Wednesday, September 25, 2013

WRTC Team Leaders Announced

Organizers of the 2014 World Radio Teamsport Championship (WRTC) have announced the names and call signs of the amateurs invited to be team leaders for next year's running of this head-to-head competition among the world's top amateur radio contesters. The 2014 competition will be held in New England, its first return to the United States since 1996 and its first-ever running in the eastern U.S.

The competition will consist of 51 two-person teams as well as two wild card teams, a youth team and one consisting of the last competition's champions. According to the organizers, the team leaders come from all continents - 27 from Europe, 15 from North America, five from Asia, two from South America, and one each from Africa and Oceania. It was noted that 10 of the Team Leaders in North America are first-time WRTC competitors, while Europe produced a more veteran group with only eight rookies among the 27 slots. 
Invitations were based on total number of points scored in 55 different qualifying events over the past three years. The maximum possible qualifying score was 11,600 points. WRTC2014 Chairman Doug Grant, K1DG, noted, “It is impressive that more than 25 applicants scored over 11,000! WRTC2014 will have the highest-qualified Team Leaders ever.”

Team leaders have until October 15 to accept the invitation and nominate a teammate. WRTC2014 will be held from July 8-14, 2014, with the on-air competition coinciding with the IARU HF Champship contest.

For a complete list of team leader invitees, visit <>. General information on WRTC2014 may be found at <>.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Hams Respond to Fires and Floods

Amateur radio emergency communicators in two western states were kept busy in August and September, providing backup communications -- and sometimes the only communications -- in response to wildfires in California and both fires and flooding in Colorado. Ham radio communication was briefly featured in an NBC Nightly News segment on the flooding around Boulder, Colorado, that as of press time had resulted in several deaths, several hundred missing people and massive property damage.

The Colorado flood disaster continues to unfold as our November issue goes to press. Stay tuned for complete coverage of these latest examples of amateur radio's emergency response in December CQ's Public Service column.

New Chief for Air Force MARS

Air Force MARS (Military Auxiliary Communications System) has a new Chief. David Stapchuk, director of operations for Detachment 1 of the 92nd Information Operations Squadron at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, took command of the service on August 23. In his primary job, he is responsible for overseeing cyber operations in support of the detachment's communications security mission. In a message to all members, Stapchuk said he was excited about his new position and eager to work with the MARS volunteers "in fulfillment of the MARS mission to provide contingency radio communications support to U.S. government operations."

Army MARS Invites Joint Participation in Exercise, Expands Support of National Guard

The Chiefs of both Air Force MARS and Navy-Marine Corps MARS were invited by their Army MARS counterpart to work jointly in a national communications exercise scheduled for early November. According to Newsline, the goal of the 48-hour exercise will be to measure the ability of MARS members to respond in the event that normal communications are disrupted throughout North America.

Army MARS is also in the process of phasing in direct support of Army National Guard units around the country, according to spokesman Bill Sexton, NI1N. Sexton says the group's regional directors were told in September by Chief Stephen Klinefelter that headquarters had already begun setting up contacts with individual state Guard organizations, as part of the Army's broader program of Defense Support for Civil Authorities.

DHS Guidebook Offers Frequency Lists, More

A new guidebook published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Office of Emergency Communications reportedly is chock-full of frequency information, operating procedures and other important information that can be essential in a wide-scale emergency. According the Newsline, the National Interoperability Field Operations Guide, or NIFOG, was written by agency staffer Ross Merlin, WA2WDT, and is available in print or downloadable formats.

Go to <> to download the book or find a link to request "reasonable quantities" of the printed version.

MIT Designs Inflatable Antenna for CubeSats

Inflatable antenna for cubesats.
(MIT photo by Alessandra Babuscia)

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed an inflatable antenna for CubeSats which will reportedly permit the tiny satellites to operate in higher orbits and/or transmit information at higher data rates. For more on this development, see CQ's "VHF-Plus" column in the upcoming November issue.

Transatlantic Balloon Effort Falls Short

A ham from North Carolina trying to cross the Atlantic in a basket held aloft by 365 individual helium balloons took off from Caribou, Maine on September 12 and made it successfully across … the Gulf of St. Lawrence. "Landed safe, at an alternate location," Jonathan Trappe, KJ4GQV, posted on his Facebook page. That location, according to the ARRL Letter, turned out to be Newfoundland, only a few hundred miles from his liftoff point. Trappe's craft carried amateur radio beacons on 20 meters (RTTY) and 2 meters (APRS). No word yet as to when, or whether, he will try again.

Could "Ambient Backscatter" Provide Free Power?

(Courtesy University of Washington)
Researchers at the University of Washington say they have found a way to harness the energy in radio frequency signals in the air to power devices that also use that energy to communicate among themselves. The ARRL Letter reports that the UW team has developed devices that "form a network out of thin air," relying for power on what the group terms "ambient backscatter," allowing them to "repurpose wireless signals that are already around us into both a source of power and a communication medium." The group is looking to develop the technology for use in "wearable computing, smart homes and self-sustaining sensor networks." More information, including a video, may be found at <>.

FCC Dismisses Encryption Petition

Concluding that current rules prohibiting encryption on most amateur radio transmissions are not "impairing the ability of the Amateur Radio community to provide effective support to public safety agencies during emergencies," the FCC in mid-September dismissed a petition that sought approval for encrypting certain personal information in emergencies or emergency drills. Don Rolph, AB1PH, had submitted the petition, claiming that the ban on encryption prevented hams from transmitting individuals' medical data on behalf of served agencies, thus reducing the effectiveness of amateur radio emergency communications. 
The FCC said it received over 300 comments on the petition and that they were against the proposal by a 2-1 margin. The commission concluded that "while the proposal could advance one purpose of the Amateur Radio Service - (emergency communications) - it would undermine other characteristics and purposes of the service."

NC Ham Group Receives Donated Defibrillator

Orange County Radio Amateurs in North Carolina now has a new tool to bring along to public service events … an automatic external defibrillator, or AED, donated by a local medical practice. OCRA provides communications support for a variety of races and other sporting events and in case of a problem along the course requiring a defibrillator, the group can promptly get it delivered to relieve anyone performing CPR. The donation came from Triangle Orthopaedic Associates, which noted in a news release that they "are proud to donate such a vital piece of emergency equipment to OCRA, although they sincerely hope OCRA never has to use it."

Vonage Co-Founder Talks Up Ham Radio

Vonage co-founder Jeff Pulver, WA2BOT, recently credited ham radio as one of the major factors behind his role in developing the VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology that allows thousands of people to use the internet as their long-distance phone service.
According to an article in, Pulver told an audience at the TwiloCon convention in San Francisco in September that amateur radio "unlocked my connection to voice over IP," and that his career in software began with writing a ham radio logging program.

Vanity HQ Goes QRT

A website that served for 14 years as the first stop for many hams seeking a vanity call sign has been shut down. "Vanity HQ" was taken offline by its founder Mike Carroll, N4MC, citing "a shift in my priorities," according to the ARRL Letter. The report noted that similar information on available and likely-to-become available call signs may be accessed via the RadioQTH website at <>.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Two Amateur Radio Luminaries Become Silent Keys

Wayne Green, W2NSD (SK), Publisher of ‘73’
Wayne Green, W2NSD/1,
at the 1987 Dayton
Hamvention. (Photo
courtesy Joe Eisenberg,
            One of amateur radio’s most colorful and controversial raconteurs died Friday, September 13, “in a peaceful, painless transition from this life on Earth,” according to a posting on Wayne Green, W2NSD’s, “Wayne’s World” website <>.            “An eternal optimist, and one who loved to share his never-ending zest for life, he was a friend to many and will be missed greatly. Wayne was not afraid of dying and was very much ready to embark on his next great adventure to the afterlife.” He was 91.
            Green’s publishing career included editorship of CQ magazine before going on to found 73, 80 Micro, Byte, CD Review, Cold Fusion, Kilobaud Microcomputing, RUN, InCider, and Pico. He published books, as well.
            Wikipedia noted Green was “involved in a number of controversies and disputes in the ham radio world, notably with the ARRL and CQ magazine,” <>.
            As recently as 2011, Green lived in a farmhouse in Hancock, New Hampshire “and maintained a website with content from his on-line bookstore,” the site said.
            In the early 1980s he “assisted in the creation of the groundbreaking Brazilian micro-computing magazine, Micro Sistemas.”

Jack Althouse, K6NY (SK), President of Palomar Engineers
            Jack Althouse, K6NY, president of Palomar Engineers – of one of amateur radio’s foremost providers of ferrite and powdered-iron toroidal cores, baluns and balun kits, antennas and accessories – died of a massive stroke Sunday night, September 15. He was 90.
            In a widely-distributed email, it was reported “the family is grieving but holding their own. We are sorry to break this news to you.”
            In addition to being a successful businessman and talented engineer based in Escondido, California, Althouse was a prolific writer, having been published in many amateur radio books and magazines.
            In an email in July, Althouse said he had eliminated 90 percent of Palomar’s toroid line. “I've moved to an independent living facility where I have no space for a big stock. So now we are a balun kit company selling just a few ferrite toroids . . . reason for the move? Semi-retirement now that I am 90.” 
            In announcing Althouse’s death, the email noted: “It will take some time for the family to decide what to do about Palomar – sell, dissolve, or keep it going. We are asking if you have any outstanding orders with Palomar to please cancel them.  If you have ordered something from Palomar, we will do our best to locate your order and either refund your money or ship the items to you, however it will be several weeks before that we will be able to figure what is what. If you charged something and did not receive it, please send us the invoice number for your order.  We ask that you be patient.  In the meantime, Palomar is closed for business and will not be taking any further orders at this time. If you need to email please use this email <> as the other ones will be closed soon.”
            In closing, the email thanked the amateur radio community for its support Palomar Engineers.