Sunday, June 28, 2009

Field Day 2009

Over the 21 years that I've been a ham, one of my favourite activities has always been Field Day. Nothing seems to speak to the spirit of amateur radio better than a group of hams cooperating together to set up temporary stations in simulated emergency conditions. Then spend 24 hours with friends doing a little operating, a little socializing and enjoying some fine Field Day cuisine. Years back, I was the Field Day Manager for a club I was involved with and thoroughly enjoyed seeing things come together. In recent years my level of involvement has been limited by family and sometimes work concerns. This year, Murphy's Law again kicked in as an out-of-town family gathering meant I wasn't able to take part except for a few hours on the Saturday evening. None-the-less it was a blast and I'm doing my best to keep the calendar clear for next year.

Following are some images of the Field Day set up for VE3RL. For the past several years, local Field Day activities have been a cooperative effort between the Quinte Amateur Radio Club and the Prince Edward Radio Club.

In the past, the Field Day sites have been in various locations including a cabin at a conservation area, an old school house and last year in very comfortable digs at the administration building for the local conservation authority. This year the guys thought...hey, let's have "Field Day" in an actual field...what a concept! The land is owned by Eric VA3EP and located in a quiet spot of Prince Edward County near Picton, Ontario.

Brian VA3BRW was manning the digital station, primarily on RTTY. He was comfy in his modern and cosy camper trailer.
A bit of a fuzzy shot, but a close up of the neatly arranged digital operating station.

The 40-80 position was in a tent. Mike VE3OX owns the nice Vibroplex and was planning on running CW through the night. He was taking a break after a swarm of mosquitos invaded the tent.
The 20-15-10 station was located in a trailer previously used to transport racing motorcycles.

Inside the 20m trailer. Al VE3FZ on the mic with Bob VA3ACE logging.

All the essentials for Field Day operating...a computer for logging, HF Rig (Kenwood TS-2000 in this case) and an electronic mosquito zapper....oh and a bowl for the cherry pits.

The youngest operator at Field Day was Alex VA3UGT. He made a few contacts on 6m SSB with Eric looking on and Elmering.

The V/UHF station was housed in an old camper that Eric bought from a junk yard. It's now a nice little shack on wheels! Every ham needs one of these. The antennas included a square-shaped omni-directional 6-meter antenna, a small yagi for 2m and an omni vertical for 2 & 440. Looks there was also a dipole or windom for HF.

Yours truly on 6 meters, with Lee VA3LHM doing some manual logging. We had a good little run going for awhile as the band opened up nice towards the American west coast. Earlier in the day, Puerto Rico was worked on 6.

Eric had a pretty elaborate power supply system worked out for this station. If the generator quit, there would be no interruption of power.

The VHF station itself consisted of a Yaesu FT-857 for 6 & 2 meters SSB, while an FT-90 was standing by for any 2m FM activity.

The tri-bander raduating radio magic into the night.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

So many menus, so little time

Modern pieces of amateur radio equipment really are marvels aren’t they? I’ve just acquired a previously enjoyed Yaesu VX6R HT. While it’s a major upgrade from my 2 meter only FT-23R, it does take some serious time with the manual to start to understand some of the many features. The depth of complexity is similar to my FT-897, which was my first experience with menu driven radios. These transceivers have more menus than a Denny’s during a Shriners convention. There is no possible way you could memorize all the various settings, or the order of keystrokes to get some of the whiz-bang doo-dads operating. Sure, the functions you use day-to-day will soon come second nature, but suddenly have to change a CTCSS tone or create a new bank of memories and it’s back to the manual.

This isn’t a complaint (I know it sounds like one) as I realize in order to fit the amount of features into such a small package, menus are the only option. If these radios had a dedicated knob or button for every feature, your HT would be the size of a filing cabinet. Mind you it does annoy me a tad that the previously simple action of adjusting the squelch is no longer a simple twist of a dial, at least on the VX6R (I’d have to look up the process).

These are pretty darn cool radios, but I do kind of miss dials and switches. I still have my first HF rig, which isn’t quite a dinosaur as it is solid state, but it was manufactured back in 1982. Every function has either a dial or a switch, not a single menu to be found. Now, it’s a lot larger and heavier too but, frankly its size and array of knobs and switches, I think, makes it look more impressive.

I see one of the 73 menu options is to have the green/red Receive/TX LED glow a bright white to act as a small flashlight. Now THAT will be handy on those late-night walks with the dog when I need a light to find where the dog, errr….you know. Mind you it takes three key strokes and the twist of a dial to turn it on. Simplicity, thy name is not ham radio. Now…back to the manual.

What a modern HT would look like if someone hadn't figured out how to compact all those features into menus.