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The Lure of Less


*Email: w2vu@cq-amateur-radio.com

We hams like to get more for less. Just check out the haggling at a hamfest flea market if you have any doubts. Part of it is being frugal (or “cheap” if you prefer), but another part is the challenge of seeing how far you can stretch a buck. At hamfests, this challenge is about dollars, but on the air, it’s the same challenge that drives the QRP, or low power, enthusiast to see how far he or she can stretch a watt. And just as it’s possible to get some amazing deals at a hamfest, you can make some amazing QSOs with QRP. In fact, it may be easier since there are more opportunities. Hamfests happen here and there, scattered around the calendar and the country. The ham bands are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, wherever you happen to be. And believe it or not, there are still plenty of great QRP DXing opportunities even now, at the bottom of a sunspot cycle that never really had much of a top.

In my mind, the lure of less for QRP extends beyond just output power. My ham project for New Year’s Day was building a new “Cricket” 30-meter QRP transceiver from the 4 States QRP Group. It met several “lure of less” criteria — less money, less time, and less to connect to it to put it on the air. The kit is downright cheap; it took just one afternoon to build, the board has a built-in hand key and it runs on a self-contained 9-volt battery. There are only two connections: An antenna and headphones. It also doesn’t have a volume control or tuning knob (it’s crystal-controlled), but hey, this is the lure of less personified. I haven’t had time yet to put it on the air and make any contacts (when I tested it after construction, the band was completely dead, confirmed on a second receiver), but I already know what three quarters of a watt can do on 30 meters. That’s 50% more power than I used with a different QRP rig a couple of years ago to make a contact with central Europe. Stay tuned…

Hopefully, I’ve piqued your interest at least a little bit in the lure of less. But if you aren’t convinced, there’s —well —more, right in this issue, our annual QRP Special! We’ve got other hams’ stories of QRP success, a review of a portable mast for QRP operating in the great outdoors, and several projects of interest to the QRPer (but not limited to low-power enthusiasts).

QRP Editor Scott Rought, KA8SMA, offers his “Top Ten List” of reasons for operating QRP, and he reviews the SOTAbeams “Tactical 7000hds” collapsible antenna mast that can be tucked into a backpack. NK6A shares the fun he had operating QRP on a trip to Italy; NJ3K tells us how he worked 100 countries not only with low power, but also while mobile and operating only CW; and K9GH shares his memories of operating QRP maritime mobile on a cruise with his son’s scout troop. Plus, our cover story is about the hunt for extreme QRP — the results of the 2018 CQ World Wide Foxhunting Weekend.

On the technical side of things, W2JAZ shows us how to operate QRP with a software defined radio and Windows® tablet in “Traveling Light;” K2AOP shares his circuit for a low current and ultra-high resistance meter; WØPCE describes how to build an amplified absorption wavemeter, and N4KYW tackles the challenge of building enclosures for QRP gear … with a trip to the kitchen accessories aisle in the supermarket.

If we still haven’t persuaded you to turn down the power level on your rig, we also have PA3EWP’s tale of making a DXpedition to the Kingdom of Tonga and operating as A35EU; Emergency Communications Editor W4ALT looks at EmComm and accessibility for hams with physical limitations; DX Editor N2OO reviews ClubLog’s “most wanted” entity list and examines why certain places are so hard to contact, and Contesting Editor K3ZJ introduces us to the growing use of realtime contest scoreboards on the World Wide Web that show how various competitors are doing while a contest is under way.

Finally, we introduce a new column this month — “Analog Adventures” by Eric Nichols, KL7AJ. While more and more radio communications is “going digital,” Eric is here to remind us that radio itself is analog and to offer tips, techniques, and projects to keep your analog radio skills as sharp as your digital ones. “Analog Adventures” debuts on page 74.

Housekeeping note: As this issue goes to press, we are still looking for possible successors to K1BV in both of his long-worn hats as Awards Editor and USA-CA Awards Manager. If you or someone you know is interested in either one or both of these positions, please drop me a note and we can talk.

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