This post is about 98% ham radio, and 2% Linux. Jump to the bottom for the Linux related stuff.
I got to participate this past summer in a really excellent ham radio event. This event is of interest to anyone who likes camping, QRP radio, and lobster. While to the uninitiated that might seem a narrow audience, you’d be surprised — a robust crowd attended this year’s LobsterCon at the Thomas Point Beach & Campground, in Brunswick Maine.
I had attended this event once before, in 2007, accompanied by my son Dave. We had a great time, even though Dave is not a ham radio operator, nor does he particularly like to eat lobster. As this summer approached, I floated the idea of a camping trip, mostly born out of a desire to use the tent we had bought in 2007 at least twice before it succumbed to terminal mildew. Dave was on board with the idea, and we made our reservations.
The week in early July arrived, and we drove up on a Thursday and set up our campsite. We had our nearly-new, non-mildewy tent for sleeping , and a lovely 10×10 screen house for reading and operating. I set up a vertical wire monopole for 20 meters, which is not visible in the photo below because it is just a thin vertical wire, or it was not up at the time we took the photo, I don’t recall which.
In addition to the normal events that make LobsterCon a lot of fun, there were two special events that made this year extraordinary. The first was the “Tuna Tin 2” Buildathon. Some background is in order.
The Tuna Tin 2 was a home brew transmitter project designed and presented by Doug DeMaw, W1FB, in 1976. Doug was a brilliant designer of low power ham gear, and a prolific writer. The Tuna Tin 2 project was published in the May 1976 QST (the magazine of the American Radio Relay League) as an easy to build project that could be built on the lid of an empty tuna can, out of parts readily available from Radio Shack (at the time.) [I realize that this paragraph contains enough material for about 6 serious digressions, but we are going to try to stay focussed and push on.]
Now back to Lobstercon: Rex Harper, W1REX, is the organizer of LobsterCon, and also a commercial producer of many fine ham radio related kits that appeal to the low power operator. One of the most popular of these kits is the Tuna Tin 2 35th Anniversary Edition, which comes with parts and a circular printed circuit board that does indeed fit snugly on top of an empty tuna can. As part of the LobsterCon festivities this year, Rex provided parts for a TT2 “buildathon”, where as many people as wanted could build transmitters on whatever frequency they favored. The intention was to get a world’s record for the largest number of TT2’s on the air at one time. It certainly seemed within reach.
About 20 people made kits, and I believe about 14 of them were functional right out of the gate. I don’t know how many were put on the air simultaneously the following day. But the building was great fun, and went on far into the night under electric lights. Here is a video showing the build event. This video starts as slide show, then goes to live action at about 2 minutes in. Pay particular attention to the two gentlemen in which shirts with a red lobster print.
That was Dave doing the happy dance at the end of the video; he successfully built a very nice TT2 on 40 meters. I was providing the test receiver and key for testing the builds.
The second really cool thing that happened at LobsterCon this year was the attendance of Ed Hare, W1RFI, head of the technical lab at ARRL headquarters. Ed brought with him a priceless relic: the Original Tuna Tin 2 built by Doug DeMaw. Apparently the original had somehow been lost from the ARRL lab many years ago, only to turn up at the swapmeet at an ARRL New England Regional Convention in Boxboro MA, where Ed bought it for one dollar. We got to view, hold(!), and for short while put on the air this piece of QRP history.
A few of us got to hold the original TT2 for a few moments — an amazing opportunity.
Alas, no one knows what became of the cat.
A much more detailed blog entry by Peter, N1ABS concerning the TT2 can be found here:
Something you will not find any where else however is this extremely rare, never before seen footage, of the first ever TT2 Mojo Ceremony. The solemn rite bestows some of the QRP mojo of the Original TT2 onto a newly built kit before it goes on the air. Only time will tell if this ritual becomes a tradition a future LobsterCons.
Now we get to the Linux part.
The videographer and narrator of that video clip is our good friend, Pete VE2XPL. Pete turns out to be one of the co-hosts of an excellent podcast called “Linux in the Ham Shack”, which is about using Linux in the ham shack…
You can find more information here: Linux in the Ham Shack
So after meeting Pete, and hearing about the podcast, I had to go find it and listen to a few. I really like them, and more importantly, it got me thinking about getting back into Linux and migrating off my WinXP box.
So those lobsters are really the reason you’re reading this now.