Socorro Amateur Radio Association

SARA Newsletter ----- "All the news that fits, we print" ----- February, 1996

The January Meeting

... was held on January 10th with 24 members in attendance.

Callsign Keyrings

The callsign keyrings were ordered right after the last meeting. If you ordered one, please bring $2.50 in exact change.


Dave Johnson, KB5YIW

Even though SARA's president has (as you have, I'm sure) been curious about why it is that the Mastr II repeater has been sitting in the Club House for the last two or three months, you have all been very patient and nothing has been said. That doesn't mean, however, that there was no plan. Each month, the president asks me to contribute this report knowing that we are all anxious to see improvements in the system. He knows too, that having nothing to report might very well generate unacceptable levels of guilt and possibly --- action. Well, it's worked. While the repeater currently on the mountain is working well (despite one opinion to the contrary), it is increasingly clear that the planned remote receiver system will take longer than anticipated, and there is no purpose served by keeping our best machine out of operation in the meantime.

Although access to the mountain is a little uncertain this time of year, I plan to return the repeater to service soon after SARA's February meeting. This will afford us an opportunity, at the meeting, to review the features available on this controller, as well as to permit sign ups for autodial numbers. For those of you who are not familiar with the MCC controller, it stores 90+ phone numbers, each of which can be accessed with an autodial prefix followed by a unique two digit number that causes the controller to dial the phone number stored in that slot. It is the club's policy to make one autodial number available to each member. Additional slots may be issued on a temporary basis, if slots are available. If you would like to have one of these numbers assigned, come to the meeting or give me a call at home (835-1432) or work (835-5771). One reminder for those of you who do not attend February's meeting and who will use the autopatch on the new controller. You need not use the "9" prefix. This controller dials that for each outgoing call. And the direct "911" access will again be available. How will you know when this all transpires? The key is in the courtesy "beep." If it goes from piercing to pleasant, it's the new controller. The ID will also change to the club's call (KC5OLJ) and will be delivered via morse code.

Upgrade Class

Want to work the world on HF? Get in on all the fun of QRP, contesting, or just ragchewing with newfound friends hundreds or thousands of miles away? Your chance has arrived. SARA is offering a free class for those who want to upgrade to General Class licenses.

The eight week class starts on Tuesday, February 6, at 7 PM, at the SARA clubhouse. Class sessions will cover both Morse Code and the General-class theory exam. The class is free; the only cost will be for a license manual for the General exam. These books will be ordered after the first class session.

Heavy emphasis will be placed on building Morse Code proficiency to pass the 13 word-per-minute examination. We will be using the computer-based "Koch method" that Dave Finley, N1IRZ, has outlined in his "Morse for Morse-Haters" lectures the past couple of years. Don't have a computer? Don't worry --- we'll have a machine available to all class members in the clubhouse. You'll be able to check out a clubhouse key, just like you do for the club HF station, and come to use the computer at your convenience.

Dave will be leading the Morse training, and will cover the method in a lecture at the first class session. If you plan to attend, it's important to attend this first session, even if you've heard Dave's talk already. He'll cover material that is both different and in more depth than his earlier lectures, and then we'll go through a "hands-on" session on setting up the software for your personal practices.

At each subsequent class meeting, there will be a "coaching" and troubleshooting session on the code training.

Material on the General written exam also will be covered in subsequent class sessions. We'll cover some of the operational/procedural material by getting on the air with the club HF station.

Across the nation, code-free Techs are dramatically boosting the numbers of upgraders to the "top three" license classes. In the five years before the code-free license was instituted, nearly 18,000 people moved up to General, Advanced or Extra. In the five years after the new license came about, that number jumped to nearly 46,000. Let's add to those upgrade figures here in Socorro. You can do it!

January Program

Paul Harden, NA5N, told us about the circuitry of an MFJ QRP rig. Although he was describing the operation of one specific rig, these principles are applicable to any ham rig. He also handed out a copy of his very own, hand-drawn schematic to the MFJ rig. Thanks to Paul for a great presentation!

February Program

Dave Johnson, KB5YIW, will refresh us on the operation of the new repeater controller, which will be going back into primary operation. He will also talk about plans for adding a remote receiver to the 146.68 repeater and about linking to the new Davenport Mountain 2m repeater. If you want to know more about the intricacies of repeater linking, don't miss this one!


Gatherings, gatherings

Upcoming events

From Felix, WB5LXA

DARA Scholarship Open

The Dayton Amateur Radio Association is now accepting applications for its 1996 college scholarships. Amateur Radio licensees graduating high school in 1996 are eligible for \$2000 scholarships. Each year the DARA offers eight such scholarships. No specific field of college study is required. Winners will be announced around June 1, 1996. Interested students should send a self addressed, stamped envelope to: DARA Scholarships, 45 Cinnamon Court, Springboro, Ohio 45066.

Troubleshooting tips

I want to share some of my experience with you so that you don't have to go through the frustration of trouble shooting that darn rig when it acts up.

Every time I would key-down on my paddle to transmit, the dial lights on the rig would dim. But only when the power output was 40 watts or greater; below 40 watts the rig behaved just fine. Wanting more power, I decided to investigate the problem. After many hours of signal tracing, voltage tracing, checking individual components, and studying the schematics but not finding anything wrong, I concluded that it had to be a cold solder joint. Since I had already localized the problem to two circuit areas (the speech proccessor board and final amplifer board), I took the boards out of the rig and heated every joint until I was satisified that they were good connections. I put the boards back on the radio and hooked up the power and antenna. I then tried transmitting at 60 watts. The dial lights dimmed just a little, which was an improvement, but still not the way it should be. I then decided to check the grounding. Inside the shack, all connections were good, clean and tight, but outside, the connector to the grounding rod had become corroded. Why this corrision happens is a mystery to me. The connection is about 2" above the earth ground and there is not generally that much moisture in Socorro air. The ground rod is 1/2" x 6' copper and the gounding wire is also copper, but the connector is made of brass. Maybe the dissimilar metals cause corrosion to happen and create a tiny insulation between the two metals. I took the connector off and cleaned it until it was shining like a jewel and then reinstalled it. The rig now cranks up to 150 watts without dimming the dial lights. The manual says it will put out 160, but what the heck, 150 watts is good enough.

You may be wondering why target the speech proccessor board when the problem was with CW? Well, in the Kenwood TS130SE, part of the carrier control circuit is embedded on the speech proccessor board. The carrier control adjustment allows more voltage to pass on to the finals for more power.

The moral of this story is that sometimes common sense just works better when trouble shooting. Before pulling out the oscilloscope, frequency counter, multimeter and whatever else you might have, check first for loose connections, loose screws or nuts, and corrosion. Look for the obvious; if it looks wrong or feels wrong, then it has to be corrected. We are lucky here in the Southwest that we do not have long periods of high ambient humidity. But, we still must remember that in the good old summer time, we have our swamp coolers flooding our homes not only with cooler air, but cooler air with moisture. For outside-the-home electrical connections, there is not much one can do, except to periodically make an inspection of all your connections. Hope this sparks some thought on your next repair.

73 de Felix, WB5LXA

News from Newsline

FCC Back to Work

With the budget impasse over for now, the issuance of new ham radio licenses remains stalled. The FCC reopened Thursday, January 11, but closed Friday, January 12, as another snow storm hit the Washington, D.C. area. Monday, January 15, was Martin Luther King Day and federal offices including the FCC were closed.

While it was open January 11, the FCC accepted electronic amateur license application files for processing from VECs. The Commission says that it will try to expedite the application backlog, but some temporary software adjustments were needed before licenses are granted. As a result, it could be another week for the FCC to get back up to speed. New and upgraded license information is available from ARRL by calling 860-594-0300. Applicants also can check the University of Arkansas at Little Rock FCC database at

The earliest word on call sign assignments and upgrades was not expected until Wednesday, January 17th and there is no word when filing for vanity call signs might begin. As previously reported, the FCC has several pending petitions for reconsideration that it must tackle before it accepts applications for vanity calls. Several of those who filed the petitions have indicated that they will take the matter to the federal courts if their requests are denied. If this happens, the vanity call sign program could remain on ice for several more years.

ARRL Letter Goes Internet

The ARRL Letter is going weekly on the internet, but current subscribers to the printed version will only be seeing it once a month. The decision to convert to electronic delivery also means that the Letter will now be available free of charge to any ham who has the ability to access the ARRL Home Page on the World Wide Web or several commercial sites. This includes America Online, CompuServe and GEnie. The URL is:

The league notes that a survey of subscribers in early 1995 indicated an interest in electronic delivery because information delivered that way will be more timely.

Current subscribers to the printed version of the ARRL Letter will have their subscriptions extended so that they will receive the same number of copies as they would have under the twice monthly mailing. The league is also cutting the annual subscription rate for new mail out subscriptions as well.

The only question left is whether or not W5YI will follow the ARRL and Newsline to the Internet. We posed that question to Fred Maia. He says that he has no plans of going to electronic delivery at this time. Maia is planning to start his own home page on the World Wide Web but he says he is into the printed page to stay.

News from ARRL

One Ham Radio Power Supply Aboard MIR Fails

German cosmonaut Thomas Reiter, DF4TR/DP0MIR, aboard the MIR orbital complex, reports that a power supply used for some of the spacecraft's ham radio equipment failed on New Year's Eve. The remaining, older power supply is only capable of powering the old ICOM 2-meter transceiver and one 1200-baud TNC. The digital voice module also has failed, so there will be no more automatic voice recordings in the near future.

Reiter reports all four fuses in the two connected transceivers have blown and only two spare fuses remain. Last month, Reiter used the digital voice recorder, built by Thomas Kieselbach, DL2MDE, to broadcast holiday messages. The primary transmitting frequency is 145.800 MHz.

Recently, the cosmonauts on MIR unpacked new Amateur Radio equipment delivered by rocket, including a 70-cm FM transceiver and 9600-baud packet gear.

Reiter was philosophical. "Well, at least we can be reached and still can talk with the world," he said in a message to Dave Larsen, N6JLH.


Monte Bateman, WB5RZX
SARA Newsletter Editor
bateman @