I passed my Technician class exam on 7/6/2019 after decades of sporadic activity on the fringes of amateur radio. I started, as many do, monitoring SW radio as a kid and that drove interest in the technical aspects of radio and antennas. Finding and monitoring number stations and other unusual activity became my primary interest. I built some simple kits and antennas which was pretty common even in school in the 60s and 70s. I’ve also left more than one junk shop or garage sale with an ancient SW radio or transceiver. I didn’t know much about electronics but I was able to get a few working with some easy fixes. I was also an avid scanner listener until the rush to digital/encryption in many areas, and the move to web based monitoring, sort of took most of the fun out of it.
Work has taken me to some interesting places including a stint at NASA’s Johnson Space Center where I was a Field Engineer for the Shuttle Training Aircraft Program and Webmaster for the Space Shuttle Program office in the early days of the web. As an entrepreneur in the late 90s I worked with a partner to jump into the software side of the first wireless PDAs where we built handheld score tracking systems for the PGA tour and built software that allowed us to send commands to a satellite from a wireless Palm Pilot in NASA’s JSC Mission Control. I moved to the Bay Area in October 2018 to pursue a new project and it keeps me quite busy. Amateur radio is a welcome and productive distraction – when I have the time.
Current Amateur Radio Activity
The shack is pretty sparse but it will grow. I spend most of my time on a Yaseu FTM-400XDR paired with a MFJ-1521 antenna (via a 50′ run of DX Engineering 400MAX PL-259 Low-Loss 50-ohm Coax). It’s a 50W radio with an improvised tripod setup on the balcony for the antenna but it gets out. I have the 400 and a front firing speaker mounted in TAC-COMM TRC-1. I’ll be adding a battery behind the speaker soon to make the entire package mobile.
I also have a Yaesu FTM-7250DR stored away that is programmed programmed with the Santa Clara County OES ARES/RACES Frequency List, 2m/70cm simplex frequencies, and some of my favorite regional repeaters. It’s sort of an emergency backup should that be needed.
Power is supplied by a MFJ-4245MV. A smaller and lighter tripod for the antenna is also on order. That will make the entire setup easy to break down and reassemble when I want to take it to interesting places. Portability is going to be a key driver for me even as I expand into HF.
I also have a Yaesu FT-60R with a Diamond SRH77CA antenna with most repeaters within 100 miles, simplex frequencies, and ARES/RACES channels programmed. I enjoy hacking around with APRS and I do have a Mobilinkd TNC3 that I occasionally pair with it.
I also have a RTL-SDR Blog V3 which is fun but a little antenna challenged. I occasionally try out various web SDRs too.
I probably spend 20% of my time playing with EchoLink and Wires-X. It may be “cheating” from an RF purist’s viewpoint but it’s still great fun and allows you to make and maintain contacts that would otherwise be either impossible or cost prohibitive.
- Foothills Amateur Radio Society (FARS)
- South Bay Amateur Radio Association (SBARA)
- Alphabet Amateur Radio Club (K6GGL)
Pretty much all of it. APRS, ADS-B, SOTA, QRP, and playing around with various digital modes and internet gateways are near term interests. I’d also like to play around with 2m DX. I really want to learn how to make the most efficient use of limited power and antenna options since I am likely to have constraints there for some time. Plus, I just like the idea of being able to take my gear virtually anywhere.
I do also plan to get involved in my local ARES/RACES groups in a couple of months. I’ve lived through several hurricanes so I know how impactful hams can be during emergencies.
I’m hoping to take the General exam before September 2019.