Monthly Archives: September 2015

Collins K9ZW North Station in QSO

Eventually I intend to move the late Collins setup in this picture to my home QTH and bring up the S-Line separates set up.

This “Round Emblem” combined transceiver with external VFO for split operations is the final itineration of the S-Line series and was sold new in the mid/late 1970s.

K9ZW Collins KWM-2A Station

K9ZW Collins KWM-2A Station

  • KWM-2A transceiver
  • 312B-5 remote VFO and station console
  • 30L-1 amplifier
  • SM-1 microphone
  • Power supply is under bench

The other Collins station I own is a “Winged Emblem” first of the S-Line series with separate receiver/transmitter. That station is a 32S-1 transmitter, 75S-1 receiver, 312B-4 station console, 30L-1 amplifier, separate speaker and a power supply. The receiver/transmitter track each other usually. It dates from 1958 to 1960 from dating the serial numbers.

It has amazed me how many complex cables interface the various units. There are roughly a dozen cables in the KWM-2A station and about five-six more in the twins S-Line one. Many are simple, but some are complex and some are uncommon – things like RF coax with RCA plugs…..

The microphone jack is a military size and I had to source some as spares.

The KWM-2A station got great reports today using a SteppIR CrankIR portable antenna. Even worked some DX.

The audio has that warm friendly tube-amp sort of sound. Got great reports which I have to admit surprised me. I hadn’t expected it as there are so few adjustments possible compared to a modern rig.

I’m not happy with this particular SM-1 microphone and did make most contacts using an Astatic D-104 “lollipop” microphone instead. The SM-1 will go off for service.

I have a good ways to go in learning to use this gear, but as much fun as I had it is worth the study and practice time to get it right.

Made a interesting contrast to this weekends QSOs done with a barefoot Flex-6300 on the same antenna.



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K9ZW Northern Island QTH .. General Layout

It is obvious the new Washington Island QTH is a FlexRadio System Station first and a Vintage Collins Station second.

I’ve done a quick sketches how the layout will work.

K9ZW North QTH General Layout – outside


K9ZW North QTH General Layout – inside

The Antennas are:

  • HF Multi-Band Receive only – KD9SV RBOG (Reversible Beverage On Ground) units, aimed NW, SW, NE, and SE, using a convient existing buried pair of high grade 72 ohm cable to feed.
  • HF 80-10m Vertical – Zero-Five Flagpole with 30 radials
  • HF 160-20m – W9INN Half-Sloper
  • HF 40-6m – SP7IDX Hexbeam

Feedline will be Andrews Heliax I now have on hand.



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K9ZW Northern Island QTH .. First Steps

Have a lot going on putting the new Washington Island QTH together, with a TriEX Skyneedle waiting for a new base from Tasjian and other pieces starting to show up.

With the tower base I’d also ordered a work platform which will let me do most antenna work without a lift, and new coax standoff arms.

From the radio room to the tower base I have sourced enough Andrews 1/2″ Superflex HELIAX FSJ4-50B to ru two feeds and a separate feed to a vertical antenna.  This cable is very low loss, with amazing numbers like under 1 dB total attenuation per 150 ft feed line with working capacity in the 7 kW range!  Velocity factor is 81% for a fairly standard set of characteristics for calculating correct lengths to reduce unwanted electrical and RF characteristics.

The SP7IDX multiband Hexbeam is due in country in a few weeks, right on time.  The W9INN half-sloper is on hand and ready.

Intending to install a Zero-Five commercial grade flagpole multiband vertical antenna, which is especially cool as I really am keen to have a flagpole as well!! I’m going to start with 48 radials cut in sets of six per band.

Planning two KD9SV RBOG reversible on the ground beverage antennas. The pair of 180 foot long RBOG antennas installed in two directions will cover the four “Prime” directions (one NE/SW and the other NW/SE.). Gary KD9SV sells through DX Engineering and I think I have sourced a large roll of military surplus cable that should be a good match for the RBOG antennas. I hope to actually bury these receive antennas to keep them out of harm’s way. If the ends can come together, I already have buried feed lines from an old satellite internet installation.

I’ve bought a 25kW Lp-gas Kohler generator with automatic switchgear for a full site backup. With the power regularly interrupted or running off voltage on the island the plan will be to run all radio gear possible to run off DC from a battery farm and use the generator or mains power to recharge the batteries.

In the morning a local builder is visiting to review the plans for a garage, but I have changed my ideas to keep the operating station in the main house for the foreseeable future.

Another contractor is stopping by to look at road improvements and preparation for pouring various slabs.

Back to the tower the Heliax will terminate at a base of tower cabinet which is where antenna switches and lightening protection gear will also go. From the tower base box up to the antennas will go Davis RF’s BuryFlex cable, which is one I have had very good luck. A nominal 80ft of that coax plays the BuryFlex jumpers to get to the radios from the shack end Heliax termination will add up to on paper under 3 dB total losses.

Back at home the Alfa-SPID rotor should get mounted this week, and all touch up as well as a new Sheetmetal rotor cage cover will be ready before transport to the island.

A PC-on-a-USB-stick now has a nice 28 inch LED monitor, the combination which will initially drive the Flex-6300 Tranceiver.

Given my limited time on the Island and the late start I had, reality is I will be happy to have the tower and main antennas up before winter.



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Ham Radio’s Second Century – Being on the Ready for TEOTWAWKI



Ham Radio’s Second Century – Being on the Ready for TEOTWAWKI

At the 2015 W9DXCC Chicago September 12th 2015 banquet the Keynote Speaker, ex-FCC General Counsel (retired) Riley Hollingsworth K4ZDH spoke to the need for Ham Radio to be ready for essentially “TEOTWAWKI”, as the decentralized independent hobbyist will be critical to their country (and humanity) in any post-apocalyptic situation.

TEOTWAWKI is shorthand for “The End Of The World As We Know It” which is a phrase most of recognize from pop songs of a certain era, and an unexpected concept for a DX Club keynote speech.

Riley K4ZDH painted a critical need for hams and their capabilities to communicate when all other means are down in a world that has suffered a Cyber War. The Internet of Things is projected to increase its interconnectivity to include some 50 billion nodes, whether people, things or virtual interconnects per projections he quoted, setting us up for a “world of hurt” (pun very much intended) if we are denied that connectivity.

Leon Panetta’s 2012 speech outlining the catastrophic impact of a Cyber Pearl Harbor was the highest ranking government warning Riley K4ZDH referenced, but we’d already listened to earlier talks about Solar Activity and most hams are well aware of the potential impact from a natural event. Less likely scenarios like EMP Bombing were not mentioned, but a quick web search will give a reader days’ worth of public source information about various government and other EMP projects.

Parts of Mr Panetta’s warning are reported in the October 11th 2012 New York Times:

“Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta warned Thursday that the United States was facing the possibility of a “cyber-Pearl Harbor” and was increasingly vulnerable to foreign computer hackers who could dismantle the nation’s power grid, transportation system, financial networks and government.

In a speech at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York, Mr. Panetta painted a dire picture of how such an attack on the United States might unfold. He said he was reacting to increasing aggressiveness and technological advances by the nation’s adversaries, which officials identified as China, Russia, Iran and militant groups.

“An aggressor nation or extremist group could use these kinds of cyber tools to gain control of critical switches,” Mr. Panetta said. “They could derail passenger trains, or even more dangerous, derail passenger trains loaded with lethal chemicals. They could contaminate the water supply in major cities, or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country.”

Defense officials insisted that Mr. Panetta’s words were not hyperbole, and that he was responding to a recent wave of cyberattacks on large American financial institutions. He also cited an attack in August on the state oil company Saudi Aramco, which infected and made useless more than 30,000 computers.”

The largely DXer (hams who focus on making contacts with other countries, collecting records of those contacts for recognition among their peers) and Contester (hams who do highly organized “drills” contacting others in specific time frames and rule sets, competing for the most effective ham or ham teams, again recognized by peers in the hobby) audience were specifically a critical resource per Riley K4ZDH as these groups represent a large group of the best operators – the sorts who know how to make radio contacts under adverse condition and while under pressure.

The discipline of these types of operators lends itself very well to passing traffic with a speed and accuracy, and technically prowess noteworthy among hams.   They typically have access to first-rate stations and gear, tend to be highly motivated, capable and independent individuals, and are well-practiced at the competitive parts of the ham hobby.

Woven into Riley K4ZDH’s talk were references on the important of traffic net capabilities and a critical need to get new & younger hams involved.

Implied with the DXers and Contesters was that they were not “part of the system” that would be attacked and/or fail. It was noteworthy that he did not mention EMCOM, ARES, RACES, FEMA, MARS or any other organized emergency communication group, but instead focused on the independent high capability ham offering their services as a time of need – after TEOTWAWKI.

There are many parallels to Mr. Hollingsworth’s statements and the premises behind the FREECOM proposal calling for individual readiness rather than “in system emergency preparedness.” To be fair Riley K4ZDH did not actually use the work TEOTWAWKI nor did he take time to discuss the current organized EMCOM situation. So perhaps some bias has entered into what I took away from his speech.

Nonetheless the message rang true – be prepared, be ready, keep your skills and capabilities up, get younger people involved and hope that like those school fire drills when we were kids that preparedness and awareness keep trouble at bay.

In a future series of articles I will refresh the ideas behind FREECOM and how using those ideas you two can be part of this state of preparedness.






W9DXCC Wrap-Up… Hams be prepared just in case, and Buck Rogers Radios

Sitting in our hotel room at the end of the 2015 W9DXCC in Schaumburg, Il.  An excellent experience all around.

The generosity of ones fellows in the hobby cannot be overstated.  I really enjoy these events as the expertise of those with time and resources are shared so willingly!

Keynote speaker was ex-FCC General Counsel, Riley Hollingsworth K4ZDH, who as always spoke well and to the point.  Main take away were two somewhat unexpected things, one about shared humanity and another larger on why the world needs hams even more with the Internet of Things.

On humanity Riley reminded us that those few hams who are awful on the air are largely troubled souls that the system isn’t or can’t help.  Not a few are veterans dealing with those issues.  While not specifically asking for anything from the audience, he brought home that these folk are people too.  Kind of a reminder that we can do better.

The bigger statement was in many ways a vision of a post apocalyptic mission that hams can fill.  As the Internet transitions to the Internet of Things, the risk of systemic failure increases, but worse the risk of system denial (cyber terrorism) has profound consequences that the ham services may help mitigate.

The TEOTWAWKI scenario wasn’t expected, and I have to admit I agree with Riley, including the decentralized ideas he expressed which are the same as those behind the  FREECOM supplement/replacement for EMCOM.

I will return to the FREECOM theme in a future article.

The other huge takeaway for me is again an admiration for the technical excellence and elegance of the FlexRadio Systems Flex-6000 series.

Gerald K5SDR the founder of FlexRadio Systems and Craig K9CT as a member of their advisory team, shared much time showing off upcoming features intended for SmartSDR v1.5, a prototype Maestro unit, and an unreleased hardware accessory.

The intergration and smoothness of the massively expanded capabilities impressed me as much as the feature set.  The feature set had been slowly leaked by FRS so for 80% of the upgrade there is nothing unexpected.

What amazed was how the improvements flowed as if they were always there all along.

I also loved my quick touch and feel chance to play with the Maestro.  Somehow I can imagine a ham not wanting one.  The touchscreen really appealed.

Another fine event- congratulations to NIDXA for putting on such a fine ham gathering.




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Dividing Up Gear between QTH’s – Second Look

Did the first update on my radio matrix splitting gear between home and the Island:

HF (Modern)
QTH          Main Rig       Knob Modern Rig   Amp (for Moderns)
Home        Flex-6700       TenTec Jupiter              Alpha 9500/QSO King 6m
Island        Flex-6300      TenTec Paragon II        Expert 1KW
HF (Vintage)
QTH          Vintage Rig           Amp for Vintage
Home        Collins KWM-2A            Collins 30L1
Island        Collins Full S-Line(1)    Collins 30L1
HF Antennas
QTH         Antenna 1           Antenna 2               RX HF          Vertical
Home      T-8 LPDA           W9INN 1/2 Sloper     Pixel Loop     TBD – 1
Island     Hexbeam   $$     W9INN 1/2 Sloper     n/a                 GAP Titan DX
QTH            Transceiver   Directional Antenna    Omni Antenna
Home          Yaesu 1800         T-28 LPDA              TBD – 1
Island          Yaesu 1900    #  TBD – 2                     N6JSX Copper J-Pole
TBD-1 – looking at a “flag pole vertical” which may cover both needs
TBD-2 – Initially not a priority
# – may have an Uliboard Interface added
$$ – island will have a W9INN Spacesaver 160-10m dipole as well.
(1) Full Collins S-Line setup consists of:  32S1 Transmitter, 75S1 Receiver, 312B-4 Station Monitor, 516F-1 Power Supply, 30L-1 RF Amp, N3ZI Digital VFO with Memories, Autek QF-1A Audio Filter, SM-2 Clone Mic, Collins Speaker
The Hexbeam is a SP7IDX Mark II HD that Waldi is building for me.
The Island feedline is on the way – between the shack and the tower I have enough 1/2inch Andrews Superflex hardline coming to do two separate runs.  Feedine will transition to DavisRF’s Buryflex for the vertical run (as the tower is a crank down, the hardline is not the right material for the whole feed), a combination which should bring the feedline losses quite low – adding in the vertical run up the tower and the jumper into the shack proper I calculate total system loss less than 1.5 dB loss for the entire feedline at HF and a loss just over 3 dB at VHF/UHF.    These losses are about half of what I have at the home QTH due to the very long feedline runs there.

Note the Island would also gain a Pixel Loop RX Antenna but only if I added a rig that would use it to do diversity reception.  The Flex-6300 cannot do this.