Watts News

Monthly Newsletter of the
Olympia Amateur Radio Society
P.O. Box 2861, Olympia, WA 98507

 May 2002
Edited by George Lanning  KB6LE 


Table of Contents

  •  FCC proposes two new amateur bands!
  •  From the VP's Desk
  •  Static all around for ham radio operators
  •  Ray Ferris, W7ZOW, Silent Key
  •  Treasurer's Report
  •  OARS Net check-ins
  •  The conversation
  •  It will kill you!
  •  Music test answers

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    FCC proposes two new amateur bands!

    Good news for ham radio this week! FCC has proposed going along with ARRL's request for a new domestic (US-only), secondary HF allocation at 5.25 to 5.4 MHz. The FCC also is ready to permit operation on a 136-kHz "sliver band" in the low-frequency (LF) region. And, in response to a third ARRL request, the FCC has proposed elevating Amateur Radio to primary status at 2400 to 2402 MHz.

    "I'm just as tickled as I can be," ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP, said upon hearing the news. "This is a classic example of our ARRL at work."

    The FCC voted unanimously May 2 to adopt the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in ET Docket 02-98. The Commission released a Public Notice May 9, and the NPRM is expected to be released soon. A comment deadline will be announced as soon as it's available. 

    The FCC said the new 5-MHz band would help amateurs "better match their choice of frequency to existing propagation conditions." The band, if approved, would be the first new amateur HF allocation since World Administrative Radio Conference 1979 gave amateurs 30, 17 and 12 meters -- the so-called "WARC Bands." Assuming the 5-MHz band eventually is authorized, it could be a few years before it actually becomes available.

    The League said its successful WA2XSY experiments demonstrated that amateurs can coexist with current users and that the band is very suitable for US-to-Caribbean paths. In comparisons with 80 and 40 meters, the WA2XSY operation also showed the 60-meter band to be the most reliable of the three. The ARRL also argued that a new 150-kHz allocation at 5 MHz could relieve periodic overcrowding on 80 and 40.

    If allocated to amateurs on a secondary basis, hams would have to avoid interfering with -- and accept interference from -- current occupants of the spectrum, as they already do on 30 meters. The band 5.250 to 5.450 MHz now is allocated to Fixed and Mobile services on a co-primary basis in all three ITU regions.

    The ARRL asked the FCC for two LF allocations in October 1998 -- 135.7 to 137.8 kHz and 160 to 190 kHz. The FCC said its action on one part of that LF request proposes changes that would enhance the ability of amateur radio operators to conduct technical experiments, including propagation and antenna design experiments, in the "low frequency" (LF) range of the radio spectrum.

    Several countries in Europe and elsewhere already have 136-kHz amateur allocations. The first amateur transatlantic contact on the band was recorded in February 2001.

    Hams would be secondary to the Fixed and Maritime Mobile services in the 136-kHz allocation. The League said its engineering surveys suggest that hams could operate without causing problems to power line carrier (PLC) systems already active in that vicinity or to government assignments. Unallocated Part 15 PLC systems are used by electric utilities to send control signals, data and voice. 

    The FCC said its proposal to upgrade the Amateur Service allocation at 2400 to 2402 MHz to primary "seeks to protect current amateur use of this band." Hams have shared their other 2.4 GHz spectrum on a secondary basis with government users.

    Amateurs already are primary at 2390 to 2400 and from 2402 to 2417 MHz. The ARRL has said primary status in the intervening spectrum slice was needed "to provide some assurances of future occupancy of the band segments for the next generation of amateur satellites."

    The ARRL has expressed its belief that hams can continue to accommodate Part 15 and Part 18 devices at 2.4 GHz.

    -- ARRL Bulletin ARLB028

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    From the VP's Desk

    The YMCA 10K footrace competed with the SAR practice "mock search" last Saturday morning, and I had the tail end of a brush with the flu just then, so I made the Y-run but missed the mock search, an event I enjoy. Missing it put me in a foul mood, and I don't like to be in foul moods!

    I did get to the ARES meeting on Thursday night, so I heard the debriefing, which went on into the night. The most salient point, in my humble opinion, is that the SAR people would really like SAR-frequency repeaters in the Capitol Forest so they can communicate with their search teams. Hah! They just don't understand the situation, or repeaters anyway! What they really need are people with an almost fanatical interest in communications and the expertise to install and run and maintain and upgrade and baby repeaters, and do it for nothing for years on end. People willing to put sweat and personal finances into it. (Sound like anyone you know?) Of course, the searches will then be somewhere else (just out of range), and they'll be wishing for a repeater network over there, wherever "there" is.

    They need a repeater system like what we hams have had for the last 20 years, or the good sense to get licensed so they can use ours! It makes me chuckle. OUR systems worked last Saturday; when we were called out, OUR people showed up on time, en masse, as advertised. The only complaint of merit directed our way was that we didn't say, "This is a practice message" often enough. It makes me proud of the work and planning we hams have done. Congratulations are due those who went and put in that training time!

    I've scheduled two new ham classes. I'll be offering a "crash class" the 4th Saturday in July and the 2nd Saturday in August. The class will be at the EOC, as the SAR community requested this class and arranged the room. Surprise, surprise! Clearly they need ham radio -- and at least some have figured out how to get licensed. Although this class is aimed at SAR people, if you don't have a license but have read or are reading Now You're Talking, you'd be welcome, for sure. The class will convene at 8:30 AM. For more details, give me a call at 866-0800. I'm hoping to schedule a test session the afternoon of the second session. This test session won't be at the EOC; we can never be sure when we'll be forced out for an EOC activation. I think the test will be at the DOT classroom in Tumwater, arranged by Fred W7SIX. Thanks, Fred!

    The other class I want to teach is still "iffy," but looks pretty stable now. It's the Radio Camp class I cancelled, originally scheduled to happen in June. It appears there's little to conflict with it being offered during the last week of August, so I'll do it then. The vision for this class is worth discussing here. What I want to do is focus on teaching young people ham radio. I want to do it in a way that they'll remember and talk about, saying, "Why couldn't more classes be like that?" I want to create a unique venue for the class. I want to put the students on couches and love seats and recliners, not in standard chairs. I want these arranged in two rows, semi-circularly around the instructor, who is in the middle of a closer circle of three TV's for the video part. I want the instructor to be able to demonstrate, teach, whatever, while these kids are VERY COMFORTABLE, not squirming and struggling to focus from the agony of the cheap classroom chair.

    I have the space to do this here at my home. What I need are the couches, love seats, or recliners to make it happen. I'd like to seat, say, 21 students to start (eventually having about 30 students per class), so I've been collecting garage-sale couches and I have a pretty good start, but I need half a dozen more. Do you have a decent couch or love seat you're planning to sell in a garage sale for $50/$75 (the going price, by the way) -- or give away? If so I'd like to hear from you. I'll come get it! 

    And then we'll teach soldering. This means providing each student with soldering irons and soldering guns and solder and vices, and eye protection (I have been worrying about the needed finger protection). I was going to get them to build a kit, but I think they'll be building J-Pole antennas instead, learning how to solder coax connectors, making VSWR measurements, etc. Kits just take too much time, time that in a four day class we haven't got. I'll have a number of workstations set up for this part of the class, around the room perimeter.

    Next week is the annual Search and Rescue training conference, this year hosted by the Skamania County Sheriff's office. I volunteered to teach four 2-hour "how to get a Ham License" classes, so I'll be there Friday and Saturday. I've gotta be back here Sunday, as Sunday is Capitol City Marathon day and I'm "sweep" along with Mark KD7LVV. There are about 20 hams involved in marathon management, including FIVE Boy Scouts from Troop 266-and Mark, the parent of a scout. You'll remember I taught a class to them a year ago. So for once we have more than enough volunteers to run the event, and I "rotated off" some of you faithful who've been providing help every year. You're not forgotten, however, as next year I'll "rotate off" someone else, and be calling you again. Thanks to everyone involved! 

    Duane WA7ROZ is working on a wonderful addition to our Field Day efforts. He's writing a Field Day logging program that will be running on a file server on field day. Each operator location will have a PC, but duping will come from a master file on the logging program, so we'll have (a) an accurate total of our scores, (b) an accurate dupe sheet that covers all operating positions all the time, and (c) the ability for us to properly manage the new modes that are incorporated, for the first time, into the Field Day rules. Hopefully we'll see a demo at the next OARS meeting. 

    I heard from the ARRL on the road rally article I wrote. They want to schedule it for publication in either August or September. Wow! But they want some more pictures, which I can provide.

    There are some other "irons in the fire." They include:

    I trust you'll be at many of these events as well as at OARS nets and meetings. You know if you show up at an event we'll find a way to put your communications talents to work, so if you get a day free unexpectedly, come out and volunteer anytime! I'll be listening for you on the repeater! 73! 

    -- Lee, KI7SS

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    Static all around for ham radio operators

    By Kent Marshall, Lee Gaspard and Dennis Hahn, as published in the May 1, 2002 Houston Chronicle

    The frustration expressed about the level of amateur radio communications support for the recent MS 150 bike ride from Houston to Austin is valid, but it is no greater than the frustration of amateur radio operators who strive to support public service activities like it, all across the country. Trust us when we say that the problem is not with the willingness of amateur radio operators. 

    Local communications needed for public service (as in this case) in times of storm damage or civil disasters require the use of short-range VHF and UHF systems. In order to have a qualified and ready cadre of volunteer people and equipment, long-term operation and availability has to be supported on a continual basis by government, safety agencies, private enterprise, the media and citizens. This composite support has seriously waned, especially in the past five to 10 years. Consequently, the pool of motivated radio operators who have previously supplied needed communication services has dropped significantly. 

    Countywide communications use VHF and UHF "repeaters," which are combination receiver-transmitters. These "range extenders" are similar to the systems used by police and fire departments, taxicabs and delivery services. Individual mobile units have limited antenna and power capabilities, and therefore are range limited. Mobile units must rely on the existence of these repeaters located on high structures, either buildings or radio towers, for extended coverage. Repeater systems have historically been provided by amateur radio clubs, with the sites supplied by government and public safety agencies, and by private enterprise, at low or no cost to the clubs. 

    Historically, communications-related organizations have been staunch supporters of these public service activities, because of employment of amateur radio operators in communications departments. As communications has moved to digital forms (fiber-optic systems, for example), the number of people in these companies who are knowledgeable of the benefits of amateur radio, and radio communications systems in general, has dropped, and their influence with their management is gone. As a result, available antenna sites have shrunk dramatically. More and more, all these locations are placed under long-term contracts with commercial "site management" businesses, which lease out the space on a revenue basis only. Performance clauses leave no place for gratis public availability. Since amateur radio organizations are nonprofit, these "commercial" locations become economically unavailable. 

    The "modern cell phone" forms of communications are designed for engineered usage and service criteria, tied to a central communications center, and are highly prone to system overload or failure during emergencies. For instance, during the floods of Tropical Storm Allison last year, cell phone service was greatly curtailed because of high water and the massive call demand of users. Another aspect is that cell phone coverage is where the people, and the profits, are. Therefore, many areas that are prone to emergency needs are not well covered by cell phone service. 

    Additionally, newer federal regulations have limited uncertified personnel accessibility to the transmitter locations, based on safety concerns about long-term effects of radio frequency radiation. This causes site owners and operators to be increasingly reluctant to even discuss space for amateur radio equipment because of perceived legal liabilities. 

    The Houston-area amateur radio organization with which we have been associated was incorporated specifically for public service. We began this mission with donated space on a high tower in the north part of Houston. For 25 years, we have used space granted to us for public service reasons on several landmark Houston buildings, and on tall towers (from 600 feet to one of the TV towers at Dewalt). We have been forced in every case to vacate each location specifically because we could not afford the "newly imposed" commercial rental charges required by the owners and/or "site management" companies. For example, after seven years of "free space," one landmark building's new property manager decided that less than one square foot of antenna space was suddenly worth $450 per month. Most Houston amateur radio clubs have memberships of less than 200, and simply cannot afford such a cost. In our case, no amount of public service pleading (even our long service to the Houston American Red Cross) would change his commercial mind. 

    Our situation is typical of amateur radio organizations struggles locally and nationwide. We presently are operating our repeaters from the top of one of the hospitals in the Texas Medical Center. The medical center, at least, understands public service and emergency communications needs. We are fortunate that we have found this space -- many Houston repeaters are now silent because public service space is simply not available, and public service communications are not supported. 

    The other part of the public service equation is operators. The change has been stark for several reasons: Most notably, the ability of ham operators to construct the antennas required for good communications has been impaired by onerous and highly restrictive deed restrictions and local ordinances. Few communities recognize the positive aspects of public service that amateur radio can provide. Unless operators live in a non-municipal area not covered by deed restrictions, or in an enlightened municipality, they will be prevented from installing a system that would allow adequate operational capabilities. The hobby becomes frustration, few new or young participants are attracted, with the end result being that operators simply move on to other activities. With multiple parties focusing only on the bottom line (profit), the world is a poorer place. 

    When this happens, we all lose. 

    Marshall, Gaspard and Hahn all are active in the Houston ECHO Society (Emergency Communications by Ham Operators), a public service group.

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    Ray Ferris, W7ZOW, Silent Key

    We report with sadness that OARS member Ray Ferris, W7ZOW, died April 25,2002, in Mother Joseph Care Center due to complications from surgery. He was born October 18, 1924 in Hoquiam, and graduated from Weatherwax High School in Aberdeen in 1943. He served in World War II in the combat engineers in North Africa and throughout Europe.

    Ray was a licensed ham radio operator for 50 years, and a long-time member of OARS. His wife Dorothy, W7ZPS, is also an OARS member.

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    Treasurer's Report

    As of 4/30//02

    GENERAL FUND (checking account)

    Previous balance  $ 2,399.94
    Income                  3.18
    Expenses               26.52
    Ending balance      2,376.60

    REPEATER / PACKET FUND (savings account)

    Previous balance    $ 944.74
    Income                  0.00
    Expenses                0.00
    Ending balance        944.74

    -- Ed Fitzgerald, N7WW, Treasurer

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    OARS Net check-ins

    The following stations checked in on the OARS General Information Net one or more times in April 2002:


    The net meets at 7:30 every Tuesday evening on the 3 linked OARS repeaters: 147.36, 224.46, and 441.40 MHz. All Hams are invited to check in.

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    The conversation

    -- You might want to be careful where you are when using the repeater (or a cell phone).

    Leaving Miami for Ft Lauderdale, I decide to stop at one of those rest areas on the side of the road. I go into the bathroom. The first stall is taken, so I go into the second stall. I had just sat down when I hear a voice from the other stall....

    "Hi there, how is it going?"

    Okay, I am not the type to strike up conversations with strangers in washrooms on the side of the road. I didn't know what to say, so finally I say: "Not bad....."

    Then the voice says: "So, what are you doing?"

    I am starting to find this a bit weird, but I say: "Well, I'm going to Ft Lauderdale....."

    Then I hear the person, all flustered, say: "Look, I'll call you back. Every time I ask you a question, this idiot in the next stall keeps answering me!!!"

    -- thanks to Woody Koehler, WA6GXI

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    It will kill you!

    The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.

    On the other hand, the French eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.

    The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.

    The Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.

    Conclusion: Eat and drink what you like. It's speaking English that kills you.

    -- from "Joke of the Day"

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    Music test answers

    -- 73, David ZL3AI

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