Tuesday, July 08, 2008

My First "Long Distance" Call

Many of you know I have become interested in ham radio. I spend a lot of time on frequencies that allow me to talk to anyone on these islands by radio. We have powerful repeaters here that make it especially easy. I have also used VOIP technology to speak by radio (via internet) to anyone in the world. In fact I have made a great friend in South Africa using this method (Dave, ZS4DT).

Well, what happened last night is something new.

I picked up an old Kenwood TS-130 (introduced before the computer age) and strung a 102' copper wire in the trees around my home. My friend gave me a 40 lbs. 100 watt, 20 amp power supply (doubles as a boat anchor!) and I bought a manual MFJ Antenna Tuner from the Swap & Shop for $35. I've put maybe $250 total into my HF station, including maps for the wall and a clock!

Last night I had the priceless thrill of talking with someone overseas without any intervening technology. My radio to his radio. No internet, no phone company, no wires even!

I could hear VR7SS, who was operating JE7YSS (a club callsign) from Akita, Japan. Conditions were better than average last night and he was "booming" into Hawaii, making contacts with the mainland from Oregon to Arkansas. He was using a 3 element Yagi directional antenna, at 85 feet with 1000 watts (a lot).

I, on the other hand, was just using 50 watts into a G5RV (basically a 102 foot cooper wire dipole) hanging only 20 feet up off the ground (way lower than ideal). I called out a few times, but he would acknowledge other stations instead of me. I had no idea if it was even possible for him to hear me! He was on 14.290 Mhz. On the third try, at 9:05pm, my heart leaped into my throat when I heard him say "QR Zed Delta-Alpha-Delta?" (Ham-speak for 'Who is calling me with D-A-D in their callsign?')!

Now that I had his attention, I called "Juliet Echo Seven Yankee Sierra Sierra, this is Kilo Hotel Six Delta Alpha Delta, Honolulu, Hawaii. Name here is Rich, Romeo India Charlie Hotel, Rich. You are 5/7 into Hawaii and I am proud to say you are my first HF contact outside of the Hawaiian Islands! Pleased to meet you!"

He replied "Kilo Hotel Six Delta Alpha Delta, Juliet Echo Seven Yankee Sierra Sierra You are 5/3 (5=Clearly understandable, Signal strength 3 on a scale of 1-10) into Akita, Alpha Kilo India Tango Alpha, in Northern Japan. I am honored to be chosen as your first HF contact..."

We spoke just a little. His English was excellent. He is very involved with the Boy Scouts in Japan. He has a wife and 2 young children. He has been to Hawaii 3 times, and even operated from Hawaii once. This will be his last year at his current location, and will then be moving somewhere else.

When we finished and he moved on to another radio station, I raised my hands in victory and exclaimed "YES!" and was so thrilled to have assembled an HF station that actually worked!

Right now radio propagation is generally pretty poor (sunspot cycle), but as conditions improve, I'm looking forward to talking with more people all over the world. Some of the radio veterans tell me that there is nothing like the FIRST contact, but also encouraged me that it never really gets old. They still have that same thrill when their station is recognized by another one far away.

Now I have to start a logbook (probably digital) and start tracking my contacts. This is what I got into ham radio for.

Peace, Love and Worldwide Goodwill,



Ciara said...

Congratulations, Rich, and blessings on you. I wish you many happy future contacts.

sandyfewell said...

Sounds like you as a little kid that got his favorite present under the Christmas tree! Congratulations!
Sounds like you're enjoying your newfound love!

Anonymous said...

First Contact?! That would make an awesome name for a movie! Oh wait, they already did that one. Maybe TORA! TORA! TORA! Did that 1 too. Hmmm.....

Anyways, how about trying something newer and cheaper, say, Skype? Cost=$0. Setup time=minutes, calling out to someone you dont know (aka prank call)=priceless!