Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Tribute

My Firsts 

A "thanksgiving" essay dedicated to the radio amateurs who have helped, inspired,  encouraged, or otherwise kept this wonderful hobby of ours interesting, engaging and fun.

Amateur radio is hobby which is always full of "firsts".  It is the nature of the hobby - first rig, first contact, first home-brew project, and so on.  Through all of these, people are always involved to provide encouragement, help and inspiration.  Over the years these radio amateurs have become role models to aspire to.

There is always a story associated with a "first"

My first ticket into the world of HF - was with the help of a VE (volunteer examiner) who encouraged me to explore the world of HF digital.  He was Stan Nafziger - KF4BY.  Stan helped me with many technical questions over the years.  Stan encouraged me to build my first radio - a K2/10.

My first HF rig was an old Kenwood TS830.  A young Canadian missionary needed money for their first kid. It was a 100 watt radio but the tubes were sagging and so it did not reliably put out 100.  Stan KF4BY helped me keep that old rig running.  I was able to get Worked All States on phone with that old rig.

My first HF phone contact was a station at Moose Island Lighthouse in Maine AA1KS.  I still have the QSL card from that first contact.  This took place in March of 2010.  I was a General Class amateur at the time.

My first DX contact was a station in the Dominican Republic by HI3/W1JNZ.  My first long haul DX contact at QRP power level was using my Yaesu FT817 to the station of Mal Johnson in Australia VK6LC.  He did the heavy lifting digging me out of the noise floor with his beam antenna.  Both contacts were mid March 2010.

My first PSK contact in the US was to a Texas station  of KM5RA on 3/20/13 and my first DX contact was to the station of G0RVS on 3/21/13. 

My first 2x1 Extra Class call sign NY4G was obtained though a lottery process administered by the FCC.  I actually had a choice between NB4J and NY4G.  I chose NY4G from my New York City roots and my exposure to amateur radio as a 15 year old at the Worlds Fair fairgrounds through an amateur radio class.  The Call sign was granted by the FCC In July of 2010.

It was my first time to help the Boy Scouts earn their amateur radio merit badge by helping them get on the air through Jamboree on the Air on October 16, 2010.   I studied a little bit of CW so I can explain to them what morse code was.  Through that exposure I fell in love with the aspect of the hobby - thanks to K4MLW Marty Hawkins.  Later on that month on October 25, I had my first CW contact to the Forsyth Georgia station of W4ELP.

In March of the following year, I participated in my first HF contest - the CQWW DX contest.  Later that March of 2011, I embarked on building my first radio from a kit.  It was an Elecraft K2.  Most of my 214 DXCC entities, and my Worked All States awards were called by that rig (albeit after having been outfitted by a 100 watt amplifier deck - courtesy of Stan KF4BY).  It took me until June of that year to finish that radio and took 80 hours of building time.

I participated in my first Field Day with the Blue Ridge Amateur Radio Society in June of 2011.  I operated in the CW station along with Tillman Cuttino AJ4IK and David Stansell W4KA.  We made a lot of QSO's that night - mostly by Tillman and Dave as I was still learning to copy.  Dave was always an encouragement.

It took until November 30, 2011 before I could earn the Worked All States QRP Award.  I had to collect all 50 state QSL cards.  The hardest states to get were Alaska, North Dakota and Colorado.  It was my first coveted ARRL award.

In January of 2012, I had my first chance to operate as a special event station for the W4 calling region with the SKCC.  For a whole week I operated as K3Y/4 and made 100 QSOs and worked all K3Y special event stations from all 10 US regions for a clean sweep all on a straight (postal) key.  I remained active with the SKCC that year and earned Tribune and Centurion awards, and worked SKCC members from all 50 states with a straight key.

Later that year, I built my first home-brew beam antenna - a Hex beam.  We did field trials of that hex beam prior to Field Day 2012 at the farm of George Gunn in Landrum SC.  I was helped in that field trial by Matt Collier WM4AA (ex call KQ4VY).  Matt became my partner for Field Day for the next two years.  We placed second in our class in 2012, our first entry as a competing station and third in our class in 2013.  Matt has always been an inspiration.  He was a talented engineer and radio amateur.  He has confirmed close to 300 DXCC with simple wire antennas and a hex-beam.  We always encouraged one another.  I instigated his building of a K2 and later a KX3.  He built his hex beam after I built mine.  I doubt I will ever catch him in getting to honor roll - but that is OK.  The hex beam I built remains unique - with folding arms to enable deployment in tight places or as a portable.

Early In January 2013, I had the chance to visit the station of a radio amateur in a foreign country - that of Belgium's John Devoldere ON4UN - one of the loudest amateur stations in Europe.  He had three towers - two phased stacked multiple element yagis.

In February 2013, I finally earned my most coveted ARRL award - QRP DXCC.  I proceed to add 14 more stations to the total.

Through most of 2013, Tom N0TR became my regular HF CW ragchew buddy with scheduled QSOs every Tuesday and Thursday evening.  It is a streak we have not broken in over a year.  Tom is great DX'r with great DX'r instincts in putting his VFO where the DX is listening.  Tom has probably worked 250 or so DXCC - he just does not know it.  He is confirmed in LOTW for at least 192.

In April of 2013, at the encouragement of Dave Watson, W4DJW, I became a net control station for the BRARS 2 meter net for the very first time.  Dave was always a guy to give back to the hobby and is one of the local experts in HF Digital.  Dave was always helpful, helping fellow hams set up their stations and has been a role model as an NCS operator.   Dave was the first ham to spot 100,000 CW stations in a 24 hour period in November of 2013.

In August of 2013, I got my first HF Linear Amp - A Drake L4B.  In the short span between late August and Thanksgiving of 2013, I was able to add over 70 DXCC entities with the help of that amp and the old reliable K2/100.  Thanks to KF4BY for giving me the lead to that amp.  The amp looks like it came off the factory floor just yesterday - thanks to the care given it by its owner.  The amp is quite a work horse while loafing at 1000 watts output with about 6o watts of drive. At the time of this writing I have worked 208 DXCC and confirmed 156.  I don't know how long I can hold this pace.  I am quite sure that when the solar cycle ebbs, the pace will slow down. 

As one can see, this hobby can be full of firsts.  There is always something new to explore, a new antenna to build and experiment with, a new mode.  There is still moon bounce, meteor scatter, JT65, JT9 to explore.  The common denominator that makes it all fun is the radio amateur at the other station, or the radio amateur to help and encourage.  So to all you radio amateurs who have helped me and kept this hobby fun and engaging and to help me with all the "firsts" - I big NOTE of THANKS.  Happy Thanksgiving 2013.  And hopefully I have been a help and encouragement in turn.

Credits - 
KF4BY - My first elmer and technical advisor
W4KA - My first encourager on CW
WM4AA - My Field Day partner and friend 
N0TR - My regular CW ragchew partner and encourager
K4MLW - My first exposure to helping the scouts
W4DJW - Always a gentleman, encourager and role model - king of HF digital 

This will be posted in my blog at

Ariel NY4G

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