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Having tried successfully with JT65a on the HF bands, I thought that I would give WSPR a try using the same equipment. I have been using my Yaesu FT857D running 5w into my half size G5RV antenna. For 80m and 160m I have used my long wire. I have not been happy with the coverage I get with these antennas, I can work into Europe, but not much else. So this Summer I have set myself a project to improve the HF antenna situation. I am very limited for space and the wires are very close to the side of the house. I want to try something different and reading about the WSPRlite sounds like a great tool to compare different antennas and layouts over a period of time. I ordered one form SOTA Beams along with the filter kit so that I can use WSPRlite on 80m and 160m.  WSPRlite also helps to overcome another problem that I have when using JT65a and WSPR on 80m and 160m. Even with just 5w o/p from the FT857D on these bands I find that the software crashes on the computer due to RF getting into the USB wiring. The WSPRlite runs just 200mw so it should not affect the computer.

Will be interesting to see the results.

Packet Radio

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Did you try Packet Radio back in the 1980’s?

Amateurs in the Northwest England area have revived Packet Radio again on 144.950mhz. Some are using the old TNC’s and others, like myself are using software TNC’s like SoundModem with EasyTerm. At the moment stations are transmitting Packet Beacons and have Personal Mailboxes set up.
Why not give it a try, dust off that old TNC and join the revival group on 144.950mhz

I put this on some of the Amateur Radio Facebook groups and the response was amazing!

We now have a NODE back on the air from Runcorn (RUNC) and yesterday I connected to a BBS in Australia, just like old times! From the Facebook responses it looks like other NODES are coming back to life again and going back on the air. Other Packet Radio groups are forming, one on Cornwall, another in the South East and many old TNCs are being dusted and put back on the air. Packet Radio was our Facebook in those days. Wonderful to think that we invented social media before  Mark Zuckerberg was even born!




Brass Morse Key

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Last week I was given a box of radio ‘junk’ from a friend of mine who was moving house. The box consisted of a CB radio, a couple of PSU’s, a KS2 ATU and Sangean ATS-803A World Band Receiver. These I have saved and intend to use them. I threw away the rest of the junk. I believe it came from a silent key amateur a while ago. When I was looking through the junk I found something quite amazing… a solid brass morse key!  The morse key has been home built, but a super piece of engineering!

I spent some time cleaning and polishing the brass work and woodwork of the key as it was badly tarnished after being stored for a long time. Wow…it looks fantastic! It now has pride of place on my bench connected to my morse oscillator.

The Sangean ATS-803A is quite old, but works great. Covers the usual FM, MW and LW and all the Short Wave frequencies. Numeric keypad lets you enter the frequency and has narrow and wide filters and BFO. An RF gain along with built in memories make it very useful and the audio output is superb, very loud and clear. I’m impressed with this portable radio, definitely worth keeping!

The rest I will keep for a rainy day…

Baofeng Packet Radio

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Now that I have my main station and computer already set up for Packet Radio, I thought it would be a good idea to have a second set up. I have a Baofeng UV5R handheld and also a Moonraker MT-270m that I use for mobile and portable. At first I thought about using the MT-270m for packet along with my old Dell Laptop running Windows XP. Then I came across a problem, the MT270m does not have a headphone socket! It has a phono socket at the back, but it is for data. So with that in mind I looked at the Baofeng…

The Baofeng UV5R has dual phono sockets on the side, one smaller than the other. I found a diagram of the connections for the plugs…

I have a Baofeng type speaker / microphone that plugs in the side, so I decided to unscrew the case so that I could get to the circuit board. This made it easy to identify the speaker, microphone and PTT switch. Next, I made up some audio leads to plug into the Dell Laptop and soldered the ends onto the speaker / mic board by simply soldering across the speaker for Audio in and Microphone for Audio out.

The PTT connection to control the transmit function for the Baofeng requires switching the PTT switch remotely. How could this be done I thought…
The Dell Laptop has an RS232 port and I remembered that I have ready made RS232 switch lead that I used to control the shutter of a camera. I wired it across the PTT switch on the board and it worked fine on COM 1 port.
The software that I use for the TNC is Soundmodem and EasyTerm, both work a treat on the computer, so now comes the test with the Baofeng…it works great!  The audio levels seem fine with Soundmodem. A nice little project which lets me use Packet Radio without tying up the main rig and computer.

Trig Point

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For many years now I have taken my radio equipment onto Matchmoor Lane on the side of Winter Hill in Bolton. It is an ideal place for portable operation and has also been the site of many field days and contests in the past. Yesterday I was sitting at my usual place on the highest place on the road at Matchmoor Lane. I noticed that one of the gates to a field had been removed and saw what looked like a trig point at the end of the field. I was fascinated because I didn’t know that there was a trig point here and have never seen it before. I decided to walk up the hill to the end of the field and have a look…sure enough…a trig point!

In the past we have used trig points to mount a mast for the antennas in the centre. It is well known to Radio Amateurs that given the correct tool the centre can be unscrewed and a mast placed in the centre. Trouble is someone has already nicked the centrepiece of this one.

Trig points are used as markers for the ‘Worked All Britain Awards’ and the trig numbers are frequently used to identify it’s location.

Sinclair Spectrum 35 years old today!

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Happy St George’s Day!
I asked the kids this morning what they could tell me about St George…
“He invented the first computer” said one child!
I think he got mixed up with Sir Clive … who invented the Sinclair Spectrum and launched it 35 years ago today!

This is strange…I have just been talking about my Sinclair Spectrum in the last post when I used it for Packet Radio. Today, up popped a message I wrote on Facebook five years ago. Last night I watched the BBC film about Clive Sinclair called ‘Micro Men’ that told the story of Sinclair and Acorn in a light hearted way back in 1982.

I guess the Spectrum is close to my heart because I learned so much about computers by programming and building equipment onto the Spectrum. I even learned to programme in machine code and binary code. I remember writing my own Lunar Landing programme including moving graphics and making an auto-dial programme written in machine code to control my Maplin Modem and interface to dial numbers on the telephone for bulletin boards and University Computers. It ran my Packet Radio system and we used to exchange computer programmes over the radio on 144Mhz FM. They were pioneering days!

So to celebrate St Spectrum Day, I am wearing my Sinclair Spectrum 48k tee-shirt! Happy Birthday!


Packet Radio Revival

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Screen grab of my Packet Radio contact tonight with Ross G6GVI on 144.950mhz

Back in the late 80’s Packet Radio was the trend on 144mhz. This involved sending and receiving packets of data sent across the airwaves. At the time I had a Sinclair Spectrum computer and had built a Maplin modem to connect to the Open University computer at Newcastle to complete my assignments. I had already built an interface, so set about building a TNC for Packet Radio. This was quite a big project at the time. When it was completed I joined the Packet Radio community using mailboxes, bulletin boards and electronic messaging. All this was before the Internet and e-mails…we were pioneers of digital communication at the time!

I have used Packet Radio recently for APRS and communicating with the International Space Station, but have not used it for messaging.

Last week I received a message through Facebook from Jack, G8HIK who has got together a few local radio amateurs to revive the Packet Radio system again. A great idea, so last night I set up my current system to work on Packet communications so that I could ‘chat’ and leave messages in mailboxes like the olden days.  It works well, I downloaded the latest version of ‘EasyTerm’ software and used my current ‘Soundmodem’ to connect to other stations via Packet Radio. I have now set up my own mailbox G4AQB-1 and talked with Jack G8HIK and Ross G6GVI via Packet Radio. Amazing stuff, nowadays it is all software based, but in the 80’s it was a TNC and a lot of hard work to make it work properly.