Monthly Archives: January 2020

Infections like Coronavirus and Ham Radio

The ongoing Coronavirus outbreak is an opportunity to help the social fabric with ham radio.

I’m not going to cover what the virus is, or your best preventative methods (check the CDC at for the latest information), rather how you with ham radio can help.

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Who are you Inspiring in Amateur Radio today?

Recently I had another old guy in amateur radio make a point of telling me that “I don’t inspire him.”

As I neither know the fellow nor am I certain very many of us once we reach a certain age are capable of being inspired, and I know I certainly never knew he wanted someone to reach out to inspire him, I’m not surprised with his statement.

But it did put me to thinking, who do we each inspire to take up amateur radio? Who do we inspire to hone and test their skills?

Shamefully I think my interpersonal interactions have been more informational and encouragement, and have never approached a level that would be widely seen as inspirational.

More shamefully I’m not alone being too quiet in my hobby enthusiasm.

So I’ve taken up the mantle of doing a bit more.

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On the origins of “Elmer” – a reasonable theory

It seems the origins of the ham radio “Elmer” as a teacher or mentor has been lost over time.

Well maybe just a bit forgotten?

Here is a 1920s Amateur Radio book in its more recent reprint that might offer a clue:

It seems the down to earth writing and persistent mentoring by the author created a name recognition in radio’s early days.

One attribution is:

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Entering My Fourteenth Year writing With Varying Frequency

It was January 21st 2007 when the first post for this blog appeared –

My computer ran Windows XP, my main transceiver was a TenTec Pegasus, the antenna was a Gap Titan-DX, my software was MixW and N4PY Pegasus Control, and I was still using my original call sign KB9GPN as a General Class Ham.

The Blog project started as a dare from my then school aged sons – basically they told me about this new world of blogs and said I was “too old” to really understand.

Having cut my online teeth running a FIDO-net Node and BBS (do you remember Opus?) and other non-realtime packet switchstream experiments since the onset in the early 1980s, I thought the boys had underestimated me.

Hence “With Varying Frequency” was born.

Some statistics:

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Washington Island QTH Internet Woes

Since we acquired our Washington Island QTH five years ago we have struggled with a bundled phone/internet package from Frontier Communications.  The internet side is an aDSL link that never meets speed or reliability promises.

Frontier replaced our buried underground in an effort to improve the situation a few years back, in the process they cut the wires for ten of our neighbors which didn’t make us the most popular.

I’ve been running utilities to do a casual monitoring of the internet service, and as an example in the last 72 hour visit on island Frontier’s aDSL was down complete twice and had serious difficulties passing traffic on another ten occasions.

At a service disruption averaged out ever 6 hours (a number which also ignores disruptions too short to catch with my very amateur tracking protocol) you would think our Broadband was dial-up services from the 1980s!

As for throughput, hey if anything makes it through it is a bonus.

There are limited options on Washington Island:

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Midnight Design Solutions Phaser 20m FT8 Transceiver Kit Has Arrived

The week of December 9th 2019 I ordered one of Dave Benson’s K1SWL’s newest kit designs, Midnight Design Solutions Phaser, in the 20m version, along with an enclosure kit.

The kits arrived on January 10th 2020, earlier than originally predicted or expected.

Here is look inside a a Phaser:

Midnight Design’s Phaser FT8 Transceiver

These radios are single band designs, and the main FT8 frequency for the band is fixed, while an alternative frequency is defined but can be used modified. Actually it appears that the programming will work out of band, but the filtering & circuits not so much.

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