Zero Bias – A CQ Editorial
Ten Meters Didn’t Get the Memo
BY RICH MOSESON,* W2VU
Someone forgot to tell the 10-meter band on the SSB weekend of the CQ World Wide DX Contest just how terrible this solar cycle is … because it was behaving like it was the peak of a real sunspot cycle. No, we didn’t have the round-the-clock worldwide propagation that some of you may remember from earlier, more intense, cycles. But then again, we did have a flurry of solar flares and HF radio blackouts that weekend as well.
Comments accompanying many of the logs highlighted the great conditions on 10. A sampling:
- Fantastic condx on 10 meters! Just like what to expect at the sunspot peak. Wall to wall DX from 28.3 to 29.3 MHz – K2MFY
- 10 meters was amazing during this contest! – K3STL
- What a shindig! If 10 meters was fabulous on Saturday, and it was, it was absolutely on fire on Sunday. – KC2LST
Here’s what I observed during my limited time on the air, much of which was spent on 10:
- Activity nearly all the way from 28 to 29 MHz, with several of my juiciest contacts made up in the 28.8 range;
- • On Sunday morning, the bottom end of 10 sounded like 20 meters on CQWW weekend, with wall-to-wall signals and seemingly never-ending pileups;
- In a 10-minute period on Saturday afternoon (around 2100 UTC), I worked Alaska, several stations in the Caribbean and Ascension Island in the South Atlantic (one of the benefits of an omnidirectional antenna);
- In a 10-minute period on Sunday afternoon (around 2200 UTC), I worked stations in Mexico, Hawaii and Australia;
- Over the course of the weekend, on 10 meters alone, I worked 54 countries, 19 zones and all continents ... all using a basic station with one radio, 100 watts and one multiband vertical antenna.
For some of you, this is not a big deal. But then, you probably already know all about 10-meter magic. And you probably have your own 10-meter stories from this year’s CQWW.
The rest of this is for the rest of you: Ten meters was my first, and remains my most consistent, favorite band. I’ve had dalliances with six and 17, but in the long term, there’s nothing quite like 10 meters.
There are three main things I love about the band: First and foremost, its DX potential. When the band is open, it’s open, and you can work the world on the proverbial wet noodle antenna. For someone who’s never had the luxury of beams and kilowatts, this band has truly been my gateway to the world.
Second, it’s big, nearly two megahertz wide, when most other HF bands are squeezed into much smaller spaces. This offers enough space for a wide variety of activities, even including repeaters and satellites.
Which kind of leads into item number three: Ten meters is the most egalitarian of our HF bands. There are no Advanced or Extra Class sub-bands, and the bottom 500 kHz of the band (more space than all of any other HF band) is open to all U.S.-licensed amateurs, regardless of license class.
This includes the entire CW/data subband (28.000- 28.300 MHz) and the lower 200 kHz of the voice subband (28.300-28.500 MHz). And the cool thing about this part of the phone band is that, outside of a contest weekend, it’s where nearly all the DX action is! It was this portion of the band that sounded like 20 meters on Sunday morning of the CQWW weekend, with signals from all over Europe cascading into the eastern U.S. (Another really great feature of 10 meters is that over the course of a day, you can literally watch the changing propagation paths as the band follows the sun from east to west.)
Not only are you allowed on this band if you have any sort of U.S.-issued amateur license, but getting on is easy, too. If you have an HF radio and enough space to put up a 16-1/2-foot dipole (resonant around 28.4 MHz), or even an old CB ground plane with an antenna tuner, then the band is yours. And you need to discover the wonders of 10 meters now, before the sunspot cycle starts heading for the basement again. This year’s CQWW is now in the rear-view mirror, but the ARRL 10-Meter Contest is on December 13-14. The timing couldn’t be better. Even if you’re not a contester, there will be a ton of DX to work Put up an antenna if you don’t already have one for the band. Put some RF into it. And work the world!
This issue is our annual Technology Special, and once again, we are highlighting a combination of new and old … sometimes within the same project. SP5ULN shares his newfound excitement with monitoring “health reports” (telemetry) from the FUNcube-1 amateur satellite; WA9ZEO tells how he and colleagues at the Motorola Amateur Radio Club put the first ATSC digital amateur television system on the air. And W3MEO looks at bringing new life to a Cold War-era military handheld, the AN/PRC-6, with the option of either restoring it as a 6-meter portable or converting it to higher frequencies by essentially hiding away a modern HT on the inside. These are just a few of the many technology-focused articles we have for you in this issue. And as always, our focus is on the practical side of technology, offering articles and projects with real-world applications for our readers. This is a focus we have had from the very first issue of CQ, which brings us to our next topic …
On Turning 70
This issue marks the completion of our 70th year of publication. We begin our eighth decade next month. Throughout that time, we have not only chronicled the growth and development of amateur radio but also helped lead the way toward the adoption of new technology in our hobby, even when other publications were holding tight to older traditions. From SSB and RTTY in the 1950s to semiconductors and satellites in the ’60s, repeaters and packet radio in the ’80s, and on to the current day, covering the latest advancements in digital technology (such as the JT modes and all the different “flavors” of digital voice) and the ever-growing interconnections between ham radio and the Internet, we have been in the lead on promoting practical uses of the technology around which ham radio is built. We have always been “the active ham’s magazine,” and we plan to continue on that path in the future.
The past year has been a difficult one for us, on the economic side of things. But with your continued support, we are confident that we will be here to serve the needs of the active ham for at least the next 70 years. We thank you for being the best readers a magazine staff could ask for, for your support through not only your subscriptions but through your engagement as writers as well as readers, sharing your knowledge, your experiences, and your enthusiasm for amateur radio.
From all of us at CQ to each and every one of you, we wish you all the best for a very happy holiday season, and a 2015 filled with health, happiness, and ham radio.
– 73, Rich W2VU