Spark-gap transmitter @ ON5ZO

Yes a spark-gap transmitter. No not some outrageous homebrew project. Not even a piece of equipment stolen from some museum. But a spark-gap transmitter it is. I was talking to my neighbor last weekend and he told me that the weekend before (during RDXC), he saw sparks glowing to the rhythm of Morse code. You should know that my neighbor lives about 100m away from my antennas. So I imagine it must have been some fireworks. The place he describes points to my 80/160m antenna. Oh no, not that #{|@#{@{@# again! I have a clue where the problem lies, although I don’t see any signs of burned material. I have yet to scrutinize the wire and all connections but I didn’t notice such a thing when I cleaned up the antenna mess after RDXC. I didn’t know about the sparks yet so I didn’t pay attention.

Talking about RDXC. I have reflected upon my score comparing to the other figures posted on 3830. I can’t compete with stacked monobander guys or yagis and 4 Squares on  the low bands so I compared to comparable stations. I think the problem is twofold. There’s the not-so-great performance of my current 80m antenna. But I made a huge tactical mistake I believe. My tactic was to run 20m to USA as long as possible for 5 point QSO. I thought that I could work the Oblasts on 40/80/160 later on and that 20m to USA would not return the next day. I have a feeling that’s a big mistake, because on 80m and 160m I have a very low Oblast score. Still I had good fun and that’s what counts. I could never win a major DX contest from my home QTH here.

That has become a modest obsession: win a real wooden plaque or some other trophy in a DX contest. I have a big stack of papers in a folder telling me I was “1st ON” or “Country Winner” or “Zone Winner” or whatever paper I can get. That’s only normal, there are not too many Belgian contesters and for some reason we all end up in a different category so we can all be country winners. It’s just impossible to win a DX contest from here so last year I took another approach. I discovered that some US state QSO Parties have plaques for DX entries. And that there are only a handful of DX stations that send in a log. Last week the results for the PA QSO Party 2008 were published. So I open the PDF but it’s a 54 page file. So I CTRL+F for “ON5ZO” and here’s what I see:

PAQ01 So I freak out seeing my call on top of the DX box. I re-read the rules and yes there truly is a plaque for DX stations! But wait… Something’s fishy here. Only 2 DX stations? And a plaque for only 9 contacts? Yeah conditions were not bright that evening so I gave up. I look a little further down the many pages of the PDF and behold:

PAQ02That makes more sense.  One day I will succeed. I keep telling myself. The pursuit of this plaque is fun. It gets me on the air when I otherwise wouldn’t. And working those State QSO Parties actually is quite some fun too but of course, just like everything else in this hobby, it will be a lot more fun if The Sun would show some freckles!

Finally something completely different. Last week I was contacted by a lady who works for a TV production company. I searched Google and her credentials seem OK. She says they’re working on a new TV show (no details given) about people’s hobbies and how they spend their free time. Apparently she did some surfing and ended up on my website (that I don’t update anymore BTW). She wanted me to answer some questions like how long I’ve been involved with ham radio, how much time I spend on it, what to do if the hobby would become impossible for me (fade away into the abyss?), if there are other people in my family into ham radio etc. The answer to the last question is a ‘no’ but yesterday I got another quite painful question: do I know of or know hams personally whose wives are utterly against the hobby and spoil the fun for their OM? I don’t feel addressed by this because my XYL is 100% supportive but the answer is ‘yes I might know some OM whose XYL is not really happy with the hobby’ to put it mildly. But I can’t introduce these guys in such a way and furthermore: who will be willing to admit that openly? And to take it yet another step further: whenever the media spend 5 minutes to expose ham radio to the audience, they succeed in picturing the hobby in such a way that we all look like aliens and freaks talking gibberish. So that’s what I’m about to answer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.