Local Folks and Radio Games

Scout Radio Merit Badge

Recently, Jim, AE6AC and I had the great pleasure of teaching the Radio Merit Badge at our local Scout summer camp, Rancho Alegre (of Tarantula Migration fame).  The merit badge introduces the fundamentals of radio and electronics and provided Jim and I the opportunity to introduce amateur radio to 10 energetic scouts.  We only had four hours to present the merit badge requirements which we divided into two lecture and two operating periods.  We gave two classes to two groups of scounts, 4 in one group and 6 in another.

In the picture below, AE6AC shows the boys a resister, showing its symbol and describing its function; as well as a dozen other components during one of the lecture periods.  They boys caught on quickly.

We designed and built a 20 meter inverted V dipole.  We showed the boys the formula for determining the length of a half wave dipole, and identified the frequency and asked them to solve for length.  For 12 year olds they seemed very smart as they quickly grabed the calculator and determined the proper length in short order.  We went outside, measured two pieces of wire, built the dipole and strung it up on a 28 foot pole.  Turning on the rig we found very poor band conditions, but made a very good contact to K0RFD, Ralph in Grand Junction Colorado who had conversations with all the boys.  Kenny, the boy on the right closest in the picture above ask, " mean all you need is that little piece of wire and you can talk to people all over the world?"  "Yup" I said, "pretty cool huh?"  He said nothing but you could tell he was thinking real hard.


Above we see the boys on the second day of the class making contacts again with much better band conditions.  They all had the opportunity to listen, call cq and have a qso on the air.


Here we see four new Radio Merit Badge holders and at least one new technician licensee in the near future (not the guy in the hat--that's Jim, AE6AC).

You know, you should contact your local scout council and teach a class. These are fine young people who are eager to learn new things.  The ball is in our court to reach out and do something proactive to promote our hobby.  Here is one way Jim and I have made a difference.  If you'd like to get our materials for the class, please email me and I will send them along. 


Edison RFI To The Rescue

Many amateurs are plagued with RFI from power lines and other sources.  Recently, a very strong intermittent noise source was nearly wiping out 17 meters for me and could be heard at s7-9 across a very large bandwidth.  I called our power company, SoCal Edison, and asked for help.  I told the kindly person who took my report that I wanted to speak with the RFI technician as I was an amateur radio operator and could more precisely describe to the tech what kind of problems I was having.  

A few weeks later I got a call from their RFI technician and I described my problems.  I discovered that there were only two RFI technicians who handled all the Edison RFI problems.  Given the fact that their service area spans three states, that's a lot of wires for two guys to cover.  The technician, Steve, told me that he'd be in the area in a few weeks and would scope out my problems.

Some weeks later I got another phone call from Steve who said that he had found some problems in my area and had them fixed.  Indeed, the big noise that I was complaining about was not to be heard again.  However, I mentioned that there were some poles in my area that I could hear very clearly on my AM car radio as I drove under them on my way to work each day.  One area in particular was very noisy.  Steve said he would come by again in a few more weeks to run down this problem.

We set up an appointment for him to come by the house.  Of course, wouldn't you know it, but the day he came by was by far the quietest day I have EVER heard on my radio with respect to noise.  He said that it was extremely quiet across most of the area that day.  Typical, eh?  Well, that day I had the entire Edison RFI team at my house.  


Here we see Steve and Larry, the Edison RFI team with their two vehicles in my driveway.  Talk about a brain trust!  The entire RFI team out sniffing the noise that has been bothering me for weeks.







Here we see Steve and his directional antenna that he uses to pinpoint noise sources.





And here we see the noise monitor .5 to 1000 MHz that they use in their trucks as they drive.  Once they start seeing spikes on certain frequencies, they know they are in the right area.  Then they connect their portable directional antennas to this device and pinpoint the noise sources on foot.  Once found, they enter work orders for the local crews to come out and fix the problem.  Depending on the problem, this fix could take anywhere from a day to a month for the crews to fix.  In high fire areas such as the one I live in, any problems that might pose a fire risk are given high priority, as you can well imagine.

Steve and Larry took me out to canvas the area.  We drove under the poles where I had identified noise.  We also drove down to our club station and tried to find the noise that has been always there which nearly blanks out our 20 meter station.  Typical, no noise that day.  Murphy indeed has perfect knowledge!  Needless to say, Steve and Larry were impressed with the equipment in our station.

Luckily, on the drive back to my house, under the pole mentioned earlier, we registered a large noise spike on the monitoring equipment.  My face lit up with delight!  I never thought noise could sound so wonderful!  HI HI.  Larry parked under the pole and ran a few tests.  They told me that they would mark that pole for repair.

The moral of this story is that we as amateurs can do something about power line noise if we use our heads.  If you call up and scream at your local power company, don't expect any help.  If you try to make personal contact with the people doing the work, you can expect to get something accomplished.  It won't happen over night, but good things come to those that wait.  At least it has for me.


Irma Webber

Irma Webber, a local Santa Barbara ham, has contributed to Amateur Radio in an unusual way.  Their 1963 landmark TVI litigation is responsible for defining interference policies and enforcement.  The city of Santa Barbara filed a complaint in Superior Court asking for an injunction to stop the operation of the Webber's amateur radio stations on the grounds that the stations were a public nuisance because of a TVI problem.


The Webber's hired an attorney and through their victory in court set an important legal precedent, and probably saved amateur radio as well.

The Webber's successfully argued that only the FCC and the Federal Government had the power to regulate radio emissions.  Municipal or State governments could neither enforce Federal regulations or write and attempt to enforce their own.  Accordingly, the case against the Webber's was dismissed in 1967 with prejudice.  Local governments, in recent years, have had the ability to regulate citizens band radio emissions, but are prevented from interfering (sic) with the amateur service.  When you think about this landmark case you cannot but appreciate the contribution that Irma and her husband have made to our hobby.

Here we see the vivacious Irma Webber at the 2003 local Hamfest with your humble author.  I spoke with her and related to her how important her court case was to our hobby.  This was the first time I had the privilege to meet her, and she was a bit surprised that I recognized her name and knew of what she did 40 years ago.




In September 2002, I organized the SBARC Special Event at our club station.  The event celebrated Santa Barbara as the city of innovation; the birthplace of the Class E Amplifier, the Egg McMuffin, the Hot Tub, Instant Breakfast and the Internet (actually it was called ARPAnet).  That's me in the very back.

Here is the qsl I issued for the k6tz special event in 2002.