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Author Topic: First contact as General made today  (Read 735 times)
KC8AHN
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Posts: 108




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« on: April 08, 2010, 11:16:06 AM »

Tues evening I took the test, passed and upgraded to General, I was excited. Today I went out and dropped $1100 on a shack, which includes an FT450, power supply, G5RV Jr and coax. A new friend I met on another board sent me at no cost a MFJ antenna tuner and here I am on the air. My first call was a strong station on 40m and he came right back, it was only 347 miles, but I was ticked pink. Any thoughts other than getting the antenna in a more ideal position?
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N4LI
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Posts: 397




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« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2010, 11:22:14 AM »

Congratulations.

10m is open today.  Give that a try, if you are so inclined.

Peter, N4LI
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K5DVW
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Posts: 2193




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« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2010, 11:29:10 AM »

Cool... just wait till the next DX contest! You might pass out from excitement.
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WB5JEO
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Posts: 805




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« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2010, 11:53:50 AM »

For horizontal wires, height is the thing. On 40, you're looking at something like 50 feet or better to start seeing reasonably low take-off angles favorable to longer paths. Which is why serious DX operation on that and lower frequencies often opt for verticals or quite tall supports. Of course, the same principle means that it becomes generally a better DX antenna as frequency increases. Of course, you can never say where a real antenna is compared to a model's patterns, but most places, horizontal wires are effectively somewhat higher than measured height, because the ground is certainly not ideal, nor is it more than rarely known which grade of modeled ground matches the reality. But you can figure that if it's somewhere around 50 feet, it's near a full wavelength high on 20, which is usually going to produce at least some useful low-angle radiation. But all this is why they write books like "Low-Band DXing" and not much specifically for higher frequency bands. It's low-angle radiators for the "low bands" (which is to say 40, 80, and the "top band," 160 - just to confuse new folks) that are not really difficult, but certainly larger projects and generally more costly than the same antennas for higher HF.

40 is a nice band with a lot to recommend it as sort of an "all-around" band. If you like working it and want to go for greater distance, read up on quarter-wave verticals. Not so tall you can't do them cheaply (even hanging a wire from a tree limb if you have a decently tall tree), and with a good ground plane, they're real low-angle antennas, and pretty decent performers even with some loading to keep the size down. You can do 40 meter verticals as short as maybe six feet with a big capacitive top loading and proper matching. And you can do the 40 meter vertical a LOT easier than than you can get a horizontal wire to produce anything like the same low angle. Keep the wire, though. The vertical is decidedly not a good local/state antenna.
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KZ1X
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Posts: 3228




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« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2010, 11:55:22 AM »

Congrats.  

Here's the list of station improvement projects for the remainder of your life:

1.  Get a better antenna
2.  Mount it higher up
3.  Repeat steps 1 and 2

Somewhere in there you will also probably:

a.  learn Morse
b.  hook up your PC to the radio for control and PSK31
c.  buy a kit radio and build it
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AD6KA
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Posts: 2238




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« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2010, 12:24:16 PM »

Make sure that your shack is properly grounded
for safety & lightning protection.

Learn CW.

Keep your eye on a contest calendar for SSB contests (if that seems to be your preferred mode, like %99.9 of new hams these days). You'll make a ton of new & easy domestic and DX contacts.

Get started in learning the digital modes, start with PSK31 and RTTY. Software is free. You can build a simple interface with $5 of Radio Shack parts. Or you can try using VOX and no interface, but this sometimes causes audio problems. Just do a Google search in "getting started in PSK31" or "Getting started in digital modes". Any old windows computer will do, literally. My backup computer in the shack is a very old toshiba Pentium1 laptop with 32MB RAM running Windows 98. It will run %99 of all ham radio software. You can download and monitor digital signals just by connectiong a cable from your rig's audio out (speaker) to your sound car line in or mic in.(Turn audio wayyyy down). Download & install the software (Try Digipan first for PSK31)Tune to 14.069 LSB or thereabouts and look for the yellow lines on the watefall display. Click the cursor in the very narrow area between the lines, or as close toit as possible,and you will see clear text being pritnted out. PSK-31 is a great low power mode. I've worked almost 50 countries with 5 watts or less using a vertical antenna and a $100 rig I built from a kit.

Get and learn a good logging program. I think on QRZ you said you had HRD? (Great program, really a rig control program, but not my first choice for a newbie, but go for it!) Did you also download DM780? That will have the digital modes on it.
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K2DC
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« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2010, 12:35:29 PM »

Steve,

Congrats, and welcome to HF.  All the previous posts are good advice.  More generally:

1.  Listen, listen, listen and then listen some more.  Generally accepted operating practices can be quite different on HF than VHF/UHF.

2.  Read, read, read everything you can find and understand about antennas.  The more information you have, the better prepared you will be to make the next step.

3.  Ask a thousand questions.  You'll get a variety of answers to those questions, but trends in the answers will help you figure out what works the best for the most.  And remember, as long as you don't already know the answer, there's no such thing as a stupid question.  Don't be shy about it.

4.  If you aren't already a club member, find one and join.  There are a lot of experienced operators out there that will be happy to offer advice (some of it no good, but re-read #3).

5.  When you're ready, prepare well for your first antenna raising party.  Two or three pairs of experienced hands make a world of difference.  Think ahead about the tools and supplies you'll need.  And don't forget the beer and pizza for after your first QSO on the new antenna.

6.  Have all the fun you possibly can.

GL & 73,

Don, K2DC
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W0BTU
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« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2010, 01:08:30 PM »

Congratulations!

My only suggestion is this: when you get to the point when you can build your own antennas, feedline (open-wire line, at least), and some station equipment and amplifiers, you'll really find out what a thrill really is. And that thrill will be a deep-seated, warm fuzzy feeling that will surpass anything you've experienced so far.

73 Mike
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WT0A
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Posts: 922




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« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2010, 01:28:51 PM »

Hey, congrats. If you (or anybody else) want Ne for WAS I am usually on 40 m during the day. QRZ email good for email.
Glen WT0A
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K9FON
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Posts: 1012




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« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2010, 01:33:07 PM »

Great! Like someone else posted give PSK 31 a try! I love it! I have worked hams overseas with only 10 watts and a triband beam.
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K0UA
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Posts: 55




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« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2010, 03:30:00 PM »

Welcome aboard. If you have the interest, digital modes are really the best bet for lots of DX contacts with low power and modest antenna's. Ham Radio Deluxe is free and easy to hook up to your 450.  You can buy a pretty good interface for $100 or build one in an afternoon for $5-10 dollars for the audio/PTT portion. and a db9 to db9 straight cable for the control portion.  be sure to keep your audio transmit level low (no ALC indicated) which means about 25 watts output on that rig. and you can really work the world on PSK-31 with what you have.  I have a Ft-450 and an Icom 756pro3. I like them both and use both on digital and other modes.  Of course the advice about improving you antenna system is always good advice for all of us. It seems that 90% of Ham happiness is having a good antenna.  The rig does not matter near as much. 73 and hope to work you on any mode
Jim K0UA
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W7ETA
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Posts: 2527




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« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2010, 03:40:46 PM »

Normal basic stuff, digital multitester, 45 watt soldering iron, soldering stand, rosin core solder, "helping-hands" for soldering, a box that you can run multiple antennas into, wire to make antennas that might be better on one band than the one you bought.

Oh yea.  An aspirin based cream.  Having that BIG grin an you face for so long might make some muscles aches.

73
Bob
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K9FON
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Posts: 1012




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« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2010, 05:08:34 PM »

......And lots or wire, coax, plastic aluminum, junk CB antennas, ect, ect, ect to build all kinds of antennas to play with. I have all kinds of junk stashed here and there, he he.
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AD6KA
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Posts: 2238




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« Reply #13 on: April 08, 2010, 05:13:01 PM »

To Orignal Poster:

Besides all the antenna advise,
please learn how to *properly* install PL-259's onto coax yourself. You will save yourself a TON of money over buying premade jumpers. The markup on premade jumpers is INSANE, especially at the retail level. HRO sells a Cable Experts 3 foot RG8U jumper with connectors installed for $26.95. They sell the same plain coax for $1.59/foot and the connectors for $2.49 each. Do the math. 15 minutes work saves $20. Not to mention you can find the same coax and connectors much, much cheaper elsewhere.

To W7ETA:
GREAT advice about getting a DVM, soldering tools,
wire strippers, soldering vise,etc. I forgot about that stuff.
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W4VR
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« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2010, 05:57:17 PM »

Yeah!  Get yourself a good amplifier.  Then, you'll be able to keep the channel clear.  Congrats on the General.  Enjoy 40 meters...it's a great band.
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