Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pretty as a picture

I've always appreciated a good diagram. A picture that conveys information quickly and cleanly is, in my view, beautiful. It therefore follows that I'm a fan of Edward R. Tufte and have ordered his new book Beautiful Evidence. Even with this deadline pressure at work, I have been able put my imprint in the book (a nice embossing stamp Sandy gave me years ago) and page through it for a few minutes. Nobody talks about information display like Tufte. I wonder if we hams couldn't use more help in this area.
Icom America has a nice Band chart as a PDF file you can download from their site. While this is a beautiful chart, it doesn't have all the information that you might need if you're talking to distant land, or even more interestingly talking from a distant land. For that, you need to know what the band plans are in, say, Japan or Australia.
To help with this, the EI8IC web site has lots of resources including 5 Contest Bandplans 98Kb, a collection of 5 GIF files that have a nice layout of the band apportionment for VK, JA, UK, and W call areas. Looking at the 80/75m diagram, for example, lets you see quickly the SSB overlap between JA and W is 3750 to 3754.
I plan on including information like this in the DXpedition manual. If you want to call CQ and try to work JA stations, you better be in a part of the band where they operate! Having information like this all in one place can be a boon when operating from a place far away. Not having it, and not knowing the band plan for your area, can be embarrassing.
Just to emphasize that last point, I'll tell a little story at my own expense. When I went to Hawaii I was greeted on the local repeaters by the area hams who invited me to join their afternoon net on 40m phone. They told me their afternoon net met on "088". At first, I was confused (because the SSB part of the band starts at 150, right? Of course, I'm in a different ITU region and SSB is actually OK on 7.088 in Hawaii. Because I had forgotten that (it was on the test, right?) and had not reviewed the band plans prior to my trip, I almost missed out on something really fun. Luckily, I had brought with the an ARRL operator's guide booklet and corrected my misconception. Lesson learned!
So, important safety tip: know the band plan for the area you are visiting and the areas you believe you'll be contacting. It can make the difference between an opportunity ceased and one lost.


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