Two years ago, I participated in my first Field Day as a ham. For the uninitiated, Field Day is an annual event where radio amateurs set-up radio stations in locations they would normally not operate. We then try to make as many contacts as possible in a 24 hour period.
My local club, the Nittany Amateur Radio Club brings out the big guns for Field Day – big directional beam antennas, high power amplifiers, and capable radios (Elecraft K3S and Icom IC-7610).
One thing I like about ham radio is the variety. There are new modes to try and new things to learn all the time.
Most recently, I’ve been playing with the low power, weak signal JS8Call mode. JS8Call takes the weak signal characteristics of the JT8 mode that has taken the ham world by storm, but enables actual ragchew-style QSOs. This means that with low power, modest antennas, and poor propagation conditions, hams can have actual conversations with one another.
Last night, my friend Mike (N3LI) and I made our first-ever CW QSOs. In ham-speak, that means we chatted using Morse code.
It wasn’t fast, and we didn’t copy each other completely. But we exchanged meaningful information using a classic communication mode that is no longer a requirement for licensing but is still going strong. It was great fun, and we plan to keep practicing and plan to meet-up again next week.