Alexanderson-Day 2021

Today, another transmission by SAQ took place, celebrating this year’s Alexanderson Day:

Alexanderson Day 2021

Like many radio amateurs I too tried to receive the old lady once again, and was -somewhat- successful.

My portable setup was as following:

  • RX: Winradio G313e
  • high impendance preamp
  • 15m wire, about 1,5m over ground
  • Locator: JO42SI24

The preamp I built basically follows this schematic by DJ1WF, just that it doesn’t do any demodulation itself. Instead it has an output to the SDR where pin 7 of the TDA4100 would be connected. I was hoping to improve the sensitivity when using (too) short antennas, and while it doesn’t work as superbly as I was hoping for, it does improve the reception below 100 kHz by a good bit. Maybe it can be further optimised.

The reception wasn’t as good as I was hoping it to be, but a quick chat over the local UHF repeater unveiled that others had subpar reception as well, or didn’t hear SAQ at all when they could usually receive it. This, plus the fact that other stations in the VLF band were quite strong with my setup, indicates that it seems to work well enough and we just didn’t have much luck with the condx today.

I was using a 300 Hz filter, R was somewhere between 3 and 4. With a little patience and a good ear one could probably decode most of the message; I didn’t try yet.
As usual in the summer, there was a lot of QRN as well which didn’t make things easier. A noise blanker might have improved the audio quality, however I decided against it since I had no time left to tweak its settings and was afraid to actually worsen the outcome.

Here’s a losless recording of my reception. The actual message sent by SAQ starts around 1 minute in:


All in all I was happy with how it worked out even under the given conditions and had a nice afternoon. Here are some impressions from the reception site:

Hope to hear you again soon, dear SAQ!

Stratospährenballonstart von DL0PTB

Schon vor einer Woche ließen die Funkamateure der Physikalisch-Technischen Bundesanstalt in Braunschweig gleich zwei Wetterballons im Rahmen der virtuellen Ham Radio starten. Beide trugen Amateurfunk-Nutzlasten, einer von ihnen eine SSTV-Bake.

Stratosphären Ballonstart: 26.06.2021 – 12 Uhr MESZ

Da SSTV eine meiner Lieblings-Betriebsarten ist konnte ich mir die Chance zum Empfang natürlich nicht entgehen lassen. Aufgrund kurzer Vorlaufzeit diente der Georgengarten in Hannover als Empfangsstandort – mit dem Hintergedanken, dass ab einer gewissen Höhe des Ballons sowieso freie Sicht besteht, die Standortwahl also unkritisch ist.

Das Signal auf 145,200 MHz war gut zu empfangen, aber überraschend schwach. Angesichts der Sendeleistung von 100 mW und freier Sicht hatte ich mit kräftigeren Signalen gerechnet. Hier wäre eine Richtantenne zum Empfang wohl besser gewesen.

Zum Einsatz kamen mein FT-817 mit Aufsteckantenne sowie MMSSTV unter WINE. Derartige Live-Bilder zu empfangen hat schon einen besonderen Reiz, vor allem wenn man dabei zusehen kann wie Erdkrümmung und Atmosphäre immer deutlicher zu erkennen sind.

Bei etwa 31 km Höhe platzte der Ballon, kurz darauf setzten die SSTV-Aussendungen aus (Träger des Senders nach wie vor empfangbar, aber ohne Modulation).

Hier noch ein paar Impressionen:

Some thoughts on Young Ladies and Old Men

The terms YL and OM are omnipresent in the world of amateur radio. They have been in use for many decades and should therefore be looked at for revision.

First of all, the terms themselves could be seen as somewhat problematic. Not only isn’t every man who does amateur radio old – calling any woman young might be meant in a charming way, but is also somewhat belittling by creating a hierarchy between „old“ and „young“. Turning YL into XYL (ex-young-lady) as soon as she’s married doesn’t make things better.

An even bigger problem however occurs in actual radio contacts with strangers of which you often know nothing but their callsign at first. It goes without question that guessing gender from someone’s voice is a bad idea, even more so in SSB contacts. And in text-based modes like CW, RTTY or PSK this isn’t a possibility anyway.

Therefore many people (including me so far) would default to „OM“ in such contacts, at least until they know better. Some YLs will explicitly state „YL“ in text macros, as guessing genders from names can go horribly wrong as well, especially in international contacts.

But of course assuming that someone is male by default is inherently problematic too, even in a hobby like ours with a male majority. One could circumvent this by using „YL or OM“, „YL/OM“ or something alike. Which reinforces the gender binary, making it a rather nonpreferential option too.

Using a gender gap or star (YL_OM or YL*OM respectively) would work, but could cause problems in some text-based modes which don’t implement a full character set, and it isn’t well pronounceable in phone either.

Luckily there is a simple solution to this and it doesn’t even require new terminology: Just discard the gendered terms altogether and use „operator“ (short form: OP) instead. I will try to do this as consequent as possible from now on and I’d like to encourage everyone to do the same!