Thursday, November 18, 2021

Milestones: KX8GCS, K4ABT, Silent Keys

Greene County, Ohio, Sheriff Gene Fischer,
KX8GCS (center), with Hamvention officials
Jack Gerbs, WB8SCT (L) and Michael Kalter,
W8CI. (K0NEB photo)

Greene County, Ohio Sheriff Gene Fischer, KX8GCS, passed away suddenly on November 16 after suffering "a medical emergency" while attending a conference, according to WHIO-TV. Fishcer worked closely with the Dayton Hamvention after the show moved to Xenia in 2017, even earning his ham license and getting the vanity call KX8GCS (Greene County Sheriff). Fishcer was a police officer in Xenia for 20 years befor becoming county Sheriff in 2003. He has served in that postion for the past 18 years. Fischer was 65. (Tnx K0NEB) 

In addition, we have learned that former CQ Packet Editor and author Glynn "Buck" Rogers, K4ABT, became a Silent Key this past spring. Rogers was a pioneer in packet radio, writing CQ's "Packet User's Notebook" column from 1988 to 2000 and authoring CQ's "Packet Radio Operator's Manual," which was published in 1993. A longtime resident of Lynchburg, Virginia, Rogers passed away April 29 at age 83. (Tnx K4TVE)

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Breaking the Glass Ceiling at the FCC

Jessica Rosenworcel is
the first woman nomina-
ted to be FCC Chair.
(FCC photo)

Three major nominations by the White House may shape the face(s) of telecommunication policy for the next several years. 

Acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel was nominated by President Biden to another full term on the commission and as Chair. Once confirmed, she will be the first woman to formally hold the FCC chairmanship. Rosenworcel has been an FCC Commissioner since 2012. According to the White House, she was instrumental in creating the FCC's Emergency Broadband Benefit program to help fight the "homework gap" during pandemic lockdowns and help households struggling to afford internet service stay connected. Prior to her appointment to the FCC a decade ago, she was Senior Communications Counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and previously practiced communications law.

FCC Commissioner-
designate Gigi Sohn
(Georgetown U. photo)

The President also nominated attorney Gigi Sohn to fill a vacant seat on the FCC. She is currently a Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law and Policy and previously served as a counselor to former FCC Chair Tom Wheeler. Much of her work has been in advocacy for widescale broadband access. The White House notes that, if confirmed, Sohn would be the FCC's first-ever openly LGBTQ+ commissioner.

Alan Davidson
(US Commerce Dept.
Mr. Biden also nominated Alan Davidson to head up the Communications and Information division of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. NTIA is the FCC's counterpart in terms of spectrum management for federal agencies, including the military. This is significant to hams because many of our bands are shared with federal government users. Davidson was the first Director of Digital Economy at the Commerce Department, which is NTIA's parent agency. He is currently Senior Advisor to the Mozilla Foundation, and previously served as the open-access software group's Vice President of Global Policy, Trust and Security. Before that, he worked for Google, where he was the company's chief lobbyist in Washington between 2005 and 2012. 

All three nominations are subject to Senate confirmation.



First Bouvet … and Now Crozet


The Crozet archipelago (circled) is part
of the French Southern and Antarctic
Territories, shown in this regional map
from the CIA World Factbook.
After a Covid-induced pause in international travel, DXpeditions to remote locations are again on the increase. There has been much written about planned trips to Bouvet, and now a solo DXpedition to Crozet (FT5/W) is on the calendar as well. The Crozet Islands are a subantarctic archipelago in the southern Indian Ocean administered by France, and are a national conservation area. 

The last ham radio operation from Crozet was in 2009 and that islands rank #3 on the DXCC most-wanted list. The ARRL Letter is reporting that French authorities have approved a one-person DXpedition to the archipelago between mid-December 2022 and mid-March 2023 by Thierry Mazel, F6CUK. 

INDEXA, the International DX Association <>, has already committed to supporting the trip, although the amount of its donation was not announced. It is not clear at this point how long Mazel plans to be on the islands or what call sign he will be using there. He notes on his Twitter feed (@Crozet2022) that initial reports of re-using a previously-issued call sign are incorrect and says the call to be used on this trip will not be announced in advance.

ARISS, Others, Benefit from ARDC Grants

The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station program, ARISS, is one of several groups receiving grants recently from ARDC, the organization created to administer the AMPRNet "44" internet domain and support other efforts through proceeds of selling off some four million unused addresses within that domain.

The three-part grant to ARISS covers five years and totals nearly $1.3 million. According to the ARRL Letter, part 1 of the grant will pay for taking an ARISS-developed wireless electronics technology kit for students from prototype to operational program; Part 2 will fund educator workshops for teachers planning to use these kits in preparation for ARISS contacts, and Part 3 will help support the ongoing costs of setting up and conducting amateur radio contacts between students and space station crews.

The Letter also reports that the Oregon HamWAN organization has received an $88,000 ARDC grant to expand its high-speed digital network in the Portland area and to improve amateur radio emergency communications capabilities between Portland and the state capital in Salem.

Moving down the coast to California, ARDC is giving the Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club $35,550 to build a ham station at the new Chrisman California Islands Center in Carpinteria. The installation will include a touchscreen-controlled interactive presentation on amateur radio and other wireless technologies to engage visitors when the station is not staffed.

Finally, the group is providing a nearly $10,000 to a California high school teacher to purchase Raspberry Pi computers and Arduino microcontrollers for his computer science students and to turn part of his classroom into a makerspace accessible to all of the school's students.

More Grants to More Groups…

Not to be outdone, the Yasme Foundation has awarded a grant to the Seychelles Amateur Radio Association "to establish a facility for the recently-formed … club," according to the group's website. The foundation had previously provided support for license exams and fees for eight club members The ARRL Letter reports that the club was formed in 2018. In addition, the foundation awarded its 2021 Yasme Excellence Award to Steve Babcock, VE6WZ, in recognition of "his contribution to the art of lowband antennas and remote operating" through "countless hours of instructional videos, for free, on his YouTube channel and QRZ.COM page."

Finally, Newsline reports that a newly-formed student radio club in India with 43 newly-licensed members is getting a new club station courtesy of the nearby Lamakaan Amateur Radio Club, whose vice president is Ashhar Farhan, VU2ESE, the developer of the μBITX line of open-source HF SSB transceiver kits. The club station includes a μBITX transceiver, power supply, antenna and feedline.

ARRL Foundation Scholarship Application Window is Open

Speaking of students and funding, the ARRL Foundation is currently accepting scholarship applications, with a submission deadline of December 31. The foundation administers more than 100 different scholarships ranging in value from $500 to $25,000. 

All applicants must be FCC-licensed hams living in the US, and certain scholarships may have additional requirements. According to the ARRL Letter, a new Scholarship Management Platform is being used this year which automatically matches up applicants with all scholarships for which they may be eligible. The Letter also notes that young hams outside the US may apply for scholarships from ARDC (see stories above). Details on ARRL Foundation scholarships are online at <>.

WRTC Announces Team Leaders and Qualified Competitors


The organizing committee of the next World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC) competition has released its list of team leaders and others who qualify to be team members. According to the WRTC 2022 website, there will be 50 teams, broken down geographically as follows: Africa – 3 teams; Asia – 8; Caribbean – 1; Europe – 18; North America – 13; Oceania – 3; and South America – 4. 

The designated team leaders will be able to select potential teammates from a pool of more than 270 qualifying amateurs. The competition, originally scheduled for 2022, was delayed a year due to Covid restrictions that limited access to certain qualifying events. It is currently scheduled to be held in and around Bologna, Italy in July 2023.


Well-Known Contester/DXer Killed in Plane Crash

William "Will" Roberts, AA4NC, of Apex, North Carolina, was killed October 21 when a small plane he was piloting crashed soon after takeoff. Both Newsline and the ARRL Letter report that Williams was an active contester, DXer and DXpeditioner as well as a musician and a licensed commercial pilot. He competed in the first WRTC in 1990 and returned as a judge for the 2018 competition in Germany. 

One passenger on the plane was also killed; two children aboard were treated for injuries and are expected to survive. A spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board told Newsline that it is too early in its investigation for a cause of the crash to be known and that it will likely be a year or more before the investigation is complete.

Milestones: Former CQ Publisher Dick Cowan, ex-WA2LRO, SK

We recently learned of the passing last year of former CQ Publisher Richard A. "Dick" Cowan, formerly WA2LRO. The son of CQ's founding publisher, Sanford Cowan, Dick took on the responsibilities of publisher in the late 1950s, even though he wasn't listed as such on the magazine's masthead until mid-1967. In 1979, Cowan sold CQ to current owner Dick Ross, K2MGA, and former Editor Alan Dorhoffer, K2EEK (SK).

Recalling their relationship in the 50th anniversary issue of CQ in 1995, Ross noted that Cowan "was always extremely fair to me and … gave me the most important thing ever – freedom. Freedom to learn and explore and see how things happened and to become part of making them happen."

Cowan was also founder and publisher of S9 magazine in the heyday of the CB boom, as well as several others, including Solid State Technology and, more recently, Vacuum Technology and Coating. According to family members, he had been battling Alzheimer's disease for several years and passed away in June, 2020 from complications of Covid-19. Our belated condolences to the Cowan family.


Listen for Special Dutch Calls Around the Holidays

Three hams from the Netherlands will be activating three special holiday-themed call signs during December and January. According to Southgate Amateur Radio News, PA5DX, PD8DX and PD9YL will be operating PA21XMAS, PD21SANTA and PD22HNY, respectively, on the HF bands, 2 meters and 70 centimeters, using SSB, FT4 and FT8. A certificate is available if you work at least two of them. Details are on the PA21XMAS page on

New Version of WSJT-X Will Accommodate Non-Standard Call Signs

Those of you who plan to contact the special event stations in the previous item using FT4 or FT8 may want to first download the latest release of WSJT-X, version 2.5.1. 

According to the ARRL Letter, the main change from the previous version is improved ability to handle compound and non-standard call signs, particularly when using Q65 or JT65. The upgraded software also includes a new feature for working microwave aircraft scatter.

New Group of CW Groups Formed

Many hams around the world have formed groups to encourage and promote learning and using Morse code on the air. Now, according to Newsline, those groups have formed a group for greater cooperation and collaboration. The International CW Council started this past January at a meeting organized by Howard Bernstein, WB2UZE, of the Long Island CW Club. 

Nearly two dozen groups have already affiliated themselves with the new umbrella organization, including CW Ops, FISTS, SKCC, NAQCC, K1USN and the A1 Club of Japan. More information on the council is available at its website, <>.

SKCC Membership Hits 25K

One member of the new International CW Council is the Straight Key Century Club, or SKCC. That group recently reported the enrollment of its 25,000th member, the Florida Island Hoppers Amateur Radio Club. 

SKCC focuses its activities not only on the use of Morse code but also the use of manual telegraph keys, including straight keys, "bugs" and sideswipers. Another focus is on always being considerate of other operators' speed and skill levels, and adjusting sending speed to accommodate. SKCC membership is free and open to all. For more information, visit the club's website at <>.

A Voice From Above

Artist's conception of PSAT2 in orbit
(Image courtesy
Here is a very cool use of digital voice technology … the AMSAT News Service reports that the NO-104 satellite (also known as PSAT2) has had its "APRS2Voice" function turned on. As explained by APRS developer Bob Bruninga, WB4APR, a properly encoded text message transmitted to the satellite via APRS will be converted into a voice message and read back by the satellite on its downlink. The satellite itself has an interesting backstory. Launched in 2019, it mysteriously went silent after just two months in orbit, but just as mysteriously came back to life this past April. In addition to the APRS2Voice function, the satellite supports PSK31 and slow-scan TV as well. For more information, including a guide to properly setting up an APRS2Voice message, visit <>.

40th Anniversary of UoSAT-1

UoSAT-1 prior to launch
(AMSAT-UK photo)
The APRS2Voice feature on NO-104 is not the first use of digital voice transmitted by an amateur satellite. In fact a "digitalker" was one of the features of the University of Surrey's first small satellite, UoSAT-1 (OSCAR-9), which was launched just over 40 years ago, on October 6, 1981. It was the first microsatellite with computers that could be reprogrammed from the ground while in orbit.

UoSAT-OSCAR-9 operated for eight years before re-entering Earth's atmosphere in 1989 and burning up over the Indian Ocean. Guided by a then-young Sir Martin Sweeting, G3YJO, UoSAT-1 was built from off-the-shelf parts and launched the small-satellite industry, as well as Surrey Satellite Technology, Ltd., which is now a part of Airbus.

ARRL On Board With Two Draft FCC Positions for WRC-23

 The ARRL is in agreement with two draft positions developed by the FCC's WRC Advisory Committee in advance of the next World Radiocommunication Conference in 2023. According to the ARRL Letter, the League concurs with the committee's preliminary position on two agenda items, one regarding VHF frequencies for the Earth Exploration Satellite Service and the other dealing with space weather sensors.

The first proposal deals with spaceborne radar sounders proposed for a secondary allocation on 40-50 MHz. The FCC committee studying the possibility of such an allocation and the ARRL agrees, as long as there are "adequate means to protect the weak-signal operations of the Amateur Radio Service on the adjacent 50-54 MHz band without imposing any restraint on those operations."

The League also agreed with the committee's draft position on a proposal regarding space weather sensors which calls for completing comprehensive studies on the possible impact to incumbent services before considering any changes to the international Radio Regulations.