Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Simple antennas for the Hawaii Island Amateur Radio Operator--a continuing series

I've managed to get a few days off from my substitute teaching position at Laupahoehoe High and Elementary School.  The state Department of Education was able to hire a full-time Special Education Teacher this term, thus ending a full-month of my emergency service to the school.  I'm due for another assignment Friday.  Eversince I retired from the commercial broadcast business last September (2011), I've been busy doing substitute teaching at the high school and doing a small amount of special projects for my former employer (Pacific Radio Group).  All told, retirement has been a shift to other work with more amateur radio mixed in.  At least I don't have to get up each morning at 0230W and drive into work.  I followed that routine for 36 years.  The old job was great, but it was time for a change. 

Nowadays, my schedule is a bit more free and my amateur radio pursuits a lot more fun.  As I eased into semi-retirement, I began to reenter the world of ham radio after many years of being an inconsistent participant.  We all know the routine--life, mortgages, school, a job, and many other sundry things just eat up the time.  So, I'm revisiting several areas of amateur radio that just passed me by in the past.  Among the new interests are digital communications (PK 31), homebrewed antennas, fixing my old radio gear (Swans, Kenwoods, old Ten Tecs), and generally catching up on the modern technology.

Every once in awhile, I find an amateur radio website that takes me back to my youth in the 1950s where Collins, World Radio Labs, Hallicrafters, and other long-gone names dominated the amateur radio scene.  Yes, nostalgia is a pleasant diversion, especially when you find M. Kent Miller's (K4MK) website mentioned in the 15 February 2012 edition of "eham.com." The website is a brief retrospective of the radios and antennas he enjoyed as a young ham, beginning in early 1956.  The pictures of old equipment, much of which he still uses, is a real treat.  As a boy growing up near several amateur operators in the mid-1950s, the pictures of the WRL Globe Scout, the Hallicrafters SX-100, and the restored Collings, Drake, and Heathkit gear bring back fond memories of cold winter nights and cw crackling through the air.  Of course, Miller doesn't dwell in the past.  His well appointed radio shack is packed with current models of amplifiers, top of the line transceivers, and a decent antenna farm. 

Speaking of antennas and related topics,  the ARRL reports that the WARC-2012 delegates have approved a MW band for amateur radio operators.  I believe the general area is between 472 to 479 kHz with a power ranging from 1 to 5 watts.  Depending on what our FCC decides, this band could be useable in the U.S. sometime in 2013.  I expect you'll see a variety of kits to help you get a signal on this portion of the spectrum.  The advantage of this sliver of frequencies rests with its relative immunity to atmospheric conditions.  That could come in handy for emergency communications.  Of course, antennas for this set of frequencies will be a problem--they tend to be in the neighborhood of 500-feet or so for a quarter-wave vertical.  Just think about what kind of loading coil you would need to get your antenna working.  There are those who run part 15 stations between 180 and 190 kHz and certain hams who have been runing experimental stations below 500 kHz.  These experimenters seem to reach out hundreds of miles depending on conditions.  So, who knows?  This "lowfer" portion of the MW spectrum may spur more homebrew equipment.  I'll have to read more about this portion of the radio spectrum before I commit to another antenna project.  All of this sounds intriguing, none the less.

My backyard antenna "farm" continues to provide contacts and many hours of enjoyment.  My humble inverted vees, vertical dipoles, and loops get me where I want to go for very little financial investment.  I suppose being a "packrat" and collector of most things electronic has something to do with my supply of surplus coax, connectors, wire, and insulators.  The cable TV people know me well.  I've been able to secure various odd lengths of RG-6 which I convert into patch cords and even feed lines.  I sometimes wish I had more space, but I make do with what I have.  My radio setup is simple, functional, and easy to maintain.  Once I build a house on our property in the Puna District, I can concentrate on a tower and a decent beam.  But for now, I'm just happy to get on the air and get a few contacts after work or on the weekend.  That makes me a "happy camper". 

Enjoy the rest of your week.  Get on the air and have some fun.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM
Laupahoehoe, Hawaii--BK29jx15 on Hawaii Island