The North American CW Sprint

The North American Sprint is a unique contest with unique rules. Sponsored by the ARRL National Contest Journal, a four-hour CW contest takes place twice a year, the second Saturday evenings in February and September. In addition, there’s a half-hour mini-sprint each Thursday evening at 0230z that’s sponsored by the Northern California Contest Club. (There are also RTTY versions of the sprints, and the rules are similar, but this article just covers the CW sprints.) The “Sprint QSY rule” requires that once you call CQ and work a station, you must relinquish the frequency and move at least 1 kHz before calling CQ or working another station. This means there is no “running” – a single station can’t sit on one frequency and work stations one after another as in almost every other contest. The required exchange is: both callsigns, a serial number, your first name and your state. By convention, though, there is a unique order to these elements, making it apparent as to who is the CQer and who is answering. Continue reading “The North American CW Sprint”

Cable coiling the right way

As Field Day approaches, we’ll be taking many long pieces of cable – coax, extension cords, network cables, even guy ropes – out into the field and setting them up for our annual not-a-contest emergency exercise. Each year, many hams undoubtedly find that the cables they coiled up after last year’s Field Day are a twisted, tangled mess. Some end up broken, frayed or not working. It’s a frustration, for sure, and much can be avoided if the cables are coiled up the right way.

Unless your cable is on reels (either motorized or hand-crank), you’re probably coiling cables by hand. The most expedient method is often to use your forearm as a makeshift reel, coiling the cable between your palm and your elbow. The problem with this approach Continue reading “Cable coiling the right way”

Garage Parking Assist Sensor

This post has nothing to do with ham radio but it’s an electronics project that may be of interest.

Picture of parking lightWe bought a new car that turns out to be longer than the one we traded in, and parking it in our garage could be a potential problem (for both the car and the garage door) if it isn’t pulled in far enough. I wanted a better way to tell when the car was in far enough without using a sonar-based parking light (which I’ve found to be somewhat unreliable) or the old standby, hanging a tennis ball from the ceiling. I wanted a sensor to determine when the back edge of the car was past the garage door, and an indicator to tell when all is clear. Continue reading “Garage Parking Assist Sensor”

World Radio Labs WVG-MK2 Vertical Antenna

My first antenna as a Novice in the late sixties was a 40-meter dipole strung up in our back yard between my bedroom window and a surplus Signal Corps wooden pole that my dad bought at Silverstine’s. It was fed with RG-58 cable, soldered to the two wires across a white ceramic insulator. I probably still have the insulator somewhere, though the wire and coax has long since been discarded. It was an adequate performer and it even worked on 15 meters, but I wanted something a little more versatile. I had an 80-meter crystal, after all.

Despite the warnings from the older hams in the club about a vertical being “equally bad in all directions,” I saw an ad for the World Radio Laboratories WVG Mark 2 vertical. Continue reading “World Radio Labs WVG-MK2 Vertical Antenna”

The Phaser

The latest project in the NF8M station is The Phaser. No, not the Star Wars kind. This one is a single-board phasing SSB transceiver that puts out about 4 watts and is designed for digital modes. It’s the brainchild of Dave, K1SWL and George, N2APB. (You may recall George and Milt W8NUE are the designers of the NUE-PSK standalone RTTY and PSK31 terminal. I have one of the early units and it’s a lot of fun!) Continue reading “The Phaser”