Sunday, July 26, 2009


...How I depend on thy hams! It's funny, even when 40 meters is just about dead, I will usually find one or two VE calls soldiering along.

Tonight's QSO was interesting but frustrating on two counts -- he was just a bit faster than I can accurately copy and my bug keys were not cooperating with my sleepy[1] fingers. I used the Begali bug, which I am getting better with, and switched to my "Millennium Bug" (Vibroplex's Y2K Blue Racer) for something a bit quicker. That proved to be a mistake, as the dit contact started out unhappy and became less so.

What I have learned:
1. I should not hesitate to ask the other ham to QRS.
2. I need to add some non-slippy material under the bugs (the blobby-net kind of shelf paper is great for this. Morse Express used to include a piece of it with every bug and keyer-paddle they sold and probably still do).
3. I want to wire the key jacks of my transmitters out to a panel of 1/4" jacks and start sticking cables with standard PJ-055 plugs (mil-spec 1/4" mono headphone-type plugs, of which I have several) on my keys. Reaching over and fumbling a 1/8" plug into the back of the rig is no fun, especially with an improvised power connection.[2]
4. Likewise, simply grabbing a bug that I had all set up four or five years ago? Not such a good idea. There are more than few adjustments on them. (Plus, I need to unearth my code-practice oscillator so I can set them up properly).

The last item reminds me -- my ham readers all know about the VOM trick, right? Once you have your bug running the way you want it, set an analog volt ohmmeter to Ohms, zero it, and connect the leads to your bug's terminals. Send a string of dits and adjust the dit contact screw so the meter reads center scale and you've got perfect 50-percent duty-cycle dits!
1. I got up at 0400, went to the Skunk Works North Campus for eight hours, came home and tried to microwave a meal but promptly forgot it. After Tam reminded me, I ate and napped 'til late. Went down to the shack, hammed a bit and I am headed back to bed shortly. So much for my prospective membership in the Order Of The Boiled Owl. (Seems there is a ham club by that name, which originally referred to a radio amateur so enthusiastic, he stayed awake all night hamming. Please note that the well-dressed amateur of 1923 wore a tie while so doing, too).

2. The Molex-like power connector Ten-Tec used has a very different plastic shell but Molex pins and sockets fit well enough. Add a few wraps of self-amalgamating tape and voila! A kludge that will fry your power supply unless treated with care. (I prefer that kind of tape to the linerless variants; experience has shown the silicone tape fuses better. Transparent versions are available, too).


  1. I have three paddles, one a custom job from a retired machinist in Springfield, MO and two Vibroplex paddles, one a single lever and the other the double lever. I've found that seating the paddles on a thick rubber pad help reduce walking by the paddle.

    The other solution is learn to lighten your touch on the paddles. That's hard to do. I'm still unsuccessful breaking myself of that "bad" habit.

  2. Take a picture of yourself wearing a tie whilst HAMing...