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Zero Bias – A CQ Editorial

“Going Far Afield …”


*e-mail: w2vu@cq-amateur-radio.com

Inside and outside views of W2VU’s first Manhattanstyle project, a KI6SN-designed variable-bandwidth audio filter and amplifier. It works best if you’ve put the right parts in the right places!

Welcome to our fifth annual “Take it to the Field Special,” in which we focus on articles intended to help you combine ham radio with your favorite outdoor activities. Over these five years, we have offered dozens of articles on different aspects of operating away from your home station.

One thing that became obvious from the start, and becomes clearer with each passing year, is that the variety of activities that involve hamming from beyond the borders of your shack is virtually endless. We’ve had a steady run of what you might call “traditional” outdoor hamming articles, such as “Flight of the QRP Bird” (2012) and “A Half Century of Hiking With Ham Radio” (2013). We have one more variation on that theme in this issue as well, “A Day at the Beach … With Ham Radio,” on page 20.

We’ve also had plenty of articles related to temporary antenna installations and “trail-friendly” project articles, such as “Easy Enhancements for the MFJ 9200” (2013) or “The Versatile Handy Portable Antenna Stand” (2014); as well as articles on field use of modes you don’t usually associate with portable operating, such as “PSK Without a PC” (2012), “APRS on the Appalachian Trail” (2013), and “JT9 in the Field (or on the Beach)” (2014).

But we also quickly realized that many of our readers were stretching the traditional boundaries of what constitutes portable operating, and we’ve been happy to share their stories with you, such as “The After-Hours DXpedition” (2013) about operating from a remote island in the Aleutians during a scientific expedition, or “Contesting With the Ducks” (2014) about getting permission to operate a contest from the Long Island Ducks baseball stadium (“Take It to the Ball-Field”!).

This year, we’re expanding on that theme with several of our articles. In our lead feature, “Deep Space DXing,” only the transmitter is “in the field,” or actually, far into outer space, as we relate the story of tuning in microsignals on 70 centimeters from a satellite more than a million miles away from Earth. The growing popularity of remote station operating and of linking Arduino-style microcontrollers with ham projects led to our next article, “An IP Address Backup for Remote Operation.” And we have a guide to setting up and operating a special event station — a longtime “to the field” activity that hasn’t received much ink on the logistics of planning and staging the operation. We’ve got more, of course (check out this issue’s Table of Contents for a complete listing), as well as non-“field” articles and columns for those who prefer to do their hamming from home. But the bottom line — even if portable operating is not “your thing”—is that the creativity and resourcefulness of our fellow hams continues to amaze me, even after 45 years in the hobby. And magazines like CQ play a vital role in expanding and extending this creativity, as each innovation that is shared sows the seeds for the next one. We are proud to have been part of this process for the past 70 years and hope to continue for at least the next 70.

“Mindfulness” Redux

About a year ago, I wrote here about ham radio and the current popularity of what’s called “mindfulness,” which requires that you put all distractions out of your mind and focus entirely on the task at hand. I noted that building ham radio projects should certainly quality as a mindfulness exercise and joked that those of us who teach others building skills might be able to bring in big bucks by rebranding project-building as “mindfulness training.” I followed up the next month by noting that I hadn’t been quite mindful enough in a project on which I’d been working, and had accidentally swapped two identical-looking ICs, then wondered why the project didn’t work.

Well, I’ve been at it again … this time with my first “Manhattan-style” project, attaching components to “pads” glued onto a PC board base as a ground plane. Everything went well, including adding a couple of jumpers shown on the schematic as dashed lines (that I originally thought indicated internal connections) … until I powered it up and — once again — nothing worked.

On the phone with circuit designer KI6SN again, checking voltages here, connections there … until I looked up at the schematic one more time and realized that I’d put one of the jumpers on the wrong component! De-solder, cut new jumper, re-solder. Success! But clearly, yet another failure of mindfulness. I wasn’t properly focused and messed up as a result. (Once again, fortunately, I hadn’t blown up anything.)

I share this here as a reminder, as more and more of us are getting back into building, that electronics projects require “mindfulness.” If you’re not fully-focused, you will mess up. If you’re lucky and didn’t “let the smoke out” of anything as a result, then correcting your error will get you back on the path of ham radio happiness. But clearly, I am still in need of some mindfulness training! – 73, Rich, W2VU

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