Second VUCC award (144 MHz.)

Thanks to yesterdays’ tropo conditions I was able to complete QSO’s with OE3NHW in JN88 and SP6RGB in JO71. Both QSO’s are confirmed today via Logbook of the World (LoTW) and now I’ve got my 100 Maidenhead squares confirmed on 144 MHz. It was tough! It took me about 2 years to achieve this one.

Scoring a DXCC is easy. During the bigger contest you can do it in one weekend on HF with the right antenna and equipment. A VUCC award on 50 MHz can be done in one Sporadic-E season (may-aug). But on 144 MHz you really need time to complete it. Sporadic-E is very rare on this band. Meteor Scatter can help you, but there are only a few big showers a year.

In total I worked 133 Maidenhead squares so far, of which 100 are confirmed via LoTW. I don’t do paper QSL. Now I continue to work on VUCC for 432 MHz (50 squares) and 1296 MHz (25 squares) but this seems to be easier. The squares are already there, only the conformations via LoTW aren’t.

I’d like to thank all stations active on 144 MHz SSB *and* FT8. Yes. FT8 really brought a lot of activity back on 144 MHz tropo stations. And in particular for the FT8 stations in Europe: Also be active on 432.174 MHz.

IARU Region 1 – 144 MHz contest

Didn’t have much time. In total 50 QSO’s. ODX: GM4ZUK/P, 734 kilometers.

Wouldn’t it be nice…

If the newly announced Icom IC-705 could work as remote head for your IC-9700 (IC-76xx and IC-7700) at home. Or even your remotely located IC-7300? Just like Elecraft does wirt the K3 and the K3 head. Of Flex Radio with the Maestro. Or the IC-7100 with some help of a RemoteRig kit… Since all electronics are already in place and the IC-705 is equipped with WiFi and Bluetooth, in the end it’s just adding software. A feature that will boost Icoms’ market share for sure!

Sporadic E opening towards IM76

Today there were some nice Sporadic E openings on 144 MHz from my locator (JO22) towards IM76. I’ve worked 2 stations about 2.000 kilometers away. Normally I always mis Sporadic E openings on 144 MHz but today I was lucky to be in the shack on time to prepare for the 144 MHz NAC this evening.

I also heard CN8LI from IM63 (2300 km) but could not work him.

Also worked EA7SL in the same grid

GridTracker from N0TTL

I stumbled across a nice program for grid hunters on the VHF and above bands, reading an article on the local radio club’s website. The program is called GridTracker and is written by N0TTL. Versions are available for Windows, Linux and Mac OSX. Perfect to see if new grids are workable via digimodes like FT8.

VUCC (144 MHz) update, June 2019

The more maidenhead grids you collect, the more difficult it gets. While I’ve collected enough grid squares for the 50 MHz VUCC via LoTW I’m still in need for the last 17 on 144 MHz. It should be doable all via tropo using SSB or FT8 (of Meteor Scatter during the september Perseids shower).

Anyone active on 144 Mhz in these squares: JO00, JN29, IO84 or the German-Poland border (JO71, JO72) and willing to try using a sked? These grid squares should always be workable if you have a horizontal antenna system.

Updated image 29-jun-2019: 89/100 Maidenhead grids confirmed

Update 19 juli: IN98, JN26, JN39, JO43, JN58 and JO66 added. VUCC score is now 95/100.

IARU R1 50/70 MHz contest (part 1)

This weekend the IARU Region 1, 50 and 70 MHz contest took place. For the first hour I was trying to work some local hams in FT8 VHF-contest mod since this is an allowed mode in the contest. and worked some UK stations via Tropo. Then for about 1,5 hour I worked some stations in South-East Europe since there were Sporadic E openings.
I wasn’t active on 70 MHz. Or actually active at all due to the lack of time. Hope to work some more stations during Part 2 of the contest and be active on 70 MHz too. This takes place the weekend of 6-7 juli. But during that weekend there is also an VHF/UHF/SHF contest.

Icom IC-9700 firmware update v1.11

Less than a week after releasing firmware v1.10, Icom just released v1.11. This update fixes an issue where the IC-9700 may hang up on a multifunction dial operation. Two Icom users reported issues with me with there IC-9700 frozen up. I hope this will solve the issue they’ve experienced.

Firmware IC-9700 v1.11 can be downloaded from the Icom Japan website.

Icom IC-9700 firmware update v1.10

Icom just released new firmware for the IC-9700. The version is bumped from v1.06 to v1.10 and should fix the ‘drift problem’ which some experience. Icom also added a new function: The 10 MHz ref. input can now be used to permanently sync the external 10 MHz source to the internal oscillator, instead of only being used for calibration purposes. Thus: the input should now work like expected.

Icom also updated the free CS-9700 programming software, since the file-format had been changed due to some addons. Both software is available for download on the Icom Japan website. Keep in mind this update removes all settings, so make sure you have a backup of them (thanks Glenn for the reminder).

‘RED Adjust’ has been renamed to ‘Sync to REF IN’

May 2019 NAC contest on 432 MHz

Due to a lack of time I was only in the shack for about an hour to work 12 stations. ODX was SK7MW (764km) as always. I worked 10 grid locators.

IC-9700 mod: enable AF out on mic

To enable the AF output on Pin 8 of the MIC socket (AFO line), solder a bridge across test point CP421 on the DISPLAY board.

Schematic: Service manual, p. 10-17.
Board layout: Service manual, p. 7-10, to left of R421

May 2019 NAC contest on 144 MHz

Only worked 3 hours. 37 QSO’s in 20 grids. ODX: SK7CY (639km). My result: 3th place in the Netherlands

May 2019 VHF/UHF contest

Spend some hours in the shack. The (temporarily) results (I wasn’t active on 1296 MHz this weekend):

1st place in the Netherlands (C-SO-LP) on 144 MHz
2nd place in the Netherlands (C-SO-LP) on 432 MHz

Icom IC-9700 Service Manual

The IC-9700 Service Manual is available. Download it here. The document is in English, dated March 2019 and contains specifications, inside views, interface information, the adjustment procedure, the part list, mechanical parts, board layouts, the wiring diagram, the block diagram and a schematic diagram. In total the document is 93 pages and about 10 Mbyte in size.

IC-9700 Fan mod stabilizes TCXO

Another interesting post appeared today on the IC-9700 reflector. It describes how to improve frequency stability.

I have modified my IC-9700 to keep the fan continuously running at a reduced speed by fitting a 6.8V Zener diode across the appropriate switching transistor. (N.B. I have documented the process with pictures of where I installed the diode, and I am trying to get the file uploaded to the files section of this site.)
The fan now runs continuously. I can’t hear it in my shack because I have a number of other pieces of equipment which much noisier fans!
I have done some brief frequency stability tests on CW transmissions using a 1 minute on – 1 minute off cycle. Using an HP 53131A with GPS Disciplined external reference, observing the frequency to approx 0.1Hz resolution (N.B. This frequency counter uses reciprocal measurements so the gate sample time is approx 0.5Hz for this level of precision allowing rapid frequency fluctuations to be observed.)

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