Over the last week or so, I've been coming home from work nearly every morning thinking about ways to tweak the Clackamas (FDIM 2010 QRP Challenge) rig. I'm sure that Jennifer is wondering if I have OCD at this point. This morning I was able to stamp out the last few bugs in project and get the parts count to 72. There was a nasty PA oscillation that I had to tame and I was having trouble pulling my carrier oscillator low enough to get the transmitted signal on the right sideband. Somewhat satisfied that the thing might actually work, I went to sleep with the hope that I could try a QSO this evening when 40 meters would give me a better chance of making a QSO.
After dinner I managed to slip into the shack after Jennifer laid down to rest and I bribed Baxter to leave me alone with a Kong full of treats. I thought about trying to self-spot in order to scare up a QSO, but that didn't seem right. I wanted the first QSO to stand on the rig's own merits, not because I asked someone to listen for me. So I parked somewhere near 7030 kHz and started banging out a straight key CQ with 1 watt output. After about 5 rounds of CQ, I started getting the sneaking suspicion that I had screwed something up, but I trusted that my pre-QSO checks on the rig were correct. So I kept at it.
After a few more CQs, I finally got my reward. A huge signal about blasted the phones off of my ears! And it was saying my callsign! I got a reply from W7MDK in Peck, ID. I was so excited that the QSO didn't go so great, but we got all of the pertinent information across. He was going a bit faster than I normally copy, and I think my speed was impaired even further because of my extreme excitement. Dick gave my 1 watt a 579, while he was easily 40 dB over S9 here. I cut the QSO short to stop me from embarrassing myself further, but I got the first one in the log!
It's said that there isn't much better for the homebrewer than to turn on that newly created receiver and hearing signals off the air for the first time. It's hard to argue with that, but I think that making a complete first QSO with a rig you designed and built yourself has to top even that experience. Sorry to toot my own horn so shamelessly, but I'm just thrilled with the love of radio right now.
The next steps are to get going on the documentation for the judges, get the prototype into an enclosure, and start working on a second copy of the rig to make sure I can duplicate it from the schematic. I can't wait to share the design details with everyone, but that's going to have to wait for another month or so. In order to get the rig within the required parts count, I had to trim the receiver down to 34 parts. The transmitter ended up being 30 parts and the VXO came in at 8 parts. However, I was able to make the Clackamas a true transceiver, not just a trans-receiver.
Stay tuned for additional details as I can release them!
Update: Just worked JF2QNM in the JIDX contest. 1 watt spans the Pacific! Of course, all of the credit goes to the op on the other end, but it's still really gratifying to have your HB 1 watt signal make a nice hop like that.