Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Welcome to the N0KTK Blog!

Welcome to the N0KTK blog and my first post!!!  I decided to start this blog to share my amateur radio experiences as I get back into the hobby.  

My first experience with propagation was back in high school where all of my buddies had CB's in their cars or trucks.  Most summer nights around dusk you could tune towards the bottom of the CB band to hear all sorts of weird chatter on USB but never could understand what they were talking about, as it sounded like the Peanuts teacher.  I first discovered dipoles when I purchased an old CB from a garage sale and didn't have enough money for a base antenna for the house.  Heading over to the library to research antennas, I found you could make a dipole antenna for little to no money, so off I went.  The dipole antenna was a 1/2 wave length and I remember I had to put orange tape all around the guy wires so when my dad mowed the lawn he didn't ruin my masterpiece.  I'd use the CB to talk to my high school buddies that were out on the town and looking for something to do.

After I went to college I started getting into ham radio and noticed the FCC just dropped the 5 WPM morse code requirement, so I was off to the library to pick up the latest study book.  I was first licensed in 1995 as a non-code tech and did some work on 2m around the area, but never really got too involved because of the cost of the radios.  There wasn't a club around my area when I was home from college, so my only exposure was listening to the local skywarn nets during thunderstorm season or hearing a bunch of people complain.  Around 1997 I lost interest and sold my gear.  I picked up amateur radio again around 4 months ago and decided to start studying for my general.  After passing and picking up my first HF transceiver, I've caught the HF bug.  Especially the QRP bug.  After some intense research on the web I bought a KX3 rig and here we are!

Back on Sept 19th 2014, I put my FCC ULS application in for a vanity call (N0KTK) from my original FCC provided call from 1995, KB0RPM.  I was pretty lucky that I got KB0RPM as the next call in line.  RPM is easy for the geeks to remember as it stands for revolutions per minute.  Today, 18 days later from the original vanity request, (12 business days), I checked the website, and it was granted!  I had read from other bloggers who have gained vanity calls, 18 days was about the norm.

The process was very easy, as the hardest part was actually trying to figure out what vanity call I wanted to try and grab.  After looking at what type of calls I could try and obtain (2x3, 1x3, etc..), I settled on a new 1x3.  I looked at words I could spell out and be clever like WG0AT or K7AGE's calls, but nothing really stood out.  Another requirement was it had to be less weight in CW as my previous call, which that wasn't really hard.  KB0RPM in CW weight is 80, which is on the top of the scale for American calls.  I settled on N0KTK.  Not only is the suffix my initials, but it's also very light in CW weight, around 60.

I plan on blogging about my mini-expeditions around the STL area, QRP, antenna making and SOTA work in this blog.  I was inspired by K0JQZ's YouTube videos as I like how he presents and shows his SOTA activations.  Also follow his blog at http://k0jqz.blogspot.com.  One of these weekends I'll get down to the foothills of Missouri to activate some of the ~150 SOTA eligible peaks.  Searching on SOTA or QPR will yield great results and there are lots of great blogs, videos and information out there to help get you started.

I live within the city and do not have a persistent antenna setup as my yard 30' by 150' so there really isn't a place to erect a large dipole or tower.  I use a end fed antenna attached to a 36' kite pole outside my front door using bungy cords to secure it to my railing.  I use a small power supply with my Elecraft KX3 on 40m to 6m (blog post to follow about my setup).  I usually setup on my living room coffee table and after the band conditions go south or I'm done for the night, I pull everything inside and pack up the KX3.  The whole setup take around 5 to 10 mins to deploy.