Monday, January 23, 2012

A little background...

I'll be the first to state that I was hoping to be posting more frequently on here, but I've been dealing with a customer issue at work for the last two weeks, and I've been more focused on spending time with family than with my hobbies.  This post is one that I started writing before even the first blog post, but I saved it away in Evernote for a rainy day (if you don't use Evernote, or a similar tool, you're really missing out).

Everyone I've come across in ham radio has a story of how they got started, so why should I be any different.  Unlike many people I've come across, my parents weren't into technology.  My mom was a secretary before I was born, and my dad was a truck driver.  Both thought I was crazy when I spent the first fistful of cash I earned mowing lawns on a Commodore VIC-20 computer (man, do I wish I still had that...).  My dad played with CB radio a bit, and we had a 10-channel Regency scanner (that I still have!) to listen to the police and fire in our city and the surrounding towns.  But that was the extent of radio and electronics in my early years.

In the fall of 1986, I was on a Boy Scout camping trip at the local scouting reservation.  They were having a 'scouting jamboree' with other troops also setting up demos.  Our troop was demoing ropes and knot tying, and while wandering around, I came across a table with a radio, a machine making all these beeps and boops while displaying letters, and this thing that the operator was tapping on.  I stood there for a few seconds and heard a familiar note. 'dit dit dit'.  And the letter 'S' popped up on the screen.  Then a few minutes later, more tones, and this time I recognized the letter 'O'.  These were two letters I learned for my Wilderness Preparedness merit badge.  Everyone learned S-O-S!

I started chatting with the man that was running the booth, and quickly became more interested.  He was the leader of ham radio Explorer Post 73 (which I later found out was pretty common, for obvious reasons).  His name was Franny, and his call was W1SPG.  I found out his post met once a week about 15 minutes from where I lived.  I took down his name, phone number, and left to keep thinking about that cool setup.  I ended up joining that Explorer Post, and remained a member for almost 7 years.  At that time, I moved up to be an assistant leader, a position I held until the group broke up due to lack of membership in 1997.

Franny was one of two mentors that taught me so much as a young adult.  He became a Silent Key a few years back, but left such a legacy for all those that met him.  It turns out, Franny was a driving force in the Worcester, MA area for many years.  While I can't put a finger on it, he was easily responsible for getting over 100 hams licensed in the Central MA area.  For the years that I was in the post, he was responsible for over 30 young hams getting their first license.  My good friend Howie, KA1NAH, put up a great little memorial post for him here.

Next time, I plan to write about my interests in this hobby, others that have influenced my like, and a bit about the friends that I've had for over 20 years.  Until then, have fun!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Two down, seven to go. Sort of...

I figure it's been a little over a week since my first blog post, and I really wanted to get this second post out this past weekend. As I mentioned before, these little things called life, family, and work tend to get in the way from time to time, and my life is no different.  But with a few free minutes tonight while sitting here in the ham shack, I figured I could get this out...

In my initial blog post, I listed out 9 radio related goals that I set for myself in 2012.  I forgot one that is near and dear to my heart:  #10 - Model stuff.  Model stuff?  Yep, circuits, antennas, propagation paths.  All that good stuff.  While in college, I really got into circuit analysis.  In fact, I ended up making it part of my career for a few years.  But I've moved into the world of management, and I no longer get to spend time creating virtual circuits for pay.  A few years ago, I came across this great circuit simulator called 'LTSpice'.  This free circuit simulator, offered up from Linear Technology, is an easy to learn and use graphical circuit modeling tool.  There are other tools that I still like to use, like PSpice, but LTSpice has a huge following, particularly amongst the ham community.  If you want to learn more, do a quick Google search for 'ltspice'.  There is also a very active Yahoo group dedicated to that program.

I've also been fascinated by antenna design and modeling, and started playing with a program called '4NEC2' a few years ago.  This program allow you to enter .nec models of antennas that you may find online or in the various ARRL Antenna books, or you can create your own model.  I will say that 4NEC2 is a little harder to learn than LTSpice, but it's within reach if you put in a bit of time.  Along with that, I'd really like to play around with 'VOACAP', a program for modeling propagation.  I will be the first to admit that propagation in one of my weaker areas of knowledge, but in my pursuit of awards this year, I know I'll have to brush up on it a bit.

Finally, back to this whole 'Two down...' stuff.  Well, #9 (Start blogging) was easy to knock off that list, as I was looking for a good way to communicate outward to people, and I launched this blog just before the new year.  And I can now say that #7 (Setup and use LoTW) is also in the books.  I received my postcard from the ARRL today, finished setting up TQSL, and uploaded my first batch of .adif logs.  As I said in the first post, I decided to wipe my log clean and start fresh on January 1, 2010.  Not really sure why I picked that date, since I've been active from this QTH since 1995, but I hadn't been terribly active and had started to get on the air more starting in 2008.  In all, I only 'dropped' about 20 contacts from my LoTW submission that were prior to that date, but I think it was a nice clean break...

That's enough for tonight.  Hope you're enjoying this feed, and I'm open to feedback and suggestions.  Until next time, 73