Posted on March 10, 2019
Posted on March 10, 2019
El Nino delivers a riveting rendition of a passage from Keroauc’s “Dharma Bums” . . .
Fun has returned to the KY6R shack – I have that “burn” again – to get the KWS-1 back and get it on the air.
Some of the things that I still need to do Ham Radio wise:
- Get the Gold Dust Twins on the air – and to do this, recondition 2 microphones that I have and finish the power supply restore
- Work 3Y0I for my next to last DXCC #1 entity – then pray that the French Team gets permission to go to Glorioso (actually once the sunspot cycle turns back up – also pray the bottom of Cycle 24 doesn’t last as long as the last bottom of the sunspot cycle)
- Replace the switches on that K1EL Keyer that I made a mistake on
- Use the Collins 180S-1 antenna tuner at the base of the 80M vertical – which is 41 feet up and 30′ over and up again to the tall spruce tree – so I can use it on multiple frequencies / bands – by using the tuner in an “L” circuit. Play with variations and maybe even as a Bruce Array on 40M . . .
- Play more with the Norcal40A and Red Hot 40 QRP rigs – and use the K1EL Keyer with both
Luckily, I have set everything up to move forward – even though I had a bit of a detour – I have the shack re-arranged to facilitate the new things I want to do – and it could be argued that my antenna farm still is everything I need as long as I am here in Orinda.
3Y0I will no doubt be my #1 priority, but will compete with the KWS-1 in the next month or so. I hope to first work 3Y0I with the 7300 and AL-80B amp, but then maybe even try to work them on a second mode using the KWS-1. That would be really awesome!
Posted on March 10, 2019
I posted a crummy version of this advertisement a while back, but since my KWS-1 will be here before the end of March, and because I will have the restore of the power supply done this coming week – its time to get excited about my first QSO with the rig – which will be using SSB on 40M. Most likely checking into the Noontime Net or something like that.
Posted on March 9, 2019
Thinking outside of the box has made all the difference in my life. One technique that I have used is to try to assemble something from disparate parts that you wouldn’t think would go together – as I have in my Assemblage art. Its the most abstract version of this thinking – it literally is going through a pile of junk and seeing if some things might imply something – like the calipers helping accentuate the circle in the sprocket or that antique wine cork puller acting as the mechanics tool of some sort. Its actually a great mental exercise.
But in the real world, this thinking has helped me – when I took kayaking classes back when I could kayak between Sausalito – at Schoonmakers Cove and Angels Island (across Racoon Strait). When I got stuck in an eddy current, I remembered the instructor saying “take a hard right or left”. That could save your life if you were swimming in the ocean and you ended up in a rip current. A simple maneuver, but one not everyone learns. I have applied this approach in a mental sense – when life throws a curve ball or three at me, and when the “usual” approach just isn’t working and I get stuck, I then throw caution to the wind and try some very different things. It usually does the trick, and sometimes the answer is to do nothing.
One of the newest approaches in this realm of “Thinking Outside The Box” for me, is to go back in time and learn a little about history – how things were done 90 years ago, and then 60 years ago (etc). Pick some decade or era – especially when technology or society seemed to really be changing in a pretty clear way – a changing of the guard so to speak – and spend some time “exploring that space”. How did technology influence society and what part did art and science play in that – and then invert that question – how did what was going on socially influence technology. The National SW-3, produced starting in 1931 is still a marvel in “elegant design” – and was designed to be sold to people who did not have a lot of money just after the Great Depression. That thought just blows me away . . .
What is old is new again – there are repeating patterns – I have witnessed this so many times in my work in the IT field. What people see as new and “game changing” in technology, can almost always be traced back to another time in history where the seeds for that very thing were sewn many years ago – and in a way where its a progression more than some new “disrupting” event. The hype in technology really cracks me up, but I have learned to let people believe that some new technology just happened for the first time and that its a revolution more than what it really is – an evolution. I don’t burst their bubble.
Here are few examples in software – I worked for Oracle when the SQL RDBMS was a new thing. In 2010, Hadoop technologies were praised as revolutionary. I laughed – they were just an evolution of what IBM mainframes were doing in the 70’s – even before I worked for Oracle. The difference was that you could process data on cheaper, commodity hardware – but the Map and Reduce had been done in COBOL, and the file access patterns that were “NoSQL” were more like ISAM and VSAM data access patterns than anyone who hadn’t experienced that would know. And then most ironically – NewSQL has now replaced NoSQL – and now we have SQL on top of ISAM and VSAM style data access patterns – so its a lot like using SQL on top of what used to be a COBOL approach to processing data. Yes, the devil is in the details, but to the practitioner, those details are buried deep and cannot be manipulated since those workings are automatic and are taken for granted.
In electronics – I’m amazed at new technology and a radio on a chip – the NE602 seemed to be a turning point in the 90’s – and many QRP rigs were fashioned after that chip. But if you view chips as a building block for a circuit, you could go back to a 1931 National SW-3 and see that a 3 tube rig and actually very few parts also could be viewed as a block diagram – each tube had a function like a black box – and together a system was born. Today – we have boards that contain parts that perform a function – and they can also be viewed as a series of black boxes in a block diagram. Heck – “functional programming” can even be viewed as a way to string together a series of functions into a system of sorts.
The old tube designs offer a course in learning circuit design that is so much more approachable than modern day designs. With tube based designs, the radio practitioner can learn “what’s under the cover without needing a PHD in physics and math”.
The key here is taking something that yes, is very complex and shouldn’t be taken for granted – and to decompose and make the problem simple – and then iterate and drill down into the details and deep as you like, PHD or not.
Last year I designed and built a Data Dictionary. The idea was to take what is built into databases like Oracle, MySQL and Postgres (and others) – the system tables and their meta data – and create one that is “Enterprise Wide” – which covers any database or data file in a companies data landscape. Sure enough – applying that simple concept but expanding to the enterprise fit like a glove. And today – there is a “new class” of “Data Catalog” product – which goes back to IBM mainframes – which had a data catalog built in going back to at least the late 60’s – early 70’s. In fact, the Cloud is nothing but Time Sharing – remember that? What’s old is new again, the scope and scale differ, but it’s the same exact thing. Some vendors throw in AI or ML buzzwords, (Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning) which is a fancy way of saying pattern matching or “pattern recognition”. A new approach on an old topic in computing.
Most features in modern ham radio rigs started with some of the Collins rigs – the 60 year old 75A-4 that I have is an amazing specimen – light years ahead of the National SW-3 – and with a separation of only 25 years or so. Todays radios resemble the 75A-4 much more than the SW-3, but guess what? If I turn on my SW-3 and listen to my favorite AM radio station (KPIG), I actually like the sound on the SW-3 more than on my 75A-4 or ICOM IC-7300. Amazing – that. And the tuning on the regenerative receiver is WAY more fun.
I think a lot, almost constantly, and the fun thing is to recognize these patterns and build up and strip away complexity – which then reveals the seed idea, the essence of what makes something work. What I’ve learned by digging back into history is that it gives me ideas that I can apply moving forward into the future.
Posted on March 9, 2019
October 4, 1957, Sputnik was launched and it started the modern Space Race. I really like this old QST cover – even as tattered as it is. The post WWII workers had gone through training to become technicians of every kind – I loved the old advertisements in QST where companies would train hams to become technical sales or mechanical or electronic technicians:
I think it was a fantastic time – innovation and plenty of good jobs for Americans. And if you did have a college degree, you were in good shape too:
My Father and brother did not have degrees, but years experience in aerospace – my father worked for Thiokol Reaction Motors Division in Denville, NJ and that is where they built the engine for the Surveyor, which went to the moon to collect samples – in the early 60’s. In fact, there was a connection between Thiokol and Hughes, and we almost moved to Southern California in 1969. That was delayed until 1979, when my father took a job at Lockheed – where he and my twin brother worked on the Space Shuttle tiles.
I’ve been working on the Collins KWS-1 Power Supply, and am now ready to do the re-capping and swap the old selenium rectifier out for a 1N4007. I got the details from Howard Mills, W3HM, who will be sending the RF Deck back to me soon. I’ll have the power supply done just in time for the RF deck, and my first QSO using this grande old rig – which pre-dated Sputnik by a few years. But working on this rig gives me a little peek into the past – and when the Space Age was just ramping up.
Posted on March 8, 2019
VOACAP Online showing the grey-line at (of all times) 4:20!
If all goes well, we could be calling 3Y0I by the Vernal Equinox. Getting to and activating Bouvet is about the most difficult thing to do in DX-landia, so it is never guaranteed – as we all learned with 3Y0Z.
Looking back at the 3rd Anniversary of VK0EK, the team left Capetown on March 10 – and weren’t QRV until March 23rd or so. The weather on the trip there and once on the island was surprisingly calm, clear and good. They did have some rough seas coming back though, and they did leave in early April – with a big snowstorm on the way, but it does remind me how “late” in the season they actually went.
As far as radio conditions goes, I worked them on 160, 40, 30 and 20M. Last night I worked ZS6CCY on 40M, and he was a solid 5×9 and with my 100 watts I was an honest 5×7, so that bodes well for 3Y0I.
I’ve re-invented myself from DXer to Antique Radio Enthusiast, but that doesn’t mean every once in a while I wont put my old DXer hat back on – it just hasn’t been an OCD thing since I made DXCC on Top Band – which was about a year ago. 3 years ago – I was still full on addicted.
Speaking of Antique Radios – my KWS-1 is done and we are just waiting on one last part (Howard is making a T-R switch for me that fits to the back of the KWS-1).
I’ve had a rough start to 2019, but now I have a few cool things to look forward to. Working 3Y0I and getting to only ONE away from DXCC #1 would be awesome – and I will recap the KWS-1 power supply today to prepare for the return of the RF Deck – which will be epic to get in the air. It will be like firing up a cool part of history.
Speaking of that – I do need to go to the California Historical Radio Society in Alameda one of these weekends . . . Maybe even tomorrow?
Posted on March 3, 2019
Collins 180S-1 tuner with Directional Wattmeter
Ed, AC6CX sent me a PDF copy of the 180S-1 manual, and so now I know what the fellow who did the mod to my tuner did – he built a Collins directional coupler and wattmeter into the tuner. The switches are no doubt to switch in the different readings of the meter reflected and forward power.
One day I can see using this tuner in a weather proof box and remotely control it using a wireless and fully automatic version of the URAT project that I designed a few years back. I might try a side fed loop or Bruce Array – here in Orinda, or maybe a full 40M Bobtail curtain at my next QTH in about 4 years.