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August 24th, 2008

My antenna

August 20: Creating the antenna
The antenna is made out of 18 gauge hook-up wire. I started off trying to measure out the wire, but since it was strung on a spool, it wanted to curl up as I tried to measure it. I used clothes pins to hold it in place as I measured and cut it. I decided to cut it a little bit longer than 1/4 of 40 meters to be safe, since I couldn't be exactly sure if I measured it right. I cut it to around 35 feet, figuring that it could be trimmed later when working on the counterpoises.

Next, I got out my tacks and tacked it around the outside of the window. I left the blinds about halfway lowered, but opened. I set the tuner to the recommended midway points, but then got confused about how to continue with the tuning. The manual said to turn the I knob till I heard the noise the loudest. That sounded like a bad idea to me. Isn't noise a bad thing? Not sure how to use the tuner, I figured I'd give it a go with the settings that were left there from before. I was able to hear things, but it was mostly noise. The stations that I did hear were not very discernible amongst all the noise.

I pulled the blinds up to see if that helped, but it made things worse. The blinds bunched up at the top and were in the way of the top portion of the antenna. I tried reading the antenna tuner manual to see if I could try something else, but I got confused and so tried to think of something else to do.

I decided to try taping the bottom side of the antenna along the inner edge of the glass of the window with electrical tape. I tested it out and this time I could hear more activity. So I taped the whole thing to the inside edge of the glass. A tail stuck out at the end, but not too long of one. With that done, I fired up the rig and tuned up and down the band. I heard quite a lot of stations and some were clear enough that I could copy them quite easily...well, I could hear them, but they were sending at a nice clip and I couldn't quite keep up with them. I heard one guy call CQ and somebody kept beginning to answer him but he just kept repeating CQ CQ CQ and never heard him. Later some other station that I couldn't hear started up a QSO with him and I moved on to look for other activity. I was satisfied with the preliminary results of the wire antenna.

August 21: Tuning the antenna
Bill gave me thorough instructions on tuning the antenna and I got it tuned for 40 meters. Hooray! The S-meter on the 817ND helped me to see how the strength of the signals (well, in my case noise, since I was doing this a little too early to hear much) were reacting to the changes. I didn't have time to chase after any signals that night, though. The band doesn't open till around sunset, and I had a full evening with my family coming into town!

August 22: First call sign (FL)
While my family was watching Jeopardy, I decided to see who was on the air and test out my newly tuned antenna. Even with the TV running, I heard a bunch of stations, including K4ZNC from Florida. I was so excited, since it was the first call sign I picked up off the air from here!

August 23: First QSO (TN)
Saturday around 9:30 pm I took a break from work and caught the very end of a conversation between K1MBF in Tennessee and somebody whose call ended in JN. I missed the first part since another guy was sending fast code on a nearby frequency and he kept drowning out the slower QSO I was trying to listen to. Even so, it was really thrilling to be able to copy their conversation.

So far I've heard FL and TN... My room does face south, so it would make sense that I would hear them the clearest. Wonder who else I will hear next week? :)

Antenna...

The antenna is trying to escape from the bonds of the electrical tape. I can hear it creaking as it is curling into its formerly wound-up shape. Now, antenna, behave yourself. How do you expect me to tune into the CW QSOs if you tangle yourself up and peel off all the tape? If you do that, I will have to get out the clear tape and that will mean business!

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