K3WWP's Ham Radio Activities

FISTS clubMy FISTS ColumnsCW ProceduresZero Beat CktTeenagers & CWStraight Key UseCW StoriesLists

QRP/CW Ramblings

Column #98 by John K3WWP - Just rambling on about QRP and CW with no particular organization or clear flow. A lot of you know about my streak of making at least one QSO per day with QRP/CW/simple wire antennas from my valley location in the heart of Kittanning, PA. I think the streak proves once and for all that CW is an extremely efficient mode that does not require any of the following to work and work well.

No need to run high power - 5 watts does the job just fine - thank you.

No need to put up a tall tower with a many element beam on it - a hunk of wire at least several feet off the ground does the job.

No need to wait for the solar flux to reach a maximum - my streak has lasted through two minimums and one and a half maximums.

No need to work only local stations - you can work the world with 5 watts of CW - I've worked over 215 countries in the streak.

No need to live on a hilltop with an unobstructed view of the horizon - my valley view shows hills up to about 9 degrees or so.

I could go on, but if you hadn't gotten the picture before, you should have it now. The caption is CW/QRP/simple antennas works well.

Finally some stats about the streak from August 5, 1994 through June 30, 2013 - Days: 6,905 - QSOs: 58,883 - DX QSOs: 17,001 - DX entities: 216 - CQ Zones: 36 (of 40) - Different hams worked: 17,217.

If you're one of the stubborn ones who is still not a believer, as I write this I am engaged in another streak as well. For the past 145 days now (as of July 24, 2013), I've made at least one DX (non-W/VE) QSO, and done it easily on virtually every day. Perhaps only on a couple days I've had to work a bit to get the QSO.

Of course now my rig is the fabulous little Elecraft KX3 - by far the best rig I've ever used in 50 years of hamming. It makes ham radio very easy, and the QSOs come very easily. As an additional feature I use a panadapter with the KX3. Just in case you're not familiar with a panadapter, it's basically a computer program or stand-alone unit that shows the activity on a large segment of a ham band at a glance. Mine is the HDSDR program running on my shack computer. No more painstaking time-consuming tuning across a band to see what is there. That can also lead to missing a lot of the activity as you tune past stations who just happen to be pausing as you tune past them. With the panadapter, you just glance at the screen and each 'blip' you see is a station doing something - tuning up, calling CQ, in a QSO. You just turn the dial to center the blip in the passband of the KX3 to see who it is.

The most rewarding thing from the streaks is having other hams tell me that because of the streak and my other QRP/CW activity, they have decided to give ham radio a try from what they thought was a situation in which they could never make even a single QSO. Such as living in an antenna restricted area or being unable to run high power because of locat TVI or RFI. Perhaps they tried other modes with no success, and gave up. When they learn what can be done with QRP/CW, they think they should give that a try - they do - and they have the same success that I do. I'm nothing special - I just use something very special - CW with what is perhaps not overly special - QRP and simple antennas. And it works just fine for me and also for those who try it.

Of course there are other things you can do to help make those QSOs easier. Always send the very best code possible. Stations, especially DX and contest stations who get pile-ups say a weaker signal with perfect code is easier to copy than stronger signals with sloppy code. Always use proper procedure signals. Always keep CQs short and repeat them often with only a short pause to listen for answers. Be sure if you're using narrow filters that you exercise that RIT knob a lot. It seems more and more hams nowadays are not that good at zero beating and often will answer your CQ up to several hundred Hz off frequency. Know the bands and the propagation conditions on them to know the best band to operate when you have little time in the shack. This is controversial, but I never ever send /QRP after my call. It isn't necessary, and I feel like I'm down on my knees begging for an answer if I would use /QRP. I've made 80,000 QSOs without resorting to that, so..... Basically I'm not really a QRPer - I'm just an ordinary ham doing ordinary ham things except with 5 watts instead of 100, 500, 1000...... In addition to the perfect code, your signal should be perfect also. Again a weak signal with a sharp crisp note is easier copy with QRP than a chirpy unstable one with high power. Another thing about QRP is that even if it is very easy to make QSOs, it is still more challenging than overwhelming everyone with a KW signal into a big antenna. Because it is more challenging, it is more rewarding and satisfying. Also remember the FCC guidelines say use only enough power to make the contact. You just don't need that high power a great deal of the time.

A lot of folks say that ALL the skill in making QRP QSOs is at the receiving end of the QSO. I say if that is true, why doesn't everyone who runs QRP have WAS, DXCC, etc? All they need do is get on the air and the skill at the other end will make the QSOs for them - right? Huh-uh - the QRP operator needs skill also as sprinkled through the above paragraphs like sending good sounding code, using proper procedure, and so on. He also needs the skill of copying higher speed code, of using proper techniques in making different kind of QSOs - rag chew, DX, contest, net, and so forth.

I think that's enough rambling for this column. Maybe next time I'll have something more organized. At least as time goes by, I will have more time to write these columns as well as more time to do other things. Why? Because I'm retiring. Oh, you thought I was already retired. That's partly right, but over the next several months I'm gradually retiring from my work as VP of the NAQCC which has occupied much of my time over the past almost 9 years now. President Tom WY3H and I are turning the club over to younger leadership as we both approach 70 years of age. If you're a NAQCC member you'll know about that and find out even more as time goes by. I only mention it in passing here. Till next column, I hope you'll visit my web site, especially if you haven't been there before and this column aroused your interest in QRP and CW. You'll find a lot more info on the topic at http://home.windstream.net/johnshan/ Or if you have any questions on the topic, email me at jsk3wwp@windstream.net. 73 -30-