G0VQY's Amateur Radio Blog

What's on the mind of a UK ham radio operator?

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I was quite pleased today when Alan G2DXU returned my call when I started shouting on 17 m this afternoon. Alan is neither very far away from me, or an old timer and long-term amateur radio operator as his call would suggest, in fact his call belonged to a family member I think, he has only held his A class licence for a few weeks. He only has a wire antenna so it's always difficult to work DX if conditions aren't really in your favour. However, I was able to help him work a few stations over in the USA, even a couple of stations on the West Coast which is sometimes difficult even if you are using a very efficient antenna, let alone a simple wire antenna. A little later on Paul, M0PCZ also in Torquay joined us, ironically he is using exactly the same antenna as Alan and also joined in our little net. I'm afraid I didn't make a note of who worked but both of them work a few stations in the states, and even one over in California.

Whilst talking to a couple of guys from South Africa, ZS6RF, and ZS1PDY, K2RKB came in on the side so I thought it was a good opportunity to demonstrate the diversity of the SteppIR. For those of you who know nothing about this antenna then let me explain as easily as I can how it works. In order for your traditional beams to work on multiple bands, they utilised traps. The Steppir is a revolutionary design as you actually have five mono band beam antennas but you only have three elements. The way they achieve this is by using three small motors that mechanically lengthen and shorten the elements. In other words you have a full-size beam antenna on each band, rather than a compromised antenna if you are using traps.

The antenna also comes with a small control box that is used to either manually, or automatically adjust the antenna as you change bands. This little box also has a 180° button on it. What this button does is reverses the antenna, in other words if you are pointing north, you press the 180° button and  within two seconds the antenna is pointing south, but without physically turning using the rotator. It also has a bidirectional function as well, this enables you to point the antenna in both directions. This video demonstrates how this function can really benefit you if you are talking to people at either end of the world, i.e. somebody in the United States, and a couple of guys down in South Africa. If I was using a traditional beam I probably wouldn't have heard the guy in America if I was pointing to South Africa, and I certainly wouldn't have been able to have a conversation with both at the same time. This is why this antenna is so great.


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