How low can you go?
Cy Stanway, K2CYS

When I was but a wee ham radio tyke, we used to lament how it was impossible to break a pile up on some DX-pedition because we were not using the ‘California Killowatt.”  The California Killowatt, if you don’t know, is the alleged 1500 watts that the stations in California seemed to be using (since they were getting all the contacts) but it was more true that their ‘kilowatt’ (1000 watts) sounded more like 4000 watts!

My, how things have changed.

Though high power is nice, especially for the long-haul DX stations or trying to run a wide area net, I have found more and people experimenting with the polar opposite of QRO (high power) — QRPp – very, very low power.

We are not talking 5 watts of low power.  In the QRP (low power world), 5 watts is considered a lot of power!  We are talking 2 watts, 1 watt, or 100 mW!  And, in is in that area that I have begun to play around.

Most of us are familiar with PSK-31 which enable effective keyboard-to-keyboard communications with low power – usually 20 watts or so.  As well, there is JT65 and JT9 – two very low-power modes originally designed to bounce signals off the moon.  Each transmission in these modes is 42.8 seconds and effective communications can be had with 5 watts or less.  Of course, each transmission is limited to 13 characters so this is not a high content QSO mode.

Lately, I have been playing with WSPR as have several people in the club.  It is fascinating.  Using very low power (about a watt, in my case) and with a simple dipole, I am heard around the world on 40 meters when conditions are right.  There was an interesting article in the May 2017 QST (page 41) on the mode and so I decided to give it a try.  I was amazed.

I wired up the Rigblaster Advantage to the KX3, turned the power to about 1 watt, downloaded the software, opened the map, watched a quick YouTube video so I could get an idea of what I was doing, set up the software and waited 2 minutes.  It was pretty impressive.  The first time I saw my 1 watt signal was hear in Slovakia, I was, as they say in England, ‘gobsmacked’!

Of course, it WSPR is not a traditional way of having a QSO.  It is a tool for propagation.  What did I learn?  Well, one this is that if I get up at 4 am I can work ZL and VK.  I think I will hold off on that one for a while!