Appreciation 4 Key Workers

“GB4KEY” was run in appreciation of key workers during the pandemic. A temporary relaxation of the rules means the call sign could be operated from different locations and was handed over from one Acorns’ member to the next operating at their own QTH.

It was a resounding success with 280 contacts logged. These contacts reached 34 countries with SSB accounting for the most contacts with FT8 snapping on its heels. 70 stations had a UK call sign and 43 contacts were made on 2M FM/SSB/FT8.

Stations operated on most bands with 129 contacts on 20m, 34 contacts on 10m, and 38 contacts on 15m. HF Band conditions deteriorated from late morning on both days and Morse Code operation was hampered on the Saturday by the CQ WW contest.

Although there was enhancement to VHF propagation, conditions never really stabilised. The event was organised by Vice-Chair, Eddie G0BKL with help from 5 other members of Acorns: G4HCK, G6AMY, GØFDS, MØWJL, G4MJM.

The photo (above) shows a 9 element 2m beam in the background. The antenna in the foreground is a CB (27MHz) antenna with radials that easily re-tuned with an ATU to the Amateur Radio Band 28MHz. Both were used for the CW mode with the 28MHz getting into Toulouse in France.

Photo: Nigel MØICH, Graphic: Eddie G0BKL

VE Day 75th Anniversary

Not all clubs may have been able to take part in a Special Event to remember VE Day, so Acorns was rather chuffed that, even with a small membership, everyone pulled together to achieve nearly 150 QSOs using the Special Event Call Sign GB6VED.

FT8 had the most contacts across a range of bands. CW had a quiet morning slot on 80m – but then the call sign did have 6 dashes and 14 dots!

The occasion was an opportunity to promote esprit de corps within the club during lockdown as the call sign was handed over from one operator to the next.

Nick G4HCK

World Amateur Radio Day April 2020

On the 18th of April the Club celebrated World Amateur Radio Day on air as GX4HKO

Acorns Meeting February 2020

On Thursday the 27th of February, Peter M6RFW, gave two presentations. The first was about FT8, and the second was on SSTV. Both were pitched at just the right level. Those who were experts already were able to chip in with helpful comments, and for those who were entirely new to these modes had a bite-sized introduction as a prelude with more to follow. This talk was the first at our “new” club venue. The room is equipped with a state of the art interactive white board and with slide projection from the ceiling. The convenient car parking is a major bonus too.

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Photo by Nigel MØICH

Acorns Meeting January 2020

The KIWI SDR

Acorns were pleased to welcome back Dave MØTAZ for his second presentation at the club in just four months. There’s a recommendation!

This time he demonstrated the operation of the KIWI SDR. Software Defined Radio (SDR) is, put simply, getting amateur radio via your computer. If you wish to transmit using SDR then you need an antenna and a licence, but no licence is required to receive – and this is where the KIWI SDR comes in. By visiting the KIWI SDR website you can listen to live transmissions on amateur radio – a great way for new people to get into the hobby.

[ see Dave’s (PDF) guide to using the KIWI SDR …]

Photo by Nigel MØICH

Thorndon Country Park Event January 2020

HALF A FIELD DAY

You have heard the expression “Less is More”. Our field day on 18th Jan in Thorndon Country Park was only 3 hours long and only on 2m, but it was twice the success expected for a cold winter’s day. We certainly promoted the hobby with almost every motorist scrutinising us as they entered the park – I suspect they thought we were wheel clampers!

We had contacts on FM, SSB and CW. We even got an impromptu visit from a local ham who heard us and popped down to say hello.

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Photo by Nigel MØICH

Acorns Meeting October 2019

Four Parts to One Meeting

The Acorns’ October meeting was a very useful exercise in sharing expertise.

Firstly, there was a demo of two useful gadgets for measuring SWR on a hand-held transceiver and checking the frequency it was transmitting on. Secondly, two products of 3-D printing were on display – a straight key and an iambic Morse code key (photo). Thirdly, a table top sale with an explanation of what the various items were for. Finally, a convivial social gathering helping each other with advice and expertise.

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Article by Nick G4HCK (Chair), Photo by Nigel MØICH

Acorns Meeting August 2019

Ex-lorry driver and CB operator, Jonathan GØFDS explained how Citizen Band was his route into obtaining a Full Amateur Radio Licence. His entertaining talk started with practical advice; don’t put your hand into the back of old electrical equipment even if it has been off for several years as the capacitors can still discharge a sizable electric shock! Peter described how CB radios work on FM, AM and even SSB but etiquette is unregulated and they have a very limited range. In addition to his collection of CB radios he brought a selection of CB antennas and explained the reason for their different designs. A very helpful summary of the evolution of CB in the UK.

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Article by Nick G4HCK (Chair), Photo by Nigel MØICH

Essex Wildlife Trust Event August 2019

Go – No Go: Eddie made the right decision

The bad weather made national news on 10th August. In Essex there were gusts of up to 48mph – making it touch and go whether to risk going ahead with “GB1EWT” – a special event station held at the Essex Wildlife Trust’s Thameside Nature Park situated on high ground overlooking the River Thames. The difficult decision fell to the event organiser, Eddie GØBKL who assessed it was safe to erect three antennas – albeit at a slightly lower than ideal height.

Considering most people were taking down their antennas around the country we had a remarkably successful event. Twenty-one contacts on 2m temporary colinear antenna on the roof, 17 contacts on FT8 from a vertical antenna tied to a fence post; and a G5RV antenna hanging from the 3rd story.

The ferocious weather deterred some visitors but for those who made it they were presented with a live radio and an intriguing display promoting the hobby including a scale model in size and weight of a cube-stat (amateur radio satellite).

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Article by Nick G4HCK (Chair), photo by Nigel MØICH

Acorns Meeting June 2019

Andrew MØONH, founder of HamTronics.uk was the guest speaker at the club meeting on 18th June. We were also pleased to welcome Pete MØPSX, founder of EssexHam.co.uk. The presentation was an introduction to Micro-Controllers with a helpful explanation of the difference between these and conventional computers.

There were many examples of practical applications from an Time-Out for a VHF Repeater to a remote control of a rotator for VHF antenna. He allayed fears of programming with a three step demo as applied to a light sensor to turn on or off a domestic light switch. Andrew’s easy style and obvious knowledge of the subject was inspiration for members to grasp this development in radio and electronics.

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Article by Nick G4HCK (Chair), photo by Nigel MØICH

Acorns Meeting May 2019

Eddie, GØBKL, gave a presentation on antenna modelling using a free software programme called MMANA-GAL. You input key parameters such as length and width of wire, height off the ground and then optimise, for example, for best SWR. The computer produces a plot of the radiation pattern. This was applied to a SOTAbeam dipole which is an inverted V with the two elements at 120º (rather than 180º) as they help support the central pole along with a guy rope. All plugged into the program which shows how this configuration of dipole is more omni-directional than a conventional figure of 8.

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Article by Nick G4HCK (Chair), MMANA-GAL image by GØBKL

Lightship Café Event 26th May 2019

A community run family-day on Sunday 26th May at the Lightship Café in Grays, Essex attracted hundreds of visitors to a diverse array of events including face-painting and a DJ. The Café kindly allowed Thurrock Acorns Amateur Radio Club to set up a stall. In fact we had two stalls; one outside with the crowd and one inside with an array of radios on display.

We had a prime spot near the Café entrance with two noisy Morse Code oscillators, run by Stella GØEKP, to attract attention. Louis was one such visitor who was awarded a Club Certificate having successfully send his name in Morse Code. This enticed him and his Mum into the main display so see a range of kit from hand-held radios to a computer running advanced amateur band Data Mode.

The event was a very worthwhile opportunity to introduce people to the hobby.

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Article by Nick G4HCK (Chair), photos by Nigel MØICH

Dog & Partridge Event 12th May 2019

Thurrock Acorns Amateur Radio Club was lucky enough to get the special event call sign GB2PUB when operating from the car park of the “Dog and Partridge” in North Stifford, Essex.

The event was well advertised but the problem was, come the day, it lashed down with rain, brightened up for a moment and then lashed down again. Did we allow this deter our event from taking place? Dead right we did! We would have had wet equipment, annoyed club members and no visitors.

Instead we postponed it one day when the sun was out and had a remarkably successful demonstration event where the operating doubled up as an opportunity to test antennas and we were open to visitors. The moral of the story; like many things in amateur radio; need to compromise and adapt to get it to work.
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Article by Nick G4HCK (TAARC Chair), photo by Eddie GØBKL

G4OAD Memorial Trophy 2019

Acorns Member Nigel MØICH (left) has been awarded the 2019 G4OAD Memorial Trophy for his contribution to Morse Code by the Chair of EssexCW, Dean G4WQI (Right).

Nigel contributes to three CW nets including the Acorns CW net every Monday on 144.180MHz. He is also a volunteer CW operator at HMS Belfast (GB2RN) having visited the ship as part of an Acorns Club outing in 2017.

Photo by Tony GØYJI

Acorns AGM March 2019

New Committee – New Direction

The AGM on 19th March elected the Committee for the year 2019-2020 comprising from left to right:

Dave M5ABP Secretary
Nick G4HCK Chair
Eddie GØBKL Vice-Chair
Simon M1GGY Treasurer

There followed an honest debate on what has worked in the club over the past 12 months and what has not; this helped shape the agenda for the next 12 months.

Broadly speaking the agenda is split into four themes: (1) Public Events with the aim of introducing new people to the hobby. (2) Field Events where the aim is to concentrate on operating radio at HF or VHF. (3) Club nights with a selection of speakers. (4) Surprise Bonus…. members-only visits, more information in the April Newsletter.

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Photo by Nigel MØICH

Acorns Meeting February 2019

At the club meeting on 19th February, Chair Paul G4MJM (left) was pleased to welcome David MØMBD (right) who has recently taken over as the RSGB representative for Acorns. David gave a brief overview of himself and his role within the RSGB. In particular he summarised the many developments taking place around the county and asked for feedback so that the views of members can be taking into account. He was able to help with some of the challenges in trying to engage with schools on the topic of amateur radio.

The evening’s presentation was by another RSGB representative, Vic G6BHE, who relayed his adventures of “Not So Great Canal Journeys” which made an entertaining diversion from the usual radio topics. The new Acorns’ sign was shown to the group with the intention it be used at club events for publicity to help guide the public to our website. Statutory notice was given of the Annual General Meeting in March which should be a well attended event.

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Article by Paul G4MJM (TAARC Chair), photo by Nigel MØICH

Acorns Meeting January 2019

It isn’t very often that our members get to meet a celebrity, but on 15th January Thurrock Acorns were pleased to welcome Gwyn Williams G4FKH who created the popular website www.predtest.uk and is an authority on HF propagation. Gwyn is also the author the HF prediction chart that appears every month in RadCom (photo).

Gwyn explained how the program worked in terms of the automatic updating of key information and gave an example of how to predict HF reception between two locations. The reason the prediction program is so popular is that it was written to avoid the need for technical input to be entered manually and the output is displayed in easy to understand visual graphs and maps. His easy going style made the presentation entertaining as well as educational.

What Gwyn didn’t predict, being the first meeting of the new year, was to be invited to remain for a review of the many plans and opportunities that Thurrock Acorns has in store for 2019. This is going to be an exciting year and we got off to a great start.

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Article by Paul G4MJM (TAARC Chair), photo by Nigel MØICH

Acorns Meeting November 2018

Can you hear the picture?

The November talk was by founder member, Nick G4HCK, on his experience of MMSSTV, i.e sending pictures via SSB, FM and repeaters. “I’ve no idea what all the buttons do, but it works!”, encouraged those who might have been overwhelmed by all the settings. This is the value of club meetings, Nick showed how easy it is to send and receive pictures (visual medium) over the radio (audio medium) using free MMSSTV software and he instantly answered questions that might have taken ages to look up in the manual.

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Article by Paul G4MJM (TAARC Chair), photo by Nigel MØICH

Acorns Meeting October 2018

Conveying a sense of enthusiasm is the key to any good talk – as demonstrated by Acorns Member Gary M7AEL, who gave a presentation and demonstration of DMR at the October club meeting. He brought two hand-helds and a hot spot connected to his mobile phone from which we were able to listen in to a conversation with a station from America in Grays, Essex.

The hands-on demo was followed by a short YouTube video that covered the more technical aspects of Talk-Groups, Time Slots and Code Plugs.

A useful encouragement into this aspect of the hobby.
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Article by Paul G4MJM (TAARC Chair), photo by Nigel MØICH

You can see more of our activities by browsing the photo galleries.