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More Reader Feedback - Keynote # 5/6, 2000

This is another column devoted to feedback from readers. I love to get your feedback, positive or negative, about these columns and share it with other readers.

Jack, W7CNL writes in part, "Your column is the first thing I turn to when I receive the keynote." Thank you very much, Jack. Comments like that make writing these columns worthwhile.

Jack continues, "After forty-one years as W7CNL I looked for a new challenge and found it in QRP four years ago. I regret I didn't start sooner as it's been extremely enjoyable. I think operating QRP sharpens your skills as you have to pay more attention to propagation, calling patterns, etc."

Very good points, Jack. Virtually anyone can get on the air with a KW and huge antenna farm and be successful at DX or contesting even though they may have only a modicum of operating skills. Not to say that all KW and beam hams don't have any skills. Many of those running the big stations are the most skilled operators in the world.

However those of us with QRP power levels, minimal wire antennas, and poor locations have to use every trick in the book (many of which I've described in these columns) to make their DX contacts or to place well in contests.

Now some more from Jack, "One point I would disagree with you on is signing /QRP. One of my goals is reach DXCC two way QRP. I find it frustrating not knowing who is and who isn't running QRP as at times it cannot be determined by signal strength alone."

That's a good point, Jack. I see what you mean. For my own personal activities, I don't care what the other fellow is running as I am not working for any 2X QRP awards - although I do have the FISTS 2X QRP Century Award #001. But if you are working for any 2X QRP awards, the situation would be different. I feel it is just too cumbersome sending /QRP every time I sign my call, especially in the fast paced world of contesting and DX where a lot of my operating is done. Also I feel the practice is abused, and some stations nowhere near being QRP will sign /QRP to get some attention in a DX pileup. I have nothing at all against the practice if it's used legitimately , I just don't do it myself.

I don't have a good solution to Jack's dilemma. One way to get the 2X QRP QSO's is to operate in all the QRP contests. There everyone is either giving out a club number in the exchange indicating they are almost certainly operating QRP or if they are not a club member, then they must give their power output as part of the exchange. Also the ARRL DX contest uses power output as part of the exchange for all DX stations. In casual operating on the bands, stick around the QRP frequencies, and many of the folks you work there will be running QRP. Then, of course you can always ask the station you work what he's running. Most of the time, that and the weather are the main topics of a rag chew style QSO anyway once you get past the RST, QTH, and name. Again speaking personally, for virtually all but the quick 599 TU type of contacts or contest QSO's I always mention that I'm running QRP 5 watts.

Then Jack asks a question, "I have worked you several times in QRP contests and you have always had a competitive signal. Could you tell us more about the "simple wire" antennas you use?"

To quote Curly of The Three Stooges, "Soitenly." I have at present 4 simple wire antennas. I'll start with the one that is the easiest to describe. My 15M vertical dipole that I also use on 17 and 12 meters. It's just that - a dipole cut to the 15M CW (of course) band that is mounted to the side of my 3 story brick house. The central feed point is about 20 feet above ground.

The next easiest to describe is my 10M dipole. It runs from the edge of my porch roof at about a 60 degree angle (to the horizontal) up to my 3rd story window. The midpoint is about 18 feet above ground.

My 20 meter dipole (bent dipole - inverted V - whatever you want to call it) is inside the house in one of the 3rd floor storage rooms. It's mounted on the ceiling with the feed point perhaps 30 feet above ground. About the middle third of the antenna is horizontal with the ends running down the sloping sections of the walls and then ending in a short vertical section where the slope turns into a vertical wall.

And finally the random wire used for 160-30M. You really have to see it to be able to picture it, but I'll try. It starts out at the tuner in my shack on the 2nd floor of the house, then heads out the window by my operating desk, then up to the 3rd floor window where the end of the 10M dipole is located. It goes in the window, through the room where the 20M dipole is, through a back room, and out a back window. Then it ends up in a sloping section down to a 6 foot pole in my tiny back yard. The sloping section, like the 10M dipole probably makes about a 60 degree angle with the horizontal. The section that is in the 3rd floor, again like the 20M dipole is about 30 feet above ground. All in all, the random wire is about 110 feet long. Visit my web site to see pictures of some of the antennas.

Since my house takes up the majority of the tiny lot, I have no decent ground system. All I have is a short ground rod with a couple of 15-20 foot 'radials' running at 180 degrees to each other. I use the term radials loosely. They're really just chunks of wire tucked in between the brick sidewalk and the wall. Then that ground is tied into the cold water pipe via our hose spigot.

Well, thanks Jack. That pretty much fleshes out a whole column here. All I have to do now is remind you to visit my web site at home.windstream.net/johnshan/ If you do, be sure to say hello to me via the guestbook. If you have more to say to me, drop me an Email or if you're not on-line yet, regular mail will do just fine to John Shannon, 478 E. High St., Kittanning, PA 16201-1304. 73 -30-