Something A Little Annoying

27 Dec

This is definitely not radio-related but it nonetheless irritates me to no end.

Last night, around 3:00 am, while at my part-time job at the Canadian Tire gas bar, I had occasion to assist a customer change the headlight bulbs in his vehicle.

OK, you say, we all do that at one time or another. Well that may be true, but this instance bears mentioning.

Let’s say, for sake of simplicity, that my assistance consisted mainly of holding my little LED flashlight so he could do the actual changing.

The vehicle in question was a 2002 Honda Pilot. The instructions were quite simple.

1. Disconnect the 3-pin connector from the base of the bulb.

2. Remove the rubber seal from around the housing.

3. Release a wire clip holding the bulb in place and carefully remove the bulb.

4. Reverse all procedures to install new bulb.

Quite simple EH?

By comparison I drive a 2006 Pontiac Montana. Now changing the headlight bulb is a lesson in futility.

1. Remove screw holding housing to frame.

2. Turn 90 deg metal post 1/4 turn clockwise. This will allow removal of the entire housing. Entire housing you say? Yup. This is not the easiest chore in the world, especially if said housing snags as mine did recently. I had to force it to release and was afraid I was going to break it. Luckily it came out, b ut then was difficult to return to its place.

3. Turn bulb and socket 1/8 turn clockwise.

4. Disconnect wiring harness.

5. Remove bulb.

6. Reverse all steps to install new bulb.

Not so easy is it?

Now my third example is my former vehicle, a 1996 Ford Crown Victoria. A model of simplicity.

1. Open hood.

2. Remove 1 screw, thus allowing removal of protector.

3. Disconnect wiring harness from bulb. Turn bulb 1/8 turn counter clockwise and remove.

4. Reverse all steps to install new bulb.

My point is this. If Japanese engineers can design such a simplified way of doing things, and Ford engineers used to do it, then why not GM? For that matter, why not all car manufacturers? Changing a bulb should not require the use of any tools beyond those which God equipped us with, namely our hands.

Don’t even get me started on getting the doughnut spare out from underneath the van. Why is there not provision either under the rear seats in a minivan or pickup truck, or on a bracket on the lift gate, as most SUV’s have? Nope, you have to use the jack handle to turn a sprocket arrangement which is supposed (?) to lower the spare from under the vehicle. I say supposed, because after a few years of being constantly sprayed with water, road salt and debris, this sucker ain’t gonna move. Nothing like crawling under a van at 2:00 am in the pouring rain to get the damn thing. One reason I have CAA. Let someone better equipped do the crawling. I can work a jack fine, and removing a wheel is no biggie either, but getting that damn doughnut out from under is a pain in the you-know-what. Now I carry the spare inside the vehicle directly behind my wife’s seat. We have a pet barricade in it, and the spare is sandwiched between the seat and the barricade.




25 Sep

There are some new things on the horizon for my XYL and I. We have purchased a 1/2 acre building lot on the outskirts of a small village nearby and plan on building a new abode next summer. That is, providing our current house is sold. The new house will be slightly smaller than the current one and will also have a 1-1/2 car garage. Personally I can’t figure out where the term one and a half car comes from. I certainly have never seen 1/2 a car. What good would it be? Would it have two wheels? Which half of the engine would you get? To me that almost hints on being a motorcycle.

Anyhow that is the plan. MY previous plan of selling out and moving to the east coast has been shelved, primarily because my XYL firmly stated that she would rather become a nun  than move “down there”. After all the dampness bothers her here. What would it be like for her near the ocean where the dampness is always prevalent? I doubt she would be conducive to waking up many mornings to see heavy fog until noon.

In the garage would be my shack and shop. Directly behind the garage I plan on planting my 64 foot steel tree. Finally, after over 50 years as a ham I am finally going to get my own steel tree aka tower. With a real beam atop it no less. Will wonders never cease? I may even get myself an amplifier so I can send even more RF into the atmosphere!!! The idea is almost mind boggling. I get to spend the remaining years of my life running TCC skeds on 20 meters, and maybe even some serious DX’ing.

As always, time will tell. Convincing my wife that I really need this amp will be no easy thing. I had a difficult enough time convincing her to let me buy my second rig. And despite it being my own hard earned money by way of a tax refund too!! Imagine using a shred of the proceeds from the house sale for another “radio”? Sacrilege I say – sacrilege.



The Morse Telegraph Club – A Brief History of How Morse Evolved

31 Aug
The Morse Telegraph Club
By James Wades, WB8SIW
Few today realize that the telegraph was still used in commercial service in North America well into the mid 1980s. While many of the last users were railroads, the telegraph was also used in a wide variety of business applications by organizations such as stock brokerages, commodities exchanges, pipeline companies, news wire services (Associated Press, United Press, etc.) and the like. For example, the Chicago Board of Trade utilized telegraphy until 1972 and some stock brokerages were still using telegraphy as late as the early 1980s! Even the Telephone Company maintained an extensive telegraph infrastructure for decades because telegraph circuits could be composited (superimposed) on long – distance voice circuits allowing the latter to remain in revenue service while
internal company business and leased private wire services operated in the background using telegraphy!
Before the advent of Microwave Carrier Systems and new telephone technologies in the 1960s, many sporting events were recreated at the local broadcast station. The play – by – play was transmitted by telegraph and then  translated into live action by a radio announcer at home. For example, “S1C” became “Strike One Called ” or “NBF” became “now batting for.” Few today realize that one can often telegraph baseball play – by – play faster than one can “speak it!” Contrary to popular belief, and in contrast to many poorly written historical accounts, telegraphy
was not replaced by the telephone. Rather, the modern – day Internet is largely a natural evolution from telegraph technology. For the first one hundred years of telephony, telegraphy offered many advantages over the telephone. One important advantage was more efficient use of infrastructure. Over time, the telegraph evolved from one circuit on a single wire (simplex) to two circuits on a single wire (duplex), then four circuits on a wire (quadruplex)
. With the emergence of stable vacuum tube oscillators during the 1920s, carrier systems  were developed, which allowed multiple telegraph circuits to be conveyed on a single pair . This led to concentrator systems (“varioplex”), automatic switching centers and then….packet switching. In reality, no one person “invented ” the Internet.
Rather, the Internet was an important, but nonetheless incremental improvement in the field of telegraphy. For much of this period of evolution a small army of men and women employed by companies such as AT&T, Postal Telegraph, Western Union, Canadian National Telegraphs, Canadian Pacific Telegraphs and the like kept this complex , world-wide network functioning smoothly , and for a significant number of these men and women, knowledge of the American Morse Code was a requirement for their job.
 Many of the men and women who worked in the telegraph industry or related fields are now members of the Morse Telegraph Club (MTC). The MTC is an association of retired railroad and commercial telegraph operators, former telegraph industry employees, historians, maritime radio operators, radio amateurs and others who share an interest in the history of telegraphy and the telegraph industry. In addition to “members at large,” MTC has numerous Chapters throughout the United States and Canada. MTC publishes a Quarterly Journal entitled “Dots and Dashes,
containing club news and various historical articles. Members present talks on the history of telegraphy and
telecommunications for clubs, historical associations, engineering societies and the like. Our Chapters actively demonstrate telegraphy at steam train excursions, Civil War re-enactments, and  similar historical events. MTC also designs and builds historically correct telegraph exhibits for  public museums throughout North America. Many of the instruments for these museum projects  are provided by MTC. One need not be a former telegrapher to join MTC. All that is required to join 
is a sincere interest in the history of the telegraph and the telegraph industry. It is also important to know that MTC is
not just another ham radio “CW” organization. There are many fine groups that already promote CW and it makes no sense to add another. Rather, MTC concentrates on the Telegraph and the American Morse Code. The American Morse Code is the original code developed by Morse and Vail. It contains a number of spaced characters, such as “C,” “O,” “R,” “Y,” and “Z.” The letters “T,” “L,” and the numeral zero are each a single dash, but of differing length! Furthermore, some of the letters have alternate dot – dash combinations, such as “F” and “J.” When the first  undersea cables were deployed, telegraph engineers quickly learned that signal distortions made it impractical to use on-off keying. A new method for undersea telegraphy was required, which used a shift in polarity to differentiate between “dots” and “dashes.” As a result, it became necessary to replace the spaced characters and three different “dash” lengths in the original American Morse Code. Therefore, a Committee met in Europe, which adopted a new code called the “Continental Code.” Today, this code is commonly referred to as “International Morse.” It is this code
which is used by radio amateurs.
 The Continental Code was quickly adopted as the world – wide standard for telegraphy. However, in the United States and Canada, the older American Morse Code was already well established. It was not practical to retrain the tens of thousands of operators already employed in the telegraph industry. Furthermore, the American Morse Code is approximately 20 to 30 – percent faster than the Continental Code, thereby offering some economic advantages. The result was an interesting dichotomy in the field of telegraphy. In North America, commercial and railroad  telegraphy continued to use the American Morse Code. However, when Wireless Telegraphy became standardized, the International Code was adopted 
 Of course, the history of “Morse Code” is quite nuanced. At different times, there have been up to four different “Morse Codes” used in North America including the “Bain Code” and the short – lived “Navy Code” used briefly during the early wireless era. Adding confusion to the historical record is the fact that Great Lakes shipping used the American Morse Code for a bit over a decade before International standards were adopted in 1912. The result was, of course, cross – pollination between commercial telegraphy and wireless telegraphy. Consider these examples:
 The prosign “AR” (“di-dah-di-dah-dit”) is really the abbreviation “FN” (“finished”) in the American Morse Code.The
prosign “SK” (“di-di-di-dah-di-dah”) is really “30” in the American Morse Code, “30” meaning “close of work” in
Western Union and Press Telegraph Shorthand. and still used in a number of textual publications including Solid Copy! (Note: Solid Copy is the monthly publication of the CWOPS club of which this blogger is a life member.The  “ES” (“dit di – di – dit”) heard on the ham bands is the “&” (ampersand) in American Morse Code….and so forth.

ARRL Centennial Convention Announcement

12 Jul

ARRL Centennial Radiograms Announcement

Going on Hiatus

29 Jun

As of Tuesday July 1, I will be taking a two-month (approximate) hiatus from all things radio. That means that I will also not be posting to this blog. I will not be generating any traffic. I will not be in any contests or nets. My shack is being torn apart and rebuilt in a more compact layout. I hope to have all new antennas up in the air by September including beams for HF and 2 meters. I aim to utilize a multiband wire antenna covering the 160, 80, 40, 30, 18, and 12 meter bands. 20, 15 and 10 will be handled by my tribander. How high the tribander will be mounted remains to be determined, but I expect it to be either 40 or 48 feet. 40 feet if attached to the fascia of the carport and 48 feet if mounted on a concrete base. My 2 meter beam will be at 60 feet and my wire antennas will be attached near the top of this tower.

  Of course all of this planning depends on several factors. One of these is the completion of several items on the  honey do list. Another is the availability of funds to complete the project. Another is my own health. I am not as capable of running around on the roof of the house, nor climbing towers as I once was. I will have to rely on others for these tasks now. Oh well we shall see.



Tom Wagner WA2CUW Rest In Peace

5 Jun

Go With The Flow

6 Mar

This is a classic example of why CW operators are so passionate about their craft. The article was originally penned by Nancy Kott WZ8C (Silent Key) and posted by Bruce Prior N7RR.

Morse code. These two words conjure up more emotions than any other phrase in Amateur Radio. For some reason, Hams who enjoy Morse code are fiercely protective of it. When the no-code rumblings began, people started taking sides. It even brought mild-mannered hermits out of their shacks and motivated them to write letters to the FCC and the ARRL. The threat that the bandspace dedicated to code might be taken away brought them together in a way that has never been seen before.


Why would they care? No one is going to make code illegal; no one is going to make them stop using code. So what does it matter? What is it about code?


You may assume they feel that they had to suffer through the code test, so everyone should. Or they feel it is a filter to keep out the riff-raff. Sure, there may be some of that – on the surface – but to bring out feelings this explosive, it has to go deeper.


I started thinking about my own experience. When I moved to Metamora in 1985, my mother would telephone every day, worried about me living in the boondocks. My father, more worried about the rising phone bill than the possibility of me being eaten up by a grizzly bear, suggested that we get our tickets so we could use 2 meters instead of the telephone. My mother said, “I will if you will.” And I said, “OK.” I had taken electronics in college and worked as an electronic technician at Chevy Engineering seven years, so I didn’t have a problem with the theory. But, Morse code? Forget it.


“WHY do I have to learn that stupid code,” I whined. “All I want to do is get on two meters. It’s not fair.” I can’t tell you how deeply I resented being forced to do something because of an antiquated requirement. If there had been a no-code Tech license at that time, I would have snatched it up in an instant and not thought twice.

My mother got her No vice license in about six months. It took me over two years to get to 5 wpm. I lost count of how many times I quit and started up again. I fought it every step of the way. When I finally got the 5 wpm in June of 1988 I was relieved. Now I could forget about it.


My mother and I chatted happily on 2 meters for most of that summer, until one day we were talking about what I was going to do that night. We were using the repeater instead of simplex and I had a tendency to forget that people read the mail, especially on repeaters. So, I told her I had stopped at the video rental for some tearjerkers, picked up a pizza, bought a new nightgown and planned on spending the evening taking a bubble bath and relaxing. After my transmission, a male voice came on and said “uh, what is the color of that nightgown, Nancy?” and another piped in, “what time does the movie start?” The local guys were razzing me, all in good fun of course, but I was so embarrassed!


My father said, “You know, if you used CW you could talk on 40 or 80 meters and no one would hear you.” That wasn’t entirely true, but the idea was appealing. At least there would be a purpose for that darned code. Grudgingly, I started practicing again. My mother upgraded to Extra in a couple months. It took me a year to get to 13 wpm and get my General.


During that year, I spent enough time with code that I got comfortable with it and once I got my 13, something clicked and I got my 20 in about a month with barely any effort at all. Suddenly it became fun!


After I got on the air at that speed, I couldn’t get enough of it. I’d come home and rag chew. It would make my day to work a new state or a special event station. Getting the mail each day was like Christmas – QSL cards..certificates!


What happened when I reached about 13 wpm that suddenly made it enjoyable? While doing research on code courses and how people learn, I came across an explanation: Instant Recognition. When you get to a point that you can instantly recognize a code symbol without having to translate it in your mind or do any sort of conscious thinking about it at all, you have Instant Recognition. Once that happens, it becomes effortless and more like a satisfying game. You aren’t working, you already “own” those letters. They’re part of your subconscious vocabulary.


This is where people get into trouble using the so-called short-cut programs. Believe me, there are no short cuts. You have to do the work. Programs with memorization tricks make learning more fun and will get you to 5 wpm – maybe 10 – but they will not give you Instant Recognition, which is what you need to get past that “wall” you hear about. You hit that wall when the code is coming at you faster than you can translate.


There are no short cuts. There is no magic pill. This is unfortunate because learning code is boring. Rote memorization is about the most mind numbing thing in the world. But once you get it, it is yours forever, just like riding a bicycle. And it is worth it. Why is it worth it? That brings me back to what I said in the beginning. There is something about code that creates a feeling that is deep seated and very strong.


I was reading a book called The Flow by Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and it dawned on me that this is what makes people so passionate about Morse code! Dr. Csikszentmihalyi is a behavioral scientist. He works at the University of Chicago now, teaching and doing research on human behavior. He grew up in a very poor, war-ravaged part of Europe. He was a curious, observant child and noticed that while most of the adults around him were bitter and unhappy, there were a few who were content and seemed almost happy. When he got older and went to college, he decided to study human behavior so he could see what it was that made these happy people, happy. He discovered that when a person is deeply wrapped up in an activity that meets certain requirements they go into a state of mind he calls “Flow”. Professional athletes and musicians typically go into Flow during their practice sessions. Hams go into the state of Flow when they get on the air. But it doesn’t happen to all Hams, it tends to happen to CW ops, contesters, or serious DX’ers.


There are seven criteria for the State of Flow. Let’s look at them briefly as they relate to Amateur Radio.

1 – The experience must have a definite goal.

2 – We must know the steps to reach our goal.

3 – We must have feedback on how we are doing at each step.

4 – We must be able to focus on the event.

5 – We must feel in control of the situation.


Ham radio in general satisfies these five requirements. The goal is a QSO. We have to turn the rig on to have a QSO, we get feedback and focus while communicating on the air, we are in control because we can always pull the plug. So far, these Flow requirements could apply to either SSB or CW. But with the next two requirements, important differences occur.


6 – Our attention must be completely absorbed in the operation.


When we operate CW, especially at or near our fastest copying speed, the operation demands our full attention. If our mind wanders, we miss a letter or a word. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi calls this mental state “optimal experience.” When at this optimal experience, the mind is at its best and happiest. This state also alters one’s sense of time; time flies by faster. When the optimal experience is over the person feels content, satisfied, and has increased self-esteem.


Using SSB involves little concentration; you can count the spare change from your pocket or look out the window to check the weather while waiting for your turn to talk. Optimal experience is rarely, if ever, achieved.


7 – We must have the possibility of increasing our skill level.


When working CW, after a rest, your mind is ready to enjoy another optimal experience. Each experience adds to the proficiency of the operator who develops a desire to increase his speed because he has found that an increase in speed is an increase in fun and self esteem. There is a huge range for improvement; some operators have reached over sixty words per minute.


When using SSB, there is little chance of developing new skills. This eventually leads to boredom and cessation of operation. This does not bode well for Ham radio as a whole.


Although the no-code license has increased the number of licenses issued, these new licensees are not going to stay with the hobby in the long run because they are not getting the satisfaction of Flow. They might get up to 10 wpm or so, but still don’t feel good about it. They get discouraged and quit or they flounder around wishing they could join in the fun, but aren’t sure what to do about it. They aren’t experiencing Flow because if they try to learn code at all, they are generally learning code with the aide of crutches and therefore not achieving Instant Recognition.


If you are going to invest the time to learn code, you should do it efficiently. This will allow you to see progress and cut the time you need to practice. Aristotle was the first one to discover and document that when you experience two things within a second of each other, the brain can easily associate them together. The further apart the two actions occur, the longer it takes the brain to associate them and the longer it takes to memorize them. What this means to us, is that when we hear the symbol for a letter we must immediately, within a half second, say or write, or both, that letter. Dit dah A . Not dit dah umm. A. The very instant you hear the last dit or dah, SAY the letter. Do this over and over and over. Take on two or three letters, one at a time, and learn them until you OWN them. Then add another letter, but still keep reviewing the ones you already know. The trick is to OVERLEARN them so they become second nature.


Think back to a time when you heard someone from a non-English speaking country speak English. They will be chatting along, comfortable with the vocabulary, until they get to a word they haven’t used very often. They’ll stop and say `oh,how do you say.?”. They have to stop and mentally translate it because they haven’t overlearned that phrase. Only spend five minutes or so at a time, and spread out your practice sessions throughout the day. Don’t forget to INSTANTLY associate the letter with the symbol. This is critical. The most important thing is to get that instant association going in your brain with the symbol and the letter. You may think you are already doing this, but you will probably be surprised. If you already are at 7 or 10 wpm and think that not having Instant Recognition isn’t your problem, play a code tape and test yourself. If you hesitate for even a fraction of a second, you don’t have Instant Recognition. Having to translate even one or two characters will impede you.


Play those letters over and over and using the Instant Recognition half-second technique. If you work on them one at a time, you WILL own those letters and have the whole alphabet in your subconscious and you will find your proficiency increasing and you will get into The Flow of CW.


You will then understand why CW operators defend the code so passionately and hopefully you will join us in preserving the music of Morse on the air for future generations.

Thank you for reading this.


Glenn VE3GNA CWOPS #457


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