Saturday, May 01, 2004

What's going on in the Stokes lab these days? I just finished assembling a "QRP" wattmeter from a kit. "QRP" is one of a set of "Q-signals" that are abbreviations for certain questions or statements that are used in communications. Q-signals were first developed when radio operators used Morse code (known as "CW" for "continuous wave"). For example, "QTH Miami" would mean "my location is in Miami". "QTH?" would mean, "What is your location?" The signal "QRP" means "I decrease power" and "QRP?" means "Can I decrease power?". So a "QRP" wattmeter is a meter that measures small scale RF power.

There is a minimalist subgroup of ham radio operators who use as little power as possible to communicate over the air-waves. Five to ten watts of output power is considered the top range of QRP operating. The maximum that the FCC allows amateur radio operators on most bands is 1500 watts of output, and the average ham rig has an output of 100 watts. On the other hand, some QRP fans try to stay under 1 watt of output power. In fact, the meter that I built has three scales: a 10 watt scale, a 1 watt scale, and a 100 milliwatt scale.

About a year ago I built from a kit a QRP transceiver that operates on 20 meters on CW only. Its top output, according to the meter that I just built, is about 7 watts. I have "worked" (meaning, I have communicated with via CW) people in NY, Texas, PA, NC, Indiana, and Guatemala with this "rig".

One of the advantages of building a kit is that, via email, one can sometimes communicate with the owner of the business that sells them. This was the case with the kits I built. The kits are not "plug and play" sorts of products. I ran into some difficulty in building both kits. I contacted the owner through the internet and he talked me through each problem over the course of about a week. Having the problems that I encountered worked an advantage for me, because I learned more dealing with these problems assisted by a competent mentor who really cared than I would have had I simply stuck everything together and it worked the first time.

Hmmm. Is there some theology here?

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