Tons of ham radio operators will be planning for your Hard Grid Down (HGD) and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) laced future this coming weekend with something called Field Day.
Sponsored by the American Radio Relay League (https://arrl.org) the event had its roots in 1933 when a bunch of hams decided to “take to the field” with their fledgling hobby.
Most of us who have been hams for a while (55-years for me) remember a time when radio and television gear was not nearly as dependable as it is today. The reason? Back in the days of vacuum tubes, equipment was more fragile.
When times were back, though, even back then, there were dedicated hams who could move a message across the country and in the event of a natural disaster, that was a godsend. My introduction to emergency message handling was helping a neighbor, now a “silent key” – run phone patches out of Alaska for something like 14-hours non-stop during the 1964 Alaska Earthquake.
People in the Anchorage area could visit a local ham and a message sent to Seattle (or other “outside” points) and relayed to the right city for local phone delivery. In the case of military personnel, or people lucky-enough to live with a ham in the neighborhood, a transmitter in Alaska was picked up by a receiver in the lower 48 and then connected to a phone line – allowing the sender in Alaska to “talk” back and forth with relatives sometimes 4-thousand miles distant.
Field Days is Practice
My buddy, the Major, is part of the set-up team fielded by the Mic & Key Amateur Radio Club up in Seattle. Their idea of Field Day is to head up Fort Flagler State Park and set up a number of both voice and CW (Morse code) stations around the state park.
The idea is: Without grid power (something we have touched on a lot recently, what with power outages in South America and such, not to mention the (alleged) Russian probes of our grid) what kind of communications can be maintained?
Using the call sign K7LED, the Mic and Key’s operation is in two clusters. Morse code operators will be down at “CW Beach” by the water while the voice operators will be on an overhead bluff. All antennas pointing out toward the high population density parts of America with the idea of a basic message exchange in order to rack up “points.” Morse counts double points compared with voice.
Here, I’ll be doing just a “charts only” kind of Peoplenomics report this weekend to take some time on Field Day.
Our category is 4 (home station) with emergency power (E suffix). Our ARRL region (called a “section number”) is North Texas. When a contact (“work”) someone on Field Day it will be AC7X operation 4E NTX – the abbreviation for the section.
Come along and I’ll show you around and point out some of the “building blocks” involved:
I’ve shown you our power center before. This is where the 3.5 kilowatts of solar panels comes into the shop and is converted into massive battery storage (16 large deep cycle golf cart batteries) and from there it’s converted from DC to AC – something useable – with stacked 120V since wave inverters.
For us, going onto “emergency power” is as easy as throwing two breakers.
One Field Day issue for us is the lack of sunshine in the forecast for this weekend. We may be in the middle of another round of strong thunder storms which does add a bit of risk, but we shall see.
With a source of power, the next requirement is for an antenna…
This is an old Cushcraft A-4S wideband beam and under it my seriously heavy 16-conductor 80-meter dipole.
Choosing which radio to use is always a tough one. Tube-type gear takes a little more fidgeting with to dial it all in right, so a simple Kenwood transceiver will likely be the “weapon of choice” this time out:
This gets me to an interesting discussion of “the Rules.” The rule is that in order not to draw the high-powered amplifier penalty (because anyone can talk anywhere with enough power and the most humongous antennas) I can run 150 watts out to the antenna.
However, the little Kenwood only puts out 100 watts. Which is more than enough for worldwide communications, but remember Field Day is a mad house. Signals all over and crowded band conditions. One strategy is to turn on this beast, a 2,000 watt-capable of linear amplifier:
Then comes the operator skill to dial things back: The amplifier has a low-power switch (1,000 watts,, lol). But the radio is adjustable in small increments. If 100 watts will get 1,000 watts out, 15 watts ought to get 150 watts out. Simple enough there.
Just to play fair, though, I use a calibrated power output meter to make sure.
Here’s one of the issues with “contesting” with ham radio: Keeping track of all the people you contacted. Oh, it’s easy to keep everything straight during the first half-hour, or so. but after that? 10-hours of Morse code and manual logging can be tedious.
K3FPJ has developed a very nice and inexpensive ($8.99) Field Day Log program. You can also use logging programs that are built-in to other ham radio software packages like Ham Radio Deluxe which also supports a lot of digital modes via Digital Master including slow scan TV, teletype and…well, we have a schedule to keep.
In your travels about this weekend, should you see a sign that says GOTA – that means “Get On The Air” – a station set up so the public can see ham radio first-hand and maybe become involved.
As we’ve told you may times, Ham Radio is as much a “technical religion” as a hobby because there is so much long history and structure to it.
The ARRL Handbook is somewhat akin to a Bible for those possessed by the demon RF.
There’s fellowship like crazy.
In place of 10 Commandments we have sets of Laws handed down by prophets with names like Ohm, Volta, Tesla, Marconi, Hertz and that gang.
Some of us think the “Building fund” should be putting in a new Alpha linear amplifier or an 80-foot motorized crank-up tower.
And like many religions, we take alcohol only in tiny amounts named after electron tubes. A “beer” is an “807” and anything strong become a “4-1000” – a hefty transmitting tube almost the size of a plastic gallon milk jug. Yes, tubes of any consequence are still called jugs.
Then, in the same vein, ham radio – the religion – has its own “10 Commandments.” This version is more “working on the gear” iun nature, but there can be other such Commandments brought forth on Contest Weekends.
- Listen before transmitting.
- Keep thy code speed up to 30.
- Donate 10% of your income to the Radio Fund
- Honor your Beam and your Dipole
- Do unto others before they get that 9A4 before thee.
- Get your spouse involved
- And use minimum power to maintain a contact…except on contest weekends when you’re trying to sop up country multipliers out of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
Let the fun begin. Ladies and gentlement, light your filaments! The countdown to key down is a go…
de ac7x 4e ntx, qsl?