Atlanticon 2004 QRP Forum
In retrospect ... a terriffic weekend!

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I just returned home from the Atlanticon 2004 QRP Forum weekend -- I believe this was the BEST in the six years the NJQRP has been hosting this gathering!  It keeps getting better and better ... the great lineup of speakers, the club staffers making it all go smoothly, and the courteous hotel team all conspired to make everyone's stay pleasant, fun and educational.  Even the weather cooperated this year and produced 70-degree weather and only a little rain on Saturday morning.  We had 172 attendees this year, and I think everyone had a great time.

QRP Presentations on Saturday

Curt Milton made a good summary so I won't go into all that again, but I wanted to make a few additional comments.

Portable and Operating - QRP Style! -- by Ed Breneiser, WA3WSJ
Ed's a great story teller, and he sure had some great ones to share of all his trail and DXpedition experiences.  I think everyone learned some new trick or tip from Ed that can be taken to the great outdoors in the next outing.   I know that I'll be heeding his advice about working up to a sizable hike, as opposed to hopping right in with a 10-mile jaunt!

Component Test - Determining what all those parts are! -- by Joe Everhart, N2CX
Joe's talk was a real good "back to basics" review of just how a component can be measured.  We all have a box (or two or three) of miscellaneous parts scraped off the workbench, and Joe explained simple techniques and the basic principles for how even elaborate test equipment measures them.  His paper in the Proceedings is a veritable encyclopedia of component measurement techniques.

Software Defined Radio - The Future is Now -- Bob McGwier, N4HY and Gerald Youngblood, AC5OG
We were blessed by having a joint presentation from a knowledgeable and enthusiastic developer (N4HY) and from the man who started the whole SDR-1000 transceiver craze (AC5OG).  Gerald started off by explaining how he got into the field and ultimately published the famous four article series in QEX in recent years, as well as why he is productizing his SDR-1000 design.  Bob went on to extol the virtues of that design, and the "open software" path that Gerald chose to follow.  Doing so enables smart software developers like Bob to extend the original design far beyond what one individual can do, thus creating new features for the radio and new operating systems (like Linux) to be supported.  Their presentation was delightfully "overview" in nature and highly entertaining, while their jointly-authored article in the Proceedings is a *fabulous* reference document for the software defined radio field.

Inside the mind of "Mr. Melt Solder" -- by Steve Weber, KD1JV 
"Who knows what the Shadow Knows" ... Well, we all now know much more of the philosophy and design approach that Mr. Melt Solder follows when working on his hot projects.  In his informal lunchtime keynote presentation Steve overviewed many of the considerations taken in designing his AT Sprint II, which is likely the lightest-weight performing multiband transceiver weighing in at less than three ounces.  In his inimitable style, KD1JV provided great and useful entertainment for the audience over the noon hour. (I used a video camera to project the live images of Steve pointing to various points on the AT Sprint - a technique I've used in the past to show live, close-up detail.)

Outright Heresy!  Notes on 75M AM and DSB -- by Dave Benson, K1SWL 
Dave is one of the brightest designers I've ever met and he shared some insights on 75 meter designs and operation with the Atlanticon audience this year.  He overviewed the principles, some of which haven't been a hot topic for many years, and he led into a nascent design for a 75M transceiver that he says may become a working prototype by the time of Lobstercon this summer.  I don't know who said it along the way, but I heard a memorable remark something like "With this design and a hamstick we should at least be able to communicate across several hundred yards on 75M!"  The audience loved it.  And you've just got to see the paper the Dave wrote for the Proceedings - it's QST-class and world-class material.

Elmer 160 - An Exciting & Comprehensive "Course" for Understanding & Using PIC Microcontrollers in Ham radio Applications -- by John McDonough, WB8RCR 
I was SO very pleased that both John and Craig (next presentation) were able to make it to Atlanticon.  The QRP community has been experiencing quite an astounding excitement level concerning the PIC course that WB8RCR invented and is conducting online for everyone. John is a delightfully entertaining speaker and the material he presented to everyone yesterday described the genesis of the course.  He described the ubiquity and value of the PIC microcontroller in ham radio applications, and he clearly explained that you don't need to be software literate to be able to benefit from these PIC-based projects.  I loved John's article in the Proceedings because his writing is as clear, concise and as content-rich as the way he presents in person.  You'll love reading it.  [As an aside, John won a PAC-12 Antenna from Pacific Antenna as a door prize (wow!), and as he was walking back to his seat with the nicely-packaged antenna under his arm, Brian Riley, N1BQ shouted out in his patented 12-barrel vocal chords: "Let's see you program THAT John!"  It was hilarious :-)]

The PIC-EL and Beyond -- by Craig Johnson, AA0ZZ 
This was Craig's second time at Atlanticon and his presentation yesterday was just as exciting as the first.  As the designer of the extremely popular PIC-EL, which of course is the PIC-based project board that students use while following along in the Elmer 160 course, AA0ZZ careful described the function of each pat of the PIC-EL circuit, and especially focusing on the serial programmer half of the board. Craig is a very smart designer and he built in ultimate flexibility, thus enabling us all to use the "Pickle" board in many ways around the ham shack. Craig's excitement *shines* through in his speech and gestures, and it was a pleasure to see him in action again.  A big bonus that we all have is in the article he wrote for the Proceedings - it's a very detailed overview of the PIC-EL board that also describes how the board can be used in other scenarios.  This material isn't published anywhere else ... if you are a PICEL owner, you should get your hands on the Proceedings!

An interactive Technical Overview of the KX1 -- by Wayne Burdick, N6KR 
We tried something different at this this year's Atlanticon and conducted several informal presentations during the socializing time on Friday evening. Wayne had registered to attend Atlanticon and offered to overview some technical topics on the Elecraft KX1 transceiver design.  The crowd very quickly quieted down and assembled chairs as they listened on every word from Mr. Elecraft himself.  Wayne did a great job of entertaining the audience with the history of the KX1 and talking about the ergonomic factors that drove his design.  Wayne also supplied a very nice KX1 white paper for the Proceedings - thanks Wayne!

Meet the Micro908 Antenna Analyzer -- by George Heron, N2APB and Joe Everhart, N2CX 
Joe and George put on the second informal presentation, this time talking about the next major kit to be coming from the AmQRP Club - our Micro908 Antenna Analyzer.  I overviewed the hardware and software aspects of the project, while Joe walked everyone through the aspects that make the universal Micro908 device an "antenna analyzer", including the basics of SWR calculation, display and analyzer usage. I also mentioned that we were now ready to announce the specific pricing structure for the basic and full kits, as well as for the four options.  An email is coming this week to each of the 300 guys who reserved the Micro908 with this information, as the first round of the kit is limited to this size.  Others will be able to purchase the Micro908 Antenna Analyzer later on in the summer after we ship the first round.  We included two major papers in the Proceedings concerning the Micro908 and the Antenna Analyzer ... this publication should *greatly* augment everyone's familiarity with the project.

Club News -- by Brian Riley, N1BQ and John Grow, VE2EQL. 
Brian and John had slide presentations on each of their clubs/events (Vermont QRP and the QRPme Lobstercon, respectively) that were very entertaining for the gathered crowd on Friday evening.  Brian had also photo-documented last year's Atlanticon, and some field outings done by his club that gave some new meaning to the phase "How low can you go" at the FYBO event.  Thanks for sharing all that with us guys!

Friday & Saturday Evening Festivities

Here's part 2 of my report on the fabulous time had by all at Atlanticon this past weekend.  This time I'll recap the zany events conducted during the Saturday evening festivities in the ballroom, during which we normally have an event based on the free Atlanticon Kit that everyone received in advance of the weekend.

First, I must explain that we had a double hall (i.e., *big* room) and it was jammed with QRPers, homebrewers, kids and animals (well, the stuffed kind ... more on that later.)  It was very noisy with everyone scurrying around to all the vendors that had tables around the perimeter of the hall, talking with them, trying to understand their goodies and throwing money at them in attempts to get the "good stuff" before others got them.

The vendors I recall selling all sorts of cool items included ... Pacific Antenna (PAC-12 antennas), American Manufacturing QRP Co (red keys), QRP Books, Elecraft, WA3WSJ Antennas, Flex-Radio (SDR-1000), N1BQ Elmer 160 CD-ROMS ... I can't remember them all, but the tables were all filled!

Over in one corner, the AmQRP kit table was absolutely *mobbed* all night long.  We had so many items for sale this year because of the coordinated effort of all the affiliated clubs in sending 10 each of their various kits. We had NorCal Keyers, BLT Tuners, TinEar Receivers, Tuna Tin 2 Transmitters, HOMEBREWER subscriptions, Tenna Dippers, AZ Paddle Kits, {IC-EL Kits, ELSIE Kits, DDS Daughtercards, Sniffer FSM Kits, Halfer Antenna Kits, SOP Receiver Kits, Atlanticon Proceedings from 2001/220/2003, Islander Amplifier Kits, Pad Cutters, QHB #10 issues, and NJQRP Website-on-CDROM.  You can just imagine the table with kits piled high and hands reaching in from all corners.  What a great thing for the attendees!  I know that I love nothing better than taking home some neat QRP toys from a Forum like Atlanticon. This type of thing will be happening all year long at the various affiliate QRP forums ... Ozarkcon, Ft. Tuthill, Lobstercon Hamcom, Pacificon, etc., as each participating AmQRP club will send kits to each of these weekend forums.  Who wins?  We all do!

Okay, now the *real* fun begins ...

The Contests

We actually conducted three contests, with some incredible prizes: Two DSW-II Transceiver Kits from Small Wonder Labs, and one RH-20 Transceiver Kit from Red Hot Radio (the first off the production line for the re-tooled and re-introduced powerhouse monoband rig.)

1) Classic Homebrew Contest
Many, many homebrewers had their favorite/best project displayed out on a table around the perimeter of the large room, as well as on two rows of tables down the middle.  There were projects *everywhere* you turned!  "Homebrewer Heaven", is all I could think.  I saw packaging jobs and combined function projects much better that the best I've ever been able to achieve - you just had to see them to believe it all.  The judges of this Classic Homebrew Contest were Dave Benson K1SWL and Jim Fitton W1FMR.


==> 1st Place: Larry Przyborowski, K3PEG
Larry had an immaculately-constructed 2N2/40 Transceiver, constructed Manhattan-style (of course), mounted in an awesome case with a glass front panel.  Just wait until you see the pics when I get them posted on the website!  Larry received a DSW-II Transceiver Kit, courtesy of Small Wonder Labs (Thanks DaveB!) 

==> 2nd Place: Nancy Feeny, NJ8B
Nancy had an array of small homebrew projects displayed that literally took your breath away.  It's amazing how this lady does all this while also taking care of the kitting for PICEL and DDS Daughtercard kits (with hubby Tom W8KOX). Mary received a TinEar Receiver Kit as a prize, courtesy of the AmQRP Club.

==> 3rd Place & 4th Place  (I need some help on this :-o)

2) ELSIE "Brains" (Measurement) Contest
The idea was for Atlanticon attendees to construct their ELSIE L-C Meter Kits and measure some sample components we had at a table.  Joe Everhart N2CX coordinated this contest, along with the help of his ELSIE co-designer Steve Weber KD1JV, and NJQRP kitbuilding expert John Cawthorne KE3S.  ELSIE owners stood in a long line extending 1/4 the way around the hall and patiently waited will each stepped forward to measure the test components using their ELSIE meter.  It was a beeping good time there at the table as they copied the Morse output values onto a submission form and handed it over to the judges!


==> 1st Place: Mert Nellis W0UFO -- Mert received a DSW-II Transceiver Kit, courtesy again of Small Wonder Labs (Thanks DaveB!)

==> 2nd Place: Nancy Feeny, NJ8B -- Nancy received a small kit for her efforts again.

==> 3rd Place & 4th Place (I need some more help on this too :-o)

3) ELSIE "Beauty" (Construction Quality) Contest
While up at the table, each contestant also had their ELSIE entry judged for a combination of construction quality, feature extensiveness and originality. It's interesting to note that most homebrewers built the Advanced Features into their ELSIE (LED display, serial output, frequency counting, etc.)  With so many good entries, it was a tough judging, and Joe/Steve/John had a rough go of it.  But ultimately the leaders emerged!

==> 1st Place: Carl Herbert, AA2JZ -- Carl received a re-engineered RH-20 transceiver, courtesy of Red Hot Radio (Thanks DaveF!)

==> 2nd Place: Judith Cerreto, KC8BOM -- Judith built her ELSIE into a stuffed animal cow, with the pushbuttons embedded at the teats of the utter and the RS232 jack located under the tail.  It even made a moo sound when the measurements were annunciated. This was an unbelievable construction job ... and one that you might next see in a nightmare! :-)  Seriously, and it was hard being serious while presenting the prize to her, Judith received a nice AmQRP kit for her efforts.

==> 3rd Place: Mert Nellis, W0UFO -- Mert, who was ecstatic at seeing the winner's circle yet again, received a nice kit for his efforts here.

==> 4th Place: Wadie Sirgany WA2ZRE -- Wadie received a soldering iron (thanks N1BQ) and a book (thanks QRP Books)!

CREATIVITY-on-the-SPOT -- We awarded a special prize for homebrew creativity and tenacity-under-pressure ... to Marcus Gwillim, KC2MLN, the young son of our club's very good friend and supporter David Gwillim, KB2TQX.  Marcus built up the ELSIE circuit, including the advanced components/features, on a solderless breadboard the evening before - and it worked the first time! There's a story with Marcus ... he has attended nearly every Atlanticon since 1999 when he was 9 years old, and last year he won the overall Badger Morse Code contest ... without yet having a license!  Jim Kortge K8IQY, who won the homebrew contest last year, *gave* young Marcus the ARC-4 Transceiver that he received as a prize, on the one condition that Marcus get his ham license; otherwise he would have to give the transceiver back to Jim this year.  Well, not only did Marcus get his license, but about a month ago he passed his Extra Class license!  This young man is a fine credit to his dad.  Marcus's sister Christine, who has also attended every Atlanticon with her dad and brother, stood by with a big smile on her face while we awarded Marcus with a special kit from Small Wonder Labs.  (Thanks again DaveB!)

The Atlanticon festivities broke up around 11 pm with everyone packing up their goodies, saying their goodbyes for another year, and many of us headed for the hotel bar.

The next morning was clear and cool ... just right for some hamfest browsing by many of the Atlanticon gang.  There were many good deals left on the tables on this final day of the 'fest and we heard of several happy QRPers coming back while listening to the rigs on the way home.

73, George N2APB

Atlanticon Recap, by Mert Nellis, W0UFO

An earlier report reviewed all the conference presentations rather well so I will add only a few comments about that.  But the main thing to me was the enthusiasm of attendees and presenters alike about all the matters of building, operating and learning that they have experienced and were anxious to share.  I heard knowledge and saw skill applied to our hobby that stirred my ambition and desire to go home and DO THINGS.  Prime Motivation.  Meeting in person, and conversing with, so many of the operators that I know from contests and QRP-L postings was like frosting on the cake. And meeting many new people is always great fun too.

Software Defined Radio caught my fancy and Elmer 160 took root with its hardware labratory, the PIC-EL.  I am even thinking about some AM operation again.  All the presentations were good and I did not find myself nodding off at any time.

Thanks to the NJQRP Club and the AmQRP Club for a well organized and flawlessly executed conference.  The details like speaker plaques, bag lunch and much personal recognition add style.  I personally had an exciting and satisfying time.  There were so many prizes that I came home with some of those too, thanks.  The entries in the homebrew contest and Elsie contest were all extremely very well done and gave us all ideas and inspiration for our own projects.  I think that some of the attendees enjoyed the adjacent Hamfest on Sunday too.

So, again, thanks to all who made Atlanticon an outstanding event and one to look forward to next year.  Doug, you missed a great one!

73, 72,   Mert  W0UFO

Atlanticon Recap, by Curt WB8YYY

Based upon Doug's encouragement and request for info, here are the observations of a rookie first time attendee.  While I started building my first QRP rig about 1982, and I have built a few more since then, some nearby QRP'ers thought I might be a mythical character that shows up on QRP frequencies.  It was great to meet some folk whose calls are familiar. 

If this conference had a theme, it might be where RF and digits meet.  Much of the conference seemed to resolve around a digital device capable of measuring those two key components foundational for RF circuits - L's and C's. 

The intro presentation on saturday morning was by Ed W3WSJ on a diversity of operations he has participated in from home.  These spanned field days, to DXpeditions, to campsites to trail operations.  The whole idea is to get on the air from someplace in addition to home.  He pointed out challenges of hiking where there are no natural antenna supports.  He also presented some technical data on alternative rigs - and in addition to size and weight note the receive current on some rigs is one or two orders of magnitude smaller than the "hot rod" QRP rigs we often use at home.  Operating is fundamental to QRP, and he exhorted us to pursue these experiences. 

Second presentation focused in on testing those parts.  He reminded us at especially higher RF frequencies components are more than they seem, showing us real equivalent circuits of what we think of as only being a capacitor or inductor.  He talked about component measurements using exotic to simple test equipment. Note connection to Atlanicon kit!

Then we shifted gears to a presentation of real live software defined radios by AC5OG and N4HY.  These radios barely use any RF circuitry - a preselector, preamp, and a wideband direct conversion  mixer that produces quadrature outputs to the DSP.  These rigs are real for those who want math to define their radios! 

Shifting gears even more, Dave K1SWL talked about a technical diversion into the pursuit of a QRP rig that performs AM, ocassionally I have heard this called "ancient modulation."  There is still fascination with the first modulated radio signals most of us have experienced, albeit for most of us only listening.  He showed a picture of a couple 420 MC (that's short for Megacycle per Second, what we call MHz - yes this dates the article and this writer to some extent) that motivated his early interest in ham radio construction.  While not as practical for QRP as the normal modes of K1SWL rigs (CW and PSK), he dug into technical details for making a good QRP AM rig.  He said this kinda rig might be able to communicate from one end of Lobstercon to the other - hence the exercise is more technical than practical.  Who knows what this stretching of the mind may lead?  Stay tuned. 

Prior to Dave's talk, Steve KD1JV gave some lunch time remarks that focused on the extremely light-weight spartan spring rig that was a big hit in the last contest by that name.   This rig is like a formula 1 racer - highest performance with the lightest weight.  Well maybe the analogy falls apart as this rig does not consume much energy, operating the 2 hour contest on a single 9 volt battery!  This rig was operated precisely in contest fashion, have adequate selectivity and a very simple paddle (a thin PC board and paper clips) with good ergonomics. 

The final two presentations discussed those devices that give our higher end QRP rigs "personality. WB8RCR discussed the Elmer 160 project and AA0ZZ discussed the PIC-EL.  A lot of insight was given to what these devices do, how they interface to controls and displays, and how these kits allow anyone to participate in microcontroller code development.  And get the connection to Elsie - a simple application of this principle with wonderful capability to the radio builder.

I left the event with experience of meeting fellow QRP'ers, listening to some excellent presentations and carrying them back with me to catch what I missed, seeing some fine QRP'ers recognized (in particular two NJQRP individuals who have given countless hours to kitting (how we got our Elsie kits), even I was given a pair of finger-dimples as a door prize that will be treasured on my rigs that currently lack this feature, and I left with upgraded firmware in my own Elsie unit.  By the way, in measuring capacitors this thing is amazing in how close it matches the value printed on the caps - and note the markings are more in error than what Elsie measures!  This fine project (well except for my construction techniques and its odd enclosure) are now on my bench ready for action.  Now I can measure inductors in my shack.  Thanks for a great event!  Take advantage of any opportunities you have to mingle with other QRP'ers.

I am sure other folk have more info to add to my story! 


Prize Donations

"Thank You" to the many vendors, clubs and individuals who donated product for prizes this year.  This aspect of the weekend is always exciting.

[To be listed]

Special thanks to Michael Bower and Ed Lyon for arranging for the NoVaQRP Club to generously donate the three wonderful items for the door prizes and contest prizes.

Volunteer Staff

As in previous years, this extraordinary event could not have been pulled off without the able-bodied and very willing volunteer assist from NJQRP and NoVaQRP club members.  These guys are the ones who made the presentations happen so smoothly, had coffee available in the back of the room, made lunches magically appear at the noon hour, arranged the rooms beforehand and cleared them up afterwards, and generally provided for the comfort of all 172 Atlanticon attendees.  A big, hearty "Thank You" goes out to ... 

Thanks guys, there's a special place for you in QRP Heaven :-)



Last Modified: April 1, 2004