Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Solidarity Today

Despite continued poor 20m band conditions I had a wonderful time today with Solidarity

Minutes after turning on the rig this morning, I heard WA0ITP/QRP from Iowa (1645km) calling me right "on-sked." We had a short but nice QSO with 559/339 reports. Thanks again, Terry!

Shortly afterwards, W7CNL replied to my CQ; giving me my best DX of the day (3658km). Jack was running a Corsair at 90w from nearly across the continent. He wrote a follow-up email in which he reported hearing Solidarity's 40mW signal several times last week.

I next had a short QSO with K4FH (1466km) in Buford, GA with 569/339 reports. In a follow-up email Chris says he worked me on his indoor attic loop antenna. Wow! 

My fourth QSO was with W8FS (888km) with 579/339 reports. He was running a Kachina at 70w into a TA33 Yagi.

The fifth contact was with with the well-known Arkansas QRPer, WA5BDU (1992km). The reports were 449 reports both way. Nick was running his Elecraft K3 at 5w into a tribander Yagi.

Number six, was WA8REI (914km) with 559/529 reports. Ken was running 5w to a Hustler vertical. Ken sent, "40MW IS THE LOWEST PWR I HVE EVER WRKD." I'm always happy to hear that!

W4FOA (1486km) answered my call for QSO number seven, and an incredible 579/579 exchange! Tony remembered me from our voice-powered New England Code Talker QSO last year. Today he sent, "FB MIKE SOLID ARMCHAIR CPI."

My 8th and final QSO of the day was with WA9ETW (1362km) with 559/529 reports.

All but the first QSO was made by calling CQ, although WA0ITP and W4FOA were kind enough to SPOT me. Calling CQ is probably the most difficult way to garner a QRPp contact, but with a rock-bound transmitter there's little else to do but cross your fingers and begin "bleating!"

Again, the conditions were generally poor again today with most everyone complaining about the high QRN. Peter, DL3PB, reported the signals coming across from North America today on 20m were rather anemic. Indeed, the only DX station that I heard was a weak ZS2 station from South Africa. Taking this into account I'm just shy of ecstatic over my results today with 40mW and three pencil tubes. Thanks fellas! 

Speaking of pencil tubes, I came across an interesting passage the other day on the history of Raytheon subminiature tubes; such as the one used in Solidarity's transmitter.

"Prior to the war he [Percy L. Spencer] had experimented with developing subminiature tubes so that he could make a radio-controlled airplane model for his sons. These tubes ended up playing a crucial role in the development of a proximity fuse detonator..." Raytheon Company: The First Sixty Years; Earls and Edwards

The development of the proximity fuse tube was anything but a one-man, or even a one-company effort (the engineers at Sylvania Electric, among others, made important contributions) Still, I hadn't realized the degree to which Percy Spencer was involved in this project. 

Raised a poor Maine farm boy; lacking even a diploma from grammar school, Percy went on to become an innovative inventor and a leading designer of vacuum tubes.  As one MIT physicist reputedly quipped, "...he could make a working tube out of a sardine can." 


Please click here to download the twelve-page, Raytheon Commercial and Military Subminiature Tube Catalog for 1961.

Writing from the Baykonur Space Port, Alexander, UA9LAK/UN7 (aka UA3VMC) kindly reports

"These tubes using rod electrodes were designed for use in particularly harsh environments. They were used in military equipment (and according to some, even in on-board satellite equipment, etc.)

I also have a surplus emergency  radio - of the kind used by stranded airmen and sailors - that uses tubes of this type. These tubes were also used in mobile VHF and HF radios."

On Alexander's website I found this lovely QRP Verse

...И поэтому ручку настройки
Я вращаю на ту частоту,
Где такие, как я, собираются
Чтобы сделать доступней мечту.

Вот сидит под своею антенной
Мой пока незнакомый собрат,
У которого "мелкий" трансивер
И в антенне все те же пять ватт.

Побеседуем, если удастся
Злых помех нам толпу победить,
Попрощаемя и "разбежимся"
Вновь к ДХ-ам дорожки тропить.

....Пожелать остается терпенья
Тем, кто сможет в нелегкой борьбе
До ДХ-а в толпе "достучаться"
И сказать гордо: "Я - QRP!"

There beneath his antenna 
Sits my brother still unknown
And his small transceiver
The same QRP as mine


  1. Mike

    Your projects are always a treat...

    Here is a link to an interesting discussion about the development of the proximity fuse.



  2. Thanks for the very interesting link, OM!

    Mike, AA1TJ