History of Ham Radio: Chronology

At the last meeting of the Montrose Amateur Radio Club, I gave a presentation on the history of ham radio. The notes I used, which provide a chronology of radio-related events for more than a century, may be found by clicking here. Other world events are also included to provide perspective.

These notes are compiled from many sources, including particularly the the ARRL’s Ham Radio History page, several Wikipedia articles, ham radio history compiled by Rod Dinkins, AC6V (SK) (he provides a list of many contributors), and the excellent and detailed history on the site of Thierry Lombry, ON4SKY.

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ATV Ride: Montrose, CO, Flat Top Free Riding Area

Thursday the Uncompahgre Valley Trail Riders Snowmobile and ATV Club held a club ride to the Flat Top free riding area north of Montrose, CO. My wife and I jumped on our Polaris RZR and joined them. Below are a photo of where we stopped for lunch, a video showing how to drive a 50-inch wide RZR across a 46-inch wide bridge, and the GPS map of the ride. The area is open to the public year-round, but beware that the adobe clay dirt is impassible when wet. The area is a haven for dirt bike motorcycles and most of the trails are single tracks, but we were able to take our ATVs on many of the trails.

The group stops for lunch north of Flat Top. Note the adobe hills in the background. The entire area is composed of this soft dirt that supports very little vegetation. The feds and the City of Montrose  have set aside a few thousand acres of this as a free-riding area.

The group stops for lunch north of Flat Top. Note the adobe hills in the background. The entire area is composed of this soft dirt that supports very little vegetation. The feds and the City of Montrose have set aside a few thousand acres of this as a free-riding area.

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ATV Ride: Lower Elevations of the Uncompahgre Plateau

Last Wednesday found me and friends going along for a ride with several members of the local ATV club (it was not an official club ride—just informal). The GPS track shows where we parked and then went over trails that ranged from nicely-maintained gravel roads to some rather hairy, steep slopes with big rocks strewn everywhere. The GPS track is at the bottom of this post, and in another post I’ll add some video of the hairy sections.

Gary at the wheel of his Polaris RZR, with passenger Bob along for the ride.

Gary at the wheel of his Polaris RZR, with passenger Bob along for the ride.

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See Me in a CyberLink PowerDirector Feature Story

A few weeks ago I was approached by the CyberLink marketing folks about how I use CyberLink PowerDirector, their video-editing software. I posted the questions and answers here. Here’s what it turned into: click here to see the CyberLink PowerDirector Feature Story, “From the back of a motorbike to the studio with PowerDirector.”

Story about me on CyberLink website

I’m featured in an article on the CyberLink website. Click on the image to see the entire article.

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Single Sideband (SSB) Tuning Tips

Single Sideband (SSB) presents some unique challenges to the new amateur radio operator. You can read all you want in books, but it’s still hard. This video demonstrates how it’s done and what it should sound like.

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Imagery for Genealogy: From Camera to Ancestral Quest in Four Easy Steps

Do images frustrate you? Too many acronyms? Hard to find stuff once it’s on your hard drive? This video is an introduction to a class I teach about imagery for genealogy. It shows, very simply, the process from taking a picture until that image shows up in the right place in Ancestral Quest (AQ). Obviously I’m taking the simplest, easiest path, but it works.

You can read the transcript of this video by clicking here. The transcript is not exact, but pretty close.

This is necessarily a very brief overview, and is intended as a classroom introduction to the subject, with the rest of the class devoted to answering individual questions and helping people through the process. The class also expands on each of the four steps, such as different sources of imagery, different ways to get the image into your computer, and different ways to use the images in AQ. AQ can include images not only in scrapbooks, but also as images of sources such as census records.

In the video, I only deal with JPEG images. There are many image types, but JPEG will do. In a future class, I’ll discuss using FastStone Image Viewer as a way to manage and fix your images.

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Dicey ATV Trail Along Gunnison River in Escalante Canyon

While watching this video, note the right hand side of the trail. It falls straight into the river in a couple places. Large rocks have fallen onto what used to be a jeep road, making it very narrow here and there.

We were out with the Uncompahgre Valley Trail Rider’s Association ride up into Escalante Canyon, to the west of Delta, Colorado. The route took us through this rather narrow stretch. I’m in a Polaris RZR, nearly identical to the one in front of us. At 50 inches wide, it counts as an ATV in Colorado. But most ATVs are either 46 or 48 inches wide, and that extra couple inches sure makes a difference! But we all made it through just fine, just.

Tech note: The GoPro Hero2 HD camera is mounted on the left-hand roll bar. The GoPro video is a bit flat, so I goosed the contrast and saturation using CyberLink PowerDirector 12 along with ColorDirector. It was a beautiful day, but at the time I was concentrating on keeping the RZR upright!

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Collins 75A-4 On The Air!

A 75A-4 fell into my lap many years ago. It’s been sitting in the basement waiting for some tender loving care to bring it back to life. I brought it up last week and was delighted that every feature works! All 22 tubes seem to be fine, and without my touching any of the alignment, the set brings in signals just fine. Here’s a video showing both CW and SSB signals on the 20-meter band.

This 1955-era radio was then considered “top of the line” and is still a fine ham-band-only receiver. I brought it up slowly, gradually increasing the voltage, and was delighted to find that after at least 20 years dormant, it works fine! I’m sure a little more tuning will really make it jump.

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Computers Invading Ham Radio: Opinion

I received an interesting comment to a previous post on programming the Baofeng radio from “Ray” about how computers are invading ham radio. Here’s his slightly edited comment followed by my reply.

So, IMHO, this really isn’t worth all of the trouble and [...] that you have to go through to get it to “work”. I am sick to death of radios that require a [...] computer to operate them. For crying out loud, I am interested in RADIO, not [...] computers. Mixing the two is one of the worst abominations to ever befall ham radio. Ray.

Hi Ray. I have some sympathy for “pure” radios, but manufacturers stopped making those more than a decade ago. If you’re into vintage radios, they’re hardwired radio all the way. But—today everything is a computer. Your cell phone is a computer. Your car is a computer. Airplanes are computers. Even the organ I play at church is a computer.

Using a microprocessor with firmware is standard engineering practice and has been for a long time.

My TenTec Jupiter is TenTec’s old Pegasus computer-connected radio, but with a front panel added so no computer is necessary. But that doesn’t mean a computer can’t control it, in fact Ham Radio Deluxe does a mighty fine job of doing just that. These days more and more functions are being moved into software, and software-defined radio (SDR) is here to stay. You can buy mighty fine radios, such as the new Yaesu FTdx-1200, and use them without computers, but inside it’s a software-defined radio. Or, you can go with the Flex-Radio systems, where half the work is done inside your PC. Your choice.

Some people still prefer AM to SSB even though SSB has been around since the 1950s. Some people want vacuum tubes instead of transistors or ICs—I know a ham at our club who loves designing things with vacuum tubes, and I’m just starting on what promises to be a long project to restore a Collins 75A-4 radio to operating condition. How much or how little technology, or how new or how old, is entirely up to the individual.

Personally, I prefer a mix. Old radios are fun, but for my on-the-air work, nothing beats my Jupiter, an automatic (meaning microprocessor-controlled) MFJ-993B antenna tuner, my little SignaLink digital sound interface, and my laptop running HRD.

Regarding the Baofeng specifically, it is possible to program everything through the keypad interface, but I really don’t recommend it. First, the steps needed to put frequencies into the radio are obtuse at best (and certainly exceed my limited brainpower). You do NOT have to connect the Baofeng to a computer at any point in order to use it. But it’s certainly easier to set up memory frequencies if you use a computer.

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Background: Q&A with CyberLink

I mentioned in an earlier post that I am an MVP (Most Valued Professional) for CyberLink, which makes the video editing software I use, PowerDirector. They don’t pay me or anything, but I get early access to new products and that sort of thing.

Recently Fershad Irani of their marketing team sent me some questions by email. I’ve reproduced the questions here, together with my answers. (Note: click here to see the resulting story.)

1. Please give a short background of yourself, (i.e. country, work, etc.)

My wife, Loretta, and I live in rural Colorado in the United States. She’s an artist. I recently retired from IBM, a large computer company, as an IT Architect. My undergraduate degree in Mathematics came from Brigham Young University in 1975, and my masters degree in engineering came from California State University at Northridge in 1984. I’m a ham radio operator, callsign KEØOG, and also have a passion for enjoying our beautiful mountain scenery on motorcycles and ATVs. We live in Ouray County, Colorado, which is filled with beautiful mountains and offers many roads and trails to enjoy these.

2. You’ve owned several motorbikes over the years, where did that passion start?

My 1994 Yamaha Seca II (known outside the United States as the Yamaha Diversion), a 600-cc sport-touring motorcycle. I’m the original owner! That’s the Durango-Silverton Narrow-Gauge Railroad train in the background. The shot was taken in Silverton, Colorado.

I first rode a motorcycle at the age of 16. A friend came by with his new Yamaha trail bike and asked me if I’d like to take a ride. I was hooked! I now own two motorcycles, a 2009 Yamaha XT-250 dual-sport and a 1994 Yamaha Seca II street bike. One reason I enjoy using the motorcycles to see the vast beauty of our Rocky Mountains is that the view is unrestricted, even with a helmet on. Riding a motorcycle is a very personal experience. I can feel the wind, the sunshine, even the rain drops.

3. What made you decide to start taking videos while riding?

I was given a GoPro Hero 2 HD camera for my birthday, which I mounted on top of my helmet. Initially I used it so I could share my rides with my wife. At the time I was doing a lot of dirt-bike riding on the XT-250 in some rugged hills north of Montrose, Colorado. When I showed the raw video to her she enjoyed it! I put up short videos on YouTube using a competing video editing suite which frustrated me, so I made the switch to CyberLink PowerDirector. My purpose was to share my rides with friends, but soon found that other people wanted to see these videos too. Continue reading

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