14th October 2020
Issue No.4, 2020
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Lo the roving ham!
Mighty are their preparations.
They riseth early and go forth,
Full of great expectations.
Then returneth late,
Smelling of strong drink,
And the truth is not in them!
(after anonymous ‘Ode to fishermen’).
There’s little or no doubt that, over recent years, the amateur fraternity has been getting out and about, enjoying the pleasures of portable operation. It’s not really a “new thing”, as there’s photographic and documentary evidence of efforts at portable operation from the “heroic era” a century ago. But, today, the facility to ‘get up and go’ portable is so much greater than in the past.
Portable ham radio pursuits have burgeoned through such drawcards as SOTA and Parks, VHF-UHF hill-topping, MADs (microwave activity days) and specialty field days. There is hardly a weekend free across the 12 months of the year where portable activities and contests don’t feature.
Playing up to this escalating interest and activity, commercial rig manufacturers and you-build-it kit producers have spent considerable development time, effort and dollars to produce small, low-volume, low-weight, low power multi-band, highly-featured rigs, which have been gaining a foothold amongst amateurs right across the world.
A particular exemplar of this genre would be Yaesu’s FT-817, recently joined by the FT-818. Covering from the 160m band through to 70cm, the ‘817 set a benchmark when it was released around two decades ago. It quickly garnered a dedicated following, and not just among the QRP crowd, which has hardly diminished with time. Prices for the ‘817 on the second-hand market seemingly defy conventional economics. The ‘817 has also claimed a secondary market as an IF rig among microwave enthusiasts, to drive their transverters.
So, where has “the shack” of yesteryear gone? Have amateurs abandoned the home-QTH shack?
Not a bit of it. The pleasures of portable operations has become an additional pursuit among the many available to today’s amateurs. The relentless march of developments in technology has enabled the commercial manufacturers, the you-build-it kit producers, and not to mention the hard-bitten homebrewers, to meet the needs and challenges of operating away from the home shack – even leaving their vehicles behind! Communing with nature has taken on a whole new meaning.
The on-air and online chatter surrounding the launch, and later release, of Icom’s fully-featured portable QRP rig – the IC-705 – has been impossible to escape. So, when it became available locally, the opportunity to garner a review, or two, from some prominent users was too good to miss. As it happened, I was offered two reviews within days of each other, and then took the opportunity to ask another colleague if they’d care to contribute their tuppence-worth on the subject.
Hence, this issue, we have three contributors abandon their shacks to get playful with Icom’s latest rig for the portable market! Nothing like covering all bases, as the
sporting parlance goes. Enjoy!
WIA President's Comment
WIA Presidents Column
As I compose this issue’s board comment, the state of Victoria has just announced some welcome relaxation of the Stage 4 lockdown pandemic restrictions for Melbourne following an impressive reduction to-date in the rate of new SARS-CoV-2 virus infection rates. This bodes well for the near future.
This announcement follows on from relaxation of lockdown restrictions in Victorian regional areas a few weeks earlier. While there is some way to go for life to be close to normal for Melbourne residents, this feat of bringing down the infection rates to single digit levels is a credit to the community and a far better achievement than similar overseas jurisdictions dealing with a “Second Wave”.
The disruptive impact of these “Second wave” restrictions in Melbourne, on both home and work life, has been huge. However, the sensible majority has complied with the onerous restrictions for the benefit of the wider Australian community.
As in the earlier New South Wales “Ruby Princess” event, there are many painful lessons that have been learnt, and hopefully, the wisdom gained will minimise the risk of such extreme later stage lockdowns being required in Australia again during this pandemic. Yet, throughout this period, the noticeable increase in “On The Air” activity, greatly increased sales of amateur radio products, and increased numbers interested in gaining Foundation Licences, has been some of the few upsides during the pandemic lockdowns.
Space Research: In the last year, the WIA Board has been requested to endorse the use of amateur radio spectrum by two Australian satellite projects. The WIA, as the official member of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU), is required to endorse such applications before they are considered by either the International Amateur Radio Union’s Satellite Frequency Co-ordination panel and/or by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)1.
Director Peter Clee, recently summarised the WIA’s involvement with assisting space research in Australia: “The WIA has recently endorsed the Binar-1 CubeSat project being developed by the Curtin University’s Space Science and Technology Centre and is to be launched early next year (2021). The Curtin team has managed to put all the systems required to operate the satellite, including the power, computer, steering and communications, on a single eight-layer printed circuit board, which measures only 10 cm by 10 cm!
“Having everything on a single circuit board means there is more room for carrying sensors, which in this case will be a camera that will capture images of Australia taken from orbit. These images will be sent back to ground using amateur frequencies. Information on receiving and decoding these images will be published in a future issue of Amateur Radio magazine.
The WIA has also provided conditional support for the CSIRO’s CubeSat project, CSIROSat1. This “NanoSat” will be a three-unit CubeSat, about the same size as a loaf of bread! It will carry an infrared sensor that will allow researchers to ‘see’ features that can’t otherwise be seen using satellite imagery in the visible spectrum.”
These requests have highlighted the need for a consistent treatment of these research requests by the WIA and its volunteers. The WIA is currently developing a draft policy on Amateur Satellites and the criteria hurdles for their endorsement, such as the level of radio amateur visibility and access. This will be published for general availability once peer-reviewed by the WIA Spectrum committee and has final approval from the WIA Board.
Social Media: In September, Director Scott Williams commented on the state of social media and Amateur Radio as part of his experiences of becoming a new WIA director. He states: “Common feedback received is how do we stop, suppress, or control all the negative social media chatter that seems to go on daily undermining the hobby and creating divide. It is certainly not the role of the WIA to act as a watchdog in the industry and challenge varying views – even if that was feasible. It is the author’s belief that robust discussion is always healthy but my view is, when it involves personal attacks and borders on bringing the hobby into disrepute, that is a tremendous shame.”
This unhelpful social media behaviour, often involving expletive-laden language, misogyny, defamatory, and/or discriminatory statements, appears to be stemming from a relatively small subset of the Australian radio amateur fraternity, some using pseudonyms. Yet these few miscreants – whom appear to have a very limited vocabulary, especially of non-four letter adjectives – have a substantive damaging impact on the perception of the Radio Amateur Service brand. The WIA respectfully calls on our members not to engage these “trolls” in an escalating exchange, and for moderators to remove offending posts.
Greg VK2GPK, WIA President.
Table Of Contents
Build this Arduino-based APRS tracker to report your rig’s position - Dale Hughes VK1DSH
So you want to use software for antenna modelling? - Brian Clarke VK2GCE
Portable Pleasures: Icom IC-705 Reviewed A FT-817/818 killer? - Justin Giles-Clark VK7TW
What’s it really like? - Scott Watson VK4CZ
Homebrew HF Transceiver project - Part 3 VFO System - Luigi Destefano VK3AQZ
When governments ruled the aether - Peter Wolfenden VK3RV
Remembrance Day Contest 2020 - 75th Anniversary - Alan Shannon VK4SN
Covid, a Clansman, a Codan and QRP in a clamshell - Carmel Morris VK2CAR
A SOTA activator’s first impressions of the Icom IC-705 - Ron Cook VK3AFW
From the WIA QSL Bureau - John Seamons VK3JLS
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