N1IK Year of CW by Brian Lambert

I've decided that 2016 is going to be the N1IK Year of CW!

I learned Morse code about 12 years ago and, over time, I've gotten pretty good at it. Good enough that I can search & pounce in a CW contest and make Q's,  especially contests with a fixed exchange.

I can't run, though.

Operators who are really good at CW can run. They can call CQ on a frequency, pick calls out of the resulting pileup, and work stations one after another. I am not good enough to do this and it really limits my scope in the hobby. In particular, it means that I'd be of little use on most DX-peditions and I can't go to K1TTT's to operate in the big CW contests - which are things I want to do.

Here's an example of an operator who's just about the best there is:

N6MJ making it look easy.

I'll be starting tonight with the arrival of my K3S (more on this new addition to the shack later).

73 de N1IK


Used Alpha 87A by Brian Lambert

Years ago I owned an Alpha 87A amplifier. When I took a break from Amateur Radio, it wound up in the care of an old friend, N1IW (sadly, now a SK), and then later found its way to another friend, K0TV who is still using it today.

I absolutely loved that amplifier.

When I became active again, I was lucky enough to still be in possession of my IC-PW1 amplifier (after K1IR had cared for it for many years), so I started off using that. The IC-PW1 is a fine amplifier. It mates perfectly with my IC-7800 and produces a KW+ with ease on every band. You can't really go wrong with an IC-PW1.  81 reviewers on eHam.net rate it 4.4/5.0 stars (88%).

But it's no Alpha 87A.

The Alpha 87A has been called "The best auto-tune Amateur Radio amplifier ever built", and I agree with this statement. It's a TANK that just works. 95 reviewers on eHam.net rate it 4.8/5.0 stars (96%).

Here's a great example of the many fine things people on eHam.net have to say about the Alpha:

I spent 45 years as an RF Engineer, and I’ve seen a lot of PA’s, but this one is genius — it just lays there and does it’s job, quietly and competently. The best value for dollar I ever spent.

The unit I bought has a serial number of 91470326. This means that:

91 - It was made in 1991.
47 - It was made in the 47th week of 1991 (November).
0326 - It's the 326th Alpha 87A ever made.

It's 24 years old!

When I looked inside, I was very surprised. It didn't look like an amplifier that was made 24 years ago. It looked like a brand new unit that just rolled off the factory floor. There wasn't even one piece of dust inside the cabinet.

Here's the front view (I has started removing screws at this point, so that's why they're missing).

Alpha 87A front view.

Alpha 87A front view.

Alpha 87A cropped front view. The panel, switches, and LEDs are all clean.

Alpha 87A cropped front view. The panel, switches, and LEDs are all clean.

Alpha 87A with cover removed.

Alpha 87A with cover removed.

Alpha 87A top shot. It's super clean inside (though it looks like someone dinged up the power transformer a bit on the lower-left edge).

Alpha 87A top shot. It's super clean inside (though it looks like someone dinged up the power transformer a bit on the lower-left edge).

Here's a video!

Using PuTTY, I was able to connect to the Alpha 87A and check it out. The first thing I checked was that the DATE command reports data that matches the serial number printed on the back:

DATE CODE = 9147

The next thing I checked was the firmware version. I wanted to be sure that the AlphaMax firmware was installed by a previous owner:

VER. = 1.00-AT

Everything looked right with the amp from the command interface.

The original price of the Alpha 87A was $6,500. In 2008 or so, they commanded about $4,000 a piece used. These days the price is considerably lower. About $3,000 seems normal for a late model unit, and less for older ones. I paid quite a bit less than $3,000, so I think I did pretty well, especially when the condition of the amp is taken into account.

I'm excited for this addition to the shack and hopeful that it'll give me years of use. They only think I need to think about now is obtaining a set of 3CX800A7's. I think it makes sense to get them now and keep them for the future.

73 de N1IK

Dipoles by Brian Lambert

I made this chart from a spreadsheet I wrote containing common dipole calculations.

Here's the spreadsheet on github.com.

There are numerous online dipole calculators. Since the bands in Amateur Radio don't change very frequently, the chart below shows calculations for each Amateur Radio band and, in the case of 28.0 MHz - 29.7 MHz (10 Meters) and 3.5 MHz - 4.0 MHz (80 Meters / 75 Meters), segments of the bands since these bands are so large.

Additionally, the chart shows the Flat Top dimensions and Inverted V dimensions, which are calculated to be 5% shorter than the the Flat Top dimensions.

Band Start End Bandwidth Center Flat Top Each Side Inverted V Each Side
10 Meters 28.000 MHz 29.700 MHz 1.700 MHz 28.850 MHz 16.22 ft 8.11 ft 8 ft 1 in 15.41 ft 7.71 ft 7 ft 8 in
CW 10 Meters 28.000 MHz 28.300 MHz 300 kHz 28.150 MHz 16.63 ft 8.31 ft 8 ft 4 in 15.79 ft 7.90 ft 7 ft 11 in
Phone 10 Meters 28.300 MHz 29.700 MHz 1.400 MHz 29.000 MHz 16.14 ft 8.07 ft 8 ft 1 in 15.33 ft 7.67 ft 7 ft 8 in
12 Meters 24.890 MHz 24.990 MHz 100 kHz 24.940 MHz 18.77 ft 9.38 ft 9 ft 5 in 17.83 ft 8.91 ft 8 ft 11 in
15 Meters 21.000 MHz 21.450 MHz 450 kHz 21.225 MHz 22.05 ft 11.02 ft 11 ft 0 in 20.95 ft 10.47 ft 10 ft 6 in
17 Meters 18.068 MHz 18.168 MHz 100 kHz 18.118 MHz 25.83 ft 12.92 ft 12 ft 11 in 24.54 ft 12.27 ft 12 ft 3 in
20 Meters 14.000 MHz 14.350 MHz 350 kHz 14.175 MHz 33.02 ft 16.51 ft 16 ft 6 in 31.37 ft 15.68 ft 15 ft 8 in
30 Meters 10.100 MHz 10.150 MHz 50 kHz 10.125 MHz 46.22 ft 23.11 ft 23 ft 1 in 43.91 ft 21.96 ft 21 ft 11 in
40 Meters 7.000 MHz 7.300 MHz 300 kHz 7.150 MHz 65.45 ft 32.73 ft 32 ft 9 in 62.18 ft 31.09 ft 31 ft 1 in
80 Meters 3.500 MHz 4.000 MHz 500 kHz 3.750 MHz 124.80 ft 62.40 ft 62 ft 5 in 118.56 ft 59.28 ft 59 ft 3 in
A 75 Meters 3.800 MHz 4.000 MHz 200 kHz 3.900 MHz 120.00 ft 60.00 ft 60 ft 0 in 114.00 ft 57.00 ft 57 ft 0 in
A 80 Meters 3.500 MHz 3.800 MHz 300 kHz 3.650 MHz 128.22 ft 64.11 ft 64 ft 1 in 121.81 ft 60.90 ft 60 ft 11 in
B 75 Meters 3.600 MHz 4.000 MHz 400 kHz 3.800 MHz 123.16 ft 61.58 ft 61 ft 7 in 117.00 ft 58.50 ft 58 ft 6 in
B 80 Meters 3.500 MHz 3.600 MHz 100 kHz 3.550 MHz 131.83 ft 65.92 ft 65 ft 11 in 125.24 ft 62.62 ft 62 ft 7 in
160 Meters 1.800 MHz 2.000 MHz 200 kHz 1.900 MHz 246.32 ft 123.16 ft 123 ft 2 in 234.00 ft 117.00 ft 117 ft 0 in

In the coming months I will be building several of these dipole antennas for the N1IK station. I'll be writing blog posts about my experiences.

73 de N1IK