SSTV from the International Space Station

The International Space Station was transmitting slow-scan TV this weekend. Had a good pass over my neighborhood this morning and I picked up the image below. It’s actually fairly clean for SSTV over radio, although you can see where I picked up some static crashes where those horizontal lines appeared. It took the station more than 3 minutes to transmit this.

I received this over my Yaesu VX-7 handheld, using the Arrow 3-element Yagi. I simply recorded the audio with my iPhone and decoded it afterwards on my computer with MMSSTV.

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Seth Meyers explores 75 meters?

Seth Meyers

This is from last October, but I just saw it last week. Seth Meyers attempts to find humor in ham radio, but misses the boat for the most part. I’m all for poking fun at the hobby, but in true Saturday Night Live fashion, this just wasn’t that funny, tries too hard, and overstays its welcome.

Unless, of course, you view it in the context of a 75m QSO or any other whacker chat, and then it becomes marginally humorous, or maybe depressing.

That’s a beautiful old radio though.

Another ham radio comic book

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It’s new comic book day, otherwise known as Wednesday, and hey, there’s a new ham radio comic out there.

Some folks over in the U.K. have published a comic called “Alex Discovers Amateur Radio” and it can be downloaded over at their site. I took a quick look through it and it’s well done and informative and probably any new ham would get a kick out of it.

Personally, nothing is going to compare to the ARRL’s “Archie’s Ham Radio Adventure” from the early 90s. Heh.

Frankenstein’s ham radio cell phone?

I belong to a Google+ group that combines two interests of mine, the augmented reality game Ingress (think geocaching, but with an elaborate backstory and scorekeeping), and ham radio. The group is for ham radio ops who play this addictive cell phone game. I was out Ingress-ing with a buddy of mine one night (the gameplay often requires teaming up with a partner or two) and while we were driving around the city in our separate cars, it occurred to me that if my buddy had a ham radio, we could communicate very efficiently. That led me to the G+ group, which has had very few posts since I joined.

runbo-q5-570x360But today someone posted a link to a very unique cell phone that seemed to be built around a shell containing a single band radio (select VHF or UHF when ordering). The gadget, which is based around an Android phone, sells for $570. Yuck. Most people already have a cell phone and are paying much less since they are on contract. As we all know, a Chinese dual-band radio is under $40 nowadays.

I do like the idea of carrying a rig and a phone in one compact package, but I don’t like the idea of buying them together.

Here’s what needs to be done: Someone needs to invent a phone case with a dual-band rig built-in. That way you can slip in an iPhone, Nexus or whatever your phone of choice happens to be.

In fact, studying that product, it looks to be basically a giant phone case with a radio built in. Now, just offer the case and this makes a lot more sense.

TIL: The Wouff Hong

A Wouff Hong is a tool used to “punish” Amateur Radio operators, who demonstrate poor operating practices

I don’t know how I missed this… but apparently the founder of the ARRL once invented a torture device to deal with unruly hams. I spotted this today over at the ARRL’s ham radio history page.

Legend has it that the Wouff Hong was invented by Hiram Percy Maxim (founder of ARRL) under the pseudonym, “The Old Man,” just as amateurs were getting back on the air after World War One.

Early in 1919, “The Old Man” wrote in QST “I am sending you a specimen of a real live Wouff Hong . . . Keep it in the editorial sanctum where you can lay hands on it quickly in an emergency.” The “specimen of a real live Wouff Hong” was presented to a meeting of the ARRL Board and the Board voted that the Wouff Hong be framed and hung in the office of the Secretary of the League.

On display at ARRL HQ today, the Wouff Hong is a constant reminder to Amateur Radio operators to be mindful of their operating etiquette.

No word on how it was intended to be used.

Random bits: Ham radio in the Twilight Zone; fresh ham; radio on the web

"Now you boys don't happen to be ham radio operators do you?"

“Now you boys don’t happen to be ham radio operators do you?”

One of my favorite shows as a kid was The Twilight Zone. I would stay up until after midnight waiting to watch the old re-runs on the weekends. I’ve been watching an episode or two on Netflix lately, as the whole catalog is available there.

An episode titled “Black Leather Jackets” caught my eye the other night and it was one I’d never seen before. As an episode, it was horrible, but it did have some hilarious ham radio banter about 6 minutes in. The plot revolves around a group of aliens masquerading as a motorcycle gang moving into a quiet neighborhood. Naturally, they are plotting to take over the world.

Their first order of business is to erect a very strange antenna, which apparently jams the TV signals of the rube neighbor, prompting him to blame ham radio operators.

“Just our luck. Ham radio operators. You know what they do to radio and television reception.”

The episode can be watched in full here, or skip ahead to the ham radio bits in the embed below:

Also in the aether

We’ve had some decent postings over at our club website lately.

And I really enjoyed this post from Radio Artisan yesterday on the most infamous frequency in radio:

Creating/Elmering hams

I’m happy to welcome into ham radio my buddy Tom, KM4AEF (Yes, KM). I met Tom last November in another organization I’m a member of, and we hit it off when I mentioned I was a radio amateur. He has an uncle and a grandparent who are hams, and was interested in learning more about the hobby.

This past weekend, I was happy to work as a volunteer examiner and write up his CSCE after he passed the Tech. My friend Ronnie, W4RWL, presented him with a dual-band handheld as a reward for his achievement. His callsign showed up in the ULS on Monday and I know we’ll be hearing him on the air soon.

Saturday’s VE session went over quite well. We had eight walk-ins, resulting in five new technicians and three general upgrades. Everyone left happy.

World Necktie QSO Party

From the wonderfully strange and creative mind of my friend Jeff, K1NSS:

1492187_10200844967845922_38420843_oWEIRD TRICK REVERSES DECLINE OF HAM CIVILIZATION!

Can you still tie a necktie?

Then you can strike a blow against the barbarians of 14.313 ham culture. It’s not about a frequency so much as persistent, malicious, witless, misuse of the radio spectrum that has traditionally given so many of us so much civililzed pleasure.

What’s up with the Windsor Knot action?

Once upon a time, Real Old Men wore ties on the air. Not everybody did. But everybody didn’t need to wear a necktie because so many did, which kept the lids down. Neckties are Lid Kryptonite. And the hard cases felt the pain right through the aether.

Would it work again? Well, it’s gonna take a lot of ties and we don’t have much time before the barbarians have a beach head on every HF band.

Introducing the International Necktie QSO Party. We invite all licensed radio amateurs to post pictures of themselves wearing neckties in their shacks on Facebook’s 21st century aether.

Furthermore, given enough support, we hope to designate a day, night, weekend, some block of time as the 2014 International Necktie QSO Party, during which hams so attired may contact one another and spread orderly good cheer and fellowship.

There’s also a Facebook group!

Ham Radio Halloween costume?

The guys at Ham Hijinks keep nailing it!

Venture’s “Ham Kit” comes bundled with clothing, hair/beard dye, and accessories. The clothing portion includes a pair of off-orange Crocs, a pair of “broken-in” sweatpants, “LET’S FREQ!” novelty shirt, and a pair of rose-tinted glasses. Accessories include a Beofunger plastic HT with open squelch effect, blood glucose monitoring kit, LED callsign badge and embroidered callsign hat. A bonus “Ham Musk” spray which promises to “Bring Terror to the Senses!” is available for $5.99.

More info on the Ham Op, apparently the 3rd most popular costume this Halloween season!

Archie’s Ham Radio Adventure

archie_1When I was a kid I used to devour the old Archie “double digest” comics. Maybe it was because we are both redheads — but mostly because hanging out around the magazine and comic section of the supermarket gave me something to do while my parents were shopping.

That was back in the early 1980s. I’d largely forgotten about Archie comics until Monday of this week. In the past few weeks I’ve started “getting into” comics and graphic novels, mainly classic superhero stuff from DC, Marvel, and various indy publishers, like Image.

I’ve been trying to convince my buddy Stewart to join me in ham radio for some two years now. On Monday he texted me:

“Hey man, when’s your birthday?”

As a matter of fact, my birthday was that very day.

“No kidding? This was meant to be. Come by when you get a chance.”

I was intrigued, and stopped by his home after work on Monday. He produced a large box full of comic books, mostly stuff from the 1990s.

“I found this up in the attic today.”

He dug around in the box a bit and unearthed this gem: “Archie’s Ham Radio Adventure.”

I just about fell over. Without a doubt, one of the coolest birthday presents ever.

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Published by the ARRL around 1986, Archie’s Ham Radio Adventure is a nice survey of the amateur scene of the mid-80s, apparently intended to draw young people into the hobby. The book specifically touts ham radio’s role in EmComm, the then-exciting technology of packet radio, UHF and above (“1.2 gigahertz — a funny word with a big future”), space communications via OSCAR and EME, the “secret code” of CW, the inexpensive nature of the hobby (I keep hearing about how inexpensive this hobby is, lol), and of course, the ability to talk to hams around the world.

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It’s neat stuff, all rolled into an absurd adventure story that ends with Archie saving the day when he lobs a weighty handy-talkie at the antagonist’s head. Political incorrectness also ensues (“he’s fast for a fatty!”), the character Dilton scores points with Veronica and Betty for being a packet wizard (seriously?!?) and we learn Veronica’s dad apparently has the hamshack of the gods.

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I regret I never had the chance to read this when I was a kid, as it probably would have inspired me to be a ham at an earlier age, provided I could pass the code requirement of course. The ARRL did a solid job on the book, and includes a code chart on the back cover that uses the sounds (dah-dit, di-di-di-dah, etc.) rather than the common practice of dot and dash notation.

I’m including a scan of the book in case anyone would like to check it out. Hopefully the ARRL doesn’t mind! It’s really a cool fusion of comic culture and ham geekery. Although I have to think “Batman’s Ham Radio Adventure” would have been a little cooler…