Saturday, December 31, 2016


Despite worsening solar conditions, 2016 was a good year in radio from my perspective.

I've always considered DXing to be the best part of ham radio but I took a few steps away from DXing in 2016 and it is in these new areas that I got the most enjoyment.

As for the DXing...

Six ATNOs were worked in 2016, taking me to 325 entities worked. Conditions were better in 2015 but I only worked three ATNOs that year. My current goal is a 8B-DX2CC - an imaginary award for working 200 entities on all bands 10-80 meters. I need 13 New Ones on 80m to qualify. We all need something to shoot for, right?

The sacrilege

They dated all the way back to 1978.

Old QSL cards. Thousands of them, sitting in shoe boxes in a closet. I never sorted through them, never showed them to anyone and have never submitted for any awards. You know where this is going, don't you? There are better things to be sentimental over, and, with no interest in awards I finally admitted to myself that the space they were taking up could be put to better use. So into the recycle bin they went. The only survivors are those currently pinned to a cork bulletin board here in the shack - about 20 of them.

History went out that day with the Tuesday recycle pick-up - cards from old Cold War adversary entities that no longer exist, cards from old friends from my Novice days I'd never meet in person, super-rare cards from mega-DXpeditions...all gone. I followed that up with a comment on my bio that I am no longer seeking QSL cards, even from ATNOs. I'll make full use of LoTW and I'll always return paper QSL cards to those who send me theirs but I will no longer actively pursue them.

Operating from the field

By far the best part of 2016 for me was the ARRL's NPOTA program. I wish I could have dedicated more time to activating various parks - the times I did so were more fun than running barefoot through an acre of titties. It was as if every activation were a QRP to the Field event the way they were a decade or so ago - lots of activity, a high interest level and a degree of comraderie lacking in those events recently.

The NPOTA program brought it all back and did so consistently for a solid year. Every weekend was an opportunity to set up a portable station or chase those who did. I may have missed a few but I tried to look up all the activators I worked. Oftentimes, their bio had descriptions and photos of what they were using for their activations and I found it interesting to see who I'd contacted, where they were and how they were managing the details of putting a signal out from such a diverse array of locations around the US.

A new KX2

Contributing greatly to my enjoyment of the NPOTA event was the new Elecraft KX2. It is the QRP
radio I always wanted. For many years, I imagined a radio that would be small, cover all the HF bands on both phone and CW, operate split and run for a long time with battery power. The 1990's had a radio fitting this description - the Index Labs QRP+. That radio was fine for then but doesn't cut it anymore. For a very long time, no equivalent radio existed. And then, on my birthday, Elecraft announced the KX2. I didn't have to ponder, budget, think about or justify it. My KX2 was ordered immediately and I haven't regretted it for one second.

Someone once said that "poetry is life, condensed". I think a radio like the KX2 condenses and concentrates into a small package the magic of radio. Anyone can get a signal from Point A to Point B with a big-ass amp and a radio full of knobs and menus, but to be able to do that with a tiny, seemingly simple radio running on batteries - to me, that's an amazing thing and it gives me the same feeling of wonderment I got as a kid listening to my grandparent's tube-filled Transoceanic.

Speaking of amps...

I've had my Flex 6300 almost two years now. Love it. The capabilities, the presentation, the navigation around the HF spectrum - and the economy of it all. After buying the Flex I put my K3 in the closet (next to those QSL's) and told myself I'd sell it if a year went by without me missing or wanting the K3 in any way. That year went by, I sold the K3 and haven't looked back since.

The proceeds went to replace my clunky, heavy, needs-to-be-tuned-to-QSY Ameritron amp (which I also sold) with a small, hugely capable and convenient Elecraft KPA-500. It works as smoothly with the Flex as if it were made for it. And with the KX2 as well. QSK is perfect, band changes are simple and it hasn't hicupped once.

Going retro

Picture this - a state of the art SDR transceiver being keyed by a bug made in 1914. Or the same bug - a Blue Racer - keying the KX2...a transceiver that weighs less than the bug.

I bought the Blue Racer due to a desire to do something in the hobby that involved workmanship, ie to restore it. Restore is probably too much since the key is in fairly good condition but I do want to get around to making it look better. The problem is, it's so much fun to use that I don't want to have it disected for any length of time. I'm sure that'll pass and I'll get around to polishing, buffing and re-japanning but in the meantime, it's a key and that's how I'm using it.

See you in 2017 - Happy New Year everyone.


  1. Happy new year John. Hope to read many interesting postings from you in 2017. 73, Bas

    1. Thanks Bas. Best wishes to you & your family in the New Year.