Logo for Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, part of Allina Health
Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for
the week of Wednesday, 17 June 2015
This is a free weekly news & information update from the Courage Kenny
Handiham Program <https://handiham.org> , serving people with disabilities
in Amateur Radio since 1967.
Our contact information is at the end.
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Welcome to Handiham World.
Old cathedral vacuum tube radio
In this edition:
. Musing about the good old days.
. A call for public service and Field Day 2015 stories.
. We check out an on the air event.
. The FCC reconsiders closing its Field Offices.
. This week's website features a blind accessible way to look up
. Dip in the Pool returns.
. The Remote Base HF report: Considering new software.
. June audio production is complete and NLS cartridges are mailed.
. ...And more!
The good old days; how good were they?
Page from 1968 Allied catalog showing knight-kit ham station for $199.95.
Yes, we all know things used to be better than they are today. In fact, I'm
looking at a page from a 1968 Allied Radio summer catalog right now, and
there's my first transmitter, the Knight-Kit T-60. In fact, the page shows
a complete 5-band Amateur Radio station that included the transmitter,
receiver, speaker (all separate, of course), straight code key, microphone,
headphones, coax, and an antenna relay. The only thing not included was the
antenna, which most beginners (like me) would end up making out of whatever
wire we could find.
One other thing was included: A couple of transmitting crystals. I know it
is hard to imagine this today, but back then many transmitters had no means
of independent frequency control. You couldn't just turn a knob or use a
touchpad to enter frequencies. Instead, the transmitter had a socket on the
front panel with two small round holes. Into it you plugged a transmitting
crystal. The frequency was stamped on the outside of the little rectangular
crystal housing, and that was your transmitting frequency. There was no way
to tune up a few kHz if you wanted to answer someone on another frequency.
You were stuck on whatever frequencies you had in your crystal collection,
at least as far as transmitting was concerned.
The receiver was more user-friendly because it could be tuned continuously
on each frequency band from one end of the band to another. This allowed
you to hear all kinds of activity on the frequencies on which you couldn't
transmit since you didn't have the right crystals for your transmitter. It
wasn't all that unusual to operate "split" on the CW frequencies because of
Anyway, the station pictured in the catalog sold for $199.95. In today's
dollars, that would be around $478 - an impossible sum for a teenager with
part-time jobs and school expenses. So what I did was look around for the
best deal. I found a Knight-Kit T-60 used, and I already had a Lafayette
receiver that I'd been using for short-wave listening. I bought the
cheapest code key I could find for a few bucks, a really cheesy aluminum
vertical antenna with a manually tuned base loading coil, and a few crystals
from a mail order supplier. Coax was available from a local store, and that
left me with one item missing: the antenna relay.
Remember that this is supposed to be the good old days. Well, back then,
when receivers and transmitters were separate boxes, you had to connect each
of them to the antenna, just not at the same time. That meant that the
antenna was connected to the receiver when you were listening and to the
transmitter only when you were transmitting. The function of the antenna
relay was to switch the antenna between the receiver and the transmitter.
A "Dow-Key" antenna relay would have been an expensive luxury, so I rode my
bicycle to Sears and bought a single throw double pole manual "knife switch"
from their hardware department. It took them a while to figure out what I
wanted; the worried clerk at first thought I was asking for a switchblade
knife, not an electrical accessory. I'm pretty sure I looked a lot more
like a geek than a juvenile delinquent!
With the knife switch set up to do my antenna switching, the procedure was
something like this:
1. Turn the receiver and transmitter on so that they could "warm up".
Remember that NOTHING was instant on, since vacuum tubes were used as the
active devices in electronic circuits, except for a few cutting-edge
projects that might have a few individual transistors. Tubes have filaments
that must be heated red hot in order to allow electrons to be boiled off the
cathode inside the tube's glass envelope. Everyone knew that radios had to
"warm up" before they would work.
2. With everything turned on and sound coming out of the receiver's
speaker, it was time to check the bands to find out if there were any
signals. Even if the band was open, that was no guarantee that someone
would be operating near the frequencies of your transmitting crystals. If
the band was totally dead, the antenna switch might have been left open.
3. If you were lucky and there was a band opening, you could call CQ on
one of your transmitting frequencies. You listened first on the frequency -
or as near as you could get with the sloppy tuning mechanism of the analog
receiver, and then made sure you had the right crystal plugged into the
front of the transmitter. Oops, don't forget to switch the manual antenna
switch to the transmitter!
4. Now you could call CQ with your straight key. Five CQ's then DE your
callsign, then five more and your callsign a couple of times.
5. Switch the antenna switch back to the receiver and then start tuning
around the frequency, listening for someone to come back to your call.
6. If someone comes back, lucky you - you could have a QSO, but there
would be lots of manual antenna switching and receiver adjustments as the
receiver drifted while it got warmer because of the vacuum tubes.
And this really doesn't even tell the whole story! Tube-type transmitters
had to be "tuned" for maximum output. The "plate" and "load" controls were
connected to variable capacitors behind the front panel of the transmitter,
and they had to be juggled back and forth to tune the transmitter's final
amplifier tube. Failing to do this swiftly and correctly could result in
excess current being drawn and the tube heating up so much that the glass
envelope would melt, destroying the tube.
Are we having fun yet?
Tuning the transmitter meant that there was a lot of potential to cause
interference on the bands. Good operators had yet another accessory: a
dummy load that would allow you to tune into a resistive 50 ohm load instead
of sending a signal out to your antenna. I made one out of old carbon
resistors that I'd soldered in parallel, and it worked as long as I tuned up
quickly and didn't let it overheat. Some ops used an incandescent light
bulb as a substitute, but it wasn't a very good one. The real deal was
something like a Heathkit "Cantenna", a large resistor mounted vertically in
a metal one gallon paint can. You connected your coax to the connector
mounted on the lid of the can, and the resistor was mounted just underneath
the lid, hanging down in a cooling bath of mineral oil, which dissipated
heat. Without exception some of the mineral oil would find its way out
along the rim or though the connector mechanism on the top, making a greasy
mess. Even worse, some operators used commercial transformer oil instead of
plain old mineral oil. Mineral oil was cheap and you could get it at any
drugstore, but transformer oil was a specialty product available from the
power company or an electrical supplier. Its longer and more durable
molecular structure would handle heat better than mineral oil. What no one
knew back then was that decades later it would become an environmental
hazard, a carcinogen that made it a pariah in the trash business, disposable
only through highly specialized handling.
Another feature of "good old days" operating was the ever-present log book.
All transmissions were to be logged, even if you called CQ and didn't make a
contact. Operating mobile? You had to log your transmissions, so there
were mobile logbooks. Talk about inconvenient! Operating outdoors in the
field? Yes, those transmissions needed to be logged, too. There were even
Then there were the frequencies and modes. We had fewer of both, and most
people just stuck to HF phone or CW, with a few of the high-tech ops running
RTTY on noisy mechanical surplus teletype machines. FM repeaters were only
starting to show up in major cities, and the popularity of VHF mobile was
still a few years off in the future. When it finally arrived, the rigs were
crystal controlled. Who could even conceive of more than a few possible
Today we take small, powerful, portable electronics for granted, but in the
"good old days" radio gear was big - really big - and heavy. Utility was
limited when you had to be a weight lifter to heft tube gear with massive
transformers and heavy chassis full of point to point wiring and a bunch of
vacuum tubes. People did "go mobile", and even though cars had more
under-the-dash room in them back then, the radio gear was pretty much like
having an extra passenger in there with you. The tubes slurped power
through a confabulated power supply system that had to convert the 12VDC of
the car to the high voltages demanded on the tube anodes and the low voltage
needed to light the filaments. It all gave off plenty of heat, and all
those analog controls were hard to manage. Field Day was as popular back
then as it is now, and no one needed a gym membership because you got a
workout hauling all that heavy radio equipment and setting everything up,
then doing the whole thing in reverse on Sunday afternoon.
Reliability? Not so much...
Everyone was familiar with drugstore tube testers, burned out filaments,
components that had failed because of excessive heat, and intermittents
caused by the many plugs and sockets in the old gear. Final amplifier tubes
could be counted on to fail - especially on Field Day or during the big
contest. Radio gear often had dodgy mechanical components, too. Things like
dial strings in the tuning mechanisms, rubber belts in the power amplifier
tuning section (Heathkit, I'm talking about you), and questionable
mechanical and structural stability. Safety wasn't the first priority,
either, and interlocks were not common. Electrocution was not out of the
question if you made a mistake working on a radio. The plate voltages on
the tubes were in the hundreds of volts, and not to be taken lightly.
Capacitors in power supplies might or might not have had bleeder resistors
to bleed off the charge when the rig was unplugged. A charged capacitor is
capable of delivering a nasty shock. You could also burn yourself working on
hot vacuum tubes.
Next time you take a trip down memory lane and remember those good old days
fondly, remind yourself that even though ham radio was fun and more than a
little challenging back then, today we have better electronics with digital
ease and stability, small and highly functional equipment, energy-dense
batteries, far more frequencies and modes, and just way more good stuff.
These really ARE the good days, and there is truly something for everyone in
Amateur Radio right now.
(For Handiham World, this is Pat Tice, WA0TDA.)
Call for public service and Field Day 2015 stories.
If you are a person with a disability or sensory impairment and have a
public service communications or Field Day 2015 story to tell, won't you
please consider sharing it with us? Field Day is June 27-28.
We all know that public service communication is an important aspect of
Amateur Radio. Many ham radio operators have participated in some form of
public service communications, whether it be support for events like bike
races, marathons, and parades, or emergency communications in response to
threatening weather and natural or man-made disasters. But what is perhaps
less known is that Amateur Radio operators with disabilities can participate
in these activities and do an excellent job. They can take the courses, be
there for practice exercises, staff a station at a checkpoint during a
scheduled event, and yes - be ready and able to answer the call during a
communications emergency! Field Day is a great opportunity to hone your
If you have a public service experience to share, please email us. We'd
love to hear from you!
On the air this week:
Kids Day, sponsored by ARRL and the Boring, OR ARC.
From ARRL: "Kids Day is a fantastic way to introduce young people to the
magic of Amateur Radio by getting them on the air! Kids Day this month just
happens to share the same date as Father's Day."
Check out the details on the ARRL website.
Check into our Handiham nets... Everyone is welcome!
How to find the Handiham Net:
1. The Handiham EchoLink conference is 494492. Connect via your iPhone,
Android phone, PC, or on a connected simplex node or repeater system in your
2. WIRES-2 system number 1427
3. WIRES-X digital number 11165
The Handiham Net will be on the air daily. If there is no net control
station on any scheduled net day, we will have a roundtable on the air
Cartoon multicolored stickman family holding hands, one wheelchair user
Our daily Echolink net continues to operate for anyone and everyone who
wishes to participate at 11:00 hours CDT (Noon Eastern and 09:00 Pacific),
as well as Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 19:00 hours CDT (7 PM). If
you calculate GMT, the time difference is that GMT is five hours ahead of
Minnesota time during the summer.
Doug, N6NFF, poses a trivia question in the first half of the Wednesday
evening session, so check in early if you want to take a guess. The answer
to the trivia question is generally given shortly after the half-hour mark.
A big THANK YOU to all of our net control stations and to our Handiham Club
Net Manager, Michael, VE7KI.
FCC round logo
Remember the recent story about the FCC downsizing its Field Offices? Now
there is some good news from ARRL about a change in that position
-back-field-office-shutdowns> . This is due to the good work of ARRL staff
and the willingness of the FCC to hear the concerns of the Amateur Radio
Says ARRL: "Leaders of the US House Energy and Commerce Committee have
reached agreement with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to amend the Commission's
plans - announced in March - to close FCC field offices. Under the revised
plan, the FCC will keep 15 of its 24 field offices open."
For more information about the FCC, visit <http://www.fcc.gov/> www.FCC.gov
This week's website: YouTube video "RFinder for Visually Impaired on
I first ran across this story when it was posted in the QRZ.com
<http://www.qrz.com/index.html> forum, but that story links back to
Southgate ARC News <http://www.southgatearc.org/> . It is a YouTube video
of a blind user describing the use of the RFinder worldwide repeater
directory with an Android device. The built-in Android speech feature is
used, so you can hear the screenreader along with the description of what is
happening in the video. RFinder is a pay-for repeater directory service
<https://www.rfinder.net> that can be accessed via the web and on a variety
of other devices. Watch <https://youtu.be/wXOp-zBl2vM> "RFinder for
Visually Impaired on Android!" on YouTube here.
A dip in the pool
Dip in the pool is back! Our question this week is from the Extra Class
question pool, number E1E02. It asks:
"Where are the questions for all written US amateur license examinations
Possible answers are:
A. In FCC Part 97
B. In a question pool maintained by the FCC
C. In a question pool maintained by all the VECs
D. In the appropriate FCC Report and Order
While you're thinking about which answer might be the right one, let's
remind ourselves that questions about the rules and regulations are part of
every question pool, Technician, General, and Extra Class. It is important
that all of us have an understanding of the rules that provide order and
procedure to our daily on the air operations.
Did you decide which answer is the correct one? If you picked answer C, In
a question pool maintained by all the VECs, you got this one right. Since
the question pools are subject to some degree of change throughout their
lifespan, there does need to be a definitive source to which one can refer
to get the most current pool. That go-to source is the NCVEC website at
Although the Handiham volunteers do provide us with spoken word audio
versions of the question pools, these cannot easily be updated once they are
recorded. If changes take place in the pool, they are usually not reflected
in the audio version. To minimize this, we usually wait to make sure the
newly-released pools are stable, having been out for review a reasonable
length of time before we make the audio recording. Any subsequent changes
are usually not a big problem and can be left until a replacement pool is
Both Handiham HF remote base internet stations are up and running.
Scan this QR code to visit the Remote Base website on your smartphone.
Handiham Remote Base info QR code
. We have settled (for now) on a schedule of running W0ZSW on the
weekend (Friday afternoon through Sunday) on the Kenwood ARCP-590 software
and on the W4MQ software the rest of the week, though this can change. In
fact, there will be no TS-590S availability for the rest of June since we
have disconnected the TS-590S in preparation for Field Day use. It will be
updated to the latest firmware and paired with a new Heil PR-10 microphone.
In the meantime, the IC-7200 remains in service at W0ZSW.
. If you are a registered user, check the station's schedule for
which rig is in use at the <http://handiham.org/remotebase/> remote base
website and in the W0ZSW Skype status.
Contact me if you are interested in hosting a Handiham Remote Base station,
either here in the Twin Cities or anywhere else in the USA!
<mailto:wa0tda@xxxxxxxx?subject=Participate%20in%20TS-590S%20Testing> If you
are an experienced TS-590S and ARCP-590 user and are interested in
participating in beta tests, please let me know.
<http://www.remotehams.com/> Remotehams.com rig control software:
Icom IC-7200 RCFORB screenshot showing virtual radio interface
The <http://www.remotehams.com/> Remotehams.com RCFORB client is in use at
the <http://tice.us/wa0tda/> WA0TDA HF remote base. We think that this
client is screenreader accessible and would like to hear feedback from blind
users. So far I have been delighted with this method of controlling remote
base HF radios around the world. The software does speak the frequency
readout and control settings for blind users, a feature available in the
settings. The nifty thing is that once you set up your preferences in the
settings, it applies across all of the radios available around the world.
For example, if I want to ask my IC-7200 what frequency it is on, all I have
to do is the keystroke combo ALT-SHIFT-F. Later that day I decide to listen
on a Flex radio in Alabama. I use the same keystroke to ask the Flex to
tell me the frequency. This is really nice because once I learn the RCFORB
software, the commands are pretty much universal across radios, subject to
the radio's features. Remember that the radio does not need to have a
special speech chip installed because the voice frequency announcements are
done in the RCFORB software, not the radio's hardware.
The procedure for getting the RCFORB software set up is a bit different than
what you are used to with remote base operation. Your first step is to the
website <http://www.remotehams.com/> Remotehams.com and read about the
system, which provides access to many stations around the world as a
volunteer effort. The RCFORB software is free and works on Windows
computers. You can support the project with a donation if you wish. You
should set up a free account. Uploading a copy of your license is highly
recommended if you expect to request transmit privileges on any of the
The Remotehams system has several key advantages over our existing W4MQ
1. It appears to be more blind accessible.
2. It is under current development.
3. It supports physical hardware devices on the client side, like K3
transceivers and a neat little hardware box into which you can plug a
microphone and key, though it can also be operated from a computer or
Windows tablet without these extra devices.
4. There is a great Android app that allows you to control radios from
your smartphone. It's under $10 and works well for me, though I have not
tested it with the Android screenreader.
5. You don't need a third-party audio application like Skype since it has
its own built in audio.
6. Multiple users can listen at the same time without resorting to
Echolink. The RCFORB client allows for a number of listeners with one
control op at a time.
7. From an administration standpoint, the host software for this system is
much easier to manage. If someone wants to use my station, all I need to do
is check my list for transmit requests and check the uploaded licenses for
verification. I can then add the user to the list of those who have
transmit permission. Although I did have to open several ports on my router
to the host computer, this is not necessary for the actual users of the
station, so the client software is very easy to set up. No fiddling with
your router's ports!
8. Finally, once you set up the RCFORB software there is access to many
stations. You don't have to worry about setting a special IP address for
each station as you do with the W4MQ software. This makes it much easier to
use many different stations, a definite advantage as band conditions change
from one geographic area to another.
Please consider testing the Remotehams.com system and letting me know what
you think about it.
July 2015 QST has been released in digital print format, available to ARRL
members. We will soon begin our audio digest recording. Meanwhile,
Handiham June NLS cartridges are in the U.S. Mail.
June CQ Magazine audio digest has been recorded for our blind members by Jim
Perry, KJ3P, and will be available in the members section later this week.
June QCWA Journal has been recorded by Jim Perry, KJ3P, and is available in
streaming MP3 from a link at <http://www.qcwa.org/qcwa.php> QCWA.org or
<https://handiham.org/audio/QCWA/QCWA-2015-June.mp3> listen here.
The Doctor is In column from the June 2015 QST audio recording for our blind
members has been completed by volunteer reader Ken Padgitt, W9MJY. Thanks,
Bob Zeida, N1BLF, has completed the June DAISY audio digest including QST
articles of interest to our blind members. It is now available as a DAISY
download. Thanks, Bob!
Podcast: If you would like to receive this audio newsletter as a podcast in
software other than iTunes, the RSS feed for the audio podcast is:
Email version: <http://www.freelists.org/list/handiham-world> Subscribe or
change your subscription to the E-mail version here.
Weekly audio reminder: If you are a Handiham member and want a weekly
reminder about our new audio, let us know. Watch for new audio Thursday
afternoons. (Some audio is available only to members.)
Beginner course DAISY download available for our blind members: We now have
the DAISY version of the entire Technician Class lecture series on line for
Some of you have asked about the 2015 General Lecture Series. The new
General pool will be used for exams beginning on July 1, 2015. If you are
planning to study for General at Radio Camp in August, you will take your
exam based on the new General question pool.
But you can start studying using the new pool right now! Bob Zeida, N1BLF,
has finished the recording of the new 2015 General Class Question Pool and
it is in the General Class section in the Members part of the website.
Jim, KJ3P, has recorded the DXer's Handbook Second Edition by Bryce, K7UA,
for our blind members. If you are a Handiham member and need a link to the
DAISY download, please let me know.
Thanks to our volunteer readers:
Radio Camp News: We will once again be at the Woodland campus, Camp
It's June! If you have been sitting on that camp application, time to fill
it out and send it in. If you have equipment needs and wish to get
equipment to take home from our collection of donated gear when you come to
camp, let us know.
Cabin 2, site of our ham radio stations and classes.
Photo: A Woodland Cabin with screen porch, fireplace, kitchen, laundry, and
comfortable great room.
Plan to work DX with the triband HF beam antenna. In addition, we will be
installing several wire antennas fed with 450 ohm ladder line for
high-efficiency operation on multiple bands. We will be able to check in to
the popular PICONET HF net on 3.925 MHz. Radios you can try at camp include
the remote base stations running the Kenwood TS-480, and get your hands on a
Kenwood TS-590S or TS-2000, both of which will be set up to operate. If you
have a special request for gear you would like to check out at camp, please
let us know.
Other activities at camp:
. New! We have acquired an Icom IC-7200 to try out at camp. These
excellent rigs come with built in speech.
. Campers needing radio equipment or accessories to take home and
complete their stations should let us know what they need. Equipment will
be distributed at camp.
. We will have a Handiham Radio Club meeting that will include
election of club officers and planning for the upcoming year.
. The Icom IC-718 will once again be pressed into service on the
camp pontoon boat for HF operation from Cedar Lake. All aboard! QRMers
will walk the plank if caught.
. We'll have time for several operating skills discussions.
. Anyone interested in a hidden transmitter hunt on VHF?
If you want to get a first license or study for an upgrade, let us know.
<http://truefriends.org/camp/> Camp dates are now published in the True
Friends Camp Catalog. They are Tuesday, August 18 (arrival) through Monday,
August 24 (departure),
Please let Nancy know if you wish to receive a 2015 Radio Camp Application.
. You can pay your Handiham dues and certain other program fees on
line. Simply follow the link to our secure payment site, then enter your
information and submit the payment. It's easy and secure!
o Handiham annual membership dues are $12.00. The lifetime membership
rate is $120.00.
MEMBERSHIP DUES PAYMENT LINK
o If you want to donate to the Handiham Program, please use our donation
website. The instructions are at the following link:
DONATION LINK <http://www.handiham.org/drupal2/node/8>
o We hope you will remember us in your 2015 giving plans. The Courage
Kenny Handiham program needs your help. Our small staff works with
volunteers, members, and donors to share the fun of Amateur Radio with
people who have disabilities or sensory impairments. We've been doing this
work since 1967, steadily adapting to the times and new technologies, but
the mission is still one of getting people on the air and helping them to be
part of the ham radio community. Confidence-building, lifelong learning,
making friends - it's all part of ham radio and the Handiham Program.
Begging cartoon doggie
o The weekly audio podcast <https://handiham.org/audio/handiham.mp3> was
produced with the open-source audio editor Audacity
How to contact us
There are several ways to contact us.
Courage Kenny Handiham Program
3915 Golden Valley Road
Golden Valley, MN 55422
E-Mail: <mailto:Nancy.Meydell@xxxxxxxxxx> Nancy.Meydell@xxxxxxxxxx
Preferred telephone: 1-612-775-2291
Toll-Free telephone: 1-866-HANDIHAM (1-866-426-3442)
Note: Mondays through Thursdays between 9:00 AM and 2:00 PM United States
Central Time are the best times to contact us.
You may also call Handiham Program Coordinator Patrick Tice, WA0TDA, at:
FAX: 612-262-6718 Be sure to put "Handihams" in the FAX address! We look
forward to hearing from you soon.
73, and I hope to hear you on the air soon!
For Handiham World, this is Pat Tice, WA0TDA.
ARRL is the premier organization supporting Amateur Radio worldwide. Please
contact Handihams for help joining the ARRL. We will be happy to help you
fill out the paperwork!
ARRL diamond-shaped logo
The weekly e-letter is a compilation of software tips, operating
information, and Handiham news. It is published on Wednesdays, and is
available to everyone free of charge. Please email Patrick.Tice@xxxxxxxxxx
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