I live in an old house with equally old wiring. There is no ground anywhere in the house – all the electrical outlets have just 2 connections. I’ve thought for a while that I should drive a long copper rod into the earth outside for my station ground, and if I had done this, then the following might not have happened.
A week or two ago I noticed that when I touched the metal casing of either my FT-817 or Z11 tuner, I felt a sharp tingling of electricity – the metal cases were no longer at ground potential. If I remember correctly, we had experienced some storms recently, so perhaps there was static buildup on the cases. Shortly afterward, I noticed that the Signalink USB was cycling the FT-817 transmit mode on and off continuously. Turning the delay pot on the Signalink USB fully counterclockwise kept the PTT switched on permanently. On opening it up, I noticed the the chip at the top right-hand side of the board in the following picture (just above the crystal) was very hot:
This was not good. On calling Tigertronics technical support, they confirmed that the symptoms sounded very much like the unit had suffered damage from static. If I shipped it back to them, they would take out the old board and install a new one with the same case and knobs for $49.95 plus the cost of shipping it back to me. This sounded reasonable – even if they had opted to fix my board at the component level, the cost of labor would bring the final cost to the same point (or even more).
The helpful tech gave me an RMA and I was all set to return my Signalink USB for a replacement board when it occurred to me that I haven’t actually used it in a couple of months. The most use I have made of it was when I was doing WSPR last year and the year before. Other than that, it has been useful on the occasion that I decide to fiddle around with a digital mode for fun, which I have done on occasion, but none of the digital modes have held my attention.
The only digital mode I’ve consistently used recently, in fact the only mode I’ve used recently, is CW, and I don’t use a computer to decode it – I use my head. For this reason, I think I’m going to hold back on getting the board in the Signalink USB replaced. It’s a fair deal, but there are other things I can do with my ham radio dollars right now.
In other news, Jason NT7S hopes to ship the beta kits for the CC-40 transceiver to the beta testers this coming week. If all goes well, you’ll see pictures and a description of the beta version of the kit on this blog in perhaps 2 – 2 1/2 weeks. I’m furiously trying to improve my sending on the paddle and wondering if my continuous mis-keying is due to operator error, or the fact that my Bencher paddle feels a little springy when set to operate from a light touch. It could well be a case of a bad workman blaming his tools, but I’m wondering what other types of paddle feel like. I don’t think the Bencher is my ideal paddle and am wondering which other ones to try. What about a single lever paddle – does anyone have thoughts on that? I quite like the idea of the single lever paddle.
I was unable to operate the ARRL CW DX Contest due to an out of town trip. What awful timing! I’m available almost every weekend except that particular one. I was home this weekend for the ARRL Phone DX Contest but couldn’t make myself pick up a mic. I did finally call a couple of stations in the contest, but was privately relieved when they didn’t come back to me, as I really didn’t want to muddy up the log with any phone contacts. Since taking up CW, phone has lost it’s appeal. I really enjoy the mental exercise of decoding CW, and phone operation just doesn’t offer the same engagement; it seems too easy. That’s my take – I’m sure phone operators will have a different perspective. I’d be happy to hear from you guys here.