Celebrating the 95th Anniversary of the First Transatlantic Ham Radio Contact

Bear with me, this is a slightly opinionated, philosophical post.

95 years ago today, Minton Cronkhite, 1BCG, and Paul Godley, 2ZE, shared the first recorded transatlantic communication between Connecticut and Scotland. It was a historical technological achievement that ham radio brought to the table that lead to today’s communication infrastructure.

It’s 2016, and we’re working all the national parks….so that’s pretty cool.

But what technological advancement have we made in the last decade? Is radio a solved problem? Maybe it is…

On /r/amateurradio a young twentysomething shared his views on hams who cling onto old, antiquated systems and methodologies in lieu of the lack modern software adaptations. It got over 350 comments from both sides – other twentysomethings like myself agreeing with a lot of it, and oldersomethings asking OP to take a breath and get over himself. The polarization was very interesting but it sort of worried me that a lot of people aren’t getting the message: the lack of modern in ham radio.

I took a quick stock of my friends in ham radio. I have very few friends in the older generation; only a handful of what I call classic hams – those who enjoy DXing, ragchewing, listening to the bands, contesting, hanging out on repeater nets and the like. My friends are much younger, and they’re doing way less of that stuff. Contesting still remains, but there aren’t as many actually talking on radios.

When was the last time I talked on a radio when I wasn’t contesting? Probably when I was working on a mesh antenna installation with SLSRC. Aside from driving, before then I can’t recall a time I just hopped on the radio to chat. I mainly get on the radio to contest.

Soooo…what are we millennials and younger doing?

We’re being hackers, engineers, leaders, developers, creators, and designers. We’re doing things like FaradayRF, HamSCI, Collegiate Amateur Radio and other STEM Initiatives, YOTA, Phasing Line Podcast, High Altitude Ballooning and education, we’re updating APRS and modernizing ham radio networks and modernizing contesting. These are all new and novel things to help usher in a new generation of radio amateurs.

We’ve been using ham radio ideas and methodologies for remote control, for tracking planes on ADS-B, for receiving weather satellite data, and for homebrew RADAR.

We’re not Bell Labs but we’re still doing some pretty cool stuff.

We’re also listening and watching WAAAAY more media. Ham Radio 360 + WorkBench, 100 Watts and A Wire, Ham Nation, Solder Smoke, and tens of thousands of YouTube channels. Can’t forget Last Man Standing.

And we’re also complaining on the internet, being entitled, whiny millennials. lol.

The main brunt of ham radio (1.0) is still, and for a long time will be repeaters, ragchewing, special events, and emcomm, and these things will always have their place.

But what are we doing to help move ham radio, and radio communications in general forward? What are we collective doing to make ourselves modern? What are we doing to continue the legacy of amateur radio?

So maybe radio is a solved problem, and there’s not much more we hams can do to advance the art and science of radio. I mean our next venue of research is in quantum communications, and I don’t see a whole lot of hams building quantum teleporters in their garage…

But that doesn’t spell the doom of ham radio, by any means.

Ham radio is still an incredible tool for teaching electronics, geography, engineering, and design. It’s a playground for development in other areas, like modern mesh networking, datalinks, remote control and the like. That’s in part what our spectrum is for: wireless experimentation. And that philosophy must be embraced by all radio amateurs. We cannot forget our history or else we shall have no future.

I propose a call to action to promote the technological advancement of the hobby and wireless communication.

I urge software developers to be more open to open source to develop a community of programmers. Ego and pride is hurting and slowing development. One can still sell a product for a profit and be open source. Closed source and proprietary information has no place in ham radio. There is the obvious exception with commercial entities – ICOM, Kenwood, Yaesu, etc – but if you’re building a balloon tracker, a ham radio logger, or an APRS widget, what in the world are you doing keeping it closed source? If you want to make a profit, sell complete units and kits, sell .EXEs and support, and sell ads, but try to keep your source code, schematics, and documentation open source so as to let growing developers and engineers contribute. There isn’t enough opportunity in ham radio as it is, and this is something we should be leading the electronics hobby by example. Join the /r/hamdevs community on reddit and help out!

We also need to standardize some platforms, like github, and try to fight at fragmentation. Some people will post their source on Git, others will post it on their grandmas self-hosted home server, and others all over the place. So again, check out /r/hamdevs.

I urge ARRL, IARU, and your local radio club to continue and grow whatever it is you respectively do in promoting the technological art of the hobby and continue to grow your support for youth and schools, whether it be donations of money or equipment, grants, or volunteering your time. I really want to see the higher-level organizations like IARU and the ARRL renew focus on fostering the next generation. ARRL is pushing ahead with Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative (which at this time isn’t clear on what their action is other than saying stuff, which in itself has caused a surge in collegiate activity on the facebook page and Groupme chat), the ARRL Foundation, and continuing support of Education and Technology. They’re leading by example of what your local club should do too. Support your local college, school, hackerspace, even library – coordinate a high altitude balloon launch, a foxhunt, an ISS contact, a license class or go do something entirely different.



Phasing Line Podcast Episode 2: We’re Sweeping Up After Sweepstakes

Two thousand downloads what what what holy crap! I never would have imagined…that’s awesome! Thank you all for listening! 😀

Since this seems like it’s a pretty cool thing, we’ve decided to keep doing it and have released another episode. Marty and I ramble on about sweepstakes, contesting, operating massive stations, YOTA, college ham radio, etc. Et Cetera is kinda the main theme of this podcast…

Marty did most of the editing and I tried to spend less time mastering it than the last one, which took me about 8 hours straight to get all the levels and EQ just right. This time, didn’t do any of that. And it still sounds pretty alright! Adobe Audition is so much better than Audacity at quickly editing, trimming, and mastering audio, all collaboratively, plus I’m still technically a student so $20/month is killer for Creative Cloud! #iamashill

I’m working on problems with Stitcher and iHeartRadio but feeds are working fine on iTunes, Pocketcasts, Overcast, YouTube, RSS and at http://phasinglinepodcast.com.

I’m super pumped at the next few episodes – we already have a few guests lined up and some exciting news in the world of ham radio’s next generation.

So somewhere towards the end of this ep is a massive plug to give us money, and we both feel like we have to explain ourselves a lot because it’s like, the second episode and we’re already begging for your change. Well. Stuff’s not free. 🙁 But we think we provide value to you that is worth not only your download but your (voluntary) dollar. That said, we’ll never make this a for-profit pay-to-play show, and we’ll also refrain from extensive adverts and ridiculously long and annoying solicitations. We’ve got better things to talk about!

We’ve set up a Patreon account for listeners to contribute to the show so we can keep it up. Patreon is basically a fancy facade for Paypal, that lets us host rewards for your contributions. Marty has some t-shirts that need giving away!

Click the logo to go to the Phasing Line Patreon.
Click the logo to go to the Phasing Line Patreon.

Web hosting, Libsyn, email accounts, online storage, and Adobe Creative Cloud (we use Adobe Audition to collaboratively edit, and it saves us a whole heck of a lot more time than using Audacity) all told cost us about $50 a month. We’ve got a goal of only $30 a month. If we can’t recoup the costs, that would suck. The show will go on, but we’ll have to be creative in how we do stuff since we’re pulling all the nice things out for Phasing Line, but it would ultimately limit the growth of the show. 🙁

So, with 2000 downloads, we feel that at least a few of you would be willing to throw us a few coins. 🙂

Speaking of coin, if you prefer bitcoin: 1LCmJSb3CSdJSxEFdghRpSCC59gJq5HD5u

Disclaimer: We will be thoroughly open, honest and genuinely transparent regarding any contributions made to the show. All contributions will be read out on the show unless you wish to remain anonymous.



Phasing Line is a Success, Sweepstakes Too

Phasing Line Is a Hit!

Our first episode of The Phasing Line Podcast was a hit. People really seem to love the new style – at least maybe our target demographic does (younger people, sub age 40, who are already a little experienced in ham radio). I’m excited for episode 2 – if we can find the time to record. I want to shoot for a biweekly release date but Marty and I have tumultuous schedules, so that is TBD. I do want to say we are planning an interview with a rising ham, so that will be exciting!

The big takeaway from the first episode was to avoid interruptions, so that will be fixed. Marty and I both think faster than we can speak too, and the fast-paced topic jumping with tons of tangents can be decisive – some like it, some don’t. We’ll be fine tuning the podcast as it goes on.

But it was such a success that it sparked interest in an old podcast I co-hosted, the Youth in Amateur Radio Podcast (YARP). 18-year old Jacob Keogh KDØNVX has taken the lead and re-branded it to The Noisy Key (jealous of that name) which will probably be a round-table similar to ICQ podcast, perhaps a bit more focused on a single or few topics, unlike the unfiltered consciousness which is The Phasing Line. All of which is to be determined as they work bringing the first episode.

Sweepstakes at WØEEE

WØEEE had another clean sweep during the ARRL SSB Sweepstakes. I came down to help educate and train new guys on HF contesting, spending a lot of time on a whiteboard.

Here’s an album. Click on the photos to make them bigger:

All that mattered (aside from getting the sweep) was that everyone had a ton of fun. It was really great how many people showed up, showed interest, logged, and got on the air. We made 227 QSOs in all 83 sections, so we didn’t really shoot for high numbers, and our antenna system got us down, but it was still a lot of fun. I also got to work Marty twice, lol!

We had to break out the amp for the last two sections of the sweep – PAC (pacific, aka Hawaii) and AK (Alaska). They were working huge pileups since they came on very late in the contest. But, we didn’t have an interface with the FT-897…so I had to do it manually, without ALC. Luckily the SB-220 has a soft-key relay that lets you use a simple switch to key the amp instead of 120V – that would have fried everything!

It worked! Not sure how bad the signal was coming out of the amp, but I drove it clean and it seemed to be linear, haha!

WØEEE Score Summary:

Operator(s) : N0SSC, AA0RN, N0SFK, KE0CFK, Alex Hoeft

Operator Category : MULTI-OP
Assisted Category : ASSISTED
Band : ALL
Power : HIGH
Mode : SSB
Default Exchange : S 31 MO
Gridsquare : EM47CW
Name : Missouri S&T ARC
Address : 301 W 16th St
City/State/Zip : Rolla  MO  65409
ARRL Section : MO
Club/Team :
Software : N1MM Logger+ 1.0.5982.0
Band QSOs Pts Sec Pt/Q
3.5 109 218 26 2
7 60 120 25 2
14 52 104 29 2
21 6 12 3 2
Total 227 454 83
Score : 37,682
Rig : FT-897
Antennas : 80m trapped dipole, 40m dipole, 80m OCFD windom 20′ above ground
Breakdown by Operator
Operator 80m 40m 20m 15m Total  Accum
AA0RN 57 23 6 86 86
ALEX 3 3 6 92
KE0CFK 18 6 24 116
N0SFR 10 10 126
N0SSC 24 34 37 6 101 227
Total 109 60 52 6 227 227
W0EEE Max Rates:
2016-11-20 0612Z – 2.0 per minute  (1 minute(s)), 120 per hour by AA0RN
2016-11-20 0623Z – 1.2 per minute  (10 minute(s)), 72 per hour by AA0RN
2016-11-20 0657Z – 0.7 per minute  (60 minute(s)), 40 per hour by AA0RN KE0CFK
W0EEE – Off Times >= 30 Minutes
2016-11-19 2100Z – 2016-11-19 2105Z     00:06  (6 mins)   (Start late)
2016-11-20 0328Z – 2016-11-20 0357Z     00:30  (30 mins)
2016-11-20 0847Z – 2016-11-20 1450Z     06:04  (364 mins)
2016-11-20 1509Z – 2016-11-20 1609Z     01:01  (61 mins)
2016-11-20 1734Z – 2016-11-20 1817Z     00:44  (44 mins)
2016-11-20 1859Z – 2016-11-20 1939Z     00:41  (41 mins)
2016-11-20 1941Z – 2016-11-20 2022Z     00:42  (42 mins)
2016-11-20 2138Z – 2016-11-20 2215Z     00:38  (38 mins)
2016-11-20 2312Z – 2016-11-21 0243Z     03:31  (211 mins)
Total Time Off 13:57  (837 mins)
Total Time On 15:47  (947 mins)
W0EEE Runs >10 QSOs:
2016-11-20 0602 – 0724Z,    3671 kHz, 51 Qs, 37.0/hr AA0RN
2016-11-20 0807 – 0824Z,    3804 kHz, 14 Qs, 50.7/hr N0SSC


Thanks for reading! I will follow up this with a post detailing some ideas for college clubs to increase activity, and some ideas for contest coordinators to make contests better for school clubs and younger people as well.