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Answering Readers Questions & Comments II - Keynote # 2, 1998

First of all this month, some very important news. I know many of you visit my web site regularly, and if you are not already aware of it, I have a new URL - http://home.windstream.net/johnshan/ If you were turned off by the advertising on GeoCities, this new location for my site has no advertising at all, since windstream is my ISP, and the web site comes as part of my monthly fee for their service.

I said last month I had some info from N1ODL, so let me present that now, and then address his comments at the end.

Hello John: Have just finished reading several of your articles from the KEYNOTE postings on the web. I find them quite interesting and look forward to reading the next one. I am a new ham (6 years) and have been bitten by the CW and QRP bugs very hard. I got into Amateur radio from a friend (WA1LCW) who bugged me to go with him to a field day about 7 years ago. From then I was hooked.

I also am a member of QRP-L and read the web page daily. One of the topics is about new hams and how they should not try QRP right away. I do not agree with this as I think it is a great learning experience and it teaches them to be better operators early on.(you may or may not agree with me on this) I was lucky enough to have several people to be my "Elmer" and was given every opportunity to get on the air under all conditions and power. I chose QRP and CW very early on and have not looked back.

The only time I use a mic is when I am in the car. I also have a key in the car for when I am waiting for the xyl or have time to kill. I guess I'm looking to get your thoughts on this topic, either good or bad.

The other topic is on portable antennas for use when traveling or back packing (which I do a lot of in the White Mts.) I have found an antenna made by Antenna's West, which I think is the best thing since sliced bread. These antennas are end fed mono band and are extremely easy to tune in the field. I usually tune them at the house for each end of the band and mark the antenna so I don't have to bring my freq. counter to the field or when I am on the road. If I am staying at a hotel, I just drop the one end out the window and am on the air. If I am outside I just throw it over a tree or put it over the bushes. I usually try to set it up as a vertical as I find it gets me further on 20 meters. I also have antennas for 40 and 10 meters. I am not trying to sound like a commercial and I have no ties to the company. I just think, that after long searching for a good portable antenna, I have finally found one. Oh yea, if you do bring a tuner, you can use the antenna on the next higher or lower band.

Another topic you might want to touch on is, for new FISTS members like me, what is the best way to accumulate QSO's with other FISTS members. I have only heard one person calling CQ FISTS (KA4IFF) and when I answered her call, she never gave me her number even after I gave her mine. Is there any protocol or do I just wing it.

Well, I hope I have not overwhelmed you with my questions. Do keep up the excellent work and I hope to hear you on the air someday. Thank you, Aron Brown, Hooksett, NH, N1ODL, FISTS #4110.

As far as starting your ham career with QRP, I think it is great IF (and that's a big IF) you know what you are doing, and can get that 5 (or less) watts to radiate well. Be sure you understand antennas, and how to make them as efficient as possible. If you have an Elmer to help you get set up, that will help. If you run QRP as you start your hamming, and that QRP is not working as it should, you will quickly become discouraged with ham radio. I hear many new (and not so new) hams running 100 watts into very inefficient (or unmatched) antennas with very feeble signals. If you use that same inefficient or unmatched antenna with QRP, you are not going to make many contacts.

There are many fine portable antennas available. Personally in the little portable operating I do, I prefer just using a random length wire stretched out as far and as high as possible.

Use a tuner to match the wire to your rig, and you are set. Try it out at home to get some rough settings for the tuner, and you won't have much trouble getting it to work when you're out in the field.

And finally, I have worked somewhere around 250-300 FISTS without making any special efforts. I just hang out around the FISTS frequencies, and either call CQ (just a regular CQ, not CQ FISTS - only in contests do I call a specific CQ, never in regular operating) or answer someone's CQ. Most of the hams who operate around these frequencies are FISTS, and I just give my number to them. If they are not a FISTS, I explain it to them, and presto, we have a new member. If you're interested strictly in working FISTS to collect numbers, check into one of the nets for that purpose. I prefer rag chewing, and collecting numbers along the way rather than just gathering numbers, but that's just a personal preference.

I thought I'd have time to touch on other matters, but again my space is used up, so 73. Don't forget my new URL. 73 -30-