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Author Topic: I'm a heretic! I participated in a contest.  (Read 7830 times)

raybiker73

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I'm a heretic! I participated in a contest.
« on: September 17, 2013, 08:17:09 PM »
Now, before you all get fired up and head out to fetch the stake and the tinder and the kerosene, hear me out. Like many of you here, I am into CW at QRP power levels, but I have always wondered, if TSHTF, how effective communication could really be for the average ham, who is used to running QRO or at least 100 watts sideband voice.

What precipitated this was a conversation I had with an OM last week about amplifiers. Nice guy, good friend, but he doesn't even check into a local net with less than 800 watts. His argument is that he has a relatively low antenna (a dipole at 40 ft), and that with only 100 watts, he can't easily get DX. I didn't bother trying to disabuse him of the notion, because for all I knew, he was right. He's got DXCC using his kilowatt, and the most steam I can get behind a sideband transmission is 100 watts. And, to be honest, that 100 watts hasn't gotten me much in the way of sideband DX.

But it made me think. I'm pretty comfy running CW/QRP, but the vast majority of hams out there are strictly sideband and at least 100 watts. How effective would the average ham's setup be in a SHTF situation.

Conveniently, this past weekend was the WAE DX contest, which, if you turned on a rig at all, you heard EVERYWHERE. I swear to God they hoovered up every last hertz they could find. So, I set my Icom IC-7200 to full output (100 watts, using a W5GI dipole at only 35 feet), grabbed an empty logbook page, and went to work looking for other countries calling "CQ contest."

Very simple contest rules. Exchange callsign, signal report and the number of the station in your contest log. The first station I ran across was in Germany. "WA3PRR, 5-9, zero zero one."  In return, I heard, "5-9, zero zero one, Roger. 5-9, six eighty three." Good contact, no problems. Then Spain, good contact, no problems. Then Portugal, then Germany again, then Netherlands. No problems.

So, I cranked it back to 75 watts. No problems.

Then, 50 watts. No problems. You're seeing a pattern by now.

I got in on the last day of the contest, so I didn't have a whole lot of time. By the time I was done, I was down to around 35 watts, and in that six or seven hours I had 86 good contacts with everywhere from the Azores to European Russia on 15, 20, 40 and even 80 meters.

If I get on now and call "CQ DX" at 100 watts, I'll probably get nothing, but a million contesters who wanted me for their logs could hear me just fine at 35 watts.

The lesson to take away from this is that you don't NEED to run a kilowatt-and-a-half to be heard. They can hear you just fine at low power, if they WANT to hear you. And if TSHTF, they will want to hear you. So go spend your amplifier fund on ammo or something.  :)

cockpitbob

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Re: I'm a heretic! I participated in a contest.
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2013, 08:33:58 PM »
It's OK.  All things in moderation...including moderation. ::)
 
I'll confess to having participated in a couple contests myself.  Mainly to stretch my legs and get some real exercise.  Especially when you are starting out it's a great way to get experience and learn what you and your rig are capable of (35W SSB Dx).

RichardSinFWTX

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Re: I'm a heretic! I participated in a contest.
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2013, 09:07:32 PM »
Once I get my FT-857, hopefully the end of the month, I might see what all the hubbub is about with contesting.  I went out to my first Field Day this year; but it was more about getting out of the house and hanging out with other hams.


gil

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Re: I'm a heretic! I participated in a contest.
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2013, 09:29:33 PM »
Interesting experiment with SSB. 5W CW should be equal to 100W SSB, theoretically.. Now you need to wash your hands with an bacterial soap, open your radio and short every single capacitor to make sure none of the contesting electrons remaining in the rig..

Gil.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2013, 11:47:17 PM by gil »

Archangel320420

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Re: I'm a heretic! I participated in a contest.
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2013, 11:15:23 PM »
One thing about SHTF senerios. There will not be too many radio signals on the air if The Grid goes down. No computers, no machines in businesses running, no electric fences, no TV birdies,  no welding, no drills, no grinders, etc. The QRP signal should do very well indeed in such Quiet conditions, don't you think?

gil

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Re: I'm a heretic! I participated in a contest.
« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2013, 11:48:05 PM »
Yep, certainly no battery guzling amps!
Gil.

KC9TNH

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Re: I'm a heretic! I participated in a contest.
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2013, 07:59:23 AM »
One thing about SHTF senerios. There will not be too many radio signals on the air if The Grid goes down. No computers, no machines in businesses running, no electric fences, no TV birdies,  no welding, no drills, no grinders, etc. The QRP signal should do very well indeed in such Quiet conditions, don't you think?
Depends perhaps if the regime helping the peasants through SHTF imposes a blackout as was done during WW-II. 'SHTF' is a pretty big umbrella.

And since it gets discussed here from time to time, here's a link to the old DoD/DoE study about effects of nuclear weapons. Individual chapters are hyperlinked for download if you want, Chapters 10 & 11 being interesting:

http://www.fourmilab.ch/etexts/www/effects/

The above study has some interesting comments as to what is more & less likely to be affected with specific discussion of EMP.

Contesters have their privileges & avocation too and are a cross-section of humanity, some with more character than others. (I do agree that if distance & bandwidth economy is what one is after CW is still the most efficient use of carrier.)

As I've mentioned, if you can find someone who can give you an HONEST signal report, they can be useful in antenna testing. (I don't own a UAV to which I can attach a field-strength meter, dang.)
 ;D

Geek

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Re: I'm a heretic! I participated in a contest.
« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2013, 09:00:20 AM »
One thing about SHTF senerios. There will not be too many radio signals on the air if The Grid goes down. No computers, no machines in businesses running, no electric fences, no TV birdies,  no welding, no drills, no grinders, etc. The QRP signal should do very well indeed in such Quiet conditions, don't you think?

We're back to the assumption as to what a disaster situation looks like.  During Sandy, which really knocked out power around here, most of the repeaters were up most of the time.  In addition, it seems HAMs locally may have a generator or they may have a 12v battery, but they are far more likely than the average homeowner to have something in the way of backup power.

Even if we are talking TEOTWAWKI, we may be looking at something like a Pandemic, and the grid may not be down.

I think the contest described was a very good test and I am pleased to hear the results.

gil

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Re: I'm a heretic! I participated in a contest.
« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2013, 09:39:18 AM »
Quote
most of the repeaters were up most of the time.

Sure, but for how long? In some situations it would be unlikely after a week. Not to mention the risk of getting to a repeater site because of prowling looters. That's why a tiny CW rig will always be useful in a long drawn situation. Or at least something like an MFJ-94XX, which does have a CW optional module as well.

Gil.

RichardSinFWTX

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Re: I'm a heretic! I participated in a contest.
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2013, 10:03:03 AM »
Hams and other folks may have generators; but in a true WROL or SHTF situation they may be leery of using them.  Nothing screams out, "I've got power!  Come knock me in the head and take my stuff!" more than the sound of a generator running.  Batteries combined with wind or solar will certainly draw less unwarranted attention.

I do see the merits of things like ARRL Field Day and contests, if they are taken seriously.  Too many hams see them as a reason to get out of the house and play with their radios without the wives nagging at them.  Plus, I wish there was something like Field Day; but a LOT longer, something to truly test the capabilities of both the ham and his/her equipment short of a full-blown disaster. 

When I was in the Army, '88 to '92, I used to go out on 6 week rotations to Hohenfels and Grafenwoehr in Germany.  While there's no way any of us (myself included) can do a 6 week field problem, how 'bout one week strictly off the grid?

Just a thought... ;D

gil

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Re: I'm a heretic! I participated in a contest.
« Reply #10 on: September 18, 2013, 10:10:45 AM »
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how 'bout one week strictly off the grid?

http://radiopreppers.com/index.php/topic,407.0.html

More "weeks off the grid" soon as temperatures will be going down (a little) here in Florida..

Gil.

RichardSinFWTX

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Re: I'm a heretic! I participated in a contest.
« Reply #11 on: September 18, 2013, 10:12:52 AM »
Yeah, I hear ya!  We've finally got a decent chance of rain here in DFW for the first time since May or June coming up tomorrow and the next day.

I grew up down around Houston...100 degrees with 90% humidity!  Niiiiiiiice!   :o

gil

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Re: I'm a heretic! I participated in a contest.
« Reply #12 on: September 18, 2013, 10:37:43 AM »
And lightning storms every day, which is disquieting when you have a 40ft. wire up a tree near the tent..

Gil.

KC9TNH

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Re: I'm a heretic! I participated in a contest.
« Reply #13 on: September 18, 2013, 11:10:46 AM »
Repeater sites vary. Even up here most of the guv-supported repeater sites have some natural gas-fed generator backup; major infrastructure issues would have to be in play on a scale likely larger than a localized or township type situation. Amateur-owned sites are different, and vary widely, from UPS or generator (which would still have to fired up unless someone wired it otherwise) to nothing. I think there's a much more likely looting potential for the local CO-OPs and convenience-store chains with their stocks of ready LP canisters than someone menacing a repeater site at a rural hilltop location.  A move specifically against an amateur repeater site would indicate (to me) there is something else in play.

As to what to carry, use what you need to talk to who you need to (and listen for what you need), based on what they have as well. If the common piece of the puzzle is down for everyone you talk to than you either go to Plan B or drive-on for awhile with what your other priorities are like, perhaps, eating, drinking & shelter, and defending same.

QRP CW outfits are wonderfully small now, however if CW-only they are of limited utility in many types of situations. The good side is they are portable & sustainable enough that they can go along with something else just as portable that may be more universally usable to satisfying one's human informational needs.

It all starts with answering some really basic questions in an honest fashion.  :)



Geek

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Re: I'm a heretic! I participated in a contest.
« Reply #14 on: September 18, 2013, 11:56:07 AM »
Quote
most of the repeaters were up most of the time.

Sure, but for how long? In some situations it would be unlikely after a week. Not to mention the risk of getting to a repeater site because of prowling looters. That's why a tiny CW rig will always be useful in a long drawn situation. Or at least something like an MFJ-94XX, which does have a CW optional module as well.

Gil.

I am not arguing that tiny CW rigs are not useful.  I am suggesting that we don't leap to extremes in thinking of disasters.  During Sandy the repeaters were pretty good throughout the event, which lasted more than a week.  Some areas were without power for multiple weeks. 
With the exception of a couple beach communities, looters were not an issue.  Fallen trees were the major impediment to getting around.

My point is that while many on this site enjoy the CW QRP approach, that doesn't render everything else useless.  In fact the results of the OP's contesting showed that he could accomplish a lot with 35 watts, which is not much except by the standard being set by the CW QRP fans.

I admit I am still new at this, but I've experienced hurricanes, a tornado, earthquakes, blackouts, and I was inside the WTC on 9/11.  In all of those situations I would have benefited from a simple VHF HT, probably more than from a CW QRP rig.

I am always interested in learning more but it seems to me the point here is you can do a lot on phone with 35 watts.  I think that is good news.

Radio Preppers

Re: I'm a heretic! I participated in a contest.
« Reply #14 on: September 18, 2013, 11:56:07 AM »