K1PXE Pete “Blob whiskers”


Last Wednesday morning several of us in CT had qsos with low power stations in en91.  After my usual practice of spending time with the fm17 guys and WZ1V and even a few minutes with K3GNC on .190 I made my way to .205 where Ron was just finishing with KA2LIM.  I called Ken but before we could really get started, I was side tracked by a call from WA8ECW who had a good s5 signal. We had a really good qso and then I continued with Ken. Then Andy W8ANS called me saying I was strong enough to break his squelch and he heard me from another room.  I think we moved up the band a bit and he had KD8JQ try to work me but the signal was at the noise level and no qso resulted at that time.  Andy reached s9 at that time.  I then moved back to .205. I think that was when Ron worked Andy but whoever Ron was working at that time, I heard Ron being called by KD8JQ who was now a good s4 to me but in the noise for Ron.  So, I worked KD8JQ which was enough time for the signal from JQ to get above the noise for Ron.  Ron also got WA8ECW at that time.  Dan K1BXC also got WA8ECW but W1COT didn’t work the 8’s but he and the rest of us worked AC3L from his mobile.  An aside here.  You know of my practice of temp storing my qso list in my brain until it becomes convenient for me to hard copy my log.  Actually, that is not quite a smooth operation since my resulting log is quite bumpy.  This practice usually works quite well for me and it really isn’t a great memory trick since the calls are mostly the same every day but this day I almost got myself into real trouble.  When I went to hard copy my log, I had trouble remembering the call of the first 8 station.  I sort of remembered “ec” being in there but came up with “m” for the last letter.  “Andy, do you know if that guy I just worked a few minutes ago was WA8ECM?  Well, I don’t know for sure but it sort of sounds right.”  Thank god the signal came up again a bit later so I could copy “WA8ECW”.  Actually, I had it right if I had been backwards and standing on my head.  It was only an “M” that needed to be changed to a “W”.  Not bad for a 75 year old memory.  Now, getting back to what was happening there.  I was told there was a blob out there–one of those big old red ones not quite reaching us out here.  So since signals were jumping in and out for us, I figured there were little whisps escaping the big red blob and tickling us just enough to allow us to make those contacts.  So, to name that thing, I came up with “blob whiskers”.  So, yess, you can blame that on my long association with cats but it goes further than that.

Many many moons ago I became interested in electronics and I was experimenting with lights, electromagnets and other things.  One day I was totally amazed by my music teacher’s demonstration of a crystal radio.  I wanted the parts to build one real bad.  About six months later, I sort of got my wish.  My uncle found a Philmore crystal radio in one of his catalogues and I got that little radio.  It was built in a plastic case, had fanstock clips for connecting ground and the supplied wire antenna and ear phone.  the tuned inductor was wound on a rectangular piece of material and tuned by a pivoted slider contacting the bared wire at the appropriate places.  The most interesting thing was just like the ones folks a a generation before me would use was the bare crystal connected by a “cat’s whisker” which you moved around on the crystal for best results.  As you moved the “cat’s whisker” wire around, the signal would come and go just like those “8”s.  So, “blob whiskers” has a firm footing.  I was just a 12 year old kid at the time so I wanted the radio to work all the time so, just as soon as I could, I replaced that crystal and “cat’s whisker” with a 1n34a diode.  Now, if there were only such an easy way to bring in those “8s”!

73, Pete K1PXE fn31ke85mx