Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Year in Amateur Radio, 2017.

Here we are again, folks.  Silent Keys excepted, we have managed to make another orbit around the Sun.

2017 has proved to be a surprising year on radio.  Whilst the higher bands proved to be rather dead earlier in the year, from about July onwards, things picked up remarkably, at least up to 12m.

12m - as we might not expect to find it at this point in the solar cycle!

Indeed, the autumn of 2017 has seen the kind of activity levels on 12m that one used to see a couple of years ago, closer to sunspot maximum.  Even SSB across to the US featured on the band from time to time, and 10m showed occasional flurries of digital activity, too.

2017 saw the storming debut of FT8, a digital mode I described as 'like being on drugs' (I should imagine!)  Fast, efficient, and fairly sensitive, it has seen JT65 and JT9 swept aside as irrelevant for large parts of the radio community.  But some are fighting back!  I'm one of them, finding FT8 great for some situations, but just too fast, tiring and mindless for longer-term operating.

Another thing that stormed was the atmosphere!  Spectacularly deep depressions blasted my poor antennas, perhaps indicative of a warming ocean.  In February, just when we thought the worst was over, storm Doris threw 85-90mph winds at us for several hours.  Somehow, everything survived, although I lost a slate to the roof and some lead flashing was bent over.

Ophelia slipped, but didn't damage, my 12m Yagi, here luffed over during the 85+mph winds.
During the autumn, ex-hurricane Ophelia brought similar, perhaps worse conditions for very many, long hours.  My Yagi slipped and spun 90 degrees on its stub mast, forcing the tower to be luffed over (during 75mph gusts!) for the first time ever.  No damage was sustained.  Few will forget the smell of Portuguese wildfire smoke in the warm air, and the spectacularly red, midday sun.

2017 also saw the very rapid uptake of WSPRlite, the tiny transmitter that has taken all human bias and wishful thinking out of antenna and propagation testing.  Perhaps the best £60 I have spent in a while.  It remains to be seen whether the rapid deployment of transmit-only devices poses a problem for the wider WSPR community.  After all, if we are all just transmitting, and not listening, WSPR becomes useless.  Towards the end of the year, WSPRlite Flexi appeared, opening up bands up to 6m for this pseudo-beacon mode.

Game changer - and possible disrupter?

April saw my daughter pass her Foundation Licence.  Great thanks are, in all fairness, due to the Dragon Amateur Radio Club in north Wales and John Pritchard, MW0JWP especially, for his ability to encourage a youngster.  I can't say my daughter is yet an enthusiastic operator, but she is mightily proud of her qualification, and does clearly have the seeds of an interest for the future.

MW6PYS - licenced to operate, including on this local, 70cm repeater.

2017 was also the year my antenna tower and Yagi (and a few attached wires), for which I made no application for planning consent, became immune from planning enforcement and, therefore, lawful.  This was quite an achievement, because one of our neighbours is a malicious, sociopathic sort who never stops trying (but never succeeds) to cause damage to my family through puerile and sometimes very unpleasant acts.  As well as failing, at the age of 70, to realise he should do something useful and kind with the remaining few years of his hopeless life,  he's utterly failed to get planning to 'do something' about my tower and antennas, placed right under his nose.  What an idiot!

Summer, 2013. Four years later, my tower and Yagi are lawful structures.

And what of 2018 to come?  Well, magnetic loop antennas continue to fascinate and provide endless ways to experiment.  One idea that I hope I can realise is to create a very wide diameter, aluminium loop array (at least three loops) covering down to 60m and, possibly, 80m.  Aluminium is much cheaper and lighter than copper, and is available off the shelf in diameters up to several inches.  I am also wondering about metal sheet loops.

If you were hoping for a review of the year's DX and DXpeditions, sorry - I don't do that sort of thing!

Happy Christmas!

1 comment:

  1. Great review of 2017 John. Congrats with your daughter, a great achievement, what is her age? My daughter did some radio activities too but other things are occupying her mind. However I think when she becomes older she probabely could be interested in radio. Her favorite "toy" at my radio shack is my Baofeng UV5R. Well, i keep an eye on your blog for those interesting stories about magnetic loop experiments that are coming up. Wish you and yours a Merry Christmas. 73, Bas