Archive for December, 2007

PILEUPS

December 28, 2007

8. PILEUPS
Once bitten by the DX chasing bug, you will frequently enter PILEUPS. When a rare DX station appears on the bands he quickly will raise a large group of amateurs wanting to work him. At the end of a QSO the crowd starts calling the DX station instantaneously and all stations call on top of each other. This is called a ‘pileup’.

Not only rare resident DX stations generate pileups. Quite often DXpeditions are organized to activate countries (entities) where ham radio is almost non-existent or to uninhabitated islands. The purpose of these expeditions is to contact as many hams worldwide in a short timespan. Obviously contacts with these expeditions should be AS SHORT AS POSSIBLE in order to give as many people as possible a shot at a new one. Hence, the expedition operator is not interested in your QTH, equipment or name of your dog.

What is the best way to get as quickly as possible in the log of a rare DX station or DXpedition?

LISTEN LISTEN and then LISTEN again.

And, why should I listen? Because those not listening won’t be as successful.
Indeed, by careful listening an operator will have more success in breaking through a pileup and log the rare DX faster.

By listening, one gets acquainted with the behavior of the DX station and the rhythm in which he works. Also you will find out if the DX works SPLIT. During the listening period you have ample time to check and doublecheck the send and receive parts of your station:

* correct choice of antenna?
* SPLIT function activated?
* Transmitter (and amplifier) correctly tuned on a CLEAR frequency?

Often this last part is done ON the frequency of the DX station! Bad! This results in a reaction by the so called ‘COPS’ (see chapter 12) and spoils the pleasure of many because the DX station can’t be heard anymore.

* Before making any attempt to transmit: be sure you heard the DX station’s callsign correctly.

We often enter a pileup following a spot from a DX Cluster. Often the spot is incorrect! Make sure you heard the callsign of the DX correctly. This will prevent you from receiving the much feared return QSL card with the message ‘NOT IN LOG’, ‘NON EXISTING CALL’ or ‘NOT ACTIVE THAT DAY’.

An experienced DX station will turn to SPLIT operation if he perceives too many stations are calling and the pileup becomes unmanageable. By working SPLIT his transmit frequency stays clear and the callers will hear him well.
A not so experienced DX station will continue working SIMPLEX and finally goes QRT because he can’t control the pileup anymore.
In such a situation, you yourself can play an important role during your QSO with the DX station. Gently suggest to him the time has come to switch to SPLIT operation (of course only if there are too many callers!). The other DXers will be grateful if you manage to persuade the DX station to change to SPLIT mode!

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HOW TO CALL CQ?

December 27, 2007

7. HOW TO CALL CQ?
Make sure the frequency you want to use is clear. You don’t do this by mere listening but also by effectively asking if that frequency is in use. For example, on SSB after having listened for a while, ask ‘Is this frequency in use?’, followed by your callsign. If no response, repeat this question, followed by your callsign. If again no response, the frequency is yours to call CQ.
On CW and RTTY send ‘QRL?’. Some think a ‘question mark’ is sufficient. It is not as it can be confusing. If on a given frequency there is ongoing traffic (which you don’t hear), someone else on that frequency may interpret your question mark as if you are asking for the callsign of a station on that frequency. A ‘cop’ scenario may arise (see chapter 12).
‘QRL?’ cannot be misinterpreted by anyone, it means you want to know if that frequency is clear for you to use. A question mark in this situation is meaningless and may mean several things.

On CW you get possibly one of the following answers if the frequency is in use:

* R (Received-Roger)
* Y (Yes)
* YES
* QSY

If by coincidence you landed on a ‘hot frequency’ (especially if used by a DXpedition or a rare DX station), chances exist you may get shouted at. Don’t worry, don’t react, just move to another frequency. Or figure out -by listening, not by asking- who the ‘DX’ is and work him.

Lots of problems can be avoided by following the first rule of operating (whether casual or DX): LISTEN. This golden rule used in combination with the magic word ‘QRL?’ will keep you out of trouble if you are looking for a clear frequency to call CQ.

* When calling CQ, don’t do as follows: call CQ ten times, followed by your callsign twice and then listen. Better to do this: call CQ twice and give your callsign ten times (I exaggerate, four times is sufficient!).
* The most important aspect when calling is not the word CQ, but your callsign. If conditions aren’t too good, it is important the station at the other side of the globe (yeah, cool!) hears your callsign rather than the word CQ. Too many times I’ve heard operators call CQ 15 times, give their call once, and then say ‘listening for any call now’. This is senseless.

Practice makes perfect. If you are not experienced, listen for a while to others to sharpen your teeth. You will quickly develop your own stye to make successful and pleasurable QSOs.

HOW TO MAKE A QSO? WHAT CAN I TALK ABOUT?

December 26, 2007

http://www.on4ww.be/OperatingPracticeEnglish.html

6. HOW TO MAKE A QSO? WHAT CAN I TALK ABOUT?
Some newcomers are astonished during their first encounters on the ham bands by the many QSOs in which only the callsigns and reports are exchanged. It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. In the beginning I disliked this myself as I enjoyed long and elaborated QSOs. I was a real ‘ragchewer’. There is nothing wrong with that. However, in time though I switched from long to very short QSOs. Everyone has their own preference.

Although we exercise a mainly technical hobby, our QSOs do not have to be limited to purely technical matters. A healthy balance is necessary. Radio amateurism is not intended to chit chat about groceries. Let your common sense be your guide.

Topics we must avoid include religion, politics and of course commercial advertisements. It is also forbidden to broadcast, ie. one way transmissions of either long winded announcements or music programs.

The Belgian basic license manual implements for the first time an ‘Operating Practice & Procedures’ chapter and explains how to make a QSO. What follows is a concise repetition and some additions:

* before commencing a transmission on a given frequency, always check thoroughly if this frequency is in use by other stations;
* if the frequency is clear, call CQ (general call -CQ possibly derives from ‘I seek you’-. Pat, W5THT has the following explanation on CQ from the pre-wireless days). See Chapter 7 ‘How to call CQ?’ which expands in detail on the proper way to CQ;
* the sequence on how to place callsigns during a contact is straightforward; first name the callsign of your counterpart, then yours. Example (you are ON4ZZZZ): ‘Thanks OM, microphone back to you. ON4XXXX (de) ON4ZZZZ’ (end of your transmission). An easy way to remember this: you always have to be polite.
* Always end a transmission with your callsign. If making many short transmissions during a QSO, identify with your callsign at least once every five minutes (some countries: 10 minutes);
* leave a short pause in between ‘overs’. In that way, someone else can make a quick call, or intervene in the ongoing QSO. Keep in mind that one day ‘you’ may be the one receiving a distress call! Be ready for it.
* Do not elaborate about a zillion things during one over. Keep your transmission short and concise as to give your counterpart ample time to respond to your topics before he forgets about what you were actually talking. Remember many times you are talking to someone in a language that is not their native tongue. Give them time to comprehend what you are saying;
* on phone, say ‘over’ when you hand over the microphone to your counterpart. In amateur radio this is strictly not necessary, but often handy. Experience will teach you when to use ‘over’ and when not;
* on CW, end your transmission during a changeover with the letter K (from ‘Key’). Also ‘KN’ can be used; this is more specific and means you only want to hear the station whose callsign you just sent to come back to you;
* on CW the end of a QSO is marked by the letter string ‘SK’ (‘Stop Keying’). The QSO is completely finished after you sent ‘SK’;
* on phone a QSO is never ended with ‘over and out’. Either say ‘over’ during a microphone handover, or say ‘out’ at the very end of the QSO, which is then completely finished.

Someone brought the following to my attention. As amateurs progress in their ‘ham career’ they seem to forget they were once newcomers themselves. Indeed, one can often hear amateurs call ‘CQ DX’ on the HF bands, after which they are called by a ‘local’ station (which is no long distance for them at that moment). Often this local operator gets a verbal beating and is left behind in disbelief or anger. This cuts both ways. The local newcomer should understand that if someone calls ‘CQ DX’ he shouldn’t call that station at that point in time. On the other hand, the experienced ham should remember his early days when he did exactly the same because he wanted to work ‘a new one’, and be considerate towards the newcomer.
In such a situation I usually give a short report, log the station and tell him that I’m actually looking for DX. The newcomer usually understands the hint and will pay better attention next time, while he’s still happy to have logged a new one…and that’s what counts! So…give everybody a chance for a QSO and don’t forget your early days!

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2007

xmas_ham

BE POLITE

December 23, 2007

http://www.on4ww.be/OperatingPracticeEnglish.html

4. BE POLITE
This is the shortest but undoubtedly most important chapter in this document. At all times, be polite! Your transmitted signal is being heard by a lot of folks and agencies. You’ll go a long way by being polite, in our little ham world or in the outside world.

AD7MI: Sometimes in the rush and excitement of chasing DX it is easy to forget the other stations out there. The first part of our Amateur’s Code puts it well: Considerate… never knowingly operates in such a way as to lessen the pleasure of others.

CORRECT USE OF YOUR CALLSIGN

December 22, 2007

http://www.on4ww.be/OperatingPracticeEnglish.html

3. CORRECT USE OF YOUR CALLSIGN
Use your callsign in a correct way. You have to take a serious exam in order to enjoy this hobby. Be proud of your callsign, it is unique. Only if you use it in a correct way are you making legal transmissions. Ever hear the callsign 4ZZZZ on VHF? As far as I’m aware of, we are dealing with a transmission from a station from Israel and not from Belgium. ON4ZZZZ is the correct callsign. A callsign comprises of a prefix AND a suffix. Even on the HF bands this reprehensible practice can be heard. For analogy, if your car has been stolen, will you report half of the alphanumerics of the number plate to the police, or the complete lot?

AD7MI: always call the DX station with your full call. Always.

LISTEN

December 21, 2007

From: http://www.on4ww.be/OperatingPracticeEnglish.html

2. LISTEN
As a new ham you’d like to start transmitting as soon as possible, of course. Take it easy, take your time, stay away from that microphone, morsekey or keyboard. First get comfortable with ALL the functions of your transmitters/receivers before attempting any transmissions. The transmit part needs special attention, as it is here one can make his first ‘on the air’ mistakes.

Initially learn to LISTEN. Whoever listens at first, will be much more successful in making good and enjoyable contacts. The chapter PILEUPS deals in depth with this important issue.

AD7MI: I’m guilty of this one. I need to learn to slow down, take my time and listen. Listen, listen, listen.

Best Operating Practices

December 21, 2007

I recently received a care package from the XYL containing recent issues of my favorite amateur radio magazines: WorldRadio, CQ, QST, as well as the FISTS newsletter. One of the QST column’s mentioned ON4WW’s website and his tips for good amateur radio operating practices. I’d like to highlight them – they make great sense and if everyone observed them, would make our quality radio time just that much more enjoyable.

From: http://www.on4ww.be/OperatingPracticeEnglish.html

1. HAM LANGUAGE
Know the ‘Ham Language’. Get acquainted with the correct Amateur Radio Language. Don’t say ‘Radio four’, but ‘readibility four’. Master the phonetic alphabet, CW abbreviations, the Q code and the number code (73/88) as if they were a second mother language before getting on the air.
Always use the phonetic alphabet in a correct manner: A is Alfa, and not Alabama.

AD7MI: it always throws me when someone does not use the standard phonetic alphabet. But I will admit, with some DX stations where I have a hard time understanding their pronunciation, a substitution in the phonetic alphabet makes sense. I know the basic Q codes, but do need to brush up a bit.