As the days get cooler, the Hardware Addict begins to question his choices about what to do at the station; instead of putting up those new Beverages, maybe we should have taken down those monster 40-meter Yagis and replaced them with something more modest. In our amateur world of seat-of-the-pants engineering, we wonder what those 40-meter Yagis will look like after a bad ice storm. Then our minds spin, playing out scenarios of taking them down when they're split in half. There are just not enough hours in a day sometimes. As if Sweepstakes was not enough, Thanksgiving wastes no time in rolling around, and we have to pause to consider what we're thankful for. We're thankful for CQ Worldwide. And I hope there isn't an ice storm during CQ Worldwide.
Wouldn't You Know
The Hardware Addict and I leave for the Caribbean in 10 hours so that we can make lots of contacts in lots of countries. Before we go, we realize the rest of the contesting world needs to hear about N9IW, the rather spectacular station of Tim Gustafson. Tim has built an off-the-shelf multi-tower station which he can access by remote control over the Internet from his wireless laptop. When I think that N5OT is 16 miles away from where the Hardware Addict and I actually reside, I wonder sometimes if those trips up the hill are really necessary - remote control over the Internet sounds good sometimes!
Tim has proven the robustness of N9IW through thousands of HF contest QSOs on phone and CW. Subsequently he has demonstrated it at local and regional contest club meetings. He piqued the interest of NCJ Editor Carl, K9LA (see his editorial) - and the Hardware Addict had his work cut our for him.
A Normal Guy
We caught up with Tim and struck up a conversation. Tim is a normal guy and confesses that contesting is not his main focus in life. He grew up in Western Springs, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. At age 13 he built his first ham station. As a married adult he moved into a high rise in downtown Chicago, during which time he would get on the air from his original station at his parent's house.
When mom and dad decided it was time for the antennas to go, Tim built a big station 250 miles north in Sister Bay, Wisconsin. "I would drive up north almost every weekend to enjoy the beauty of Door County where I spent my childhood summers."
... and get on the air, I'm sure.
Another One Bites the Dust
"A few years ago I read an article about remote controlling an HF station," Tim relates. "The article piqued my curiosity. I was currently living in a condo in downtown Chicago, and my station was located 250 miles to the north."
"I was in the process of upgrading the antennas and wanted the opportunity to play radio other than just on the weekends I went north. A remote station fit the bill." Here again, the Hardware Addict and I can only imagine what that would be like. Surely this is not an undertaking for the faint-hearted, or to quote John Battin, K9DX, "If you're controlling your radio directly, and you have a [modem] drop out, you're in deep trouble."
Tim continued, "My first goal was to make sure every piece of equipment I used had the ability to be computer controlled." He e-mailed us a block diagram of the station so I could get an idea of all the various components that had to be drawn together into the system. Our first reaction was how much common sense it made. I asked Tim if one of the design criteria was that it could be duplicated with off-the-shelf components. Tim responded with an emphatic yes.
Makes sense, doesn't it?
For the complete version of this article as published in the NCJ, view the pdf version.