Contesting notes, December 2021

A summary of radiosport topics for the casual contester

As we wrap up the calendar year, we can look forward to a month of contests that almost any ham can get involved in and have fun in.

The month starts and ends with a pair of topband (160 meter) contests. The dark days of December (in the northern hemisphere, anyway) provide many hours of low-absorption F-layer skip that allows those low frequencies to travel far, and with thunderstorm activity at a minimum, atmospheric noise takes a break.

The first weekend (December 3-5) features the ARRL 160-Meter Contest. Continue reading “Contesting notes, December 2021”

Contesting notes, November 2021

A summary of radiosport topics for the casual contester

The contest season is underway! CQ Magazine sponsors several contests each  year, and among them, the CQ Worldwide DX Contests are the highlight. There are actually three separate contests on the last full weekend of successive months: RTTY in September, SSB in October, and CW in November. The CQ Worldwide SSB contest, held this year on October 30 and 31, is generally considered the start of the “contest season”, Continue reading “Contesting notes, November 2021”

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”