I went to bed early last night since I was beat from a long day. That meant I awoke early. Usually I just try to roll over and get another hour or so but this morning I was awake so I got up stopped by the fridge to scarf a bite of chicken from some left over panang curry. I hit the mouse to wake up my computer, and when the screen lit up I was on 160, and there was 3D2KJ calling CQ.
He was about S4 (-100dBm) and my band noise this morning was a pleasant -115dBm, with the usual deep long cycling QSB of 160. I tuned up the AL80B on 160 and gave him a call. I have other more powerful amps in my shack, but 99% of my work is done with this AL80B I bought 20 years ago. There are 2 reasons. First it puts out a solid KW and second it's instant on and the tuning is absolutely reliable. I fitted a clear plastic page protector to the front panel and that has little arrows pasted on it that gives me a place to tune to for each band. I just set the dials, do a quick dip of the plate and check the grid current and I am ready to go. Ten seconds tops. With my other amps it takes 3 minutes to condition the cathode and all of that, then you gotta tune and then make sure you don't draw too much grid current bla bla bla. By the time I get the amp tuned the DX has left the building. In a pinch that extra few dB can make all the difference, but if I could have just one amp this little AL-80B is a near perfect ham radio amp.
I've been looking at the new Ameritron ALS-1300 to add to the line up. First, IT ISN'T TEN FREAKIN' THOUSAND DOLLARS!! Second it puts out 1200W. Third, it's instant on and it can be made to be band following with the F5K and DDUTIL. This pretty much would make DXing a one click operation. Click on the station and the correct antenna is chosen the correct setting on the amp etc etc. Sounds lazy I know, BUT that would allow me to use my F5K from anywhere in the world, including as a mobile when hooked up to the iPHONE. I'm not quite sure how I would send CW with an iPHONE BUT.... Always something new to fool around with in Ham radio, but I digress.
The 3D2 was working up 2 and working single callers. No pileup at all. In fact hardly any takers. He would sit there and call CQ maybe half a dozen times between contacts. I sent my call sign twice and he came right back. With the spicy after taste of panang still tickling my senses we exchanged our info and I plugged him in the log. This is the kind of stuff you dream about. Flipping on the radio and popping Fiji on 160 first call... No big wall of the west coast to penetrate. No big wall of Japan to penetrate. Just 2 hams mano a mano against propagation and that ever present deep fading of 160. I checked the lightning map and FINALLY there are no red dots out in the Atlantic or in the Gulf. Just a couple dots in Kansas and one lone dot in west Texas. As I sat here typing this, Fiji got bored and shut down about 5:15 Strong signal, low static, excellent operator, and no takers, too bad. The second and third tier could have picked off a juicy one this morning. The east coast slept and my insomnia payed off. Now I'm dreaming of my Latte...
If you're interested in writing something interesting for this blog regarding your SDR experience let me know. I would like to include things like how your SDR contest station is set up, or your VHF station that uses SDR as the system center, feats of weak signal work or how well the SDR works in various challenging situations. If you are a foreign ham and would like to comment on the growth of SDR in your particular part of the world. Bring it on!
I reserve the right to publish or not, but I'm pretty open to documenting a wide variety of honest experiences from users, for readers to explore. The understanding of SDR in our hobby is so nascent, that I want the reader to be able to see the value of SDR through the eyes of YOUR experience and enthusiasm.