Friday, January 5, 2018

KC7ZXY Activity in 2017 - WARNING: Low Radiation Level Detected

A thought that often comes to mind, "What have I done for Amateur Radio lately?"

Unfortunately, for 2017, I have not done enough. Responsibilities and obligations related to job and family took higher priority during a rather busy year. This is not to be regretted, however, as it corresponds with the Amateur's Code as written in 1928 by Paul M Segal (W9EEA).
BALANCED: Radio is a hobby, never interfering with duties owed to family, job, school or community.
Although I am not pleased to say that my activity level was very low this past year, I will not lament on the topic any further. The future is before me and the possibilities are endless.

The main accomplishment of 2017 was that I renewed my General Class License. This was an easy process which did not cost a thing. If you are nearing the end of your license period, please refer to the following directions and web links. Keep your license up-to-date and keep active!
To renew, go to the ULS Home, select Online Filing, and follow the instructions below. Login to the ULS License Manager with your FCC Registration Number (FRN). From your License At A Glance page, choose the Renew link in the right hand menu called Work on this License.
FCC License Renewal Web Link 
Today, I also renewed my membership in the ARRL - The National Association for Amateur Radio (also known as the American Radio Relay League). If you are an Amateur Radio Operator and are not yet a member of the ARRL, I highly recommend becoming a member. There are many benefits to membership and, at the very least, join to get the monthly QST publication. It has tons of Amateur Radio news, opinions, and product reviews as well as contest and event information. For me, it is the "go to" source of Ham Radio happenings!

For the coming year, there are at least a few Ham Radio goals in my mind. Near the end of 2017, I traded in my vehicle and have not yet moved the mobile rig to the new vehicle. This transportation upgrade presents some new challenges and I look forward to working out a solution. Adding to the "get-on-the-air" difficulties, the base station in my home--which has been disconnected for far too long--will need a refresh and reconnect. I have a big, new, outdoor antenna to install but the extreme cold in Michigan this winter is making it "easy" to hang out indoors.

...hmmm, "if only" I had refreshed the base station before the weather turned so bitterly cold. :-)

In the meantime, my trusty old Kenwood dual-band handheld is warming up on the charger.

While sitting here at the computer, suddenly I'm thinking it's time to make a move toward trying out one of the Internet-friendly digital options that are available these days such as the very popular Echolink! ...time to take a look at that

Thanks for tuning in and keep coming back!

Donald Watkins

► Twitter: @KC7ZXY
► Google+: +KC7ZXY 
► YouTube: KC7ZXY Tube

Monday, October 31, 2016

Milestone: KC7ZXY Has a Video with Over One Thousand Views!

- Video Link -

It has come to my attention that the "RTL-SDR 'Ham It Up' Upconverter" video has just passed over one thousand views!

I wanted to take a moment and reflect upon what might be considered to be a milestone achievement for the KC7ZXY YouTube channel and to say that I am truly grateful.

Passing the one thousand views mark is truly amazing to me. When I first posted these videos, it was all kind of an experiment...just to see if I could make a useful video and share it on YouTube. My belief was that these videos would be of interest to perhaps two or three people. I had no idea that so many people were looking for information on these topics! I enjoy sharing my ham radio experiences and all of the lessons learned. I am very grateful that there is an audience out there for this sort of information. Perhaps I should have known since I, myself, am an eager consumer of such material.

This is all so very encouraging and exciting. Thank you for being such a great community!

Below is a link to the Video that has reached this amazing milestone...

Connecting with so many people and making new friends via the blog and YouTube has been a rich and rewarding experience. It has enhanced the enjoyment of Amateur Radio as a hobby for me. Ham Radio is all about communications and I admittedly should have known that the "Internet vector" would open the door to new and exciting modes of communication. I am so glad that I went ahead and tried something new.

Here is a link to the original blog post that went along with the video (for the nostalgia of it)...
 RTL-SDR "Ham it Up" Upconverter Unboxing and Case Assembly

Let this particular blog post be a big "Thank You" to all of the KC7ZXY YouTube channel viewers and blog readers. Without you, none of this would be possible. Thank you for your support. More videos are in the works and will be on the way very soon. Comment below if you have any suggestions for future videos or blog posts.

Thanks for tuning in and keep coming back!

Donald Watkins

► Twitter: @KC7ZXY
► Google+: +KC7ZXY 
► YouTube: KC7ZXY Tube

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Origin of My Interest in Amateur Radio

Heinrich Rudolph Hertz
Although Amateur Radio has been around since the first decade of the 1900's (and some may say it traces all the way back to when Heinrich Rudolph Hertz proved the existence of radio waves in 1888), the Amateur Radio hobby was not something with which I would become familiar until my first year in college.

At the end of a long hallway, near the many electrical engineering labs found within Michigan State University's College of Engineering, there existed an small and mysterious room. Every so often, I would pass by that alluring chamber when the door was slightly ajar and I would sneak a cautioned peek inside that often darkened space. Behind that heavy wooden door, was an enigmatic realm filled with the warm glow of CRTs, LEDs, vacuum tubes, and the strangely comforting smell of warm electronics.

Strangers and fellow classmates sometimes speculated that this room was the home of the MSU Amateur Radio Club. Of course, I had to find out what was going on in there and it turned out that the speculations were correct! This room was, indeed, the home of MSU's very own Amateur Radio Club.

The Michigan State University Amateur Radio Club (MSUARC) was founded in 1919 and is one of the oldest university clubs in the United States of America. 

 Follow MSUARC on Twitter

The sounds emanating from that mysterious domain were reminiscent of the Apollo space program and the activities of that endeavor were the backdrop of my childhood. Though the voices spoke of things about which I did not understand, they reminded me fondly of many childhood experiences. 

My father was an outdoors man, hunter, and avid "off road vehicle" (ORV) enthusiast. Over the years, his adventures necessitated the installation and use of a series of citizen's band (CB) radios. He and his fellow sportsman spent many hours perfecting their radio installations so they could get the clearest and strongest signal possible. Antenna and feed line length, their placement, and their quality were of utmost importance. Field strength meters were often utilized to optimize antenna lengths to match the precise frequency of the channel that was most used by my father's group of like-minded individuals.

The crackling sounds drifting from the depths of that arcane space in the halls of the Engineering building reached deep into my psyche and evoked memories that were not limited to the memories of my father. My maternal grandfather was a long-haul truck driver and, of course, this meant that he was also a seasoned installer and user of citizen band radio equipment. However, the deepest memories being reflected upon here were driven by the many evenings my grandmother would spend at home, by herself, while Grandpa was out on the road.

As a measure of comfort, my grandfather installed a small collection of police scanners around the house (living room, kitchen, and bedroom) so that my grandmother could listen in on the activities of police and emergency responders local to her area. Peace of mind was gained in knowing that Grandma might be able to learn of potential dangers from extreme weather or the activity of criminals before any trouble arrived at her home.

Hearing the short bursts of concise communications and the sound of abbreviated language coming from that small room in the Electrical Engineering building brought back visions of staying up late drinking root beer, eating oatmeal cookies, and following the staccato drama crackling through granny's many scanners.

At this point, the reader might be thinking that I was driven to enter the mysterious room at the end of the hall in the Engineering building. It would seem natural that my warm memories and the curiosity of it all would drive me to ask if I could take part in whatever was going on in that room. Alas, this was not to be case for, at that time in my life, fear was my master. I could not bring myself to enter the room nor even knock on the door and ask for assistance. It is clear to me today just how unfortunate it was that I allowed this type of fear to grip me so deeply. I now know that the people behind that door would have welcomed my visit and would have encouraged me to join their worldwide fellowship of Radio Amateurs.

It would be many years before I found myself in front of a Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) and inquired about taking the FCC test and asking how to apply for my first Amateur Radio license. That story is probably worth a blog post of it's own. There is much on which to reflect when telling that part of the tale.

The short version of that story, of which at this time I will only briefly speak, is that while working as a computer programmer and IT support specialist, I felt my electronics knowledge was beginning to fade and I was seeking greater technical challenges. At that same time, my interest in hiking and biking brought me back to the world of CB, FRS/GMRS, and scanner radios. After some rather interesting adventures in the wilderness, carrying a handheld CB radio became a matter of safety. A radio is a tool for survival.

One day while messing around with a scanner, I came across some mysterious communications. At first I thought it was coded speech and, perhaps even, the work of some nefarious spy network! I laugh at the thought now. It wasn't long before I realized that the frequencies to which I was listening had been allocate to radio hams (Amateur Radio Operators). Those voices from long ago and far-away had returned to my ears.

Research showed that I would need to review and study a variety of electrical engineering concepts, learn some operating rules, locate a Volunteer Examiner Coordinator, and take a test in order to join the wide world of Amateur Radio. This sounded just like the kind of challenge for which I was looking! The rest is history and it is a story that will be told another day.

Amateur Radio has done a lot for me and I'm hoping that one day I will be able to put gratitude into action and return the favor! What can I do for Amateur Radio today?

Keep your tubes warm!

Donald Watkins

► Twitter: @KC7ZXY
► Google+: +KC7ZXY 
► YouTube: KC7ZXY Tube