Thursday, October 22, 2009

EchoLink node in Workington

After lunch I was tuning around the top end of 40m looking for the four Norwegians who had been spotted activating some minor SOTA hump in Scotland when I heard Tony, G6YWL calling CQ and decided to reply to him. We had an interesting chat for over half an hour.

Tony is an enthusiast of Vespa scooters and has travelled all over the UK and Europe on them. His web page has several photos of them. I rather liked this one.

Later I was listening on 2 metres and was surprised to come across a signal on the odd frequency of 145.3375 (it's always surprising to hear a signal here on 2 metres, even one of the three locally accessible repeaters.) I was even more dumbfounded to discover that I was listening to a contact between UA3ECF and someone in Ireland, and the UA3 was a 59 signal!

When the contact finished I tried calling the UA3 but no-one came back to me. After a while Keith, G0EMM came on and told me that I was hearing his EchoLink node G0EMM-L in Workington. He explained that I needed a 77Hz CTCSS tone to access the node, which is why no-one had replied to me. I would also need a DTMF key pad if I wanted to connect to specific stations or conferences on EchoLink. I was glad of the explanation as I was starting to doubt my sanity and wondering if I'd witnessed some amazing propagation or whether my K3 receiver was somehow re-radiating 40m on the 2m band!

I'm not anti-EchoLink although I dislike the CQ100 VOIP system. EchoLink is at least intended to link together stations using real radio, bringing life to dead repeaters. And it does it in a way that is compatible with most existing equipment, unlike D-Star, so it should be encouraged in order to prevent the subversion of aspects of our hobby by commercial interests trying to promote sales of a certain manufacturer's equipment.

This part of the world could do with something to stir up a bit of VHF activity. When you can hike up a small mountain with a clear take-off for hundreds of miles, make fruitless calls through half a dozen different repeaters and log just two contacts, it's hard to argue that an EchoLink node is unwelcome. In fact it could provide a way for me to chat with some readers of this blog for whom a direct radio contact would be impractical. But having the ability to use the HF bands and have chats like the one I had earlier with G6YWL I probably won't be making much use of it.
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