Introduction - Keynote # 9, 1996
This is the first in a series of columns on QRP that will be appearing in the Keynotes. It is also the first time I have ever written a column so I guess the best way to start would be a short introduction. I'm 51 years old and have been in ham radio since 1963, although not active all that time. My latest period of activity started in 1993 when my neighbor and friend, Eric (now KB3BFQ - FISTS # 1786) wanted to know about ham radio so we rebuilt my station and I got back on the air. I have operated only with QRP since then, going no higher than 5 watts, and as low as 70 milliwatts. Outside of ham radio, my interests are fishing, computing, watching auto racing (Winston Cup), astronomy, meteorology, etc. I worked in broadcasting at WPIT in Pittsburgh for 24 years and semi-retired when the station was sold and all employees were released in 1993.
Just a few thoughts about what QRP is, and the different way it is approached. Back when I got into amateur radio, QRP was defined as 100 watts or less measured as plate voltage X plate current in the final amplifier of the transmitter. As equipment continued to improve, the definition of QRP evolved to 5 watts or less RF output power (i.e. the amount of RF power going INTO your antenna). The actual story of this change in definition can be found in the QRP ARCI Quarterly a few issues ago. I am not going to detail it here.
There are basically two ways to approach QRP. One is to make up for that low power output from your transmitter by boosting your actual radiated power to a higher value with a huge antenna system (roughly, an antenna system with a gain of 13 DB will boost that 5 watts from your transmitter to a radiated power of 100 watts, although only in the direction that your antenna is pointed). I have some question in my mind if this truly is QRP operation, but that is strictly an opinion of mine.
The second approach is to use simple wire antennas to keep your radiated power at a QRP level. I take the second approach to QRP, using a random wire antenna that resides largely in my attic for 160, 80, 40, 30, and 15 meters; a 20 meter ground mounted vertical dipole for use on 20, 17, and 12 meters; and a sloping dipole for 10 meters. This method is called by some minimal QRP.
Those of you who have always run high power or taken the first approach to QRP may wonder what can be accomplished using minimal QRP. As an example, over the past three years when propagation conditions have not been that great, I have managed to work all 50 states, all 7 continents, and some 120 countries. Including some contacts from my pre-QRP days I have worked 1600+ counties and over 1000 prefixes.
That's about it for this first column except to invite you to visit my Internet site at http://home.windstream.net/johnshan/. It is devoted to my ham radio activities and has a more detailed listing of what can be done with minimal QRP. It also has many links to sites dealing with CW, QRP, contesting, etc. Since I am new to writing a column, I would like to hear from you with some idea of what you would like to know about QRP. Also let me know about your accomplishments with QRP (please include a description of your antenna system and QTH). You can contact me at John H. Shannon, 478 E. High St., Kittanning, PA 16201-1304 or via Email. 73 till next issue.