May 2024 Meeting: Learning CW with Carol, KE6SRN

At our May 2024 meeting, SPARC member Carol Bruegge, KE6SRN gave an overview of proper Morse code usage and shared tips for how to become proficient. (Apologies for the blurry photo above.) Fun fact: What we refer to as “Morse code” is more accurately called “Gerke code” because it was standardized by a German telegraph pioneer named Fredriche Gerke. Carol covered several topics including efficient communication and free learning tools. Below are links to the tools that Carol recommended.

Click here to download all of Carol’s slides (1.7 MB PDF).

After Carol’s presentation, we had a show and tell session with paddles, straight keys, and “bugs” from SPARC members’ collections.

To the left of the paddles were laptops loaded with RufzXP, Morse Runner, and Iambic Master. Attendees could compare the programs and see which ones might be worth trying at home.

At 9:13 p.m. the ham radio satellite SO-50 passed overhead, and Rick Besocke, KI6ZKM led the group in a contact demonstration. This was an opportunity to see a satellite contact in action, inspired by our February meeting on the topic.

Rick, KI6ZKM contacts SO-50

Next month, it’s time to talk Field Day! Join us on June 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Eddie Park House.

73,
John Aboud, KK6ZVQ

April 2024 Meeting: State of the Hobby with Diana Feinberg, AI6DF

At our April member meeting, SPARC welcomed ARRL LAX Section Manager Diana Feinberg, AI6DF. Diana has served the local ham community as section manager since 2016 and in numerous other capacities before that.  She is currently president of the Palos Verdes Amateur Radio Club, and she was formerly president of the 220 Spectrum Management Association of Southern California. She has chaired the Los Angeles Area Council of Amateur Radio Clubs, served as the chair of the HAMCON hamfest, and has been active in the Los Angeles County Disaster Communication Service.

Diana opened by discussing what is new with the ARRL both nationally and locally. Topics included:

  • How to know when the digital editions of ARRL magazines are available.
  • The fight to protect radio spectrum from high-speed trading systems.
  • ARRL membership numbers in LA County. 
  • A program that helps members locate sources of RFI (hint: check your dimmer switches first). 
  • Patterns of volunteering.

The second part of her presentation was titled “Surprises in Amateur Radio.”  It covered the aspects that make our hobby unique, including the constant improvement of its equipment and development of new modes such as the M17 standard.

As a gesture of our thanks, we presented Diana with a bag of Li’l Sparky’s Blend whole beans (actually the Lost Parrot Blend from Jones Coffee Roasters).

UPCOMING EVENTS

ARRL SSB Rookie Roundup, 4/21

For the purposes of the event, a Rookie is defined has having been first licensed in the current calendar year or the previous three calendar years, regardless of license class. You can also be a Rookie if you haven’t made any contest contacts on the contest mode (in this case, SSB).

May Meeting, 5/1

We’ll be discussing CW and Morse code. Do you have an interesting Morse key, bug, or paddle? Bring it in for a show and tell.

March 2024 Meeting: Restoring Vintage Radios

At our March 2024 meeting, SPARC welcomed Joe and Sandra Fekete to discuss vintage and antique radio restoration. Joe Fekete is an active member of SCARS, the Southern California Antique Radio Society. He was a ham in 1970s and has served as an FCC liaison. He currently lives in Monrovia with his wife Sandra who is a self-described “conehead,” which in the restoration hobby means someone who specializes in repairing speakers.

Sandra and Joe Fekete

Joe and Sandra demonstrated their techniques for restoring old radios to appear “right off the assembly line.” For example, when stuffing capacitors they recreate vintage labels to preserve technical information and capture the look of the original components.

Vintage capacitor labels ready to be scanned and reprinted

The meticulous couple spent three years restoring the radio of a 1957 Corvette on behalf of Cerritos collector Kent Browning.

Sandra holds the metal frame of a classic Corvette speaker.

Here are a few resources the Feketes mentioned for anyone interested in attempting a restoration:

If you’re interested in acquiring a vintage radio, SCARS will hold a swap meet in Burbank on June 15.

Several SPARC members have extensive experience with vintage ham equipment. Bob WB6YJJ brought in two beautiful vintage radios and an oscilloscope, seen below.

A nonworking 1930s commercial radio from the Feketes (top left) and three working pieces of equipment from Bob WB6YJJ

The gleaming transmitter on the right is a working Johnson “Viking Valiant” from the late 1950s. Rick KI6ZKM brought a Hallicrafters rig that he plans to repair.

Interior view of a Hallicrafters rig owned by Rick KI6ZKM

Tony K6TTP shared several tips for anyone embarking on a restoration:

  • Document everything with photos.
  • Locate a trustworthy schematic for your rig and compare it to the physical equipment.
  • Replace all the capacitors. If a vintage capacitor hasn’t failed, it will. 

Tony recommends Old Radio Parts for obtaining replacement components and the website HiFiAudio.com for its many kits and guides. Tony is restoring a Hallicrafters SX-140 with help from HiFiAudio’s guide.

Mark WB6CIA suggested building a collection of vintage tube substitution books. He also consults SAMS Photofact manuals which can be ordered online or found in vintage bookstores.

SPARC thanks the Feketes for a fascinating presentation, and thanks all the members who shared their equipment and wisdom.

February 2024 Meeting: Working Satellites with Clint Bradford, K6LCS

Our February 2024 meeting was held via Zoom and featured Clint Bradford, K6LCS presenting “How to Work Amateur Satellites with Your HT.” Clint has been a ham since 1994. His niche in the hobby is working amateur satellites with minimal equipment and spreading the word on how to do it. He has served as a liaison between NASA, the ARISS team, and schools coordinating amateur radio contacts between the International Space Station and students. Clint has created a support Web site at work-sat.com that’s a one-stop source for all the citations, equipment recommendations, and software suggestions made in his presentation. He also maintains a Groups.io list at work-sat.groups.io. He resides in Jurupa Valley, California, with his wife Karen, who expertly handled Zoom duties during the meeting.

Some notable Clint quotes:

  • Why work satellites? It’s just another cool thing we can do in this wonderful hobby of amateur radio. 
  • Tips to improve your HT’s battery life: Cut your output power in half, improve your antenna, use an earpiece. 
  • It’s rocket science… but it ain’t rocket science.
Photo from Clint’s QSL card. He’s seen here at the LA County Fair, where he worked three countries using only 2W of power.

Some slides from the presentation:

Other useful links besides work-sat.com:

Software recommendations:

SPARC thanks Cliff and Karen for an informative (and funny!) evening.

OTHER CLUB BUSINESS

  • Join our Groups.io list and become a member
  • Our simplex net returns next week on 2/14. Chris KM6OUK is compiling signal reports from the simplex nets so we can map propagation behavior in our area.
  • The Battleship Iowa Amateur Radio Association (BIARA) will hold a special event station on February 22 from 1600 to 2400 UTC. Try contacting this unique radio station to our south in San Pedro.

UPCOMING MEETINGS

  • March 6 at 7:30 p.m. — We’re back at the Eddie Park House where we will be joined by Joe Fakete, an active member of the Southern California Antique Radio Society. Joe will speak on vintage and antique radio restoration. Bring an old ham rig or vintage consumer radio, and Joe will walk you through the steps to put it back in working order. Email us if you would like to bring some equipment but need help transporting it. Related: Jim Fisher, the president of SCARS, invites everyone to learn more about the group, become a member, and participate in SCARS’s annual auction. It takes place on 2/17 in Tustin. 

  • April 3 at 7:30 p.m. — Also back at Eddie Park House, our guest will be Diana Feinberg, AI6DF. Diana is section manager for the ARRL LAX section. Her visits to SPARC to update us on League business and the state of amateur radio are an annual tradition.

73!

January 2024 Meeting: Simplex Operations

Radio Mobile Online propagation prediction

At our January member meeting we introduced the new club officers for 2024 and thanked outgoing president Stan Tahara KR6CV and outgoing treasurer Bob Vanderwall WB6YJJ for all their hard work.

Our featured topic was simplex operation and tips for participating in a simplex net. Jeff Liter, W2JCL gave a presentation which you can view embedded below. Download a PDF copy (1.1 MB) of it by clicking here.

Links from the presentation:
Radio Mobile Online propagation prediction tool
Having Fun with VHF” presentation by Bob Witte K0NR
Ed’s Radio, site listing Southern California nets

In conjunction with the discussion of simplex, we announced the addition of a new simplex net to our monthly schedule (click here for full details).

SAVE THE DATES
January 20: ARRL January VHF Contest. A good opportunity to get on the air and test your equipment. We encourage you to participate from home or the field.

January 27: Winter Field Day. Join SPARC in Eddie Park for this annual emcomm practice event.

JOIN OUR GROUPS.IO
SPARC is migrating its mailing list to groups.io so members and friends can have more control over how they receive news and updates from the club. Whether you are a long-time member or simply interested in hearing about our activities, we hope you will subscribe and stay in touch.

IT’S DUES TIME
And speaking of membership, now is the time to join or renew. Dues are only $20 per year, per household. Cover all hams at the same address with one payment!

📻 Returning members renew by clicking here.

🙌 New members join by clicking here.

If you have more than one ham in your household, please submit a membership form for each person so we can add everyone to our member database.

73!

Wrapping Up 2023 and Looking Ahead to 2024

The Canoe House

Our November 2023 membership meeting was cancelled due to a guest speaker falling through, but spirits were high at our annual December social at the Canoe House restaurant. Over a dozen members gathered to catch up and discuss their various radio-related projects.

A week later, during our December 13 on-air net, participants described their favorite ham radio gifts, either received or purchased for themselves. The fond memories included:

To inspire future hams, Mark WB6CIA suggested donating a pair of walkie-talkies to a Toys For Tots drive.

On behalf of everyone at SPARC, we hope you have a happy, healthy, and radio-active 2024!

October 2023 Meeting: Preparedness, Maui Fires, and a Radio SOP

At our October 4, 2023 membership meeting, SPARC President Stan Tahara, KR6CV, led a discussion about emergency preparedness at home and in our community. Using a slide presentation highlighting the resources posted on SPARC’s online preparedness page, Stan solicited ideas and feedback from those in attendance. The presentation is embedded in this post below.

Next, Rick Besocke, KI6ZKM, gave a talk about a family member’s experience escaping the fire which devastated Lahaina, Hawaii in August. The tragic events in Lahaina demonstrate all the complexities of an evacuation. Everyone will have unique considerations in an emergency, and Rick’s narrative was a stark reminder that there is no “one size fits all” plan.

Finally, Jeff Liter, W2JCL, presented his draft of a standard operating procedure (SOP) for SPARC’s communications response to an emergency. We discussed how it could be revised, implemented, and practiced in the future.

We hope you find the below presentation useful, and we encourage you to participate in the Great Shakeout later this week (read this post for full details).

September 2023 Meeting: Checking in with Winlink

At our September 2023 member meeting, we learned about the latest features of Winlink from Jeff, W2JCL. In his role as Assistant District Emergency Coordinator for ARES LAX Northeast, Jeff uses Winlink extensively and stays apprised of its development.

Winlink is an email client and a network infrastructure for sending email over amateur radio frequencies. It is especially useful in emergency communications because its robust error correction ensures critical information is sent exactly as intended.

Slide from Jeff, W2JCL’s presentation

Anyone interested in learning about Winlink should visit the official site at Winlink.org. More resources are linked on our Winlink project page, and you can read an earlier presentation from Jeff here (274 KB PDF).

August 2023 Meeting: T-Hunting Practice with Bill Hacker, WB6MGT

Bill Hacker, WB6MGT with his t-hunting beam antenna

SPARC welcomed Bill Hacker, WB6MGT to our August meeting for a presentation on his experiences as a transmitter hunter. Bill began t-hunting in 1970 in Simi Valley using a Yagi antenna made out of coat hangers and tied to the mirror of a 1958 VW van. He’s upgraded his equipment since then as you can see in the above picture of Bill and his current professional-grade Yagi. For much of Bill’s t-hunting career, he has partnered with his college roommate Doug, WA6RJN. Bill’s longest hunt required locating a transmitter in Barstow, California; one near Las Vegas; one along the 15 freeway in Arizona; and the main transmitter in Saint George, Utah. Bill has worked in IT at USC for over twenty years and serves as net control for USC’s Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Team. He last spoke to SPARC at our March, 2022 meeting.

After his presentation, Bill led a practice t-hunt in Eddie Park. SPARC members got a chance to use their tape measure Yagis and signal attenuators to locate a transmitter stashed out of sight. Below are some pictures of the hunt in progress.

SPARC thanks Bill for a fun and informative evening!

Tuning in to 146.565 MHz
It must be this way…
Closing in on the fox box
Transmitter waiting to be found in a bush
Two MicroFox transmitters made by Byonics

Resources to explore t-hunting:

Southern California Transmitter Hunters (greater LA)
Southern California Transmitter Hunters (San Diego area)
Homing In, a site maintained by Joe Moell, K0OV

Spring 2023 Meetings: Antenna Tuning and Attenuator Building

KC9ON Fox Hunt Attenuator

At SPARC’s April, May, and June meetings, we continued working with the tape measure beam antennas we constructed in February. At the April meeting, we tuned the antennas to make sure they resonated at 146.565 MHz, the local t-hunting frequency. By adjusting the spacing of the steel elements, we made sure each antenna was ready to hear a hidden transmitter.

Checking the antenna on an analyzer
Testing the antenna in Eddie Park

At the May and June meetings, we constructed an attenuator kit to pair with the antennas. Stan, KR6CV arranged a group purchase of kits from KC9ON. The V7 kit provides 4 MHz of signal attenuation. KC9ON explains how that helps:

When you’re closing in on the fox [the hidden transmitter] you may find the signals to be strong enough you can no longer find a peak or null with your antenna. Sometimes the signal is so strong that the RF will leak straight into the radio, connections and other equipment making the antenna useless. The solution is to use an offset attenuator. The circuit consists of a small RF generator, in this case 4 MHz, which will mix with the incoming fox signal (such as 146.52 MHz) and produce new signals at plus and minus the fox signal (142.52 MHz and 150.52 MHz). A potentiometer on the board changes the injection level of the RF generator which in turn attenuates the incoming mixed signal to your radio to a level where tracking can continue.

KC9ON Fox Hunt Attenuator
Product image of the V7 attenuator from KC9ON
Building the V7 kit during the June 2023 meeting

Instructions for building the kit can be found here.

With our antennas and attenuators ready for action, we planned to hold a practice t-hunt at our August member meeting.