The Golden Age of Low Power Radio
by Ron Chester ★ Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The golden age of QRP (low power radio) might have been in the late 1990's. The Norcal QRP Club was very active with monthly meetings after every Livermore Swap Meet, where radio designers and builders met to discuss and demonstrate the latest radios. Their quarterly journal, QRPp, was still being published, which made it possible for people from all over the US and the world to participate. This was a period of great creativity, sharing and frequent new milestones being achieved in the radio arts. Eventually Las Positas College stopped making their parking lots available for the swap meets and then the Norcal meetings nearby stopped happening. 

Now in 2016 there seems to be a resurgence in low power radio among some of those same people, as well as a new generation of radio adventurers. Tons of hams are hiking up mountain tops to activate new Summits on the Air and others are operating from National Parks all over the country to help celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the National Park Service. This trend is likely to continue with the recent release of the Elecraft KX2 trail friendly HF radio.

2016 Elmer 101 Series

There are still many hams who want to learn about how these radios work and a very popular training program from 1998, the Elmer 101 Series, is being revived, this time with a SW30+ CW Transceiver being the focus for learning. The latest incarnation of this very popular learning program is being presented by Joe Everhart N2CX and George Heron N2APB on their Chat With the Designers website. This looks to be a reprise of the time they did it starting in April 2015, but with a gorgeous red enclosure this time from AA0ZZ and the Freq-Mite frequency readout (which was also a Dave Benson design) at a special discount price from the Four State QRP Group. True VFO: 35-40 KHz coverage [10.1-10.135 MHz], so you have all but the very top of the band, the last 10-15 KHz to 10.15 MHz. Output power is adjustable to 2.5W max. If you'd rather have more power, it would be easy enough to add a power amplifier between the SW30+ and the antenna, for a full ten watts out.

Background Documentation

The original Elmer 101 Series was developed and rolled out on the QRP-L mailing list in 1998, and documented in the Autumn 1998 issue of QRPp, the Journal of the Northern California QRP Club.

All of the documentation for these exciting times has been preserved and is now being presented again online. The entire run of the QRPp journals have been scanned and are available for free on their own website. This is a fantastic resource, as the original copies of the journals have become much harder to find. The original course materials are still available from the website of KU4QO, and Dave Benson, K1SWL, has assisted with a revised edition of his SW40+ transceiver which was used in the original course, but this time for 30 meters.

If you didn't get to participate in the original days, now is a good time to get involved in these new activities. There is still a good spirit of sharing and cooperation and the QRP-L mailing list is still active.  Join up at QRP-L and the CWTD website and get involved!