NZ Net News 66, 16 October 2021

This is a free fortnightly newsletter about the New Zealand Net. If you would like to be notified by email when a new edition is published, please contact ZL1NZ.
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Featured key

Begali Sculpture twin lever paddles
Begali Sculpture dual-lever paddles. Photo: ZL1AJY

By Paul ZL1AJY

I purchased my Begali Sculpture paddles about ten years ago, and am embarrassed to admit to owning them to be honest! My $10 junk sale Bencher is used 90% on the K3 as I have gotten used to its very soft touch.

The Begali is beautifully made, and extremely fine adjustment is possible, i.e. it’s totally beyond my fair-weather CW requirements.

* If you have an interesting key for this feature, please send me a nice clear photo and a few words describing it.


Quick notes

Castaway QRU cartoonAre you still QRU? That’s OK, but if you’re looking for message ideas, there were lots of good ones in NZ Net News 63.

To capture the interest of young people, Sterling Mann N0SSC urges that ham radio give up its focus on person-to-person contacts in favour of activities where human to machine, or machine to machine, communication is the focus. Say what? Read more thoughts on the future of our hobby in this 2020 article from IEEE Spectrum.

Dave ZL4LDY is marooned again, unable to get on the air due to a hardware problem with his laptop. Looks like it is going to have to be sent back to the manufacturer – in Russia. Dave is looking at laptop alternatives.

NZ Net recordings: It’s been a while since I posted a full recording of a net session. Some of our distant readers are unable to hear the net, so hopefully the recording at the end of the Net Tips section of this newsletter will let you hear how we do things.


Photo flashback

Island Princess radio room
Radio Officer Robert Harrison at the W/T position aboard the P&O cruise ship Island Princess GBBM in the late 1970s. Amateurs may recognise two HRO-500 receivers stacked in front of the operator and an FRG-7 receiver in the rack. The FRG-7 was used to pipe BBC or AFRTS broadcasts to passenger cabins. In the console to the left of the HROs is a Racal RA-1217 receiver with mechanical digital dial. The main HF transmitter is a 1 kW STC ST1430. Island Princess visited New Zealand in 1998 during a world cruise.

Easy and accurate clock for the shack

phone clock in stand
The stand for the smart phone took only a few minutes to make from scrap aluminium channel and a piece of MDF. Photo: ZL1NZ

By Neil ZL1NZ

I was getting tired of having to adjust the small digital clock in my radio shack every few days, and decided I’d like to replace it with an internet-controlled clock. My requirements were simple:

  • digital clock format
  • must include seconds in the display
  • large and easy to read from different angles
 

Several such clocks are available to purchase online, but I wasn’t really wanting something that would take up wall space (I might need that for more radios) or require that I spend money. 🙂

The solution was right in my hand, in the form of my mobile phone. But the clock included on my Samsung Android phone is really inadequate: the digital version has no seconds, the analogue version has seconds but it’s so small I cannot read the minutes!

Then I searched on the Google Play store and found a free app called Huge Digital Clock. Well, it is huge all right, and I love it. There is no advertising on the clock itself, only a small advert when you go into the settings, which shouldn’t be necessary after the initial setup (fonts, colours, etc.)

Naturally, I cannot put the phone near a receiver, due to the periodic interference the phone creates. But the display is so big that I can have the phone sitting two metres away, causing no interference but still easily readable. Even the seconds are clearly visible.


“I can’t recall his call”

By Dave ZL4LDY

I got to thinking about my friend George. I know he died too early, in a supermarket – you know, getting the essentials.

The problem is, I can no longer recall (hmmm, yeah, recall is the right word) – I can’t recall his call!

I know it probably wasn’t a snappy call, because I don’t know any crazy phonetics to match him. For example, I’ll never forget Mae W3CUL!

But George, well, his call, just won’t come back to me, and I’ve tried hard.

George was not a guy most would remember, because he was never loud, strongly opinionated, nor an in-your-face kind of guy.

I won’t share all I remember about our frequent visits, but still, I’ll never forget him.

He was a polio survivor, and so was his wife, who, George told me, regularly attended the beauty salon.

His call, though, well, could anyone now tell me what it was?

With the way things go nowadays, it is unlikely anyone could ever discover it, because he’s been SK nearly as long as I’ve been in New Zealand (19 years), but let’s face it, calls matter little now, as things go.


Buy, sell, trade

BMR odemaster semi-automatic telegraph keyI’m looking for some information (and maybe even a key if someone wants to give it away!) BMR Codemaster (see photo). I can’t find any information about it on the web. Can you help me?
Davide IK4DCT

Does anyone have a single-lever paddle (ideally a Vibrokeyer or Bencher ST-1) that they would like to sell or swap? I can offer in exchange a very tidy dual-lever Bencher BY-1 paddle.
Neil ZL1NZ

Got something to list here? Send me an email with the details.


A little black box

We’re on a roll! Here’s another clever acrostic, and I bet many of us can relate to it…

early radio shackA little black box of Jewels and Rocks,
with lanterns that flicker and glow,
Make lighter the gloom in my little back room,
where often I hasten to go.

An anthem it peals of whistles and squeals
and of voices so ghostly and queer
That you’d never decry, should you chance to pass by,
what a brotherhood foregathers here!

Each separate tone has a soul of its own;
each voice is the voice of a friend,
United through space in this gathering-place
at the radiant rainbow’s end.

Reverberant sounds ride the wave that rebounds,
like the waves of the sea from afar,
Reporting the doings, the comings and goings of
brothers, wherever they are.

A curious band, spread over the land,
yet joined from equator to poles,
Disperses the gloom in each little back room
by this magic communion of souls.

I could part with a lot of the things that I’ve got,
but I’ll carry my love to the tomb,
Of that little black box and the joys it unlocks
when I enter that little back room!

– Max P Vander Horck WA6HUW, QST, November 1966


Video: Those spooky numbers stations

In Net News 65 I mentioned an upcoming Zoom presentation about numbers stations, sponsored by the Radio Security Service Memorial ARS. This turned out to be an outstanding presentation by Ron Bishop MI0PCW, and I thought it was well worth sharing with you in this newsletter.

For more information on numbers stations, visit:

  • European Numbers Information Gathering & Monitoring Association (ENIGMA) – a UK-based online group, whose aims are to bring together listeners and enthusiasts who monitor and gather information on number stations and other related radio transmissions.
  • Priyom – an international organisation intending to research and bring to light the mysterious reality of intelligence, military and diplomatic communication via shortwave radio number stations. (This site has a handy scheduler to show you when and where to find numbers broadcasts. – Ed)
 

Net tip: When it comes to R, once is enough

I once heard a US ham teaching abbreviations to a class of CW learners. When he got to ‘R’ he made the point that if R means “I copied that 100%” then why would anybody send ‘R R’ or ‘R R R’? Did that mean they had copied 200% or perhaps 300%?

His point was clear: Once is enough.

I think the sending of ‘R R’ or ‘R R R’ is a bit like the needless repetition of <BT> which one often hears on the bands: a time-filler which becomes habitual and slows communications.

Of course, there are exceptions. We might be trying to reassure that rare and barely readable DX station that we had copied their report (and please put us in the log!) so we send a few Rs to make sure he’s heard us.

But when signals are good, very few things should require repeating. What’s more, repetition of the R can actually cause problems. Here’s how:

Suppose NCS asks two stations to QNY so they can pass traffic.

NCS needs to hear an R from each station so that it’s clear to him that they’ve understood the QNY instruction. If the two stations are zerobeat, it can be impossible to distinguish whether each of them sent a single R, or one of them sent two and the other one was asleep. 🙂

So, my request on behalf of your Net Control Stations: Please just give us one ‘R’. Or a ‘GG’ if you prefer.

What about doubling?

Glad you asked. The answer is revealed in the original QNY request, which takes this form:

ZL1ABC QNY U5 ZL4XYZ

There is a surprising amount of information in those mere four words:

  • The station mentioned first will be sending traffic to the other station
  • The station mentioned first will be the first to acknowledge with an R (avoids doubling)
  • The station mentioned first will be the one to call, after confirming the new frequency is clear
  • The station mentioned first will be the first to re-check into the net after the traffic is passed (again, this means the two stations will not double)
 

Here’s a recent NZ Net recording. At approximately 2 minutes, ZL1ANY and ZL3TK demonstrate how to respond efficiently to a QNY request. Well done guys.

You can find a list of all Net Tips in the NZ Net News archive.


Advertising archive

Galbraith 'KEA' keyer with built-in paddles
A 1999 advertisement for the NZ-made Galbraith ‘KEA’ keyer with built-in paddles

kea* An explanation for overseas readers: This product has a clever name which probably wouldn’t be understood outside New Zealand. The kea is an extremely ingenious and endangered New Zealand parrot (see photo). In New Zealand English, the words kea and keyer are quite similar in pronunciation.
The moa was a large, flightless bird – now extinct.


Suggestions?

If you have suggestions on how to make the NZ Net better, or things you’d like to see covered in these updates, please contact ZL1NZ. You might even like to write something for the newsletter.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to hear you soon on the NZ Net!

Neil Sanderson ZL1NZ, Net Manager
New Zealand Net (NZ NET)
3535.0 kHz at 9pm NZT Mon-Fri