. Just 10 more and I'm in at the Quarter Century Wireless Club! Woo Hoo! But for most of that 15 years, I've been kinda fickle about what I have been doing. I really like 2 meters. All my ham radio friends are there. I like doing traffic nets, but from where I am I can't seem to get into the repeater to check it. It sucks!

But over the past few years, I've been getting more and more active on HF. I managed to save up and get a couple of HF radios. One being my trusty Yaesu FT-901DM. This big ol' boat anchor was not my first HF radio. That honor goes to my old trusty HTX-100. A 10 meter only radio that I traded for my second HF radio, a Heathkit! I don't remember the model number, but it came with the matching power supply and speaker and desk mic. It took up my WHOLE desk! I had no room for anything else. But alas, it just sat there for the longest time and I sold it off or traded it for something, I can't remember.

Now fast forward a couple mroe years. The HF bug is starting to take hold again. So I want to get another radio, but the ones I want are like $1000! And I can't come up with that kind of money because it always seems like something else comes up that requires money! My car breaks down or an unexpected bill. So when I was offered the chance to get the Yaesu and pay later, I jumped on it! So I picked it up at Tom's, N2SQO's house one night with a then friend in tow. The friend has since married another friend and tore his heart up and gone "plum loco" since all this has happened and has done myush to get people to be pissed at her! But, her and I go and pick up the radio. All 40 lbs of it! Tube final amp stage, soldi state for the rest. My first tube radio. Oooo.. I could see it all now, the glow of the tubes, the warm audio. I was gonna be in heaven! I already had my general class klicense so I had HF privledges so I was ready to go. I also had an HF antenna that I bought for my HTX-100 but was till in the damn box! An AV-5 from Cushcraft. So I was gonna get to go on the air! But for some reason I can't remember, I ended up getting a G5RV antenna and putting that up instead.

But I was on! I was up and running. I looked up my provledges on the 40 meter band one day, tunes up the radio per the instructions in the manual and started calling "CQ 40 CQ 40, this is Kilowatt Bravo Two, Mike Oscar Bravo, calling CQ 40 and listening!". I did that about 10 times and I finally got someone! WOW! My first telephony contact on 40! I don't remeber his call but we started out doing the usual, "Name here is Rich! And I'm located in Gloversville, NY. QSL?". (QSL is morse code shorthand for did you copy me?) Well He came back to me and come to find out.. He was in Albany. Rats.. no DX there. But it was still fun! 40 meters during the day can get about maybe 500 miles range, and by night go world wide! But I usually was on VHF at night chatting away or out with the guys here in town. I tried a few other bands but didn't seem to get anywhere. I pretty muched stayed away from 20 meters because I had heard that some of the ops on there were kinda rude. Something I later lerned to be untrue. Most were very nice and courteous!

So now you have an idea of how it all kinda started for me on HF. If you're curious how I got started in amateur radio itself? Well, you'll have to read the previous post here. But from the title of this post, you probably thought I was gonna talk about playing radio at night. Well I am.. this was all a setup! Yeah long but you have some back ground now..

Lately, I have found something cool on amateur radio. AM as in Amplitiude Modulation. Ok.. here's the break down. Amplitude Modulation == Amplitutde (noun):The height of a radio wave from its highest point or peak to its zero level or lowest point, in any given sample or at any point along the line of the wave; the power of a sound wave expressed by the height of the sound wave in a given instance. If you could follow that good! If not, well, you can google it :)

Now.. Modulataion (noun): A method of placing one signal on top of another by altering the base or carrier signal in a particular way that can be decoded to extract the additional, modulated signal. Modulation simply takes a baseline signal and alters it to carry the information of a second signal. A radio station modulates the radio frequency by altering its frequency (FM) or its amplitude (AM).

So there you go. Put those together and you go it. AM was the first mode of radio. FM didn't come around till the late 1940 early 50's courtesy of a fellow named Edwin Armstrong. I'll get into him in a later post someday (Remind me ok?). Once the other more efficent or smaller modes like Single Sideband and such came along, AM was kinda pushed aside but still had a devot group of fans. Much like the Amiga computer, which I also am a fan of! But if you listen to an AM radio broadcast, weither it's WGY (810 AM) or WENT (1340 AM), they all have that nice warm round sound to them. I fell in love with that. And so did a bunch of other hams out there. Tuning into some of the AM'ers on 40 meters or 75/80 meters, you can hear the fantastic sound these guys produce with their radios. These guys are affinados when it comes to great audio fidelity. I fell in love with that sound, and now I want to be a part of that. My drawback? I don't know enough about electronics to homebrew any of my own equipment. Oh yeah I could go out and buy what I needed. But these guys take all kinds of joy in building there own equipment most of the time. I want that kind of joy too. So I'm trying to study my manual to get my Extra class license and struggling with the electronic theroy and math. At one point I was taking practice tests and could get a 65% on it. But I stopped for a while and now it's all gone :( . So I'm back to square 1.

But, AM is something that has now sparked my interest in being very active on the amateur bands again. And this isn't an overnight thing. This has been brewing for years! And now I'm finally getting down to doing something about it! Come hell or high water, I'm gonna get this done!


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