My “working conditions”

As i already explained in my previous post, I live in a small flat in a building block where I am not allowed to build large antennas. So let me describe my modest setup I have in my shack.
My “working conditions”.

The Radio

The radio is a standard Kenwood TS-480SAT. I’m a Kenwood fan, but for no particular reason. During the last cycle I owned a Kenwood TS-50 which I exchanged for a Kenwood TS-570D and I got to know these radios, I know more or less how they work and I like them. So the obvious choice for my next radio was the TS-480. It’s a fairly cheap radio and performs as good as many rigs that have a much higher price tag.

I never used Yaesus. I don’t like the audio of them when I tried one, but I assume that you can adjust the audio to your liking like any other rig.

I like the Icoms a lot because of the huge displays they provide. One of the things Kenwood could improve on is the fact that you cannot see any settings on the display. If you want to know what your filer settings are you have to go into menus. If you want to know your DSP settings, menus. If they show something at all it is if a function is switched on or off. NR is an example. You can see if NR is on or off, but you cannot see the level of NR you are applying.
The issue I have with Icoms is their price. They are way too expensive for what they provide as a radio.

If there will ever be a “next” radio it will probably be a Ten-Tec Orion. I hear good things about that radio. However, there are many things that have to improve on the rest of my setup before I can justify a better radio.

The antenna
I am using a Falcon Outback 2000 antenna. This antenna is meant to be for mobile use and covers all bands from 6 to 80m by connecting the base of the antenna to different predefined spots on the coil of the antena.

Now, this antenna has a maximum length of 1.85m. With an antenna this short in theory it is not easy to work the lower bands. However, although the antenna performs best on 10 and 12m (and on 11 which I still occasionally use, I do make contacts all over the world on 20m as well.

I cannot say that I’m the strongest station in pile-ups, but I can participate and by being just a little bit smarter than the majority of the other stations out there, and by tuning the audio of the radio so I produce a strong audio signal, i can get through pile-ups as well. Obviously, when big stations with a lot of power and good antennas are calling at the same time, I lose. But as I said, you don’t always have to be strong if you try to be smart. Sometimes I feel like David fighting the Goliaths of the air waves.

PC

For following the DX Cluster and for logging I use an old Dell laptop running Windows XP and Ham Radio DeLuxe.
I like HRD for it’s extensive range of features, it’s reasonably easy to use and it’s free. At least until now. Two weeks ago the developer of HRD sold the program so we will have to see what the future will bring regarding HRD. I ALWAYS use my PC when I am using the radio and at some point I will try to write an article what I use the PC for and why.

First post: Who am i and Why this blog?

Hi all!

First of all, thanks for taking the time you spend on my blog My World of HAM.

This blog is intended to be my personal experience and thoughts around my most beloved hobby: HAM Radio.
A long time ago, when CB radio was a boom in Holland, of course i also had my little CB radio and spent my free time talking to my friends on the air. No, don’t mistake me for a typical Citizen Band Redneck like this guy. What we did was talking to friends and family by radio and we used the radio basically as a fun alternative to the phone. That was around 1980 or so. And when the boom went dead the radio got abandoned as well.

My first CB.

Until around 1995 nothing reminded me of CB radio until a family member, licensed HAM since almost 25 years, gave me a little CB set and mobile antenna as a present.
Of course the boom was not anymore and CB was almost dead, however, if you had a radio which was able to work one block of frequencies higher than where CB lives, you could still hear a lot of people using radios. I entered the world of 11 meter radio.

My first 11 meter radio

Bit by bit and step by step i got more used to 11 meter radio. I knew that what i did was illegal and that was part of the fun. I bought a half wave vertical which as a huge improvement over the mobile antenna i had and i was able to make my first international contacts.
Soon after i got used to making contacts on 11 meter i joined an international DX group and got my first callsign. This callsign and being member of this group was for me a sign of honor and good behavior on the band.

Kenwood TS-930S

My licensed HAM family member saw very clearly that this technical hobby was something that could catch my drift and he brought me a radio that i could enjoy a lot more. A Kenwood TS-930S. I only had an 11 meter antenna and had no clue what were all those buttons on this box. So this was way over my head.

Kenwood TS-50S

But to not lose the HAM spirit and to improve the working conditions a little bit more, a Kenwood TS-50 was bought. This was the perfect compromise between a radio that I, a HAM radio newbie, could use without any big issues and still have the performance of a rig that real HAM amateur use.
Also i started to build antennas y built, with help of my friend, my first two element cubical quad from military wire and wooden kite sticks.

Kenwood TS-570DG

In 2000 i left Holland and went to live in Spain. In 2000 also the president of the DX group i joined made me an offer for a trade of the TS-50 against a TS-570. Now, that was a real rig. I sort of understood how the TS-50 worked so i made the step to the 570. And i made the step from a 5/8 wave vertical (the quad i left in Holland, taking it down would certainly have broken it) to a 4 element yagi.
That was a huge difference! That was the setup with which i made my most contacts. 258 DXCC, all still on 11 meters though. Then, in 2004, propagation went down, the people in the house where i had my shack started to be worried about his health with a huge yagi on the roof and things started to get into such a bad shape that after experimenting with all kind of invisible, wire and coil antennas i threw the towel in the ring and sold everything.

But even now, in 2011, the radio virus is still not gone. New solar cycle, new propagation. At least, that’s what i thought. I bought my current radio and recovered my old 11 meter mobile antenna. Set everything up and started listening on 11m. Nothing. Noise. Zzzz. Nothing.
That’s when a (recently licensed) HAM gave me a multiband vertical to try and work on 20m. “On 20m there is always propagation.” he told me.
So now, after 15 years of being an 11m “pirate” i will have to get my HAM Radio amateur license. Something i always hated. I was proud to be a pirate, but after 15 years i have to get my license. And i will. October 22nd i have my exam and i WILL pass it.

So that’s me. And now you are asking: “Why this blog?” Well, basically because in the last 15 years i learned a little bit about radio. And now that i will become a licensed HAM, i will learn even more. A new world is opening up. I have a lot of plans. First getting my license, then learning CW, then maybe digital modes, And in between i will have a lot of issues with the setup of my radio, my antenna(s), my practicing CW, etc, etc.
So the idea of this blog is to write about my experiences and hoping that someone in the HAM world share my dreams, problems, victories and losses. The main goal is to “enjoy the ride” and have fun and learn while doing it. And if i can teach something to someone as well, then the goal for this blog is reached.

I hope that the articles a write will entertain you and i hope i can learn from you. And if someone can also learn something from me, then this blog is already a success.

Let’s get going!!