Sunday, June 19, 2011

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

The wet, humid weekend is coming to a close on the Island of Hawaii.  As usual, the radio station staff has been busy with remote broadcasts and special events.  The big item was another round of the "Moku O Hawaii" outrigger canoe races on Saturday--always a well-attended affair.  Hawaii Island teams are preparing for the State of Hawaii Canoe Racing Championships which will be held 06 August on Maui. Most of the staff called in reports with their cellphones.  In days gone by, our remote broadcasts were sent to the radio station by small transmitters using business band frequencies near the amateur radio 70 cm (450 Mhz) band.  These units remain in a standby status, since cell phone coverage is quite good in the Hilo and Kailua-Kona area.  The air quality is excellent. If a remote broadcast is out of cell phone or UHF range, we use a TIE line system to send digital signals back to the main station.  Although the TIE line uses convential telephone lines, the air quality is quite good.  Our sports staff uses TIE line equipment for many games not within range of cell phones.  Some broadcasters use TIE line equipment as a studio-transmitter link (STL).  We haven't done that step yet, since there are some reliability issues with this system.  Most of our STLs are Harris Interplex equipment using T1 lines.  While the T1 lines are reliable, they do suffer from a variety of shortfalls, including storms and traffic accidents which take down utility lines and T1 lines attached.  Keeping those lines up takes a bit of effort from the engineering staff and the local telephone carrier.  The station keeps UHF STL equipment in reserve, just in case the need arises.  Digital systems are great until they fail.  The one station in our cluster that keeps on running is our ESPN outlet in Hilo (KHLO-AM) and Kealakekua (KKON-AM).  Each station uses a balanced analog telephone line to relay programming to each transmitter site.  Old fashioned and monaural--but it works.

Having something is reserve also applies to our amateur radio stations.  I'm reluctant to sell some of my older analog transceivers because they are so reliable and easy to maintain.  In that category I place my recently acquired Kenwood 520--a real gem of a transceiver.  Same goes for my 30-year old Swan 100-MX and even older Yaesu FT-7.  These rigs can't compare with the modern DSP and feature- enhanced transceivers of today--but, with a little mainteance and non-abusive treatment, these rigs will last many years.  If you have the opportunity to acquire an older 80s vintage rig, do so.  Be sure to get the maintenace manual and necessary tools to keep the rig operational.  There are many Yahoo groups that can help you keep that "boat anchor" alive and kicking.  My main problem now is keeping the hybrid Kenwood 520 supplied with tubes--I do have sources for the driver (12BY7) and the finals (2 X 6146B).  The final transistors for the old Swan and Yaesu may present a problem in the future, but, for now, routine maintenance keeps these rigs working.  I'm saving for a new Elecraft K3, which will serve as my prime rig, but I will not sell the older rigs that have served me well.  Besides, the older rigs are fairly easy to repair and allow for modifications if you so desire.  As many hams have noticed, the older Kenwoods and Yaesus have excellent audio and have that "glow in the dark" attraction.  Sort of takes you back to a time when ham radio seemed more enjoyable and a bit more friendly.  As with many things in current life, our hobbies often reflect the coarseness and crudeness that contemporary life is becoming.   I've been in the broadcasting business for 37 years and I have seen the gradual erosion of society, political accountability, and personal responsibility in the type of stories I air.  Some of this attitude seeps into the amateur radio community.  All I do is turn the dial or switch bands to escape those who delight in making life difficult for the vast majority of amateurs who only want to have a relaxing QSO with someone.  That's one of the reasons I gravitate to cw--most of the operators in the lower 25 Khz of each band seem pretty decent and willing to help others.

Don't forget the ARRL Field Day this weekend.  Be sure to bring a good appetite, your operating skill, and plenty of mosquito repellant.  Check with the ARRL to find a Field Day station near you.  If you can't make a club station, go solo with a home or mobile station.  You can still have fun.  Who knows?  You could even get an award for being the top home or mobile station in your area.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.