We’re Moving Forward, even during the Era of the Pandemic…

The fact is that many of us lose touch, tied-up by our everyday routine. Especially during today’s times, when we are all tired from the Pandemic’s impact on our lives, being locked down, and inside, for a long time. The sense of “I could have done more” is always strong in creative people. In combination with all that is happening around us, this feeling can grow and overwhelm you. So, that’s mostly why we’ve remembered what we’ve done so far and have put these accomplishments in order. Everything we have accomplished from 2019, after we ran the CQ WPX SSB contest,…until today.

Let’s not forget that SZ1A is entirely the result of the efforts of friends and members. More correctly put, it’s the outcome of all of those who have believed in the common vision:

To build a great club station that on the one hand will be a model and an example for the creation of similar stations and on the other hand will promote the idea of ​​contesting in Greece and around the world. We want to try things, to make attempts, to make accomplishments, to do things so that we leave a legacy not of gossip and misery, but one of creation. That is why we offer through our site the knowledge we acquire, and why we also offer the station itself, to everyone, for free! Without distinguishing “good and bad” operators, only trying to hold the flag of Amateur Radio, and in the end all that SZ1A stands for, up high!

The funds that are gathered by our organization, RAAWG, from member subscriptions are minimal and just barely cover very basic maintenance expenses of the station. If it were not for all of those who offered and “sacrificed” towards the dream, nothing would have progressed all of these years. Members and friends, all people who have something in common: we dream big and we do not allow ourselves to become stagnant & miserable…

The era of the pandemic makes one most susceptible to misery and stagnation. And because inaction and misery does not suit us and has never characterized us, let’s look at some of the things we have accomplished during this difficult period, but also what was left behind due to the quarantine…

We want to try things, to make attempts, to make accomplishments, to do things so that we leave a legacy not of gossip and misery, but one of creation …. trying to hold the flag of Amateur Radio, and in the end all that SZ1A stands for, up high!

Shack

In 2019 we had decided that the weight of our efforts during the year would be focused on upgrading the shack. Many times we had various minor problems, sometimes times with the computers, other times with headsets and interfaces, etc. So we decided to do nothing else, as the saying goes, unless we fix the shack.

The Shack has six operating positions & workstations. Three were almost fully kitted out with equipment, while the other two had shortages, and the final one had almost nothing. Let’s see what we’ve done in order:

Operating Position 1 (Run 1):

  • Maintenance, battery replacement, cleaning and an addition of a new graphics card (gift from Kostas SV1CQG) to the PC. Two of the existing 22″ monitors were also connected to the PC.
  • Our brand new Microham MKIII (donated by Andy SV1DKD) was installed at station 1, together with the Mark V field and the interlock was connected.
  • Giannis SV1PMQ donated a nice office chair for the Run station.
The brand new Microham MKIII with the FT1000 MK-V at SZ1A
  • The Kenwood TS950SDX at Station 1 was replaced with a Yaesu FT1000 MK-V (donated for use by Dimitris SV1CIB).

Operating Position 2 (Inband 1)

  • We installed a 24″ monitor (donated by Vasilis SV1DPJ) to the PC of station 2 (Inband), replacing the 22″ screen it had.

If it were not for all of those who offered and “sacrificed” towards the dream, nothing would have progressed all of these years. Members and friends, all people who have something in common: we dream big and we do not allow ourselves to become stagnant & miserable…

Operating Position 4 (Multiplier)

  • PC upgrade with a core duo motherboard donated by Kostas SV1CQG and repaired by Sotiris SV1ETM with other parts we had. So now we have connected to the Icom a computer with core duo CPU, 4GB memory, SSD hard drive and two 19″ 4X3 monitors.
  • A Microham MKII (donated by Kostas SV1DPI) was installed, and connected to the Icom 756 Pro II. Now the PW1 amplifier automatically changes bands.
  • The rotor controllers have been moved to a new location and are now controlled from all positions of the station through software we are using.
Position 4, now with two screens and the Microham-MKII

Operating Position 5 (Run 2)

  • The Kenwood 950SDX donated to us by Zoro JH1AJT, the PC prepared by Vasilis SV1DPJ, the homemade interface made by George SV1ELF and the Dunestar BPFs donated to us by Vangelis SV2BFN, will be placed here. The goal is to add a linear amplifier (we hope to have one for this position soon in the future) in order for Run2 to become fully operational!

Operating Position 6 (Inband 2)

  • The Yaesu FT990 provided by Vasilis SV1DPJ has ROM v1.2. Therefore, the CAT Control interface, ie rig control from the PC does not work. Paolo XE/IU1CWM also believed in the idea! He thought of, made and donated to SZ1A an interface that solves this problem! Well done Paolo and we sincerely thank you!

  • For this workbench (which hosts the 5th and 6th station) there is also an AS2X2 switch so that station 6 becomes the inband 2 station of Run2!

  • The installation of the interface and the maintenance that the FT-990 needs is pending.

Position 7!!! but is there a position 7?

  • We have created a new position 7, where there will be a PC (gift from Vasilis SV1JMC) for central control of rotors, antenna switches (future) and as a local server for the shack, it has a UPS (donated by Kostas SV1DPI) to protect the log, and in the future it will serve for other uses (camera, video and audio streaming, etc.)

  • So we moved the rotors to position 7, close to the antenna panels, so that they do not run through the entire shack thus minimizing RFI! George SV1ELF made an interface and we managed to connect the station’s rotors with the PC’s via Ethernet. The interface is based on arduino and the software by K3NG. The rotors are now controlled by the software we use at the station and with the help of PSTRotator. Both N1MM+ and DXlog have been set up in this configuration.

  • At the same time, a multi-switch was built and installed, based on the boards designed by OK2ZI. We aim to automate the change of antennas at some point. For the switch that cost about €300, a fundraiser was held between the members. For this purpose the K1XM board, MOAS II was purchased and is expected to be built by SV1ELF and configured by SV1DPI. All the coaxial cables that connect the 6X2 switch to the switch were replaced with RG400, which has double shielding and offers very good RF protection, and a new panel was installed that now allows in 18 antennas, since the old one did not have enough antenna ports!
New SZ1A Rotor Position
New SZ1A Rotor Position
New Antenna Switch Panel at SZ1A
New Antenna Switch Panel at SZ1A

Also for the Shack in general:

  • We bought 3 brand new HMD660E headsets each with a dynamic microphone. So far they have left us with great impressions (the purchases was funded from the minimal surplus of OQRS, approximately €0.6 per letter).

  • Maintenance, reconstruction and re-tuning of the stubs. Replacement and better arrangement of the entrance of the feedlines and those from the stubs to the panels. New Connectors were also added to the feedlines that had been previously removed (40, 160).

  • Purchase of 5×16 cable and pipe, with their underground placement from the entrance of the station property, all the way to the shack. At the same time, the conversion of our electrical installation into a three-phase power supply. For this purpose, we concreted & installed a new power-line pole in order to move the electricity meter to another location so that the power lines no longer interfere with our antenna installations, as was the case until now.
New HMD660 Headsets
New HMD660 Headsets
New Lightning Surge Protection Equipment for SZ1A
New Lightning & Surge Protection Devices for SZ1A
  • A fundraiser was held where many of the members and friends of SZ1A donated large amounts. Thus, substantial funds where raised so we can purchase a new amplifier but also to repair the damage caused by the Extreme Storm “Hepheastion”!!!
New Three-Phase Power Cable
New Underground Three-Phase Power Cable
  • We printed many awards that we had not showcased (many are electronic now) and after laminating them, we repositioned them all on the wall in chronological order, decorating one side of the shack.

  • Installation of a 40″ flat-screen TV and its mounting base in the shack, in front of the operating positions and under the clock. The TV was found damaged and repaired by SV1ETM & SV1CQK. Additionally, Vasilis SV1DPJ donated a ThinkPad that runs Hamclock software by WB0OEW on the TV screen, and centrally displays the Grayline, propagation conditions and other information necessary to the operators.

  • The main electrical distribution panel was rebuilt by Thanasis SV1CQK with the addition of lightning protection SPDs, Residual Current Device (RCD) – Saftey Relay, Circuit breakers etc. and we also plan to rebuild the station’s RF ground. The new panels, circuit breakers, etc. that were needed were donated by Thanasis SV1RLC & Thanasis SV1NMU.

New 40" Screen running Hamclock
New 40″ Screen running Hamclock
New Awards Show Case
New Awards Show-Case

Antennas

As we said at the beginning, everything but the shack was a second priority last year, including our antennas. Nonetheless…

  • In March 2019 we installed a new antenna for the inband station: the A3S with the 40m kit which was also placed on a 7.5 meter telescopic mast donated by Sotiris SV1BDO (Silcom Masts & Antennas). Thus, we replaced the old R7 we had, and we also placed the new antenna at a new position, much further away so that it is less affected by the Run station.

  • John SV1GE (Allmast) donated a 6m tower section for us to add to our already existing Tower 1. This piece, once installed, will extend the 17m aluminium tower we already have, to a new height of 23m.

  • Gianni I7PHH, who visited our station and took part with us in the CQ WPX CW 2019 contest, together with Prosistel donated a vertical antenna for the 10, 15, 20, 40 and 80m bands. The antenna is a modified PST-248VF so that it has both the 10m and 15m bands, and it has already been installed at the station. The purpose of this antenna is to work it as a second antenna for the Run station.

  • A trench was dug and all the feedlines (40m, 160m) and cables (rotor control, UTP) coming from the 3rd tower to the shack were placed underground, in pipes. We also added an extra empty pipe for the future.
A3S+40 Yagi for Inband Station
A3S+40 Yagi for Inband Station
New Prosistel Multiband Vertical at SZ1A
New Prosistel Multiband Vertical at SZ1A

  • The base for the new Vertical Antenna for 80m was concreted. The antenna has already been assembled, put in its base and is ready to be deployed. We cut and prepared 20 radials, some of which have already been placed.
Upgraded Tower 3, now standing at 23m High
Upgraded Tower 3, now standing at 23m High
  • We repaired and upgraded the 3rd tower. Kostas SV1CQN worked hard to adapt the new 13m long tower section, donated by SV1DPI (along with a Yaesu G1000 rotor and Yaesu ball-bearing), to the existing 3rd tower construction. So the new piece was added and we will have a 23m high tower. Adding the mast we will have our antenna at a height of 24.5m!!! We aspire to place the 20m monoband Yagi antenna on the top of this tower. Also at about 11m it has a base, where we plan to install the Mosley beam, donated by SV1GE. The Mosley will serve as a backup antenna but also as an antenna that will permanently point in a different direction from the main Run antenna (ie. towards Europe – Japan) so that the Run station can directly listen and work both directions instantly. Finally, according to the plans, it will also host the center of the 160m dipole at the top.
  • Kostas SV1DPI donates a SteppIR beam antenna (40-6m).
  • Construction of Baluns by George SV1ELF for the 20M and 40M band antennas.

New buried cable runs to Tower 3
New buried cable runs to Tower 3
Base for new 80M vertical antenna
Base for new 80M vertical antenna
Repair & Upgrade of Tower 3
Repair & Upgrade of Tower 3

Participation in contests

The first concern of course for a contest station, is to participate in contests!

So we participated in all the large CW and SSB contests of 2019, including both CQ WPX and CQ WW contests.

At the same time we were active in some smaller ones.

Such as the All Asia contest, the ARRL Roundup, and both CQ WW RTTY and CQ WPX RTTY contests, always winning 1st place in Greece in the category that we participated in!

In 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic we decided not to take any risks and we are patiently waiting for 2021…

Rest of the Station and More

  • Shelves were installed in the workshop, the space was arranged and cleaned. At the same time, the tools and spare parts were put in order so that we could find them more easily.
  • Kitchen renovation: a new kitchen counter was installed, the height of the cupboards was reduced since they were too high, and we repaired and installed a large dishwasher (donated by Tolis SV1UK). Tiles were placed in the kitchen, new shelves were built and another cupboard was installed.
  • We made a gazebo with shade for the difficult (hot) summer days.
  • Complete reconstruction of the bathroom. The toilet was completely replaced, a new plumbing installation was made, tiles were installed and the door was modified.
New Bathroom at SZ1A
New Bathroom at SZ1A
New Roof & Insulation at SZ1A
New Roof & Insulation at SZ1A
  • Four more dining chairs, a metal drawer chest and a small table with wheels donated by Giannis SV1PMQ
  • We changed the roof of the whole building, removing the old metal sheets and installing new insulating panels. The leaking problems we had in heavy rain have now been solved.
  • Redesign, Upgrade and Migration of our website (www.sz1a.org) to the modern WordPress platform, and to a new managed server (on Pressidium donated by SV1DKD). There is more extensive reference to the station and of course much more traffic to the new site. Among others, our site now hosts a variety of articles written by our friends and members, useful for all Radio Amateurs.
  • Our presence on social media was also upgraded, with a new presence on Twitter, Youtube, Vimeo and our members on Facebook more than doubled.
New SZ1A Website Mobile & Tablet Friendly
New SZ1A Website Mobile & Tablet Friendly
SZ1A New Website Blog
SZ1A New Website Blog
Regular Posts & Articles on New SZ1A Website
Regular Posts & Articles on New SZ1A Website
  • We spent a lot of time repairing the WiFi link that connects the station to the internet. Finally, the CISCO devices, which wirelessly link the station to SV1HKH father’s house were replaced with 2 TP-Link devices donated by Thanasis SV1CQK.
  • The area around the building was cleaned and a lot from the rubbish that had gathered was thrown away. At the same time, ligustrum plants were planted on the front border with the road, as well as roses. Jardinieres pots were also made and placed making the station grounds much more attractive.
  • New heavy-duty shelves were built and installed at the back of the station where a lot of aluminium is now stored, which we hope will be useful in the future (yes, more antennas!).

Our appetite is huge! and we’re not stopping! All of this was not done by one person, but by a group of people with a common purpose. People who surpassed themselves and put the idea and the dream first, despite all of the difficulties!

When our thoughts go back to all the above work that has already been done, a strange feeling overwhelms us. Every day we feel that we have done nothing. But going back, and looking at the station journal (we keep a work journal from day 1, the “old one” from 2009-2018 and the new one, from 2019 onwards), recalling the difficult days of the pandemic’s lockdown and we see that a lot has been done, even though more work still remains.

Our appetite is huge! and we’re not stopping! All of this was not done by one person, but by a group of people with a common purpose. People who surpassed themselves and put the idea and the dream first, despite all of the difficulties!

It’s a nice feeling: “All for one and one for all” said The Three Musketeers, while one of Winston Churchill’s famous quotes expresses our passion to continue on!: “Hence, we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks.”

Moving Forward, we still have a lot of work to do!

In the upcoming months, when the weather conditions and the pandemic allows, we must:

  • Provide Insurance for our members and our facilities against “the evil eye!” (we are waiting for quotes from insurance companies).
  • Install the tower section donated to us by SV1GE
  • Install the Mosley (donated by SV1GE) as a backup antenna but also for other uses (ie for 30, 17, 12m bands) on the 3rd tower. The tower has already been installed but the Mosley must be assembled and repaired.
  • Maintenance of the monobander beam antenna for 20M and its placement on the top of the 3rd tower.
  • Assembly of the monobander beam antenna for 40M (donated by SV1RLC) and its placement on the top of the 1st tower.
  • Erection of the new vertical antenna for the 80M band and its placement into operation.
  • Proceed with the experiment to Shunt-Feed the entire 3rd Tower as a Vertical antenna for 160M.
  • Maintenance of the RX Beverages for the 80/160M bands.
  • Rebuild of the station’s RF ground
  • Purchase a new amplifier with the money we raised from the corresponding fundraiser, to replace the PW1, and step by step to get newer generation “contest grade” HF transceivers (we are “open” to donations).
  • Purchase of much needed “contest grade” high-power Band Pass Filters (BPF) which will augment the stubs, and dramatically reduce inter-station interference (donations welcome).
  • Get newer CW paddle keys for each operating position of the station, as well as to replace where necessary the old PTT foot-switches with newer ones (and here also we’re “open” to donations).

These and many more!

Our imagination is unlimited, only the sky is the limit. All of these are done with the help of everyone!

It is moving when different people from all over Greece, and not only, but from all over the world, trust you. They trust not only their money, but their ideas also, their passion for something big, for something that unites, their soul itself!

We are all longing for the next time we will meet again, for the next time we will run a contest, for the next time we will BBQ on the grill, for the next time we will all dine together, for breaking endless pistachios open, for the next time we will visit the “Land of the Lotus Eaters”.

It is moving when different people from all over Greece, and not only, but from all over the world, trust you. They trust not only their money, but their ideas also, their passion for something big, for something that unites, their soul itself!

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