CQ CQ Calling all Hams....

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


KB3CTW here. I was wondering what Hams are in residence here, and what your plans for commo might involve if it goes bad?

I am no code tech and have several 2 meter rigs set up for family and friend use. Various rigs....most I can run sans power company if I need to. Solar panels in hand and correct batteries in hand. I also have a nifty FT990 I can't use cause my license don't go there yet. I can at least listen, and yak if it goes real bad. Just had the ticket for a year and code is coming soooo sloooow.

In addition I have aquired a MFJ1214pc so I can use my notebook to send and recieve fax, rttp, etc etc. Also we have a decent AM/SSB 11 meter CB base and mobile with several CB HT's.

Here's the run down:

2 meter up and running, mobile and several HT's. Built a 2 meter 1/4 wave ground plane and bought a 2 meter portable yagi. Building one of the HT's into a kit along with a power supply and a 35 watt linear, solar charger, and antennas in a tube. Basicly a portable 2 meter base that's self contained.

HF base station with battery supply and solar charge capability, 5 band HyGain verticle about 30' up and materials/books in hand to make any other antenna's we need. Tower is in the back yard and antenna is in the shop, need to get it together. HF base is hooked to 11 meter stick for time being.

Interface to set up a battery powered notebook PC to either the HF rig or the 2 meter and send/recieve fax, sat weather, RTTL, etc. Still have to work out the software here, and need a new battery for the PC.

11 meter CB AM/SSB base is up and running, tuned and tweaked. Mobile in truck to match. Several AM 11 meter HT's in hand as well. ALL can be run by rechargable battery and solar cell.

Local hams are aware of Y2K. Not sure how many are preparing. Most say they will do something. Few sound like they are going heavy into it.

To answer your question..... Yes, I got into Ham because of Y2K. Now I don't know why I didn't do it years ago..It's FUN!

73, Art

-- Art Welling (artw@lancnews.infi.net), March 13, 1999


Hi Art,

Just checking in. KB0ZDF (General class)

Have you looked up a RACES group in your area so you can get practice (and help out) for emergencies?

-- Dean -- from (almost) Duh Moines (dtmiller@nevia.net), March 13, 1999.

hi art N6DKW here been a ham for 20 yrs.. use it from time to time.. for the last few yrs have done nothing because i bought a ranch in texas and have been busy fixing it up. then came y2k, so i am installing a backup generator system and getting my y2k supplies put in. but i am going to get my rig fixed up also i have most of the time operated on 10, 15 and 20 meter band and will continue. you should keep in mind if this is a bad one forget your license//// and do emergency call for people if need be i think it would be more important in a national emergency.

-- robert crozier (rcrozier@koyote.com), March 13, 1999.

Howdy Dean,

Ya, I looked into RACES in this area. I called County Eergency Managment and asked about it..was given a name and repeater to try and that's it. I can't make the club meeting where the RACES guys hang out, times don't work for me.

I have checked around a bit....RACES here has some neat gear but are sadly crippled by a county emergency mangement boss who is somewhat 'poor' as they described. Number of people involved and who will respond has gone from 40-50 down to 4-5 lately.

Frankly, they just don't seem interested.

-- art welling (artw@lancnews.infi.net), March 13, 1999.

N8NLL Chuck UMMMMMMmmmmmm.... careful about ignoring level of licensure. Someone may want to chat with FCC and clarify the "in case of emergency" slack given. Understand that during (Hugo/???) some folks were xmitting from a FEMA site or two and acquired some hot water. Not to mention the fact that nobody really talked to them.

BTW Art::

I am given to understand by one of the Brothers that there is a piece of 10M for "Tech Lites" as he puts it but I haven't looked lately. (They do a Trestle Board Net hereabouts in the general region of 10M.

FWIW:: The XYL is KC8ANF, Tari, and we are currently set up with HT's that cover 2M and 440. We are also set up w/ 2/440 mobiles. Woefully, the "shack" hasn't had any atention in a while. I'm hunting for both a 10M and a 6M allmode, but will probably end up with the 6M having a batwing on it and tuned to our SKYWARN Backbone freq, and maybe a couple of other rockbound freqs.


-- Chuck, a night driver (reinzoo@en.com), March 13, 1999.

Hi, Art and fellow amateurs, this is a certainly a good idea! I'd rather not give my call, but I've been licensed for close to twenty years and hold an Extra ticket. I've been involved with ARES/RACES/NTS/SKYWARN for almost all that time, although we have the same kind of trouble here with the public service structure - most of the volunteers left when kept cooling their heels for way too long. Almost all the hams left in the organization feel Y2K will be a non-event. Too bad...

Chuck, If you're a Novice or Tech-Plus you have voice privileges on 10m from 28.300 to 28.500, 200w limit. I agree with your comments re: licensure. If Y2K is anything less than an 8, it might not be worth the risk. As far as operating in an aemergency is concerned, take a look at the Code of Federal Regulations, 47 CFR Ch I. Section 97.403 Safety of life and protection of property.

"No provision of these rules prevents the use by an amateur station of any means of radiocommunication at its disposal to provide essential communication needs in connection with the immediate safety of human life and immediate protection of property when normal communication systems are not available."

We're pretty well set up here, since my prior interest in RACES and HF disaster work (Mexico City 1985, Colombia 1985, California 1989...) led me to pattern the station after an Emergency Operations Center. Numerous solid-state HF xcvrs and VHF/UHF rigs, scanners and ancillary equipment, plus a shop to fix the stuff if necessary - all NEMP protected. Tribander, verticals and dipoles for HF, yagis and verticals for VHF/UHF. Generator and solar panels with battery bank to keep it all running. Active on all modes, and love every minute of it :)


-- sparks (wireless@home.com), March 13, 1999.

Sparks, TANKS!!! HAdn't made the time to check. And, well, I'm probably one of the last living true Tech's, having gone teh long route through novice classes to Tech. Doesn't mean I remember ANY of my CW, though.


-- Chuck, a night driver (reinzoo@en.com), March 14, 1999.


Yours is the shack I've always wanted. Can I come over and play a while?

Art, et al,

Right now, I'm sticking with 2 m. phone until I get some issues settled. Then, I may get a dual-bander, just in case. No laptop or notebook, or I would have a mobile 2 m. packet station, too. Maybe later, if I can find a cheap one.

ARES/RACES around here is almost non-existent, and riddled with politics and personality differences. I don't consider it a viable factor if emergency services will be needed for any length of time longer than a day or two. The 1996-1997 floods proved that. Nothing else exists, unless you want to count a 2 m. DX packet cluster node. No SKYWARN, APRS, or anything else.

Anybody plan on working any satellites?

73 LP

-- LP (soldog@hotmail.com), March 14, 1999.

Yesterday I bought a handheld ham at Radio Shack, plus the licensure books. Gonna go for a tech-plus. Never heard of ARES/RACES/NTS/SKYWARN. Any general advice for a newbie would be appreciated. I may email some of you with specific questions if you wouldn't mind.

-- Shimrod (shimrod@lycosmail.com), March 14, 1999.

If a Ham has an operating station, what additional equipment is needed to send computer data over the Ham station? What are some models and prices? Do you make contact by voice and then switch over to data? How do you find out who is interested in this type of communication? I recently passed my tech test and am not yet on the air. If you are transmitting data to one person, what happens when another Ham tries to contact you? Can he make contact or does he get a busy signal? Y2K was the reason for my interest. I would love to see a list of Ham operators who post to this site and other similar sites such as Kitco and other preparedness sites in the event that the Internet is no longer reliable. You said that most Hams are not aware of Y2k. I agree. I went to a local Ham meeting, one person stood up, introduced himself and said that he was a Ham who had not recently been attending club meetings and that he was also with the local community awareness Y2k group. There was no response or questions from the group of perhaps 50 who were there about Y2k issues.

-- Steve (curious@aaa.com), March 14, 1999.

Hi Art,

Well what do you know, I've been looking for someone to bug about this and then you just throw yourself in my path so wantonly.

My goal, asap, is to learn morse code well enough to get an HF Band license and a big-meter radio, possibly used. I have been told that this band of radio, with a cord antenna up in my tree, can broadcast or receive around the country without a repeater. So the only real issue is (a) will the radio itself be y2k compliant when everything I see is digital, darn it, and (b) can I learn morse fast/well enough to get the license, and (c) can I afford the radio and some kind of power supply for it. As well as (d) do I have any clue what I am talking about (not really).

I visited a local HAM club. They all looked at me blankly when I told them I wanted to get a radio and a license so I could maybe communicate after Y2K. They think it's a non-event. I'm not going to lecture to them, they were kind to me, so I just acted like it was my fancy, and I'm a girl so what the hey, these happen. ;-) But they're all into the local-talk, spend all their time talking to people that frankly it would be easier to just phone (3 miles away) about... nothing much, apparently. Some do work for emergency groups which are real helpful in storm and other situations. None of them are into high-band stuff. They all use towers at their house or repeaters a local fellow runs. I asked what to do when there is no power to run these repeaters. They looked at me blankly. "You can still reach the next town," one guy says. Well heck, I don't want a walkie-talkie, I want a shortwave radio! I want to be able to reach Virginia from my house in NCtrl Texas. They say, only the real high-band stuff does that, and it's all morse and it's the highest level of license.

OK, so I know ZIP about radios, electronics, or morse. But I have a brain and I can learn. Do you have suggestions for radio types/brands, learning aids for my license, and antenna issues for High-band stuff?

Thanks in advance.


-- PJ Gaenir (fire@firedocs.com), March 14, 1999.

Know what you mean about the CW, Chuck, I've gone through periods of a year or so where I didn't use it, and when I went back it felt like learning all over :) One good reason you might consider passing the 5 wpm is the new proposed license restructuring - if it goes through, any novice or coded Tech will be grandfathered to General automatically.

Satellites are one thing I never did get set up for, LP, There's a ham nearby who has a complete setup, circularly polarized beams, LN preamps, computer control, the works... impressive, but that's a lot of money riding on a very few small birds. I'd rather take my chances with the F-layer and tropo. And do I ever know what you mean about personalities and politics! Our local organization is a bad joke... seems that establishing good comms is far secondary to who gets the credit, who has what title, and which group has the coolest jumpsuits (I'm not joking - sad).

Glad to hear you're going for the ticket, Shimrod. Keep us posted as to your progress. If you don't mind mentioning where you are generally, I can take a look to see who locally gives the exams and post them here if you're interested.

Steve, congrats on the new license, welcome aboard! I'll try to answer your questions as best I can:

If a Ham has an operating station, what additional equipment is needed to send computer data over the Ham station? What are some models and prices?

You'll need a computer, a radio and a data controller made for radio use. These are called by various names, but the kind you'll want for use on VHF/UHF, for use with packet radio, is called a Terminal Node Controller, or TNC. A representative model is the AEA PK-12, which will set you back about $100. This is for packet only, and won't do RTTY, Amtor, etc. on HF. You'll also need terminal software to talk with the TNC, and there are lots of good programs available. The PK-12 comes with a shareware program on disk which works decently.

Do you make contact by voice and then switch over to data? How do you find out who is interested in this type of communication?

The national packet frequency is centered around 145.010 MHz. If you set up there you are almost certain to find activity. Most of that activity will be digipeaters (digital relay stations) and BBS systems where you can leave and take messages. Voice is neither recommended nor needed for making contact, as the systems are automated. As for who's interested, just look at your screen and you'll see the callsigns of the stations. Some will be club stations, and you can contact them for more info.

I recently passed my tech test and am not yet on the air. If you are transmitting data to one person, what happens when another Ham tries to contact you? Can he make contact or does he get a busy signal?

Depending on how you set up your TNC, you can be in contact with as many as nine stations at once, although it's not recommended! If you only want one contact at a time, as most do, the other station will get a busy-disconnected packet.

Y2K was the reason for my interest. I would love to see a list of Ham operators who post to this site and other similar sites such as Kitco and other preparedness sites in the event that the Internet is no longer reliable.

You might have noticed that I didn't give my callsign. While I admire the others who did so, I personally don't want the entire world know that amateur station ***** is Y2K ready, with attendant food, water, weapons, especially where I live. I'm just going to "keep on keepin' on" the way I've been going, which for me is keeping active and maintaining my contacts within the RACES/ARES/NTS structure. Believe me, if it goes down the way it looks like it will, we'll all meet up one way or another.

You said that most Hams are not aware of Y2k. I agree. I went to a local Ham meeting, one person stood up, introduced himself and said that he was a Ham who had not recently been attending club meetings and that he was also with the local community awareness Y2k group. There was no response or questions from the group of perhaps 50 who were there about Y2k issues.

The sad fact is that the ARRL has abrogated its leadership role in preparing hams for the consequences of Y2K. From being a member and dealings I've had with some of its leaders, it wouldn't surprise me if the ARRL's lack of response is due to some hip-pocket deal with the government. Much as the NRA is not the friend of the average gun owner (look at how readily they are willing to chip away at an essential liberty with their policies of appeasement to the gun-grabbers), so the ARRL has its own agenda, much of which I feel is not in the best interests of the amatuer community.


-- sparks (wireless@home.com), March 14, 1999.

Sparks, I thought it was interesting that the last edition of Monitoring Times had several y2k related articles (such as how to build a solar generator) but then the publisher (Mr. Grove of "Groves"?) editorialized that y2k was basically a hoax.

-- Puddintame (dit@dot.com), March 14, 1999.

That's very interesting, Puddintame... a classic example of dialectics in operation. First state that there's no problem, then show methods to alleviate the (non-existent) problem. Guaranteed to 'freeze' most who read it into total inaction through creation of a double-minded outlook. Talk about spin!

-- sparks (wireless@home.com), March 14, 1999.

I'm an ex ham. WA2CIA. It was a nice call but we didn't associate it with anything in the 50's and we let it slide in the 60's.

Anyway.. Here's the code for what its worth. Perhaps a day will come when you might want to make sense in some abstract way. We should all know the common language. It might be transmitted with a car horn, light beam, smoke signal, or whatever means you have available.

A .-

b -...

c -.-.

d -..

e .

f ..-.

g --.

h ....

i ..

j .---

k -.-

l .-..

m --

n -.

o ---

p .--.

q --.-

r .-.

s ...

t -

u ..-

v ...-

w -..-

x -.--

z --..

1 .----

2 ..---

3 ...--

4 ....-

5 .....

6 -....

7 --...

8 ---..

9 ----.

0 ----

. .-.-.-

, --..--

? ..--..

The list goes on with other punctuation and then there are standard combinations of 3 and 4 letters which stand for common questions, statements and feelings such as emoticons and abbreviations such as IMHO, etc.

The dots and dashes are easier to remember if you change a dot to the sound of "dit" and the dash to the sound "dah". Take the dits and dahs and run them together to give each letter a particular sound. Leave the t off the dit and the h off the dah unless it is the last one in the sound.

A is didah.

B is dadididit.

C is dadidadit.

The entire alphabet can be remember in that way. When the sounds come in, you listen to them in that same way. Don't try and think about individual dots and dashes and putting them together to make a letter. They're already together in the combined sound. It makes it very much easier to master the code. You can just sit and listen to a person sending you code like he was talking to you with his voice. You will even get to recognize individuals by their "fist". That is, the way the lengths, spaces and other inflections they give to their dots and dashes. Most people have a way of sending that is just as recognizable as their voice.

For someone new to code, it helps to write the letters down by hand as you think you hear them come in. Don't try and think about what they're saying as they come in. Wait until the transmission is over and decipher it then. Usually there will be some letters you got wrong but they'll be obvious when the entire sentence is being read.

Pretty soon you will be putting the combined sounds of letters into combined sounds of words and then you'll just sit and listen to them talk to you.


-- Floyd Baker (fbaker@wzrd.com), March 14, 1999.

PJ, sorry the locals weren't more helpful. Nothing personal, but it's obvious from your choice of words that you know little about radio communications, and perhaps the hams you met got the impression that you weren't serious about getting a license. I know at our club we get CB operators stopping by all the time to pick our brains, but aren't interested in studying to get their ham license. Maybe the best course of action would be to go to your local Radio Shack, and pick up the Novice, Tech and General class license manuals (you'll need to pass all three, plus 13 words per minute of Morse code, to be able to use the type of radio you want), plus whatever general books on amateur radio they have. I think they carry "Now You're Talking", which will provide you with a good basic reference. Study them, and after you get your bearings, then go back to the club... they're more likely to see that you're really interested if you can have an informed chat with them, and may turn out to be more help than you think.

-- sparks (wireless@home.com), March 14, 1999.

callsign here is wz9m, extra class. i'm a member of virtually all ham emergency communications groups except MARS, but i don't anticipate being involved next january. i've been abused enough as a volunteer in the past. anyhow, i don't expect to be called, except possibly at the last minute, and i have already stated that i will not make myself available unless we have drills well in advance.

anyhow, my husband works in the computer industry, so i figure we'll be plenty busy. clients come first.

keep in mind that the most technically savvy hams don't always go to club meetings, because they're busy. if you want help in a particular area of interest, it's wise to seek the local gurus in that area.

-- jocelyne slough (jonslough@tln.net), March 15, 1999.


To follow sparks, congratulations on your new license, and welcome to ham radio! May you enjoy every penny you spend!

Just a footnote to sparks' very nice packet discussion. The 2 meter packet network is global, and very active. I like to refer to it as the internet of ham radio, since you can reach almost any corner of the globe with it. I've exchanged messages with other hams in western Europe, Japan, south America, Canada, and Australia, all with an old 286, a 2 m. hand-held (HT), a TV twin- lead homemade antenna, and a bare-bones TNC setup. So, if you want to start slowly (i.e. cheaply), packet is a good way to go, and you can do it as a no-code Tech while you're polishing up your Morse for that license upgrade.


Not trying to get you to do something you don't want to do, so this is just FYI. I had access to a nice station a few years ago, and found that I could use the RS-10, RS-12, and RS-15 sats without the need for special antennas, controllers, or anything other than what you might find in a typical shack, except maybe a sat tracking program. There are some good shareware programs for that, and you can get the Keps (and TLEs) over the 2 m. packet network, if the net isn't available.

The antennas were a 4 element yagi and an old TV rotator on a tower for HF, and an AEA isopole for 2 m. The RS-10 & 15 sats have 2 m. uplink freqs, and 10 m. for downlink, both USB. I found I could get into RS-10 even if the bird only came up to a 60 degree elevation angle. RS-15 was a bit harder, since it's twice as far out, but it worked. RS-12 is HF only, and I got to work that one, too.

The best contact I ever made was with MIR. I was visiting a ham friend one day last year, and knew that MIR would be passing directly overhead. They have 2 m. voice and packet, and use both when they're not busy with other things (you should have heard the air-to-ground when the fires knocked out most of their power; all they had was the 2 m. station. I could have learned a lot of what was going on if I could translate Russian).

I tuned my HT (battery pack and rubber ducky) to the MIR frequency, and set it in a window. Right on time the packet racket from MIR started coming over the speaker. We used his home packet setup to connect to the MIR BBS, and leave a message for the crew. His packet station was an PACRATT PK-64 using an old Commodore 64 computer. The radio was an old ICOM 2 m. mobile, running at 20 watts through a 2 m. vertical on the roof.

I only mention all this because I was curious if anyone had considered the possibility that the sats could be used for comm in case normal F-layer/tropo comm gets unusable. We can expect some active to severe geostorm activity starting this summer (or so), and you know what that does to prop. Since satcom is LOS, you can throw together a multi-element yagi or quad very cheaply, and with common materials, and point it upward. Some guys have done that with much success.

As far as your group description goes...you could be talking about ours, although it's windbreaker jackets instead of jumpsuits. Difference in detail only. It _is_ sad, and a little scary, too. Unfortunately, there are some non-hams out there that seem to think that the ARES/RACES groups will help them "save the day" if y2k gets ugly, and let them keep in touch with grandma to boot. They don't know the reality of the situation, and some of them are bound to be "disappointed," to say the least.

I agree with you about ARRL's responsibility re y2k. They have always seemed more like a gov bureaucracy than a private group dedicated to ham radio. And, "...it wouldn't surprise me if the ARRL's lack of response is due to some hip-pocket deal with the government." It wouldn't surprise me, either. I did a search at their website a while back, just to see if there was anything y2k-related. Turns out there was, but it was more along the lines of, "...oh yeah, come January 1999, we'd better tell folks about the y2k thing, just so they don't blame us later for not telling them about it." IOW, CYA time. I don't visit that site very much any more, and only when I have to.


My email address works (when Hotmail works), so feel free to email if you like.


"...keep in mind that the most technically savvy hams don't always go to club meetings..."

Thanks for making that point. Looks like the rest of us didn't think to mention it. I guess we're getting too used to looking at other hams as appliance operators and little else. It doesn't help that too many of them are, these days, but...


-- LP (soldog@hotmail.com), March 15, 1999.

Thanks Sparks and RL. I've already gotten the next local ARRL test date off their website.

Comments about slackers at ARRL/emergency networks/ham clubs are disappointing, but hopefully there will be enough people on the ball to take up the slack. They do seem to come through in emergencies, according to news reports I've read.

Two things have surprised me based on reading so far: How little power a transceiver needs, and the fact that for some wavelengths the increased solar activity in 2K will improve the range...given that telecomm is most at risk internationally, hams could help a lot...I haven't started trying to learn Morse yet but a general license and 20-meter rig would be awful cool...one step at a time though.

Packet radio is very intriguing to me, being a web programmer. I'm wondering if a Palm Pilot could be hooked up for this purpose, and if any ham software exists for it yet...the things run for weeks on a couple AAs I've heard.

-- Shimrod (shimrod@lycosmail.com), March 16, 1999.

Thanks for all comments, LP, and the suggestion on the RS birds. I'll have to try them soon.

Shimrod, I know of several hams that are using their PP's to access the packet network. Take a look around the net, and especially here: Tucson Amateur Packet Radio

Good luck es 73...

-- sparks (wireless@home.com), March 16, 1999.

I saw some questions on how to get started in ham radio and thought that my pages on that topic might be helpful. I go through the entire process of getting licensed and setting up a station, step by step.

-- Steve Heller (stheller@koyote.com), April 12, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ