webform at b41h.net webform at b41h.net
Mon Jul 13 08:11:58 PDT 2009

                    IARU HF World Championship

Call: K4XD
Operator(s): K4XD
Station: K4XD

Class: SO CW QRP
QTH: Raleigh, NC
Operating Time (hrs): 3

 Band  CW Qs  Ph Qs  Zones  HQ Mults
   40:   23     0      5        5
Total:   23     0      5        5  Total Score = 490

Club: Potomac Valley Radio Club


Wow, that was a fun 3 hours of radio!!  How on Earth can three hours and 23
QSO's be fun?   Sounds like someone who enjoys watching paint dry for

The answer:

New 5W QRP rig put together from a kit - Genesis G40 - and it's an SDR radio!
First contest using the very cool PowerSDR software - who needs the cluster
when you can click on signals on the panadapter?!
First QRP contacts outside North America -- worked three continents.

I enjoy the IARU HF contest since it has a lot of activity and comes after
several months of major contest draught.  But in the past my fun came from
mixed mode and high power to maximize my own activity.

This year I went in a completely different direction.  First off, I went to
Charleston, SC with my XYL on Thursday and didn't get home until Saturday
afternoon, so a full-bore effort was already out of the question, at least

I just finished building this little Genesis G40, single band SDR radio last
week, and being a computer geek and a "it's fun to learn new stuff" geek, it's
a compelling combination.  Nothing like getting on the air with a rig you
melted some solder to build.  I'd call it a medium-low complexity kit -- not
Heathkit/Elecraft level, but not "here's the schematic, a PCB and a bag of
parts, have fun" either.  I made one outright mistake and had several
misunderstandings along the path to getting it on the air, and even
accidentally set the PCB down on one of the switches causing the power supply
to shut down momentarily.  I was sure I had fried the rig and deep depression
set in for a bit... augmented by a sticky antenna relay (not in the Genesis, in
my Six Pak) that convinced me I had burned something out on the board because
there was suddenly no signal (the power supply also dropped out to the Six Pak,
which triggered the sticky relay to stick).  After sleeping off my depression, I
came back in the AM and "magically" it was working again.  (The magic being the
antenna relay coming unstuck).  Joy!

What makes this little inexpensive kit special is that you get to play with
several different SDR software packages, including PowerSDR, the one used in
the relatively high end FlexRadio boxes.  So for under two hundred bucks, I got
a taste of using a high end SDR product.  Lots of very cool features:

*  Being able to see a 48K swath of the band at once
*  Clicking a signal on the panadapter and instantly tuning it in
*  Clicking and dragging the filters to the width of the signal to eliminate
*  A very effective RF gain control -- very simple to lower the gain to the
point where background QRN disappears and you are left with a clear as a bell
CW signal
*  Being able to narrow a CW filter to 25 Hz and get clear copy with no

This little rig had me hooked.  I know for QRP afficionados, working the world
on 5W is no big deal or surprise, but as a confirmed QRO addict (and I don't
think I will sell my amp any time soon), it was very cool to get through on 5W
in the days before the contest -- all North American QSO's, and up and down the
East Coast, so nothing extraordinary -- but I think just the increased odds that
you won't get answered makes successful QRP QSO's that much more fun when you do

So on to the IARU HF contest...  I didn't really start with the intention of
running it QRP, but I figured with all those big stations on the bands, it
might be fun to try a couple of QRP QSO's.  So I lit up the Genesis G40, which
by the way is a fixed center-frequency rig, which means I have access to 48 kHz
of 40M only, from about 7020 to 7068 Khz.  You can modify it to cover 96 kHz if
you have a better sound card, and some enterprising builders have already
replaced the crystal oscillator with a VFO, added multi-band low-pass
filters... and built a multi-band txcvr out of it.  I'm not there yet....

The 40M CW band was jumping with signals and I tried answering a few CQ's with
no response.  Hmmm, this may not be such a great idea.  Then I tried the CT HQ
station, thinking, "yeah sure, my 5W going through 200 feet of LMR-400 to a
shortened rotating 40M dipole at 55 feet is really going to make it 6000 miles
to Portugal..." and then he answered me!  #$!, I'm hooked!  Even my wife was
impressed to hear that "that little radio I built" had made it across the pond!
 Or at least, she's learned to look impressed since that shortens the
conversation, eliminating the need for me to explain at length why she should
be impressed...

>From there I worked a couple of US stations, and my first VE QRP....couple more
K's, and then a UR!  Hey, the CT wasn't a total fluke!  Sure, they asked for a
couple of repeats, but we made the Q.   And working QRP really does reinforce
what the theory books show -- pointing that antenna, even a rotating
capacity-hat loaded short dipole, does make a difference.  As in "QSO" vs. "no
QSO."  My powerful Channel Master rotator got a workout in this contest!

Working QRP also brings back the wonder of radio (although having had my
license for three years, I don't qualify for losing the wonder from ANY aspect
of ham radio quite yet!).  As in, "I wonder if this guy is going to answer me?"
 Some strong signals couldn't hear me, and some weak signals could. 
Psychologists say a random interval reinforcement schedule is the most powerful
-- meaning, you can't really predict when you are going to get a positive
reinforcement, but you get enough to keep you going.  I think they're right.  

The rate meter was pegging at 4 QSO's / hour -- if I was working QRO I would
have thrown the headphones against the wall in disgust!  But instead I was
clicking the mouse like a man possessed, grinning from ear-to-ear with each
finished QSO.  Every new QSO was likely a new QRP WAS or DXCC!  It was like
starting over.

Moving on up the band I heard a PY -- and he heard me!  Three continents QRP! 
Maybe I'll get a VK or ZL in the AM?  How about a nice juicy CN or EA8 for AF? 
(Sneak preview:  nope!).  

And on it went for the next couple of hours, adding SM, LX, YL, and I in the
"exotic" category.

I started fading after midnight so hit the sack for a few hours.  Back in the
AM, and "nothing but K's"  But, I still managed to build my QRP WAS total by 10
states, worked 5 zones and 5 HQ stations.  My score is not going to excite
anyone, even me, but it was truly an Adventure in Radio!

A -real- thanks to everyone who dug my peanut whistle out of the noise,
especially those of you more than 3000 miles away.  I guess in the next contest
I'll have more empathy for that guy with the weak, QSB-ridden signal!

Rowland K4XD

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