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Ramblings on UO-14 courtesy, etc.

I got home from a meeting last night, and since the computer had been
left on, I decided to fire up STS-Plus to see if any birds were in
range before shutting everything off for the evening.  To my surprise,
UO-14 was 30 seconds away from coming into range.  So I fired up the
radio, swung the antenna to the correct direction, twirled the memory
knob on the FT-847 to the UO-14 slot I had programmed in a few days
earlier, and there it was.  The signal was excellent, except for the
regular, brief, extremely deep fades.  (Antennas are horizontally
polarized yagis without elevation.)  I heard a lot of folks make
a lot of contacts.  I missed the station in Mexico that I really
wanted, but did manage to complete one exchange just before LOS with
a Canadian station.  This got me to thinking about some of the
messages flying back and forth on the reflector.

John Mock wrote:
 > Informal exchanges dominate the J-FM birds, and usually it is just the
 > callsign and the grid square.  Sometimes a full exchange is given, but
 > often a three-way or even two-way exchange suffices for the activity
 > awards.  When a regular activates a rare grid, that operator usually
 > knows the other regulars by voice and/or suffix, and a full callsign is
 > just a waste of valuable satellite air-time.  We know definitively who
 > we're talking to.

You know the old saying about "old habits die hard".  For those of us
who have been active VHF/UHF weak-signal operators awhile and are just
getting started on the satellites, it is habit (and contest rules for
those of us that have been in such contests a few times) that urges
us to send our callsign and grid and repeat the other station's
callsign and grid.  Also, for a valid 2-way QSO (to qualify for a QSL
card), one theoretically needs to do the same.  I realize that in the
short time available for a single pass, that slows things down quite
a bit, and taking the shortcut of "I already know this guy's call and
grid because I've heard him give it out 3 times" makes use of the
precious pass time more efficiently.

 > I have no problem people quickly giving out a grid square, it helps one
 > know who to contact and in the long run avoids excessive traffic.  For
 > example, i'll avoid answering CMxx and DMxx stations on transcontinental
 > passes from CM87 as i know i can probably work them on a 'local' pass.
 > If more people would do that, then more people could use the J-FM birds.
 > I like to get a name from unfamiliar operators, unless they've already
 > said it a couple times during the pass.  That helps me find errors in
 > callsigns and confirm good guess as to what the correct call was.

Which is why (at least for terrestrial contacts), it is standard to
pass all that information both ways, to insure that the contact is
really a valid 2-way contact.  Getting part of the call and filling
it in from a callsign database isn't considered a valid 2-way contact,
though I am sure most of you already know that.

 > My feeling is that the activity awards may not make sense on J-FM birds,
 > since they get too much activity already, or maybe need to be modified to
 > not count duplicative contacts.  The rule for 'rovers' in the terrestrial
 > VHF and above weekend contests seem to be fair ones for that; at least
 > one station needs to be in a different grid square for additional contacts
 > between those two stations to be counted.  And encourages people activate
 > rare or uncommon grid square.  So that's one rule that might help.

I agree with these thoughts.  The single-channel FM birds just don't
have enough capacity for QSO's to clog them up with contacts that
could be made without their help, nor to support folks who are intent
on making every contact possible while the bird is above their radio
horizon to the exclusion of everyone else.

 > A rule saying about making only N contacts per pass discourages rare grid
 > squares.  Are people going to drive for hours (or operate maritime mobile
 > or hike in), just to be on the air for a few contacts?  I doubt it. Better
 > to say you can answer (and take credit for) as many stations as you wish,
 > but only *initiate* N calls per pass on J-FM birds (and not ID too often).
 > That will encourage roving and also good operating practices, as those
 > stations will be the ones receiving the calls rather than making them.
 > And reduce the duplicative contacts.  So that's another rule that might
 > help.

Another sound idea.  Just as it is rude to "shout louder than everyone
else" to become the center of attention, it also seems unfair to me to
be required to refuse to answer folks who are calling you.  Maybe they
are looking for their first contact, or their first QSO in a grid that
is new to them, or whatever.  And maybe the satellite is just about
to drop below their local horizon.  It would be a shame to ignore the
call.  Seems like common sense to me, but wasn't it Benjamin Franklin
who once said something like, "I don't know why it's called common
sense, since it seems to be the least common of all the senses" ?

 > Let's work on making this more fun for everyone concerned.  And have rules
 > or conventions/customs which encourages good operating procedures without
 > penalizing those stations who simply make lots of contacts because they
 > run an excellent station (e.g. a category i someday hope to qualify for).

Getting more enjoyment out of the hobby.  What a radical concept!
And enjoyable for people on both ends of the QSO!  How could anyone
vote AGAINST that idea?!?!?!?

I've only been involved in amateur satellite operation for a short
time, and the allure of the FM birds has already been lost on me.
Yeah, it was terrific making my first long-distance satellite QSO
from Minnesota to a station in Alaska using an FT-50R handheld.  And
I understand why the QRP folks still get a blast out of working the
FM satellites with their HT's in the middle of nowhere.  But I am
the kind of ham that prefers to actually TALK to someone for more than
a few seconds, as can be done on the SSB birds, and as should become
commonplace with the non-LEO Phase 3D satellite.  I will probably
continue to use the FM birds for a few "cheap thrills", but plan to
devote more energy to improving my station for the birds with linear
transponders, or with high Phase 3 orbits.  (I better watch out, it
was 60 degrees in Minnesota on the last day of February, and all
the snow has melted.  I guess I don't have much of an excuse to
NOT climb the tower and install the elevation rotor that's sitting
in the box awaiting its new home!)

Best wishes to all from this corner of the world.  Keep your sights
high (in more ways than one)!

John Toscano, KBØZEV
EN34js, Apple Valley, MN, USA

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