Thursday, January 5, 2012

New Call Sign, New QSL Card

I'm afraid I didn't care much for the Extra class call sign I got from the sequential call sign assignment. It was AG6HU. Before it was assigned, I saw on AE7Q's site that I was likely to get a call from the range AG6HT through AG6HV. I would have been OK with HT or HV, but I was hoping I wouldn't get HU. The call sign is funky enough with the AG prefix, but with an HU suffix there's just nothing there to love.

I tried, I really did. I tried coming up with interesting phoney phonetics for it ("higher up", "hugely unpopular", "hic up", etc.) What really sealed that call's fate for me was when I tried telling it to people. It took a minimum of three tried to get it across, even when using the International Phonetic Alphabet. That's bad.

So I applied for a vanity call sign. I didn't rush right out, though I didn't dilly-dally, either. Knowing that I wasn't going to stick with AG6HU meant that I wanted to get a new call before establishing much of an identity with that call. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I'd want that'd still be fun to have 20 plus years from now.

Since retrocomputing and microcontrollers are both hobbies of mine, the call W8BIT seemed appropriate. That's what I put at the top of the list, and that's what I got. W6CPU and W6TTY were high on my list. I didn't realize it when I applied, but another ham applied for W6TTY a few days before I did, and got that assigned during the 18 day waiting period for my new call (not that it mattered, since my first choice was available, but an example of a good reason to have more than one choice and be prepared to not get your first choice.)

Another one that would have been a lot of fun is KO5MAC, since I'm a fan of the COSMAC microprocessor (the RCA 1802.) It's a bit more specialized than simply "8BIT", so it ended up as a lower preference. Beyond the first three choices I listed, I didn't worry much about the order of the other calls I put on the list relative to my preferences. Any of them were better than AG6HU, and I pretty well expected that things weren't very likely at all to go past the top three. KO5MAC would probably have been my fourth choice if I had arranged them. It's an awfully fun call sign, just like the 1802 is a really fun chip.

I considered having a call with my current favorite microcontroller referenced, the Atmel AVR, like, say K6AVR or W6AVR (no idea if these are in use or not.) But that seemed potentially even a bit more narrow than the COSMAC reference, especially when viewed from the perspective of 20 years from now.

I got my new call sign on the 4th, I'd already figured out what I wanted to do for my QSL card. I got 100 of them printed up today. Here's what it looks like:

QSL card for W8BIT, lots of 8-bit processors in the background, and one video chip that I mistook for a 6502 processor.

Ready to Go, Almost
On the more practical side of amateur radio--making actual radio contacts--I'm still moving things forward. Yesterday afternoon I replaced the towels stuffed in the window where the antenna cable comes through with a purpose-made wooden feedthrough. It looks a lot less "redneck" than the towels stuffed in a window casement.

Unfortunately, I don't have a good ground to the transceiver in its temporary home yet. I'd hoped to have time to pull that in yesterday but time ran short. But that's next. I'm not too worried about the ground when I'm just listening in, but before I key the mike I want to have a good ground on the radio's chassis. Then I'll be ready to jump into 40 meters, and possibly 15 meters.

I've been listening in a lot on 40 meters over the past week, and I'm starting to get a pretty good feel for the band. Like what frequencies folks are using pretty commonly, what sort of traffic is going on when (daily nets, some of the weekly nets, and so on.) So I'm pretty confident I won't seem to be a complete and total lid when I do key up. Though I'm prepared to make _some_ mistakes, it's part of the learning process.

Then the next major step is to clear out my corner of the garage, put in an AC/heater unit in the wall, a raised floor, and a bit of insulation. A few more touches like a mecca ground plate and feedthrough panel then I'm ready to put in shelves and furniture.

Somewhere in there I want to get or build a decent morse key or keyer. All I have on hand right now are a couple of ones of about the quality that were in kid's science kits 30-40 years ago.

So long as my current antenna keeps me going, I'll just go with it until the new radio shack is done before hanging up a new multiband antenna. A G5RV has been highly recommended to me by at least two hams. I've got a good idea of where a full size one would go on my property, and I'm looking to see if I can fit in a double-size one at right angles, more or less, to the first. That'd (hopefully) get me on the 160m band, too.

Lots to do, lots to do. In the meanwhile I'm going to grab my HT and make some contacts on 2m simplex.


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