Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The End of 2017 is Near...Happy New Year!

Woke up this morning to go to work...it was 10 F outside and I didn't want to go, but go, I did.  At lunchtime the temperature had dropped down to 8 F...I miss those days of summer. 

2018 is beating on the door, and with it comes a great QRP radio event.  The 25th Anniversary of the NorCAL 40 transceiver kit.  Originally designed by none other than Wayne Burdick N6KR, and updated to the NorCAL 40A in 1995, it was one of the most successful kits unleashed on the QRP community. 

Back in 1998 I was thinking about getting back into the hobby. I had been licensed since 1988 but with two young boys in scouting, and my desire to participate fully with that, ham radio went by the wayside.   My eldest N9AWM got his Eagle in 1995, and my youngest son Jason, got his Eagle in 1999.  My duties in the troop were slowing down as the new leaders were stepping up and taking things over.  I had time. 

A friend of mine, Rick KB9NDF stopped by one evening and was asking if I was still a ham.  He had just upgraded to Extra and was telling me all about the fun he was having on CW with his Ten Tec Scout and loop antenna he had at home.  In 1988 I had managed to learn CW and passed the 5 WPM test but I hadn't used it in about ten years.  The bug bit me and I was very interested in QRP CW because of how easy it would be to take on camping trips and operate from the outdoors. 

About that time I signed up to join the QRP-L list, and met another Elmer extraordinaire in Mac Steinmeyer AF4PS.  After asking a bunch of questions on the QRP-L list Mac guided me toward my very first radio kit..it was between the Small Wonder Labs 40m rig, or the more complete Norcal 40A from Wilderness radio.  The 40A was more expensive but it came with a case, a keyer board, all the knobs and buttons and switches..so I went with that setup.  I also bought a Z-Match tuner from Roy Grigson at Emtech.  The ZM-2 antenna tuner would match a school bus, so they claimed.

Mac AF4PS - Enjoying his QRP
Mac nurtured me through the building process via emails and phone calls.  It was tedious mentoring I am sure but he stuck with me.  I got it completed but had no way to know if I was getting any output.  So my friend Rick KB9NDF and I were able to make the right adjustments to squeeze about 1.2 watts out of it into a dummy load and measured on a borrowed power meter.  The next weekend was Labor Day  1998, and I had strung up two pieces of telephone cross connector wire over the roof of my home, connected the ZM-2 to my "antenna" and the radio, tuned it until the LED went out and fired off a CQ....my very fist solo CQ...I was eventually answered by a station in Mississippi! KF4EWO heard my tiny one watt signal and gave me a 579 report.   I was hooked. 

Front of my NC40a with KC-1 Keyer Board

Rear of my NC40a with Extra jack for Paddles

the original PCBoard in my 1998 Norcal 40A
Mac was also the inventor of the Infamous Attic Dipole at his old house in Florida.  This prompted me to try the same thing here in Indiana, and man was I surprised at how well it worked.  It's been up there almost 20 years now.  Take a look at Mac's!

Chuck Adams K7QO has done a great service by reviving the Norcal 40A radio on his website at http://k7qo.com along with the blessing of Wayne Burdick N6KR.  You can buy a newly worked NC40A PCBoard and start scrounging parts.  I am in the process of doing just that right now.  I only need a couple more things and I should be ready to start melting solder.

So in 2018 we Norcal users will be sending out our NAP (Norcal 35th Anniversary Party) numbers...if you hear a prime number that means the station you worked was using a Norcal 40 radio.  My number is 1777 and I hope we can trade numbers on the air in 2018. 

Here's to a great and prosperous new year in 2018!  

Best 73 de KB9BVN 
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