Amateur Radio Study included in House-Passed Payroll Tax Bill

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011 (HR 3630) — the bill to extend the payroll tax reduction that passed the US House of Representatives on Tuesday, December 13 — includes among its many other provisions the “Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum Act” or “JOBS Act” that passed the Communications and Technology Subcommittee on December 1. The JOBS Act makes up Title IV of HR 3630 and includes the following:

SEC. 4205. STUDY ON EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS BY AMATEUR RADIO AND IMPEDIMENTS TO AMATEUR RADIO COMMUNICATIONS.

•(a) In General- Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the [Federal Communications] Commission, in consultation with the Office of Emergency Communications in the Department of Homeland Security, shall–
•(1) complete a study on the uses and capabilities of amateur radio service communications in emergencies and disaster relief; and
•(2) submit to the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate a report on the findings of such study.
•(b) Contents- The study required by subsection (a) shall include–
•(1)(A) a review of the importance of emergency amateur radio service communications relating to disasters, severe weather, and other threats to lives and property in the United States; and
•(B) recommendations for–
•(i) enhancements in the voluntary deployment of amateur radio operators in disaster and emergency communications and disaster relief efforts; and
•(ii) improved integration of amateur radio operators in the planning and furtherance of initiatives of the Federal Government; and
•(2)(A) an identification of impediments to enhanced amateur radio service communications, such as the effects of unreasonable or unnecessary private land use restrictions on residential antenna installations; and
•(B) recommendations regarding the removal of such impediments.
•(c) Expertise- In conducting the study required by subsection (a), the Commission shall use the expertise of stakeholder entities and organizations, including the amateur radio, emergency response, and disaster communications communities.
Such a study has long been sought by the ARRL.

HR 3630 is now up for consideration in the Senate where its prospects for passage are dimmed by the inclusion of a controversial provision concerning a pipeline project.

Ham Radio: Wednesday Central Alabama Simplex Net

  • NCS – WX4RON, Ronnie in the Birmingam area
  • Time – 8:30 PM every Wednesday Night
  • FREQUENCY – 146.580

This net is a new addition to the normal Sunday Central Alabama simplex net. It is another great opportunity to teach/remind us all what it is like to work a large net without repeaters.  A repeater failure can occur at any point and all of us should be aware of how to communicate in VHF without one.  This net provides a great opportunity to test our simplex communications capabilities, equipment, antenna systems, etc.  This net also has rotating NCS duties giving more people an opportunity to learn how to relay communications from various operating locations across the state.   A truly great net to listen for and participate in if possible!

Ham Radio Licenses at an All-Time High

Foxnews.com – Apple iPhone, beware?
The newest trend in American communication isn’t another smartphone from Apple or Google but one of the elder statesmen of communication: Ham radio licenses are at an all time high, with over 700,000 licenses in the United States, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Ham radio first took the nation by storm nearly a hundred years ago. Last month the FCC logged 700,314 licenses, with nearly 40,000 new ones in the last five years. Compare that with 2005 when only 662,600 people hammed it up and you’ll see why the American Radio Relay League — the authority on all things ham — is calling it a “golden age” for ham.”

“Over the last five years we’ve had 20-25,000 new hams,” Allen Pitts, a spokesman for the group, told FoxNews.com.

The unusual slang term — a “ham” is more properly known as an amateur radio operator — described a poor operator when the first wireless operators started out in the early 1900s. At that time, government and coastal ships would have to compete with amateurs for signal time, because stations all battled for the same radio wavelength. Frustrated commercial operators called the amateurs “hams” and complained that they jammed up the signal.

People like John Pritchett have used the slang term ever since.

“It takes an inquisitive mind that wants the challenge to speak with the rest of the world,” Pritchett told FoxNews.com. “I meet a lot of people as a result amateur radio. It’s a fascinating experience to meet somebody who you’ve talked to for years — when you finally meet them and go, wow, that’s you.”

Pritchett has been a ham for over 35 years. He sits in his ham shack slowly turning the dial on his amateur radio and listening attentively for a voice through the high radio frequency. But he’s not looking for aliens: Pritchett is dialing in to make contact with someone around the world.

“W6JWK, This is John in Fresno, California,” he says.

Pritchett can communicate with people around the globe or even astronauts in space by either talking through his microphone or using Morse code.

With more people joining the hobby, local ham radio businesses are growing as well. Amateur Electronics Supply in Las Vegas sells everything to do with ham radios, from transceivers, amplifiers and antennas to handhelds.

“We have clientele from all walks of life,” manager Luke Rohn told FoxNews.com. “We have church groups who are interested in ham radio for viable source of communications for times of natural disaster. We have young kids that find ham radio interesting. Maybe they’ve heard about it through their father and grandfather and it’s a lot of fun for them.”

According to the American Radio Relay League, retirees and church groups are among the main reasons for the nearly 30,000 new hams that pick up the hobby each year.

Ham is a boon for safety as well as a fun pastime: When normal communications methods fail and cell phone towers are jammed, ham radios will still work and can help out in disaster situations; because they don’t require towers to relay the signal.

“Amateur radio came into play very much during the major earthquake in the bay area in 1989. The only thing I had was a little handheld radio. Nothing else worked, telephones didn’t work, cellphones didn’t work, amateur radio just kept right on working,” said Pritchett.

Looking to ham it up a bit with some friends? Try a fox hunt — the radio equivalent of ham-to-ham combat. In a fox hunt, local amateur radio clubs search for a transmitter (called the fox) using their homemade antennas.

“The fox hunting is really fun — the thrill of the chase, the competition of being the first to find the transmitter,” said Rob Mavis, president of the Clovis Amateur Radio Pioneers club in Clovis, Calif.

Ham radio is inexpensive fun, as well: All you need is a couple hundred bucks to get started and a FCC license. So join the latest craze — no iPhone app required.

Foxnews.com post is here

N1274A Motorola Power Amplifier

Motorola  N1274A RF Power AmplifierMy new N1274a RF Motorola power amplifier is an old school solid-state broadband power amplifier capable of delivering 40-50 watts of rf power into a 50 ohm antenna when you drive it with 4-5 watts.  I will be using this on the  2 meter ham band (144-148mhz)but this rf amplifer has a range of 136-150.7 mhz.  This rf power amplifier contains an rf sensing circuit which detects the presence of rf power at the input and switches that signal to the power amplifier for amplification.  As far as I can tell the total drain in standby or receive mode is 3 milliamperes.

My use for this is more than three fold.  I now have a battery powerable, low drive power with a decent output of 40-50 watts for use in a car to make a HT act like a mobile. Secondly, I have an amplifier that can be  used in an emergency or on satellites (1 watt in = 10watts out).  Thirdly I have a quick way  to go that extra distance on 2 meter without a huge power requirement.

Overall, the N1274a fits a perfect need for this amateur radio station and I look forward to the many uses of this great amplifier.

Ham Radio: Central Alabama Simplex Net-146.580

 Central Alabama Simplex Net

NCS – WX4RON, Ronnie in the Birmingam area

Time – 8 PM every Sunday Night

FREQUENCY – 146.580

This net is a great opportunity to teach/remind us all what it is like to work a large net without repeaters.  A repeater failure can occur at any point and all of us should be aware of how to communicate in VHF without one.  This net provides a great opportunity to test our simplex communications capabilities, equipment, antenna systems, etc.  This net also has rotating NCS duties giving more people an opportunity to learn how to relay communications from various operating locations across the state.   A truly great net to listen for and participate in if possible!

As howling storm battered Alaska, ham operators provided vital link

Jill Burke from the Alaska Dispatch — The jet stream feeding the wintery sea-spun tempest that sideswiped Alaska’s western coast wasn’t the only worldwide conveyer belt in motion this week. As howling winds whipped up and crashing waves pounded beaches, the people who live in the remote, isolated villages along the storm’s path stayed connected via a web of global radio frequencies.

When other communications failed, ham radio operators came to the rescue. Throughout the storm, they were the eyes for scientists in Fairbanks and Anchorage who otherwise would have been blind to weather conditions they could predict but not see.

“They were providing critical observations. We don’t have a lot of meteorological observations in the west. We don’t have the instruments out there,” Carven Scott, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Anchorage, said Thursday as messages sent via the amateur radio network zapped into his inbox.

The messages were deceptively simple: how fast the wind was blowing and from what direction; sea level; wave height; whether it was snowing or raining; and the temperature. These seemingly small details from various villages made a big difference for the weather service — enough so, Scott said, that a lead forecaster told him, “Whatever you do, don’t cut it off because this stuff is really helping us.”

Through the ham radio network, Scott and his colleagues learned that river ice in Koyuk was backing up and spilling onto the banks, roofs had blown off in Nome, water was surging in Nome, and rain and snow were falling in Shaktoolik and Savoonga.

Scott describes weather prediction as a 10,000 piece puzzle with 9,000 pieces missing. Remote sensing tools, radar and satellites all help, but conceptual models are only as good as the limited information forecasters have. First-hand reports from people on the ground feed the model with real information in real-time, allowing forecasters to adjust and refine their analysis. If snow was predicted but it’s actually raining, meteorologists tweak their formulas.

“Those seemingly unimportant pieces of information help us characterize where the front is at,” he said. “Without that information, it would impact our ability to execute our mission, which is the protection of life and property and enhancement of national commerce.”

Continue the story here at the Alaska Dispatch site

Birmingham airport radio frequencies-BHM-Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International airport

This information is so oddly useless that when I needed it, I could not find it, so now I have posted it for me (and you) to have.   I have flown in and out of this airport many times and find its small and outdated facilities have a ‘hometown’ feel. 

Birmingham, Alabama

BHM-Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International airport
Birmingham AL
  Time Zone: CT 
Lat: N 3333.8     Long: W 08645.1     Elev: 650     Var: +03  Longest Runway: 12002
Clr Del: 125.67       Dept. ATIS: 119.4     Arr. ATIS: 119.4   Ground: 121.7     Tower: 118.25/119.9

 

BHM-Birmingham airport runways in AlabamaBirmingham Airport Communications & Frequencies
ATIS Frequencies: Hours(local) of Operation: CONTINUOUS
119.4 270.1
Birmingham Tower Frequencies: Hours(local) of operation: CONTINUOUS
118.25 119.9 317.725
Birmingham Ground Frequencies:
121.7 348.6
Birmingham Clearance Delivery Frequencies:
125.675 305.2
Birmingham Emergency Frequencies:
121.5 243.0

Birmingham Unicom Frequency: 122.950

Birmingham Primary Approach Frequencies: Hours(local) of operation: CONTINUOUS
123.8(050-230) 127.675(231-049) 256.8(050-230) 338.2(231-049)
Birmingham Primary Departure Frequencies: Hours(local) of operation: CONTINUOUS
123.8(050-230) 127.675(231-049) 256.8(050-230) 338.2(231-049)

Class C Frequencies:
123.8(050-230) 127.675(231-049) 256.8(050-230) 338.2(231-049)

IFR am/fm-1200: Two-way radio repair, not yet (update 5 more pictures)

IFR am/fm-1200 arrived on time as expected but the IFR am/fm-1200 has more issues than the seller lead me to believe. I am still hopeful that I can figure this one out but at thispoint I am a little bit frustrated. I am still looking through the various boards and changing out the fuses. Maybe I will get this service monitor up and running soon… maybe not.

Edit 1 (1 hr in): 3 fuses later the unit is up and running in a basic FM narrow receive mode. Audio is good and receive seems to be on frequency. Scope seems to be having an issue and I have found multiple broken parts. The IFR am/fm-1200 is missing the antenna, AC and DC power cords, operation manual (3 ring binder is present but manual has been removed). It does have the Illustrated Parts Catalog for the fm/am-1200 communications service monitor.

Edit 2: Well, was able to tune a few radio but have no spectrum analyzer working.  When I turn on the scope I get a checksum error and then a memory error.   I sent an email to Kurt Graber at KG electronics but he is a business and suggested I ship it in.  Not much help there I guess unless I just want someone else to do it.  I will take the scope out and take a look at the power control board for it.  Surely I will find the melted part (at least one would hope…).  So for now the IFR FM/AM-1200 sits here on my desk, is able to do a variety of things but is without scope.  The scope on the IFR communications monitor is something I was looking forward to using so this is a pretty big set back. 

Sidenote: Sent an email to the person who sold me the device, they claimed another issue was “only” thing wrong with it.  Feeling a little burned at the moment, no pun intended. Now off to find the burned parts…..

ifr am/fm-1200 scope power supply board burned resistorifr am/fm-1200 scope power supply board burned by resistorEdit 3: Found the issue in the power control board of the IFR am/fm-1200. Now to decypher the results as my schematics do not match but I am 99% sure of the resistor in question… anyway here are the pictures, note the heavy board burn where the resistor on the ifr am/fm-1200’s spectrum/scope power supply shorted.  I imagine the smoke would have been a dead giveaway that the service monitor was in need of some internal love.  

Edit 4: in looking at the entire board and tracing out the current flow I have found more suspect parts, in particular is a irf520 that seems to be shorted. I am reviewing the spec sheet for that part and will be running some more tests.  Pictures are here and you can see the heat bubble in the pcb board where that resistor had overheated and failed.  following the schematics of the ifr am/fm-1200 I found that the source of the overvoltage in the resitor was the irf-520.  It is reading a short(see pictures).

Another view of the irf-520 is shorted and burned on the scope power supply in my ifr am/fm-1200

this spectrum scope power supply pcb board got hot enough to bubble. damage is still being assesed

irf-520 is shorted and burned on the scope power supply in my ifr am/fm-1200

  Thank you for all the great support and emails!  They have been great and very helpful!  Keep them coming!

more to come

P.S.  If you have any ideas or have one of these yourself, I would love to hear from you!!!

Thank you

more to come soon…

Italian amateur radio repeaters impact satellite operations by disregarding the IARU bandplan

Italian amateur radio repeaters disregard IARU bandplan

In Italy, FM and D-Star repeaters are being licensed in the 2m IARU Amateur Satellite segment 145.8-146.0MHz causing considerable interference to Amateur Radio Satellites and the International Space Station.

It would appear that the Italian regulator permits repeaters anywhere within 2m on a provisional basis for 60 days. Authorisation may become permanent if no complaints are received. It would appear it is up to Amateurs worldwide to make sure the Italian regulator is made aware of any problems.

Repeaters in 145.8-146.0MHz cause interference to both satellite transponders and to the important satellite control uplinks.

Communications via Amateur Radio satellites are possible using as little as 300mW to a quarter wave whip as demonstrated by EB4DKA on SO-50 – uplink frequency 145.850MHz, see
http://www.southgatearc.org/satellites/eb4dka.htm

In fact, contacts using as little as 50mW FM have been achieved via the Amateur Satellites. Any repeater operation in the satellite segment, no matter how low power, will block the transponders and critical satellite command and control systems.

Some of the Italian repeaters operating in the 2m Amateur Satellite allocation are:

FM repeater IR0CK 145.850MHz
http://tinyurl.com/2ugjbp8

D-Star Repeater IR3UEF 145.800MHz
(the International Space Station frequency)
http://www.jfindu.net/dstarlh.aspx?rptr=IR3UEF

D-Star Repeater IR0CD 145.975MHz
http://www.dstarusers.org/viewrepeater.php?system=IR0CD

Readers concerned about the blatent disregard of IARU bandplans are invited to make the Italian regulator aware of the international interference that repeaters operating in 145.8-146.0MHz cause. Email should be sent to:
it.lazio@sviluppoeconomico.gov.it

ISS Fan Club – Downlink Intruders in Italy
http://www.issfanclub.com/node/30224

YouTube – FM interference to amateur radio satellites
http://www.southgatearc.org/news/november2010/
interference_to_satellites.htm

How old is my IFR am/fm-1200

So you have an IFR 1200, 1200A or 1200S? Do you want to know how old or more about it?

Many people want to learn more about the history of the technology they are using. The IFR 500’s and 1200’s have a unique and fun history. Almost all of the history is trackable via the serial number. I will mention several serial numbers in this section and although I should be pretty accurate, I have not cross-referenced this with IFR. As I recall, IFR would select a few units for example SN 5010 to have an upgrade yet SN 5011 – 5022 would not (???). In other words, not everything was uniform.

Here’s a little history of the IFR 500’s & 1200’s. What you need to remember is that the RF block diagrams for the 1200 and 500 are identical, hence, many modules are interchangeable between the 2 units. The IFR am/fm-1200 was in production for approximately 20 years, and an assortment of upgrades were made during that time. The basic “keel” was designed by Harold Silem who died shortly after early production. In the Early 80’s IFR launched the basic 500 and the basic 1200 with Spectrum Analyzer; both with serial numbers starting from (SN)1000. The IFR am/fm-1200A non-Spectrum box started at SN 1000 also. I would guess that there are 25,000 of these units on the planet (possibly more).

If you own a 1200 or 500, you may have the best product IFR has ever produced. They are reliable, very well-engineered and for the most part, almost all failures can be repaired. My only fear is that I am going to have a CRT failure, even though they are durable, and very few failures occur with the CRT (not the scope modules), getting a replacement is because of price and availability. Other than that either box is awesome! People ask me “were there any bad years?” and the answer is NO! Every 500 or 1200 was at the least “good”. Now you might want to take into consideration that they had 20 years to make improvements. So, if you own a 500 with an SN of 5000 or above, or a 1200S with an SN of 10000 or above, it should have had all the bugs or minor flaws eliminated and you have a field tested box for well over 10 years. Obviously, I would prefer to have a 1200 Super S. If you are fortunate to find one at a decent price, BUY IT!. Otherwise, we have to deal with the older units which are great but may have some minor hitches.

On this site you might find the term “Blue PC boards”. These boards were a nightmare. Any excess heat can destroy a pad and possibly ruin the entire board. The very early sets had almost all blue fiberglass boards in them especially the SN 1000 & 2000’s. I was able to pick up an old junk 1200 of this vintage with all of the blue pc boards in top shape. I now use it practically all the time. My point here is, BE CAREFUL WHEN WORKING ON THESE BOARDS!, they are easily damaged. As far as I know the older power supply (SN 4490 and below) are no longer being serviced at the factory. They will only sell you a new style. I will still work on these old power supplies, but they creat noise and cause a 45khz spike noticeable on the Spectrum Analyzer. The new power supplies addressed this snag. A new power supply is very $$$ and the old ones are still okay as long as all the modifications are done on them.