This is a long diatribe, but I used it to organize my thoughts, and didn’t want to bore the club. Thought you might be interested in the history and context for topics.
I started out about 5 years ago with a 8W Baofeng HT with a Diamond whip and absolutely no experience (lots of mic fright). My main objective was to be able to listen and talk in case of an emergency (basic EmComm - EQ, Fire, etc.) over a wide area around Issaquah. Unfortunately, I couldn’t communicate on the Fire Repeater because no matter what I did, I couldn’t get a clear transmission. After a lot of experimentation, Google searches, YouTube videos, talking with elmers and time (ESVET), I finally solved the problem with a 50W Yaesu 8900 and a half-wave Diamond Antenna in the attic (I am down to 10W now). It remains my go-to for talking on the Fire Repeater and it works reliably on simplex to Snoqualmie Valley and Seattle. This solved my first objective, and could be a topic for newcomers to the club – how do you put together an effective communication set-up for EmComm. It is not easy, and might take more than one club meeting to cover the scope, especially with the new Issaquah emergency manager at the helm.
Once that was taken care of, new objectives arose. The first was some 5th Saturday drills that focused on the 220 and 10m bands. This led to acquiring a couple of new radios for 220 and HF. As expected, it required a reasonably substantial investment, but that’s OK. Second, at the same time, a desire to be able to send an email to my sister in Utah on RF got me interested in Winlink (another EmComm thing).
After acquiring 220 radios and an Icom 7100 for HF, Winlink took precedence. This led to further, although much less, investment in a TNC, both hardware (Mobilinkd) and software (SoundModem). Again, after a lot of ESVET, I was able to successfully and routinely send emails using packet Winlink. I didn’t invest in a SignalLink, Mobilinkd does everything I need for packet. Eventually Vara FM loomed on the horizon, so after more ESVET, that became a successful and routine process. Now, it is Vara HF, and I am in the middle of the ESVET process. Stay tuned. For the club, we have had an introduction to Winlink and a discussion on Vara, but it might be worthwhile to have something that discusses how to get it working for those who want to do Winlink, but haven’t been able to make it work. If this happens, it would happen much later in the year.
Now, my biggest issue has become HF. I have the radio (7100), but the antenna is paramount, especially because I am in an HOA and have constraints. The ESVET is an order of magnitude higher than the other issues, but, given time, I should be able to come up with a reasonable solution. But, that’s the fun of ham radio. For the club, this topic could cover multiple meetings given the huge variety of antennas available – think practicality, portability, efficiency for QRP, simplicity, compactness, and so on. Given the experience level in the club I think all of these could become elmer topics and could be very beneficial for us newcomers to RF.
Bottom line, as radio amateurs, we want to communicate with whom we want. However, making it work is not an easy task and, thus, becomes a problem. But, solving these types of problems is what radio amateurs love to do. So, if we could focus our presentations on solving the problems of our members, I think we could be reasonably successful in offering a wide variety of options for members to ESVET for themselves to solve them.
So, what are my problems for which I would like to get options? Here is a short list and they could be either actual presentations or elmer topics.
- Antenna positioning – indoors, attics, outside. Pros and cons for each.
- Antenna complexity – wire, combos, coils, boxes, loops, etc. Ultimately a focus on the compromises or tradeoff issues between efficiency and available space would be nice.
- Antenna weather proofing and coax – what works and what doesn’t
- Antenna grounding and ground planes – I am beginning to understand that these are two different things and should be explained to the new hams
- For Joe, I would be most interested in a push button relay to turn on or off the connection between two wire elements on a sloper or inverted V dipole antenna that can be used for switching between 20 or 40 meters. I think Brad Coston would also be interested in this one. But, Joe, keep it simple 😊.
As mentioned, my main interest is EmComm, and I do plan to put together a program to get the CERTs back up to speed on ham radios which a been dormant during the pandemic. We have bunch with UV-5Rs and they need to start communicating. The thing I want to focus on over the long term here is messaging. I don’t think the club would be all that interested, but for the CERTs, it is probably the most important thing they should know how to do. Stay tuned.
Finally, Mihai, Rod, Brad Coston and I have had several excursions to the field for testing various configurations. I would like to see more of these, probably in the spring to fall timeframe. Basically, a quarterly or bi-monthly IARC/ICST Field Day. This is where the rubber meets the road for amateur radio and more is learned from these than anything I can think of. It would also be a great way to stir interest among new hams and build relationships.
I think that is enough for now, but I suggest we have a serious discussion when Mihai returns in January. Given John in January and Rod in February, I don’t think it would be difficult to put a 2022 program together that would be interesting and fun for all of us