After 40+ years on the air, I decided to kick back and figure out how to make ham radio fun again. I spent about a year, mostly plotting how I might play with various new toys. I put up a small tower, with antennas for 17, 15 and 6 meters.
I also listened – both to signals on the air, and what people are saying. Things really came together shortly after getting back from Hamvention (14) where I spent most of my time with the FreeDV guys. I also learned a lot from the TAPR folks, and ultimately decided that my days of playing with bare circuit boards have come and gone. 90% of my soldering these days is for connectors.
I had a brief detour back into SWLing and AM broadcast with the Funcube Dongle. That was the most fun I have had in years, and I highly recommend it for anyone who would like to see how just much better even the cheapest SDR receiver can be. I actually did A/B tests with the Orion II, and for HF, the dongle kept right up with it… of course, it doesn’t have the filtering that the TenTec does.
I actually ended up grabbing an Icom R5000 for the garage, and put up a 70′ longwire. It’s really only to listen to in the summer, while washing the car, etc. Sure, the pickings are slim as far as program listening goes. But I still love listening to WBCQ, CRI, Radio Havana, and some of the more distant AM stations, which the R5000 does a great job with.
As for actually transmitting and making contacts (which is more than many hams do nowadays) I ended up on 6-meter CW. I had almost given up – turning on my little Ten Tec 526 almost every night after dinner, all winter long… nothing. Then, one Sunday night in May, zowie!
It reminds me of 10 meters. People are polite, and brief. I like that. To make a long story short, it’s challenging, and fun. I am counting states and countries again. Will I put up a beam? I doubt it. Contests? Nope. Just like with 10, it’s more about band conditions than power or antennas.
I arrived at this site – at the very least, I know in 2 seconds whether the band is open, and to where. Two states confirmed, and counting…