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The May-Jun 2020 Communicator

80 Pages Of Projects, News, Views and Reviews... 

Amateur Radio News from the South West corner of Canada and elsewhere. You will find Amateur Radio related articles, profiles, news, tips and how-to's. You can view or download it as a .PDF file from:

As always, thank you to our contributors, and your feedback is always welcome. The deadline for the next edition is June 21st.

If you have news or events from your BC club or photos, stories, projects or other items of interest from elsewhere, please email them to

Keep visiting our site for regular updates and news:    


John VE7TI
'The Communicator' Editor


More About Antennas, And How To Hide From Apartment Managers

Working the world from my apartment balcony

This type of antenna works well mounted horizontally or vertically, high as a dipole or low as an NVIS antenna for emergency use. -Ed.

Last time, I told you of my costly experiences trying to install an antenna on my 3rd floor apartment balcony. Like many people, I live with antenna restrictions and the management of most complexes have rules regarding what can and can not be placed on the patio. My apartment management is no exception. 

In the previous article, I mentioned the high cost of antennas that claimed super abilities but failed to perform as claimed. I now know, to my cost, that a long wire antenna is about the best you can get but not apartment patio friendly. During one of my recent searches on the Internet for an antenna that would work at my apartment, I found an item about a fellow that was using two reasonably affordable car antennas assembled as a center fed dipole. At the next Saturday morning coffee meeting, I mentioned it to one of the other club members. Low and behold, he mentioned that he had built one using ‘HamStick’ antennas for camping and RV'ing and it performed in a very satisfactory manner. 

When taken apart, which takes only a few minutes, it is very light and very portable. He mentioned that he was not, at the moment, using it. "Would you like to borrow it for a while?" As this was my first opportunity to 'Try before I buy' I jumped at the chance and arrangements were made to pick up the antenna at his earliest convenience. I arrived home at about mid day and was soon out on the patio deck fixing the mount to my portable mast. The mount has two studs instead of the usual one. One stud is the type that grounds itself to the mount and the other faces in the opposite direction and is of the usual coax connector type. The antennas themselves are the MFJ HamStick types, a 48” fiber glass rod wound with the appropriate wire coil for the band you wish to work. They are available for the common Ham bands, and in my case, it was wound for 20 meters. There is a 48” wire whip (sometimes called a 'stinger') that is inserted into the end of the fiber glass rod and is moved in or out to tune the SWR of the frequency you are using. My friend had very conveniently marked the spot to where the two whips should be inserted, which made it very easy for me to get things up and running. I soon realized that a horizontal dipole can be rotated just like a beam antenna, My patio is about 12 feet wide and the assembled antenna is about 16 feet long so only 4 feet of the second whip extends from the end of my patio. My patio faces East so I rotated the antenna to face about South of East.

Since a dipole is Balanced and Coax is Unbalanced, a 1 to 1 Current Balun should be used at the antenna end of the coax or RF will migrate down the Coax braid and could cause painful RF burns to the hands or fingers and create havoc with Computers, TVs and other electronic gear in the room.

I soon had the Coax connected to my radio and I found that the SWR was no more than 1.5 to 1 across the 20 Meter band. With little hope of success, I turned on my radio and started to tune up the 20 Meter band. Suddenly, my speaker loudly announced a CQ call. The caller informed those he hoped were listening that he was located 25 miles North of Cincinnati in the State of Ohio. I answered his CQ call but to my disappointment, he answered another caller. I looked at my power output and found that it was set at only 50 Watts. I hurriedly increased to 100 Watts, to be ready for my next call. Again, to my surprise before I could repeat my call, he said, “I now have VA7FMR” so he had heard me after all, on only 50 Watts. He was not calling in a contest so we had a great chin wag and he was very surprised that I had called on a whip dipole with only 50 Watts. My next contact was a CQer in Hawaii. 

So, for about $150 Canadian you too can have a great dipole Antenna on your Patio that you can rotate as much as your patio permits and no one will notice. I have been using this antenna now for about 2.5 weeks and I have spoken to the apartment manager and he has not mentioned that he had even noticed the antenna. None of my neighbors have mentioned it, nor have they made any complaints. Since you already have the mount and other gear, all you need to change bands is another two stick antennas for say 40 or 80 , meters and it would only take a few minutes to change bands. I have an antenna tuner so I thought that I would try 10 meters and it worked like a charm. I then tried the antenna tuner on the 40 meter band, again with great success. When you are tuning the antenna, tune it for the lowest SWR on the center frequency of the band you are working. That should give you a decent SWR all across the band.

In another article I wrote regarding the purchase of equipment and the need for caution when selecting suppliers, you may remember the digital interface that I purchased because it sounded so good on the manufacturers web page and after it was purchased found it impossible to set up because of the lack of information from the manufacturer. His after sale service was equally bad since he provides none and would hang up the telephone if you asked a question about something not covered in his so called manual. I must admit that parts of the above problems were because of my inexperience and lack of knowledge of the setup procedures of software such as MMTTY, N1MM+ and FLDIGI. There are dozens of settings in each of these pieces of software and since they are used together, if you make a mistake in one of them, the whole fandangle does not work. My experience setting up a SignaLink sound card has given me hope that I may yet get that $275 boat anchor working. I have had success using it for CAT control and a degree of success with CW. My next adventure will be integrating MMTTY with FLDIGY and getting digital to work on it. The most difficult part of my entry into the World of Amateur Radio has not been with the radio equipment that I use, it has been the computer software that actually controls the radio and the sound card and the integration of the three, computer, Radio and sound card. Of course, without an antenna, nothing would work. If there is one piece of advise that a greenhorn like myself could pass on to you, it is, “Never give up” I have spent literally days on the internet and gleaned tons of information that has allowed me to improve my knowledge and understanding of many things in this great Hobby of ours. I hope you learn to enjoy it as much as I do!

~Robert VA7FMR   


Audio Patchbays For Your Ham Station Set-up

Easily patch audio between rigs and accessories

If you're tired of climbing behind your station, and finding the right cable or outlet every time you want to use a piece of gear or an audio accessory connection, it may be time to find yourself a patchbay. A patchbay is a central audio connection area for all the gear in a station that allows any connection to or from equipment to be made in one location with a standardized cable and connector. Patchbays not only save time and headaches, they allow you to easily perform a number of mix tricks that would take serious head-scratching otherwise.

I like a clean station set-up without multiple speakers cluttering up my work area. All my gear is mounted in standard 19-inch rack on top of my desk (see I found a ProCo patchbay on eBay and I have used it at my home station for a number of years. My four transceivers are routed through them, as are my computers and, when I need it,  recording gear or the stereo output from my computer when I'm listening to some tunes. I even have my foot switch routed through my patch bay so that I can use it with any of my HF transceivers. You could also patch a CW key to multiple transceivers. Patchbay jacks are monoraul (mono), so you will have to pair jacks if your use is for stereo, but usually that is not a concern in Amateur Radio. 

All of the audio outputs and mic inputs route through the back of the ProCo. From there I can select one or more speakers, headphones or a recording input by using a short patch cable with standard 1/4-inch jacks. I have several compatible mics that are also adapted for use through the patchbay, and that is generally as simple as using a 1/8 to 1/4-inch audio adapter or changing from an XLR to 1/4-inch adapter. 

ProCo PM148 Front. It fits in a standard 19" rack.
ProCo PM148 Rear

Patchbays are very simple, once you understand their purpose. They let you easily change the way your audio gear is connected, and to easily restore your standard operating setup just by removing all of the plugs from the front of the patchbay. This means that the patchbay must have some way of remembering what your standard operating methods are.

A standard patchbay is divided into a number of columns of pairs of jacks, each one containing one monaural patch point. Usually a patch point consists of an output from one device and an input to another device. How they are connected depends on how you normally use your station. With this in mind, there are four different ways patch points can be connected. Notice that the following diagrams show all combinations of jacks being inserted or removed from the front panel:


Patchbay Open configuration
The open configuration never makes a connection from the top jacks to the bottom jacks. Notice how the two circuits are always kept separate.

This is useful for connecting a normally unused inputs to the patchbay. The bottom front panel jack becomes the send and the top jack becomes the return.

Example: recording devices


Patchbay Normalled configuration

The normalled configuration makes a connection from the top jacks to the bottom jacks whenever no plugs are inserted into either front panel jack. Notice how inserting a plug in either front panel jack breaks the connection between the top and bottom circuits.

This is useful for connecting a source that should not have more than one load, such as a dynamic mic. The mic comes into the back of the top jacks and the feed to the preamp is at the bottom. Inserting a plug in the top front jacks diverts the mic signal for use elsewhere, while preventing the mic from being loaded down. Inserting a plug into the bottom jack allows a different signal to feed the preamp.

By using both jacks, you can insert a mic-level effect between the mic and the preamp.
Examples: microphones, high impedance outputs


Patchbay Half-Normalled configuration
The half-normalled configuration makes a connection from the top jacks to the bottom jacks whenever no plug is inserted into the bottom front panel jack. Notice how inserting a plug in the bottom front panel jack breaks the connection between the top and bottom circuits, but inserting a plug in the top front panel jack does not.

This is useful for connecting a normal signal flow from one piece of equipment to another, while allowing the connection to be tapped off of or replaced if needed. Inserting a plug in the top front jacks taps the signal for use elsewhere while letting the normal connection still pass signal. Inserting a plug into the bottom jack allows substituting a different signal while removing the normal signal flow.

By using both jacks, you can insert an audio stream into the signal path.

Examples: mixer to monitor amp, direct out to recorder in


Patchbay Parallel configuration

The parallel configuration always makes a connection from the top jacks to the bottom jacks. Notice how the two circuits are kept together, and that both front panel jacks are outputs.

This is useful for connecting an output, which is normally connected to one input, to several different inputs at once. Both jacks can send the signal to places where it is needed.

Examples: mixer outputs, monitor feeds, audio duplication tap points

Balanced patchbays have a second set of connections on each patch point for the Ring terminal, which are wired identically to the connections for the Tip terminal that are shown in the diagram. But before the TRS plug was developed, paired plugs were made with one handle, so they fit into two adjacent patch points for balanced signals. Some of these are still around.

My ProCo Patchbays has switches on each patch point, to select whether the patch point is Open, Normalled, Half-normalled, or Parallel. Some patchbays must be removed from the rack to change the switches. Other models require soldering to change each jack's configuration... Avoid those!


For most audio patching, two setups are used most often:

The first setup is the normal audio chain. For this setup, the output of each component in an audio chain is brought to the rear input of one patch point. The input of the next component in the chain is connected to that patch point's rear output. The patch point is set up as Half-normalled. The normal connection is maintained whenever plugs are not inserted into front jacks of the patch pair.

Inserting a plug in the upper front panel jack allows you to split the signal off in two directions.

Inserting plugs in both front jacks allows you to insert another component in the chain.

By inserting a cable in the front output jack of one patch point, and the front input jack of the next patch point downstream, you can remove a component from the audio chain. You can then connect cables to the remaining jacks of those patch points and use the removed component somewhere else (nifty use!).

The second setup is the isolated component. Bring its output to the top jack on the rear, and its input to the bottom jack on the rear of the same patch point. Set the patch point up as Open. This component is disconnected until needed, but takes up only one patch point, rather than the two that would otherwise be used.

Although it takes interconnection some planning at first, patchbays can make your station cleaner and your operating easier by keeping you from having to reach around behind gear to reconnect equipment frequently. They also make it super-easy to restore your most-often used configuration. All you do is pull all of the patchcords out of the front panel, and you are back to standard operation.

For more information on audio patching, there is a YouTube video at: and for some ideas on RF patching see this great example: 



“Get on the Air on World Amateur Radio Day” Special Event: Saturday, April 18

On Saturday, April 18, 2020 (1200Z to 2359Z), Radio Amateurs of Canada is organizing a special on-air event to celebrate World Amateur Radio Day.

Every year on April 18, Radio Amateurs worldwide take to the airwaves in celebration of Amateur Radio and to commemorate the formation of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) on April 18, 1925.

World Amateur Radio Day is the day when IARU Member-Societies can show our capabilities to the public and promote global friendship among Amateurs worldwide.

The theme of World Amateur Radio Day (WARD) is “Celebrating Amateur Radio’s contribution to Society” and this is especially relevant given the important role Amateur Radio will play as the current global crisis unfolds.

IARU President Tim Ellam, VE6SH, provided the following message:

“As I write this the world is in the midst of battling the COVID-19 crisis. A few short weeks ago many of us could not imagine the levels of isolation that we are now dealing with and the sacrifices of many on the frontlines of the pandemic. As we have done in past challenges to our society, Amateur Radio will play a key part in keeping people connected and assisting those who need support.

Having come off my own 14-day isolation after returning from an overseas trip, I am touched by the kindness of strangers who assisted me when I was unable to leave my house. It strikes me Amateur Radio operators, who give so much during these times of crisis, are not limited to assisting over the air. Amateurs are true volunteers and I would encourage everyone to assist in the community as they are able to.

My wish for this World Amateur Radio Day is for everyone to stay safe, follow the advice of medical professionals and use Amateur Radio and your skills to help us through this crisis.”

Radio Amateurs of Canada has decided to hold a new “Get on the Air on World Amateur Radio Day” special event in which we encourage as many Amateurs as possible to get on the air and contact as many RAC stations as possible.
  • RAC official stations will operate across Canada from 1200Z to 2359Z on April 18. The RAC official station call signs are VA2RAC, VA3RAC, VE1RAC, VE4RAC, VE5RAC, VE6RAC, VE7RAC, VE8RAC, VE9RAC, VO1RAC, VO2RAC, VY0RAC, VY1RAC and VY2RAC.
  • Those contacting one or more of these stations will be eligible for a special commemorative certificate noting their participation in RAC’s Get on the Air on World Amateur Radio Day Event.

Note: Starting at 1800Z, VA3RAC will be active in the Ontario QSO Party and will be sending the contest exchange. Stations contacting VA3RAC after 1800Z are encouraged to send their contest exchange in return (state/province/country or Ontario county).

For more information on World Amateur Radio Day and the special event please visit:

Glenn MacDonell, VE3XRA
President, Radio Amateurs of Canada

Alan Griffin
RAC MarCom Director
720 Belfast Road, #217
Ottawa, ON K1G 0Z5
613-244-4367, 1- 877-273-8304

Update April 9, 2020: 

The use of the VE7RAC call sign is available via application to myself (forwarded to the RAC Regulatory Affairs Officer). Multiple stations can use the call provided there is only one station on each band/mode slot at any time. I will co-ordinate this. Logs are to be sent to and/or

This is an opportunity for people to get on the air, celebrate World Amateur Radio Day and get a pretty PDF certificate using whatever their band/mode is.

~ 73 Keith VE7KW


iCom Does It Again!

Miniaturization unrivalled by other manufacturers

Following on the heels of the innovative ’DigiTrix’ HF Transceiver Apple Watch app introduced last year at this time [see the April 2019 Communicator], iCom will be releasing its most compact handheld transceiver to date today.

The new iCom ‘Micro’ is a dual band 2m/70cm unit measuring only 3cm high, and weighing 20 grams! This ultra-portable boasts an impressive 5 Watts of power and uses revolutionary new dynamic inductance battery technology for extended operational periods.

The supplied ‘rubber duckie’ antenna is also unique in that is only extends 2cm from the transceiver yet delivers a great signal.

Small enough to fit almost anywhere,  and in any Grab ‘n Go kit, it’s sure to be a hit with the emergency communications community.

Well done iCom!

~ The Communicator March-April 2020


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