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Author Topic: Don't Ask / Don't Tell  (Read 5202 times)

RadioRay

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Don't Ask / Don't Tell
« on: November 03, 2014, 11:06:08 PM »
. . . or 'Why QRPers Should Remain in The Closet.'

-This Is Based on Using Morse Code (aka: CW) Because of It's Power Efficiency. -

There is a mistaken belief among many ham radio operators that power is everything, a tower will help a little' but you MUST have a lot of power, otherwise the other fellow 'is doing all the work'. How much power?  the Voice of America would sneer at 'only 1.5 KW' ; the maximum power allowed for ham radio operators in the United States.  Many foreign ham radio operator's have power limits based on modern equipment, not spark transmitters and and coherers... (look those bits of radio history up) with maximum legal limits of 400 Watts and even a 10 Watts beginner's licence.  I wish that ALL hams had a 10 Watt limit, but that's not going to happen.  Here is what I've often heard happen on the air when the other fellow finds-out that I am running QRP.

1.   We exchange the formatted pleasantries of QTH, RST, QTH and name. I receive a 569 or more from a fellow and give him a report of say 579 or even 589, if that is what his signal is.  He is tells ma all about his powerful rig and usually not much about his antenna.  We can talk for a long time, but when I get around to running QRP, suddenly it's all fading and etc. 

2.  As above, but I never mention the rig or power and the conversation continues normally.

3.  When I mention my rig and QRP, the other fellow is happily surprised and maybe asks more about my antenna and feedline, if he is really technically savvy.

4.  When I mention my rig and power, the other fellow(s) tell me that I am a liar, because they spent all this money on all this stuff so I MUST not be using low powered, relatively inexpensive equipment to talk with them, especially a simple homebrew rig. I had this happen when I was chatting with a fellow in Belize (SSB at 2 Watts) and a couple of gomers over 1,000 miles away from me were incensed, because they spent all this money on all this stuff' so they were screaming that there 'was no WAY that I was talking to him and' they' could not even hear him.


' If "ignorance is bliss", then why aren't there more happy people?

5.  Occasionally I mention the rig and power and the OTHER fellow let's on that he is also running QRP.  Never would have known, because they had a workable signal, then we both laugh.

I've tried explaining that propagation is first, antenna is second and power . . . down the hill from there, in importance.  Good filters and the knowledge to use them in important. I am horrified to find hams who spend a TON of money on rigs, yet, have no idea how to use their filters or make efficient antennas - then again, nobody ever showed them: multi-generational ignorance = expensive bliss.

Let me explain that I have no problem with people running 100 Watt rigs at 100 watts.  Turn it down to 75 or 50 and NOBODY is going to know the difference.  100 Watts reduced to 50 Watts is 1/2 S-unit on your S-meter; something your ear is not going to realize. However, it's heat for the finals/heatsink to dissipate, uses less juice.  Heck, I even homebrewed a fiddly, semi-stable HF amplifier for my QRP rig to drive.  It -allegedly- can run up to 140 Watts. Frankly, If I can't make it with 50, upping it to 140 is still under 1 S-unit on the other guy's receiver.

So, what think ye, fellow radio-lunatics? 


de RadioRay ..._  ._
« Last Edit: November 03, 2014, 11:10:29 PM by RadioRay »
"When we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can."  ~ Matthew Henry

underhill

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Re: Don't Ask / Don't Tell
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2014, 12:18:05 AM »
Have to agree on the power level concept.

I have been working a weekly sked for a while now with a station up in Nor Cal, north of Sacramento, I am in So Cal near Long Beach.  I set my rig to 20W (it's an ft-857D, with the 'brownwire' powercord mod, thinks it's an 897 on internal batts, max power is 20W wiht flip of a switch setting), and regularly receive 579 or 589's.

I set it at 20W max, as I have more to worry about in this than just qrp, like learning the rig controls, how to work the filtering to block out distractions on 40M at 20:00 local, sked time, how to work my key consistently, and just trying to understand enough to know what we're discussing, lol.  I figure, with skill might come finesse, lol.

He startd out at 100W when we started the sked, habit I guess, dropped down to about 50W after a while.  Couldn't hear the diff at my end, he is typ 579 to 589 into my station as well, whichever power.

I have a homemade wire dipole at about 30ft, in a somewhat twisted up, inverted V, to fit on my lot.  He has a similar antenna config.  Not really much at either end.  We are pointing broadside, more or less, at each other.

Well, few weeks back, he up and moved to northern central Idaho near CoerDelaine.  Sked restarted, I'm still at 20W, still receiving 579 or 589's.  He still booms in pretty good into my station , also 579, 589 typical. He's at 100W right now.  Bit more fluttery at times, prop is more in play now.  That's about the extent of it, doubled the miles and more, and really not much noticable change in the signal. 

Maybe one night, if I EVER devlop a better ear, I might drop to 10W... then 5W, lol.

Allan
« Last Edit: November 04, 2014, 12:26:48 AM by underhill »

gil

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Re: Don't Ask / Don't Tell
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2014, 12:20:31 AM »
Of course I couldn't agree more. I haven't had the same experiences, having encountered pretty much only the 599-73 type. It hasn't been long since I have been semi-fluent in Morse either; in great part thanks to Ray. My first radio was a DC20B, 500mW 20m crystal controlled rig. I never had any trouble making contacts. Then came a Rock-Mite and elecraft K1 at a whooping 5W!

I don't know how I came to QRP... I was looking for portable radios, and it seemed CW rigs were the smallest and thus were a natural choice. Never mind the Morse code :o

Back further, in the 80s, it was CB, and it seemed to work just find with a few Watts. There were guys running big amps but they bleeded all over the band and we didn't like them.

High power is not practical for portable or survival situations. Not only it isn't needed, as Ray points out, but it also consumes a lot of power you don't have in such circumstances. Recharging batteries is not trivial without grid power; carrying them isn't either. You are pretty much left with solar panels, which for the same reasons can't be very big.

My MTR can run for some time on a 9V battery! Yep, you read that right... The same kind you have in your alarm clock I can make 5000mi contacts using a 9V battery! Anyone who doesn't believe me can stop by my house, I'll show them. Not only that, it fits in a shirt pocket, battery included. The whole station fits in a coat pocket, including radio, battery, 40ft wire antenna and miniature key. I don't think you can get more efficient than that. That is the reason to learn Morse code, because for some applications, which we are mostly interested in, nothing can replace it. How much did I spend on that little MTR marvel? $1000? Nope, $600? Nope, $300? Nope, I paid $126, shipping included! I just had to build it over a week-end. A Rock Mite is $40 plus an altoids minds tin! You even get to eat the mints...

How much power is enough? In my experience, I would say 3W CW. Not sure about SSB, but 10W sounds about right. These are not minimums. Even 100mW will get you somewhere.

Ham radio is supposed to be there when everything else fails, right? Well, when grid power fails, the big guns won't be on the air very long at all. As long as my little 7W solar panel works, I will be listening and transmitting, possibly for a couple decades...

But hey, people want to spend thousands on amps and big complicated rigs, I say great, a lot of people's jobs depend on them. I find them useless and expensive, but that's me. I wouldn't dream of using more than a 100W ham radio. My most powerful rig is my KX3 at 12W.

In troubled times, you don't want to draw attention to yourself. A big tower will certainly do that. I much prefer my almost-invisible thin end-fed wire. A running generator insn't discreet either, but that's what it takes to run an amps without grid power. How do you hide a big boat anchor of a radio? How do you carry it if you are forced to travel on foot? This is a prepping blog after all, we have to think about such possibilities.

Why not go with the simplest, most portable and efficient radios right from the start?

Gil.

KK0G

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Re: Don't Ask / Don't Tell
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2014, 11:09:36 AM »
I'll admit that at one time I was part of the 100 Watt minimum crowd, although I never owned an amplifier. Back then QRP sounded interesting but definitely not practical. Then came the epiphany when I got hold of a real amplifier............ wow, it was so much easier to make contacts after that! Of course that amplifier was CW and all I had to do to use this new amp was learn Morse code. No box 1/4 the size of my desk creating enough BTU's to heat a small room, no running a dedicated 230V line from the breaker box to the shack, no beefed up feed lines, antenna tuners,  connectors and antennas to handle the increased power, no massive RFI wiping out the neighbors garage door and half the TV's in the neighborhood and on top of all that I didn't have to spend upwards of $3000 for just the amp alone not counting all the other accessories that go along with amp ownership.



Last year I sold my beloved 100 Watt Kenwood TS-2000 and replaced it with a 12 Watt, CW only Elecraft K2. Some folks said I was nuts for doing so but I couldn't be happier and don't regret my decision one bit. The only rig I have left capable of 100 Watts is an old Icom 735, I continue to keep it not because it will do 100 Watts, but because it's a decent general coverage receiver and truthfully it wouldn't have much value if I sold it anyway.



"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" - Benjamin Franklin

KK0G

vwflyer

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Re: Don't Ask / Don't Tell
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2014, 10:28:33 PM »
Quote
I wish that ALL hams had a 10 Watt limit, but that's not going to happen.

I guess I don't understand why you would care how much power they run if everything you say about how futile their expenditure on power is. You make the argument that you can do about as well as they can with your modest setup but if you can communicate as well as they can, then you have equal potential for interfering with them as well. It must not be interference that motivates your desire for more crippling regulations. Are you simply trying to help them by having the government protect them from foolish spending? I'm not trying to be a wiseguy. I'm genuinely interested in knowing why you wish this. I hate being regulated and so I don't wish further restrictions on anybody else.

gil

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Re: Don't Ask / Don't Tell
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2014, 10:40:29 PM »
Quote
I wish that ALL hams had a 10 Watt limit.

I wish that was a self imposed limit. Like hunting bears with a bow and arrow instead of a gun.. Big amps are a problem because they step over everyone else.. People probably mostly buy them for evil contesting. The thing is, there is a limit, it's 1500W. If we must have a limit, why is it 1500W and not 100W? Open for debate... I am always againts new regulations, but in this case, unlimited power would cause lots of trouble. Forget QRP operating in normal times then... Clearly, 1500W is more than a hundred times the maximum that could be needed for global range in almost all circumstances.

Gil.

vwflyer

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Re: Don't Ask / Don't Tell
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2014, 11:45:58 PM »
Quote
I wish that was a self imposed limit

Hi Gil,
I'm into self regulation as apposed to government regulation. I don't think we should ask other hams not to use high power though. I think we should just ask them to use it away from QRP frequencies. This means that hams would have to be educated about voluntary band plans. Make it a largish part of the General and Extra exams.  Ham magazines should talk about them in their publications. Every US licensed ham on the HF frequencies should know what frequencies are QRP, Digital, etc.

After all, if it is true that the antenna is more important than the rig's wattage, then we'd have to put stricter limits on antenna hight and gain as well as on how much juice they can suck. Personally, I like the option of using a lot of power. Yes, there are times when milliwatts will go as far as you need it to, but there are times when 100 watts wont. Propagation is king when it comes to range. When noise from thunderstorms and generally less than ideal conditions prevail, it takes massive multiples of power to bump up the s-units and compete with the atmospheric havoc. I don't have an amp. If I had the money I wouldn't buy one, I'd get a better antenna. Then if I still had more money yet, I would get a rig with more filters. If I still had lots of money left over, I'd consider getting an amp because after I've got my station as perfect and as efficient as it can be there will still be times when it's still not enough. When the conditions are so noisy and poor that the only ones heard on the band are the ones with the big stations. Sometimes I'd like to get on the air too when conditions are like that and talk to anybody else who has a station capable of it. We can't control the propagation beyond picking the best band for our time and desired range. And we can't always run out and hook up a better antenna when propagation isn't great. This leaves us with two options. Crank up the power and hope that cuts it or through in the towel for the night. Because it's just a hobby to me and I don't want to spend more money, I'm happy to just through in the towel but I wouldn't if I didn't have to.

gil

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Re: Don't Ask / Don't Tell
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2014, 01:53:11 AM »
Hello,

I can't say that sometimes an amp can't be useful. However, we are supposed to use just enough power to make a good contact. Too many hams just turn the amp on no matter what. I have had contacts with people running 500W and I was running 5W. Why couldn't they turn the knob down? It would have made no difference and I would have copied them just as well. An amp should be something you rarely turn on, only when you absolutely need it, IMHO.

If I ever own one, it will rarely be on, and only for urgent important contacts, like sailing and needing to report my position for instance.

Gil.

vwflyer

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Re: Don't Ask / Don't Tell
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2014, 02:27:37 AM »
I agree Gil. If I'm not mistaken, there is already a law in place that says we should use the least amount of power needed to conduct our communications. If we all just abided by the existing laws this conversation would never be taking place. It's kind of like proposing more gun laws when almost all crimes committed with a gun occurre after several existing gun laws are broken. Or making texting and driving laws when most states already have laws against wreckless driving and distracted driving.

Let's not cripple our hobby and our backup communication options because other people abuse their privileges. If people who can afford to have the big beams and power amps can still play ham radio and enjoy their hobby at times when the small fish like me are sidelined by poor conditions, I say more power to them (pun not intended).

RadioRay

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Re: Don't Ask / Don't Tell
« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2014, 09:40:15 AM »
VW -

Really - lighten-up. You should probably REread what I actually wrote, because most of what you are alarmed about, I never said and do not believe.

  This is a great forum, because of the people here, and you are part of this 'family'. You should probably get to know me, my postings and history before you try to read into what you think I must be saying.  Evidently you believe that my 'wish' has the power of legislation?  Thanks for the promotion, but I never said anything about having the politicians pass regulations or etc.  I'm completely against that. However, when I was campaigning for Emperor of Earth, I did get up to 9 votes! Several billion to go and I'm in. In the meantime, I believe that the world is safe from The Evil Emperor RadioRay.  However, be kind, or I'll send in my Air Force!



Feel the FEAR!  Moo-ha-ha-ha!


de RadioRay ..._  ._




« Last Edit: November 07, 2014, 11:11:23 AM by RadioRay »
"When we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can."  ~ Matthew Henry

gil

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Re: Don't Ask / Don't Tell
« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2014, 11:38:50 AM »
Quote
However, be kind, or I'll send in my Air Force!

You wouldn't want to get poked by one of those... :o

Gil.

vwflyer

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Re: Don't Ask / Don't Tell
« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2014, 02:03:09 PM »
Quote
You wouldn't want to get poked by one of those...
As if I didn't already have enough phobias you had to go and add another one.  ???

Hi Ray. I'm sorry I was such a meany. I wasn't trying to be. Please forgive me and please please don't launch the fleet!
I was playing the devil's advocate a bit. I've been hanging around and reading your stuff for a while now. You, Gil, KK0G, Cockpitbob, and a few others are the backbone of this forum and always have great posts. Ya'll pushed me over the edge to get into CW, QRP, and kitting and I can't thank ya'll enough! You guys are all very likeminded in that area so this is a pretty safe place to mount a short soap box on the subject and know you are preaching to the choir. I just thought I would see what would happen if I gave the other camp a little representation for a change. ::) I like a good civil debate. Just ask my wife. ;D I hate internet bar room brawls. Ironically, religious threads seem to be among the bloodiest, and always end in name calling and often death threats and banishment. Those are a waste of everybody's time and I'm glad they don't go on here. I'm glad that Gil holds the iron scepter and is not afraid to use it. 8) However, I think that a polite debate does more good than harm. Readers get a bigger picture and are exposed to the different trains of thought out there. Participants get a chance express their views in ways they didn't think of before and it helps them solidify their positions, or occasionally.... very occasionally, reconsider their positions.

I thought I would try it but I don't have your gift of making everything lighthearted and palatable so I should probably just leave well enough alone. So if you'll tell your pilots to stand down I promise to be nicer in the future. ;D

gil

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Re: Don't Ask / Don't Tell
« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2014, 02:50:05 PM »
Hello,

I don't think anyone here hates amps and big power.. If there was a shirt pocket size radio that put out 50W CW and sipped current on receive, I'd be the first one to buy it. I mentioned this in another post proposing such a rig. It wouldn't be hard to make. It just seems way overkill to use so much when little is enough. But hey, someone has to build those amps and that's more jobs. If only they were used more responsibly.

To my surprise I have become indeed, like the usual suspects here, a proponent of CW QRP, low-power Morse code for the uninitiated... It's just hard to ignore the efficiency and coolness factor, being able to make contacts with palm-size radios. That's why amps seem so incongruous.

Gil.

KK0G

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Re: Don't Ask / Don't Tell
« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2014, 03:27:40 PM »
vwflyer is correct and Ray is wrong. There, I said it and I damn well meant it! Besides, if Ray were emperor for a day he'd be nothing but a totalitarian dictator. Go ahead, send your air farce, I'm not scared. 8)


In all seriousness though, I know Ray's remarks were tounge in cheek and written in jest. If they were said in sincerity I probably would have beaten you to the punch vwflyer, because you're 100% correct.


I enjoy and welcome a good civil debate, especially on a topic I'm passionate about and many times I've played the role of devil's advocate. I've been a member of this forum since very shortly after it was created and I'd bet I've literally read every single post. We've had lots of disagreements and debates over that time and not once have I ever seen it turn into a insulting, name calling, pissing match. For that I'm grateful and is why I continue to hang out here, great group of people. The fact that most of us are very like minded helps but even still we'll never agree on everything. With all that said, I think contesting is the single greatest activity in amateur radio and I wish there were even more contests. (Ducking now 8) )
"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" - Benjamin Franklin

KK0G

RadioRay

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Re: Don't Ask / Don't Tell
« Reply #14 on: November 07, 2014, 03:38:51 PM »
KK0G - How DARE you cross The Emperor RadioRay?!?!?   I'm sending in the heavies. You are TOAST!

« Last Edit: November 07, 2014, 05:01:41 PM by RadioRay »
"When we cannot do the good we would, we must be ready to do the good we can."  ~ Matthew Henry