Fabric antenna

Via Southgate News and MAKE magazine news of a collapsible fabric yagi antenna developed by Diana Eng KC2UHB who has combined two craft skills in a stylish way, electronics and sewing. It’s a design for a Yagi for portable amateur radio satellite operation.

Diana Eng KC2UHB demonstrates her collapsible fabric yagi antenna
Diana Eng KC2UHB demonstrates her collapsible fabric yagi antenna

Her MAKE magazine article is well-written, comprehensive and brilliantly illustrated.

Diana Eng has also written an earlier article aimed at newcomers to amateur satellites for MAKE that covers:

  • Finding out when to listen
  • Finding the frequency
  • Aiming a whip antenna
  • Following the pass with the antenna
  • Tuning the radio for the Doppler effect

Check the size of the antenna in that earlier piece and you’ll understand why she aimed at something more portable!

Portuguese in morse

This page has a listing of how different alphabets and accented characters are sent with morse including Russian, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Japanese and Korean. I feel an overwhelming urge to change it from its dots and dashes layout to a didah format to reinforce the sound and not the visual structure of the characters. As comprehensive as these charts are, I’m still a little in the dark about some accents used in Portuguese. It could be that they’re simply not used in morse. Maybe listening to QSOs is the only way to confirm this.

Even the listing on the Portuguese Wikipedia page is missing the ã character. And this Brazilian page makes no mention of accented characters, even though it does explain that the codes for each character reflect their frequency in English.

The KGD antenna

Via Julian G4ILO I came across a WSPRnet report from DM1RG on his success with a newly built KGD Antenna from the German site QRP Project. I had actually ordered their other antenna project (a Multiband Fuchs antenna that enables a single 41m wire to operate on all 8 HF bands) a few days ago and earlier tonight revisiting their site I was readng more about the KGD antenna – a very small vertical dipole – how’s 130cm for a 30m antenna that enabled a link from D to VK on 5 watts?

The centre part of the 40m version of the KGD antenna
The centre part of the 40m version of the KGD antenna

The Kurz Geratener Dipol antenna is no longer available as a kit but the instructions are still online – auf deutsch. I should also have a go at translating the manual. It seems to be quite an effective design. On the 40m version (pictured here from the QRP project site) – all 150cm of it – the bandwidth between SWR 2:1 points is 45kHz.

Reading about the antenna again on the same evening is clearly some kind of good omen? I can almost imagine one mounted bike mobile!

CW Operator’s QRP Club Inc

I rejoined the CW Operator’s QRP Club Inc. after a long absence. I was surprised to discover I’m entitled to my original membership no #56. It’s probably been almost two decades.
The Milliwatts per Kilometre award from the CW Operators QRP Club
The first Milliwatts per Kilometre Award from the CW Operators QRP Club
I have fond memories of the Lo-Key magazine, but I’m also keen to have a go at the club’s Milliwatts per Kilometre Award! 10,000km on 5W or 1,000km on 500mW!

Samuel Morse’s 219th birthday

Samuel Morse was born 219 years ago. But of course credit for devising the code that bears Morse’s name goes to his assistant (machinist & inventor) Alfred Vail. His birthday is 25th September 1807.

A replica of the key built by Alfred Vail as an improvement on Samuel Morse’s original 'transmitter'.
A replica of the key built by Alfred Vail as an improvement on Samuel Morse’s original ‘transmitter’.

New CW learning resource

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

But make sure to check out the new training section on the SKCC site featuring mp3 files prepared by John KF7BYU.
So far the following texts are online, some in speeds ranging from 5 up to 50 wpm, along with text files:
The War of the Worlds, The Gettysburg Address, The Jabberwock, The Night Before Christmas, Hams Christmas and The Raven.

Extreme solar close-ups

Hot science news of the day is the series of startling close-up images of the sun in full roar. ABC Science has a story with local scientific analysis of the unprecedented pix provided by the Solar Dynamics Observatory which was only launched on 11 Feb this year. A comprehensive set of images and downloadable video clips is at Watts Up With That?

The SDO’s five year mission has got off to a brilliant start. Some of the images and video captured a coronal mass ejection from an amazingly close observation point!
(Image credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)

The Lost Tribes of Radio Shack

An article appeared on the WIRED site recently about the re-branding of RadioShack, a mirror of the same change happening to Australia’s iconic Dick Smith Electronics stores. The subtitle sums it up: ‘Tinkerers Search for New Spiritual Home’.

” The new bosses want to turn RadioShack into a hipper, more mainstream place for “mobility” — which is what they insist on calling the cell phone market. (In an interview, RadioShack’s marketing chief used the word mobility an average of once every 105 seconds.) Selling phones is central to the new RadioShack. And so far, it seems to be working. Per-store sales are up, and corporate profits jumped 26 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009.”

The article identifies ‘a small subculture of RadioShack nostalgics’ and their feelings of betrayal and loss. The author asserts that

“in a single generation, the American who built, repaired, and tinkered with technology has evolved into an entirely new species: the American who prefers to slip that technology out of his pocket and show off its killer apps. Once, we were makers. Now most of us are users.”

It sketches the history of the brand, the importance of the high profit margin and how in a way the introduction of the TRS-80 the first mass-produced PC was the beginning of the end for the DIY mission of owner Charles Tandy. The up to 500% markup of tiny electronic components has been replaced by the cell phone which is “like a tiny slot machine that pays off month after month.”

The WIRED piece features eight pages of old Radio Shack catalogues scanned by fan Mike D'Alessio
The WIRED piece features eight pages of old Radio Shack catalogues scanned by fan Mike D’Alessio

In Australia the Tandy chain was established in 1973 and finally purchased by Woolworths in 2001. Woolworths also own Tandy’s one-time competitor Dick Smith Electronics (fully owned as of 1982). In 2009 Tandy stores began morphing into DSE outlets. Jaycar now remains as the most likely place to purchase electronic bits and pieces, with a wide network of stores across the country. Hunting down rarer semiconductors, components like toroids, hardware and even wire is often easier via US speciality suppliers like ‘The Wireman’ etc.