Wednesday, November 23, 2016

This is not the wattage you're looking for... move along

Getting hot under the collector/base junction

Where did my power go?

My Elecraft W1 power meter has been absent from the antenna chain for a while due to a jumper cable shortage when I last reconfigured my shack.  But now the W1 meter is back in the chain and it revealed something a bit worrisome about the 1Watter transceiver...

I've had a bunch of QSOs using the 1Watter both in the shack and in the great outdoors.  The 1Watter is my first home built transceiver (albeit from a kit) and has been a great learning experience. It is called a 1Watter (or 1H2O as Diz calls it) because it nominally produces an output of 1 watt.

The Elecraft W1 power meter is a nice, inexpensive QRPp to QRO meter because it measures from 150 watts all the way down to 150mw.

The little 1Watter transceiver does indeed produce just a hair over 1 watt when it's first powered up. Tonight I tossed my call out on 7030 kHz and was promptly answered by N4DR up in Maryland.  He was running a YOUKITS TJ5A at 5w. When we started the QSO my W1 meter showed that my 1Watter was outputting between 900mw and 1w to my mighty attic antenna.  

Then by the second exchange in the QSO I noticed my output power dropping down to 700mw.  By the end of our ragchew my 1Watter output had dropped to 500mw.  

Power meter in background showing 500mw by the end of the first QSO

As I ended that first QSO I was called by another station (AF4YF) who was running a 2 watt homebrew xcvr.  And by the end of that QSO the 1Watter was producing less than 300mw.  I felt that some investigation was in order.

Heat is the enemy

The 1Watter uses a 2N5109 NPN RF transistor for a final. Transistors really are not fans of heat.  

The maximum power output available from a power transistor is closely linked to temperature, and above 25°C falls in a linear manner to zero power output as the maximum permissible temperature is reached.

My 1Watter kit included a friction fit heat sink, seen at the top of the photo below. But apparently this heat sink either saturates quickly or doesn't have sufficient surface to conduct away the heat.  My enclosure is not vented but it is alumunium and I don't feel any appreciable temperature rise above ambient so I don't think venting is in order yet.

I allowed the 1Watter to rest for 30 minutes following the QSOs, still powered but not transmitting.  That only resulted in the output power getting back into the 700mw range.  I'm considering increasing the bias to start with a higher transmit power so that it will maintain 100mw but I'm afraid of destroying the transistor.  I might also try some conductive paste but it's messy and I'm not sure it will help if it can't be pressed between two surfaces.

I'd appreciate any constructive suggestions.  I'm still a noob at this electronics stuff.

But the real moral of the story is...

Band conditions on the evening of this QSO

So as I sat here wondering why my 1 watt radio was only producing a 1/2 watt now,  I reminded myself that I was having extended QSOs using a (now) 500mw radio with other QRP operators (5w and 2w).  I was also using my attic antenna, not some multi-element beam on a tower. Band conditions on 40m were also a limiting factor tonight (see snapshot at right).
These were not simply swap 599 TU QSOs, we were exchanging information on multiple go-rounds with solid copy.

So if you're reading this blog you likely have some interest in QRP.  Hopefully this is just yet another reminder that we often don't need as much power as we think we do for communications.  I was getting discouraged this summer due to the decreasing sunspot cycle and thinking "I'm gonna need to operate QRO more and likely get a real antenna put up in my yard".  

But it's times like this with my 1Watter that keeps reminding me to lower my power and raise my expectations.

So lower your power and raise your expectations...

72 / 73
Richard, AA4OO

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Get used to the common stuff

Common QSO words...

Rick -- KA8BMA, kindly shared with me some common QSO words that he uses for practice. These practice groups go from short 2 letter words/symbols up through 6 letter words. Also included here are the most commonly used abbreviations and lastly the most common 100 words used in a QSO.

Work your way through these and develop an ear for the most common words used in a CW QSO.

I've created 22 wpm audio files that you should be able to simply click and listen to, assuming your browser supports embedded audio controls.

Note that I accidentally have some <BT> prosigns thrown in there that are not listed in the text.  <BT> means "new paragraph" and operators often throw those in to separate topics or if they can't think of something to send as a space filler.  If I get a chance I'll regenerated these audio files without the hidden <BT> prosigns.

If you don't want to hear the code at 22wpm copy the text of these groups into your own CW Trainer application for practice at any speed.

Common 2 letter words and punctuation

to   of   it   in   do   so   is   we   on   or   oh   uh   at   my   if   be   as   go   Im   he   me   up   tu   cq   dx   es   fb   go   ge   hi   hr   hw   nr   om   wx   73   KN   BK   AS   =   +   *   .   ?   /   

Common 3 letter words including Q-codes

and   the   you   but   was   not   for   all   one   are   not   can   out   got   now   lot   had   how   get   see   too   did   and   Ive   our   any   rtu   tnx   rst   agn   ant   pse   pwr   QRL   QRM   QRN   QRQ   QRS   QRZ   QTH   QSB   QSY   hw?   

Common 4 letter words -- No, not the ones your thinking

There is an abbreviation in this set "efhw" that I've never personally heard on-air.  I believe it stands for "end fed half wave antenna".  I'm including it because it was in Rick's word group but YMMV on how often you hear that word/abbr.
that   know   yeah   they   like   have   just   well   what   them   mean   dont   with   when   from   some   were   your   name   beam  efhw   g5vr   test   icom   knwd   temp   warm   cold   cool   rain   snow   hail   jt65   hour   

Common 5 letter words

think   about   thats   right   other   where   yaesu   sunny   clear   sleet   windy   psk31   

Common 6 letter words

really   dipole   windom   sloper   tentec   alinco   cloudy   

Common 2 and 3 letter words together

to   of   it   in   do   so   is   we   on   or   oh   uh   at   my   if   be   as   go   Im   he   me   up   tu   cq   dx   es   fb   go   ge   hi   hr   hw   nr   om   wx   73   KN   BK   AS   =   +   *   me   up   tu   cq   dx   es   fb   go   ge   hi   and   the   you   but   was   not   for   all   one   are   not   can   out   got   now   lot   had   how   get   see   too   did   and   Ive   our   any   rtu   tnx   rst   agn   ant   pse   pwr   QRL   QRM   QRN   QRQ   QRS   QRZ   QTH   QSB   QSY   

Common 2, 3 and 4 letter words together

to   of   it   in   do   so   is   we   on   or   oh   uh   at   my   if   be   as   go   Im   he   me   up   tu   cq   dx   es   fb   go   ge   hi   hr   hw   nr   om   wx   73   KN   BK   AS   =   +   *   me   up   tu   cq   dx   es   fb   go   ge   hi   and   the   you   but   was   not   for   all   one   are   not   can   out   got   now   lot   had   how   get   see   too   did   and   Ive   our   any   rtu   tnx   rst   agn   ant   pse   pwr   QRL   QRM   QRN   QRQ   QRS   QRZ   QTH   QSB   QSY   that   know   yeah   they   like   have   just   well   what   them   mean   dont   with   when   from   some   were   your   name   beam   efhw   g5vr   test   icom   knwd   temp   warm   cold   cool   rain   snow   hail   jt65   hour   

Common 2, 3, 4 and 5 letter words together

to   of   it   in   do   so   is   we   on   or   oh   uh   at   my   if   be   as   go   Im   he   me   up   tu   cq   dx   es   fb   go   ge   hi   hr   hw   nr   om   wx   73   KN   BK   AS   =   +   *   me   up   tu   cq   dx   es   fb   go   ge   hi   and   the   you   but   was   not   for   all   one   are   not   can   out   got   now   lot   had   how   get   see   too   did   and   Ive   our   any   rtu   tnx   rst   agn   ant   pse   pwr   QRL   QRM   QRN   QRQ   QRS   QRZ   QTH   QSB   QSY   that   know   yeah   they   like   have   just   well   what   them   mean   dont   with   when   from   some   were   your   name   beam   efhw   g5vr   test   icom   knwd   temp   warm   cold   cool   rain   snow   hail   jt65   hour   think   about   thats   right   other   where   yaesu   sunny   clear   sleet   windy   psk31   

Most common abbreviations during a QSO

r tu rtu tnx name   rst cq    agn   ant   dx   es fb ga ge   hi    hr hw nr om pse pwr wx 73

Most common Q signs during a QSO

QRG   QRL   QRM   QRN   QSB   QRO   QRP   QRQ   QRS   QRT   QRU   QRV   QRZ   QSL   QSX   QSY   QTH   QTR   

100 Most common words during a QSO

and   the   you   that   a   to   know   of   it   yeah   in   they   do   so   but   is   like   have   was   we   its   just   on   or   not   think   for   well   what   about   all   thats   oh   really   one   are   right   uh   them   at   there   my   mean   dont   no   with   if   when   can   as   his   from   had   by   some   were   out   other   where   your   up   QRL   QRM   QRN   QRQ   QRS   QRZ   QTH   QSB   qrp   QSY   r   tu   rtu   tnx   name   rst   cq   agn   ant   inv v   dipole   beam   efhw   g5vr   windom   ocf   sloper   vertical   dx   es   fb   gm   ga   ge   hi   hr   hw   nr   om   pse   pwr   wx   73   =   +   *   bk   kn   rig   QRP   age   yrs   test   icom   knwd   yaesu   tentec   elecraft   heathkit   alinco   collins   psk   swr   wx   temp   warm   hot   cold   sunny   cool   cloudy   clear   rain   snow   sleet   hail   windy   fog   jt65   hour   .   ?   /   599   589   579   479   359   489   559   hw?   cw   am   ssb   usb   lsb   psk31   psk   digital   

That's all for now.

So lower your power and raise your expectations...

72 / 73
Richard AA4OO

Monday, November 7, 2016

You can swing a dead cat but you shouldn't swing your Bug

If it ain't got that swing, that's a good thing

The bane of those who work Bug key operators is the dreaded "swing".  Swing is when the DAH to DIT length doesn't match the accepted ratio of 3 to 1... often with Bug ops the length of the DAHs stretch out to way more than the accepted ratio and the poor schmuck at the receiving end has to make sense of someone speaking CW with a thick accent.

Sometimes a bit of swing on a manual key adds some interest to the sound of the CW and when Bug ops work other Bug ops we often throw some extra-spicy whoop-swing into our FIST.  But by and large non-standard DAH to DIT timing is frowned upon because, after all, we are supposed to be communicating and communication is easiest when it is understandable.

Make 'em think you're using a Paddle

As I've been learning to send CW with my circa 1970s Standard Vibroplex Bug, I've strived to make my FIST sound as close to the accepted timing of a paddle through an electronic keyer as I can.  I'm very much still in training, as you'll hear in the video, but I thought it might be helpful to have a little show and tell.
Wow! I need practice.  After listening to my video I realized my inter-character spacing was terrible with too little spacing between characters.  So please don't run your characters together like I did...  

Practicing the bug to sound like... errr well a paddle

The phrase I'm sending at the end of the video is a quote from Albert Einstein..
"The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination"

That's all for now...

So lower your power and raise your expectations, and "enunciate" your DAHs

Richard, AA4OO

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Head Copying CW

There's more to using Morse Code than Learning Morse Code

It's been about 18 months since I started learning Morse Code in order to use it for making CW contacts in amateur radio.  Learning the code allows you to recognize the letters, numbers and punctuation but it's akin to when you learned your "letters" when you were a child.  Knowing the alphabet is just the first step to "reading".  So it is with learning Morse Code.  

When I started making contacts using CW it was fairly formulaic. I even had my QSOs written out with regard to what I was planning to send and what I expected to hear during each exchange. 

But then my copy and sending speed increased beyond 17-19 words per minute and I could no longer type or write down what I copied fast enough to comprehend and I began to head copy.

Head Copying

Head copying is when you stop transcribing what you hear and listen to it as you would a conversation and only take notes on salient points.  This was a big step for me and it has been a difficult transition.  

Using Morse Code to communicate at speeds faster than it can be written straddles the weird place between hearing and reading.  We learn morse code by its sound but at slower speeds, say below 30wpm what we are "hearing" is letters, not words so we are having to buffer those letters in our head to spell words.  When we "listen" to someone speak we are not hearing them speak letters but complete words, when we "read" our brains are not looking at individual letters but at complete words.  When we hear Morse code at 20-25 wpm we are hearing very slowly pronounced words and it is a new skill that has to be learned.

This skill is necessary for ragchewing.  A ragchew is a long QSO between two amateur radio operators. This is generally what amateur radio operators are doing on the radio when they're not contesting, ...

How to practice for a ragchew

So after you learn the code, how do you learn to use it in a conversation?  

I struggled with copying ragchew QSOs at 20+ words per minute for most the spring and early summer of 2016.  Just listening to QSOs alone wasn't cutting it for me.  During my lunch time at work I began regularly using my CW training application on my phone to send the top 500 words at 25wpm and it has been a big help to me.  

I had to learn the skill of not just recognizing letters but holding what I was hearing in my brain long enough to turn it into a word and just as importantly not to get hung up on a word that I couldn't immediately recognize but let it go and pay attention to the next.  To me, this has been a bigger learning curve than recognizing the alphabet and numbers at speed.

In addition to learning to buffer the letters until they form a word I must also keep the slowly accumulating set of words in my head until it forms a sentence or makes sense as to what is being communicated.  
THIS IS COMMUNICATION with Morse Code and it is different than anything else we are familiar with so treat it as learning a new skill.

Now if all you are trying to do with CW is contests, you don't need this skill.  You just need to be able to copy a call and whatever designators are sent after it for the contest rules (state abbreviation or a contest number or grid square) and get it copied into your logging program.  But if you want to communicate at speeds above 20wpm you will need this new skill.

Next steps

After you've practiced with machine sent top 100 or top 500 words you'll still need time copying actual QSOs because more often than not, most operators you will communicate with have lousy spacing and run their words together or use so many abbreviations that you'll have to learn to hear the abbreviations as new words.  When I work an operator who runs things together I'll first try to really exaggerate my word spacing during my exchange to give them a hint and if that doesn't work I ask them put more space between their words.  Some will comply, but some folks just don't seem to know how to leave space so I'll catch what I can, politely respond to what I could understand and then move on.

So if you're getting discouraged when you reach a wall of comprehension, try the steps above and with time I think you'll find your comprehension during a ragchew improving and it will take you to a new place in the hobby.

That's all for now

So lower your power and raise your expectations... and put extra space between your words!

Richard AA4OO

Update 11/7/2016:

KA8BMA pointed me to a nice reference created by W0XI for the top 100 "Ham Words" used in QSOs... check it out most common ham words

Monday, June 27, 2016

First Field Day as a CW operator

Field Day 2016 with the Knightlites QRP club

I had the privilege to be part of the Knightlites WQ4RP 2016 Field Day event.  They are a great bunch of folks dedicated to QRP radio.  They operated CW and SSB on 80m, 40m, 20m, 15m, 6m, 2m and 440.

After listening to CW for nearly 19 hours straight; my brain is turning even normal sounds into morse code...  I may have had a psychotic break.  

Gary, N3GO, operating 80m straight through the night without leaving the oh-so-comfortable lawn chair

My 80m/15m station

This is my first year operating CW and my first full, field day event.  I've dabbled in field day (FD) in the past but did not work it as part of a club.

For this FD I was responsible for supplying the equipment to get a station on the air for 80m and 15m.  The WQ4RP club operates QRP only using battery power, so anything associated with transmitting was to be battery powered including the computer.  My Elecraft KX3 was powered by a 12 year old 50ah UPS battery and the laptop was powered using an inverter with a large deep cycle battery.  Following 20 hours of operation the UPS battery had only dropped to 12.2v  The Elecraft KX3 is frugal with power even after hundreds of contacts.

My antenna was the one we'd previously installed at Excalibur during the spring.  Paul brought it down for us to use at the FD site.  We cut the 40m part of the fan dipole to work for 15m. Tall trees on either side of the tent provided the antenna supports and the tent was positioned to be close to the feed point of the ladder line.

80m - 15m Fan dipole with home brew ladder line

Honda generators powered the lights in the evening and fans/AC during the heat of the day. Honda generators are quiet in both the audio and radio spectrums.  Three Knightlite stations used Honda generators to power equipment not related to transceivers.

Power was supplied to all stations by Honda i-series generators

Operating CW during Field Day

Unfortunately for FD operations I'm the opposite end of a CW contester.  Since starting my CW/Morse Code journey last year I've just worked at getting my ragchew (conversations in CW) skills improved.  I practice listening to the most common 500 words and listening to e-books sent as Morse Code.  I'm not good at copying calls, when they are sent at 25wpm.  Compounding my new(ish) operator struggle is that FD uses an abbreviated exchange, so it was tough going for me when operations kicked off at 2PM local time Saturday and the exchanges began flying by...

A Field Day CW exchange

Calling Station sends an abbreviated CQ, sometimes the CQ and the ending FD were omitted:
Answering Station sends call by itself, repeating as necessary:
WQ4RP (repeat call after a brief pause if no response)
Calling Station sends my call back to me then his station class and section:
Answering Station sends station class and section:
Calling Station sends thank you and that's it, you're done:
Since we were operating QRP we often had to repeat our call and our class and sections.  I don't have much experience at copying calls at speeds above 20wpm.  The 15m band was weak and most signals were no better than S2 or S3. I was trying to copy calls sent at speeds higher than my norm with QSB (fading) and I was getting frustrated.  Paul came and sat beside me to coach and provide some encouragement.  He is a patient tutor.

I was advised to operate "search and pounce" rather than sending CQ myself because I needed to hear a caller complete a QSO once or twice to copy their call and their response but even then copying the section was often harder for me than the call.  Many of the sections are 3 letter designations that I was unfamiliar with (i.e. California has 10 sections abbreviations).  Between QSOs Paul would explain where each of the sections were located. I should have studied up on this stuff prior to FD.

I'd hear the station class (a number and a letter) and then while my brain was chewing on that I'd miss the section.  So I was sending a lot of AGN? to get the stations to repeat their response. Sometimes I'd finish a contact and realize I'd mistyped part of the response so I would wait and listen for the caller to go through another contact to hear what they sent to copy it correctly for the log. I wasn't really racking up the contacts.

This type of operating is very challenging for me.  While I can understand why contesters enjoy honing these skills, for me, it was stressful and wore me down mentally.  I took breaks at least every hour and asked other, more seasoned operators to take the helm (errr. key) while my brain cooled down.

80m magic

When dusk arrived 15m contacts were few and far between and I switched to 80m.  Gone were the weak signals and speed demons on 15m.  The 80m band was surprisingly QRN free and stations sending FD calls were stacked like firewood throughout the CW portion of the band.  Our QRP station was also heard better by the callers with fewer needs to repeat the call or the response.  I had more enjoyable time working 80m.  Paul still sat with me and offered advice which I greatly appreciated.

Gary N3GO, loves the 80m band and he is the Knightlites anchor man for running 80m through the night.  Gary sat down at 10PM to begin his shift on 80m and he didn't get out of that chair until 5AM.  I was dozing on and off (more off than on) in the tent and doing my best to head copy what he was working.  Seven straight non-stop hours of CW later Gary needed a break and I spelled him for a while.  After a bit of rest he was back for more and operated until the band gave out in the morning.

N3GO is the anchor man for 80m through the night shift

WQ4RP Knightlites

The Knightlites operate using the club call WQ4RP.  Here are some of the participants from the 2016 FD.
Left to right: AA4OO, WA4GIR, WF4I, (visiting ham in red ????), KD4PBJ, KC4PHJ, AA4XX, AB4PP
Thanks to W4MPS for taking the photo


"JP" AB4PP -- 20m Band captain

 Kurt N4KJK - assisted with 15m CW

6m / 2m / 440 stack - Thanks Alex!

Alex KC4PHJ -- Band captain for 6m / 2m / 440

Joe WA4GIR - 40m band captain

40m Station

40m Loop

Derek WF4I - working 40m at dawn

Sunday daybreak and the 80m station is still cranking

Lots of weed eater support lines tied off at the base of this tree


My first FD as a CW operator was challenging but fun,  The WQ4RP club has some patient and talented operators, many of whom have rarely missed operating a FD since becoming hams.  I enjoyed getting to learn from them.

Next year I will make the effort to practice copying FD exchanges prior to the event so that I'm not so overwhelmed.  It also turned out I'd made a poor choice for logging software.  The RumNLog software for my Mac laptop didn't have a preset for the FD contest.  I had to use a general contest setting and now will have to programmatically manipulate the resulting ADIF output to have the necessary fields for submission.

The Elecraft KX3 is unsurprisingly a good QRP field day radio.  It's small size, low power consumption and phenomenal internal auto tuner made it a pleasure to work with.  It has a knob, button or display element for everything you could want.  For instance, the dedicated knob for changing internal keyer speed was very useful to fit each station we worked during an exchange.  I also used the secondary frequency display area to check on the power supply voltage throughout the event.  The KX3 truly does have the kitchen sink.

Update 7-11-2016

Paul sent me the Knightlites field day results. Lists below.  I'm interested to see how our group fared .

Call Used: WQ4RP     GOTA Station Call: (none)     ARRL/RAC Section: NC     Class: 3A

Participants: 10     Club/Group Name: KnightLites QRP Society

Power Source(s): Battery

Power Multiplier: 5X

Bonus Points:
  100% Emergency power                            300
  W1AW Field Day Message                          100
  Submitted via the Web                            50
Total Bonus Points                                450

Score Summary:
                  CW  Digital  Phone  Total
   Total QSOs    539      0      58
 Total Points   1078      0      58   1136   Claimed Score = 5,680

That's all for now

So lower your power and raise your expectations

Richard, AA4OO

Friday, May 27, 2016

Let your fingers do the talking...

Let them play different instruments

Keys left to right
Nye Viking, Kent Hand key, Vibroplex Original Bug, N3ZN ZN-QRP paddle, Palm Single paddle
My collection of keys has grown over the past few months and I find that I like each for their particular qualities.

Keys from left to right

The Nye Viking is somewhere between a traditional J-38 low style American key and a tall European style.  At first I couldn't get any sort of coordination with it even after a couple hours of practice and it stayed in the closet for a few months.  Eventually I wanted to leave a key hooked up to the old Century/21 so I didn't have to move the output of my external keyer so the Viking came back out.  I've finally become accustomed to it and am even beginning to enjoy it as much as the Kent.  I'm amazed at how different two straight keys can be.

The Kent Hand key continues to be my favorite key for straight key operation.  The Kent is operated using your entire arm off the desk and when I send using it above 15wpm I get the entire desk shaking with the motion.  My desk light starts casting dancing shadows across the equipment from the vibration and with the clacking of the key and the blare of the sidetone the world of CW becomes visceral.

The Vibroplex Bug remains at the center of the collection because I have some strange affinity for the quirky bug.  I use it on every QSO where I hear another bug operator or with SKCC operators that are sending faster than 17wpm.  It has a non-cosmetic, yet effective, weight added from an old steel spacer to slow it down to a range of 21wpm to 16wpm and some dental floss around the DIT contact spring to reduce the potential bounce which results in scratchy sounding DITS.

The N3ZN ZN-QRP paddle is a work of art and when I'm working higher speed CW it's my go-to key.  The carbon fiber finger pieces and lightweight clickety action always puts a smile on my face.  I keep it connected to the external Ham Keyer which has a handy knob to for quickly adjusting keyer speed.

The Palm Single to the right is magnetically mounted to a steel base a friend made for me. I pull it off the base when I go portable as it's my go-to key for all my portable operations.  But when I'm at the home station I leave it hooked up to the keyer input on the Ten-Tec Eagle because the Eagle's keyer is only Iambic-B mode and I just can't get used to "B-Mode".  Using a single, non-iambic paddle eliminates the weird timing of the B iambic mode.  I really should learn mode-B since it seems to be standard on Ten-Tec and Kenwood radios. 

The 3 stars in the center are the Kent Hand key, Vibroplex Original Bug and the N3ZN paddle

The 3 keys in the middle (Kent Hand key, Vibroplex Bug and N3ZN paddle) remain hooked up to the Ham Keyer and I move the output of that keyer to whichever rig I'm primarily using at the time.  That keyer uses Iambic-Mode-A which I'm comfortable with and it debounces the scratchiness of the Bug.  I hook the output of the keyer up to either the PTT line on the Eagle or the secondary key input on the KX3.  When using the C21 I just use the Nye straight key.

Debouncing a Vibroplex Bug

Side story on the Bug... If you get a Vibroplex bug and hook it up to the PTT line of your radio you may find that you're missing DITS or that the output sounds broken or scratchy.  The PTT line of many radios is not "buffered" meaning it is reacting to every contact closure.  On a bug, the DIT contact is actually bouncing potentially hundreds of times a second since the contact force is so light and doesn't make a clean closure.  Many keyers will filter out those multiple contacts or bounces.  My old HAM KEYER weight control actually serves as a DIT weight control for the manual keys as well so it's ideal for use with the bug.

KE6EE offered me this nice explanation of what was going on:
The more usual term for the process of dealing with problems of contact closure is "debouncing." Google and you will find lots of interesting visuals and explanations.

The actual start and finish of contact closures and openings in switches, relays and keys, is not a simple off-and-on process but a series of "bounces." Dit contact closures on a bug are likely to be very bouncy. 

Bug dit contact design and bug maintenance and adjustment are critical for minimizing bounce. Ops with Vibroplex-style dit contacts often put a piece of rubber or plastic foam in the U-shaped dit contact spring. The Begali bug uses a unique pointed and spring-loaded dit contact. Many bug ops, from my observations on the air, do not adjust their dit weight properly to minimize a scratchy sound.

Transmitter keying circuits are usually "debounced" in various ways, the simplest perhaps being to put a capacitor across the key contact circuit. A PTT circuit doesn't need to be debounced so it isn't. Keyers often have debounce circuits designed to be used with straight keys and bugs.

Try different keys

So if you are getting into CW try some different keys.  I think you'll be surprised by the differences and find that your mood or situation will dictate the use of one key over another.   Morse keys on the used market aren't expensive if you shop carefully so you can build quite a collection.  They also tend to hold their value if you find that you've obtained a key or two that you just can't grok.

My ever changing station sporting a spiffy new chair

 That's all for now

So lower your power and raise your expectations

Richard, AA4OO

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Peanut whistle

The Elecraft KX2

Steve (WG0AT) published a video demonstrating Elecraft's newest QRP radio.  

The tiny KX2.

I'm sure there will be more news about this new wonder-rig from Elecraft announced at Hamvention this week.


That's all for now

So lower your power and raise your expectations

Richard, AA4OO