Issue #115 - Web Version
No-Code Lobbying Effort a Surprising Success
The government of New Zealand has made a decision to actively seek the suppression of RR 2735, the international regulation that requires Morse code proficiency for amateurs licensed to operate below 30 mc. The next ITU World Radio Conference will be held between October 23 and November 17, 1995 in Geneva. These conferences are now regularly scheduled every two years, unlike previous conferences, which occurred every decade or two, whenever the international community felt there was a need.
The New Zealand government believes the minimum required amateur radio operator qualification guidelines should only read: "Administrations shall take such measures as they judge necessary to verify the operational and technical qualifications of any person wishing to operate the apparatus of an amateur station."
Interestingly, the International Amateur Radio Union took the position at a meeting held in Singapore last fall that there should be no change in the international Morse code requirements. This decision was based on the work of the IARU CW Ad Hoc Committee, chaired by Fred Johnson, ZL2AMJ, an IARU Region 3 Director. Dave Sumner, K1ZZ, IARU Secretariat represented Region 2, and John Allaway, G3FKM, Region 1.
The New Zealand government was repeatedly "briefed" at great length by ORACLE, an acronym for the Organization Requesting Alternatives by Codeless Examinations, Inc. A stated objective in their constitution is to lobby for a change RR 2735 and for alternative tests to Morse code. ORACLE made several written presentations to New Zealand's National Radio Policy manager and their Minister of Communications. Their position was that the Morse requirement existed to "deliberately limit progress in amateur radio." When Morse testing is eliminated as a requirement, they say "it will end a fabricated barrier to progress within amateur radio."
NZART, the New Zealand Association of Radio Transmitters (the New Zealand national organization similar to ARRL in the U.S.) came out strongly opposed to no-code, dismissing ORACLE as a small loud-mouthed organization of no significance. ORACLE openly declared their intent to bypass the national amateur radio organizations and lobby government officials directly to eliminate the Morse requirement. New Zealand's surprise announcement indicates the unexpected success of their tactic. With new boldness, the international no-code lobby will no doubt be turning up the pressure on officials in other countries to take a similar stand. Their objective is to get enough countries to go along with no-code to win a majority vote at the conference.
If the population explosion of Technicians in the U.S, following the adoption of VHF/UHF no-code is any indication of things to come, the international amateur radio equipment manufacturers (largely based in Asia) will profit tremendously from this change. We can expect this lobbying effort to be well financed. If the international Morse code requirement is relaxed, the resulting congestion on the HF bands will undoubtedly trigger a renewed call for "spectrum conservation," the time-worn buzzword that translates to outlawing AM on the HF bands. (W5YI Report)
ARRL to Encourage Conversion
of Shortwave Broadcasting to SSB.
The ARRL has submitted its comments on the upcoming World Radiocommunications Conference to be held this fall. On the topic of Single-Sideband HF Broadcasting, the League dismissed the premise that SSB broadcast receivers are not widely available, are prohibitively expensive, and represent a very small fraction of the HF receiver market. The ARRL said "...there are numerous readily available SSB receivers for HF broadcast bands throughout the world, ...the use of SSB instead of DSB modulation techniques would lead to improved spectrum utilization..."
"The issue ...is not whether SSB emissions should be required in light of new replacement technologies," ARRL said, "but rather when DSB emissions should be terminated. ...The Amateur Service and most other radio services converted to SSB transmissions many years ago." One of the reported conclusions reached by ARRL included "...Steps should be taken to encourage conversion of all HF transmission to spectrum efficient SSB." (W5YI Report)
It is not clear from the information in this report whether the League's comments are limited in scope to international broadcasting, or if they are referring to all HF transmissions, including amateur. Regardless of the League's actual intent, a rumor began circulating over the air that the "League has petitioned the FCC to eliminate AM." No such action has been reported by any reliable source. In fact, the League has been supportive of AM in the recent past regarding petitions to eliminate AM and the AM: power issue, even allowing pro-AM articles and letters to appear in QST. Nevertheless, it might not be a bad idea to keep a close watch on this. The AM community should ask the League for clarification.
SSB Broadcasting: Reality or Pipe Dream?
Regarding short-wave broadcasting on SSB, there are already several stations on the air experimentally. HCJB in Equador, Radio Havana Cuba, and RPI (Radio for Peace International) in Costa Rica have been monitored on SSB within the past year. The audio quality (using a Kenwood R-1000 and Collins 75A-4) is terrible, even with a product detector and wideband IF filter. The voice has the typical hollow, ringy, restricted quality associated with SSB, and music is even worse, sounding completely off key with a tuning error of only a few cycles. It is highly unlikely that the public would ever accept SSB broadcasting using present technology. A broadcast receiver must be affordable, capable of operation by a simpleminded person and give reasonably good audio quality. There is simply no SSB receiver on the commercial horizon meeting this description.
The only promising technique using today's technology would require the SSB transmitter to deliver a "pilot" carrier reduced approximately 20 dB from the full carrier level of an equivalent AM signal. The receiver would use phase locked loop techniques, similar to the synchronous detectors now on some AM broadcast receivers. The receiver's BFO would lock onto the pilot carrier and maintain SSB reception with zero frequency error. The only other way to achieve satisfactory results would be to equip every receiver with some sort of, yet unrealized universal reference signal source with perfect stability (a low-cost chip using digital technology, no doubt).
This sounds far-fetched, but many of us remember a generation or so ago when the idea of pocket-size tape players and AM/FM/Short-wave radios with hi-fi stereo audio running off a couple of penlight cells, or two dollar pocket calculators capable of handling complex mathematical operations, would have sounded just as far fetched. Quality broadcasting on SSB may very well become feasible sometime in the future, but it will not be based on the "slopbucket" technology we know today.
Rebirth of Vacuum Tube is No Mere Fad
So says the writer of a column in Radio World, a biweekly newspaper published for radio broadcasters with heavy emphasis on the engineering aspect of the profession. The article mentions that AT&T plans to resume production of genuine, made in U.S.A. Western Electric 300B triode power tubes. They will be made in Pennsylvania on some of the original manufacturing equipment, employing some of the original line workers as supervisors. This dramatizes the incredible expansion of tube equipment into the mainstream. Offerings from mainstream equipment manufacturers have done much to show the vacuum tube's advantages in certain applications and may eventually bring prices down to a more affordable level.
AM'S LONG RANGE FUTURE
How Do We Get To There From Here
Have What We Want When We Get There?
By W2WLR, George A. H. Bonadio, 373 East Ave, Watertown, NY 13601-3829
A RIGHT WAY VS. A WRONG WAY
The right way is to listen to the hams who have tried new things or advances or developments which have worked, and to what has not worked. Then we need to learn from these pragmatic facts of experience, and pick and chose our options from those which are attractive.
What does not work is to get the engineering textbooks out and reshuffle these data into "just what the AM ham wants" because we say so. Quote me, "Theory is not usable until it has been tested on the anvil of hard knox."
So, at this point we need to be listening to the experimenters who have been trying this and that option and can tell us, only from experience, that, "This does this but does not do that." and "It works well with A but not with B.
This does not prevent suggestions of new ideas for someone to try out. It is just let's not say that, for sure, it will work, "because I know what I am talking about, and, no, I don't have to try it out, first, because I know that users will like it." It may be too expensive, too wasteful, too noisy, too clumsy, too delicate, too seldom useful, too big, too useless, and so on.
We need to listen. We need to ask for things to listen to. We need your input if you have made some kinds of tests, some kind of improvements, some kind of advantages for AM. We need to hear from you.
WE HAVE SOME LEARNING TO DO
The AM gear which we are now using is often 25 to 50 years old. Every day some of it breaks down for the last time, and is no longer fixable. Prices of AM manufactured sets have stopped going down and are going up. This is because there are not enough - in circulation - to satisfy the demand at the old prices. I too, have back up receivers and transmitters, with anxiety over them going overage before I do. No, I am not interested in hearing of your bids for buying them.
There are now, new SSB stations which, for whatever reasons, have poor power output AM signals, and with poor AM quality on the audio. Running them through a power amplifier just makes a louder poor sounding AM, without pride.
I just tuned the CB band and found eight stations operating all on AM. There was a single SSB just outside the 40 channels. There were no SSB in the CB / AM / SSB band. I hear Fort Drum here but SSB seems to have lost its popularity, on CB.
At my old 2 M Repeater site, an Air Force communications terminal, they had extra 85 foot telephone poles all around. My second harmonic FM happened to fall in between two of the AM channels used by the airplanes that kept in touch with the ground, via telephone lines. It seems that the Doppler effect of two airplanes approaching or separating from each others area at 1,200 effective miles per hour can tolerate a broadly tuned intermediate frequency receiver, near 300 MHz. They will net a 500 Hz higher or 500 Hz lower frequency, at the extreme, and always changing.
This is usable, with no difficulty, on AM. It is impossible with SSB. It is not noise quieting on FM, because we are not using the original Noise Free Armstrong Detectors. In patent fights Armstrong's much better detectors were crowded off the market, unfortunately. (I will pay money to get a usable copy of that circuit.) There are unfriendly forces which we must stay alert of, always.
WE NEED TO BE HELPING OURSELVES
All your great AM station is worthless, total junk, useless, without us AM operators on, happy, active, with good signals, and ready to talk with you. As we help each other get a better signal on AM we are helping ourselves have more available contacts, and the phenomena is contagious.
Thus, every time you have the results of some tests which you have tried, either type them up or have someone type them up exactly the way that you want to see them in The AM Press/Exchange, warts and all. Send them in and let the Editor make a seasoned judgement against circumstances. You may be in print, soon, doing the best that you have ever done for the evolution of AM.
We can not help someone else in or with AM without, actually, helping ourselves, in AM, at the same time. There is competition out there, from SSB. Take heart. SSB was going to take over all of the CB, but AM is still dominating. Commercials were going to use up all of short wave, but the satellites have picked up the burden and much more. Yesterday the FCC Inspector in charge, at the Buffalo Office told me that there has been little demand for licenses in the 1600-1690 band.
WE FIND OURSELVES IN LEADERSHIP
It has fallen to all of us on AM to be leaders in what AM will be like when all these old sets are mostly gone. We need do our thinking, our guessing, our wishing, our planning, our experimenting, both by ourselves and with all The AM Population watching us.
The better things and the funnier things should get into print in this AM Press/Exchange. It doesn't matter if it is about telephone interference, or ground wires, or microphones or IC's as long as it is to further AM.
The objective here is to serve AM. Our direction is to help to have the best of circumstances for, by and with AM. If it might help AM we want to hear it from you. If we enjoy our AM activity, we need to support it.
It may be that your nearest AM operator has some crazy antenna experiment to try out, but it is just too much for him alone to do in one afternoon. That is one place where you could come in.
All for AM and AM for all. Let's do it.
DON'T BOTHER TRYING THIS ONE
About 40 years ago I decided that AM could modulate, within its present limits, out to 200%, just by "overlapping" the excess part of the wave. The top was usually just saturated to a flat line, anyway, with no voice intelligence.
That would fold over the part above 100 % down to the zero line. No! It could go way down to the opposite -100 % level. Wow, 300 % modulation with the same gear! I built it up, with tubes, and still have it.
I biased parallel stages to cut off until the 100% level was almost reached, then I had a reversed phase tube at twice the gain "overlap," which it did. Tubes for both sides of the audio swing were trimmed.
With scopes I carefully tested. It worked. Success! Wow! Wait till they hear this on the air. I put it on the air, but I never remember that I worked anybody, or else was it that the reports were such that I wanted to forget the whole thing?
What it did was to do everything which you can imagine that it would do for voice. It also produced a "monkey chatter sound" due to the phase reversals. This sounded much like that new mode that they called single sideband without carrier. I put it on the shelf and looked at it again only a few days ago.
We need more experiments on AM. Do we want new AM receivers to have 4 ohm audio output so that we can put an 8 ohm speaker on each side of our receiver, facing each of our ears? In phase, they equal 4 ohms, so that we hear all the treble (especially as we get older) and the voice sounds as though it comes right out of the dial. Do we want heavy inverse feedback on the loudspeaker driver so that speaker rattlings don't "paper coneize" everybody's voice? Do we want transceivers with a built in monitoring of our own voices? What about a spectrum analyzer for only +/- 5 kHz so we can move exactly to the clearest frequency? Do we want an exact frequency lock for transmitting on the zero phase of the signal we just set upon?
Now it is your turn. What will you.....
I like to pick up those small transmitters that no one seems to want at the Hamfest. They always need a VFO. DX-35, Globe Scout, Etc.
A few years ago, I ran into a circuit that used a Ripple Counter IC to countdown from a high frequency into the Ham Bands from 27 to 32 MC. The idea was, at a 16 count down your magnitude of stability would be 16 times better. So, let's build one!
The hard part is to get the tune control and dial working right and get the oscillator circuit on frequency. I have the best luck with Silver Mica capacitors. Also, my coil form may not be the same as yours. The slug may also not have the same tune range. So, I ended up with an oscillator in the 30 MC range and the counter working at 1.8 MC. The drift was bad, and hand capacity was also bad. K4KYV suggested I use a much lower frequency! 14 to 16 MC was tried; this seemed to do the trick.
Click here to see fig. 1 - Schematic of VFO and construction
At 8 times down 1.8 MC, the stability was very good. Also, at 4 times on 80 the stability was still good. At 2 times 40 meters, some drift was noted when first turned on, but settled down after a few minutes, as the oscillator runs all the time. Also, I used the same coil as the 30 MC job, and just put more capacity to bring it down to 14 MC. This stopped the hand capacity effect. So I had the thing working very well. Dial all calibrated, looked very good. But, just as soon as I put the jumper over to the Hallicrafters HT 40 to key it, the IC shorted to ground. The HT 40 is cathode keyed so it has around 50 volts to ground with the key up. And even with the diode, a spike voltage killed the IC. I used a 12 V relay with a diode. Some sort of ZENER diode of 5 volts might also have worked just as well from pin-2 to ground.
That's what I don't like about Solid State! . They just won't take much punishment. Nothing to heat up! Can't tell if they are on or off! No warmth, no heart. So, if you need a VFO with no heart, this is for you.
The Little Rig
By George Cogswell, W1UAX
Last winter on my many trips to the Carlisle dump (I am a candidate for dump pickers anonymous), I came across a novice transmitter. It was a sweep-tube crystal oscillator, parts of which reminded me of an Allied, Knight, or Ameco kit circa 1958.
It had a very professional front panel in silver hammertone finish and transfer-type printed labels. The transmitter cage was of perforated aluminum, but the final tank coil was wound of thin wire on an oversized broomstick, and secured with carpet tacks. The size of the unit including solid-state power supply is 5" wide by 7" high by 10" deep, or 11" including knobs.
I put in a 3888 crystal and fired it up into a dummy load and managed to get all of 5 watts out of it. I took a look at the tank coil and ripped it out. I did not have any air inductors of the right size in my junk box, but I did have some G.E. bakelite-encased motor start capacitors. I ripped the capacitor apart and sawed off the closed end - voila, a coil form! I wound this form with 43 turns of #16 enaeled wire and secured the ends by running them thru holes I had drilled in the bakelite with a dentist drill. I tapped the coil at 15 and 25 turns for 80 and 40 meter operation. I fired the rig up, but the sweep tube was still kaput. Next I stripped down the unit, saving chassis, transmitter cage, power transformer (from a TV set), the tube socket and the 100 ma meter. I next set out to see what I could pack into this chassis using a Circleline lamp with a magnifying glass, a pencil soldering iron, tweezers and dental picks.
Initially I decided to leave the circuit crystal-controlled, and built up final RF section consistiing of a 12BY7 and a 6146. The output coil of the 12BY7 was mounted close to the socket and the tuning cap (a miniture single-section 365 mmf broadcast type) was mounted on the chassis sidewall next to the coil. The shaft is 90 degrees to the front panel. Luckily, I had a flexible-shaft coupling and a feedthru bushing in the junk box to control the cap from the front panel knob. I fired up the rig into a dummy load and it began to show some output. I sent CW to myself but the note sounded lousy, so I experimented with the cathode keying time constants and cleaned it up somewhat. I also decreased the coupling between the oscillator and the amplifier only to find out that I could not get enough drive on 40 meters. I next experimented with the tap on the 12BY7 plate tank coil on 40,but I still got insufficient drive. The 40 meter tap is switched in by a nylon-bodied slide switch, the handle of which is cross-drilled to take a bent coat hanger push rod from the front panel. Thinking I wanted a cleaner CW note and more drive, I ripped out the 12BY7 and replaced it with a 6CX8 oscillator/buffer. Now I had plenty of drive and a good CW note to boot, 160 through 40 meters.
Click on the following for:
After sending CW to myself into a dummy load (my CW stinks!), I got a yen to add a modulator. At this point I got in touch with my good friend, Tim, WA1HLR, who drew out a nifty circuit for a transformerless cathode-follower screen modulator using a 12AX7 speech amp and a 6DE7 driver/modulator, which would just fit on the chassis. I proceeded to wrap the modulator around the RF circuitry, paying close attention to short leads and wiring dress. I fired up the rig and got no feedback - what a pleasant surprise! Now the little rig was beginning to cook on 3885!
After making a few qso's, I decided that the rig needed a vfo to zero-beat the other stations, to get a good call-to-comeback ratio. I looked in the junk bok, and as chassis space was getting very tight, I made up a horseshoe of ceramic pillars that would wrap around the back of the meter, and wound the vfo coil on the center leg of horseshoe. I next looked for space for a vfo tube and chose a 6AK5, as I did not have a Nuvistor socket. I mounted the 6AK5 right below the 6146 plate tank (well shielded of course- with an extra piece of perforated aluminum in the top of the tube shield). I was so cramped for space to mount the vfo connections that I clipped off the threaded ends on ceramic standoffs, filed the metal ends flush, cleaned the chassis with Q-tips dipped in acetone, and superglued the standoffs in place. I wired up the vfo and tested it out. The vfo has a slight negative-frequency drift, but it stays in the passband of most receivers on short qso's.
Performance-wise, this rig gives a pretty good signal on the air. I hooked it up to an antenna with a peak-reading Autek SWR bridge/wattmeter and on A.M., I get about 8 watts out with no modulation, swinging up to 50 watts out with full modulation - well over 100% positive peaks before negative peaks reach cutoff. On CW it runs 50 watts out.
All in all, as I look back on this project, it took me about 4 months and I had a heck of a lot of fun building it as my first ham project in retirement. It gives me continual pleasure to operate it as Studio "C" along with my Zenith Transoceanic portable (all transistor - doctored up with ceramic i.f. filters for better selectivity).
A Message From the Editor/Publisher
Due to circumstances beyond my control, I couldn't attend this year's Dayton Hamvention. As Murphy's law would dictate, after having shivered in the fleamarket, sloshed in mud and dodged drenching rain for six years in a row, decent weather happened to fall on a year I couldn't come. But I am pleased to hear the AM Forum was a continued success, and that a good time was had by all who attended.
I may not attend future Hamventions, due to the planned shift in the date. After so many consecutive years of rain, the folks who run the Hamvention finally figured out that the fourth weekend in April is not a good time. So they have decided to move it to mid May, hoping for better weather. The problem for many of us who teach school for a living is that one of the latest fads in education, catching on nationwide, is to start the school year early and end it early. We begin in the middle of August this year, and final exams will take place, you guessed it, right about the new date scheduled for Dayton. Understandably, it is all but impossible for a teacher to get an approved leave day in the middle of final exams. This will affect not only teachers. Many families with kids in high school may have to miss out on the Hamvention.
The problem with Dayton began several years ago when they decided to tamper with the date. During the first 25 years or so of its existence, the hamfest was held on the third weekend of April, and it was said to have been rained out only twice. It was often cold, but it seldom rained. Then some genius decided to move it to the last weekend of the month, and it has been rained out nearly every year since. Each time I have attended in the rain, local residents have told me it was dry the previous week.
For the last couple of years, The AM Press/Exchange has been increasingly sporadic in publication, and we have been especially absent from the scene this spring. Inevitably, rumor is spreading that we have ceased publication. This is not true, and financially we are still in good shape with the $10 subscription, despite recent increases in postage and printing costs. Ever since we lost the assistance of N4IBF, AM P/X has been a one-person operation, and my time has become extremely limited. It was bad enough with ever-increasing pressures at work, but just before Christmas, I learned that the state of Tennessee is considering running a new four-lane highway right through the middle of my property! My "publishing" time has been devoted mostly to writing letters and distributing leaflets. We have generated quite a bit of opposition among local property owners and the state is now considering additional alternatives, so we are cautiously optimistic. We may be getting help with AM P/X from another AM'er who has offered to collaborate. In any case, all subscribers will receive 12 issues for their 10 bucks, even though it will be spread out beyond one year.
Editor, AM Press/Exchange:
I am writing for information on how to build a low-cost AM transmitter. We are willing to spend about $200 at the most. If you do not have this information, could you please give me a referral? Ideally, we would like to transmit to about a 5-mile radius. Thank You.
Daniel Higgins, 14 Eaten Drive, Waterville, ME 04901 (207) 872-5054
Editor, AM Press/Exchange:
Just thought I'd drop you a line to express my gratitude for the fine job you have done with The AM Press/Exchange. I find all the articles informative if not extreme useful. The articles on homebrew equipment and mods for rigs like the ART-13 are super. My only regret is that I wasn't in it from issue #1. Maybe some ambitious individual will assemble say the first 100 issues for sale.
It doesn't have the fine finish of other publications (also doesn't cost four times as much) but it doesn't take a back seat for content.
Thank you Tom B. Smith, N5AM
FOR SALE: RCA commercial power transformers, PRI: 190-210-230-250 VAC, SEC: 3500-4600 VAC CT, rated at 1.75 KVA, asking $75 ea. The above transformers are very husky, designed for continuous commercial service and have never been used. Bruce, WXXXX (edited out - Past Issue)
WANTED: National BC-200 manual, good copy OK. Vance Gildersleeve, KXXX (edited out - Past Issue)
FOR SALE: Large collection of vintage parts, tubes and equipment. SASE for list. Mike, NXXX (edit out - Past Issue)