[CQ-Contest] SS from Television City -- W1HIJ@K6CBS

W1HIJCW at aol.com W1HIJCW at aol.com
Sun Dec 5 16:54:24 EST 1999

Better late than never, a story about a Sweepstakes experience ... and some 
conclusions about the differences between HP and LP in SS, the dramatic 
impact of superb station engineering, and the sheer pleasure of being a guest 
op at a wonderful station.

Through a set of coincidences and good timing, I had the opportunity to do SS 
CW from a high power station for the first time. By way of background, even 
though I was first licensed back in '54 (as a 12 year old), I was inactive 
for about 25 years beginning in 1970. Getting back on the air in late '96 was 
a real eye-opening experience in more ways than one and I accidentally wound 
up in the California QSO Party in October of '96. That experience got me 
hooked on contesting, especially CW contesting.

Since that time I've done (alone or in concert with others) a bunch of 
contests as the proverbial "little pistol" and even managed a few 
certificates and one plaque. But CW SS always has been my favorite contest. 
In '96, '97 and '98 I did it from home and did progressively better each 
time. But "home" is a 100W station in a condo about 40 miles south of Los 
Angeles with only dipoles on the roof as antennas, so there were some serious 
limitations  :>)

By fortuitous timing, I met John Vackrinos (K6AN) of CBS Television in August 
of '99 and had the opportunity to see and use the ham station at "Television 
City" in Hollywood. The station had been set up as an emergency communication 
capability for the network after the Northridge earthquake in '91, and has 
been used by the hams who work at CBS ever since. But it had never been used 
in a contest in a serious or semi-serious effort.

John and the people at CBS were kind enough to give me the opportunity to use 
the station (K6CBS) for CW SS and even arranged for me to spend the night in 
the facility. I can't express enough gratitude for their efforts and for the 
superb hospitality they provided.

The station consists of an FT1000D, an Alpha 87A, and an M2 log periodic (7 
elements, 7 to 30 MHz) about 130 feet above ground on top of one of the 
buildings housing studios in the Television City complex in Hollywood. The 
physical facilities are excellent with lots of room to operate and be 

Now on to the contest!

In quick summary, I put in 18 hours on the air and the results (claimed of 
course) were:

 BAND   Raw QSOs   Valid QSOs   Points   Mults   

   40CW      157         155        310      12 
   20CW      255         249        498      10 
   15CW      173         173        346      17 
   10CW      148         147        294      37 

 Totals      733         724       1448      76 

Well, OK, not a barn burner and certainly not top 10 material. But compared 
to '98 (my best effort in three years) it was almost twice as many Qso's and 
a major improvement in score.

Rather than rehash the contest itself, I'd like to share some important 
lessons learned this year.

First of all --- SS high power is a different contest than SS low power. 
Strategy, tactics, technique all are very different. Several fellow members 
of the Southern California Contest Club shared their high power experience 
with me before the contest so I was somewhat prepared for the differences, 
but even so I was not expecting the magnitude of the difference I found.

One difference is of course the ability to run more than one can with LP/LA 
(lower power and limited antennas). That I expected. What was new to me was 
discovering the reason why that's true. One source of the increased ability 
to run is the layering effect. That is, stations calling in response to my 
CQ's could be sorted into distinct layers of signal strength. Because I was 
louder, more people could hear me, but that didn't necessarily mean that I 
could hear them well. So a key element of success of HP SS (and LESSON 
LEARNED #1) is having a strategy and tactics for ferreting out and capturing 
those weaker stations who will call, especially in a "work them only once" 
contest. In retrospect I didn't do that as well as I could have and next time 
will do it differently. If you switch from LP to HP be prepared for that 

A corollary of being able to run consistently is being lulled into expecting 
that multipliers will come to you. I missed a sweep by 3 sections. Now one of 
those three is traditionally difficult from Southern California and I'm not 
surprised that I missed Newfoundland. But the other two were Virgin Islands 
and Alaska, for heaven's sake! VI can perhaps be excused because the 
situation was unusual in that the usual "big gun" stations from VI weren't 
active. But ALASKA???  Here's where LESSON LEARNED #2 comes in -- no matter 
how loud you might be, there comes a time when you have to stop depending on 
mults coming to you and go search them out. If I had been operating my usual 
LP/LA station at home, I would have gone out looking for AK. I would not have 
expected them to come to me (at least not after the first 12 hours were 
over).  Because I was doing so well getting response to CQ's from the 
Northwest on Sunday afternoon, I was lulled into believing that the next call 
would be from KL7Y or KL7RA or KL9A, but it never came and my available time 
ended with no AK. (For the record, within the first hour of the contest I 
heard KL7Y twice, but thought to myself "Glad they're on, they'll call in 
later"  I never heard another AK station). AArrgh!

The last lesson is one we all already know, but it was really brought home to 
me this time. What with computers in the shack and all the other 
micro-processor based automation around, I have spent many hours searching 
out and eliminating the spurious noises getting into my receiver and also 
protecting my computer from RF so that keying, logging, etc. will not be 
upset. So a month before the contest I asked the CBS people if anyone had 
interfaced a computer to the radios. "No", came the answer, "but don't worry, 
we've never had an RFI problem".  "Riiiight", I thought, with 1500 watts 
coming out of that Alpha, I've got a problem and I better be prepared. So the 
day before the contest I arrived at the station to set up the interface for 
keying, for logging, and so forth. I was armed with tool boxes and what 
seemed like miles of double shielded cable and tons of ferrites.

I installed TRLog in the computer, hooked up the keying cable (to computer 
and to paddles through the parallel port), connected the level converter and 
started testing. The result? --- not a hint of RFI in either direction, on 
any band. I couldn't believe it. Surely there must be some combination of 
band and power where the computer would lock up while sending an exchange or 
some such unwanted event. But no, try as I might, I couldn't get the setup to 

LESSON LEARNED #3 ?  Nothing makes a station effective under all 
circumstances like excellent engineering. Envision, if you will, this 1500W 
station running on the other side of the wall from "transmission control" for 
the CBS Television Network. Envision that when working the Pacific northwest, 
the beam is aimed right at two large dishes which are the uplink to the 
satellites for network feed to all the CBS affiliates. Envision that while I 
am pounding away on 15M CW in the middle of the afternoon, taping of a week's 
worth of Hollywood Squares is going on one floor above my head. Now imagine 
the potential for some really dramatic RFI. This isn't just getting into a 
neighbor's TV or telephone, this is a national network! It's a whole new 
definition of TVI!

Because the stakes are so high, the engineering is done carefully and 
correctly. And guess what?  IT WORKS!  So I learned that it really is 
achievable. That if one wants to invest the effort the RF problem goes away. 
That getting rid of RF into a computer or into a receiver isn't magic, it's 
engineering! A valuable lesson.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience. I learned a lot. It was a pleasure 
to operate a station so well put together. It was fun to be loud. Thanks, 
John and thanks, CBS. And thanks to the 733 stations with whom I exchanged 

Bill, W1HIJ(/6) -- member: Southern California DX Club and
                                       Southern California Contest Club
Newport Beach, CA 

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