Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, September 27, 2017

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Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, September 27, 2017

This is a free weekly news & information update from the Courage Kenny Handiham Program, serving people with disabilities in Amateur Radio since 1967. 

Our contact information is at the end.

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Welcome to Handiham World.

In this edition: 

  • A note from the coordinator

  • Failing at Being Disabled

  • Disability Doesn’t Make You Exceptional…

  • Getting on AM

  • Down memory lane…

  • Check into our nets!

  • ...And more!

    A note from the coordinator...

    What is your favorite mode to operate? Each of us has different likes and dislikes. Some people love to work satellites. Others enjoy digital modes. Some people continue to enjoy packet. Still others prefer to work DX. Some people, like Matt Arthur, KA0PQW, love to work AM. He is in good company there as none other than Bob Heil, K9EID, also loves to operate AM. Matt took the time to write his story of getting on AM for this week’s E-Letter. Maybe his story will inspire you to try a different mode!

    The Handiham Headquarters will continue to be short-staffed through next Monday. Nancy is on vacation, so if you need something done right way, please be sure to call or email me.

    In the E-Letter this week there are links to a couple interesting TED talks that offer some different perspectives on disability. Matt gives us his story on AM. Finally, there is an article from a 1997 issue of Handiham World in Down Memory Lane.

    And one more thing for this late edition…I did an interview with Neil Rapp from Ham Talk Live on Thursday evening. You can check it out here: https://www.spreaker.com/user/hamtalklive/episode-83-handihams-brings-ha...

    Do you have a story to share about your ham radio related activities? Please send your articles and stories via email to Lucinda.Moody@allina.com or by calling me at 612-775-2290.

    Failing at Being Disabled

    Born with a genetic visual impairment that has no correction or cure, Susan Robinson is legally blind (or partially sighted, as she prefers it) and entitled to a label she hates: "disabled." In this funny and personal talk, she digs at our hidden biases by explaining five ways she flips expectations of disability upside down. Check out this TED talk at https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_robinson_how_i_fail_at_being_disabled?ut...

    Disability Doesn’t Make You Exceptional…

    Stella Young is a comedian and journalist who happens to go about her day in a wheelchair — a fact that doesn't, she'd like to make clear, automatically turn her into a noble inspiration to all humanity. In this very funny talk, Young breaks down society's habit of turning disabled people into "inspiration porn." The TED talk can be found at https://www.ted.com/talks/stella_young_i_m_not_your_inspiration_thank_yo...

    Getting on AM

    by Matt Arthur, KA0PQW

    Matt Arthur with his AM station.  The big transmitter the Heathkit DX-100, next to that is the Johnson Viking Ranger.<br />
Then there is the National NC-303 receiver.  There is also some other stuff like the crystal calibrator and swr power<br />
meter and stuff.

    In 1982, when I finally decided to get serious and study for my amateur radio license, I knew one of the modes I really wanted to get on and operate was AM. It was back in 1978 that I heard my first ham radio transmission—it was Don, K4KYV, in Woodlawn, Tennessee. He was talking with his friend, Roger, N4IBS, now SK, who was in Nashville. Roger was quite weak and difficult to hear. Now, I know why—he was running a Johnson Viking Ranger that put out about 40 watts of carrier. Don was running his home-brew with a KW of carrier. I have always remembered hearing that conversation, and I later talked to Don, K4KYV, and told him about that QSO.

    In late 1982, I took and passed the Novice test, receiving my amateur radio license and my call, KA0PQW, that I have had ever since. In 1984, I got my General license. It was shortly after that I decided to try getting on AM. I can still remember mentioning my desire to operate AM to my elmers at the Owatonna Radio Club, and they were horrified! They absolutely did not want me to get on AM! At that time, I didn’t know anything about the old SSB versus AM wars that took place in the 60’s and 70’s. I really didn’t care, either. They told me there was no AM activity and that, even if I got on, I wouldn’t be happy because there would be no one to talk to. I knew better, however, because by then, I had an SSB rig and was doing quite a bit of tuning around the bands and listening to that great AM activity.

    At that time, the old gear was cheap and quite easy to find. After the conversation with my elmers, I just decided to become my own elmer. The only rig I had was one on loan from Handihams, but I wanted my own gear. Not too long after that, I was at an amateur fair that was held at the state fairgrounds in St. Paul. Keith, K0HJC, was the Handiham Coordinator at that time. I was standing there in the Handiham booth with my hand on a National NC-300 receiver. Someone had already told me there was a price of $70.00 on it, but I did not have that much money on me. That receiver, however, just seemed to be calling my name. Keith walked over to me, and we started talking. I asked him, not letting on that I already knew the price, how much for the NC-300? He responded, asking if it was for me. I told him that it was, and he said $40.00. I couldn’t get the money out of my wallet fast enough! I took that radio home, and now I had half of my AM station. I still have that receiver.

    Not long after, at another ham fest, I found an old Heathkit DX-35 transmitter. I didn’t know anything about the rig, but it was only $15.00. I could afford that! The seller also threw in five extra 6146 final tubes for it along with some crystals—most of which were not in the ham band. I did find one, however, for 3.733 MHz. I decided to give it a try and get the transmitter on CW. I never did get that rig on AM.

    Next, there was the challenge of coming up with a way to have both the transmitter and the receiver on an antenna at the same time. I didn’t know anything about transmit/receive switches, muting, or anything else. After thinking about it, I decided to put the transmitter on my 75 meter dipole because I knew that I needed to have the transmitter on an antenna that would work for the band I wanted to operate—in this case, 75/80 meters. Then I put the NC-300 receiver on an old Hustler vertical that I had next to the house. It didn’t hear the best on 75, but it was what I had.

    Now, with the transmitter and receiver on their antennas, I decided to try getting the DX-35 on the air. I had never operated a tube-type rig before and wasn’t completely sure how to do it. The guy who sold me the DX-35 talked to me about peaking the grid and dipping the plate. He also showed me what the controls were while I was at the hamfest where I bought it. What he shared was all I knew.

    I plugged in the transmitter, turned it on, plugged the old straight key in, and let it warm up a bit. The next thing I knew, I grabbed hold of the straight key and got one huge shock! It scared me some, but I wasn’t going to be stopped. I was going to get that DX-35 on the air. Being more careful, I was able to tune the receiver to the transmitter. Then I started messing around with the controls on the rig. I soon learned that if I had the receiver mode switch in the right position, I could tune the transmitter for maximum volume or for minimum volume in the receiver. Of course, I wasn’t afraid to try stuff with the transmitter because I only had $15 invested in it. The worst thing I could do was blow it up!

    I first tried tuning the transmitter for maximum volume and started calling CQ. I got no answers, but I did get a bunch of sparks and smoke coming out of the DX-35. Also, I noticed that the signal level went down considerably in the receiver. I knew then I had blown the thing up. But I still wasn’t about to give up. I turned it off and let it cool down. After letting it cool, I took the rig apart. Using one of the other 6146 tubes as a reference, I was able to identify the one that was in the transmitter. I removed the one from the transmitter and put in one of the spares. Then I fired it back up to try again. The same thing happened a second time! Again, I let it cool down and replaced the 6146 with yet another one. This time, when I fired it back up, I decided to try tuning the transmitter for minimum volume in the receiver. This worked much better. I called a few CQ’s and was soon working a station in Louisiana. I can’t remember his call—probably because I was so excited to be working my first station on all my own gear! The rig still sparked a little, but now I was on the air.

    Later on, I learned that the tank coil in the transmitter had been smashed. I described what was happening with the rig, and they told me to look at the tank coil. He described to me what it looked like, so I took the thing apart again and discovered that, in fact, it was smashed. I tried to reshape it back to as round as I could. It worked a little better but still was not great. I managed to work 37 states and several stations in Canada with it, however. That was probably the most fun I had ever had in ham radio, but I still wasn’t on AM.

    In the fall of 1986, while at the Waseca hamfest, I found a Johnson Viking Ranger—the same Ranger I still have today. I started to talk to the guy who was selling it. He really wanted to sell it with the Hammarlund receiver he had with it as a package deal, but I told him I already had a receiver. Finally, I talked him into selling me the transmitter only. So, for just $50.00, I had my AM transmitter.

    By this time, I had met someone who was not against the idea of me getting on AM. He was Carl, WA0RLY, in Austin, MN. He came back home with me to my shack, and we proceeded to get the transmitter on the air. He helped me get a mic going for it, and we put it on. Using the same method of tuning the transmitter for minimum volume in the receiver, I got on the air. That same night, I worked several AM stations. I can even remember a couple of them—Ed, KO3L, out of Pittsburg, PA, and Ed, WA3PUN, out of Harrisburg, PA. That winter of 1986-87, I would start operating around 10 at night, and, a lot of times, I wouldn’t quit until 6 in the morning. I got to know a lot of great guys and learned a lot about ham radio.

    In 1987, I moved into an apartment in Minneapolis, MN, which put me off the air on HF. I held onto the gear knowing that I would find a way to get back on AM. The next year, I moved into a basement apartment that a friend of a ham I knew was renting. It wasn’t much of an apartment, but at least I could get back on HF. I was on for another few years, but circumstances forced me to move to another place where I couldn’t really do HF. That put me off the air on AM until just a few years ago.

    When I moved to Ellendale, Minnesota, in 1996, I became very interested in VHF/UHF operating. Because of that, I did not bother to get an HF station going right way. Also, it didn’t take very long for my shack to be full, leaving no room for an AM rig. I considered selling the Ranger and the National receiver, but all I got from prospective buyers were low offers. That made me mad, so I decided I would just keep the gear. That turned out to be a good thing because I started hearing more activity on AM, and I really wanted to get on the air on AM again. I started looking at the gear, and I discovered that both the receiver and transmitter needed work. I found someone willing to do some repairs and get the rigs going again for me. I still did not have a good way to set the equipment up, however. There simply was no room in my shack! A friend found me some big tables that were being sold from the place where he worked. He purchased them with me in mind, and, after looking at them, I knew they would work for setting up the AM station.

    By this time, I knew I did not want to use my old method of tuning up the transmitter. I had the RF Applications P-2000 CW SWR/power meter, and I knew it had a tuning aid built into it. Also, I now had a T/R switch on the Ranger, but I still didn’t know how the switch really worked. I started thinking. I knew I had to get someone to help me the first time I got it on the air. I called a long-time ham that I had worked on VHF and UHF and who also operated AM. I talked him into coming down and helping me get the thing on the air. I think that was in 2014, but I am not sure anymore

    I have had a few transmitter problems off and on, mostly old component failures, but I have really had a great time being back on the air on AM. Back in December of 2016, I bought a National NC-303 receiver that I had always wanted. I put it in line to replace the old NC-300, but I still keep that rig as a spare receiver. This fall, I picked up an old Heathkit DX-100 transmitter that I had always wanted from a friend who had completely restored it to great working shape. He helped me get the station set up so I can have both transmitters on the air with the one receiver. So now I have my National NC-303, the Johnson Viking Ranger, and the DX-100 all up and running. Most mornings, you can find me operating AM down on 3.730 with a bunch of great guys from the upper Midwest. And you can bet that come wintertime when it is way too cold outside, I will get on in the AM window, 3.880 to 3.890, late at night, working stations.

    Several people have told me I should give up the old gear and run AM on my rice box, but to me, that’s just not the right way to do AM. While I like my rice boxes, my Kenwood TS2000, to me, there is nothing like an old AM rig. They just have some kind of soul you won’t find with these modern rigs. I am certainly planning to operate with my old rigs for many years to come. So look for me on 75 meter AM. Get on with whatever it is you have—whether it is a rice box rig or some old gear. I also operate SSB on HF and still operate SSB CW on VHF and UHF in addition to running a couple of repeaters on 1.25 meters and 70 cm.

    I hope to hear you on the air soon—especially on AM.

    Thanks and 73,

    Matt, KA0PQW, the AM voice of Ellendale, MN

    Down memory lane...

    In honor of the celebration of 50 years of the Handiham Program, here is a story from the Summer 1997 issue of Handiham World.

    “The Patient Who Couldn’t Speak”

    By Dennis W. Ross, MD, N6DR

    Years ago, I was one of a group of medical students on a neurology ward at the Veterans Administrations Hospital in San Francisco. While at the bedside of one patient, half listening to the professor drone on about a rare neurologic syndrome, I distinctly heard someone call for help. Looking around, I could see no one calling and none of my colleagues seemed to have heard anything. A minute later, I heard it again, and this time found the source. A patient across the room was sending Morse code with a spoon on the bedside table. I walked over to this patient. The nurse told me that he was aphasic (unable to speak) because of a stroke four days earlier. I started sending code to him with the spoon. In a rush, he poured out his story to me, at first sending too fast for me to follow.

    Harry was retired from the merchant Marine, now living in an old sailors’ home “on the beach” in San Francisco. He was a large man who looked older than his reported age of 69. He didn’t have the weather-beaten look one imagines in old sailors. He explained to me that this was because he’d always been a radio operator, inside a small dark room away from the elements. He told me that since his stroke, he’d felt as if he were trapped in the radio room with the door locked from the outside. The receiver was still working, but the transmitter was broken. He couldn’t talk back to anyone. He’d been tapping away with a spoon for days, even though he’d given up hope of being “rescued.” Paralysis of his right side had prevented him from writing any messages.

    I brought to the hospital an old Vibroplex Sidewinder telegraph key, which was Harry’s favorite for sending Morse code. Harry had spent a good part of his life on oceangoing freighters as a radiotelegraph operator. He told me a story of something that had happened at sea several days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Harry surmised that there was a large number of Japanese ships in the Pacific. His merchant vessel wasn’t far from the Japanese fleet and heard the low-power radio exchanges between large numbers of vessels using the variant Morse code of the Japanese. He tried to inform West coast and Hawaiian naval authorities of the impending attack. Harry proudly displayed a book one of his friends had brought from the old sailor’s home that told this story.

    Daily visits by the medical staff amused Harry and me because, for a while, we became the center of attention. A group of doctors would surround his bed and watch me write down Harry’s Morse code messages to the outside world. As time passed, however, there was little change in Harry’s neurologic deficit. And, like all things, the novelty wore off, and Harry never regained his ability to speak; but he was verbose in Morse code for all the days I was able to follow him.

    While Harry was in the hospital, I got to know him much better than any other patient on the neurology service. Years later, I remember his stories when I’ve forgotten everyone else on that ward. Ironically, this patient was classified as “unable to communicate” and considered a special problem for nursing-care placement. I don’t think aphasia was a serious problem for Harry. He was accustomed to many nights at sea, talking via Morse code to his friends on the other ships and posts around the world. I believe Harry and I communicated better by Morse code than we would have by voice. I knew his medical history more thoroughly than if I had interviewed him in the conventional way. Even though Harry could hear without a problem, I began speaking to him only in Morse code. It seemed more appropriate and gave a private and personal nature to our conversations, if possible, when talking on a large, open ward.

    The other doctors and the nurses who couldn’t understand Morse code treated Harry as if he were deaf or spoke a foreign language. I’d been taught that aphasic stroke doesn’t limit a person’s hearing. Despite proof of that for Harry, people would tell me a question to ask of my patient. Then they’d be surprised when he started sending his answer in Morse code before I had sent any code myself.

    Communicating on a Different Level

    There’s a special nature to communications via Morse code. At night, when I wear headphones and listen to code over the short-wave radio (usually with my eyes closed), I feel that I’m communicating without talking or hearing voices. After a long day of talking to people and hearing many voices, it’s a pleasant feeling. An hour or so after I put on the headphones and Morse code fills my ears, I have the feeling that I’m using a more primitive part of my brain. The message seems to come to me in a whisper or even to represent something I’m remembering rather than hearing. I no longer formulate what I want to say and then translate it into code for my fingers to send. The thoughts just come out. The syntax of my message changes and doesn’t resemble transcribed speech. I’m not sure where the speech comes from when I enter this relaxed state of communication. It doesn’t feel like it’s coming from the conventional speech centers in the left temporal lobe of the brain.

    I’d like to be able to give a telegraph key to the captain in Jack London’s novel, Seawolf. In the final pages, the captain is shipwrecked and marooned on a distant shore. He also suffers progressive neurologic collapse. As the captains’ sensory functions shut down one by one, I’d like to see if he could still communicate in Morse code.

    Talking via short-wave radio blinds both parties to the cues that go with face-to-face communications. The radio makes the other person invisible, the code takes away accents and conventional patterns of speech. The listener can’t judge whether the other person is well-dressed or well-educated before the conversation starts as we so often do in conventional communications. Radio also places the other party of the conversation at a distance.

    The psychological space that surrounds us isn’t invaded by the person on the other end of the conversation. I read of a medical student who had much more meaningful conversations with her pathology professor via ham radio and Morse code at night than during regular daytime teaching sessions. This doesn’t surprise me. Morse code is a social equalizer and a more intimate way of talking.

    Radio conversations in Morse code differ from spoken communication in that you can’t be interrupted, unless you’re using full break-in, as do skillful traffic handlers. Normally, your part of the conversation doesn’t end until you throw the switch. Only then can the other person speak, and he can’t be interrupted until he passes the communication back to you. Morse communications are succinct. Written and spoken language is more formal and structured than the abbreviations used in Morse code.

    Morse code may be declining as a means of communication. Exchanges of computer-generated code may soon replace manually sent dots and dashes pounded out by a well-rounded fist balanced atop the plastic knob of the telegraph key. My experience with Harry makes me think about how little we know about the nature of human communications.

    What are you waiting for? Check into our Handiham nets... Everyone is welcome! 

    How to find the Handiham Net: 

    • The Handiham EchoLink conference is 494492.  Connect via your iPhone, Android phone, PC, or on a connected simplex node or repeater system in your area.

    • The Handiham Net will be on the air daily. If there is no net control station on any scheduled net day, we will have a roundtable on the air get-together.  

      Cartoon multicolored stickman family holding hands, one wheelchair user among them.

    Our daily Echolink net continues to operate for anyone and everyone who wishes to participate at 11:00 hours CDT (Noon Eastern and 09:00 Pacific), as well as Wednesday evenings at 19:00 hours CDT (7 PM).  If you calculate GMT, the time difference is that GMT is five hours ahead of Minnesota time during the summer.

    Doug, N6NFF, poses a trivia question in the first half of the Wednesday evening session, so check in early if you want to take a guess.   The answer to the trivia question is generally given shortly after the half-hour mark.  A big THANK YOU to all of our net control stations and to our Handiham Club Net Manager, James, KD0AES.


    • You can pay your Handiham dues and certain other program fees on line. Simply follow the link to our secure payment site, then enter your information and submit the payment. 

      • Handiham annual membership dues are $12.00.  The lifetime membership rate is $120.00.

      • If you want to donate to the Handiham Program, please use our donation website.  The instructions are at the following link:

    How to contact us

    There are several ways to contact us.

    Postal Mail:

    Courage Kenny Handiham Program
    3915 Golden Valley Road MR#78446
    Golden Valley, MN 55422


    Preferred telephone: 1-612-775-2291
    Toll-Free telephone: 1-866-HANDIHAM (1-866-426-3442)

    Note: Mondays through Thursdays between 9:00 AM and 2:00 PM United States Central Time are the best times to contact us.

    You may also call Handiham Program Coordinator Lucinda Moody, AB8WF, at: 612-775-2290.

    73, and I hope to hear you on the air soon! 

    For Handiham World, this is Lucinda Moody, AB8WF

    The weekly e-letter is a compilation of software tips, operating information, and Handiham news. It is published on Wednesdays, and is available to everyone free of charge. Please email Nancy.Meydell@allina.com  for changes of address, unsubscribes, etc. Include your old email address and your new address.

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