Watches, Warnings & Advisories for Sunflower Co.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

K5JAW Operating Notes: 2014 Review

First of all, I've neglected this blog site far too long.  There's no reason for it.  My apologies...

My primary goal for 2014 in Amateur Radio was to work through a QSO-365 project.  I outlined my plans here, and today I'm offering a recap on what was accomplished, and what wasn't accomplished. 

First, what is QSO-365?  QSO-365 was a project devised by G6NHU in 2010 in Great Britain.  He explains the project on his website.  Essentially, the goal is to have at least one QSO/contact per day for an entire calendar year. 

So how did I do?  Well, I didn't make all 365 days.  In fact, I missed 23 days through the year.  I knew that I'd miss some days, but had no idea I'd miss nearly a month's worth of days.  Sometimes it was due to work schedules, sometimes it was due to antenna issues, and other times it was due to personal/family schedules.  But as we know, amateur radio is a hobby, and has to be prioritized accordingly on occasion.  Does missing 23 days mean I failed?  Well, if you're counting day-by-day, then yes.  But I'd offer to you that success can be measured in other ways as well.

Here's the run-down for the year:
  • 1014 contacts logged
  • 7 continents logged (including Antartica!)
  • 76 DXCC entities logged
  • 29 new DXCC entities logged
  • 50 of the United States logged
  • ARRL Public Service Honor Roll achieved for 11 months of the year.
  • All contacts were by voice/phone.  No digital contacts were made at all this year.
  • All HF contacts were 100 watts or less.
Now, does that constitute a failure?  I guess it depends on how you interpret the numbers, but in my book it's a great success. 

Reviewing the numbers for the year reveals a few good bits of data that can improve station operations.  Firstly, it's good to have "hard numbers" on how many contacts on each band you've logged.  These numbers can influence future HF antenna plans and installations.  For me, 80, 20, 17, and 10 meters were the most used of the HF bands.  When considering any HF antenna updates, I'll keep this in mind.

Keeping good records and transferring key data into a spreadsheet helps look at operating trends.  I set up a spreadsheet with each month representing a row, each band representing a column, and logged the number of contacts per band/per month accordingly.  Almost half of my 2014 contacts were logged in the first four months of the year.  I expected a slow-down for summer as the days get longer and outdoor activities supplant radio time.  The addition of an evening second job in the fall also kept numbers down later in the year.  Casual participation in occasional contests helps along the way.  If you participate seriously in contests, you don't have to worry about overall numbers.  And again, this wasn't about total numbers; it was about making an conscious, daily effort to get on the air.  

Using voice/phone/SSB for all HF contacts was also a bit of a challenge.  Digital HF modes are very straightforward, and not terribly difficult to establish contact even under the worst of conditions.  By consciously choosing to not use digital modes, I was compelled to work through sometimes huge pileups, set up split operations on the fly, and exercise a great deal of patience when listening to very faint DX stations.  That is great practice at becoming a better operator!

If you're considering a QSO-365 challenge, good luck!  You'll definitely become a better operator over the course of your year.  The benefits are very much worth the time investment.  A quick tip for success: use UTC time.  If you set your on-air time for 2300hrs UTC to 0100 UTC, you'll have two hours spread over two days.  If for some reason you can't get back on the air within 24 hours, you can "skip" a day, so to speak and catch back up at the very end of the next day.

Until next time, 73 de K5JAW