Episode 192 - Fred Cady (SK) - KE7X
Eric Guth: Welcome to the QSO Today podcast. I'm Eric Guth 4Z1UG, your host. Fred Cady KE7X took his love of radio and electronics as far as he could go, and that was to a PhD in electronic engineering, where he settled into teaching at Montana State University. Now retired, Fred is the author of 14 books on using and operating the Elecraft Transceivers and accessories. Fred is also an avid contest operator and DXer. We will dig into this and more on this QSO Today. KE7X, this is Eric 4Z1UG. Are you there, Fred?
Fred Cady: 4Z1UG, this is KE7X. Good morning, Eric.
Eric Guth: Good morning, Fred. Thanks for joining me on the QSO Today podcast. Can we start at the beginning of your ham radio story? When and how did it start for you?
Fred Cady: Well, it started when I was in high school. About 1958ish, '59ish, '59ish probably more likely. And one of my classmates got his license, and then I had a receiver. My dad had bought me an SX-17, I think it was, a Hallicrafters receiver that I had listened to for a year or two or so, and it just seemed like it was a good thing to try to do.
Fred Cady: I was growing up in western New York State, south of Buffalo, New York, near Lake Erie.
Eric Guth: Were you helped by that one ham in your high school to get your license?
Fred Cady: Yeah, sure did. His call at that time was K20Q0NMP. There were other hams in the community, W2GBK. K was another one of the old-timers that helped us out. And as I recall, we had some club organization going on. And basically I got the license over that period of time.
Eric Guth: Your first license was a novice?
Fred Cady: It was. It was Whisky... I guess it was Whisky, November, Two, Golf, Hotel, November, and then changed to Whisky, Victor, Two, Golf, Hotel, November. Or maybe it was WV2 and then changed to WA2. I forget.
Eric Guth: Well, I think there was a period of time when novices got the WV instead of the WN.
Fred Cady: I think that's right. Yeah.
Eric Guth: So then it became WA2?
Fred Cady: Then it was WA2GHN. Right. About a year or so after I got my license my dad got his, so that kind of cool, and we just kind of grew into the local ham community. The public service area, the field day operations, all there in the early 1960s.
Eric Guth: And did the SX-17 remain the receiver of choice or did you upgrade once you had the novice
Fred Cady: No, that stayed in the shack for the receiver, and I think my first transmitter was a Globe Scout, crystal controlled.
Eric Guth: What was your favorite operating band as a novice?
Fred Cady: Probably 40 meters, if I could find a crystal frequency that was away from the Russian broadcast stations.
Eric Guth: Obviously you operated CW as a novice. Once you upgraded, what was your favorite operating mode?
Fred Cady: Well, I probably stayed on CW. I think that was what I liked most of all. I can remember some 75 meter personalities, in that timeframe, in that part of the country, so I had them, but I really never did much AM or sideband operation. I was more interested in CW.
Eric Guth: Did you have an interest in contests, or DXing at that point?
Fred Cady: Probably not DXing so much. But yeah, we got pretty active and involved in VHF contesting. We had a field day site outside of town on a hilltop side, and so a couple of buddies and I were really pretty active on some of the VHF contests there in that time.
Eric Guth: Would that be six and two meters, or two meters and above?
Fred Cady: Yeah, six and two meters.
Eric Guth: Did you win any?
Fred Cady: I think so. I don't know if I have any certificates any more, but I think we did pretty well.
Eric Guth: Did ham radio play a part in the choices you made for your education and career?
Fred Cady: Yeah. It did. When I graduated from high school, I wasn't able to go to college, but what I finally did, I had been a ham for... Let's see, I went off to college in about... I had my license for three or four years or so, and so I was going to be going into engineering school, at Penn State University. And so I picked electrical engineering.
Eric Guth: And you received a BSCE from Penn State?
Fred Cady: I did. Yes.
Eric Guth: But then you went on in your studies, right? You didn't just hang back? Or did you go into industry and work for a while before upgrading your education?
Fred Cady: Well, I went back. My work out of high school was at General Electric in Erie, Pennsylvania. And so I went back to Erie and I worked as an engineer in engineering design areas, getting into their stream of engineering development. And during my time at college, I also got pretty wrapped up in rock climbing and mountaineering, and had an opportunity to join what was then part of ESSA. It's now part of NOAA, on an expedition to... Or not an expedition but a job managing some equipment at Byrd Station in Oregon.
Fred Cady: So I left Erie, went to Boulder, Colorado, and then spent a year in Antarctica, and then a few months in Alaska after coming back, and then I went to grad school at CalTech, California Institute of Technology in, I guess, '70, 1970ish or so.
Eric Guth: So you went to CalTech?
Fred Cady: Yes I did.
Eric Guth: In Pasadena? How about that.
Fred Cady: Yeah.
Eric Guth: But the Byrd Station, that's an interesting deployment. How long were you in Antarctica?
Fred Cady: I was there just a little over a year in the winter of parties, '67, '68. The ESSA lab in Boulder was responsible for looking at, or had experiments looking at upper atmospheric physics stuff going on, and the solar radiation, and things like that. So I had about six or seven different experiments to take care of and gather data through the year. I did get an opportunity... Byrd Station is at 80 degrees south and I did get an opportunity to go to the Pole Station to deliver some equipment there. So I actually ended up at 90 degrees south at one time.
Eric Guth: How many people were deployed there at Byrd Station?
Fred Cady: At Byrd there was 27. There was about four in what was known as the Longwire station, which is 11 miles away from the main base station. They had a big, long [VLF antenna. I think it was 10 miles long, and they were studying some very low frequency phenomenon. I had a substation about a mile and a half away from the main base station. So there was, all told, about 27 people in the area.
Eric Guth: And how was that for you, to be with 27 people for a year?
Fred Cady: You know, I really had a pretty good duty location and living location, because I could be separate if I wanted to. Some of the other fellows that lives on the main base, they were cooped up, seeing the same people every day, and although they did some pretty serious psychological screening for everybody that would go down there, it was managed, of course, in those days, by the Navy, and civilian contractors were running the science side of things. But it was quite good. I didn't have any personnel conflicts at all.
Eric Guth: Did you operate ham radio from Antarctica?
Fred Cady: Yes, I did. I was Uncle Sugar Mike. KC4 Uncle Sugar Mike. I won the CQ Worldwide Contest from Antarctica that year.
Eric Guth: Because you were a station in demand?
Fred Cady: That's right. I was the only one in the contest, too. So that helps.
Eric Guth: Did you get the extra multipliers, or people got extra multipliers by working you?
Fred Cady: Well, I'm sure I did, but I don't remember.
Eric Guth: Well, after that you ended up in California, going to CalTech in Pasadena.
Fred Cady: That's correct.
Eric Guth: What did you study there.
Fred Cady: I was in electrical engineering. I basically just did a Masters degree there, and during my time there I ran across an opportunity to apply for a job in New Zealand, and my then wife whom I had met in Alaska, and I, went off to New Zealand for 10 years, where I taught at University of Canterbury in Christchurch, and received what is called a staff PhD at that time in electrical engineering.
Eric Guth: How was that experience?
Fred Cady: That was great. It's really interesting to live in a foreign country, but not too foreign. We didn't have language difficulties, although a lot of expressions were different, which is kind of fun anyway. But we enjoyed our time in New Zealand a lot.
Eric Guth: Did you come back with an accent?
Fred Cady: Yes, I did. Yeah. My daughter did. But we lost it when we got back here. Both my wife and I pick up on inflections and accents. I think when I came up to Montana State University for a job interview, I sounded like a right old Kiwi. But I think I lost that.
Eric Guth: We have a number of listeners from New Zealand. Are New Zealand hams different than American hams?
Fred Cady: Oh, I wouldn't say so. No. I don't think so.
Eric Guth: Were you involved in the ham radio community there?
Fred Cady: Yeah. We had a great club. I was working on a thesis and research and whatnot, so I wasn't able to be too active, but I did have a station, and got on. In retrospect, I wish I had taken part in more contesting activities from there. One of the super contesters was there at the same time that I was there, so it would have been good to follow in his footsteps a bit. But I didn't.
Eric Guth: Well, I guess, what's interesting, I find, having lived in California, and then living here in Israel, is that the HF sound is completely different when you're on the other side of the world in terms of what you hear mostly, and who's on the air, and when. But you also operated from Antarctica, so I guess you've already had some real experience of living in the southern hemisphere.
Fred Cady: Yeah. And actually, that's an interesting point, because when I lived in New Zealand I could get on and almost invariably there was almost a spotlight of propagation into, say, New Jersey, or something like that. Guys would be pounding in. And I thought that was really interesting propagation thoughts, and probably stirred my interest in looking at propagation, when we get into the contesting world.
Eric Guth: Because you think from New Zealand you'd actually have a lot more Asia.
Fred Cady: Yeah. Yeah. No, the band was just open to one particular place, or to the US. I'm pretty sure it was 20 meters, and nowhere else.
Eric Guth: And then you landed in Montana, which is where your QTH is now?
Fred Cady: That's correct.
Eric Guth: And you're a professor of electrical engineering at the Montana State University?
Fred Cady: Right, right.
Eric Guth: And you've been there a number of years now?
Fred Cady: Yes. We moved here in 1980. I retired from Montana State, oh, five years ago, I guess, now?
Eric Guth: How about that. And how are you spending your ham radio time?
Fred Cady: Well, up until this last July, we lived at a house that had antennas, and I had a station, and did a fair bit of contesting from here and another location here in Montana, and also went traveling with the Team Vertical guys.
Eric Guth: Who is Team Vertical?
Fred Cady: Well, Team Vertical, this started... K2KW is the lead and manager of the group and it consists of basically a number of hams have come in and gone out. We've gone to various contest locations. But N6BT, Tom from Force 12, Dean, Dean Straw, N6BV, has been on trips with us. Scotty, W4SO. We started off in the mid-90s, early '90s, going to Venezuela, and then Jamaica. TV Bob, N6TV, was a big member of our contest, as is Dave Patton NM1N now, I guess his call is. So there's been quite a lot of top-notch operators that have gone with us.
Fred Cady: But Kent, K2KW, and Tom, and I guess I to a certain extent have been the core group that have gone on most of the operations, and other people have come in and out.
Eric Guth: It's not like renting a ship and going to the South Pacific, you actually will take a group to places that you can get to relatively easily by an airport, and operate from a foreign country?
Fred Cady: Yes, that's right. It's really a field day operation. We'll take all our own antennas. The year we won CQ World Wide, multi-multi, I think there were 12 operators and a little over a ton of gear, hand-carried to Jamaica. That was when you could have two 70-pound suitcases, and boy, did we all have 70-pound suitcases.
Eric Guth: What are the radios of choice? Does everybody have different radios that they take down, or do you have something that you like to take?
Fred Cady: Well, in the '90s we started off with, I guess, thises and thats, whatever we had. And at some point, I'd say when we were doing worldwide from Jamaica, we were pretty keen on using MP1000s, and really found that the pile-up much in MP1000s was not great. Dean Straw N6BV was a master. He really was an icon guy, and we tried doing some things with modifying the night before the contest, my "MP". Took it apart, and started adding capacitors here and there and other places. I didn't think I was going to get my radio back in time to have a contest.
Fred Cady: But then, we discovered the Elecraft line, and when the Elecraft K2s came out, and the performance of those radios was far and away better than what we could get out of the big boxes. And so we adopted the K2, and I forget the year. And we started doing single operations. So one year we had, I think, five or six world single op band QRP records, and then the 100 watt amp came along for the K2, so we went back to Jamaica and set five or six world 100 watt records including 160, from two point land, which is pretty good in a worldwide contest. Then we migrated to the K3 as the K3 came about.
Eric Guth: With the new portable radios, like the KX3 and the KX2, are those contest-worthy radios to take on these trips?
Fred Cady: I've not done those, so I haven't been on a trip with Kent and the other lads for a while now. But I don't think personally I would. I would stay with the larger radio, the K3.
Eric Guth: It's relatively light.
Fred Cady: Yeah.
Eric Guth: And now, this message from Icom. Icom is now a key sponsor to the QSO Today podcast. My thanks to the team at Icom America for making this possible. I'm excited to speak about the Icom IC-7610, and have viewed a number of unboxing videos on YouTube. This rig has full dual RF direct sampling receivers, in other words, two independent SDR or software-defined radio receivers, with digicel preselectors in the front, where you can listen to each of these separate receivers on the left and right channels of your headphone or stereo speakers, allowing you to be in two places at the same time.
Eric Guth: This combination of direct sampling and 110 dB RMDR allows you to pull those weak signals out of the noise, even with strong adjacent signals, and neighborhood electronic noise. The IC-7610 has a beautiful seven-inch color TFT touch LCD screen on the front panel for easy control of the radio, with plenty of knobs and buttons for the ham radio operator, as well as a rear connector to connect your large color monitor. Icom has a tradition of making beautiful, functional radios, and has done an amazing job with this rig to make your DX and contesting experience even more enjoyable. Even if you're not a DXer or a contester, but want an amazing HF user experience, the IC-7610 will provide years of fun and on-air enjoyment.
Eric Guth: There is a great review in the DX Engineering blog with the perspectives of experts like Rob Sherwood NC0B, of Sherwood Engineering, who praised the features of the IC-7610, as well as its actual performance. I will put these links in the show notes pages. Be sure to visit Icom America at www.icomamerica.com/amateur to see the complete line of Icom equipment, and when you make your next Icom purchase, tell them that you heard it here on QSO Today. And now back to my QSO Today.
Eric Guth: Now, you guys call yourself Team Vertical. Why is that? Where does the Vertical come from?
Fred Cady: Oh, okay. Well, our real claim to fame is the use of verticals on the beach, or right in the water. And that came about because of the work that N6BT was doing with verticals, and so K2KW and Dean and Tom set up a kind of experiment with verticals right at the edge of the water, moving back from the water. We understand about low angle propagation and enhancement due to near field saltwater, and it's got to be saltwater, it can't be freshwater. So all our contest records, and all the operations we've had, well, I guess basically since going to Venezuela in those early-mid '90s is based on vertical antennas, right on the edge of the beach, and having phenomenal signals all around the world with the verticals. We would use directive rays, element rays and 401 rays, but all verticals.
Eric Guth: You're using aluminum tubing for these vertical antennas so that the saltwater doesn't seem to have as harsh an effect on them?
Fred Cady: Yeah, and of course we're not there for very long. The verticals that Tom would build all would collapse down. We'd be able to handle a multi-op station with about three golf carriers of antennas of aluminum. Some places we would put up an inverted L wire for 160, and then lately we've just been taking an aluminum setup for 160.
Eric Guth: It seems to me that the saltwater would be pretty hard on feed line and antenna junctions and stuff, and even though they're not in the water for very long, are you able to re-use feed lines from event to event? And do you have some process for making sure that it doesn't get eaten up in your suitcase as it's headed back to America?
Fred Cady: Yeah. We would often leave a coax behind us and then use it the next year. We would always tape all coax joints and everything. And they weren't in the water, per se. Sometimes they might get some wave action, but usually we would be on the edge of the water, on the beach or the ironshore, and the antennas would get saltwater spray. And these are telescopic antennas that were riveted together following the Force 12 construction technique. And we would use WD-40 when we inserted the elements together, which would displace water elements, rivet them up. And then, maybe when we would go home we would throw them in the pool at the condo we were staying at to wash them off a bit, throw them back in the golf carrier, and take them home, and Tom probably cleaned them up after that or something like that.
Fred Cady: But yeah, the antennas would travel back and forth for a number of operations, although each time we seemed to have a new version of antennas. We're there a week before the contest and then the contest, so you know, we're there 10 days, basically would be the most time that we would have that stuff out there.
Fred Cady: One thing we did learn one time was kind of amusing. The verticals are all elevated verticals. This doesn't work through a wire into the ocean. That's not a good grounding scheme or radial scheme, so we use elevated radios. And we pick up sticks of driftwood and elevate things with that. And one time, we had the end of a radio wrapped around a piece of driftwood, I guess, without using an insulator. Caught the driftwood on fire, so there's some voltages at the end of a four-way vertical radio.
Fred Cady: But we learn things to keep stuff light. We wouldn't take porcelain egg insulators. We would use wire wraps or wire ties as insulators, perfectly fine insulator for a temporary antenna location.
Eric Guth: That's pretty cool. So you've mastered the art of packing and getting everything you need down to a location, even with the new luggage constraints of the airlines.
Fred Cady: Yeah. It's tougher these days for sure.
Eric Guth: But the equipment's lighter these days.
Fred Cady: Yep.
Eric Guth: You were honored by the ARRL in 1988 for your commitment to teaching newcomers to amateur radio. A lot of time has passed from there, 30 years since then. Have you changed your approach to teaching new hams today?
Fred Cady: You know, I'm not involved in the classes so much. One of the other fellows in the physics department here is doing some of that. And so, after that time, I guess I can't really remember how things slowed down. And in terms of how I teach things today, I bring my teaching skills, I think, to the books that I've been writing, and one of the things that I think, in my professorial life, I learned, was that people have different ways of learning. And it was a big epiphany for me. And as I changed my teaching techniques in the classroom, I also changed, or could apply that also, to teaching some of the ham radio. So the ham radio books I've written about the Elecraft radio apply a lot of that that I learned while teaching in the classroom.
Eric Guth: For me it was an epiphany to see what's happened in ham radio. I took a 25-year hiatus from ham radio where I wasn't active in a club, and I wasn't reading the magazines. It was really like a Rip Van Winkle waking up and seeing what's happened. Do you think that hams are different, or ham candidates are different now, than they were? There's certainly a lot more stuff competing for their attention.
Fred Cady: I think so, although it sounds like there are more licensed hams in the US than there ever has been, for whatever reason. One of the fellows from the club the other day at our morning coffee session was bemoaning the fact that these people in the classes really have no skills at all, it's really, really hard. And earlier on we were talking about the elmering situation, and I think that's a difficulty.
Fred Cady: The other things that we can do take us away from some of the things that we've done in the past, so there may not be the opportunity for new people coming along to tie in with an older ham. On the other hand, our local club has a branch that operates in the local schools, getting middle school kids involved. They like it until they discover the opposite sex, I guess, and then there's a fair bit of operating activity, public service activity. So in that sense, I think the same opportunities are here than they were 40, 50 years ago when we were young.
Fred Cady: But there's still a lot more of things to do. So I don't know. I think the people that are coming in to the hobby today are the ones who have had this hiatus, and maybe they had a license before and went off to college and careers and families, or they had a gruff great-uncle down the block who had his radio when they was a kid, and they want to recover some of that. But it's hard. I don't think that people are any different, I just think they're a lot more busy and they are a lot of things that they have to do.
Fred Cady: My friend, VE3YT, Vic in Ontario, is a mentor for the college age student club at the University of Waterloo, and he says they want to put up an off-center fed dipole and take care of everything, and not understand about, well, jeez, the dipole may be better than an off-center fan. They are almost wanting to have a instant gratification.
Eric Guth: Right. A one size fits all. They want to work on 160 to 450, because some of the radios come that way, right?
Fred Cady: Yeah, right.
Eric Guth: Configured on one antenna.
Fred Cady: Yeah.
Eric Guth: Yeah, but I think that's where the Elmering comes in in terms of where you actually need somebody to provide a guiding hand.
Fred Cady: Right.
Eric Guth: You've written 14 books, I think, on Elecraft radios. They have great reviews. I actually have been moving around the various social media and ham radio sites looking at the reviews of these radios. You might be the most knowledgeable guy outside of Elecraft on their radios. Why are Elecraft radios and not other brands that seem to be equally or more complex?
Fred Cady: The approach I take is that I want to learn the radio works. I started off with me not understanding how the sub-receiver antenna switching was going on based on the owner's manual. I like figuring stuff out. I mentioned earlier on there are various ways people learn. I think I'm a visual learner. I think a lot of people are visual learners. They like to see things. Other people read things, other people learn by doing things. So, I decided, well, if I'm having trouble understanding this, I'm not dumb. So maybe other people could use some help in understanding this the way I don't understand it.
Fred Cady: My first books into it, I wanted to call it the Hitchhiker's Guide to the K3, but Wayne Burdick, N6KR, didn't like that very well. It didn't sound professional. And I thought, "Well, Hitchhiker's Guide, that's kind of fun." But in any event, one thing led to another, I apply, like I say, the things I learned while I was in the classroom to the really textbook forms of an operational manual. "Here's how this works. Here's a little exercise that you can use." You know, David Shove calls them lab exercises. Homework assignments, that kind of thing. So by presenting images in terms of diagrams, text in terms of explanation, and things that you can sit down at your radio and do to submit the learning, I think that's been really why the books I've written have been successful.
Eric Guth: These radios are complex, and not just Elecraft, but I think all of them, all the new ones are complex, because you have a lot of features that you're trying to control with a limited number of buttons on the front panel. So literally, you actually will dissect a control or a feature in the radio and break it down so that by the time that your student who's reading your book is done with the chapter, and done the exercises, then he pretty much knows how to control the radio?
Fred Cady: Yeah. That's pretty much it. And so there you ask about why not other radios, well, that's a lot of work, and I just didn't have the other radios to work with. I'd love to learn more about other radios, but I just don't have them. You can't do this just from the owner's manual. You have to have the thing in front of you. At least, I do. And I have to say, "All right, what does this button do if I push it?" And, "Oh, that's what it does." And, "Here's why it does that." So it's got to be... I may be a visual learner but I'm also a hands-on learner too.
Eric Guth: I think that's a great idea. Actually I hope that people listening will say, "Well, if Fred's not going to write the books on all the other brands, competitive radios out there, that there's an opportunity for someone else to do the same thing," hopefully, and make some of these radios a little bit more accessible. Have you ever thought about doing any YouTube videos or anything like that?
Fred Cady: You know, at one time I tried doing that for a semiconductor company that I was working with, and in developing some of their online learning, and that's not my forte at all. I'd kind of like to. I've got a new project in hand with VE3YT, it's called Authoring, and this is more of a radio agnostic book about how to be successful as a ham radio operator. The thesis being, well, you can turn your radio on, and push the noise blanker, and it does something, but if you understood what the noise blanker did, and why it works in some places and why it works not, you're going to be more successful at using that particular feature of a radio, whether it's a Kenwood, Icom, Yaesu, or whatever. So that's the new thing I'm working on. I forget where I was headed with this, but again, I guess that's applying-
Eric Guth: So that's kind of a Dummies' Guide to HF?
Fred Cady: Well, in a sense. I think it fits between the Ham Radio for Dummies, Ward Silver's book, and ARRL Operator's Manual or handbooks. It will give, say you're a returning ham after many years away, and, "Oh, I'd kind of like to get into DXing. What's the path I should follow in order to get into DXing?" Or, "I want to learn something about... I just want to do VHF public service. What's the path that you follow to learn so that you can be successful at whatever your goal is collecting DXCC?" Or whatever the goal happens to be.
Eric Guth: We see from both DX University and Contest University at Dayton, with increasing numbers of attendees every year, that this kind of learning is actually needed in ham radio, in terms of giving people an opportunity to listen to people who have a lot of experience in person, perhaps, or maybe at some point will even see more of it on YouTube, or on live webinars. But, giving people an opportunity to actually learn from the experts on how to be successful, and I think that's what we all need. We all need a little success at first, I think, to make us feel like we can do it, and do more of it.
Fred Cady: Yeah. I start this off by saying and having a conversation with somebody that says, "If I can talk to anybody around the world on my cellphone, why in the world would I want to do ham radio?" And then my response is, "Well, what about challenge? Challenge is something that gives us satisfaction when we meet the challenge. Here's some really interesting challenges in ham radio. DXing. All the different award programs you can do. QRP operating. Antenna design. There's all these facets of ham radio that are not just talking to somebody around the world, and it can be a challenge for somebody. I think people need, and they like challenges, and you feel good. It's a challenge to get a license in the first place. Didn't you feel pretty good about that?" "Oh, yeah, I did." "So, here's where you can go to get more challenges."
Eric Guth: Well, my response is usually, "It takes a trillion dollars worth of infrastructure in order to make that phone call around the world."
Fred Cady: Right. Right.
Eric Guth: "And with a $50 QRP rig, you can throw a piece of wire out your window and talk around the world without a trillion dollars worth of infrastructure."
Fred Cady: Yep. No, that's right.
Eric Guth: And now this message about WSPRlite from SOTABeams. One of the most interesting innovations from SOTAbeams is the WSPRlite antenna tester. It is a very clever 200 milliwatt WSPRnet transmitter that can be connected to any of your antennas to see how they perform around the world, using the WSPRnet network. The longer the WSPRlite is connected, the more stations will show up on the WSPR website. The WSPRlite comes in two flavors, the Flexi and the Classic. The Flexi requires external low-pass filters, also available from SOTAbeams, whereas the Classic has built-in filters for both 20 and 30 meters.
Eric Guth: These clever devices are USB programmable from your computer or smartphone, and while the WSPRlite is the ideal real-world antenna tester for any ham radio station of any size, it is also quite portable for antenna testing from your SOTA mountaintop or a national park.
Eric Guth: With its accessories, it could be powered for days from a USB power pack. I created a WSPRlite wishlist of the Flexi and accessories available using my special link on the show notes page. This will add to your shopping cart all the pieces needed to make getting the WSPRlite simple and easy. Of course, Richard G3CWI, the proprietor of SOTAbeams, has instructional videos available online to find out more about WSPRlite and all of the amazing SOTAbeams products. Be sure to click on the SOTAbeams link on the show notes page of this episode. SOTAbeams, amateur radio for the great outdoors. And now back to our QSO Today.
Eric Guth: When I think of Montana, I think of the Robert Redford movie, A River Runs Through It. Are you a fly fisherman?
Fred Cady: Oh, I've dabbled a fly in the water a little bit time and again. But I wouldn't say I was really avid about it. But yeah, it's a great sport here in this part of Montana.
Eric Guth: Does it mix with ham radio? Are you taking your radios out into the field?
Fred Cady: No, probably not. If I would go fishing, I would throw the fly rod in the car and go out onto the river and fish. It's probably... You know, I have a mobile in the car, but I don't think they meld together.
Eric Guth: Well, I guess if you've got a six-meter rod you could probably put a wire on the end, and put the KX2 on your chest while you're hitting those flies out there.
Fred Cady: Yeah. There is a great picture about somebody sitting down on some rock somewhere or other, doing just that.
Eric Guth: Do you do a lot of fly fishing or just a little bit?
Fred Cady: No, just a little bit. I haven't really been very active for a few years.
Eric Guth: There's just something about the whole notion. It's kind of a romantic notion that runs through the back of my brain of standing in the river and fly fishing in Montana. We don't have any rivers here that have any fish in them, so I guess I'd have to come to Montana to be able to do that.
Fred Cady: Yeah. You're going to have to do that. You'd enjoy it.
Eric Guth: What kind of impact has amateur radio had on your family life?
Fred Cady: You know, not so much. My daughter got her license. We actually required her to get her ham license before she got her driver's license. This was back before cellphones, so she could call in when she had trouble or anything like that. My wife got her license, but not active, particularly. And both of them have gravitated away from ham radio. My daughter still has her license, but my wife's has elapsed.
Fred Cady: But they've been supportive of me going off on trips and having my cubbyhole down in the basement to go down and operate contest, and do my thing. So there really hasn't been a conflict in the family.
Eric Guth: Do the spouses... They don't go on Team Vertical?
Fred Cady: They did in some of them. But we're pretty focused, and we weren't paying much attention to them. So they said, "Well, we'll just stay home."
Eric Guth: What excites you the most about what is happening in ham radio now?
Fred Cady: I don't know. I get excited about learning new things. The whole digital repeater world is... Having taught microprocessors and all sort of stuff, I'm kind of okay on the computer side of things, but the interconnectivity world is something I want to learn some more about. The whole digital repeater, the DMR radio things, sounds fascinating. I'm interested in looking at that. I'm not big on communicating over it, but I'd like to understand more about how it works, and how to make use of it. I guess that goes back to my whole learning. I really like to learn stuff. So that's where I am, and now, I'm in a condo where I'm not allowed any antennas, and so I'm getting into the remote radio world. I'll probably set up a remote radio station here not far away from where I now live. I'm using one of my friends' radios remotely, which has been fun. And the new digital modes has been interesting. So yeah, there's still a lot to be excited about in ham radio, even after 60 years or whatever it is.
Eric Guth: Yeah. It seems to me that you can drop one thing and then something else pops up. That's quite interesting. We're having a DMR renaissance here in Israel, so I'm excited that we're having a renaissance at all with ham radio here, and DMR seems to be the thing that's supercharging it.
Fred Cady: Yeah. Well, I think the Weak Signal Joe Taylor crowd, WSJT, FT8, is probably also generating a lot of things. I've been doing that for the last couple of weeks, and gosh, there's a lot of really good DX around doing that kind of thing, that it would be hard to hear and work in other times. So yeah, that's interesting.
Eric Guth: That's pretty amazing. What advice would you give to new or returning hams to the hobby?
Fred Cady: I guess don't be afraid to ask questions. Join a club. Get a computer. Having the computer in your station enhances almost every aspect. You say, "Well, gosh, I'd like to talk to Israel today?" Well, what band is open? Well, you can find that on the internet. You could do these other modes of operating.
Fred Cady: So I think joining clubs, and getting a computer, and looking for my new successful ham radio book when it comes out-
Eric Guth: And the 14 others that you've already written on.
Fred Cady: Well, yeah. But that's a specific audience. I'd like to touch a lot more, help a lot more folks.
Eric Guth: Today I read a white paper that you wrote on the N1MM contest logging software, and you made a reference to, and I couldn't find it, maybe it's in the software, of a CW simulator. Was that in the N1MM software? Do you know what I'm talking about?
Fred Cady: Yeah. I haven't followed up on that. I think there's a way to tie... You know, the contest simulators that have been helpful to me is Morse Runner, and Morse Runner looks like this WPX contest. And there's also another CW call sign copying program. But I'm pretty sure there's some hooks between Morse Runner and maybe some other simulator, and N1MM. And I haven't followed up on that to know where that exists. But if somebody wants to be keyboard proficient at N1MM, and no doubt the other programs as well, Morse Runner is the program that I like to use. It's a pileup simulator. You can do all kinds of stuff with it.
Eric Guth: So you could actually sit there, and maybe start at a slower speed, but work your way up to being able to copy code like you're sitting in the middle of the contest?
Fred Cady: Yeah. And you can add in pileups, you can add in noise, yeah. Yeah. There's lots of great stuff.
Eric Guth: That's very cool.
Fred Cady: Yeah. Yeah. It is.
Eric Guth: How about that. Without the embarrassment of throwing yourself out there in a contest weekend.
Fred Cady: Yeah. That's right.
Eric Guth: Well, Fred, I want to appreciate your coming on the QSO Today podcast. Can I ask you, how would people be in touch with you if they'd like to send you a message or to... I mean, one of the things they can do is they can actually leave a message at the bottom of your show notes page, and I'll forward the message to you to make sure that you see it, if they have a question. But what channels are you on that they could reach you?
Fred Cady: Yeah. I think probably the best would be an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. That's email@example.com. My website is www.ke7x.com. So yeah, any of those ways to go.
Eric Guth: Right. And there's all kinds of stuff on your website. I actually went through it, so I'll put up links to both of those in the show notes page, so that if they want to reach out, they can. Again, I want to thank you so much for joining me on the QSO today podcast. It was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot that I didn't know before, and that's always one of the great things about each of these episodes, is I'm learning more about ham radio every day. 73.
Fred Cady: All right. Thanks so much, Eric. Take care.
Eric Guth: That concludes this episode of QSO Today. I hope that you enjoyed this QSO with Fred. Please be sure to check out the show notes that include links and information about the topics that we discussed. Go to www.qsotoday.com and put in KE7X in the search box at the top of the page. My thanks to both Icom America and SOTAbeams for their support of the QSO Today podcast. Please show your support of these fine sponsors by clicking on their links in the show notes pages, or by using QSO Today in the coupon boxes at checkout where it's applicable.
Eric Guth: You may notice that some of the episodes are transcribed into written text. If you'd like to sponsor this or any of the episodes into written text, please contact me. Support the QSO Today podcast by first joining the QSO Today email list, by pressing the Subscribe buttons on the show notes pages. I will not spam you or share your email address with anyone. Become a listener sponsor monthly or annually by clicking on the sponsor buttons on the show notes pages. I am grateful for any way that you show appreciation and support. It makes a big difference.
Eric Guth: QSO Today is now available in iHeart Radio on the iTunes store, and now a host of podcast services and applications. The buttons for these are now on the right side of the show notes pages. Until next time, this is Eric 4Z1UG, 73.
The QSO Today podcast is a product of KEG Media Inc, who is solely responsible for its content.