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Friday, July 11, 2014

100.000 QSOs in log !!!

My first jubilee in my Amateur Radio career happened on the 8th July 2014, just a day after my 37th birthday !!
N4XU was the one to give me joy, calling my CQ DX in RTTY on 20m at my sunrise ... of course, we chit-chatted about this through RTTY and he was also happy for this special QSO with me.
I had promised to myself that the op of my 100.000th QSO would receive a commemorative present from me, accompanying my specially noted QSL card, sent directly.
So, N4XU is going to receive a small package with my QSL and several Greek goodies in it, as a sample of gratitude for calling me to reach 100k QSOs.
These 100.000 QSOs were all made by me from my amateur radio station, during the period October 1994 - July 2014 (almost 20 years, that is almost 5.000 QSOs per year on average).
Of course, I estimate that I have made at least another 35.000 QSOs from other radio stations, club stations, multi-op contest stations, jamboree stations, special event stations, etc. , but that is another story to tell ...
Below is a graph of how these 100.000 QSO are dispersed through these years:
and here is the respective screenshot of my LotW account with the jubilee number showing off on the Top right corner:  

 Using a clever statistics program written by a good friend of mine, I got some nice breakdowns for my activity over these years.
First of all, let's see how many days I've been active on-air for each of those 20 years, up to now:
Well, looks like 2012 has been my best year with 282/365 days of activity, while 2nd place goes to 1998 with 275/365 days of activity (was SV1DKL at that time, had just put up my 2 el. 5-band Lightning Bolt cubical quad and obtained a 2x813 linear amp !!).
Then, it's the battle of bands ... which has been my favourite and most active band ?? Let's see ...
As many would have expected, 20m is the winner, with 2013 being my most productive year so far, with just under 13k QSOs.
And last, but for sure not least, the battle of modes ... wonder if you can guess which one's on top ... here it goes:

Yup .. !! Contrary to what I initially thought, SSB took over CW by approximately 4000 QSOs, RTTY being waaaayyyyyy back at the line!
OK, then !!
Let the second round begin ... next stop ... 200k QSOs !!
And I am sure the fun will remain the same !!
Stathis, SV5DKL

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

SPE Expert 1K-FA front panel keyboard replacement ... DONE !!

I have been using the SPE Expert 1K-FA HF/50 Mhz mosfet linear amplifier for quite a few years. It is a a very intelligent piece of equipment, technologically advanced, with great capabilities and superb performance.

As you may already know, I am a keen contester, and 1K-FA has taken part with me in many many contests, with no signs of tear or wear.

However, since past winter, a problem came up with it, some of its front panel keys stopped operating. Since those not working were the most vital ones (ON/OFF/POWER/DISPLAY/OPERATE), I decided to contact SPE for technical advice. I only did that lately, because I mostly remote control the amplifier and all its functions through its software.

SPE`s customer support team is really prepared to face and give solution to virtually any problem that may come up with their products.

The explanation I was given for the fault, was that a specific point of the flat cable membrane that goes from the front panel to the CPU board, is constantly in touch with the left metallic chassis of the amp, and that causes a few cable lines to break as temperature rises progressively. A broken line, of course, means loss of some keys control.

I ordered a new front panel keyboard replacement, with a very low cost indeed (!), which arrived a few days later. In the envelope, there was also a piece of velcro to put between the new flat cable membrane and the point where it comes in contact with the left metallic chassis.


After having removed top and bottom cabinets, I removed the front air filter to make the front panel extraction easier.

Front panel removed and unplugged from the main body of the amp. Although cabling connectors are very difficult to mix, it is better to take note (or a photo) of which cable of the main body goes to which connector of the front panel. It will save you from unneeded trouble !!
Also, note at the left part of the front panel, the flat cable membrane that connects the front panel keyboard with the CPU board ... that is the cause of the fault !!

 Several visible cracks amongst the cable lines of the membrane !! AHA !!

A better view of several of the cracked cable lines on the membrane.

The flat cable membrane end towards the CPU board ... looks like it needed a replacement, after all !!

Before accessing the keyboard, the CPU board has to be separated from the front panel. This is easily done by removing a few cables and four spacers.

Faulty keyboard removed from the front panel. Easily done with the help of a sharp knife, to cut through the powerful 3M glue used to stick the keyboard to the metallic chassis of the front panel. The LCD protective glass was cleaned with pure alcohol and a soft cloth to remove all remaining glue residues.

New keyboard placed on the front panel. Take great care in aligning both the four corners of the keyboard membrane, as well as the six small rectangular LED holes. Doing that right will help you later on when you will put the amp together again.

Here you may see the self-adhesive piece of Velcro, which I put between the keyboard flat cable membrane and the left side metallic chassis of the amp. From now on, chassis temperature will not affect this membrane.

Time for testing after repair ... Amp is back in business !!
100% success in this one.
I have to thank for their valuable help and technical notes Mr. Guido Pandolfi of SPE and Bob, W5UQ of Expert Amps USA.
Summary of repair:
Cost of keyboard: €10
Cost of shipping for keyboard: €6
Time of repair: 60 minutes, including unmounting and mounting the amp from/to the shack cabinets.
Result: All keyboard functions restored.