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Answering Readers Questions & Comments X

QRP With K3WWP - Column # 66 - Time again for you, my readers to get in your two cents worth.

Let's start with excerpts from a letter received from Jeff Brone, WB2JNA who does that literally saying, "Radio doesn't have to be expensive; after all, it's a hobby. The main purpose is fun, not bankruptcy."

"One way of saving money that's become very popular lately is with QRP rigs. These radios have much to offer: they combine low price with advanced design, they are small and convenient, and because of the low power they use they hardly ever cause interference. This is especially important in today's world of apartments and congested living areas."

"About a year and a half ago I bought a small QRP set for fun, as a treat for myself. I'm now hooked. The whole concept of QRP appeals to my deep rooted cheapitude in a way nothing else ever has. The idea of talking to people all over the world for what amounts to pennies a contact is a kind of frugality gone ballistic. Little else compares to that feeling of pride when the ham in Hungary or Argentina can't believe that you're only using QRP, because your signal "sounds so good." And my non-ham friends are amazed that something so small can communicate so far. I say this not to promote QRP as much to illustrate the whole "needs" idea. I like talking to other hams, and working DX when I can- period. That's what radio is about for me. A good QRP rig does this efficiently. I bought what I needed, only that and nothing more. This is the rallying cry of the money savers of the world."

"When it comes to antennas, wire is the miser's dream, and you can get it at some hardware stores for a few cents a foot. No project has provided me with more fun and more cuts on my fingers for as litle an investment as a home brew wire antenna. Wire is also versatile- use it to make beams, loops, dipoles, verticals, etc. You can even use pieces of PVC pipe for insulators! Well, I did tell you I was cheap. You get the idea- it helps to use your imagination. That's always free, and maybe the most enjoyable accessory we have. I've had a great time with our hobby, a happy wallet, and after a session on the air, those fish sticks taste just a little better."

Jeff had much more interesting info about saving money in ham radio, but the above was the most relevant to QRP, and that is what this column is all about.

Speaking of QRP, Steve W0OOW submitted some ideas for this column. Unfortunately most of them dealt strictly with CW and not really QRP. He did ask an interesting question though that got me started thinking about just what QRP is.

Steve wrote: "QRP - if you don't feel comfortable at 5 watts out, how about turning down the power some and at least head towards 5 watts. (I "think" that my old Ranger used to put out about 50 watts for 75 in. I worked the world with that. I have also noticed that while I can hear beacons when they are at 10 watts out, I cannot hear them at 1 watt out. 5 watts? I am not sure about. I guess I am not a dyed in the wool QRPer. I don't need to make an 8877 pant while throwing RF into six elements at 140'. I typically run about 50 out with a wire antenna)."

As I'm sure everyone knows, QRP is a Q signal that means 'lower power'. However over the years a second definition of QRP developed. That is QRP came to mean a certain power level, at or below which you were eligible for special awards, endorsements, or recognition of your accomplishments. At first the level was 100 watts input power to your final amplifier, then when equipment improved, it became 5 watts output power. The history of this is quite interesting, but beyond the scope of this current column. Why is a definite power level needed for a QRP award? Well, it's because without it, QRP is relative. You could earn a QRP DXCC, for example, with 999 watts of power output. What? Think about it. In relation to 1000 watts power output, 999 watts is QRP in the traditional definition of QRP as lowering power.

Granted, the 5 watt figure is arbitrary, but necessary. If you work the world with 6 watts output, that is almost exactly the same accomplishment as doing it with 5 watts output. However your accomplishment won't be recognized as having been done with QRP. Fair or unfair, that's the way it is.

Going the other direction, many devoted QRP operators feel the 5 watts power output is much too high a value and insist that true QRP or QRPp as they put it, is less than 1 watt output power.

Personally, I define QRP for myself as 5 watts or less output power into simple wire antennas. I prefer to try to keep my actual radiated power at or near the 5 watts level. Although technically even simple wire antennas like a dipole do have a small amount of gain, so in the right direction and/or at the right radiation angle, I am radiating a bit more than 5 watts. However I will not use a multi-element antenna that would boost my radiated power (in a certain direction) to 25, 50, 100 or more watts.

Time to close. Contact me on the air, at http://home.windstream.net/johnshan/, email, or John Shannon, 478 E. High St., Kittanning, PA 16201-1304. Till next time, 73. -30-