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The November 2017 Communicator

Here is the latest Communicator. In this edition you will find:

  • The Rest Of The Story—Lee De Forest 
  • What’s Happening This Month In Ham? 
  • News You Can Lose
  • Back To Basics
  • Club News—SARC
  • Radio-Active
  • Club News—SEPAR Report
  • Emergency Comms—NVIS Antennas
  • JOTA—Scouts On The Air
  • Club News—North Shore ARC
  • Club News—Richmond ARC
  • Tech Topics—Hamstick Dipole Follow-up
  • SARC Course Update
  • and more... 

 Nov 2017
Two Enthusiastic JOTA Participants

You can read or download this edition here

My deadline for the December edition is November 20th. If you have news from your Vancouver area club, events or other items of interest please email them to me at

Ham License Plate Woes

Our Provincial Insurance Provider Fails To Provide

Two recent emails revealed a possible problem with registration and renewal of 5 character (also known as 2-letter call sign) BC Amateur Radio vehicle licence plates. The first Amateur spent time last week attempting to renew his car insurance and registration with his VA7-- Amateur Radio plates. It became apparent that there was a problem with the new Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) computer system accepting five-letter/number registrations.

The option presented to him on Saturday, the last day of his insurance coverage, was to
relinquish his VA7-- plate and accept a new plate and sticker that had been prepared.
Unwilling to relinquish the VA7-- plate, his broker agreed to issue a three-day temporary permit to give more time to resolve the issue, on the condition that he remove the VA7-- plates from his car and display the temporary permit in its place. Inquiries during the weekend indicated that he was not alone in this issue. Some brokers had found a solution, but regrettably some BC Amateurs had given up their "call sign" plate and accepted a regular plate in return.

The following Monday he spent a significant amount of time waiting on hold to contact an
ICBC agent at their head office. This was a specialized problem, and by the time he found the department responsible, the staff had gone home for the day. The following day he was able to contact someone in the Personalized Plate department (604 661 2267) and they reassured the Amateur that there was a temporary work around. ICBC had an outstanding trouble ticket to resolve the issue with their IT staff, but it was not yet actioned. ICBC asked him to contact his broker, and have them contact ICBC directly to reissue the VA7-- plate. Meanwhile his broker called him, prior to their office opening. The broker had also taken the time and trouble to find a solution. His VA7-- plate is now valid again with a new sticker for 2017/18 but unfortunately the ICBC system went down during the renewal process and the broker was unable to print any paperwork.

He commented that it was surprising how many people were completely unaware of
the significance of an Amateur Radio vehicle license plate.

The second incident involved a long-time Amateur with a similar experience. He has had a ham plate since about 1965 with never a problem. In October 2016, he bought a new used car and wanted to trade in his weathered plates for new. When the Insurance agent called ICBC, he was advised that new plates could not be issued for at least 18 to 24 months. As his insurance was expiring, he had no option but to surrender his plates. Upset by this action, he went online to ICBC, found a Complaints page and asked why was he not able to register his callsign plate, or receive new ones for years.

Not expecting an answer, he received a phone call from ICBC within three days was advised to go back to his Insurance agent in about five days, where he could pick up his
new plates! Which he did… go figure. This year, October 2017, renewal was again due so he went to his Insurance Agent on a Friday. Crisis! ICBC could not proceed with the renewal as the ICBC system would not accept the 5 digit plate number, VA7…, expiring the following Monday. Weekends are not work days for ICBC, but he was advised it would be resolved by Monday. The problem not having been rectified, he went home, and took the car off the road. He borrowed his wife’s car on Tuesday and visited his broker. Fortunately the Agent was very good and worked with ICBC right then, while he was there, and was able to complete the renewal.

Hopefully, this note will encourage other BC Amateurs to persevere with their broker to
retain their five-letter/digit call sign vehicle plate while the problem with ICBC's computer 

I Wonder what will happen in October 2018? 



CQ WW SSB Contest

SARC Members Operate From Three Surrey Stations

It was a busy weekend, as stations operated by at least three Surrey Club members, with
multiple operators, participated in the largest Amateur Radio competition in the
world. Over 35,000 participants take to the airwaves on the last weekend of October
(SSB) and November (CW) with the goal of making as many contacts with as many
different DXCC entities and CQ Zones as possible.

Separate stations operated by SARC members John Brodie, Fred Orsetti and Sheldon Ward were active for much of the contest operating as VE7SAR, VE7SRY and VE7RAC
respectively. In the case of VE7RAC, operated as part of the RAC Canada 150
program, we reached every continent but Antarctica and logged 1,820 contacts for a
respectable score of 714,054 points.

Robert VA7FMR at the mic

Rookie contester Michael VE7GMP
operates CQ WW at VA7XB 

John VE7TI operating at VE7IO

Jeanne VA7QD operating at VE7IO

Here is a video of the contest in progress

Check out the results here


A Successful JOTA 2017

The Scouts Enjoyed Amateur Radio

It was International Scout Jamboree On The Air today and Surrey BC was represented by operators and stations from the Surrey Amateur Radio Club and the Surrey Emergency Program Amateur Radio. We operated from our Operations & Training Centre.

Stan VA7NF and the HF Station

Various ages and levels of Scouts circulated through five stations including:
  1. Basic Radio Theory
  2. Morse Code
  3. VHF/UHF including IRLP and Echolink
  4. HF (Shortwave)
  5. Handheld Radio practise

Rob VE7CZV introducing VHF

They spoke with stations including London, England and Colorado. This is an annual event in October and it is highly recommended as a community involvement project. Next year it is on the weekend of 19-21 October. More on this year's event in the November Communicator.




We're Shaking!

The Great BC Shakeout is underway

At 10:19 an earthquake struck the Vancouver area. Radio Amateurs responded to the exercise scenario in number to offer help if needed.

Surrey Emergency Program Amateur Radio check-ins are in progress throughout the city and beyond. Amateur radio operators are ready to assist with communications in case the real thing happens.  

Check out our website if you want more information on the program

Amateur Radio... It just works!


We Now Know What SOS Really Stands For

 Nope, it's not "save our ship." Not even close.

~ Readers Digest

“Save Our Ship!”

“Save Our Souls!”

“Save On Socks (at Sal’s Irregular Sock Emporium)!”

These are all things that “SOS,” the international abbreviation for distress, does not stand for. Best known for its appearances in desert island cartoons, maritime movies, and earworms by ABBA and Rihanna, the letters SOS have been used as a code for emergency since 1905. But what does SOS stand for, actually? The answer, dear readers, is nothing—and that’s exactly why it’s important.

Unlike WD-40, CVS, and TASER, SOS is not even an acronym: It’s a Morse code sequence, deliberately introduced by the German government in a 1905 set of radio regulations to stand out from less important telegraph transmissions. Translated to Morse code, SOS looks like this:

“. . . _ _ _ . . .”

Three dots, three dashes, three dots. At a time when international ships increasingly filled the seas, and Morse code was the only instantaneous way to communicate between them, vessels needed a quick and unmistakable way to signal that trouble was afoot. At first, different nations used different codes. Britain, for example, favored CQD; as the Titanic sunk into the ocean in April 1912, it broadcast a mix of CQD and SOS calls (the resulting confusion helped take CQD out of use for good).

The sequence of triplet dots and dashes proposed by the German government soon became the international favorite for its elegant simplicity. Transmitted without pause and repeated every few seconds, the message of SOS was unmistakable, specifically because it didn’t form any known word or abbreviation.

There was also a visual appeal. While the same series of dots and dashes could also just as easily translate to the Morse code sequences for VTB, SMB, and others, SOS had an instantly-recognizable symmetry. Not only is SOS a palindrome (a word that reads the same backwards and forwards, like civic, deified, and these other everyday palindromes hiding in plain sight) it’s also an ambigram, a word that looks identical whether read upside-down or right-side-up. When carved into a snowbank, say, or spelled out in boulders on a beach, SOS still no looks like SOS no matter which way the rescue chopper approaches.

By 1908, the code we know and love took effect as the official international radio distress signal, and remained that way until 1999, when Morse code was declared all but dead. Today, a ship can signal distress with the touch of a button, the lift of a phone, the launch of a rocket, or—if they’re feeling nostalgic—flashing a good ol’ SOS via light signals across the waves. Remember it fondly, and then memorize these other mnemonic devices that could save your life.


Amateur Radio Helps Puerto Rico Communicate

From NBC News

When things went dark and quiet in Puerto Rico, a cadre of amateur radio operators became a lifeline on the island.

About two dozen amateur radio operators on the island helped police and first responders communicate when their radio networks failed completely. Some of the radio operators, or hams traveled on trucks to provide communications to the power company, PREPA.

“It’s a less than ideal solution, but it works and that’s the essence of amateur radio – make it work,” said Tom Gallagher, CEO of the American Radio Relay League, the national association for amateur radio.

Now the ranks of operator are about to get reinforcements.

At the request of the Red Cross, the league planned to send 50 radio operators into Puerto Rico with “enormous” radio gear in water proof containers, their own power supplies, new generators and solar arrays. The crew and equipment were to leave Thursday from Atlanta.

Their job, once set up and in place, will be to be the communication pipeline for the Red Cross Safe and Well program, helping people on the mainland trying to connect with loved ones on the island or get news of their status.

“You can relieve a lot of misery by telling people their relatives are okay,” said Gallagher, whose call sign is NY2RF.

The ham operators working with first responders are part of the Amateur Radio Emergency Services, ARES. They regularly drill with police, fire brigades and hospitals and regularly drill and practice what to do in floods, hurricanes or dangerous rainstorms.

More on this story:


Shortwave: International Radio for Disaster Relief (IRDR)

Humanitarian Aspects of HFCC Activities

HFCC is a non-governmental, non-profit association, and a sector member of the International Telecommunication Union in Geneva in the category of international and regional organizations. It manages, and co-ordinates global databases of international shortwave broadcasting in keeping with International Radio Regulations of the ITU. 

The HFCC provides representation, tools and services to its members for the resolution or minimization of instances of mutual interference among shortwave transmissions. Organizes regular conferences prior to the start-dates of seasonal broadcasting schedules that coincide with the dates of clock-time changes for the summer and winter periods. There are two seasonal schedules and their validity is global. The schedule designated "A" corresponds to the summer, and "B" to the winter period on the Northern hemisphere.

From its infancy since 1920s shortwave radio has been associated with its potential of being a communication tool in emergencies. This use of shortwave radio is still
very much present among amateur radio enthusiasts for example, who discovered its long distance properties early in the twentieth century. Amateur radio provides a
means of communication on shortwaves and other frequencies "when all else fails". This role of amateur radio is well recognised, valued and appreciated both by the
public and by the world institutions managing and regulating the use of the radio spectrum.

In contrast the huge technical potential of international shortwave broadcasting that operates transmitter facilities tens, or hundred times, more powerful than those of
amateur radio, remains almost unused in emergencies. At the moment when local and even regional communication and information networks are needed most, they
are destroyed or overloaded and the population suffers from an information blackout. 

Shortwave radio is capable of remaining the only source of information.
Although the life-saving role of radio broadcasting is widely recognised by the public, and confirmed by surveys conducted after the recent disasters - and even
acknowledged by world leaders - no concrete projects have been ever designed and no regulatory framework has been developed.

That is why the HFCC - International Broadcasting Delivery in co-operation with the Arab States and Asia-Pacific broadcasting unions are working on an International
Radio for Disaster Relief (IRDR) project that is based on the system of online co-ordination of frequencies managed by the HFCC in accordance with International Radio

For more information and frequencies, visit their website:


SARC Member Sets UHF Contact Distance Record

Dave VA7THO - 2001 Miles

Our October presentation was given By Dave VA7THO. Dave is particularly interested in digital communications on the high bands. 

One use of APRS is to exchange messages via satellite, sometimes over long distances. Dave set an ISS Digipeater (UHF) distance record recently between himself at White Rock, BC and Jerry W8LR of Middletown Ohio, a distance of 3224 km.

They each used a Kenwood TH-D72 and Arrow antenna. The International Space Station digipeater at that time ran at a frequency of 437.550, but has since returned to its usual frequency of 145.825 so their record may be tough to beat for a while.

Dave talks about the contact

Congratulations on this notable achievement!

Dave's record is included at:


Ham & Turkey

To all you Hams out there celebrating our
Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend...

Go Well Together


GNUradio Workshop

Our thanks to Kevin VE7ZD for an excellent workshop on designing and using SDR receivers and other devices using GNU radio ( Here is a link to the presentation slides.

The GNU Radio software provides the framework and tools to build and run software radio or just general signal-processing applications. The GNU Radio applications themselves are generally known as "flowgraphs", which are a series of signal processing blocks connected together in software, thus describing a data flow. As with all software-defined radio systems, re-configurability is a key feature. Instead of using different radios designed for specific but disparate purposes, a single, general-purpose, radio can be used as the radio front-end, and the signal-processing software, handles the processing specific to the radio application.

We started out by building a simple audio signal generator and moved on to a full featured FM broadcast receiver. The hardware tuner is the inexpensive RTL2832U + R820T dongle available on eBay and other sources. With a frequency range of  24 – 1766 MHz it is fully 100% compatible with GNUradio and permits building devices across the ham bands.

The USB dongle from eBay                                                  Inside the RTL USB dongle

The dongle is actually manufactured for receiving TV broadcasts on Asian computers, but for us it means that a cheap $20 TV tuner USB dongle with the RTL2832U chip can be used as a software defined radio (SDR). This sort of capability would have cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars just a few years ago. The RTL-SDR is also often referred to as RTL2832U, DVB-T SDR, RTL dongle or the “$20 Software Defined Radio”.

Watch for an article in the next Communicator. In the meantime, here are three sites with additional information:


A video about ARDF (Radio Orienteering)

Whether you call it Amateur Radio Direction Finding (ARDF), Radio Orienteering, Fox or Bunny Hunting The feature speaker at our May 2024 mee...

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