Dave Richards AA7EE

October 28, 2011

Blog Comment From T32C Team Member

Filed under: Amateur Radio,Ham Radio,QRP,Uncategorized — AA7EE @ 3:32 pm
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A little under 2 weeks ago, I blogged to share my surprise and joy at achieving a QSO with T32C on Kiritimati with my Fort Tuthill 80 – a simple 4 watt transceiver with a direct conversion receiver designed by Dan Tayloe N7VE. What made the QSO even more surprising was that the antenna was a coax-fed 40M inverted vee at 47 feet – not the best way of efficiently radiating a signal on 80M.  The magic of achieving a QSO with the Christmas Island team using this, was truly magical to me:

I thought the experience couldn’t get any better, but it came full circle when I saw the following comment underneath the blog-post yesterday morning:

“Hi Dave,

W3EF, Maury a T32C member pointed me to your blog. To make a long story short, I (ON7RU) turned out to be the operater of the 80m station at that moment. It’s a real pleasure to read these kind of stories and it shows we indeed had good ears, as we had hoped. Thanks for your patience and congrats with your DIY QRP stations. Keep up the good work, will follow your blog in the future.
Thanks again for the kind words and the flowers, but believe me the pleasure was ours.

73s from Honolulu, leave for EU tomorrow @ 4am. Believe me, that will be a bigger challenge then copying weak signals from the Pacific.

Frank, ON7RU
http://on7ru.blogspot.com”

Frank – you and the whole T32C team have created magic and a sense of sharing and camaraderie in the worldwide ham radio community. It sounds like you all had a great time doing it too.  Frank is now on my blogroll and I’ll be following his blog for news of any future DXpeditions he is involved with.

DXpeditions like this take a great deal of time, effort and money to organize.  If, like me, you had the pleasure of working T32C on one or more bands, you can donate to help offset their costs at http://www.t32c.com/. If you QSO’ed with them, a donation of 10 British Pounds Sterling or more will register you to receive a QSL provided you fill out the online QSL request form, which will be on their site soon after the DXpedition ends.

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October 26, 2011

The Thing That Was So Great About T32C

Filed under: Amateur Radio,Ham Radio,QRP,Uncategorized — AA7EE @ 5:40 am
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OK, I’ll give in and do one more T32C post.  A lot of people have been posting their T32C logs in their blogs and on Google+, so I’ll post mine here:

Certainly not one of the more impressive, but it was the best I could do as I contacted them on every band and mode I have capability for. Yup – that’s right, I have a Fort Tuthill 80 (2 watts), a Norcal 2N2/40 (4 watts) and a CC-20 beta version (2 watts). If I’d had a multi-band HF rig, I’d have gone for all HF bands 160 – 10M on CW. I’m pretty happy with what I did manage, especially as the antenna in all cases was a 40M inverted vee with the apex at 47 feet and fed by co-ax,  making it a fairly good antenna on 40, but not on the other bands. I’m particularly happy about the 80M QSO.

As I was looking at this log graphic and thinking about all the people who have been sharing their T32C experiences and successes on their personal blogs, on Twitter and on G+, it occurred to me that one of the best things that T32C did for the amateur radio community was not just that it gave DXpedition QSO’s to amateurs who normally wouldn’t try to work this kind of operation. It wasn’t even that it introduced many amateurs, new and old, to the joy of working DX.  I think the best thing that T32C gave us was a shared experience.

When I was a kid in the 1970’s, every morning at school before classes started, we’d talk about what we’d seen on TV the night before. Of course, this was a long time before the internet and the splintering of entertainment into an almost infinite number of distribution “channels”.  Back then in England, the majority of people watched TV with a rooftop antenna and had access to only 3 TV channels.  One of those offered mainly programming of more interest to grown-ups, so as kids we had the choice of 2 channels to watch. The result was that we nearly all watched the same TV shows, and were all on the same page when we were at school talking about what we’d seen on TV the night before.

This was the value of T32C, which drew attention from many hams who normally don’t try to work DXpeditions or maybe don’t even bother working DX that much, as well as the more experienced DX’ers. We all tried to work T32C, and many of us succeeded. Then we got to share our success stories with each other on Twitter, G+ and in our blogs. The newbies were impressed with the more experienced ops who had achieved contact using many different bands and several different modes. What was great was that the experienced guys were genuinely happy to see the newer ops getting excited about their QSO’s with T32C. We were all happy for each other and enjoying the stories of each other’s efforts and eventual successes.

For a few weeks, it felt to me that we were all on the same page in the ham community. I loved that.

October 18, 2011

A Trilogy With T32C – Thanks To The CC-20

Filed under: Amateur Radio,Ham Radio,QRP,Uncategorized — AA7EE @ 4:42 pm
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In the last post I reported that I had made contact with the T32C team on 40M with 4W from my Norcal 2N2/40, and also with 4W on 80M from my Tut80.  The goal was to make a contact with them on every band I have capability for here, which meant just one more band – 20M with the first beta version of Jason NT7s’ CC-20.  Last night I achieved that goal, and was surprised at how easy the mechanics of it was with this monoband QRP rig. What made it easy was Jason’s recent addition of XIT to the firmware. If you push and hold the tuning encoder in for half a second, on releasing it, you hear a morse code “R” in the headphones and the front panel LED lights, indicating that you are in RIT mode.  Holding it in for another half second gives you an “X” in the headphones, and the LED flashes, indicating that you are in XIT mode, giving you independent control over your transmit frequency.

Here’s where it gets neat. While in RIT or XIT mode, if you briefly depress and release the tuning button, you can listen on either your transmit or receive frequency, which is very useful for finding out where stations are calling during a split-frequency operation in XIT mode. Press the tuning knob once, and you hear an “R”, meaning that you’re listening on the receive frequency. Push it again and you hear a T, which means that you are now listening on the transmit frequency.  Also, while in RIT or XIT mode, pushing the FREQ/OK button (one of two front-panel pushbuttons) will trigger a readout of the frequency difference between your receive and transmit frequency in morse code. When operating normally, this button triggers a direct readout of the operating frequency. If you look at this new picture of my first beta version, you’ll see one addition; the front panel LED to indicate RIT/XIT mode. You’ll also notice that I forgot to install the screws on the side of the case for the photo. The screws have been off recently, as there have been several firmware updates while Jason fine-tunes the firmware:

It has been fun watching the CC-20 slowly take shape and for a compact and trail-friendly radio, I do believe this is about as full-featured as they come. This is not a final spec – that will have to come from Jason, but here’s a rough list:

*Rx current consumption ~ 40mA

*Tx output power 2W

*Full band coverage (14 – 14.35MHz) from a rock-solid DDS VFO with fast (100Hz) and slow (20Hz) tuning steps

*Readout of operating frequency in Morse code, also readout of difference between receive and transmit frequencies in RIT and XIT modes

*Readout of battery voltage in Morse code

*Built-in keyer with two programmable memories (I think this will be increased to 4 memories for the final production version)

*This kit will make extensive use of SMT devices.  Models available for 40, 30, 20 and 15.  Not sure if Jason’s planning an 80m version

* The board will come with the micro-controller installed and pre-loaded with the firmware, though the source code will be freely available for those who want to write and share their own code.

 

If I had a multi-band HF rig, I’d be gunning for a clean sweep with T32C on all HF bands on CW. The one band on which I’d really like to make contact with them on though is 160M. It would be a real challenge from this QTH.

As well as our current beta-testers Mikey WB8ICN, Paul K3PG, and Brian N1FIY, we will be welcoming John AE5X and two more beta testers for the second round of testing before the CC-series becomes available as a kit. Fun times!

October 16, 2011

QRP Adventures With T32C – and A Tut80 into a 40M Dipole

Filed under: Amateur Radio,Ham Radio,QRP — AA7EE @ 4:15 pm
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The main reason for this post is to share my surprise and joy at the fact that the night before last (Friday night) I worked T32C with my Tut80 – a QRP rig designed by Dan Tayloe N7VE that has a direct conversion receiver and a CW transmitter that in my particular case, puts out 4 watts (they seem to vary.) It’s not the kind of rig I’d normally think of using to contact a DXpedition, but as I don’t currently own a more conventional rig with dual VFO’s, I wasn’t about to miss out on the T32C fun by not trying at all.  What made the contact with T32C even more surprising to me was not only that I was only putting out 4 watts, but that I was putting it out into an inverted vee dipoole cut for 40M with the apex at 47 feet, and fed with coax!  If I were using QRO,  I don’t think I’d attempt to tune up such an antenna on 80M and certainly wouldn’t expect it to perform all that well. However, with only 4 watts output, I didn’t think much ill harm could come from excessive feedline radiation and so I tweaked the knobs on the ATU and hoped for the best.

Let me start from the beginning though. On seeing all the fun many people have been having working T32C, I wanted to at least work them on one band. The only rigs I currently own are the Norcal 2N2/40, the Tut80, and the beta version of the NT7S-designed CC-20. They are all QRP monoband rigs, none of them have dual VFo’s, and so the only way to work split frequency is to use RIT and hope that the split isn’t more than about 1.5 – 2KHz. I tried to snag them a few times on 40 without much success, but that was fairly early on when there was plenty of competition from other US stations. Then last Saturday morning during the Oceania DX Contest, I noticed that T32C had entered the contest and were working simplex on 40.   It was 5am, there wasn’t a whole lot of competition, and I got them  in the first few tries with 4 watts from the Norcal 2N2/40 to my only HF antenna – an inverted vee cut for 40 up at 47 feet. Bingo! Later that day, I saw myself in their log and that was when lightbulbs started coming on and ideas forming. How many bands could I work T32C on with my modest collection of QRP rigs?

I wasn’t able to put the CC-20 into service just yet, as I had just fried one (or more) of the active devices during beta-testing and was awaiting parts in the mail from Jason NT7S. That left the Tut80. The idea of working Kiritimati on 80M was very appealing, but I have never had much success on that band due mainly to my inability to erect effective antennas at the various places I have lived.  All I had to work T32C was a QRP direct conversion transceiver on 80M and a 40M coax-fed inverted vee. What do you think my chances were? I didn’t think they were very high, but all I had to lose was time, so I had a go.

VOACAP online comes to us courtesy of Voice Of America. It’s a great tool for  estimating coverage areas, and best times and frequencies for establishing contacts on the HF bands.  Apparently, it’s not too effective on the lower frequency bands, but this is what I came up with for a station running 5 watts of CW to a dipole at 50 feet, which was pretty close to my situation.  For the receiving station, I entered either a 1/4 wave vertical or dipole at 50 feet (can’t remember which.) They were actually using a Beverage. This graph predicts the chance of establishing contact between my QTH and Kiritimati during the month of October 2011:

From the above, it looked like my best opportunity on 80 would be from 0600-0800 utc. That morning, the T32C team had posted on their website that in response to requests for more 80M CW activity, they would be QRV on 80M CW for 2 days in a row at European sunrise, then on SSB for 1 day, then CW for 2 days, and so on.  This schedule coincided with my best chance to contact them as predicted by VOACAP – excellent!

I haven’t worked that many DXpeditions in the past, but on the few occasions I have,  I’ve done it manually with a key or paddle. It wasn’t until I saw AE5X’s video of him working T32C with his K3 that I realized for QSO’s like this, you can enter your overs into the keyer memory, then when it’s your turn to send, all you have to do is push a button. Thanks for that John. Incidentally, John contacted them on CW on all HF bands (including top band) , of which the 40 and 80M QSO’s were QRP. His 40M QSO was with just 2 watts.

I duly entered the following into one keyer memory:

AA7EE

and this into a second memory:

RR 599 TU dit-dit

On reflection, the dit-dit was unnecessary.

I got the Tut80 set up and started watching the HRD DX Cluster Site for the appearance of T32C on CW.  At some point during the evening (my time) they arrived, and were listening 1KHz up from their frequency of 3516 KHz (very do-able by the Tut80’s RIT – thank goodness it wasn’t a much bigger split).  Although other stations on the west coast were hearing them with quite strong sigs,  they were fighting with the high noise level for me. I think the main reason for that was my poor antenna for 80M (the 40M inverted vee fed with coax) which was picking up a lot of QRN but not a lot of the wanted signal. The other reason was probably that although the Tut80 is a good receiver as far as fairly simple direct conversion receivers go (stable VFO, no common mode hum or broadcast breakthrough and 700Hz-wide audio filter with nice sounding roll-off), it’s not exactly a contest-grade receiver. I could really have used a good 80M antenna and a single-signal receiver with some nice sharp crystal filtering, but the Tut80 and my compromise antenna was all I had, so it was what I used.

My preference is for a 500Hz sidetone, and the 1KHz split worked out very nicely because by tuning the direct conversion receiver in the Tut80 to 3516.5 KHz, I could hear both T32C on 3516 and the stations that was calling on 3517 – both at a 500Hz pitch. Double-signal reception is not usually thought of as offering any particular advantages, but this was one nice “extra”. If I wanted to listen just to T32C, all I had to do was twist the RIT knob and tune to 3515.5 KHz – 500 Hz below the T32C transmission frequency.  Neat eh?

Although they were only barely copyable to me, I could make out that they were calling EU EU – meaning they wanted calls from European stations only. This made sense, as part of their stated goal was to exploit all openings to Europe.  My hope was that by the time the grey-line had moved across Europe I’d still be able to copy them, and they’d open it up to non-EU stations.  I opened up a grey-line map at worldtime.com and started watching as sunlight slowly covered more and more of the continent.  QSB was taking T32C just above and just below the high noise level at my QTH, so I’m not sure exactly at what point it happened, but somewhere around the time that most of Europe was in daylight and the grey-line was over the UK, I realized that I was no longer hearing EU EU at the end of the CQ calls. Hoorah!  I called a few times, heard them work other stations (including a Brazilian station who had mentioned in the cluster that he was about to lose propagation and really wanted to work them). Then on around the 3rd try, I heard my callsign and a 599.

This was what the grey-line map looked like as T32C came back to my call.  The sun had set in Kiritimati about 2 1/2 hours earlier and they were in darkness at this time:

Huh? Really? Did I just hear my callsign coming back to me through the noise? I hurriedly hit the second memory button , and realized that the dit-dit I had programmed in straight after the TU was unnecessary, because by the time the dit-dit was over, they’d already started calling again.  I appeared in their online log less than 30 minutes later.

I was stunned. I’d worked them on 80M with this:

to a 40m inverted vee fed by 75 feet of coax! I think the coax must have been forming a pretty substantial part of the antenna as well as the dipole elements attached to it. It was all due to what is probably a low-noise location on Kiritimati, good antennas and world-class operators. My hat is off to the ops at T32C. They are doing a fine job.

Next on the agenda is to work them with the CC-20. They haven’t been on 20M CW in the last couple of days. I’m guessing it’s because the higher bands have been hopping. Hopefully for me, there will be a day or two with reduced propagation propagation on 17-10 so that the FB ops on Kiritimati will come down to 20M CW, and I can see whether the XIT that Jason NT7S just implemented in firmware is doing it’s job 🙂 20 could be a tough one though.  I suspect there will be a lot of strong signals to compete with.

It speaks to the dedication and experience of the T32C team that despite the fact the container carrying their equipment never made it to the island, they continued with the DXpedition and still managed to conduct a very well-run operation, albeit with 9 simultaneously operating stations instead of the originally-planned 15. These excellent operators, a very informative web-site, regularly-updated online log, and the fabulous HF conditions, have all combined to bring the excitement of working a DXpedition to hams like myself who, in the words of the Pet Shop Boys  “Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind Of Thing”.

I know I’ll be following DXpedition news more carefully in the future and when I get the K2 that just won’t get itself out of my head, will lose the coax and feed my 40M dipole with balanced line.

I’m rather glad that I don’t currently have a more conventional HF multi-band rig.  If I did, I wouldn’t have pressed the Tut80 into service, and I wouldn’t have experienced the satisfaction that comes from being able to say “I worked the T32C DXpedition with the Tut80”!

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