Watts News

Monthly Newsletter of the

Olympia Amateur Radio Society

P.O. Box 2861, Olympia, WA 98507

Edited by George Lanning, KB6LE, 360-866-2185, glanning@worldnet.att.net

Watts New in January 2000

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Restructuring is upon us!

Questions, comments, confusion follow in FCC's wake

Questions, comments, and some confusion have been the order of the day since the FCC finally dropped the other shoe on Amateur Radio restructuring on December 30. The FCC's momentous action -- reducing the number of license classes to three and establishing 5 WPM as the sole Morse code examination element -- has, at least for now, polarized the Amateur Radio community. It also promises to change the complexion of Amateur Radio as it enters the new millennium.

More than half of those responding to an informal poll on the ARRL Web site indicate they plan to upgrade during 2000. Demand for study materials in the past week suggests many amateurs will be hitting the books in the coming weeks.

After April 15, 2000, the FCC will only issue Technician, General, and Amateur Extra class licenses. Novice and Advanced licensees will retain current operating privileges and may renew indefinitely. The FCC's new licensing scheme simplifies and shortens the upgrade path from the ground floor through Amateur Extra. Applicants will only have to pass one Morse code test, and there are fewer written examinations and total questions.

"This is the best news I have heard since bread and butter!" exclaimed Jimmy Stewart, WD9FHY, who said he's been trying unsuccessfully for years to boost his code proficiency. On the other side were some who asserted that the revised requirements would contribute to a further decline of Amateur Radio and open the doors to "riff-raff."

The ARRL Board of Directors is expected to review the FCC Report and Order and discuss its implications when it meets January 21-22 in Memphis. 

In a significant step, the FCC has left it in the hands of the National Conference of VECs Question Pool Committee to determine the specific mix and makeup of written examination questions. Current Amateur Radio study materials remain valid at least until the new rules become effective in April.

The nation's Volunteer Examiner Coordinators, including the ARRL-VEC, now are under the gun to meet the plan's April 15 implementation date. "The Question Pool Committee has been meeting by telephone and e-mail to get the updating process under way," said ARRL-VEC Manager Bart Jahnke, W9JJ. "It's anticipated that the QPC will put out a news release soon that indicates when the updated question pools will be available to the public." Jahnke said the revised question pools will be out "well in advance" of April 15. 

No one loses any privileges under the FCC's new plan, and, with one limited exception, no licensee is in a position to automatically gain any privileges when April 15 rolls around. The FCC's action establishes the Technician license -- with or without Morse code credit -- as the entry-level ticket to Amateur Radio. Technician applicants passing the 5 WPM Morse code exam will gain current Tech Plus HF privileges. The current "no-code" Tech license will continue to be available. Technician applicants opting to not take the code test will gain current Technician VHF/UHF privileges. After April 15, 2000, the FCC will lump Technician and Technician Plus licensees into a single "Technician" database. Despite the name change, current Tech Plus licensees won't lose any privileges.

Similarly, current General and Amateur Extra class holders will continue to enjoy their current privileges. The FCC took no action to reallocate any amateur bands.

The new licensing regime has four examination elements: Element 1, the 5 WPM Morse code test; Element 2, a 35-question Technician test; Element 3, a 35-question General test, and Element 4, a 50-question Amateur Extra test. The new Amateur Extra test is expected to combine the important elements of the current Advanced and Amateur Extra examinations. Only minor changes are anticipated in the new General class examination. The new Technician exam likely will include some questions on HF operating from the current Novice test.

The new licensing plan created a lone and limited upgrade for those who held a Technician license or a Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE) before March 21, 1987. Those individuals may claim credit for a new General class license. This is because there was a single Technician-General written test under the old system; only the code tests differed. The upgrade is not automatic, however. Affected individuals will have to apply through a Volunteer Examiner test session, complete Form 605, attach documentary proof of having completed the requirements for a Technician license prior to March 21, 1987, and pay an application fee, if any, to the VEC.

Judging from the questions coming into ARRL HQ, many hams want to know whether to upgrade now or wait for the new system. If you're either a Tech Plus or an Advanced licensee, there might be an advantage to taking an exam now. The FCC has told the League that current Tech Plus licensees holding a valid CSCE for Element 3B may apply for a General class upgrade when the new rules become effective. Likewise, current Advanced licensees holding a valid CSCE for Element 4B may apply for an Amateur Extra class upgrade under the new system. To be valid on April 15, 2000, any such CSCE will have to be dated on or after April 17, 1999. A CSCE is only good for 365 days. CSCE holders must attend a Volunteer Examiner session, complete Form 605, attach a valid CSCE, and pay any required application fee ($6.65 for the ARRL- VEC). 

The reduced Morse code requirement hit a nerve with some hams who felt it "devalued" their upper-class licenses. Others, however, felt it minimized an unnecessary obstacle. The FCC said it believes a demonstration of Morse proficiency does not necessarily indicate an individual's "ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art," as the FCC put it. The Commission also said it was not convinced that Morse proficiency had any particular value to emergency preparedness.

The reduction in the Morse code requirement was not entirely unexpected. Several other countries already have lowered their Morse code examination requirements, and some observers believe the Morse requirement will disappear altogether once it's eliminated in the international Radio Regulations. The FCC said it opted for the "least burdensome requirement" as its sole Morse standard. While the 13 and 20 WPM code tests soon will be history, the FCC said that "provisions must remain in place for accommodating individuals with severe disabilities."

The Morse code issue is expected to be on the agenda of a future World Radiocommunication Conference. The FCC said it would not automatically "sunset" the Morse code requirement even if Morse code is eliminated from the international radio regulations.

Frequently Asked Questions on restructuring are available at http://www.arrl.org/news/restructuring/faq.html/
A copy of the entire Report and Order (FCC 99-412) is available at http://www.arrl.org/announce/regulatory/wt98-143ro.pdf or at http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/1999/db991230/fcc99412.txt.

-- The ARRL Letter, Electronic Edition

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Any interest in a General Class course?

Would you be interested in a short class on upgrading to General class?? I have been speaking with some great instructors about this and they are receptive to the idea.

I didn't know whether "the egg came before the chicken" or what in regards to where to start on this. Do I speak with the proposed instructors first or find if there is even enough interest in said class to warrant it?? Since I decided to speak with the instructors first, the question to all of you is: WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN SUCH A CLASS IF IT WAS OFFERED?? If you are interested, please let me know so that I can continue working on this.

In order to use the current test question pool, we would have to take the test before April 15th, 2000 (tax day). After that date the test will be 35 questions rather than the current 30, and you would have to see the latest test question pool, effective April 15th, 2000.

I hope there is sufficient interest out there to warrant the class, as I think it would be very helpful.

I look forward to hearing from many of you soon. You can reach me at 360-352-2514 or e-mail me at:



-- Keith McDonald, N7JSK

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OARS Net check-ins

The following stations checked in with the OARS General Information Net on either 21 December, 4 January, or both.

   AA7YD   AB7PS   K7CEZ   K7TAG



   KF6GAQ  KI7SS   N0NE    N6TPT

   N7EIM   N7GGX   N7JHJ   N7SSD

   W3GE    W7SAY   W7SIX   W7UUO


* Net Control

The net meets at 7:30 every Tuesday evening on the 3 linked OARS repeaters: 147.36, 224.46, and 441.40 MHz.

-- Dave LeFevre, KC7FEC

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AMSAT-NA Area Coordinator

I feel privileged in being able to announce my acceptance of the Amateur Satellite Corporation's offer to act as their AMSAT Area Coordinator. The AMSAT Corporation is a non-profit operation, and is an International, world-wide organization comprised of members of many countries.

I've worked on the Phase 3-D satellite at the AMSAT Integration Lab in Orlando, FL. This satellite will launch in the next several months. That experience really and firmly launched my interest in satellites, and their communication potential. 

The primary role and function of an area coordinator is to direct and supply information about the satellites, AMSAT's programs and services, and other activities. As an area coordinator, I will have access to some very large and valuable data bases, resources, and other educational materials -- all available merely for the asking.

The AMSAT-NA website is: http://www.amsat.org

I will be available for talks, demonstrations of equipment, and to serve as a source for information. I'm looking forward to helping and working with the amateur community as the "Ambassador of AMSAT;" AMSAT's Area Coordinator.

I can be reached via e-mail at kf6gaq@amsat.org and through the US Postal service at PO BOX 8721, OLYMPIA, WA, 98509-8721,USA.

-- Gard Forester, kf6gaq

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Radio amateurs to listen to satellite experiment

This article was forwarded to you from:

space.com -- http://www.space.com via Don Schaer

Ham radio operators will be able to collect data transmitted by a satellite instrument payload scheduled for launch in December.

The radio buffs will "give us a backup of people getting data for us," says Fred Berry, NASA's project manager for the Plasma Experiment Satellite Test (PEST), which will collect data about auroras and particle streams in the upper atmosphere. Moreover, says Berry, the radio enthusiasts will find the project interesting, because the atmospheric phenomena under study tend to interfere with radio communications.

NASA will announce instructions for radio users to send their data for use by the PEST team.

PEST is attached to the Joint Air Force-Weber State University Satellite (JAWSAT), which is scheduled for launch on December 2 or later. The data will be broadcast on the frequencies 437.175 MHz or 2403.2 MHz, and will be available to radio operators using a G3RUH or GMSK modem.


-- Submitted by John Moore, N7GMC

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Treasurer's Report

As of 12/31/99

GENERAL FUND (checking account)

Previous balance   $ 785.70

  Income               1.68

  Expenses           180.00

Ending balance       607.38

REPEATER / PACKET FUND (savings account)

Previous balance   $ 876.86

  Income               6.74

  Expenses             0.00

Ending balance                                 883.60

-- Ed Fitzgerald, N7WW, Treasurer

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Reminder: pay your dues now!

All OARS renewals come up in January of each year help revive the sagging bank balances by sending in your check now, while you think of it. A renewal form can be found on the mailing wrapper of this newsletter.

Individual membership is $20; family membership, $25.

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God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.

Now that I'm older, here's what I've discovered:

  • I started out with nothing; I still have most of it.
  • My wild oats have turned to prunes and All Bran.
  • I finally got my head together, now my body is falling apart.
  • Funny, I don't remember being absent minded.
  • All reports are in. Life is now officially unfair.
  • If all is not lost, where is it?
  • It is easier to get older than it is to get wiser.
  • I wish the buck stopped here. I sure could use a few...
  • It's hard to make a comeback when you haven't been anywhere.
  • The only time the world beats a path to your door is if you're in the bathroom.
  • If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
  • When I'm finally holding all the cards, why does everyone decide to play chess?
  • It's not hard to meet expenses... they're everywhere.
  • The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.
-- thanks to Vicki Lovegren

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Does your mobile radio make you feel stupid?

By Mike Meltzer, K2SDD

This appeared in the September 1999 edition of the RAGS Review, the newsletter of the Radio Amateurs of Greater Syracuse, Nita Soper, WB2HGO Editor. 

Most mobile radios are so complicated that they are nearly impossible to operate while the user is involved with the important task of safely (?) driving a car. This is a result of two radio characteristics that are highly desirable to hams whom are shopping for what they believe to be the best mobile radio: (1) many features, also known as bells and whistles, and (2) small size, so the rig will fit in today's smaller automobiles.

To accomplish this, the designers know that they must keep the numbers of space-occupying pushbuttons to a minimum, and that means that each button must control multiple functions. This is done two ways (although occasionally a third technique is used that I shall mention later). Whether the button is held for a short time (momentarily) for a long time ( about one second ) will allow a single button to activate 2 different operations. Another technique is to use a "Function" button. If this function button is pressed immediately preceding the pushing of the operation button, the operation will be changed and an alternate use of this operation button will occur. 

Now imagine yourself driving in traffic and attempting to change the frequency offset from plus to minus. Even if you do remember which is the correct button that will perform this operation, will you recall if you should press it momentarily or for a full second, or must it follow the function key or be used without the function key? If you have been keeping score, you will realize that each operation button can do up to four operations. Can you remember which is which? Not me. 

But it can be even more confusing than this, because what I have not told you yet is that the function key can select multiple features depending on whether you press it momentarily or for a full second. This means that a single operation button can control up to 6 operations. Obviously there is not enough space on a button to label the 6 different uses for that one tiny key. So they do not label it, and it is up to you, the user, to either memorize them (good luck) or to read the manual each time (I thought you were driving the car). Bu wait, it gets worse. 

A dual-band rig will have about twice as many features to control as a one-band radio, but size is still important, so they sure can't double the number of keys. What do they do? They require the user to activate additional functions by holding various buttons as he powers up (turns on) the radio. Of course this means that you must first turn off the radio. So now each button can control up to 7 features. Don't forget to look at the road every once in a while because remember, you're driving. People who buy these mobile radios end up feeling that they are stupid. I bet even the average genius (is there such a thing as average genius?) can not handle one of these things and drive a car simultaneously. 

We think we want a do-everything radio, but maybe we really don't. There are many fancy features that the average ham can live without and still be very happy. Do you really need the feature that checks every 15 seconds to see if your friend who owns a radio like yours is nearby and warns you with a beep if he is out of range? Do you need the function that puts out a ultrasonic sound to repel mosquitoes? Or a loud alarm to fend off attackers? Or the pager-beep sound? Or the squelch that can only be opened by the correct tone? These things sell radios but most owners never use them.

Someday, sit down with your do-everything radio (or its operating manual) and make a list of the minimum features that a mobile radio would have to have to satisfy you. The emphasis here is on minimum. The smaller the number, the less complex the radio would be and the easier it will be to operate. The price will be lower too. I'll get you started. 

I would like to see a very big readout with numbers that can be read so easily that I would only have to take my eyes off of the road for a fraction of a second to see it. This may mean a larger size radio but I can live with that. I want at least 50 watts on high power with lower power levels select able. Direct frequency entry from a tone pad located on the microphone. At least 100 memories. Public service band receive. PL-tone transmit. Squelch and volume adjusted with standard rotary knobs. Real S-meter. Repeater input/output reverse switch. Memory scan -- I can get by without full frequency band scan. 

I think you get the idea. We tend to buy radios that are so complicated and confusing that they make us feel stupid, discouraged, and inadequate. What is really needed by a ham who must operate his radio and his automobile simultaneously is a very basic, easy to see, easy to operate radio. If we would buy them, they would make them. But we don't always do what is good for us. And we don't always buy what we really want. 

What about you?

-- via ARNS, the Amateur Radio News Service

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Enhanced amateur enforcement enters a new year

As the new year gets under way, FCC Special Counsel for Amateur Radio Enforcement Riley Hollingsworth hinted he might have to break bad on hard-core offenders this year. He explained that poor or lax FCC enforcement in the past led him to be more forgiving of rulebreakers during his first full calendar year in the enforcement chair. Now, those who persist in operating outside of the stated basis and purpose of Amateur Radio "are beginning to try our patience," he said. "I can't say we're going to be as compassionate this year."

Hollingsworth said he expected to continue his focus on incursions into the 10-meter band by unlicensed operators, especially as propagation gets better, and on equipment certification issues. "We're very concerned about the illegal equipment we see for sale at hamfests," he explained. 

Overall, however, malicious interference remains "the basic problem," as he put it. "We're going to use the High-Frequency Direction Finding Center at Laurel [Maryland] more this year" to track down rulebreakers, he said. In addition, Hollingsworth now has enhanced monitoring tools at his Gettysburg office, allowing him access to the HFDF Center's 14 antenna fields plus VHF-UHF "pods" that can be moved around as necessary. "We have dial-in capabilities to all of our antenna fields and to the pods, so we can cover HF, UHF, and VHF anywhere in the country, right here from the Gettysburg office," he explained.

"It's a force multiplier, so to speak," Hollingsworth said of the new capabilities.

Hollingsworth also says he's upbeat about the future of ham radio and the FCC's Amateur Radio restructuring plan announced December 30. "I'm really optimistic about it," he said this week. "I think that it's a good idea to simplify things a little bit as far as the number of license classes," he added, referring to the new three-tiered system.

Hollingsworth said he believes Amateur Radio needs more young blood to keep it going in the future, and he thinks the new licensing system that becomes effective April 15 might help in that regard. He declined, however, to comment further on the specific policies and rules the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau laid down in its Report and Order, saying it would not be appropriate.

-- from the ARRL Letter, Electronic Edition

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The job interview -- translations

  • Apply in person: If you're old, fat or ugly you'll be told the position has been filled.
  • No phone calls please: We've filled the job; our call for resumes is just a legal formality.
  • Problem-solving skills a must: You're walking into a company in perpetual chaos.
  • Requires team leadership skills: You'll have the responsibilities of a manager, without the pay or respect. 
  • Ability to handle a heavy workload: You whine, you're fired.
  • Entry-level position: You'll be making minimum wage.
  • Entry-level position in an up-and-coming company: You'll be making minimum wage; we'll be bankrupt in a year. 
  • Profit-sharing plan: Once it's shared between the higher- ups, there won't be a profit. 
  • Competitive salary: We remain competitive by paying less than our competitors. 
  • Join our fast-paced company: We have no time to train you; you'll have to introduce yourself to your coworkers. 
  • Nationally recognized leader: Inc. Magazine wrote us up a few years ago, but we haven't done anything innovative since. 
  • Immediate opening: The person who used to have this job gave notice a month ago. We're just now running the ad. 
  • Casual work atmosphere: We don't pay enough to expect that you'll dress up; although a couple of the real daring guys wear earrings. 
  • Competitive environment: We have a lot of turnover. 
  • Must be deadline oriented: You'll be six months behind schedule on your first day. 
  • Some overtime required: Some time each night and some time each weekend. 
  • Flexible hours: Work 40 hours; get paid for 25. 
  • Must have an eye for detail: We have no quality control. 
  • College degree preferred: Unless you wasted those four years studying something useless like Philosophy, English or Social Work. 
  • Career-minded: Female Applicants must be childless (and remain that way). 
-- forwarded on packet by Alan, G4YQQ

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