Sunday, November 21, 2010

In contrast

In contrast to my giving up the frequency for a DX station while in the middle of a "run" during a contest (as I recently mentioned), I heard a particularly bad bit of operating on last Sunday while trying to work Bob, VP8LP in the Falkland Islands. I've worked Bob before on several bands but needed a contact from him on 15m. He had an excellent signal and was steadily working stations, the vast majority of which were good operators, standing by when Bob was working another station and not responding when Bob wasn't calling them. (Please see my post about The DX Code of Conduct if you haven't already.) There was, unfortunately, one exception to the "good guys" on the frequency.

As Bob was steadily working the pile, a ham started calling K7NRA on the frequency. After he did this once or twice, assuming that perhaps he was unaware that there was another station on the frequency, I responded to him and said that the frequency was in use and gave my callsign. (The other ham was using his callsign, or what I presume was his, though I neglected to note it. While normally I don't like to "pick on" people in a public forum, what was going on was heard by dozens of other hams, and if I could remember what it was, I'd post it here.) The other ham said "Well, there's supposed to be a special event for K7NRA on this frequency and I'm going to call him, this is his announced frequency".

It was pretty clear that the guy calling wasn't hearing K7NRA, and aside from that fact that he refused to stop interfering with an active frequency, his general technique was awful. He was calling "blind" (meaning he didn't hear the other station), and kept calling "CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ K7NRA", which doesn't actually make a lot of sense. CQ generally means "calling all stations", thus saying "CQ K7NRA" means "calling all stations with a callsign of K7NRA"; by definition there will only be one. There are exceptions to using a "directed CQ", such as when calling "CQ DX" (looking for any DX station) or "CQ NJ" (looking for a station in New Jersey), but proper procedure when calling a particular station is to simply call the station. If I were to call that station, I'd say "K7NRA this is K2DBK" or, if K7NRA was listening for other stations, I would likely just give my callsign only.

Several other stations responded to the caller (some more politely, and some, unfortunately much less so), and he refused to move, insisting that he had "as much right to the frequency as anyone". Unless he had an emergency (which clearly was not the case), what he said was not true. The FCC rules governing the amateur radio service state that nobody can "own" a particular frequency (including by "publishing" use of a particular frequency at a particular time), and further, if any frequency is in use, with the exception of use in an emergency, nobody is required to relinquish the frequency for another station. Thus, the caller was not only wrong, but he was violating the rule that says "No amateur operator shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communication or signal."

The guy would not give up, and continued to attempt to call K7NRA repeatedly. The worst of it was when one station was speaking with Bob, and was showing ham radio to a young Boy Scout for the first time. All the others stations on the frequency patiently stood by while Bob spoke with the youngster, all except the guy calling K7NRA, who simply wouldn't stop. Several hams were telling him (in language that probably violated another part of the FCC rules) exactly what they thought of him, to no avail. While this was happening, it occurred to me what a terrible impression this was making on the young Scout. Is this how we want to entice others into our hobby?

After the contact with the scout was over, Bob, who could hear the guy calling the K7 station, finally said "The station calling CQ, this is VP8LP, please go ahead". That did the trick, the station stopped calling. Bob called several more times with no response, and finally said "well, I guess I've figured out how to shut him up!" and went back to working the pileup.

I would like to say that Bob's comment had a permanent effect, but unfortunately that was not the case. The caller kept coming back, Bob would respond to the "gentleman calling CQ", which would usually shut him up for a while, and so on. This went on for a while, with the occasional argument back and forth between the guy calling K7 and others on the frequency, until finally propagation changed enough that he was no longer heard on the frequency.

After this was over, I did a little research to see what "special event" he was talking about, since an initial check of the spot clusters didn't show any activity for K7NRA. After a little digging I discovered that in fact the Yavapai Amateur Radio Club was, in fact, doing a special event to celebrate the "birthday" of the NRA, as described on their website. The frequency occupied by VP8LP was also one of the frequencies advertised (21.355mHz), but what our caller failed to notice was that the event was scheduled for the 17th of November, not the 14th of November, when this all occurred. This caller was not only wrong from a legal and ethical standpoint, he managed to get a lot of people annoyed at him by trying to work an activity that wasn't even happening. As they say, you can't outlaw stupidity.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

2010 ARRL CW Sweepstakes

Last weekend I spent about 13 hours or so participating in the ARRL CW Sweepstakes contest. The last time I participated in this contest was in 2008, and although I started out slowly, I managed to finish with a final score just a bit higher than the 2008 effort. In 2008, I had 333 QSOs in about 15 1/2 hours with 79 out of the 80 possible multipliers, missing only NT (Northwest Territories in Canada) for a score of 52,614 points. This year, in 13 hours, I had 376 QSOs missing 3 multipliers (Nebraska, which I heard, but couldn't work, South Bay, which I heard once, and didn't work, and Newfoundland/Labrador, which I never heard), giving me a total of 57,904 points. Considering that I had fewer multipliers and a higher score in a shorter amount of time, I was pretty happy.

I didn't try to "run" stations at all for the first day of the contest, there was just too much competition, but later on when things quieted down I was able to get run frequencies on 40m and 80m from time to time and really enjoyed working the stations calling. I did have a couple of things happen while running on 80m that I thought were noteworthy. First, in the middle of my run I got called by W1AW, the Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial station located at ARRL Headquarters. Although I've had contact with W1AW many times (they are not very far from here so are very easy to work on the lower bands), and have even operated from that station myself, it's always fun to make contact with them, and even more special when they call me (rather than the other way around). The other thing that happened was that a bit later I was running on another 80m frequency at the bottom of the band (3.505mhz) and a station called and asked if I would QSY (change frequencies) because a DX station (5R8Z, I believe) was about to come on the air and that was the frequency that he'd announced he'd be moving to. I moved right away, because even though legally, since I was there first I could stay, it was in the "ham spirit" to move so that others could contact that DX station. (Frankly, I would have been very happy to make that contact myself, but I never heard him.) In any case, it was the right thing to do, and I was happy to do it.