Sunday, June 28, 2015

QSL - Relived And Then Recycled

If you've followed my blog at all, you will know that I'm downsizing my shack dramatically. First is cleaning up files and paperwork followed by parting with various pieces of shack equipment. As I prepare for my retirement years, I know I can't drag most of my ham radio hobby with me. Certificates, which used to hang on the shack wall, have now been removed from their frames and placed into a large photo album. The frames, along with other household items we no longer need, have been donated. Equipment has been stacked in two piles, one pile that I will keep and the second pile, I will sell. The sale pile includes tower sections, rotors and control boxes, hundreds of feet of cable, shack equipment and more. Today I began the sad reality of working my way through my QSL cards. I will be downsizing my QSL cards in much the same manner as I did my certificates. My DXCC QSL cards along with a few other of my favorites will be retired to a photo album as friendly reminder of years past. 

QSL's of Yesteryear
Included in recycling project is my own personal QSL cards sporting my previous callsigns and operations. I held onto some of my old QSL cards to make sure I had enough for any bureau requests. Since I no longer receive any requests of my previous older callsigns, they found their way into our recycling bin. As you can see, many of my QSL cards from the late 80's and 90's also found the bin. These were mostly my 432, 144, 6 and satellite contacts from back in the day. I browsed each and every card as I tossed them into the bin and I'm sure my neighbors were curious as to what I was doing. A colorful reminder of days before electronic QSL'ing.

In some ways, this act almost seemed criminal. That is probably the reason it's taken me so long to begin this process. I've moved across the country a few times and after this last move, I decided it was time to stop lugging them around. This activity will continue as time allows and as room is had in the recycling bin. Yes, the Coors Light made it a little easier but it's still tough to close the lid on so many fond memories. Life goes on...

Monday, June 22, 2015

My Commanding QRP Tri-band Configuration

Indoor Par EndFedZ Antenna Configuration
I have three bands (antennas) within my QTH at the moment. I've identified the Par EndFedZ wires I currently have up in the photo to the left. My shack is a bit out of sight below, but the open concept allows me to easily run wires indoors. The 20 meter wire is a bit long so I have it making a 45 degree turn down into the shack. Couple indoor antennas with running QRP, there certainly are challenges in making contacts if propagation is not good. Basically, it's nearly impossible, but when propagation is favorable, I can work Europe. This configuration is a great conversation piece for anyone who visits, as the wires always raise an eyebrow or two. Command Strips make it pretty easy to run wires indoors without scaring interior finishes. The antenna's also don't mind the wires running to, or through them. I still have plans of exterior antenna's but for now, this is how I'm wired.     

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Windows 3.1 Directions Discovered And My Indoor 6 Meter Comes To Life, Finally!

6 Meter Indoor Antenna
At the urging of my long time friend KL1SF, I finally put up my indoor 6 meter Par EndFedZ antenna today. I heard my first weak SSB signals on 6 meters, mostly from 6 and 7 land. As you can see, the SWR is pretty respectable considering it's indoors and running in between my 10 and 20 meter indoor wires. I had been listening to a few hams chat on 50.140 while I was stringing the wire. The entire portion of the 6 meter band (CW and up to about 150) had the same SWR. So now, need a grand opening to be able to work my first stations on 6 from this QTH. My only dilemma is needing to find my microphone, but hopefully will hear some 6 meter CW in the near future. The keys are ready but I normally don't have a microphone hooked to my rig. 

LogSat for Windows 3.1?!
As I continue to purge my shack of old equipment and accessories, I found several old pieces of software. The picture to the right is of my first satellite program, LogSat. When I opened it up and saw the installation instructions, I had to chuckle a bit. I can sure remember Windows 3.1 and DOS before that. As we are about to embark on Windows 10, things have sure changed over the years and as some would probably tell you, not necessarily for the better. And now, CD's are becoming a thing of the past. As I recycle, sell or throw out various accessories, I'm wondering if some of these might not someday be the next high dollar eBay income piece. Sometimes I think technology moves a bit fast for my taste. This of course coming from a guy who totally enjoys Morse Code, that ancient form of communication that constantly fills the ham bands when propagation allows. Morse Code was here before me and I'm sure it will still be in use after me. I'm sure glad some things don't change...   

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Contesters Past - Hand Delivered Wallpaper Achiever?

CT & TR-Log
With modern contesting software, you go to a specific website, review the software and oftentimes, download a trial copy. You give it a spin and if you like it, you register it (if applicable). With some, there is a cost for registration and with others, it can be free. Some even have lifetime updates but I don't know of any software program that has lasted that long. Donations are always a good thing when you find software that you enjoy that come with no price tag. As I continue my theme of walking down memory lane, looking at my disk collection, I came across two of my first real contest programs. CT and TR-Log is where I first experienced having a separate program, specifically for contesting. 

I would expect that these programs are probably still in use by many hams. When you become an expert with a version of any software, change can sometimes be stressful. Changes often make software better, by upgrading certain aspects of the program and fixing reported bugs. I was (am still) hesitant in upgrading software each and every time a new version comes out. It is a great thing when a software developer continuously supports their work. Contesting software in comparison to regular logging software is the difference between driving a Chevy Vega and a Z28. In modern day, I use Win-test (N1MM for digital contests), which resemble aspects of those programs I have used in the past. Computers are faster and programs are much bigger and more powerful and ham radio software is no different. As I permanently retire these program disks, I can't help but smile. Great programs that still have a place in Radiosport today. 

PacketCluster Version? - Back In The Day

Back In The Day
As I continue purging excess from my ham inventory, I came across these 3½" disks that contained original ham software on them. I ran my own DXCluster for awhile and normally could connect to Michigan or Cleveland via the backbone frequency, which was where I exchanged data (pre-internet days). I was hoping to connect both worlds via my system but it just did not pan out as I lacked the height, gain and dedicated antenna's. I still used my system for UHV/VHF contests and I made good use of my high band Triplexer during those days. It was certainly fun while it lasted and coming across these old disks makes me take a stroll down memory lane. I have to chuckle a bit as I only have one computer left that could even read these disks. And that computer will be recycled at Best Buy at the end of this week. Remember those days when an entire program would fit on one of these disks. Oh how things have changed.