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Challenges…

BY RICH MOSESON, *W2VU

*e-mail: w2vu@cq-amateur-radio.com

Why operate QRP, or low power? Isn’t it easier to make more contacts with more power? Yes, it is. And that’sexactly the reason for operating QRP. It isn’t easy! It’s a challenge.My most recent pack of QSL cards from the bureau included a confirmation from OK1MBZ in the Czech Republic.From my station in New Jersey, working into Eastern Europe with 100 watts and a multiband vertical (my basic station)is not a big deal, as long as propagation is even moderately cooperative. But what about one-half watt? Now,that is not easy. And that’s why — to me, at least — my contact with OK1MBZ was a big deal.Our contact was on 30-meter CW, early in the evening, nearly four years ago, my second QSO on the QRPMeRockMite ][ transceiver I’d just finished building. Its power output is one-half watt. According to QRZ.com, Zdeno’sstation is 4,131 miles from mine. At one-half watt, that’s 8,262 miles per watt! And that’s a pretty big deal, at leastto me.

The opportunity to do more with less is one of QRP’s main appeals. Another is that QRP is at the center of therevival in building among today’s hams, and it got me back into building stuff as well, after an absence of too manyyears. It’s also heavily dependent on CW, especially for portable operations (another appeal) where it isn’t practicalto bring a computer to do digital modes. CW is not my favorite mode, and I’m far from the world’s best codeoperator. Working QRP, and thus working CW, has forced me to use and improve my code skills. It’s also gottenme back into packing up a rig in my bike bag and setting up a temporary station in a park or other outdoor location(but not in February, HI!).

It’s a challenge to build my own radio. It’s a challenge to troubleshoot it if it doesn’t work. It’s a challenge to packup and transport that radio to a remote location and put it on the air. It’s a challenge (for me) to work CW. It’s achallenge to make a contact with a pipsqueak signal. But when it all comes together, and I cover half the worldwith half a watt, then it’s all worthwhile. And isn’t that what a hobby is all about? Whether it’s stamp collecting,model rocketry, woodworking, gardening. or ham radio … taking on a challenge, working hard to meet it, andthen enjoying whatever success you achieve. And you did it all because you wanted to, not because you had to.It isn’t work; it’s your hobby. And that’s why QRP has become a big part of my ham radio hobby. If it’s also partof yours, I hope you enjoy our QRP Special in this issue. If it isn’t don’t worry — we’ve got plenty of great articleson a wide variety of topics, from analyzing propagation changes during last summer’s eclipse and modifyingvintage mics to work with modern rigs, to loop antennas and the challenges (there’s that word again) ofinstalling mobile ham gear in today’s electronics-heavy cars and trucks.

QRP Special

Back to the subject of low-power operating, welcome to our annual QRP Special. As always, we have a wide selectionof QRP-focused articles in this issue, ranging from building a QRP rig into the case for a World War II frequencymeter, a current limiter to help you keep from blowing up your tiny radios on power-up, a review of a new QRP kit,and using PC board material to build enclosures for your QRP projects. In addition, QRP Editor KA8SMA takes a lookat the Chinese Pixie rigs you can pick up online for little more than pocket change, and Emergency CommunicationsEditor W4ALT shows us how learning QRP skills can also help your EmComm skills.We’ve also got another great history lesson from W4YO on the geopolitics that shaped the places we talk to; a lessonfrom K9ARZ on the difference between nations, countries and political states; and —our cover story —KØOV’sreport on last year’s 20th annual CQ World Wide Foxhunting Weekend.

WAZ and Logbook of the World In mid-December, CQ and the ARRL jointly announced that the League’s Logbook of the World (LoTW) online QSLing system would soon begin supporting CQ’s Worked All Zones (WAZ) award program, in addition to the WPX program, which has been supported by LoTW since 2012. We hope that, by the time this issue reaches your mailbox or your inbox, beta testing will be complete and LoTW/WAZ access will be a reality. (Check our Newsroom for updates.) Please expect a few bumps in the road in the early going, no matter how thorough the beta testing has been. Also, since this has been a source of confusion with WPX and LoTW, please understand that the Logbook QSO credit fees are paid to ARRL for the use of its system, and that these are separate from the $6 or $12 CQ award fees, which are paid directly to each volunteer award manager to help cover his/her out-of-pocket expenses in administering the award programs. Since these fees go to the managers and not to CQ, it would be a logistical nightmare to try to combine them with the ARRL LoTW credit fees. We realize there is a slight inconvenience in having to make separate payments, but just consider the LoTW fees as your cost of getting the confirmations (as opposed to printing and mailing traditional QSL cards), while the award fee is the same as you would have had to pay in the “olden days” when QSLs were on postcards, not servers. If it’s February, it must be time to work on the antennas! If you’re not that bold (or crazy) — after you’ve finished reading this issue —curl up with a nice warm soldering iron, build something for your station and remember, spring is just a few short weeks away.

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