Category Archives: Amateur Radio

The Mike and Key Amateur Radio Club Swap Meet is next weekend in Puyallup, WA

The 36th annual Mike and Key Amateur Radio Club Electronics Show and Fleamarket will be held next Saturday, March 11th at the Washington State Fairgrounds in Puyallup, WA.

This is one of the best amateur radio events in Washington state and one that I look forward to every year. A couple years ago I came home with a working Hameg HM-507 analog+digital oscilloscope (pictured above) for a hundred bucks!

I have a table at the swap meet this year, and I’ll be selling Geiger counter kits, misc. electronics, and amateur radio gear. Look for the MightyOhm banner.

I hope to meet some local folks there!

Surplus Summit 2012 Part One: Los Angeles

Testing 47GHz radios
(Photo: Tony KC6QHP testing out his 47GHz amateur radio. Remember this post? All that work paid off, the radio works!)

Last month I cashed in some airline miles and finally got to visit some old friends and spend some time in beautiful Southern California. Some long-time readers of the blog may remember the last time I did something like this in 2009.

While I was there I visited my good friend Tony in Los Angeles, and we went on a tour of surplus electronics and swap meets that we called Surplus Summit 2012.

Continue reading Surplus Summit 2012 Part One: Los Angeles

New call sign, RIP KF6PBP

I got my amateur radio license on December 31st, 1997.

I was an undergraduate at the time. My friend and classmate Tony (KC6QHP) had been trying to convince me to get my ham license for months.

I finally decided to go for it over winter break. I picked up a copy of Now You’re Talking! from a local bookstore (remember those?) and crammed for a week. I took the test the following weekend and passed with a perfect score, 35/35. (The morse code requirement for the Technician license was eliminated in 1991.)

That Christmas I got a Kenwood TH-79A/D, a very modern-looking radio at the time. (I still think it looks great, but it has aged poorly, the controls are scratchy and the battery becomes disconnected easily.) I nervously waited for my new call sign to show up in the FCC database. (This was before the ULS existed, but there was a website where you could see the call signs that were issued each day.)

Imagine my horror when on December 31st my name came up listed next to the call




What’s wrong with that, you say? Sound it out. K F 6 P B P. Imagine trying to make a contact on the air with that call. PBB? BPP? PPP? I have even had operators struggle with the phonetic version (Papa Papa Bravo? No, Papa Bravo Papa. Easy, right? Wrong.) I remember some old-timers trying to console me when I first got my license by coming up with clever mnemonics such as “Peanut Butter Pretzels”, which I still chuckle at.

Admittedly, my frustration level has always been kept in check by the fact that I have never been very active on the air, and most of the contacts I have made have been with friends who had memorized my callsign anyway.

This year, after having the callsign KF6PBP for over 13 years, I finally decided to do something about it. I applied for a vanity call sign.

But which call to apply for? I’m an Amateur Extra now (I tested for General and AE in 2009 and 2010, respectively), so I could have tried to get one of the much-fought over 1×2 or 2×1 callsigns (like K6RF, W6TC, etc). I didn’t see any that were worth fighting (and waiting) for. So, I decided to take a different approach and searched for an easy-to-get 1×3 callsign that reflected my personality or interests. I found a few that I liked and narrowed them down to 2 candidates (one favorite and a backup in case someone else applied for the same call and I didn’t get it).

As luck would have it, I got my first choice. Last night, I was granted the new call sign


It feels a little bit weird to be saying goodbye to the call sign I’ve held for so long, but I’m looking forward to operating with my new call with fewer corrections. (The phonetic version has a nice ring to it – Whiskey 6 Oscar Hotel Mike.)

I’m getting back into amateur radio these days, so expect to see more posts on the subject. Maybe I’ll even get to chat with some readers of the blog on the air?

(Are you a ham?  Leave a comment!)


Surplus Electronics Wiki Growing Fast

The past few weeks have seen a lot of activity on the MightyOhm Wiki!

Since it was mentioned on the Make: blog last week, helpful readers have been making significant contributions every day.

One highlight of the wiki is the Surplus Electronics Resources page, which I first posted about in February.  It has more than quadrupled in size since then and now includes surplus shops in the United Kingdom and Canada in addition to dozens in the United States.  If you haven’t seen this page yet, you should definitely check it out.

If you don’t see your favorite electronics surplus store on the list, please add it!  Several of these “junk shops” close every year due to rising rents and competition online.   Anything we can do to keep them in business will benefit the maker community.  One way to do this is by making sure that folks know that these resources exist, and this is where I hope the wiki will help.

I want to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who has been contributing to the wiki.  In particular, thanks for making it one of the best directories of electronics surplus stores on the web!