Posted Dec 5, 2020
North Carolina Section News
December 3, 2020
GREETINGS FROM THE HIGH COUNTRY
Winter finally appears to have arrived here.
I am located near Tweetsie Railroad, between Boone and Blowing Rock, and my home is located at 3850 ft. above sea level. In the past few days, we had weather that got down to 20 degree with gusts up to 35 mph and a chill factor down to 4 degrees. The ski operators at Beech and Sugar loved the opportunity to get their snow guns going and build up a good snow base. Although on Thursday it had warmed up some, light snow will return on Saturday
Weather like that is why mountain hams have to make sure their antennas, towers, beams, whatever, are sturdy. Mountaintop repeaters have to have commercial-grade antennas which can cost as between $500 and $1,000 in order to make it through the winter when covered with ice and when the winds howl.
SKYWARN RECOGNITION DAY THIS SATURDAY
Speaking of weather, Virginia Enzor, NC4VA, Central Carolina Skywarn Coordinator, sent me information about SKYWARN Recognition Day which is this coming Saturday, December 5.
Skywarn is a program operated by the National Weather Service which involves training amateur radio operators to recognize and report on real-time severe weather situations. Many of the NWS Forecast Offices sponsor local Skywarn programs. In years past, the NWS offices held open house sessions where the public could go to the NWS office and meet the meteorologists and see the forecasting equipment. COVID-19 has forced the cancellations of the visits but many groups will be running on-the-air activities.
Information about the Central Carolina Skywarn groups operation on Saturday, on vhf, uhf and HF can be found at https://www.centralcarolinaskywarn.net .
Persons who want to become a storm spotter can complete online Spotter Training can by going to https://www.weather.gov/rahcoment
Last Saturday, I watched the Annual Technical Symposium of the Radio Club of America (RCA).
Several panels focused on the pioneer AM radio station in Pittsburgh which began operation 100 years ago and broadcast election returns on November 2, 1920, covering the vote tallies from the Harding-Cox Presidential Election. Before it had the call sign KDKA, it operated as 8ZZ.
Westinghouse was once a leading electronics manufacturer, beginning right at the dawn of AM broadcasting. One of the RCA presentations traced the rise and fall of Westinghouse as a leading producer of AM radios receivers and the building of some of the first AM broadcast stations. If you want to learn about this history as well as the battle over using AC or DC to power our cities, go to:
Another session during the symposium focused on the fact that KDKA moved three times since it came on the air. Over the years, Pittsburgh grew and land that formerly was out in the country got developed and houses were built nearby. However, there were also problems related to coverage which factored into relocating the station three times in its history. An RCA session which described the moves and continued problems with signal fading in and around Pittsburgh, its target for coverage, can be found at:
As it turns out, all did not go well even after the tower was moved and redesigned at its current location.
If you want to see video about the challenges faced by KDKA from lightning, corona flashovers, and tower mechanical issues that required a lot of attention in order to keep a 720 foot tower on the air at a 50 kilowatt station on the air, skip over to over to the 20 minute mark in the following video. You will see some things that very few people ever get to see first-hand and you may be surprised at the difficulties posed by high power (50 Kilowatt) operation.
I invite any reader who has had experience working at the Voice of America transmitter sites near Greenville, NC (which operated at 250 kilowatts output) to share their experiences in keeping the VOA site operational. Most of the towers were demolished after VOA moved somewhat away from shortwave broadcasting aimed at certain parts of the world. If you have such a presentation and so desire, I can be arrange for a Section Manager session to be devoted to VOA which will be viewed by a large number of hams who watch the Section Manager Zoom meetings in real time or over Vimeo copies of the presentation.
ATSC 3.0 DEPLOYMENT
Some readers will be familiar with ATSC 3.0 which is being deployed across the country (https://www.atsc.org/nextgen-tv/deployments/ ).
As shown in the link, twenty markets presently have ATSC 3.0 operational with other markets working to come on line very soon. The Raleigh market is in progress and is among the eight markets that are scheduled to come on line next. The transition involves a lot of specialized work involving using a helicopter to put additional antennas on towers, tower crews pulling up new feedlines, and installing transmitting equipment so that current HDTV signals continue along with the new signal while the customers rush to stores to buy a new ASTC 3.0 receiver.
The transition is one reason why current LED tv’s have been discounted in price this Christmas in the desire to sell off a surplus of HDTV’s that will not work without an adapter when the ATSC 3.0 transition is completed.
And, as an aside, all that tower work is a reason why work on various repeaters on the WRAL TV tower near Garner has delayed replacing antennas and restoring the wide coverage K4ITL repeaters on 224.14, 146.8800 and DMR.
ATSC 3.0 will bring additional programming, superior video and audio, as well as providing public safety agencies with a sub-channel for their use. ATSC 3.0 will give Emergency Alert System (EAS) alerts more narrowly tailored to areas so that viewers will not see alerts from outside their location.
The Radio Club of America 2020 Technical Symposium had a session that discussed in detail the technical aspects of ATSC 3.0.
As if the repacking with changes in over the air channels isn’t enough to consider and impress you, you might also want to read this article about cutting edge experimentation on the next thing after ATSC 3.0. Take a look at what the South Koreans are working on.
It will be interesting if the advances in video and sound coming with ATSC 3.0 will be enough to stem the rapid increase in cord cutters who are opting away from cable tv. Some are going for Over The Air reception but many are opting to get their program content over streaming video on high speed fiber internet service.
Electrons seldom stop moving, nor does progress stop its movement.
GE used to have as its motto, “Progress is our most important product” but that was a while ago, before “Neutron Jack” Welch converted GE from manufacturing things to manufacturing dividends. Unfortunately, his successor as CEO at GE really drove GE into the ground as far as shareholders were concerned. Over time, the GE stock lost 90% of its value and GE basically is comprised of GE Medical, GE Aviation and GE Finance with almost all other things once made by GE being made by someone else.
FCC WILL REQUIRE EMAIL ADDRESS
The FCC has published a notice that it will require all applications to carry an email address through which the FCC can reach the applicant. Although the new rule will take effect six months after publication in the Federal Register (which has a backlog of at least of one month), the importance to you is that the FCC expects you to keep them advised of your current address and email. The ARRL notice cited below indicates that if the FCC receives a bounced email due to an invalid address, it could result in cancellation of the license and dismissal of any pending application.
By now, most people know that the huge Arecibo Radiotelescope in Puerto Rico collapsed earlier this week. This is a tremendous loss to science and much of what we know about deep space was gained during the 50 years that Arecibo operated.
Here is a video link that captures the actual collapse when a second cable snapped (the first one failed in August).
DAM CHRISTMAS SPECIAL EVENT STATION
Lest you think the heading is inappropriate, let me explain.
Due to a last minute cancellation, Dan Marler, K7REX, the Idaho Section Manager, had to scramble to come up with a substitute for the Wednesday night Zoom meeting on short notice.
Samantha Henley, KE0LMY, is President of DARK—the Dam Amateur Radio Klub. She was featured in the Member Spotlight in the December 2020 QST. She gave a RATPAC presentation on 12/2/2020 concerning her club’s month-long special event station that is being held to focus attention on the importance of water supply and flood control dams. Information about their special event and qsl card can be found at damark.org .
A buzzword going around in EmComm is PACE. The acronym refers to Primary, Alternate, Contingency and Emergency and has been adapted from the Green Beret Special Forces.
With respect to EmComm, you should look at your situation and review the following:
Primary- How do you communicate every day, during Blue Sky conditions?
Alternate- What is your back up frequency or network?
Contingency- What method is available when the Primary and Alternates are not available? It could involve putting up an emergency antenna, using your go box instead of your primary station, or it could be passing traffic over modes or methods that you do not normally use.
Emergency-What are you last resort comm capabilities? For public safety in NC, it could be passing traffic to the State EOC via Winlink SHARES instead of email or VIPER. For local agencies, it might be asking hams to deploy to key facilities and the local EOC to establish communications when the normal public safety systems fail or are overloaded.
With respect to the Emergency category, since KC4TVO, WA9OTP and I began offering the Winlink SHARES course, hams in several counties have convinced local EM authorities to add Winlink SHARES stations with Pactor 4 modems at their county EOC’s to pass text or voice traffic to the State EOC .
Mecklenburg County is the most recent addition to the NC Winlink SHARES network. A big shout out and congratulations go to Cliff Greene, WB4NCQ, for his tireless efforts to help Mecklenburg EM add this capability.
ARRL TECHNICIAN COURSE?
Recently, the new Section Managers, myself included, participated in a series of Zoom Meetings with ARRL HQ Staff to learn of what the various divisions do and who is in charge of particular functions.
In normal times, this would be a three day visit to ARRL HQ but this year it was done by way of Zoom.
Kris Bickell, K1BIC, Life Long Learning Manager, briefed us on the LLL program. The Life Long Learning project is a major endeavor ordered by the Board of Directors at the January 2019 Meeting. The ARRL Board funded the program with a substantial six figure budget and the hiring of an educational consulting firm to devise an on-line Life Long Learning program. Lack of progress on the LLL was cited by one ARRL Board Member as the reason she voted to fire Howard Michel as CEO in January 2020.
During the Section Manager Zoom we learned that On the Air, the new ARRL publication, is a tangible product of the Life Long Learning Initiative and that a number of new programs will be rolled out in the future. There will be three major themes: Personal Communications; Emergency Communications; and Electronics and Technology.
Personal Communications will help NEW hams get on the air and learn how to successfully participate in contests.
Emergency Communications has responsibility for the three ARRL EmComm courses offered by ARRL and this segment will produce videos on how to become involved in public service events.
Electronics and Technology will produce videos about how to set up a station and build an antenna.
A stated goal of the Life Long Learning program is to go beyond the materials in QST and the various ARRL books and to give video training that will help hams become more skilled in the hobby.
Hams across the state have asked me where they can find a well taught, on-line, Technician course because so many club activities have been canceled due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
So, given the often stated need to recruit new hams and to get them on the air, I asked Kris Bickell if there were plans to develop a high quality Technician course. He indicated that that was a long-term goal but not an immediate task for the Life Long Learning program.
I hope that the new ARRL CEO and the Board realize that teaching old dogs new tricks will not necessary result in getting new pups in the kennel.
I hope that some of the large commitment of ARRL funding for LLL is quickly directed to getting a high quality Tech Course produced, now, not in several years. We need more new hams in addition to training hams that are already on the air.
Like much of the country, North Carolina continues to show significant increases in the rate of positivity (11% of the tests given last week showed positive results) and, sadly, the death rate is increasing. Two nurse caregivers at an extended care facility in Catawba County died from COVID-19 a few days ago.
Several areas in the state are near to having all available hospital beds filled. A growing fear is that there will not be space for both patients convalescing from accidents, severe illnesses and COVID.
One of my daughters near Pittsburgh told that a neighbor who, after having both hips replaced, was discharged as soon as the anesthesia wore off because there was no bid for her to remain overnight.
I hope each of you will have continued good health and will follow the CDC advice to social distance, wear a mask, wash your hand often, and avoid unnecessary activities that put you in close contact with others who are outside your family.
Although there is much optimism that we will have an effective vaccine, the logistics of getting everyone treated with two shots will not happen quickly. A lot of people on edge and frustrated over the ways in which their lives have been disrupted.