|Who:||Invited Speaker, Ralph Simpson|
|What:||Talk on cracking the Enigma Machine, featuring a real, working machine from WWII!|
|Where:||Packard, Room 202|
|When:||Tues, Jan 9th, 7:30pm|
The Race to Crack the Nazi Code
The Enigma machine was a cunning invention and major advance in cipher technology, which gave the Germans confidence in the secrecy of their messages during World War II. This was a reasonable confidence but proved to be wrong and eventually fatal. The story of the Allies conquering the overwhelming odds against breaking the Nazi code is a story of ingenuity and intrigue. Alan Turing led the Allies efforts to break the Enigma, which significantly shortened the war and ushered in the age of computers.
The success of cracking the Enigma was kept secret for 29 years after the end of WW2, despite 15,000 people working on the effort. This secrecy is especially incredible for us living in the age of the internet, WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden. Over 35,000 Enigma machines were manufactured, but only 350 are known to exist today. You will see one of these rare machines and have a chance to type in your own secret messages.
Ralph Simpson worked in the computer industry for 32 years, at IBM and Cisco Systems. He is now retired and volunteers at a local history museum. He wrote a book on cipher history called, Crypto Wars: 2000 Years of Cipher Evolution. He is also an avid collector of cipher machines, which you can see on his website, CipherHistory.com. Ralph lives in San Jose in a restored Victorian house, which is also home to his Cipher History Museum and a very understanding wife. They have three grown children.
|Who:||Invited Speaker, Bjorn Forsberg|
|What:||Talk on radios from WW1|
|Where:||Packard, Room 202|
|When:||Tues, March 13th, 7:30pm|
The Stanford Amateur Radio Club, W6YX, will hold its monthly meeting Tuesday, March 13th at 7:30pm in Packard 202 with invited guest speaker Bjorn Forsberg. (This talk was originally scheduled in February but was postponed.)
WW1 Communication Equipment
Join us to hear about the history of World War I military equipment and communication as it began in Europe, as well as how it propagated to the U.S. Come see examples of both European and U.S. equipment from that period, including the Telefunken EV 72 amplifier (1912) complete with the von Lieben tube, which is an extremely rare piece of equipment.
Bjorn's career has been centered in satellites, where he's worked over thirty years with Philco Ford (now Space Systems Loral). He's also worked in the semiconductor industry with Raytheon and CTC in the Los Angeles area. Bjorn got his Ham license in 1958 as SM5UR in Sweden and is still active, mostly on 80 meters AM with heavy iron (750 lb). He's collected antique radios since he immigrated to the US in 1968, but the collection has swung over to military radios and then mostly to WW1-era military equipment.
Before we start this story, lets rewind back to the 2016 ARRL Earth-Moon-Earth contest. Our 10GHz TWT Amplifier died shortly before the event. We still manged to get our 4.6m, Cassegrain dish on the air with a borrowed solid state amplifier. Jumping to 2017 we repaired the damaged silicone potted filament transformer in hopes to get the station on the air for the DUBUS 3cm EME contest which coincided with ARRL Field Day.
Unfortunately, after a very successful transformer repair the amplifier was still sick.
Even if the amplifier worked, we still wouldn’t have been been able to get the station on the moon. We discovered the azimuth gear drive had seized. Like the potted transformer, motor removal and replacement was not an easy task.
With the 2017 ARRL EME contest not far away, team W6YX got to work getting our 5 moon bounce bands on the air. Last time we entered this most challenging all bands - all modes section, team W6YX won first place! An impressive feat. Our California Pacific coast location means we have limited mutual moon time with Europe, where the hub of moon bounce activity is. EME operators, can you imagine having 3 hours less mutual moon time with Europe every single moon pass compared to a station on the Atlantic coast? 18 fewer hours combined mutual moon time with Europe across all three contest weekends! This is a tremendous disadvantage we consistently overcome with effective engineering choices, and efficient operating using Linrad Software Defined Radio extensively on all bands.
Personal commitments and the quantity of work prevented us from getting all 5 bands on the air for the 2017 ARRL EME contest. We decided to concentrate on only getting our 10GHz station on the air for the microwave weekend of the event. The weekend before the contest we got azimuth working and got the amplifier producing power again. However, the amplifier still had a mysterious intermittent problem. The 4kHz reference for the helix supply DC – DC converter would randomly fail to function. Removing the 200lbs (90kg) amplifier, hauling it to the work bench, hauling it back to the dish and reinstalling it is not an easy task.
Unable to reproduce the 4kHz reference problem, as it seemingly went way, we reinstalled the amplifier. It is worth mentioning a team member did quote “problems that go away on their own, come back on their own”. We enjoyed listening to our voice echos off of the moon Tuesday September 5th! Better than expected performance, given our station has yet to be optimized.
Feeling content, all we had to do is park the dish and wait three days for the contest to start. Three hours before moon rise on contest day, we were met with an unpleasant surprise. The amplifier was not producing power! Hastily in the dark, we removed the amplifier to trouble shoot.
Yes, as expected, the 4kHz reference was failing to start.
Pressure only increased, as the moon rose above the horizon while we scoped and probed the amplifier in the dark.
Lunar declination wasn’t near its maximum, meaning our time with Europe was even more limited. We hurried to repair the amplifier. A team member noticed a blip on the scope as the capacitors discharged while powering down. A desperately needed clue! The 4kHz reference was showing signs of life. We were stumped by the cause of this problem. Transformer-saturation based oscillator designs are well before our time. Unintuitive terrain, just like trying to figure out how to use oscilloscopes that lack LCD touch screens. What we affectionately refer to as the bad ‘ol days. While analyzing the schematic, we empirically discovered if we quickly blip the power to the TWTA off and on, the oscillator would sometimes start!
Not a true fix by any measure, but we can work with this. Perfection is the enemy of good enough and our moon time with Europe is limited. We soldered a wire tapping into the 4kHz reference signal and ran it out side of the amplifier housing. The plan was to reinstall the amp and blip power to it until we saw a 4kHz signal on the scope. Once this happened, we would erect the dish and get on the moon!
In our excitement, we go to move the dish towards the moon. Nothing happened. The F1EHN tracking software was not talking to our dish micro-controller. How could this subsystem fail? Everything was working great 72 hours prior. Expedited trouble shooting revealed the problem. Within three days, rodents fully chewed through our RS232 control cable!
Further analysis revealed the power/relay control cable was also chewed! This explained the mysterious short that developed between some of the conductors in this cable a few weeks earlier.
We’re not done yet. Even the transmit and receive coaxes were chewed up!
No time for a real fix. We’re losing moon time with Europe! We can solder, heat shrink and tape later. Now is the time to pry shielding braid strands from touching the exposed center conductor of the coax and twist control cable wires together. Perfection is the enemy of good enough, especially when you’re losing precious moon time with Europe!
With the amplifier working and our cabling mended, we were able to get on the moon at last!
Only to find out the last station in Europe packed it in for the night. Fortunately we still had our Northern American, Australian and Japanese friends to look forward to. A 1m diameter dish running 50W was the smallest station we worked, and he was an arm chair copy thanks to WSJT-X’s QRA64-D digital mode.
The next evening, we were ready at moon rise contacting our 10GHz European friends.
The event organizers picked a great condition weekend for microwave moon bounce. Libration spreading on 10GHz was very reasonable. We ended up with around a dozen contacts in the log and had a great time! Everyone in our team contributed significantly. The lesson learned was to never ever give up. Sometimes, you just have to choke the crane.
|What: Ham Radio Field Day contest + BBQ|
|Where: W6YX Shack, Site 530|
|When: Saturday, June 24th, starting 11am & lasting 24hrs|
What is Field Day?
Field Day is an annual radio exercise encouraging emergency communications preparedness, radio contesting and the promotion of Amateur Radio. We have the capability to communicate with people across the globe even when natural or man made disasters disable cellular, telephone, and internet communication networks. All are welcome to participate!
Field Day takes place at 11AM on June 24th and lasts for 24 hours at our club station.
What if I don't have a Ham Radio license?
Our Get On The Air (GOTA) station is for participants who have never operated a radio before, or have been generally inactive. Sign up for a coached lesson under the GOTA Schedule tab.
How can I help?
Our work party to prepare for Field Day is this Sunday, June 18th at 1pm. Please join us and/or volunteer for a task on our planning spreadsheet.
Contact us at , or call us at 650-856-2737.