A typical Wal-MartYesterday, I was listening to our local radio stations’ call-in talk show. The main topic seemed to be the latest lawsuit trying to block the Wal-Mart Supercenter proposed for the Lockport Mall location.

A lot of the people seemed to want to know who exactly was behind the Lockport Smart Growth, or as Scott Leffler, the show host referred to as “Citizens for No Growth.” There was speculation that there was ties to both the owners of the local Tops store and Lockport Developer David Ulrich. No one seems to know at all who are ‘members’ of the group, but the idea to “follow the money” seemed to be the idea. But it might be hard to do.

What if Wal-Mart itself, were a secret contributor to the Smart Growth group? I’m not saying it is, but my evil side wonders. It wouldn’t be hard to funnel some money their way through some intermediary. Wal-Mart seems to be benefitting from their efforts as much as Smart Growth thinks they are hurting them. Continue Reading…

Who says Ham Radio is expensive?

Most people think that Ham Radio is an expensive hobby, requiring multi-thousand-dollar radios, big antennas on tall towers and high power. Well, a yacht is a great way to enjoy the seas too, but that shouldn’t stop someone who can’t afford a yacht from enjoying boating in a smaller vessel.

Three rigs, three bandsWhile catching up on my organizing, I came across three small radios that I acquired just a few years ago. Each one cost roughly $150 or less. Each one is a self-contained station, ready to go on one Ham band. They are all QRP, less than 5 watts power and only operate CW – Morse Code.

QRP operation is not the easiest way to go and may not be the best way to start out unless you really like the challenge, but after many years of experience, I can enjoy the minimalist experience of making contacts with just a few watts. They are the perfect radios to take along camping, or just to get outside for an afternoon and play radio from a picnic bench. Continue Reading…

Old and New

As I’ve been cleaning up the ‘shack’ and playing around with some of the stuff I’ve collected over the years, I found myself marveling at the advancement a common piece of Ham equipment has gone through.

I recently added a K1EL Winkey USB keyer to my arsenal of contesting tools. It came as a kit and I built it in a matter of a couple hours. It’s a keyer, but it also couples the computer to the Morse Code sending process.

Winkeyer USBWhat’s a ‘keyer?’ It’s a device that helps you send Morse Code, especially faster than you would be able to do with a manual or ‘straight’ key. The common interface to a keyer is a set of ‘paddles’ which are just like a straight key, except two of them are placed back to back and a horizontal motion is used to operate them. Press one paddle, you get dots. Press the other, you get dashes. The keyer generates the stream of dots or dashes as long as you hold the paddle, so you can see a lot less effort is needed. I won’t get into the fine points here of ‘iambic’ operation or differe3nt paddle types. Let’s just say paddles are as collectible as any other key or ‘bug’ and vary widely in quality and price. They’re quite a status symbol to many Hams and preferences of which is best are very much a personal choice.

I have a number of keyers of various sizes and complexity. I plugged in a set of paddles, which I also have quite a few types, into the WinkeyUSB for testing. It performs perfectly, but the whole point of the Winkey is to NOT plug in a paddle! The reason I bought it is so that I can let the computer do the sending during contests. The contest logging software sends the information – callsign, exchange, my call, etc. – to the Winkeyer and it keys the radio just as if I had done it manually. No, better, actually. Continue Reading…

Fourty Years of Ham Radio – Chapter 3

Advanced ClassLife went on and things changed. I moved out on my own, eventually got married and Ham Radio went along. It wasn’t always a top priority, but kept coming back when time allowed.

Ham Radio was changing too. Incentive licensing came along and now that I had my General Class license, there was more to do. Now there were Advanced and Extra classes. The new licenses added more frequencies – privileges – frequencies that used to belong to the General class. It actually happened before I got my license, but now that I had upgraded, there was more to do. The Advanced license gave some more frequencies for voice work, but no big changes on CW. It was a lot of theory and probably the toughest test of them all. I think I took two tries, but eventually I got it. Continue Reading…

Skip to toolbar