KA0Y, K8RA, KB8RQ, K8ND, AB8VE, KA1VHF, WB6MLC, W8DMR, W1IX, K9EID
These people are all, for the post part, normal, regular people. We all share one thing in common – we are Ham radio operators. I figured I would write a post about some people I know or have met in person and are not simply acquaintances. These are in no specific order. This is not an all-inclusive list (if it was this post would be a couple more miles long). I am not benefiting from mentioning anyone specifically, other than I know, or have met through more than a handshake, these people and would like to share how, why, and to what extent. My last post made me start to think about this.
What makes these people unique, to me, is what they do with Ham radio and how I have been influenced by them. Some of these call signs you may recognize real quick. Others you have never heard of. Some you may be learning quite a bit about. Some you will forget. Maybe you will happen to run across them later; either on the air, reading a magazine article, a book, or a website.
One of my first passions with Ham radio was being intrigued by weak signal VHF communications. I think it was while I was studying for my Technician license was when I first found out about EME (earth-moon-earth), or moon bounce. Also about this time I became aware of KB8RQ. I have always wanted to do this and I based the purchase of my TS-2000 around this possibility.
I’ll mention KA1VHF, Steve, first. This way I can tie in some other things later. I met Steve on the air, ironically. I was calling CQ on 40m CW and along comes Steve – slam-banging in to my receiver. No joke. Come to find out, he lives about a mile away from my house. When he replied to my CQ he was pushing a KW! Talk about a pegged S-meter. Anyway, I got to talking to him and we decided to switch to 2m simplex. So we chatted for a while on 2m. I was taking a photography class at OSU at the time and my current project was on Ham radio operators and their stations. I didn’t have anyone for the project yet, I was just starting it. So I asked Steve if he would be willing to be one of my subjects. This was the start of a really great friendship.
Steve is also an avid VHF’er. Hence, his call sign – KA1VHF. When I wen’t over to talk to him this was a big part of our conversation. We talked about propagation, grids we have worked, DX, etc. I had a lot of fun. He showed me his boxes of QSL cards. Every time he mentioned a grid or a DX contact he would try to remember where the card was. I think he’s got about 200lbs of cards stuffed away here and there HI.
Also, while I was over there he gave me a few tips as to other people I could use for my project. This was pretty cool. This was one of those unique doors in life that when it opens you realize what just happened, but to what extent you haven’t experienced.
Backtracking for a minute – while living near Dayton, OH (where I went to grade school and the first 2 years of college), I had my VHF antennas up on the roof with a rotator. I had a 13b2 and 100w for 2m and REALLY wanted to do EME. I had known about KB8RQ for quite some time by now. Anyone that knows anything about EME knows Gary, KB8RQ. If you look up “EME” in the dictionary you should be able to find him hehehe. I don’t think I have to say this, but anyone living within a 100 mile radius or so of KB8RQ and has tried EME on 2m knows just how BIG of a signal he really has. You can’t miss him, scroll across the bottom of 2m and hes the guy that pegs your S-meter (ground wave) HI.
I’ll pause right here with KB8RQ for a minute. I have not been successful at my EME attempts to date (not with KB8RQ – too close, but with W5UN in TX). I’ll get right back to KB8RQ here in a bit.
KA0Y, Ken, in Iowa was my first hands-on exposure to EME. I was driving out to Omaha, NE, to visit a friend of mine on my way to Canada (see my post about “Lake of the Woods, EN39 on the Air” for more info – not that trip specifically, but the same place) and was going to be driving right past KA0Y (within about 20-30 miles, thats close enough). So I e-mailed him to see if I could swing by there and check out a “true” EME outfit. If you don’t already know about KA0Y, he is the guy that has the 50′ parabolic reflector antenna (dish) that was published on the cover of CQ Magazine several years back. Now, I don’t know about you, but big fancy antennas get me going pretty good. He has the biggest dish of any amateur (Ham or radio astronomer) I know of. Since he was so close to where I was going to be I just had to try and check it out.
Ken replied to my e-mail and I was off to see the wonderful dish. Now, I mentioned before that I have never done EME. I have never had a “QSO”, and I have never had any hint at one of my signals being reflected by the wonderful white ball in the night sky – at my OWN station with my OWN gear. I got very lucky on my trip and the moon happened to be out during the day time, right when I stopped by KA0Y. Ken runs mostly 1296 these days and that is what he had set up when I was there. Whatever, thats cool with me. He fired up the dish (its stored pointing towards Zenith for lower wind loading) and started tracking the moon. This was quite a sight. The dish is impressively huge as it is, but to see that thing moving is even more cool. Then I got to hit the paddle a couple times and hear a LOUD echo right off the moon first hand! Pretty cool, huh? When you think of EME you think of weak signals. It is a weak signal mode. However, KA0Y’s signal is so big you get a real NICE deflection on the S-meter. If I remember right, it was about S3-5! That’s HUGE!
As for KA0Y’s station, as a whole, it is very intriguing. I learned a lot about RF systems while I was there – how to hook up power amps and pre-amps, RF switching, feed lines, etc. He really has his ducks in a row on that dish, and it is not a simple matter of sticking an antenna up at the focal point (a feat in and of itself on a 50′ dish) and connecting a cable to it, especially at microwave frequencies. There is a large amount of attenuation in everything – the normal characteristic attenuation of the cable PLUS every object inserted along that transmission line – connectors, switches, etc. The way Ken has his set up is he runs two cables – one for receive and one for transmit (the larger of the two, I think it was about 1-1/4″ heliax, is for RX – less attenuation, and the smaller, about 7/8″ heliax, was for transmit).
The dish is pretty spectacular in performence, but until you are standing underneath it with the bottom edge a couple feet from your head do you realize just how BIG that dish really is!
(I have a couple pictures. I am going to try and get Ken’s permission before I post them. I’m in both the pictures).
So, back to KB8RQ and KA1VHF. KB8RQ was on the other side of that nice door I told you about. Steve is working on an EME array with another guy south of Columbus, I cant remember his call. Anyway, Gary is their go-to guy for trouble shooting.
This was a spectacular possibility. If I could get KB8RQ in on my project that would be AMAZING! He is one of two people in the US that has a station like his (the large yagi array) – the other guy is W5UN in Texas (who I briefly mentioned before). Gary happens to be right here in Ohio.
So, I contacted Gary and was able to set up going over to check out his station, and, of course, snap a few pictures for the project. I have to admit, when I got close to his place I really couldn’t tell that was his place until I got real close – the antennas and towers seemed to disappear against the landscape (it was last winter and there was snow on the ground).
I was a little disappointed when I first got there and saw the array – I had imagined it to be bigger, I guess it was my imagination being larger-than-life. Once I got around the station and got to investigate the array right up close I realized just how special it is, though. I had already recognized the cabling setup from when I was at KA0Y – Gary had a very similar setup. What was unique for the transmission line was the phasing between all the 24 beams. This wasn’t like KA0Y’s single antenna at the feed point, this was 24 individual antennas all phased together (with LMR-400, Gary always called it MLR-400 hehe). All the antennas are home-brew from a VE7BQH design (I believe). Gary has jigs he uses to make all the parts to the antennas with very little setup and measuring.
I was surprised by the way Gary had his station set up. Again, I had imagined something a little more fancy at first – but what you see can be deceiving. His main rig is an FT-847. He runs it nice and cool at around 5-10w to a brick before one of two big amps, both 8877’s. One has a tag that says “Give’em Hell” hehe. The receiving setup he has is pretty spectacular. He runs 3 computers to decode the same signals on JT65. Apparently, different computer systems are sensitive to different things. So with the 3 computers he has 3 chances on getting the information. It sounds complicated, but if you are out to be the best you do whatever you can. It really is a first-class EME operation (and his awards and confirmed countries list go to back that up).
So, now we come to K8RA. You may know him as an author for the ARRL. You may know him as a DX’er. You may know him because of the amp he recently built for the 2006 ARRL Handbook. You may know him for making the RA line of CW paddles. He is another one on the other side of my special door I mentioned.
I didn’t know about Jerry before my photography project. He also lives very close to me, within 10 miles. I have only talked to him on the air once, and that was after we met and it was on 6m CW during a summer Es opening. I remember this very well – he was trying to contact WA8ZBT and didn’t have his antenna turned to him. So, while he spun his antenna around I jumped in there and beat him to the punch! 7/1/07 0051z CW WA8ZBT EM12 559 both ways. I snagged the QSO and knew Jerry was right behind me, so I waited and we QSY’ed up a few kHz and had a nice quick QSO – I was using my new P4 key that I bought from him too, so that was cool. Check out his keys on his website www.K8RA.com.
I circled his call and his name so it would stand out when I flipped the pages of the log. I usually do that with meaningful QSO’s. Note how hot 6m was throughout those two (UTC time) days. Funny thing about WA8ZBT, Dennis.. I’ve had many QSO’s with him, the first was on 15m CW with him running 250mw HI. I have him in the log at least 3 times over the years – one when I was /VE3 in EN39 back in 05′ on 6m too (I got a QSL card from him).
Anyway, Jerry is a unique guy. I am passionate about Ham radio and so is he. We have so much in common because of that, as with the other people on this “list”. There is a lot I don’t know about home brewing – circuit construction, how electrical circuits work, etc. I do have enough basic knowledge to get me by and able to understand something if explained. Jerry is good with this. I can dive in to a topic and ask questions to try and understand and I get answers and can put the pieces together. He’s really a remarkable person and a great friend.
You may not know the call sign K8ND. Maybe you do. Maybe you know him as a low band’er, a top band’er. Perhaps you know him by another call sign, but just don’t realize it – PJ2T. Does the Carribean Contesting Consortium (CCC) ring a bell? They rack up an IMPRESSIVE contest score in every major radio contest. They are out to win, and their station engineering is proof of that. Jeff, K8ND, is a big part of that.
As with a few other people on my list, I met Jeff on the air. This was a pretty special contact because he gave me my FIRST DX QSO on Top Band (160m) as PJ2/K8ND while at the CCC about 3 years ago. I got a QSL card from him and realized he’s pretty close to me also (less than 10 miles or so). I wouldn’t run in to him again until last winter while I was doing my photography project.
I knew about Jeff from my contact with him, but had never met him. So, since he was close I figured I would see if I could use him as a subject for my project too. He agreed, and I went over to meet him. He is a wealth of knowledge on Top Band – everything from antennas to propagation to operating the band.
I am an avid low-bander too. I was working on WAS160 when I was in Dayton, around the same time I got my QSO in with Jeff. I still try to get on the band from here, but my performance is severely limited. I’ll have to wait until later in life to really get going on 160 again.
Jeff is also a photographer. That’s pretty cool. So we both share two common interests – Ham radio (low bands) and photography. It’s pretty cool who you get to know, isn’t it?
W1IX, Justin, is a neat friend of mine. He and I met at The Ohio State University’s radio club – W8LT (of which I am the treasurer right now). Justin is an interesting guy. The first time I met him he was a bit irritating, honestly. He has a really out-going personality and takes some getting used to. That said, he is a really passionate person. He and I share a lot of the same interests with Ham radio – the stuff that is more on the technical and magical side of it all like propagation, antenna theory, etc. Hes an interesting guy to know, and is close to my age which makes it even better. It is one thing to have a lot of friends who are in Ham radio, but the majority of the people in Ham radio are older than I am – especially the big timers I look up to. Justin is a gap-filler in that he is closer in age and is on the same wavelength when it comes to getting on the air and “playing radio”.
AB8VE, Dan, is a great friend of mine and has been for many years. I made a post about the OSU radio club a few months ago and mentioned him there as well. He and I are both from Dayton. We are pretty close in age, so getting on the local repeaters we had a lot of fun talking back and forth. I didn’t hear from him much again until I came to OSU. I was on a local repeater here in Columbus and ran in to him again – by this time he had changed his call sign so I didn’t recognize him at first. Long story short – we’re back in touch. He was the previous president of W8LT, too.
Dan is a great operator. If you ever want to see someone run a pileup, sit next to Dan at Field Day and you’ll see how it’s done. I had fun last June watching the QSO’s rack up on the screen. Every time the log refreshed his numbers multiplied
He is more in to the community service aspect of Ham radio – COARES and search/rescue. He is studying geriatrics at OSU and is an eagle scout. Hes a good guy and genuinely likes to help. I enjoy having him as a friend.
If you are a member of HFPack or know much about HF portable/pedestrian mobile operations then you have probably heard of Ken, WB6MLC. He is the portable/pedestrian mobile guru. I have had an interest in HF portable operating for quite some time now. Every trip I go on a radio goes along. I found out about the HFPack group and joined. Boy, was that a good decision! I have learned so much by being a member of that group.
Anyway, this past Hamvention was my first true attempt at pedestrian mobile. If you don’t know what that is – basically, you carry an HF radio with you in an operable form. You can talk on HF and walk at the same time. Your radio, antenna, and power source are self-contained on you, generally in/on a backpack. Ken was at Hamvention, he goes every year. So I got to meet him. I had some issues with my setup the day of the HFPack gathering so I missed the big picture with everyone. Ken stayed after for a bit and I got to meet him in person. This was a neat experience!
Ken is a nice guy and he really knows his stuff. If you look up “Pedestrian Mobile” in the dictionary you should find him hehehe. I can’t wait until next year to run in to him again and make up for the photo session I missed this year.
I am sure you know who K9EID is. If you don’t recognize the call sign, that is Bob Heil. That rings a bell right? Yep, the same Bob Heil as Heil Sound. I met Bob at Hamvention somewhere around 2001. Meeting him the first time was quite an experience. He is more than “Heil Sound” as we know in Ham radio. He got his start as a sound engineer for some pretty famous rock groups/musicians – the Who, Grateful Dead, Jeff Beck, Peter Phrampton, among others. You could say he’s a celebrity in the Ham radio circle.
I won’t say that I know him well, but I also won’t say that I am just an acquaintance. If there is one thing I do when I am at Hamvention each year it’s to go talk to Bob. He is a really fascinating guy and enjoys talking to people. When do you ever find someone who is so well known as he is be so open to the audience he has (both professionally in his business and personally on the air)?
The second year I met Bob at Hamvention he gave me a copy of is “Heil Ham Radio Handbook” and signed it. That is one of my favorite pieces of memorabilia. He always remembers me when I stop by, but trying to cut through the crowd is always pretty hard HI. I still need to get on 75m and get a QSO with him. I’ve been meaning to do that for a long time now.
W8DMR, Bill, is probably the most intelligent person I know. You may know him from his work he has done in the ATV field, articles he has published, or his professional field (which I won’t even begin to get in to HI). He is an amazing person.
My first experience with Bill was about 3-4 years ago. I was working on an antenna project (I can’t even remember what it was now – I must not have been too in to it) and a friend of mine reccomended I go talk to Bill. Apparently he knew his stuff with antennas. So I set up a meeting with him at his house. Boy, was that an experience!
Do you know what an antenna testing range looks like in someones basement? He had yagis hung from the celing and all kinds of interesting test gadgets he had made (the one I remember is the LED dipole used to demonstrate the intensity of the near-field RF around the antenna – the more RF the brighter the LED). I don’t think I quite learned what I was after that day, in the many (MANY) hours I was there.. but I did learn a lot.
I run in to him every now and then. My buddy KC8JPZ, Jim, lives pretty close to him and we work on all kinds of antenna projects. It’s always fun showing Bill something or asking him questions (which we know the answer will take a year and a day, but its well worth it!).
I like this saying, but I can’t remember where I heard it: Ham radio is a fraternity. We are all connected by the similar interest of Ham radio – to whatever extent we are a part of it. I have a lot of areas that I am interested in with Ham radio. You make the hobby what you want it to be. I have shared a few people with you that I know to some degree and hope that through this you can see what Ham radio is through my eyes.
I’ll leave you with this – think about what it means, to you, to be a Ham. Who are the people you look up to? Is there/are there special Hams who you go to for help? What aspect of Ham radio fascinates you? Do these call signs mean anything to you? Leave me a comment or E-mail me.