I’ve been practicing a lot of CW lately and had ordered a QRP guys iambic paddle from their website qrpguys.com awhile back. I went to the CW class on Saturday morning, which got me in the CW mood. After knocking some items off the honey-do list I was getting a little bored on Saturday night so I headed down to the shack and dug out the iambic key kit I had ordered.
I’ve never done any kit building or anything slightly engineer-y until joining the club. I don’t always understand why things work and building kits (even simple ones help me along). This kit didn’t look too hard, although it has a 4 out of 5-star difficulty rating on their website, so I jumped right in!
I made sure I started by sorting out all the parts in an orderly fashion. I learned this much from working countless hours after Christmas and birthdays on Star Wars lego kits that are made for children, but built by adults after the kids get frustrated 15 minutes after starting!
I then got to the fun part of soldering. This was different than what I’ve done in the past as I started with soldering all the mechanical parts together by applying a small amount of solder and then checking to make sure everything lined up before putting a lot of solder on. I enjoyed this as it was a large area to solder and it didn’t matter so much if my soldering skills aren’t very good! There were only a few electrical components to solder and that part was rather easy, even for my limited skills!
The toughest part of the whole build was assembling the paddles. You can see from the picture there are four nuts (and lock washers) that are to be assembled on the inside of the paddles with very limited space. Tweezers were an absolute necessity – and earplugs for any youth that may be hanging around. After many – and I do mean many – attempts of dropping and picking up nuts and washers I finally got the washers and nuts in place and fastened.
I was thrilled to have succeeded and ran out to the car, where my radio is hooked up at the moment and gave it a quick test run. Below is my not-so-professional video which shows my not-so-professional CW skills.
The paddles work well. The black pads do stick together a little when you push on both paddles at the same time, but I am very happy with my tiny QRP paddles! I am thinking of cutting slots in the sides and attaching a velcro band to attach to my leg to keep the paddle in place in the hopes that I could operate it with one hand. Let me know what you think or if you’ve built this kit before.
Apple uses Morse code flashing light in Obama Interview – BUY IPAD
Donald Duck cartoon: Spirit of ‘43. Cartoon stars Donald Duck – war propaganda cartoon encouraging citizens to pay their taxes when due – Donald gets his pay & is torn between paying his taxes & going to a barroom with swastika shaped swinging wooden doors; he punches the bad guy who slams through the swastika doors & wooden pieces fall into the shape of a “V” (for Victory) with 4 chunks of wood dropping underneath as dit dit dit dah
During World War II, radio transmissions by the BBC started with the first four tones of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, denoting “V” for “Victory”.
For Your Eyes Only: James Bond Movie – Morse clearly heard from the electronic surveillance ship ‘St. Georges’ radio room before an old WWII sea mine hits it & the ship goes down.
In the film Star Trek V, Mr. Scott uses Morse code to inform Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy, who are locked in the brig, that he’s about to blow out the wall with explosives by tapping out the message “Stand Back”.
In the movie Independence Day, amateur radio operators are shown using CW Morse code transmissions to communicate with other continents on the strategy for killing the alien invaders. The invaders were oblivious to the simple dot and dash encoding of the Morse Code. (As in many movies and television programs, the operators showed poor keying technique: they were tapping the tops of their keys, whereas correct technique is to maintain a three-fingered grip on both sides and the top of the key.).
In the Star Trek Voyager episode titled The 37’s the crew beams aboard a 1930’s era Ford truck they find floating in space in the Delta Quadrant. While studying the truck in a cargo bay, the crew finds a radio which is receiving Morse code signals from an alien planet.
Kurt Russell’s Executive Decision the hero signifies he’s still alive on the aircraft by rewiring the plane’s tail lights to send a message in Morse code.
Leon’s Furniture Commercial 1997.
Mickey Mouse. Cartoon Titled: Mickey’s Garden (1935) – he uses call sign W60PU as part of plot & is on his QSL cards. UPDATE: Mickey is working in his garden, which is overrun with bugs; the scene in which the morse code appears is one bug transmitting the signal to attack to all the other bugs – actual code is “CQ CQ OK GA OK GA”.
Morse Code “CQ” on Star Trek The Space Seed.
Morse Code in 1933 King Kong Movie.
Morse code in the Movie Mission Impossible.
S.O.S. Soap Pads commercial 1996.
Stooge Slapstick Savvy: How not to pass your Morse code exam.
The BBC television series Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em features a piccolo duet title sequence melody spelling out the title in Morse (although I have a hard time copying the message).
The BBC theme also highlights the opening sequences of the film The Longest Day
The Morse code during the Jericho television series title sequence spells out different messages in each episode.
Sometimes I drive Fred’s truck into work and people ask me what that big antenna on the back of the truck is for. I explain to them that it is for Ham Radio. But the reply is usually “Why ham radio?” Isn’t that outdated technology? We have cell phones and IM, etc…what do we need Ham Radio for? Here are my thoughts as a relatively new Ham about why I enjoy spending much of my time with Ham Radio.
The number one reason we still need Ham Radio along with all the other technology is for public service. When there is a disaster and cell phones, television, … are all not working, Ham Radio operators provide critical communication.
Ham Radio operators help locally to keep hospitals and first responders in contact with each other to help those affected by the disaster.
We also use our ability to communicate around the world to help family members to get in touch with loved ones affected by a disaster.
Ham Radio operators have been on the scene helping in every disaster from the earthquakes in Nepal to the recent flooding in California.
Technology and the Maker Movement
I only became a Ham 5 years ago but many of my fellow Ham Radio operators got their license when they were in their early teens. Some have used what they learned to launch their careers. Many have had successful careers in STEM fields, all launched by their interest in Ham Radio at a young age. As technology advances so does the technology used in our hobby. We even have a Nobel laureate, Joe Taylor K1JT who is a ham. Joe has developed weak signal digital communication modes that let us communicate by bouncing signals off the moon!
As technology has advanced, so has the use of it in Ham Radio. Most Ham Radio operators have one or more computers in their shack. Many also have a software designed radio (SDR), where much of the radio functionality is implemented using Software. Hams use sound cards to run digital modes, which are a lot like texting over the radio. We use the internet extensively as part of operating. We can also make contacts through satellites orbiting the earth and even the International Space Station.
Most hams love do-it-yourself technical projects – building a station, home brewing an antenna, building a radio or other station component. In my day job, I am a program manager for software development projects. It has been a while since I have built anything myself. As a Ham, I taught myself how to code in Python and about the Raspberry Pi and I built the DX Alarm Clock.
One of the coolest things about being an amateur radio operator is that you can communicate with other hams all over the world. Ham Radio is an international community where we all have something in common to talk about. That is our stations and why we enjoy ham radio. The QSL card above is from a memorable QSO with Mal, VK6LC, from Western Australia, who was the last contact that I needed for a Worked All Zones award. I must have talked to him for 1/2 hour about his town in Australia and his pet kangaroos!
I have learned much about geography from being on the air and trying to contact as many countries as I can. There are 339 DX Entities, which are countries or other geographical entities. I have learned where each one is in order to understand where propagation will allow me to make a contact. I have learned a great deal about world geography. Through exchanging QSL cards often get to see photos from so many areas of the world.
Achievement – DXing and Contesting
DXing and Contesting provide a sense of achievement and exciting opportunity for competition. Many Hams work toward operating awards. You can get an operating award for contacting all 50 states or contacting 100 or more countries. There are also awards for contacting Islands, cities in Japan, countries in Asia, or anything else you can imagine. Each of these operating awards provides a sense of accomplishment and helps to build skills. Contesting builds skills through competition among Hams to see who can make the most contacts with the most places in 24 or 48 hours. Contesting also improves our operating skills and teaches us to copy callsigns and additional data accurately.
Teaching Licensing Classes – Passing it On
Recently I joined a team of club members who teach license classes to others who want to get licensed or upgrade their existing licenses. Teaching provides a way to improve my presentation skills. It also helps me to really understand the material that we teach about Amateur Radio. It is a thrill at the end of the class to see many people earn their licenses or upgrades.