Saturday, May 31, 2014

New Question Pool Begins July 1, 2014

The question pool for FCC Ham tests will be changing on July 1, 2014.

Here is a link to the new questions for the Technician exam:

The General questions will change in 2015 and the Extra questions will change in 2016.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ham radio operators assist during emergencies

I stumbled on this news story today about how ham operators are assisting the United States Coast Guard in Texas.

BZ to Tom Hargrave and his team of communicators!


USCG Boatswain Mate 1st Class Ross Comstock, left, and Tom Hargrave work together to provide emergency communications for this area. (Annita West/Index and Progress photo)

Posted: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 1:45 pm
By Annita West
In any emergency situation, Aransas Pass and Ingleside will continue to have communications from two different services provided by volunteers.
Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) is part of the Texas Department of Public Services Division of Emergency Management. Members of RACES communicate with government agencies during emergencies to provide backup communications primarily for the state, but can be requested by any government jurisdiction. RACES operators and teams must be sponsored by a state or local government and have restrictions on the number and length of time spent on any drills. Operators are required to pass a background check as part of the procedure to become accredited.
Aransas Pass resident Tom Hargrave currently is the alternate county liaison officer for San Patricio County. As such he is authorized to provide official communications supplemental to what is established by the state. He also is the emergency coordinator for San Patricio and Aransas counties in the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES).
ARES members are licensed amateur radio operators who volunteer their time and equipment to help any time normal communication fail or are inadequate. U.S. Coast Guard Boatswain Mate First Class Ross Comstock has been Hargrave’s “guy Friday” in ARES. Even though he is a resident of Ingleside, he covers Aransas County and picked up other areas as well. He is also in RACES.
When an evacuation is ordered due to any type of emergency, land line phones will often not have a dial tone due to the high volume of calls being made.
“Cell phones deteriorate to almost not working just like they did in the Boston bombing,” said Hargrave. “This deteriorates even before a true disaster. Ham radio has the ability to communicate both locally and anywhere you basically need to.”
This can be done by voice and digital messages. With digital messages, email files and pictures can be sent without Internet services.
“We are equipped to take a radio and antenna and be able to go out into the field somewhere, set that up and pass traffic from here to other places whether they be in the state or outside of the state,” Comstock said.
There are two different forms used for this communication. One is used for government agencies. The other is known as a radiogram and is handwritten, and they are generally delivered by voice. These messages can be tracked and a reply or confirmation of delivery returned to the sender. Health and welfare inquires are made through the Red Cross who makes the contact through an ARES operator.
ARES operators also assist the Red Cross in making damage reports. ARES operators from around the state prepare in case of a severe weather emergency to travel to the location and relieve the operators in the area.
The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) in this region has a location in Georgetown with deployed radio assets that can supplement equipment available locally.
ARES operators also take FEMA courses to be able to assist in more ways than just communication. ARES also provides services during more than hurricanes. SKYWARN is the National Weather Service’s (NWS) volunteer organization of severe weather spotters. Many of these are ARES members who provide timely and accurate reports of severe weather of all types to the NWS.
In Aransas Pass there are two locations where ham radio operators would go during an emergency such as a hurricane. Ham radio stations are located at city hall and at the maintenance building on Avenue A. In Ingleside operators would be located at the police department/fire department building.
According to RJ Thomas, Ingleside Fire Chief, they have a mobile command post with radio, which is operational now. It is available for use by ARES members who are approved by the City of Ingleside Emergency Operation Center.
The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) regulates the non-government radio spectrum allocated to civilian use. Amateur Radio Service is a part of that spectrum and is concerned that the amount they have available is not decreased.
“Just think,” commented Comstock, “We are just volunteers that are trying to put our interests in electronics and radio to use for public service.”
“The cities and counties are our customers and we serve at their pleasure,” concluded Hargrave.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The basics to interfacing your computer and ham radio

Many have asked me over the last few days how do you connect a computer to a ham radio.   There are several methods and Randy Hall K7AGE has a wonderful series posted on YouTube.

Here's Randy and his magic white board:

Randy also has a feature on HAM Nation at

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Field Day 2014

Field Day is on the fourth full weekend of June, beginning at 1800 UTC Saturday and running through 2059 UTC Sunday. Field Day 2014 is June 28-29. Operators may work any Amateur Radio band except 12, 17, 30 and 60 Meters.

The objective, according to the ARRL is to "work as many stations as possible on any and all amateur bands (excluding the 60, 30, 17, and 12-meter bands) and to learn to operate in abnormal situations in less than optimal conditions. Field Day is open to all amateurs in the areas covered by the ARRL/RAC Field Organizations and countries within IARU Region 2. DX stations residing in other regions may be contacted for credit, but are not eligible to submit entries."

For more information go to

Friday, May 23, 2014

Amplitude Modulation - How it was done before Single Side Band

Before Single Side Band amateur radio operators used amplitude modulation (AM) to send their messages to other stations.

For many on HF the AM button radio was something that you pushed to tune your antenna to your rig before calling CQ on upper or lower side bands.  Next time you tune up, stay in the AM mode for a bit and listen in for some AM traffic.  You are bound to be surprised with the quality of the transmissions heard.

Many AM'ers use vintage tube, retired military and hybrid radios to participate in AM nets throughout the world.  Some hams even built their own radios from radio gear used in old commercial AM stations.

Some photos of AM stations found around the Net:

Andy Howard, WA4KCY at the Gates BC-250GY operating position.
Photo byJoe Veras and CQ Magazine

Jeff May, W0XV, built this excellent 813 amplifier to use with his Harvey Wells station

Jeff May, W0XV, is the proud owner of this great looking BC-610 Station

Here is a list of frequencies used for AM communications:
All Frequencies in MHz
160 Meters: 1.885, 1.900, 1.945, 1.985 (USA)
                     1.850 (W. Europe)
                     1.933 &1.963 (in the UK)
                     1.843 (Australia)
80 Meters:  3.530, 3650 (South America)
                    New3615, 3625 (in the UK)
                    3705 (W. Europe)
                    3.690 (AM Calling Frequency, Australia)
75 Meters: 3.825, 3.870 (West Coast), 3.880, 3.885 (USA)
40 Meters:  7.070 (Southern Europe)
                    7.120, 7.300 (South America)
                    7.175, 7.290, 7.295 (USA)
                    7.143 (UK)
                    7.146 (AM Calling Frequency, Australia)
20 Meters: 14.286
17 Meters: 18.150
15 Meters: 21.285, 21.425
10 Meters: 29.000-29.200
6 Meters: 50.4 (generally), 50.250 Northern CO
2 Meters: 144.4 (Northwest)
                 144.425 (Massachusetts)
                 144.28 (NYC-Long Island)
                 144.45 (California)
                 144.265 (Los Angeles, CA)

 * Source -

Sample of an AM Ham Net found on YouTube:

Where and when AM'ers meet
A schedule of AM Nets was found posted at:

Find out more
I found a great article on AM in the archives of the ARRL:

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Why JT-65 is so cool

Today I fired up my Yaesu  FT-856D, connected it to the Rigblaster.  After calibrating the computer clock to Zulu I thought what the heck, lets see how far a 5 watt signal will travel on a day where conditions are poor. I don't normally do JT65 on the 10 meter band but in poor conditions I was impressed.

This was the solar report on

This was where my 5 watt SSB signal ended up according to

Generate a Color Printout of Your Ham Radio License

How would you like a color print out of your ham radio license?

This is a wonderful tool by AE7Q, Dean Gibson.

Just type in your call sign and you can have a color copy of your ham radio license.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ham Radio Antennas and Your Community

Have you been approached by your residential association about your ham radio antenna?

With the sudden growth of operators this may be more common than you think.

Things you need to know found posted on the ARRL site:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A fun way to learn CW

CW or Morse Code is the earliest form of digital communications and still widely used around the world by ham radio operators.

In the U.S. you no longer need to learn code to get a ham license but still it is worth while to learn.

Here is a fun way to learn your CW letters:

For in depth study there is the Gordon West Audio:

New Software for JT-65 and Fun with interfacing computers and ham radio.

JT-65 is a wonderful way to make radio contacts using a ham radio with computer, interface and software. The fun part is you work with low power.  You would be surprise how far a 10 watt JT-65 signal will travel.

This protocol is much like playing ping pong.  You must set your computer time to the second to ZULU time before you begin.

Here is the Zulu clock that I use:

Here are some video demonstrations:

The man doing the demonstration mentioned an unwritten rule about a 5 watt max.  I have not heard of any such rule.  I have made contacts all over the world with power setting from 10 watts to 25 watts.

JT-65 Background:

Princeton University has a wonderful resource page on JT-65

Hardware need for computer:

I am running a West Mountain Radio Rigblaster Plug N Play with a laptop using Windows 7.  It installed without any problems.

West Mountain makes a variety of products for computers for the variety of ham radios on the market.


Other popular products for digital communications:

SignaLinkTM USB combines the performance of our SL-1+ with a state of the art “built-in” low-noise USB Sound Card.   :

The latest version of the JT-65 software is free and available by Source Forge:

Fox News article: Ham radio: Old technology gets new respect

Ham radio made the news today on Fox News, who reported that more and more emergency managers are turning to amateur radio as a reliable means of emergency communications.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


sponsored by

The Battleship New Jersey 

Amateur Radio Station

0000Z June 7 through 2359Z June 8, 2014

A fun ham radio event where museum ships will have radio operators set up and making contacts with hams all over the world.

For more information:

Fun videos of ham shacks on board History ships:

Ham radio on board the U. S. S. Panpanito - the first Submarine with whom I had a QSO. 

Queen Mary in Long Beach Wireless Room -W6RO