Pink Slip Confession Booth

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by KL7AJ, Jan 14, 2022.

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  1. G3EDM

    G3EDM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well, hardly ever! (No, I did not look it up, I'm British middle class so it is engraved on my solar plexus.)

    73 de Martin, G3EDM
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2022
  2. G3EDM

    G3EDM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Lots of references to chirp in this thread.

    I had the dubious experience of inflicting a combination of chirp, yoop and drift on the ether when keying up for the first time ever in August/September. This was the result of (a) a vintage "Boosted Pierce" homebrew design that was very much prone to these issues, especially on any band above 80m and (b) employing some crystals that were not genuine, vintage FT-243s but modern "re-stuffs".

    Needless to say, I did not hear anything from the authorities but here's what did happen:
    • On the day of my very first CW QSO, @SM0AOM heard me conversing with a German ham. He gracefully congratulated me for getting on the air at last, but warned me that the signal had severe "yoop"! (Also chirp, although he did not mention it.)
    • On the same day or soon after, @GM3ZMA warned me after we had a QSO that my signal had drifted upwards by several kilohertz during our relatively short QSO.
    • Further research, and advice from Elmers including @N2EY, @W9BRD and @W7UUU, indicated that the ARRL design I had used was fatally prone to these bad-signal issues.
    Was there anything to stop me just continuing to inflict my bad signal on the ham community? In the modern context, not really. Just peer pressure from other hams, but mainly: technical perfectionism. I think most hams have this anyway. So it's an open question as to how necessary "official" enforcement becomes.

    As Jim, N2EY, said in another thread: Where do you draw the line?

    By the way, the revelation that my signal had serious quality problems prompted me to go QRT for several weeks (not just once, but twice) until I finally had a perfect signal, having almost completely rebuilt my transmitter.

    FWIW there is a European ham, who I will not identify, piping up at around 7030 kHz in mid-morning local time. The signal is comically chirpy. So much so, that when I've tried to engage in QSOs with that ham, I've had great difficulty in figuring out what they are sending (it's also rich in key clicks). But it's true that nowadays, that kind of thing is rare!!!

    Edited to add: More than one ham actually told me that my yoop/chirp were "charming" and gave my signal "character". Yuck, no!

    73 de Martin, G3EDM
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2022
  3. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hangar One at Moffett Field was amazing. My dad used to take us to Blue Angels air shows there when we were tykes. They used to open up the doors at both ends of the hangar and the Blue Angels would BARNSTORM the thing. Can you imagine what it must have sounded like INSIDE?! :) Exciting stuff for a kid. :)
    W6HW likes this.
  4. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    It's guys like you who inspired this story. HI!


    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.
    AF5XF, KB9GHN, W9JEF and 7 others like this.
  5. W4HAY

    W4HAY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Got one for having a 40 Meter 2nd harmonic on the 20 Meter band. IIRC, the OO was pretty much on the opposite side of the country.

    Also got an "attaboy" for hanging with a new CW op well below 5 WPM for about a half-hour or so.
    N3RYB and WZ7U like this.
  6. G3EDM

    G3EDM Ham Member QRZ Page

    That's perfect!!!!

    73 de Martin, G3EDM
  7. GM3ZMA

    GM3ZMA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well, hardly ever!

    Jim GM3ZMA
  8. G3EDM

    G3EDM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well, without naming names, in the past couple of weeks I've hung out with someone who was about 5wpm. I'm more like 10-12wpm.

    The weird thing is that really slow Morse is very hard to copy. Each character is no longer a "sound unit" but gets broken down into dits and dahs. If you have learned Morse with any of the modern methods, this "doesn't compute".

    I really admire the ops who can copy (and send) at any speed, from the glacially slow to maximum QRQ.

    73 de Martin, G3EDM
    K5ITM likes this.
  9. K1OIK

    K1OIK XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I was the manager of KOTZ, we got a Notice of Violation from the FCC that ordered us to repair the ground system after their inspection. As manager I replied we were not going to do it. I never heard a word from the FCC.

    A few years ago, I got an OO notice that I was interfering with a roundtable contact on 7200 KHz. I was on 7202. (The round table on 7200 was full of profanity). I replied to the OO what did you do about the profanity on 7200. Once again, no response.
    W4NNF and KA4DPO like this.
  10. SM0AOM

    SM0AOM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I am quite convinced that no "official" monitoring of amateur radio emission quality takes place today, at least not by the deregulated Administrations of Europe, with the possible exception of Germany.

    In theory, all provisions about signal quality and frequency stability that exist in the ITU Radio Regulations and its Appendices apply to amateur radio, but there is a complication due to the fact that amateur radio does not use channel rasters, so any discussions about being "off frequency" are quite moot.

    For two decades, I had the civilian radiomonitoring officials as colleagues, and learned somewhat about their habits of"grading" imperfections in the emissions. Being outside the band limits caused an official citation to be issued, which for first-time offenders was more of a reminder of the licence conditions, but a reply with an explanation was required, at least during the years that the Administration was somewhat interested in the quality of amateur radio.

    If the cmissions were confined inside the amateur bands, things like hum, chirp and yoop/drift were noticed, but no action was taken unless someone drifted outside the band limits. A border-line case were key-clicks as it had the potential to annoy many other users, even outside the amateur bands.

    Today, the radiomonitors are totally disinterested in listening on the amateur bands, so even quite egregious violations go unnoticed. It is only self-control and group-pressure that may constrain any "bad emissions". The 7 MHz Morse transmitter that I built earlier this winter is an example of this. It started out as an ECO-PA according to 1930s practices, with a small transmitter tube (PE 06/40) driving a pair of 807s.

    This transmitter sounded "terrible" according to today's standards with clicks and chirps when operated into a dummy load, so a re-design was done, and the ECO was turned into a buffer/doubler driven from a 6SK7 low-power Hartley ECO and the whole contraption grid-block keyed. This improved the tonal qualities sufficiently to make it useable.

    I do however like when transmitters have some character, and sometimes I feel tempted to use my ITT-Standard Radio CT450 exciter with its "A1 Chirp" mode selection, and the internal control set for an "UA9 Chirp",,,

    DM2TT likes this.
  11. KA4DPO

    KA4DPO Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I have never gotten a notice for any violation, not from an OO, or the FCC. However, as a novice I was bitched at a couple of times by OT's who were hearing my mistuned transmitter on 20 meters, I thought I was tuning on 40, but the 2nd harmonic was hot enough to cause QRM on 20.
    KI5WW, W4NNF and N3AWS like this.
  12. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Alas....QST didn't think so. HI!
    I like your crystal caddy on your QRZ page....I have one myself....a double decker!
    G3EDM likes this.
  13. G3EDM

    G3EDM Ham Member QRZ Page

    All this quotation of Gilbert and Sullivan reminded me of the classic trope on Crime and Punishment (for ham transgressions, in this case).

    Maybe we can come up with our own lyrics. What is the punishment for being out of band? Operating outside our privileges?

    How can we make The Punishment Fit the Crime? (This being an international forum, I apologize to our "J" prefix friends for the politically incorrect depictions.)

    Unfortunately in my case it is intimately bound up with being in various G&S amateur productions, usually in the chorus or whatever.

    73 de Martin, G3EDM
  14. W4NNF

    W4NNF XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    There's one on the HW-16's tiny meter too. :)

    Why I had the power control (which affected bias voltage on the 6GE5 final's screen) turned up is lost in the mists of time. But when I read that meter with the key down and saw it pegged on the right, I was prettified!:eek::eek:

    W5BIB, KA4DPO, W4KYR and 1 other person like this.
  15. W4NNF

    W4NNF XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I don't know a thing about your country. Here? Monitoring does take place in the US. However, due to budget and personnel constraints--it doesn't have anything to do with "interest" or "disinterest"--it's minimal unless there has been problematical activity the FCC is aware of.
    KA4DPO likes this.

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