Socorro Amateur Radio Association

SARA Newsletter ----- "All the news that fits, we print" ----- September, 1995

The August Meeting

... was held on August 9th with 22 present.

Trinity Site

Recently, a dozen members gathered to stuff SASEs with comemorative certificates --- over 125 in all. Paul, NA5N, has a short video "montage" of several different media showing SARA at Trinity Site. Paul will bring his tape to the next meeting for everyone to see. Over 5800 people visited Trinity on July 16, and many were impressed by the World War II vintage radio gear on display. Our Public Information Officer, N1IRZ, has been duly charged with writing an article for QST on our special event.


Dave Johnson, KB5YIW

There is some small progress to report on the VHF Mastr II repeater. One test suggests that RF is "leaking" from the transmitter coax into the receiver section which is immediately adjacent to the coax. Unexplained is why the leak occurs in the first place. Other Mastr II's do not seem to suffer from this particular affliction. Several additional tests are planned, but the conflicting travel schedules of those folks involved have resulted in a delay. At present, there is no projected date for the return of the Mastr II to operation. On the bright side, the old VHF repeater, now in service on Socorro Peak, is working well. The controller has not misbehaved and audio quality continues to be acceptable. The GE receiver seems to be working better than the Motorola receiver it replaces, at least in-so-far as frequency stability is concerned.

Socorro's 70 cm aficionados will be happy to learn that there is substantial movement towards a 440 machine in Socorro. Bob Sparks has put his machine in operation from his home in Socorro, on a test basis before it is taken to the top of Socorro Peak. Bob encourages you to "try it out." There is, however, one request. The controller does not currently have an ID. Consequently, users must ID for the repeater at least every 10 minutes. The call sign is Bob's --- WB5QZD. Do your part to keep Bob from running afoul of the law. The frequency for the repeater is 444.375 RX/449.375 TX. At present, there is no PL, however, once the repeater is located on Socorro Peak it will require a PL tone for access. I believe that the tone will be 127 Hz.

New Business

Fat Tire Fiesta

Dave Johnson, KB5YIW

This year's Fat Tire Fiesta is scheduled for the weekend of September 16--17. Once again, SARA will provide communications support for the event with base stations at the Socorro Plaza operating on VHF and UHF, and mobile operators fanning out across the countryside. This year we have asked the organizers to minimize routine support functions (manning water stops, transporting riders to and from rides, etc.) so that we concentrate on providing emergency support and communications. This year we ask that all mobile radio operators check in at the Plaza or with Net Control BEFORE traveling to the point of departure. If your ride has been canceled or the departure point changed, we can save you a trip.

The following rides/races on Saturday need radio support: San Acacia, Morine Canyon, Big Rosa, Baldy Hill Climb (AM) and Sevilleta (AM). In particular, the Morine and Big Rosa rides would benefit from operators having 70 cm capabilities. The Baldy Hill Climb will require two operators each with a VHF radio, and a high clearance vehicle. On Sunday, the following rides will require radios: Riley Loop, Sevilleta (AM), and Barite Mine (AM). If you are an amateur radio operator and ride a mountain bike, the Sevilleta rides are for you. Otherwise a sturdy vehicle with a little ground clearance should serve you well. Doug (AB5WT) has already contacted several who will cover some of these rides. If you are available for a ride or to man the base stations at the Plaza, please call Doug at 835-2406.

Again this year I will be operating a crossband repeater from the saddle below South Baldy from about 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM on Saturday only. This remote base will permit those (especially west of the Magdalena Mtns.) with 70 cm capabilities to access the Socorro VHF repeater by using 444.75 MHz. The autopatch will not be directly available to those using the remote base. Two frequencies will be largely dedicated to simplex operation. These are: 145.47 MHz and 449.75 MHz. A reminder that when using these frequencies you should use the minimum power necessary.


President's Corner

Monte Bateman, WB5RZX

The Albuquerque hamfest

... has come and gone. While it was a good show, many of us feel that ours will be just as good if not better, and that we can have the best show in the state. I visited with our ARRL officials in Albuquerque, and they were pleased to hear of our growth and progress. I always enjoy the expression I see when I tell someone that Socorro has 1.25% of its population licensed --- five times the national average.

At the show I saw a few bargains (even brought home a few!), talked with lots of folks about coming to our hamfest, and saw lots of antique gear. If you collect Hallicrafters, Heathkit, Gonset or Hammarlund, this show was for you! I talked with a small group of hams who are trying to get 9600 baud packet links going in our state. This is a project worthy of SARA's support. The faster speed will help packet radio stay technologically relevant. With everyone gaining access to the Internet, packet radio holds less interest for folks wanting to send e-mail. This is much the same thing that happened when everyone bought cellular phones --- our handheld's access to a phone patch just isn't that big a deal anymore --- "Whaddaya mean you can't order a pizza on that thing?" I feel that hams should always push the envelope of technology, and high-speed data transfer over RF links is one of the latest.

Our hamfest

... is beginning to take shape. We have filed papers to be an ARRL-sanctioned event; Rad-Com of Lubbock has already committed to coming. They say they wouldn't miss the Val Verde Steakhouse for anything, and that hamfest is OK too! I talked with several other vendors at Albuquerque and many said they will be here.

With our new location and bigger facility, we have the chance to make this hamfest another record-breaker. Dave, N1IRZ, has committed to giving his "near legendary" talk on learning Morse code; a ham from Los Alamos will come and give a seminar on AMSAT; Paul, NA5N, will round up several of the QRP regulars and we'll hear lots from them. Due to the efforts of several locals, Socorro is rapidly becoming the "QRP center of the universe."

AMSAT via Internet

One of the neatest things I've come across on the World-Wide-Web: AMSAT satellites! This is provided by the Naval Postgraduate School Ham Club. You can view the contents of several of the ham birds: Slow scan pictures, QSL card images, bulletins, mail, etc. If you have access, try this out:

Goodbye, Grant!

Another of the faithful has left town. Grant, N5YFX, recently moved to Moab, Utah, to be with his lovely wife Mary, who landed a teaching job there. Grant has helped out many times in patching up our repeaters and making trips up and down M-mountain. Just in case we forgot, "Thanks Grant!"


Gatherings, gatherings

Upcoming events

From the ARNS

Rayovac Renewal Cells

Dave Feldman, WB0GAZ

Rayovac "Renewal" cells are rechargeable alkaline AAA, AA, C and D battery cells (traditional alkaline cells are not rechargeable). Rayovac offers a proprietary charger for the Renewal line. The cells and chargers are available at retail outlets. I have been using Rayovac Renewal cells for 16 months. The following are my observations:


  1. Renewal cells have more charge capacity than same-size NiCad or NiMh cells, in low-current applications. The capacity of the AA cell, for instance, is 1400 mAh (discharging a new cell to 0.9 volts with a 300 mA load). This figure exceeds NiCad and NiMh AA cells under the same load.

  2. Renewal cells feature long shelf life --- measured in years as opposed to weeks for NiCads or days with NiMh cells).

  3. They're already charged when you buy them.

  4. Their charged voltage exceeds that of NiCads or NiMh cells --- 1.5 volts vs. 1.2 volts. So, from eight cells, you get 12.0 rather than 9.6 volts.

  5. They are priced competitively with NiCads, and below NiMh cells.

  6. The charger is fast --- two hours, maximum. Also, the charger stops charging each individual cell when that cell is done; there is no risk of overcharging.

The downside:

  1. Capacity falls as current drain increases, so Renewal cells are inappropriate in high-current applications. I tried a 3-amp load, and got just 250 mAh from the D cells. Their capacity also falls in a variable-current environment, so that even the current pulses in a switch-mode converter may reduce their capacity. The AA cell's maximum current rating is 400 mA. In contract, a NiCad or NiMh AA cell can deliver 5 amps.

  2. The charger is specific to Rayovac Renewal cells, and it requires 117 VAC (to charge from your car, you need an inverter). Building a charger wouldn't be easy; a special IC controls the charge cycle, using a pulse scheme that measures sell voltages between pulses.

  3. Renewal cells can'e be charged in a series configuration, so you must remove them from your equipment for recharging. This fact precludes a Rayovac "9-volt transistor" battery (Rayovac is promoting integration of their charger technology into commercial battery-powered devices, but I've yet to see such an arrangement).

  4. You must wait for the "last" cell to finish when charging a group, because you need a fully charged set. My charger can charge eight cells simultaneously, though.

  5. The charge a cell can store declines with use. I'm still using Rayovac Renewal D cells in a flashlight after 30 cycles. The flashlight no longer lasts as long, but it remains useful.

QRP observations

For a QRP rig, with its low transmit current, these cells work well. I use them in an old IC-2AT and in a Standard C108A that uses two AAs. The higher voltage increases my transmit power, and Renewal cells eliminate the problem of a dead HT due to self discharge.

Because of their long charged shelf life, I recommend them for emergency equipment; they will keep their charge for several years of storage, yet be quickly rechargeable for sustained operation.

--- from the January '95 Colorado QRP Club "The Low Down"
--- Rich High, W0HEP, Editor.

News from the ARRL

FCC plan would "privatize" RFI resolution

The Federal Communications Commission has announced a pilot program to "privatize" the resolution of interference problems. FCC representatives spelled out the Commission's idea at a meeting late last month in Tampa, saying "Since it is not feasible for the Commission to attempt to resolve these complaints, it is our policy not to investigate interference to home electronic equipment. Likewise, we do not offer any protection from interference."

Many old timers can remember when an FCC van would pay a visit to a ham accused of causing TVI. After a detailed technical investigation, FCC engineers would pronounce the ham station either "clean" or "dirty." If the station were found to be transmitting spurious emissions that interfered with neighborhood TVs, the ham was told to "clean it up," or else. If the station was found to be operating legally, the friendly FCC engineer talked to the neighbor about fundamental overload and high-pass filters.

While hams generally feared this visit from the FCC, in reality it often proved useful, ending a neighborhood dispute and providing a final answer on fault and responsibility.

But over the past several years the FCC has been "unofficially" out of the "retail" RFI business. Hams, or their neighbors, who contact the FCC about an interference problem, are given a copy of the FCC's Interference Handbook, and are asked to work together toward a solution. While this works out well with reasonable people, the ARRL RFI Desk hears horror stories from hams about neighbors who refuse all attempts at reconciliation or solution.

Some of these disputes have ended up in court---in battles amateurs usually ultimately win, but only after the expenditure of thousands of dollars. The administrative burden of RFI investigation has been lessened, but a few individuals end up paying a high price.

ARRL Laboratory Supervisor Ed Hare, KA1CV, worked closely with the FCC Tampa CIB office both before and after the meeting. The FCC said their pilot program will use local electronic repair shops to fix interference problems "in the field." The FCC also said it receives some 30,000 complaints a year of interference to home electronic equipment.

The FCC also feels that the self-help information they have been providing is not used effectively by consumers. In June 1995, the FCC surveyed 80 recent cases of interference, 53 of them still unresolved. Of those that had been resolved, only one or two used the self-help information supplied by the FCC. The FCC said that the most interference problems come from Citizens Band operation.

The FCC believes that a program to privatize the resolution of interference problems would be effective. Local repair shops would call on the involved parties and repair the problem. If the problem were found to be caused by susceptible consumer equipment, the shop would fix that equipment. If an investigation determined that the radio transmitter was being operated in violation of FCC rules, the service shop would refer the case back to the FCC for possible action.

While the issues of cost were not made entirely clear, the gist of discussions at the meeting revolved around consumers being charged for any needed repairs to their equipment. Who should be charged if the interference were deemed to have been caused by the illegal operation of a transmitter was an unresolved issue. "The service shop would most certainly expect to be paid by whoever made the initial call for service," Hare said in an interview after the meeting.

The FCC's emphasis was on locating and training the service organizations (repair shops). When the program goes nationwide there will be no limit on the number of service organizations, there will be no FCC certification, and no FCC question pools. The FCC will maintain a list of service organizations and refer consumers to those nearby. They did, however, state that they didn't intend to refer anyone to a group that they didn't have confidence in.

According to Ed Hare, "There are a number of unresolved issues and potential pitfalls." Hare said. "The service technicians will not work for free and the program guidelines must be very clear about who pays for their service. And the neighbors of radio operators usually assume that all interference is the fault of the radio station. Can we ensure that the service technicians are properly trained?

"The ARRL will continue to work closely with the FCC, manufacturers, and amateurs to help resolve these issues and develop effective solutions," Hare said.

Maryland Ham Helped Relay End-of-war Message

The young US Army Signal Corps sergeant who helped relay the "end of the war" message on August 14, 1945, is an Amateur Radio legacy and a current active ham.

Sgt Richard Zucker, today KB3YM of Ellicott City, Maryland, was a radio operator with the 3116th Signal Service Battalion at WTJ Radio Control on Oahu, Hawaii. At 2314Z, the 21-year-old radioman received a teletype message from the Pentagon station WAR near Washington and relayed it to General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines. The message announced the Japanese capitulation, signifying the official end of World War II.

Zucker grew up in an Amateur Radio family in Mt. Vernon, New York. His father, also named Richard, was on the air in 1913 with a kilowatt spark rig and a "self-assigned" call sign: 2DB. The elder Zucker was in the Signal Corps in World War I. Young Richard enlisted in the service in 1942 at age 18 and was assigned to the Signal Corps because he already knew the Morse code. He took his amateur license exam in 1944 while stationed in Honolulu and was assigned his first call, W2QKT, in 1946.

After the war, Sgt. Zucker earned a bachelor's degree from New York University and a master's from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. Today, he is active both on the amateur bands and in the Military Affiliate Radio System, as AAR3EO. His wife is Doris Jean Hauck.


Monte Bateman, WB5RZX
SARA Newsletter Editor
bateman @