[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
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
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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