I enjoyed ham radio for about 7 or 8 years before the QRP bug bit. I enjoyed the stateside contacts, the DX, the contests and had done 5BWAS, 5BDXCC, and USA-CA. As a kid I had the urge to play with electronic equipment. In those days it was usually bells and electromagnets. Even in the ham environment I liked the thought of building my owngear. However I have no real training in electronics. Sorry my degrees are in the easier fields of Math and Statistics. But I did get a bit of electronic theory in college physics courses.
Some time in early 1997. I got stared in QRP seriously. I stumbled across the QRP-L group on the Internet. This is a great Internet group with very little infighting typical of many internet groups. It also covers a very broad range of interests. They cover everything from homebrew equipment to operating. And they sure do dream up some of the most interesting contests. I build the miconaut transmitter that appeared in CQ magazine that spring. By the time field day came around I had gotten more serious and build my first real QRP rig - the Sierra, put out by Wilderness Radio. Around Christmas of 1997 I started playing around a bit at the 500 mWatt level. I had used the lower power levels a bit for field contests, and the Sierra puts out only about 2.5 watts at full power. What surprised me was how well the signal got out. I was getting 559, 579, and even 599 from mobile stations in MS. That launched me on operating at even lower power levels.
Those not familiar with QRP work think that cutting the power to 5 watts means a huge loss on the signal strength. That is not as true as it seems. Cutting power in half cuts the signal down 3 db. A 6 db cut drops the signal one S unit. Now the math is rather simple. If I can get a 579 report at 100 watts then I should be getting a 559 report at 5 watts. Even some QRPer will say your signal is too weak to send CQ if you are running QRP. Not true and the numbers show it. In the November 1998 Sweepstakes on Friday night I held a frequency on 80 meters for over two hours without anyone trying to take the frequency away. They could all either hear me or knew someone was running on that frequency. And this was not up at the high in of the band but rather in prime territory around 3.535 MHz.
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