Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Third Opinion

I've been working on getting my ham radio station back on the air. The new place is a tiny apartment, so a stealth antenna is called for. I used a slingshot to loft about 100 feet of stranded #26 copper wire (with black insulation) into the trees outside the window. The far end is in the trees and the other end travels under the window screen and into the room, where it is soldered to a banana plug. The banana plug is inserted into the post of a 4:1 balun. On the hot end, the output of the transmitter runs to the Daiwa 2-needle SWR meter, then to the LDG tuner, then to the 50-ohm side of the balun.

I had read that the little SWR indicator on the Yaesu 857 was not only too small (it's about the size of a cellphone signal strength indicator) but was inaccurate, too. So I wanted to verify the SWR. For that I got a little LDG analog meter that plugs directly into the "meter output" connector of the transceiver. Much easier to read, and with much more precision.

There's an HRO (Ham Radio Outlet) about 2 miles from my new address; I'm doomed!

So I put it on the air tonight, at only 10 watts, just to check the SWR. After adjusting the tuner (just push the button, actually, and it does all the work) I obtained the results shown: All three meters indicate a perfect match on 40 meters.

Then I switched the transceiver to 3675 kHz and pressed the key down. The two analog meters both read 5:1 and the Yaesu SWR indicator was offscale and flashing "SWR-SWR-SWR".

So technically this looks like a successful foray, but on the non-technical side not so much: my morse code skills have deteriorated to about 8-10 wpm. Very slow, even on the (so-called) Novice CW bands. I found some morse code practice sessions on iTunes (ain't life grand!?) and downloaded 'em to the iPhone. I can copy 8 wpm in my head no problem, but you know there's more to it than that. There's dealing with fading and noise and interference and those ham abbreviations: "VY GD ON YR QTH" and so on. I need some practice!


drjim said...

You can also download code practice lessons from the ARRL in MP3 format.
Keep plugging away, your speed will come back up. I was out of the hobby for 25 years, and when I got interested again, it took me about a week to get back up to 5wpm for my Tech Plus, and in the month between taking that test and my General, I *easily* got back up to over 15wpm. If you learned it young (like I did), it will stick with you forever.
As far as the antenna goes, try adding some 'counterpoise' wire to the ground lug on the back of the tuner. It doesn't have to be in a straight line like the radiating element, just laying around on the floor inside your apartment would be OK. Even though you have a tuner, a random wire really needs a decent RF ground to "work against", and a bunch of wire on the floor is far better than nothing.

Drang said...

I, on the other hand, have an HRO only a full day's round trip away... (Mrs. Drang has yet to dangle a stop there as incentive to visit her family in Salem, 50 miles or so south...)

Just finished a club meeting in which we were, um, inundated with info about FLDigi and related programs.

It will copy CW. If I understand correctly, you can drag and drop a text file into the "send" window and it will send it as CW, too.
Or not...

Old NFO said...

Watch out, it'll consume you till you get proficient, and then you'll be on the air all the time! :-)

Arthur said...

"I used a slingshot to loft about 100 feet of stranded #26 copper wire (with black insulation) into the trees outside the window. "

What do you do to guard against lightning strikes or ground strikes?

I used that trick when I was a kid, but every time it stormed my equipment arced itself into slag.

Roberta X said...

Don't leave it hooked up, Arthur. It's not a perfect fix but it improves the odds. An HF antenna picks up significant energy from nearby strikes -- an old trick is to hang an neon lamp (NE-2, etc.) between antenna and ground and watch the flashes.


HIHI, er, ;)