Wednesday, December 19, 2018

DIY Wireless Morse Code (CW) Key

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Wires; who needs them in this Golden Age of Wireless!!!  For less than $10USD you can rid yourself of the pesky wires on your CW key while decreasing both your sending speed and accuracy as shown in our "CQ CQ" demo vid:
 
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While you are here; take a look at our other projects73!

Ham Radio: My thoughts after 365 Days

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  1. Ham radio clubs, like bars; have their own personality. If you stroll into the wrong one for you, your instincts tell you right away. Keep looking for a club that fits your interests.

  2. The hobby is as cheap (or as expensive) as you want it to be. 

  3. Plan on spending a great deal of time untangling wires. And...

  4. If you get a HF rig there will be a big knob on it. Enjoying spinning it because you will do that a lot also.

  5. Asking for an opinion on an antenna is like asking which beer/religion/truck/etc is better. There is never a consensus and everyone knows best. 

  6. The FM satellites are fun to work even if you don’t make a contact. Eventually you will and will be stunned that you communicated via a “spacecraft”.

  7. Morse Code (not required) is a fun challenge. You will make mistakes on the air, but since it is impossible to YELL in CW the operators on the bands genuinely seem to enjoy newcomers. This is not universally true of HF phone or repeaters. 

  8. Call CQ and don't be frustrated if nobody comes back. That's the way it works, but keep trying. 

  9. I am continually amazed at the generosity ham radio enthusiasts have towards helping promote their hobby.

  10. Ham Radio has been called “1000 hobbies in 1”. Find the few that interest you today and focus there. Enjoy the diversity as your interests change.
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While you are here; take a look at our other projects.  73!


Monday, December 3, 2018

Internet Time Morse Code Clock

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There are plenty of ways to irritate your XYL with an obsession of ham radio; but if you feel you need just one more then keep reading.   The black box above is actually a clock.  It's a cool clock if you know Morse Code (or CW), but it is worthless if you don't.
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The brains of the Morse Code clock is an ESP8266 with on board WiFi.  At power up, the rig connects to WiFi and fetches the time from the internet (so always accurate).  On first run the 'clock' sends out some Self Test tones after getting the time.  These Self Test tones can be something like a callsign, but it could be anything or even nothing.  The pace (or WPM) of the Morse Code is adjustable by a variable in the source code.  In the example videos it is 10WPM as calculated by "The Paris Standard".

From that point on the time of day (localized to your time zone) is output to a speaker and LED tower in Morse Code (24 hour format) as HHMM.  A calm quite house is filled with dit-dah tones and flashing light.
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The build is not that difficult as shown in the schematic below.  On the bench it looks something like this:
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A metal box found around the shack was repurposed to clean up the look.  This vid shows the end result.  At power up the LED tower flashes until it gets the time from the internet.  Then the Self Test tones and LED flashes happen.   After that, only the time is "announced" when the red button is pressed.
It all came out pretty nice.
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If you decide to duplicate the build here is the simple schematic:
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And the Arduino/ESP8266 IDE Source Code:
 _______________________________________________________________
/*
 *  NOV2018
 *  CW "Talking Clock"
 *  WhiskeyTangoHotel.Com
 *
 * Get Internet time.
 * Upon a button press, convert the Internet time to defined local time zone.
 * Parse the Internet time to HHMM (24 hr format)
 * Convert the HHMM time to Morse Code (CW) dits and dahs
 * Play the Morse Code converted times over a speaker and a LED.
 *
 * Hold the button down for over a second and get a random letter or number played.
 *
 * At startup a self test sends a callsign (or user define msg) to
 * the speaker in CW.
 *
 * BTW, CW is fun to learn.
 *  --... / ...--   //  --... / ...--
 *
*/

#include <time.h>

// Set up or the Wireless.  We wil need this to get the internet time
#include <ESP8266WiFi.h>
#include <WiFiClient.h>
#include <ESP8266WebServer.h>

// WiFi Connection Information
const char* ssid = "Virus-2.4";         // PRIVATE: Enter your personal SSID setup information. *PRIVATE*
const char* password = "zenakelsocats"; // PRIVATE: Enter your personal PASSWORD setup information. *PRIVATE*
ESP8266WebServer server(80);

// Define and set up some variables
int timezone = 18;  // Chicago = 18
int dst = 0;        // 0 or 1.  1 for DST or "Summer Adjusted Time"
String Callsign = "W5WTH";   // ALL CAPS!!!  Used for self test 'beeps' at startup.  Could be anything alphanumic you like
String Time_substring;   // Used for parsing
String Parsedtime; // Feteched internet time boiled down to HHMM in 24 hr format.
String Dit_or_Dah;  // Output a dit or dah to the speaker.  Used when parsing a character

int Pitch = 600;      // Normally around 600Hz.  This this the pitch frequency of the CW tones
float WPM = 12;       // How fast the letters are sent to the speaker using the "Paris Standard" in Words per Minute (8-25; depending on skill level)
//  Paris Standard formula: Tmsec = (1200 / WPM) WPM is the desired speed in words-per-minute. T is the dit time in mSecs
float Tmsec = 1200 / WPM;
float Dit = Tmsec;
float intercharacter_spacing = Dit;
float Dah = Tmsec * 3;
float interword_spacing = Dah;
int Random_CW;  // Random number generated to select a random character
String Random_CW_Character;  // This is the random character sent to speaker/LED

// Load the CW database 'dits' and 'dahs' for each Alphanumeric. Boring....
String A = ".-";;
String B = "-...";
String C = "-.-.";
String D = "-..";
String E = ".";
String F = "..-.";
String G = "--.";
String H = "....";
String I = "..";
String J = ".---";
String K = "-.-";
String L = ".-..";
String M = "--";
String N = "-.";
String O = "---";
String P = ".--.";
String Q = "--.-";
String R = ".-.";
String S = "...";
String T = "-";
String U = "..-";
String V = "...-";
String W = ".--";
String X = "-..-";
String Y = "-.--";
String Z = "--..";
String zero = "-----";
String one = ".----";
String two = "..---";
String three = "...--";
String four = "....-";
String five = ".....";
String six = "-....";
String seven = "--...";
String eight = "---..";
String nine = "----.";

// Output pins
const int led = 2;  // NEGATIVE Logic (LOW is ON) Blue on board LED is on PIN2 for this NoderMCU 1.0 ESP8266.
const int speaker = 14;  // tone outputs to the EXTERNALLY amplified speaker to pin 14
int time_buttonPin = 4;  // When button pressed CW the time to the speaker.  pin 4
boolean buttonState = LOW;  // for the time_buttonPin status

void setup(void){  // This is run once.
  Serial.begin(115200);  // turn on the serial monitor for debug
  //Serial.setDebugOutput(true);  // Turn on the Serial Debugger if desired

  //Define the I/O
  pinMode(led, OUTPUT);  // set up the onboard Blue LED as an output.
  pinMode(time_buttonPin, INPUT); // Input for the button switch.  if HIGH (pressed) play CW the time to the speaker

  // Connect WiFi.  Is the WiFi working?
  WiFi.begin(ssid, password);
  Serial.println("");
  // Wait for connection
  while (WiFi.status() != WL_CONNECTED) {
    Serial.print("Trying to connect to ");
    Serial.print(ssid);
    Serial.print(" on ");
    Serial.println(WiFi.localIP());
    for (int x = 0; x < 20; x++) { //
      digitalWrite(led, !digitalRead(led));  // toggle state of the on board blue LED. Shows program is trying to WiFi connect
      delay(50); 
    } // endfor WiFi blink connect
  }
  Serial.print("Connected to ");
  Serial.println(ssid);
  Serial.println(WiFi.localIP());

  //Send tones for the variable Callsign to the speaker as a self test.
  Serial.println("Sending " + Callsign + " as Self Test......");
  int L = Callsign.length();
  for (int i=0; i<L; i++) {  // Start Self Test Convert the time numbers to dit and dahs
    Time_substring = Callsign.substring(i, i+1);
    if (Time_substring == "0") { Time_substring = zero; }
    if (Time_substring == "1") { Time_substring = one; }
    if (Time_substring == "2") { Time_substring = two; }
    if (Time_substring == "3") { Time_substring = three; }
    if (Time_substring == "4") { Time_substring = four; }
    if (Time_substring == "5") { Time_substring = five; }
    if (Time_substring == "6") { Time_substring = six; }
    if (Time_substring == "7") { Time_substring = seven; }
    if (Time_substring == "8") { Time_substring = eight; }
    if (Time_substring == "9") { Time_substring = nine; }
    if (Time_substring == "A") { Time_substring = A; }
    if (Time_substring == "B") { Time_substring = B; }
    if (Time_substring == "C") { Time_substring = C; }
    if (Time_substring == "D") { Time_substring = D; }
    if (Time_substring == "E") { Time_substring = E; }
    if (Time_substring == "F") { Time_substring = F; }
    if (Time_substring == "G") { Time_substring = G; }
    if (Time_substring == "H") { Time_substring = H; }
    if (Time_substring == "I") { Time_substring = I; }
    if (Time_substring == "J") { Time_substring = J; }
    if (Time_substring == "K") { Time_substring = K; }
    if (Time_substring == "L") { Time_substring = L; }
    if (Time_substring == "M") { Time_substring = M; }
    if (Time_substring == "N") { Time_substring = N; }
    if (Time_substring == "O") { Time_substring = O; }
    if (Time_substring == "P") { Time_substring = P; }
    if (Time_substring == "Q") { Time_substring = Q; }
    if (Time_substring == "R") { Time_substring = R; }
    if (Time_substring == "S") { Time_substring = S; }
    if (Time_substring == "T") { Time_substring = T; }
    if (Time_substring == "U") { Time_substring = U; }
    if (Time_substring == "V") { Time_substring = V; }
    if (Time_substring == "W") { Time_substring = W; }
    if (Time_substring == "X") { Time_substring = X; }
    if (Time_substring == "Y") { Time_substring = Y; }
    if (Time_substring == "Z") { Time_substring = Z; }  

    // Now send the dit/dahs for the Self Test Callsign Character  
    int CW_length = Time_substring.length();

    for (int j=0; j<CW_length; j++)   {  // Send tones and blink LED in CW
      digitalWrite(led , HIGH); // NEGATIVE LOGIC.  Make sure the onboard LED is off
      Dit_or_Dah = Time_substring.substring(j, j+1);
      //Serial.println(Dit_or_Dah);
    
      if (Dit_or_Dah == ".") {   // process a Dit
        digitalWrite(led , LOW);
        //tone(speaker, Pitch, Dit); // Comment for LED only; no BEEPS on Self Test
        delay(Dit);
        digitalWrite(led , HIGH);
      }  // end if process a Dit

      if (Dit_or_Dah == "-") {   // process a Dah
        digitalWrite(led , LOW);
        // tone(speaker, Pitch, Dah); // Comment for LED only; no BEEPS on Self Test
        delay(Dah);
        digitalWrite(led , HIGH);
      }  // end if process a Dah

      delay(intercharacter_spacing);   //  a delay of "1 Dit" between dit/dahs in a character    
    }  // send for loop dit/dahs for selected time number
    delay (interword_spacing);   // done with sending character, so a longer "3 * Dit" delay"   
  } // end for loop on the Self Test

  // Do we want summertime or standard time?  Default is standard time dst = 0.  1 for DST or "Summer Adjusted Time"
  int buttonState = digitalRead(time_buttonPin);
  if (buttonState == HIGH) {   // if the button is pushed after the self test; then set to Summer Time; dst = 1
    tone(speaker, Pitch, Dit); // Quick 'dit' to say "I'm in Summer Time mode"
    dst = 1;
  }
  
  // Get the current time from "THE INTERNET! and adjust for timezone and dst"
  configTime((timezone + dst) * 3600, 0, "pool.ntp.org", "time.nist.gov");
  Serial.println("\nWaiting for time");
  while (!time(nullptr)) {
    Serial.print(".");
    delay(100);
  }

  Serial.println("Self test completes!!!");
  digitalWrite(led , HIGH);  // turn off the LED
  Serial.println("");

  delay(1000);

} // End void setup loop

void loop(void){  // Loop forever waiting for button push.  If pushed CW the local time as HHMM in CW and go back to waiting for that button
  int buttonState = digitalRead(time_buttonPin);   // check if the pushbutton is pressed. 
    if (buttonState == HIGH) {   // button is pressed, CW time to speaker or random character?
      delay(1000);
      int buttonState = digitalRead(time_buttonPin);   // check if the pushbutton is STILL pressed.
      if (buttonState == HIGH)   { // if the button is still pressed after the delay then rnd character, not time.
        digitalWrite(led , LOW); // NEGATIVE LOGIC.  Blink the LED to show RND char mode entered
        delay(150);
        digitalWrite(led , HIGH); // NEGATIVE LOGIC.  Make sure the  LED is off
        delay(1000);
        do {
          Random_CW = random(48,90); //48 is 0.  57 is 9.  A is 65.  Z is 90        
        } while (Random_CW > 57 and Random_CW < 65);   // if the random# did not map to a letter or number then try again.
        char Random_CW_Character = Random_CW;
        Serial.print("Random CW Character is: ");
        Serial.println(Random_CW_Character);
      
        Time_substring = Random_CW_Character;
        if (Time_substring == "0") { Time_substring = zero; }
        if (Time_substring == "1") { Time_substring = one; }
        if (Time_substring == "2") { Time_substring = two; }
        if (Time_substring == "3") { Time_substring = three; }
        if (Time_substring == "4") { Time_substring = four; }
        if (Time_substring == "5") { Time_substring = five; }
        if (Time_substring == "6") { Time_substring = six; }
        if (Time_substring == "7") { Time_substring = seven; }
        if (Time_substring == "8") { Time_substring = eight; }
        if (Time_substring == "9") { Time_substring = nine; }
        if (Time_substring == "A") { Time_substring = A; }
        if (Time_substring == "B") { Time_substring = B; }
        if (Time_substring == "C") { Time_substring = C; }
        if (Time_substring == "D") { Time_substring = D; }
        if (Time_substring == "E") { Time_substring = E; }
        if (Time_substring == "F") { Time_substring = F; }
        if (Time_substring == "G") { Time_substring = G; }
        if (Time_substring == "H") { Time_substring = H; }
        if (Time_substring == "I") { Time_substring = I; }
        if (Time_substring == "J") { Time_substring = J; }
        if (Time_substring == "K") { Time_substring = K; }
        if (Time_substring == "L") { Time_substring = L; }
        if (Time_substring == "M") { Time_substring = M; }
        if (Time_substring == "N") { Time_substring = N; }
        if (Time_substring == "O") { Time_substring = O; }
        if (Time_substring == "P") { Time_substring = P; }
        if (Time_substring == "Q") { Time_substring = Q; }
        if (Time_substring == "R") { Time_substring = R; }
        if (Time_substring == "S") { Time_substring = S; }
        if (Time_substring == "T") { Time_substring = T; }
        if (Time_substring == "U") { Time_substring = U; }
        if (Time_substring == "V") { Time_substring = V; }
        if (Time_substring == "W") { Time_substring = W; }
        if (Time_substring == "X") { Time_substring = X; }
        if (Time_substring == "Y") { Time_substring = Y; }
        if (Time_substring == "Z") { Time_substring = Z; } 

        int CW_length = Time_substring.length();
      
        for (int j=0; j<CW_length; j++)   {  // Send tones and blink LED in CW
          digitalWrite(led , HIGH); // NEGATIVE LOGIC.  Make sure the onboard LED is off
          Dit_or_Dah = Time_substring.substring(j, j+1);
          //Serial.println(Dit_or_Dah);
        
          if (Dit_or_Dah == ".") {   // process a Dit
            digitalWrite(led , LOW);
            tone(speaker, Pitch, Dit);
            delay(Dit);
            digitalWrite(led , HIGH);
          }  // end if process a Dit
  
          if (Dit_or_Dah == "-") {   // process a Dah
            digitalWrite(led , LOW);
            tone(speaker, Pitch, Dah);
            delay(Dah);
            digitalWrite(led , HIGH);
          }  // end if process a Dah
  
          delay(intercharacter_spacing);   //  a delay of "1 Dit" between dit/dahs in a character    
        }  // send for loop dit/dahs for selected time number
       
      }  // end of if the button is still pressed after the delay then rnd character, not time.
      else { // random character code above; time code below
        time_t now = time(nullptr);
        Serial.println("---------------------------------------");
        Serial.print("Internet time adjusted to tone zone: ");
        Serial.println(ctime(&now));
        Parsedtime = (ctime(&now));
    
        // Build the Parsed time from the internet time. The time is 24 hr format and always 4 characters in HHMM
        Parsedtime = Parsedtime.substring(11,12) + Parsedtime.substring(12,13) + Parsedtime.substring(14,15) + Parsedtime.substring(15,16);
        Serial.print("Parsedtime as HHMM is: ");
        Serial.println(Parsedtime);    
      
        for (int i=0; i<4; i++) {  // Convert the time numbers to dit and dahs. Always 4 characters in HHMM
          Time_substring = Parsedtime.substring(i, i+1);
          Serial.print("Currently sending Parsedtime character: ");
          Serial.println(Time_substring);
        
          if (Time_substring == "0") { Time_substring = zero; }
          if (Time_substring == "1") { Time_substring = one; }
          if (Time_substring == "2") { Time_substring = two; }
          if (Time_substring == "3") { Time_substring = three; }
          if (Time_substring == "4") { Time_substring = four; }
          if (Time_substring == "5") { Time_substring = five; }
          if (Time_substring == "6") { Time_substring = six; }
          if (Time_substring == "7") { Time_substring = seven; }
          if (Time_substring == "8") { Time_substring = eight; }
          if (Time_substring == "9") { Time_substring = nine; }
    
          // Now send the dit/dahs for the time number processed      
          int CW_length = Time_substring.length();
    
          for (int j=0; j<CW_length; j++)   {  // Send tones and blink LED in CW
            digitalWrite(led , HIGH); // NEGATIVE LOGIC.  Make sure the onboard LED is off
            Dit_or_Dah = Time_substring.substring(j, j+1);
                    
            if (Dit_or_Dah == ".") {   // process a Dit
              digitalWrite(led , LOW);
              tone(speaker, Pitch, Dit);
              delay(Dit);
              digitalWrite(led , HIGH);
            }  // end if process a Dit
    
            if (Dit_or_Dah == "-") {   // process a Dah
              digitalWrite(led , LOW);
              tone(speaker, Pitch, Dah);
              delay(Dah);
              digitalWrite(led , HIGH);
            }  // end if process a Dah
    
            delay(intercharacter_spacing);   //          
          }  // send for loop dit/dahs for selected time number  
          delay (interword_spacing);       
        } // end for loop Convert the HHMM time numbers to dit and dahs
    
        Serial.println("Sending time tones completed!!!");
        delay(1000);  // Delay for a sec just beacause...
      }  //  If checking for long press for RND character
    }  // End button press if
}  // End of Loop forever waiting for button push.
________________________________________________________
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Thanks for stopping by and 73!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Model EFHW-8010 End Fed Antenna Characterization

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The EFHW-8010 End Fed antenna was recommended so we gave it a go.  The installation has the "business" end of the 130 feet antenna wire about 50 feet high sloping down to about 8 feet with some para-cord support from an overhanging tree near mid run to keep the antenna wire high as long as possible.  The inline choke and and matching transformer are located in the attic.  This is not the optimal setup, but the configuration was convenient for our QTH.  We are very happy with the performance and the Icom IC-7300 tunes it to well to all spec'd bands. 
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Once again, my Elmer friend let me borrow an antenna analyzer to test things out.  This analyzer is very nice kit with a sturdy case, touch screen interface, and an easy to understand user interface.  Go to this page and see the AQRP 8KHz to 440MHz Vector Impedance Analyzer kit #25 for more details.  It's well documented and a very slick package.  
 

April 2019 Update:  Added RigExpert AA-30 Plots.  The antenna was moved some between the two tests; the antenna wire "choke" was located outside the attic where it should have always been.
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Below are the SWR plots and a few Insertion Loss plots for the bands.  Remember, the EFHW-8010 End Fed antenna is spec'd from 10m to 80m.  We tested it on a few bands outside its design spec.  All measurements are made through 50 feet of RG8X, plus 25 feet of BNC cable, plus an Alpha Delta 4:1 coax switch.
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2 meters:

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6 meters:

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10 meters:
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12 meters:

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15 meters:

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17 meters:

 
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20 meters:


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30 meters:
 
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40 meters:


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60 meters:
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80 meters:


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160 meters:

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All Bands/Full Sweep:
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Regardless of how you interpret the data the antenna is working well for our setup.  73 and see you on the bands!
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Friday, August 24, 2018

Ham Radio HT 2m Antenna Comparison

AQRP 8KHz to 440MHz Vector Impedance Analyzer kit #25
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An OFC Dipole antenna was recently paid-forward to me.  My Elmer friend let me borrow an antenna analyzer to check it out.  I soon learned that the analyzer was actually put together from a kit.  It is a very nice package with a sturdy case, touch screen interface, and an easy to understand user interface.  Go to this page and see the AQRP 8KHz to 440MHz Vector Impedance Analyzer kit #25 for more details.  It's well documented and a very slick package. 
 
 
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Right away I wanted to play with the analyzer and decided to sweep a few 2m hand held radio antennas as a test (results below). 
It's interesting how much flatter the VSWR curve is with the Nogoya NA-771 VHF/UHF aftermarket duckie.  Also, I never tuned the DIY 2m Tape Measure Yagi but just following the build instructions carefully seemed to yield good results.
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And, just for grins we swept a DIY simple wire dipole that was cut for 20m which is only use for Rx with a SDRPlay RSP1A. Our placement for the dipole is marginal and it works equally marginal on 20m and 40m.   FWIW, here are the results:

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Monday, August 20, 2018

Morse Code Practice Oscillator (eBay Kit)

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When learning Morse code (referred to as CW in ham radio circles) a practice oscillator can be helpful.  It lets you practice your sending without transmitting.  Also, if can be useful if you are wanting to practice sending/receiving CW with another ham through a Skype channel without waiting for propagation conditions.  A voice channel like Skype also allows immediate voice feedback for effective Elmering.
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We shelled out $10US on eBay and a few days later we got the practice oscillator pictured above in kit form from  Electroresales with some good instructions.  After about 30 minutes we had a working (and very loud if you crank the volume) practice oscillator.   We made one small mod by adding a JST connector in parallel to the power barrel jack.  This made it easier (for us anyway) to connect a 9VDC battery without having to find the right size barrel jack connector to supply the power.
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The result:
73!
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Saturday, June 16, 2018

QRP Labs QCX 5W CW Transceiver Build

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CQ CQ CQ....  In the "olden" days, Morse Code (or CW) was a requirement for a Ham Radio license.  That is no longer the case, but for some reason CW seems to have a new interest with those in the hobby.   After seeing more and more discussions about CW we decided to give it a try.
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Three things are needed:
1) An FCC Amateur Radio license; it's not hard get and it is an extremely interesting hobby.
2) A radio that can transmit/receive CW signals.  We chose the QRP Labs QCX Kit.
3) You have to know Morse Code; how to send it and how to decode it.

The first two are easy.  The third one not so much, but there are a host of tools and advise on the web to help.  Just search google.  We have only been at it 30 days and show progress, but still have a long way to go.
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Back to the QCX kit.... We wanted something cheap, small, and portable.  We read great reviews about QRP Labs QCX Kit and decided to give it a go.  After asking around about the best band for CW newbies we decided to configure for 40 meters.  This page was originally going to document the build process, but really there is no need.  The instructions and documentation provided with the kit are AMAZING.  Really, they are!   Great images, diagrams, etc.  There are lots of solder joints and some toroids to hand wind, but follow the directions exactly and you will be fine.
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Here is the whole enchilada in a niffy 3D printed case purchased from W4KHZ / Mike.  At $25 shipped it is a great value.

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The QCX is very battery friendly.  It seems to run 'forever' using one of the many low cost car jump start battery bricks.  The video below shows the current (mA) profile using a Keithley 2450 Source Measure Unit.

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And... a low cost transceiver is of no use without a low cost antenna.   We had spare long runs of common speaker wire and hand cut a dipole for 7.050MHz (a common frequency for 40m CW).  We must have been using calibrated wire cutters.  Below is the initial SWR sweep from 7.000MHz to 7.100MHz.

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All in all we are very pleased.  Now back to CW practice.  Thanks for the visit and maybe we will hook up on 40m.

73!
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