Field Day 2016 found me once again participating with NARC in the bucolic setting of Hollis, NH. I thought that last year was to be my last Field Day with the club as I was in the process of pulling up stakes and heading for Florida. However, I had the opportunity to head north the weekend before Field Day to drop my grand kids and their mom off for the summer. Once I realized the proximity to Field Day on the calendar, it didn’t take much lobbying from Fred, AB1OC to convince me to hang around for Field Day.
Prior to leaving for NH, Fred mentioned that the club would be operating from the Hollis-Brookline High School ball fields at the back of the school. The last time the club operated from Hollis was in 2012 when we were still putting up 70-foot towers and dipoles. Since that time, the club has downsized as far as ambition by switching to 40-foot towers using the falling derrick method to raise a single triband antenna and dipoles without anyone climbing. For those new to the club, the falling derrick approach came about from the 2014 World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC) event that showcased New England as the Yankee Clipper Contest Club hosted 50-plus two-person teams of the best contest operators in the world. Several club members participated in setting up some 65 towers for the mid-July event.
For 2016, plans called for setting up the two towers similar to what was done last year. This time, however, the 40 SSB station was going to be beefed up with a 3-element Inverted Vee beam array. The club had tried such an array back in the 1990’s on 80 CW. It worked OK considering the elements were suspended from a drooping rope from a tree to one of the towers, hardly in line to benefit from a director and reflector. Fred opted to set up three, 50-foot telescoping masts with pulleys to hoist the elements up. I must admit that I figured setting up the array was going to be the long pole – err, poles – in the NARC tent. With twelve sets of guy ropes per mast I envisioned a rat’s nest just begging to be tangled. My pessimism proved to be unfounded as the masts went up without much of an effort from Murphy to mess things up. Kudos to all the folks who pitched in to pull it off smoothly. The array dominated the Field Day setup like a far-off DXpedition.
Also new for Field Day was the use of the new ICOM 7300 transceivers. I learned that many in the club have purchased what is an amazing rig with a very easy user interface (especially for me) and great phase noise performance at an uncharacteristically cheap price for ICOM. The low phase noise level translates to a lower level of interference from nearby stations. I had the chance to familiarize myself with the 7300 leading up to Field Day using the N1MM+ logging program so that I could avoid the panic at T-0. I operated 40 CW with an inverted Vee that was less than 100 feet from the end of the driven element of the 40 SSB array. I did not experience any noticeable interference.
Field Day 2016 had a number of welcome surprises for me after nearly 30 years of my involvement with NARC. To put in simply: a lot of new faces. The club has been growing by leaps and bounds since I left. (Hmm, that doesn’t make me look good.) I wore my NARC call badge in case anyone wondered who I was. I was happy to meet all the new “2 X 3” hams in the club and I hope I will be able to match faces to calls as time goes on. Other highlights were making contacts on satellite after a hiatus of several years, and a cool demonstration of amateur TV with the Pepperell club.
Field Day 2016 was a homecoming for me since I also had the chance to meet old friends from many past NARC Field Days. While NARC has operated at other sites over the years, Hollis has a rich history in the club. Back in the 80’s NARC operated from what was then an open field adjacent to Beltronics off the town center. I was new to NH back then and I was amazed at the level of participation to build four towers and set up 12 or more stations. The logistics of such an operation benefited from (1) a storage barn less that a mile away on Ridge Road; and (2) a large pool of 30-40 year old hams to put it all together. Using the call of our host Jim, N1NH, NARC was regularly in the top 10 finishers for Field Day.
The club grew steadily back then. When the field at Beltronics succumbed to rows of storage sheds, I looked around for a suitable site that would not require a large caravan of pickup trucks to haul our equipment. The solution was right under our noses: the field beyond the orchard behind our storage barn. This proved to be the idyllic setting for a Field Day operation that everyone liked. It did not take long for the club to ratchet up Field Day participation to 20 stations or more. NARC was off and running big-time, culminating in winning it all four years in a row during the 1990’s. One of the club members secured the call N1FD for the club to showcase our accomplishments.
With Field Day 2016, I see a rebirth of the enthusiasm I enjoyed in the past. The future of NARC Field Days will be driven by the new crop of hams in the club. It will most likely NOT be “your grandfather’s Field Day”. The goal is not to see if the club can match the glory years of yesteryear but to try new things. Alas, CW is fading in popularity in the face of the digital modes that have cropped up featuring 100% copy with near-QRP power levels. Maybe more stations running PSK or some other digital mode is worth trying. Rigs like the ICOM 7300 are a step in the right direction when it comes to mitigating inter-station interference. However, more can be done to quash interference when using the triplexers so that hassle-free copy is possible with simultaneous stations using the same beam. And it doesn’t have to be just better filters. Maybe some neat lock-out or synchronization schemes can be tried to make competing modes play nicely. Field Day should always be a venue to try new ideas, whether it be interference mitigation or some odd-ball antenna design. All you newbies in the club are far better with a computer than I will ever be. Time to use all those powerful tools and tackle these age-old problems.
Now…on to the topic of interfacing PC headset to ham rigs…
Heil Headsets get a lot of support and advertising in the amateur community. But they are expensive. The W2SZ VHF/UHF contest group that I belong to uses mostly Heil headsets, so I have a lot of experience with them. The problem is that a lot of them are broken. We only use them two weekends a year for about 36 hours but they fail in a variety of ways.
I don’t own a Heil headset (I’m too cheap), but wanted a more reliable headset for my own use on the mountain. In this case, reliable means I can bring several for a reasonable price. So, this led to a series of experiments with PC headsets that are available for prices that range from about $13 to $50.
PC headsets and Heil headsets operate differently. Heils use a dynamic microphone and cannot tolerate any DC current through the microphone. PC headsets require a DC bias voltage to operate their electret microphone.
All PC headsets have the ring terminal for bias…that is the key to this design.
The box below takes 8 volts from the ICOM microphone connector and uses it to power the PC headset. The circuit has…
3.5 mm (1/8th inch phone) jack for the microphone
0.47 uFd series cap on the microphone, pass audio and block DC
2.2K resistor to pass DC from the 8V pin to the ring terminal
1/4 inch phone jack for rig keying
Cable and ICOM microphone plug
It was important to ensure the Heil headset doesn’t see any DC if plugged into the microphone jack of this adapter. The design put bias on the ring terminal to feed the PC headset. But, the Heil microphone connector does not have a ring terminal so it simply grounds the bias voltage… so, no bias gets to the Heil. The dynamic microphone in the Heil couples audio through the series cap.
Here’s another design. This one has two 3.5 mm connectors, one jack, one plug plus a battery. The battery supplies power to the PC headset without the need for power from the transceiver. This also has supplies power to the ring terminal and block DC to the microphone on the tip terminal. This took about 5 minutes, the components are under the tape.
One of our W2SZ members, Tom Price KC2PSC, designed of a PC board to implement this idea.
RJ-45 connector for rig microphone interface
Converts to 3.5 mm microphone and line out
Converts 1/4 inch phone for rig keying
Includes option for battery
There are a number of web sites that discuss the same thing
Our club website has a Blog or Articles area where all club members can post articles which appear on our website. These articles work much like pages on our website – they can be read by everyone including visitors to our website. Also, club members who are logged in to our website can add comments to share information and to recognize the author’s contribution to our club and to our website.
It is very easy to read articles on our Blog. Just click on the ARTICLES choice on the top-level menu and this will show you a list of all the articles on our Blog from newest to oldest. If you are interested in articles on a specific topic, can you can from the list of topic areas in the drop-down menu. There is also a choice to view archives of our club newsletters in PDF format.
Several club members have posted great articles on our Blog for a while now. I’d encourage you to logon to our website and subscribe to our Blog. After you do this, you will get an email each time a new article is posted. You will find the dialog above on the left side of all pages. Make sure you are logged on to the website and then just enter your email address and hit the SUBSCRIBE button. You will receive an email at the address that you entered to confirm your subscription. Once done, you will be subscribed to our Blog.
Members who subscribe to our Blog will receive an email each time a new Article is posted. The email will show you what the article is about and who posted it along with link to our website to read the full article or to comment on it.
A Certificate naming Nashua ARC as a Special Service Club (SSC), and
A Plaque commemorating Nashua ARC’s 35+ years as an ARRL Affiliated Club.
Somewhere around January of 2015 your Executive Board looked at our Special Service Club status and it was discovered that it had been many years since our SSC had been renewed. This I took on the assignment of applying to ARRL Headquarters with a new updated SSC application.
What is a Special Service Club? A club that exists to go above and beyond for their communities and for Amateur Radio is what defines a Special Service Club (SSC). They are the leaders in their Amateur Radio communities who provide active training classes, publicity programs and actively pursue technical projects and operating activities.
SSC Application Guidelines – As an ARRL Special Service Club, we have met our agreement to develop our skills in the specified areas during the past two years in accordance with the guidelines in the Active Club On-Line Primer. With this application we apply for renewal as an ARRL Special Service Club for the year to come. We have worked closely with our Affiliated Club Coordinator throughout the year. Recently we have discussed our successes and problems during the past year, reviewed our current strengths and weaknesses and agreed on an acceptable program for the coming two years.
New Ham Development and Training. Develop an effective, coordinated program of public relations, recruiting, training and ongoing assistance targeted to prospective and newly licensed hams in your community.
Public Relations. Establish an effective Amateur Radio presence in your community, including contact with local media and coverage of your activities; Public Information Officer Appointment.
Emergency Communications. Club members should become skilled in communicating effectively during communications emergencies and be prepared to assist when needed; Official Emergency Station appointment and participation in ARES.
Technical Advancement. Continuing education in the technical aspects of Amateur Radio to ensure that your club members are technically competent, familiar and comfortable with modern radio-electronics technology; Technical Specialist appointment.
Operating Activities. Active participation as a club in one or more major operating or operating support activities to ensure that your club maintains a high level of operating skill.
Miscellaneous Activities. Every active club has its special interests and activities that make it unique, that give it special personality. List three of these activities.
It became very obvious that this was to become a challenge. But, where do I start?
First, a thorough review of the ARRL’s Active Club Primer was in order. This 48-page primer is a compilation and update of The Club President’s Workbook and the Special Service Club Manual. It is loaded with helpful links and ideas galore to get a club enlivened!
Second, since the SSC application allows a club to go back reporting it’s activity for the previous two-years, I poured over the web site, especially the archives of the Nashua ARC Newsletters to extract data.
The first rough draft was hastily put together and presented to the Executive Board for review and discussion. As with any project, the four drafts went from overkill to simplicity. This took a matter of months of revision and review. I quickly found out that our Club has done so many things that I had to cut out everything over 18 months old!
This shows you just how ‘outstanding’ the Nashua Area Radio Club is! I am proud of our membership and the primary reason to write this article is for members to see just what we have done, what we are doing and where we are headed. The future is promising! Next, the completed application for Special Service Club.
Nashua Area Radio Club SSC Application
As an ARRL Special Service Club, we continue to meet our obligation to develop our skills in the specified areas during the past two years in accordance with the guidelines in the Active Club On-Line Primer. With this application, we apply for renewal as an ARRL Special Service Club for the year to come. We have worked closely with our Affiliated Club Coordinator throughout the year. Recently we have discussed our successes and problems during the past year, reviewed our current strengths and weaknesses and agreed on an acceptable program for the coming two years.
Application Type New Date February 12, 2016 ARRL Section New Hampshire Club Name Nashua Area Radio Club Call Sign N1FD Address PO Box 248 City Nashua State NH Zip Code 03061-0248 Club President Fred Kemmerer, AB1OC Vice President Layne LaBaume, AE1N Your e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org
New Ham Development and Training
Purpose: Develop an effective, coordinated program of public relations, recruiting, training and ongoing assistance targeted to prospective and newly licensed hams in your community.
January 2015: New initiative: “At Nashua ARC, We Love New Hams!” Recruiting targeted mailings were shifted to sending free bulletins with inserts to newly granted licenses within a 25-mile radius of Nashua.
b) Presented three Technician classes. (June and October, 2015 and February 2016) and one General Class (November 2015). As of this writing additional classes are scheduled for March (General) and May (Amateur Extra) 2016.
c) June 2015 Class: 7 students: 1 new Tech, 1 new General. (One student got his Extra outside of class)
d) October 2015 Class: 8 students: 6 new Techs, 1 new General. (One student already had his tech)
e) November 2015 General Class: 13 students: 10 new Generals, 2 new Extras. (One student already has his General.)
f) February 2016: One year ago, we had 80 members. As of this writing, we now have 90 members, a net gain of ten members. This includes honorary lifetime members.
Purpose: Establish an effective Amateur Radio presence in your community, including contact with local media and coverage of your activities; Public Information Officer Appointment.
Nashua ARC’s monthly General Meeting announcements are published on-line at www.NH.com and www.WhoFish.org. WhoFish sends 75,000k emails in the state of NH. This weekly publication has a 40% click thru rate and goes out on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
March/April 2015: “Visit a Member’s Station” program wherein a member opens up his Ham Shack for a tour and demonstration to other members and prospective licensees.
June 2015: Another successful annual Field Day operation with score of 7176 points including 900 Bonus points. Get On the Air (GOTA) station. Public and Officials Visit. Articles in local newspapers: The Nashua Telegraph and the Merrimack Cabinet.
October 2015: Member Anita Kemmerer, AB1QB, was featured in the Young Ladies Radio League quarterly publication.
August 2015: The August Nashua ARC Annual Picnic at Greely Park provided demonstrations to the public. (August)
Purpose: Club members should become skilled in communicating effectively during communications emergencies and be prepared to assist ARES when needed.
ARES in New Hampshire is organized by county. The individual in charge of ARES for each county is the County Emergency Coordinator (EC). The Hillsborough County (HC) EC is Fletcher Seagroves N1MEO, a Club Member.
The EC has three Assistant Emergency Coordinators (AEC’s). Two of the three county AEC’s, K1SMD and K9AEN are also members of Nashua ARC. KD1TD, W1YQ, KB1HYL, NF1L, KC1CRK and W1PK are members of and Nashua ARC. Most of these members participate in the weekly ARES training net.
Terry Newport W1YQ, our EC Liaison, updates the club on ARES activities. In the event of a real emergency, he monitors four frequencies—the N1IMO repeater system, the Nashua repeater, the Hillsborough Country ARES simplex frequency and the 2-meter national calling frequency. Through Terry, club members become flexible and adaptable to actual emergency needs and are prepared to assist ARES when needed.
Highly successful Field Day operation demonstrating Nashua ARC’s ability to install and establish communications in an emergency simulation.
Purpose: Continuing education in the technical aspects of Amateur Radio to ensure that your club members are technically competent, familiar and comfortable with modern radio-electronics technology; Technical Specialist appointment.
“Tech Night” Elmer program initiated. Monthly sessions–occurring between the regular General Meetings–provide opportunities for hands-on building and experimentation as well as for talks and demonstrations.
September 2015: Several club members were invited to attend an IEEE presentation on Software Defined Radios at the Nashua Public Library.
September 2015: Two Club projects presented An Audio Processor and a Rotor Controller Shield design.
Week of July 4th, 2015: In our second year of participation, six Nashua ARC member operators made over 9000 QSOs as K2K during the 13 Colonies Special Event. We seek to cover the K2K NH operation as much as possible by members of our club boosting the operating experience and skills of our club.
Every Spring and Fall: Special visitor: Michael Crestohl W1RC, creator of NEARFEST, the New England Amateur Radio Festival held at the Deerfield Fairgrounds, Deerfield NH. The program of activities and events at NEAR-Fest is extensive; a huge outdoor electronic flea market, three buildings full of commercial vendors, forums, technical seminars and symposia, demonstrations, exhibits, displays, licensing examinations, special events radio stations, a “jam session”, good food, fellowship and fun. NEAR-Fest is the largest event of its kind in the Northeast and has once been described as the “Woodstock of Amateur Radio