A Retrospective ...


Atlanticon 2001 was the best ever!

Well, I may be a little prejudiced in that comment <g>, but that's been the resounding flavor of comments coming from attendees departing this third year happening of the Atlanticon QRP Forum.

We had about 135 QRPers attending from up and down the eastern seaboard, with a number of folks traveling as far as from Ontario, Canada and across the country from California.  And of course, two of our speakers came all the way from Great Britain!

For the benefit of everyone who attended, for the enjoyment of those who were not able to make it this year, and for those newcomer QRPers among this list membership who haven't yet experienced the thrill of attending a major QRP weekend, I'd like to recap the weekend activities.  Since there's so much to tell, I'll do so in a number of "parts".  This first installment concerns the illustrious speakers and their intriguing presentations during the 8 hours of QRP-related seminars on Saturday.


We had a wonderful mix of speakers and topics that provided a well-rounded
course of QRP for everyone's enjoyment.

On the technical side, Joe Everhart, N2CX gave us a good healthy dose of basic engineering principles needed to design and build a microvolt signal source.  There's more to it than just haphazardly putting together some resistive dividers, as we all now know.  And the construction of a specialized, rf-tight enclosure plays a big part in the success.

Also quite the technical presentation was the one from Jim Kortge, K8IQY. Jim walked us through the design evolution of his 4017 Transverter ... a great story of design goals, trade-offs and ultimate construction realization of his particular dream.  As Jim says, the idea pops up one day and the design twists, turns and evolves sometimes into something completely different than the original goal.

Fabulous "operating-related" presentations were delivered by Rich Arland, K7SZ and Ron Polityka, WB3AAL.  Rich spun a story replete with great photos that were at times both hilarious and super informative.  I'll tell you folks, we have such a great advocate and friend in this QRPer!

WB3AAL specifically homed in on his Appalachian Trail adventures and gave us all some ideas and challenges for getting out the field.  Ron is one of those guys that just *lives* for operating outdoors!

Steve Ford, WB8IMY is the managing editor of QST, and he brought a story of "PSK31 Operating" to the Atlanticon audience that was lively, current and enthralling. Steve had previously made a recording on CDROM of a bunch of PSK31 activity on 20m and played it back to the audience using his computer projected up to a big screen on the wall.  Everyone got a chance to come up, poke around and ask questions with Steve -- what's this, how do you do that, is this a good signal, etc.

Partway between "technical" and "operating" was the fabulous opening presentation of "the Brits":  Tony Fishpool, G4GIF and Graham Firth, G3MFJ. If you haven't seen/heard these guys in action before, you have no idea of the entertaining and knowledgeable story they present concerning simple circuits that can be built for operating, experimenting, measuring and calibrating.  Their handouts (contained in the Proceedings) are a collectors dream for circuit ideas.  I thing everyone in the audience was itching to get up and build some of the circuits by the time that they  finished their tag-team style presentation.

Also part way between "technical and "operating" was the always-entertaining stories from Chuck Adams, K7QO.  Chuck shared many of his secrets concerning homebrewing "a la Manhattan-style" and the many, many references that his vast experience has accumulated over the years.  Chuck is one of those guys that can tell 15 stories in the course of one breath, and the audience sure let us know their appreciation throughout the rest of the day.

The "piece de resistance" of the speaker line up was the appearance of Dave Benson, NN1G.  During the course of March, Dave had been in the throes of closing on a new home up in Connecticut and getting the current 50-year-old house ready for sale. So it had become increasingly doubtful of his ability to have the time to prepare for and attend Atlanticon this year, despite best opportune intentions.  Well, this QRP Hall of Famer made the 10 hour drive down to see us anyway, arriving mid afternoon and in time to speak for a bit at the conclusion of the talks.  In addition to relating his photos and plans for the new home (which includes a nice big room for his Small Wonder Labs), Dave hosted discussion concerning "Taking the Warbler to Other Bands", and gave the audience some interesting insight to such possibilities.  Notably, a serendipitous crystal was discussed that would be appropriate for 30m operation ... is there a PSK-30 in the near future Dave? :-)

We so very much appreciate each of these speakers and the effort they made in coming to Atlanticon and sharing with all of us QRPers!  And especially want to thank the guys who came from very far away (Chuck, Jim, Graham and Tony), as we all know how much of an effort it is to travel like that.

Those who are able to tell the rest of us about the glories of the QRP experience; the excitement of building and operating; and the thrill of experimenting with radio circuits -- these are the guys we thank from the bottom of hearts for helping to make QRP more than just a hobby.  I certainly feel this way and I think you do too.


The NJQRP sponsored the very popular Yaesu FT-817 all-band, all-mode QRP transceiver.  Vern Wright, W6MMA of SuperAntennas donated one of his fully-loaded MP-1 portable all-band antennas and we combined them together to for the grand door prize drawn at the end of the presentations on Saturday afternoon.

The lucky winner was Paul Gerhardt, K3PG ... congratulations Paul!


The second major event came along on Saturday evening (i.e., after the QRP presentations during the day) .. the building contest and the Beacon contest.

As is the case with many of the QRP weekends held around the country throughout the year, Atlanticon sports a "building contest" on Saturday evening.  QRPers bring their recently-constructed homebrew rigs (commercial kits too) and other projects to these contests in order to show them off and to be judged by a couple of the resident expert speakers at the Forum.

People can (and do!) bring just about every project imaginable ... fromtransceivers, to antennas, to oscilloscopes, to keys and paddles ... no holds are barred!  The way the evening goes is that QRPers start arriving at 7:30 pm and get their projects placed out along the many tables in the large hall we're in.  Throughout the early part of the evening, everyone walks around and looks at the gear, all the while asking questions, oooh'ing and aah'ing over it all, basically getting different ideas for their own project when they return home.

The judging for the "open category" this year was done by the incomparable Jim Kortge, K8IQY and Chuck Adams, K7QO.  This dynamic duo had been duking it out leading up to the weekend in the NorCal-sponsored , and online-chronicled "Iowa QRP-10" Manhattan-style construction project.  Each of these pillars in our QRP community has numerous homebrewing accomplishments under his belt and their own construction quality is "par excellence" ... so their critical eyes were just right for determining the winners here at Atlanticon.

Winners in the Open Category were ...

1) Larry Przyborowski, K3PEG, for his outstanding Manhattan-style construction job with the "4017 Transverter".  This was truly a work of art, replete with highly-polished copper pc material base board, and nicely-angled wires and cables with connectors.  Larry received an EMTECH NW-40 Transceiver Kit for this first place prize winning, donated by the NJQRP Club.

2) John Cawthorne, KE3S, for his Whitman mint-tin sampler collection of circuits.  John's work in renowned within the NJQRP circles, as he brings project-after-project to our monthly club meetings,and each one knocks our collective socks off with his attention to detail.  John received a second place prize of an "MP-1" portable antenna, donated by Vern Wright, W6MMA of SuperAntennas.  (Vern tossed in all the "options" which include a tripod, a VHF collapsible element,  an FT-817 side-mount bracket, and a 75m loading coil.  Wow!

3) John Stratton, AA3SL, for his construction of a NorCal "BLT" Tuner Kit.
John is a high school student to whom Doug Hendricks, KI6DS had given theBLT Kit at last year's Dayton Hamvention.  John clearly was disappointed at not being able to show Doug the result of his work, but we assured him that Doug would most definitely see it!  John received his 3rd place prize of the ARRL Antenna Handbook, donated by ARRL HQ through Rich Arland, K7SZ. [Established this weekend, the NJQRP is working with John and his dad Joe W3JBS on a large-scale "regen" project for a pack of Boy Scouts at his school this summer.]

There were many, many interesting projects presented for judging in the Open category ... check out the website for photos on most of them.

"PSK31 Beacon Contest"

Following the Open Homebrew competition and judging, we conducted the much heralded (and with much trepidation) "PSK31 Audio Beacon" contest.

As a quick backgrounder, we supplied in advance of the weekend a "kit" to all Atlanticon-registered folks, with the intention that they would build the kit and it would be judged and operated there at the weekend.  This year's kit was a single-chip generator of PSK31-encoded audio data streams ... the PSK31 Audio Beacon.  After constructing the Manhattan-style kit, all one need to do was add a 9V battery and a speaker to spew out a pre-recorded string that announced their callsign, a code word and their email address. When done in the presence of a DigiPan running on a laptop with a built-in microphone, the beacon signal could be displayed on the waterfall and decoded to the text box above on the screen.

Although we got the kit into folks' mailboxes only a week or two before the QRP weekend, there were over 40 Manhattan-style beacons completed and ready to warble that Saturday night. The idea was that they would first be judged for quality and innovative construction, just like the projects in the Open category.

There was an incredible variety of clever approaches to constructing the beacons.  From rotating lighthouses and birdcage designs, to Manhattan boards and pads made in the shape of the State of Maine, the entries were just outstanding!

Then came the "operating" part of the contest.  Sort of like a "Fox Hunt", all 40 QRPers grabbed their PSK Beacons and lined up behind a table with NN1G and N2CX manning a laptop computer running DigiPan.  The rules were somewhat flexible, in that one could use any kind of speaker, resonant cavity, directional cone, etc .. and believe me, there was a variety of them all present.

At the announcement of "Gentlemen, start your beacons!" all bedlam broke out as 40 cacophonous PSK31 audio beacon signals wafted through the still night of that unsuspecting hotel.  My ears are still ringing from it!  For 20 minutes, Joe and Dave clicked and "copied" beacon-after-beacon on the computer screen, which was projected up to a large screen on the wall for all to see.  Once one had noticed that his beacon had been successfully copied, he turned it off and stepped back.

Ultimately all beacons were copied, but not all were copied right away and few had "perfect" copy.  There were over-driven signals, overlapping signals, weak signals, off-frequency signals ... "just like in a normal DX pile-up," said Joe N2CX.

This exercise illustrated several points to us all ... the fun of operating narrow-band PSK31, and the dangers of overmodulating in this digital mode.

The combined score of "construction quality" and "operating effectiveness" determined the winners of the Beacon Contest:

1) John Cawthorne, KE3S, took first prize this time for his beautiful construction job and for being one of the earliest and cleanest signals to be copied.  John received a first place prize of a PSK-20 Transceiver, donated by Dave Benson, NN1G or Small Wonder Labs.  (Be sure to take a look at the photo of KE3S in action during the contest, as he had a large wooden-cased speaker and he sported some hefty ear protection!)

2) Mike Korejwo captured second prize with his superb construction and next-in-line signal to be received.  Mike has been participating with the NJQRP meetings since last Fall, and has built a beautiful 4017 Transceiver Kit (among other rigs), yet he doesn't yet have his amateur license!  He's "getting to it as work schedule allows," says Mike.  Now here's a dedicated homebrewer!  Mike took home a PSK-40 Transceiver as his second place prize, donated by Dave Benson, NN1G of Small Wonder Labs.

3) Mark Sailer, N2JTW took home third prize with his resourceful construction of a custom pc board in a novel enclosure, and a relatively high scoring during the operating contest.

4) Honorable Mentions went to "KB2TQX-a" and "KB2TQX-b".  Christine and Marcus are the 10-year-old harmonics of Dave Gwillim, KB2TQX, and they each built a version of the Beacon in a plugboard arrangement ... and independently got them working!  The Gwillim kids were real pleased to each take home an Atlanticon 1999 yellow "FB40" T-shirt.

The Beacon contest was the first ever of its kind and we believe was an unqualified success!  Each contestant (and every attendee, for that matter) will be able to connect his Beacon to an SSB transceiver (with attention paid to applying the correct, low-level audio signals to the mic input) and put his PSK31 beacon on the air.  Pretty neat for a 1-chip circuit!

But perhaps more so than getting a working beacon out of the deal, many contestants mentioned the fact that this was their first Manhattan-style construction project, or their first homebrew project ever!  They commented on the surprising ease of the construction and how they really had nothing to be intimidated about.  Again, pretty eye-opening!

Congratulations to the winners and all contestants!

At last year's Atlanticon we started a tradition of presenting a "Most Outstanding Contribution to QRP Award" to the individual who has most influenced QRPers and ham radio enthusiasts in general throughout the year.

This year we were very pleased to give the award and plaque to DAVE BENSON, NN1G.  His plaque reads: "For innovative and pioneering design of simple, low-cost PSK31 transceivers for the Amateur Radio community.  Your dedication to the technology and contribution to the New Jersey QRP Club has been instrumental in bringing the PSK31 communications mode to thousands of hams worldwide."

Thank you Dave and congratulations!

A sincere "Thank you very much!" goes out to all supporters for their door prize contributions.  These little gestures (and in some cases Big ones), make it ever so enjoyable for the QRPers in attendance.

North Virginia QRP Club --  Autek Research RF Analyst
Paddlette -- PK-1 Paddle with Knee Pad
American Radio QRP Key Mfg Co -- Little Red Keys
Small Wonder Labs -- PSK-xx Transceivers
NJQRP Club -- EMTECH kits, FT-817, MP-1, Squirt, Warbler, 4017 Kit,
Kanga USA -- OXO and ONER Kits
EPAQRP Club -- QRP Calendars
Rich Arland -- QRP books
ARRL HQ -- QRP Books
Greg Johnson Book Co -- FDIM Proceedings
SuperAntennas -- MP-1 with all options
NorCal -- SMK-1 Transceiver, Toroid Kit
Rex Harper W1REX -- QRP tins and proto boards
Kevin Glynn, N2TO -- Astron Power Supply

Thank you all!

A weekend like this doesn't just happen.  It takes many individuals, in a coordinated fashion, to put on a show of this magnitude, and I must say that the NJQRP members who served in staff capacity this weekend were just superb!

Rich Arland, K7SZ, who only just recently become an official NJQRPer, served in a major way this year as our Master of Ceremonies.  Rich graciously off-loaded me from the consuming job of introducing each speaker and presenting the speaker plaques after each presentation, thus allowing me to tend to the other continuous stream of details during the conference.  Rich provided such an enjoyable patter and added a dimension to the all-day seminar activities for which I am so grateful.  Many of the attendees commented very positively about Rich's role.  Thanks!

Dave Porter, AA3UR
headed up the "silent crew" that made everything else happen behind the scenes.  Dave has been stepping up his role in the club over the last 6-12 months, and now has the title of "Atlanticon Pit Boss" on his badge.  Being the major "go to guy" and handler of logistics, table selections, and hotel liaison, Dave assigned and coordinated the other staff members to make the weekend go smoothly!  Thanks Dave!

Another staffer who played an instrumental role was Al Owen, WA3OWT.  Al picked up the "beacon kit captainship" and orchestrated all the programming activity for those receiving their kits anew, or for those wishing to have their beacon strings modified.  Hustling around each evening, often accompanied by his buddy Mike Korejwo, Al was helping others get their beacons built, programming their microcontrollers and helping with general logistics.

Other staffers included: Michael Bower, N4NMR; Ed Lyon N2LRR; John DeGood, NU3E; Ed Roswell, K2MGM; Mike Korejwo, Joe Everhart, N2CX; John Cawthorne, KE3S; Ken Newman, N2CQ; Tim Stabler, WB9NLZ; and Howard Weinstein, K3HW.

Everyone in attendance thanks you for your help in making the weekend happen!

Ordinarily I'd say "Gee, I can't wait for next year's QRP weekend to roll around!"  However this time the wait isn't that long at all. The Fort Smith QRP gang is conducting "Arkiecon" next weekend and it's looking to be just as exciting as this past weekend's Atlanticon. These regional QRP forums are spaced out through the spring, summer and fall such that no matter where you are in the country, you'll be near one of these major QRP events.

There are many little things that happen throughout the weekend -- each of which makes the weekend an even more memorable event for the attendees. Not the least of which is the camaraderie felt.  There aren't many hobbies where you can be among 135 other like-minded individuals sharing a common bond of QRP+Homebrewing+Operating.  Nothing beats the excitement of identifying with each other's successes, and of understanding the subtle nuances of the projects being discussed.  Nothing beats being able to meet and listen to the experts in our hobby "up close and personal".

The time has never been better for being a QRPer, for being exposed to the fabulous skills and talent of others, and to have available the online resources we have in the various QRP lists, the websites and local club gatherings.

There's virtually no reason *not* to take advantage of these QRP events at some point ... so why not reserve a spot at Arkiecon, Pacificon, or any of the other weekends throughout the year?!  You'll sure be glad you did.

73, George N2APB
  for the NJQRP Club at http://www.njqrp.club


For now, here's a growing list of photos of the fun we had.  Check back here from time to time to see additional pics from those who are submitting their individual ones.

Forty beacons blasting away in the "PSK31 audio foxhunt", with operators looking up at a projected DigiPan computer display, each looking for their call to be copied by ops N2CX and NN1G at the computer.

Panning to the right at more beaconers.

And still a further pan to the right.

Joe Everhart, N2CX and Dave Benson, NN1G at the console .. notice the ear plugs being used!

KC1FB "lighthouse beacon" elegance in action.

And a close-up of the KC1FB "Lighthouse"

And a close up of KE3S brute force beacon ... no wonder he's wearing ear protection, get a load of that speaker! (John Cawthorne was the overall winner of the Beacon Contest (quality + operating).

And speaking of speakers, Wadie WA2ZRE is holding up the family's stereo system's speaker!

Homebrew Contest judges Jim Kortge and Chuck Adams K7QO checking out the work of Marcus Gwillim, young son of Dave Gwillim, KB2TQX.

Dave Gwillim, KB2TQX beacon

And a close-up of Marcus' beacon handiwork  

... and of his sister Christine's

Larry Przyborowski, K3PEG was the winner of the Homebrew "open" category with his "K8IQY 4017 Transverter" masterpiece.

Mike Korejwo took 2nd place in the Beacon Contest with his combined quality and operating success.

This highschool youngster, John AA3SL, took second prize with his work on a NorCal BLT Tuner Kit, given to him by Doug Hendricks, KI6DS at last year's Dayton.

And a close-up of the AA3SL BLT construction

Tony WW2W beacon

Tim Stabler WB9NLZ won last year's grandprize of an Elecraft K2 ... and here it is put together ... nice job Tim!!

Here's Craig LaBarge WB3GCK manning the EPAQRP table

And Carter Craigie, N3AO explaining some subtleties to an interested party.

Bob Okas' W3CD "birdhouse" beacon!  Press the button and the bird starts warblin' :-) ... and Bob played a mean mandolin with us after the crowds cleared around midnight on Saturday evening!

Here's the Gary McCaughey W2UX beacon

Rex Harper, W1REX built his rotating speaker cone "lighthouse" beacon all in the shape of the State of Maine, even the Manhattan-pads!  (errr, Portland Pads?:-) 

 John DeGood NU3E spent lots of time manning the NJQRP Table on Saturday night

Mark Sailer, N2JTW worked up a beautiful version of the beacon on a custom-designed circuit board, built into a great enclosure.  Mark took 3rd place in the Beacon contest!

Emil Tilona, KD1F built up this 40-40 transceiver ... and was the QRPer who worked up this custom pcb version of the Beacon

Check out this tuned port speaker enclosure from KC2TY

Greg Lawrence, W2JWM recently started his own QRP book distribution company and set up table on Friday and Saturday evenings ... much to the pleasure of the QRPers.

Gil Kost, W3MKE and his American Radio QRP Key Manufacturing Company was able to make it to Atlanticon for the rd straight year!  Thanks Gil!

Here's the collection of projects presented at the seminar by Tony Fishpool, G4WIF and Graham Firth, G3MFJ

And here's Graham, G3MFJ himself!

Graham brought along an Atlas Component Analyzer that identifies and measures any semiconductor connected to its 3 leads

Dave Markheim's W2QU beacon

Brian Williams' AA3WM beacon

Dave Porter, AA3UR blasting away in the Beacon Contest.

Steve Ford, WB8IMY and Dave Benson, NN1G hanging out during the Beacon judging

Larry Przyborowski's, K3PEG winning entry in the Open Homebrew judging: a beautiful version of the 4017 Transverter.

Here's a collection of the Master Homebrewer's (Jim Kortge, K8IQY)

John Yeager's, W8LBY beacon

Elmar Vaher's K2EL beacon

AA2VK Photo Directory

N1BQ Photo Directory

WB3AAL Photo Directory

W1REX Photo Directory


Last Modified: April 4, 2001