2001-2011: closing the loop

It was a chilly and foggy Saturday sunrise in November. I had agreed to meet my then co-worker ON4BAI at some obscure ham fair organized by a very small UBA club. I’ve forgotten where it was and like many other small local ham fairs, it has gone for good. The fair was poor with lots of empty tables and the only detail I remember was that you couldn’t even buy a new PL plug there. Imagine that: a ham fair without PL plugs for your coax.

Anyway the fair was not the reason for our meeting. We would unload some stuff from ON4BAI’s car and load it into mine. Stuff that would change my ham life forever. Not only was it ON4BAI who guided me into buying my first rigs ever (TR-9130 and later on a TS-850), it was also under his influence I started studying Morse Code and passed the test to gain HF access. But this grey Saturday morning, even more history would be written for ON5ZO.

ON4BAI was heavily into modelling and designing antennas at that time. I was a complete newbie so he offered to design and build a small yagi for me. A three element monobander on a three meter boom, designed for the CW portion of 28 MHz. Yes I was already heavily into CW. This small antenna would be mounted on a telescopic aluminium push up mast, also made by ON4BAI. That was all I could handle in my parent’s garden.

I don’t remember any details, so I guess assembly and mounting it might have been a non-event. But what comes then is clearly written in my memory. For a week already we were authorized to use the OQ prefix to celebrate the birth of Princess Elisabeth. I had made a bunch of QSO on various bands. But now I wanted to test the yagi. It was the first weekend of November 2001, which is exactly ten years ago this weekend. Cycle 23 was still peaking and conditions on 28 MHz were superb. I call “CQ CQ DE OQ5ZO OQ5ZO” with the antenna to the USA, only about eight meter above the ground. I worked one, and logged the contact into my DX logger DX4WIN. Then another one. And another one. Then I got a packet spot. Soon there were a couple of stations calling me at once and that was the first time I had a pile up. Very modest of course, but still hectic and intimidating enough. I didn’t have much experience then.

Soon the pace was too fast to keep logging it in DX4WIN. I needed something else. I pulled the plug on my own pile up, took a deep breath and concluded the yagi was doing great. I rebooted the Win98 PC into DOS and started CT. I used CT for my debut in contesting, and I was now about to use it in ‘DXpedition mode’ to run more USA on Ten Meters. I logged 73 QSO that afternoon, of which 46 were with USA including many zone 3 stations, a first for me. The number means squat today after ten years in the contesting business, but not being used to run or call CQ, it was quite a thrill for the rookie ON5ZO. That day, I was hooked: if you want to work DX and a fast rate, you need a yagi. I had a dream!

I ran 10m as much as I could the following days. My 10m DXCC score was growing at Warp 6. Soon after I was unhappy about CT: in DOS I could not access Telnet for the DX packet cluster. Yeah I’m one of the new breed without VHF packet modem. I mentioned this to Marc ON4MA and he told me about a new freeware Windows contest logger that just came out. He promised me to send a link via email and so he did. The URL pointed me to a program named N1MMLogger which was still rather unknown then. Remember: it was November 2001. I tried the program and needed some assistance to get it going. But soon I was also hooked on N1MMLogger and never looked back. Today it is the n° 1 contest logger. The best there is, no doubt about it. The most used, no discussion possible.

Ten years all this has been, but it seems like only yesterday. Yet so much has happened in that decade. Soon after that conditions on Ten were gone with a fast fading Cycle 23 and the XYL and I bought a house. No tower, no yagi, no propagation on 28 MHz. The 3 element yagi has been tucked away in the garage for almost nine years. Until today. Together with the resurrection of propagation on Ten, I want to refurbish the 10m yagi.

There is one contest I had completely forgotten about. Rather: ‘given up on’: the ARRL 10 Meter Contest. I have been doing that one too the past years, but with very limited success. A few dozen QSO was the limit, and ‘DX’ meant EA or SM from here. So I just spinned the VFO and worked the weak signals. Casually, not the whole weekend. But after last week’s crazy times on Ten, it hit me: welcome back Ten, time to play the 10m Contest big time again! The plan is to rebuild the old 3L monobander, but make it wideband in stead of peaked and tweaked to CW. Then put it on the push up mast again and use the power splitter / combiner like in WPX SSB this year on 15m. This man has a plan!

One reply on “2001-2011: closing the loop”

Nice story about the evolving contestlogging software you use. I was thinking about the ARRL 10m contest the same way. Time to get the yagi up. I still have a old 5 element yagi and the idea is to put it before the contest. All depending on time and the weather. Good luck and hear you in the pile-up. 73, Bas

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