By Curt Gidding, KC9UNL
When I decided to get re-licensed in 2011 after letting my license expire, I didn't really think about the fact that I now live in a condo. At first, I was concerned about how I was going to operate on the HF bands with antenna restrictions and not aggravate the neighbors with RFI. In the past I have always operated with 100-200 watts of power and never really figured that you could do much with less.
Well, I decided to operate at low power and purchased a Icom 703 which will run 10 watts. I also found that I could mount an MFJ 1796 on my deck and its 12 foot height would not be noticeable to the neighborhood.
First off, tried my hand at SSB and found that you can make contacts with just 10 watts on 10 meters and can work some good DX when the band is open. I must warn you that you do have to have patience because you aren't going to make contacts with just one or two attempts.
By reading about the digital modes which were new to me, I noticed that the comments indicated that you could have great results with (1) low power and (2) limited antenna conditions. Wow, that fit my operating conditions. By reading Get on the Air with HF Digital by Steve Ford, WB8IMY, I learned about the great modes of PSK and JT65. Both of these modes are excellent for making contacts with low power.
With my modest setup, I have been able to work 60 countries on JT65 and about half that many on PSK31. I have also worked WAS on both of those modes. Just achieved 350 prefixes for the CQ WPX award. So you can see, that you can have fun and work many stations for various awards. I have found that many of the digital operators use eQSL as a method for QSL's. This is great and produces confirmations within a matter of a few days and is very economical. Both of these digital modes allow you to operate without any sounds coming from the speaker of the radio. This is great for a condo and the XYL. What is more amazing is that by sending about 10 watts of RF into your antenna, you can receive signal reports from stations which are across the world.
To help you adjust to operating the digital modes, be sure to read thoroughly how to set up the sound card interface and to operate and set up the digital software that you have chosen to use. I use a Signalink USB with either Digipan or JT65HF. Both are user friendly and work very well. Then once it is ready to go, spend some time watching how other QSO's progress. Once you feel confident, just "jump in", and either call a station that is calling CQ or call CQ on your own.
So, if your operating conditions are similar to mine and you live in a condo, don't give up. Just operate low power with the digital modes and have lots of fun. You will be surprised what you can do and you won't be disappointed.
Article used by permission of author.
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