I started to write this yesterday but got a bit frustrated because – well, read along and you’ll understand.
This weekend is a big ham radio event called the CQ WW contest. Ham radio contests occur when you try to make contact with as many other stations in as many places as possible in a defined period of time. The WW stands for “World-Wide” and means that hams from all over the world participate, so it’s a great opportunity to talk with folks you may not have a chance to under regular conditions. For hams like me who have a reasonable station, this is a chance to add new countries. The hams with high powered stations (we’re permitted to use up to 1500 watts) can work most countries much more easily. So a worldwide event is something special.
The CQ is shorthand for “I wish to make contact with any station.” It literally means “Seek you.” When using Morse code, many terms and even phrases were abbreviated to make message sending faster. Some abbreviations are obvious, like TKS or TNX for thanks while others are less so, such as “DX” for foreign stations; it refers to the fact that they are distant rather than local.
Some shorthand uses Q-Signals. Someone realized that if you used 3 letters starting with “Q” but without the next letter being “U” people would know it was shorthand rather than a word. QRZ? Means, “Are you calling me?” Without the question mark it’s a statement – “I’m calling you.” A chat on the radio is a QSO and you confirm it by sending a QSL card. Although all the purists preach that one should never use Q-Signals except when using Morse Code, most hams use it whenever talking with other hams. After all, every hobby needs its own jargon.
So, where does the frustration fit is? Last night, just before the contest started at 8:00 PM EDST, I was writing for the blog, on this subject. I turned around to the radio as the contest began, and…
Remember the scene in “The Empire Strikes Back” in which Han Solo tries to make the jump to light speed and the Millennium Falcon just sputters? It was pretty much like that. Every time I’d press the transmit button the rig would shut down. This is actually a safety feature; if conditions exist that could damage the radio, it shuts off. I checked everything with no luck.
Then the computer refused to talk to the internet.
I gave up and watched “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” with my daughter. (They’ve been learning the dance moves to the “Time Warp” in music class; I knew it was a good school.)
Today it was rainy, windy and cold. I decided that the problem had to be with the ground, and replaced the cable to the ground system. It worked.
I didn’t work a lot of stations, but I did get to participate, so that was good. I did manage to work Aruba & Jamaica (really), but alas not Kokomo, so I guess I need to listen to some Beach Boys.
It started out frustrating but ended up okay. I like stories with happy endings.