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ATLANTICON 2006:   March 24-25

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SQM: Signal Quality Meter

The Atlanticon QRP Forum
weekend of QRP fun, presentations and social gathering hosted by the NJQRP Club and sponsored by the AmQRP Club each year in the spring.  QRPers from all over the US (and internationally) show up for this annual event held in Baltimore, Maryland. The annual event is held in Baltimore, Maryland at the end of March
during the weekend of the ever-popular Greater Baltimore Computerfest and Hamboree. The hotel is very close to the state fairgrounds in Timonium, Maryland and special rates are established for QRPers planning to attend.  All who register in advance for Atlanticon receive our famous "Atlanticon Kit" prior the weekend.

QRP presentations all day Saturday
About 170 QRPers usually show up for Atlanticon and on Saturday get treated to QRP seminar topics presented by acknowledged leaders and experts in our hobby. These are hour-long audio/visual presentations made by knowledgeable hams in fields of transmitter design, antenna analysis, homebrew construction, electronic simulation, operating from the field, microcontroller hardware & software design, and more. We normally run straight through from 9am to 5:30pm, with only shorts breaks for lunch and stretching of legs. These Saturday QRP seminars are one of the great highlights of the weekend. We have a great lineup of speakers for the event. Some are familiar to the NJQRP meeting faithfuls and several to the general ham and qrp communities. In alphabetical order they are:

James Bennett KA5DVS
Dave Benson K1SWL
Joe Everhart N2CX
Marc Franco N2UO
Bob McGwier N4HY
Ron Politka WB3AAL

Click each name to see short bios and a synopsis of each speaker's presentation topics . We guarantee that this group of presenters will cover a wide variety of topics of interest to all in the group. Furthermore we are pleased that Rich Arland K7SZ has confirmed that he will be the emcee once again. Rich is an ever-popular figure in the QRP community and you never quite know what will come out of his mouth at any moment.

One final item. During the lunch break on Saturday the hotel will once again offer box lunches for sale. You will have the opportunity to purchase them for $10 each (their prices went up this year) or you can find a variety of eating options in the other hotel facilities.

The Atlanticon Kit
As has become a custom for Atlanticon, we send a special "Atlanticon Kit" to all those who pre-register for Atlanticon. This is a small-but-useful project that you'll be able to use in the shack for years to come.  But even more important, it serves as the basis for the Saturday evening fun & games we have planned.

This project is a step up in sophistication from the Atlanticon kits in past years. The gadget is called the SQM or Signal Quality monitor. It takes an RF signal in the range of about 100 mV or so and tells you how far harmonics and other unwanted off frequency signals are attenuated. It tunes from 80 through 10 meters and will sense harmonics up through VHF. Operation is simple. You apply the signal to be monitored and set a control for a full scale reading. Then you null the reading with an on-board notch filter and observe how the reading drops. It has a 10 section bar-graph display with about 5 dB per section for a total ideal range of about 50 dB. Taking the place of a spectrum analyzer it lets you do a simple signal purity measurement.

We have prototypes of the SQM under construction and evaluation. Ordering of material starts early next week. A PC board and LEDs for the readout will be provided for each registrant for Atlanticon. For those not attending we will be selling the boards and a set of LEDs for $10 after the event. We will also be offering parts kits separately. The cost has yet been firmed up but the target is $10 to $15 depending on price breaks we receive. Registrants can use their own parts (a parts list will be supplied) or they can order parts kits when we announce them in the next week or so. To reiterate each registrant will receive the board and LEDs. For those not attending please do not sign up just to get the board. We need to conserve boards for those attending the event. Immediately after Atlanticon we will be offering the boards and parts kits for general sale. The only other thing you will need is one "special" IC, the AD8310 manufactured by Analog Devices. As a ham you can register with Analog Devices and obtain free samples. Check out their web site at and select the "Order Samples" link. You will have to register with them but it's not a big deal.

Atlanticon 2006 is March 24-25
This is the same weekend as the Greater Baltimore Hamboree and Computerfest, which is the most popular hamfest in the mid-Atlantic region. Many QRPers in attendance at Atlanticon find it very enjoyable to catch an early Saturday at the Fairgrounds' hamfest, and then do it again even longer on Sunday morning.

The "Atlanticon hotel" is our usual one the Holiday Inn Select Baltimore North in Timonium, MD.  Located just off exit 16 of Interstate 83 North, this quality hotel is just minutes away from the hamfest fairgrounds, and only about 45 minutes from Baltimore-Washington International airport (BWI). A reduced room rate of is arranged with the Holiday Inn Select to help QRPers with weekend expenses.  Be sure to ask for the "Atlanticon rates". We've had plenty of advance registrations and the block of rooms we had them set aside is disappearing. To get a room call them at (410) 252-7373 and tell them that you want the Atlanticon rate. You'll get a discount of $30 off their usual rate. See the hotel's information-packed website at for more information.

Friday night
Atlanticon starts at 7:30 on Friday night with a social evening where we meet up with old friends and make new ones.  Vendors and QRPers alike often show their projects at tables around the large banquet room in which we meet, right up until 11pm.

Saturday all day
Saturday is the main event, wherein the illustrious QRP speaking staff delivers the presentations from 8:30 until 5pm.  A box lunch is available for purchase for a nominal price, making it convenient to stay with your friends and continue discussions through lunchtime. We break for individual dinnertime cuisine at local restaurants and reconvene at 7:30 for an evening of wild QRP fun - a homebrew building contest and a special Atlanticon Event are the usual activities for Saturday evening. We normally go until 11pm and then many of us then carry on in the hotel bar, quenching the insatiable QRP thirsts - with both knowledge and liquid!  There will be a construction competition on Saturday evening in the hospitality room for both open homebrew entrants and competitions based on construction creativity (packaging, etc) and performance of the SQM.

Sunday morning
Sunday finds most QRPers hustling over to the hamfest for a morning of looking for that gem of a deal during the last hours of the 'fest. The Timonium Fairgrounds is only a short ride away and is well worth the trip.

The Greater Baltimore HAMBOREE & Computerfest
The Atlanticon hotel is only a short distance from the very popular Greater Baltimore Computerfest and Hamvention, being held the very same weekend! See their website for complete details:  Many Atlanticon attendees plan their weekend to make it over to the hamfest very early on Saturday morning or on Sunday morning, thus making the over weekend a true ham adventure.

Register for Atlanticon
With your $10 registration, either in advance or at the door, you will be entitled to sit in on the full day of presentations on Saturday, you get a box lunch on Saturday during the keynote presentation, and you'll get the "Atlanticon Kit" mailed in advance of the weekend.

Over 170 QRPers normally attend these Atlanticon weekends ... sure hope you too can join us for our very special QRP extravaganza on March 24-25.   Mark your calendars and make your travel reservations early to get the good rates and we'll see you there!


Last Modified: March 23, 2006