Out-of-band QSO

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by K5KTD, Jul 18, 2021.

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  1. KE4ET

    KE4ET XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I think the prevelance of band scopes is not helping. Too easy to see signals and spin the dial, and not even look at the frequency. Solid visual markings on the scopes would be nice reminders for people not paying attention! But I haven't seen such a thing on any radios I've used.
  2. N3HGB

    N3HGB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Marine simplex is on 4039.0 kHz and 4042.0 kHz, so you might have heard some of that on 4040.
  3. SM0AOM

    SM0AOM Ham Member QRZ Page

    There is a "Tower of Babel" of audio offsets for generating J2B or J2D emissions.

    I can recall 1415/1585 for old CCIR 476 equipment,
    1615/1785 for newer and for MF/HF DSC,
    2465/2635 for some military gear, which are a "hang-over" from the 850 Hz shift days.

    This created some interoperability problems with the Skanti TRP-8250, whose BFO offset was only settable in 100 Hz steps,
    and the Navy insisted that the readouts should read assigned frequencies. At least all used the CCIR convention of transmitting in USB, where a high audio subcarrier frequency results in a higher RF frequency.

    Then we have the mess caused by amateur "standards".
    Some AMTOR modems used 2100/2300 Hz AFSK subcarriers, similar to HF packet, some RTTY use the IARU "low tones" of
    1275/1445 Hz, which "to add to insult" are transmitted in LSB...

    There is a definite engineering reason behind the choice of the upright CCIR 476 tones with 1700 Hz centre frequency, but as amateurs;
    "Warum soll man etwas einfach machen, wenn man es so schön komplizieren kann?"

  4. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Ham Member QRZ Page



    Eric P. Nichols, KL7AJ

    I don’t know what possessed me to become an O.O. for the second time…some thirty-five years after the first time. No, O.O. does not stand for Office Obie, though at times I did feel like him. It’s for Official Observer, sometimes affectionately known in our world as a “radio cop.” It was a thankless task, fraught with danger and despair, but someone had to do it.

    Now, at this juncture, in good cop drama tradition, I’m supposed to say something like, “The names were changed to protect the innocent,” but I won’t, because they were guilty.

    It was a dark and stormy night…no, actually, come to think of it, it was broad daylight in the middle of summer, not too long ago, when I was scanning the bands in search of a potential perpetrator. It had been a quiet week; nothing more demanding than sending out a few reminders about band edges and identification…and an expired license or two. I was looking forward to nothing more than a quiet weekend with the XYL.

    Fate had another idea in mind, however. As I was about to end my beat that Friday afternoon, making one more pass across the bottom of 40 meters, the signal slapped me upside the head like a wet towel in a junior high locker room. The kind of signal that showed an O.O. what he’s really made of. I was reminded of Thomas Paine’s famous words, “These are the times that try men's souls.”

    It was a dreadful signal, vaguely resembling a bludgeoned and senseless corpse of CW. It was smothered in a horrifying porridge of key clicks, chirp, and raw A.C. hum, all at the same time. I hadn’t heard the likes of it since the Cold War days. I found myself both terrified and intrigued. I was ready for a fight.

    I steeled myself for the confrontation that surely would ensue. Any man who had the audacity to present such an abominable signal on the air would be capable of anything. While normally, I would simply fire off a postal missive reminding the miscreant ham of his wayward ways, this…this called for real-time interdiction…a phone call.

    I checked the federal database for the call sign, which despite its horrendous on-air form, was reasonably intelligible….KL7DIL. It would take all the self-restraint I could muster to not remind him that his call sign was LID spelled backwards. The poor sap in question was a James Hartley….an ironic name for someone with the most unstable oscillator I’d ever heard. It was a local call. I shuddered at the prospect that this ham lived somewhere in my town.

    The call went down like this:


    “Is there a James Hartley there?”


    “Mr. Hartley. This is Eric Nichols, KL7AJ. I am the official observer for this region. Do you have the amateur radio call sign, KL7DIL?”

    “Uh….yes. Is there a problem?”

    “I believe there is. I have been monitoring your signal. It has an utterly unacceptable amount of chirp, key clicks, and A.C. hum, and other minor defects too numerous to count. I won’t mention your so-called fist.”

    “Oh my. Are you going to revoke my license?”

    “No, Mr. Hartley. That’s not my jurisdiction. I’m just here to warn you that you are being watched.”

    “I’m terribly sorry. I haven’t been on the air in forty-five years, and I’m a little rusty. Maybe my rig is a bit rusty too. I’ll look into it right away.”

    ”That would be wise, Mr. Hartley. I won’t take any more of your time. Thank you for your cooperation.”

    I could hear the beads of sweat dripping from the poor sap’s brow as he hung up the receiver. It was far too easy. I was expecting much more of a fight. Something gnawed at the back of my brain as I shut down the rig and headed for the kitchen. Something just didn’t sit right, and I knew I’d have to figure it out, or it would eat me alive.

    I tossed and turned that night like a mouse at a cat convention. The XYL evicted me from our love nest to spend seven tormented hours on the living room sofa. I had to remind myself that I had asked for this job. Twice.

    The alarm clock rattled me out of my dreamless slumber….or my slumberless dream. I still don’t know which. It was seven in the morning. I slapped the clock into stunned silence and staggered back to darkened shack, driven by an unseen force. I fired up the receiver and spun the dial to 7.060 MHz…the scene of the previous day’s crime.

    To my bleary amazement, there was KL7DIL in QSO with a ham in Detroit…and his signal was just as clean as a hound’s tooth; his keying as precise as a Chopin etude. It made no sense. There was no way our friend Hartley could have cleaned up his act so fast. I’d had a few boat anchors of my own in my day, and I know they just didn’t come back from the morgue smelling like a petunia. Hartley was up to something.

    I deduced that there was no choice but to pay a personal surprise visit to the enigmatic Mr. Hartley. I had to know what his racket was. At least I had his address. It was in an ancient downtown section of Fairbanks…a place once known as Sourdough Slough. I hadn’t been there in years. For a brief moment, I considered bringing in some backup….but then my senses returned. This was my battle, and my battle alone.

    It was a tense drive across town; I still had no idea what I’d encounter. As I neared the Slough, I kept my eyes peeled for a telltale tower. Not too surprisingly, I came up bupkis. This crank was keeping a low profile. I had to rely on the address, 904 3rd Avenue. It was a shabby little hovel…but so was every other house in the Slough. I parked across the street from the residence and trained my spy goggles on the sky over Sourdough Slough. It took but a moment before I spotted the wire running between the chimney and a birch tree in the back yard. Guilty as charged.

    I put away my spy goggles and exited the old flivver, taking a quick glace behind me as I crossed the road. All was clear. I approached the rickety wooden gate guarding the walkway to the front door, I scanned the premises for vicious guard dogs…or neighbors. There were none.

    I stepped onto the porch and rang the doorbell. A faint female voice inside said something indecipherable. A moment later the door opened, and I was greeted by a gray- bearded sourdough-looking feller…appropriate for someone living in Sourdough Slough.

    “Good morning, Mr. Hartley. I’m Eric Nichols. We spoke yesterday.”

    “So we did,” said, Mr. Hartley, suspiciously. “What are you doing here?”

    “As I said yesterday, I’m an Official Observer. I’m here to observe.”


    “No, actually. You just got my curiosity glands wobbling a bit. I’m just a fellow radio amateur.”

    “Ah. Well, I suppose it’s only right that I show you some ham hospitality. Would you care to come in and…um…er…observe, Mr. Nichols?”

    “That would make my day, Mr. Hartley,” I said.

    The mysterious Mr. Hartley led me down some decrepit stairs to the basement, where surely I would be greeted by a room full of boat anchors. As my eyes adjusted to the near darkness of the dungeon, the mystery deepened. There was nothing to be seen but a starkly modern radio station, equipped with a half dozen of the most modern-looking computer controlled rigs.

    “Where are all the vintage radios?” I queried.

    “I have none,” Mr. Hartley said. “What you see is what you get. After I got back on the air, I decided to go completely high tech. Life is too short for….well, too short for much of anything, I suppose.”

    It takes a lot to confuse this old sleuth, but Mr. Hartley had me at a disadvantage. I couldn’t recall the last time that had happened.

    “How do you explain your horrendous signal yesterday?” I further queried. “And, even more, how do you account for your astounding improvement this morning? I was….observing.”

    Mr. Hartley directed me to a well-worn swivel chair at one of the computers. “Take a seat, Mr. Nichols.” I complied. Mr. Hartley proceeded to light up a pipe. “Mind if I smoke?”

    “No, I don’t. Go ahead.”

    “Good. Cuz’ it wouldn’t make any difference, anyway. This is my house and I smoke when and if I want to. And I want to.”

    “Fair enough,” I said.

    Mr. Hartley took a few drags on his pipe and exhaled some smoke rings, thoughtfully.

    “The last time I was on the air, it took everything I had to put out a decent signal. I spent a few decades working on power supply filters and VFO temperature compensation, and keying wave-shaping. I had achieved perfect T9 signals the hard way…before I went QRT back in 1966. That’s a whole ‘nother story in itself. Well, when I finally got back on the air a few months ago…started listening around….I noticed that everyone had perfect T9 signals. I did some poking around and learnt that the kids these days are all using software defined radios. They all were putting out perfect T9 signals with no effort at all. Well, I figured I wasn’t all that decrepit yet, so I came up to speed pretty quick on some of this SDR business.”

    “So I see,” I said. But I didn’t.

    Mr. Hartley went on. “So, after I figured out how to make a computer do radio, I started putting out easy T9 signals myself. But pretty soon I discovered that none of these SDR radios have any character. They all sound good, but they all sound the same. And furthermore, it occurred to me that a lot of these whippersnappers have never even heard anything but a T9 signal. So I decided to fix that.”

    “So you found some old boat anchors and put them on the air?”

    Mr. Hartley laughed. “No, no no! I simply reconfiggered these SDR radios to simulate chirp or key clicks or A.C. hum. It’s a snap to do this with just a few keystrokes!”

    I scrunched up my brow for a moment in disbelief. “You mean you use SDR technology to intentionally create radio defects that hams have spent decades trying to eliminate?”

    “You got it, Mr. Nichols! Isn’t technology wonderful?

    Mr. Hartley grabbed a mouse and clicked on a virtual slide potentiometer on one of the displays.

    “I can create drift…a little or a lot.

    He clicked on another slider.

    “I can dial in a little A.C. hum….or completely unfiltered half-wave rectification.

    He clicked on another slider.

    “I can make upward chirp or downward chirp.”

    He clicked on yet another slider.

    “I can make tiny key clicks or I can make big ones. Or I can do all of them at the same time. Shucks, I can simulate a full-blown spark transmitter, if you like.”

    “No, I don’t like. But I’ll take your word for it,” I said. I heard the horror in my own voice.

    “Would you like to see more?”

    “Uh, no thank you. I think I’ve seen enough already.”

    “Well, suit yourself. I think you’re missing out on some great technology. Never too old to learn.”

    “Thanks but no thanks, Mr. Hartley. I’d best be on my way,” I said. I staggered back up the creaky staircase and saw myself out of the house. As I regained my senses, I realized this was one for the books. I also realized it was time to resign my second term as O.O.

    As I said, these are the times that try men’s souls.

    Remind me, if someone asks me to be O.O. again, I should respectfully decline.
    W0FS, KT4PH, KB9BVN and 3 others like this.
  5. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Any of my boat anchors are capable of transmitting WELL outside any amateur bands.
    PU2OZT and W4NNF like this.
  6. W7UUU

    W7UUU Principal Moderator Lifetime Member 133 Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    Mine too. My homebrew rigs can do it quite easily without my even knowing it if I'm not careful :p

    But pretty sure you get the point of my statement. ;)

    PU2OZT likes this.
  7. W0IS

    W0IS Ham Member QRZ Page

    You should let the Cubans know that they can do this. I kind of miss their distinctive signals, but they all seem to have gone T9.
    AA4MB and K0UO like this.
  8. W4NNF

    W4NNF XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    It's not the responsibility of the transmitter to prevent you from transmitting out of band. It's your responsibility not do it. Same as it always has been. :)
    W0FS, WN1MB, N4KLS and 6 others like this.
  9. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Yep. That's why licenses were invented.
    W0FS, WA1GXC, W4NNF and 1 other person like this.
  10. K0UO

    K0UO Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    That would be called Pilot Error in my other hobby.

    73 from,
    The K0UO " Rhombic Antenna Farm" 2 miles of wire in the Air & On the daily
    KT4PH likes this.

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