My Ham Radio Year in Review

HF Station
HF Ham Radio Station
My current HF station setup in the basement

I have not been a ham radio operator for very long–I was first licensed as a general class operator in March of 2014 as KDØZII. So it isn’t a stretch to say that 2015 has been a banner year for me. Being New Year’s Eve, I feel obligated to look back on the past year and consider what 2015 brought to my ham radio life.

A New HF Station

I had borrowed a rig from a friend, Eric WN9E, for a few months shortly after getting my license in the spring of 2014. That summer, though, my generous friend needed his rig back. That was enough to get a taste for HF, though, and early in 2015, I managed to convince Mrs. WZØW that it was a good idea to purchase an HF transceiver of my own a week or two later I found myself setting up my factory-fresh Yaesu FT-450D. I also built a fan dipole to cover 40, 20, 15, 10, and 6 meter bands. It’s been a great setup, and I’ve had a lot of fun making SSB contacts on it.

In April, I participated in the ARRL Rookie Roundup SSB contest. I was really impressed at the level of participation from non-rookies, too. It is great to see experienced operators taking the time to help us new folks get the hang of things. I managed to pull a third place score for the mid-west Ø call sign region, so that was something.

A New License

The club I belong to, the St. Charles Amateur Radio Club, sponsors ham radio licensing classes several times through the year. In March, I started the 10-week Extra Class course. I learned a lot through that class, and continue to go back to the ARRL Extra Class Manual as a great resource. During the final class period, I passed the Extra Class exam, and have been enjoying my expanded privileges ever since.

I was happy with KDØZII as my call sign, so chose not to get a new random call assigned. I decided, though, that if I could find a 1×2 or 2×1 call sign available that I liked, I would apply for it. One Sunday afternoon, while looking at available zero-area calls, I found that WZØW was available, and I jumped on it. After the interminable review period at the FCC, and competition with one other applicant, I won the coin toss, and was assigned the new call in June. It’s a bit of a tongue twister to say phonetically, and it has taken me a little while to make the mental transition from KDØZII, but it now feels like my name, and I expect I’ll keep it for a long while.

A New Mode (or Two)

In July, I got the bug to get into digital modes. I purchased a TNC2 from Mobilinkd, and got into APRS with an HT and APRSDroid. I quickly turned my attention to connecting a Raspberry Pi 2 to the TNC2, and have been running Xastir as a base station.

Around the same time, I wanted to give HF digital modes a whirl. I bought a Signalink USB sound card interface and added it to my HF station. After setting up fldigi I’ve had a lot of fun making QSOs on PSK. I haven’t tried other digital modes yet–that’s something for 2016. I’ve also been fascinated by WSPR and have set up Winlink on my Windows 10 laptop.

And finally, in the fall I participated in another class sponsored by my club: learning Morse code. I had a great time in the class. At the end of the class, the instructor, Rick WØPC, brought in CDs for the 5WPM code test that was formerly required to obtain a technician class license. I managed to pass the test, and now can hold my head high as a 5WPM “know code” ham. And to cap off 2015, yesterday I ordered an iambic paddle, and will hopefully soon be burning up the airwaves with my newly acquired CW skills.

So that’s 2015 in a nutshell. After writing it all out, it seems like it’s been a pretty good ham radio year. Here’s to all the hams that have helped me along with advice and instruction! I hope you all had a great 2015, and am looking forward to new radio adventures in 2016 (did I hear something about National Parks on the Air??).

73,

WZØW

 

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