Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

October 14th, 2008:

The Sunspot Curse

Sure as hell, every time I go looking for sunspots, they run screaming. I was first licensed as a ham radio operator three whole solar cycles ago, and when I finally got my haywire, buzzing, borderline lethal homebrew transmitter running in 1973, Cycle 20 was rolling over on its back and kicking its legs in the air. It didn't seem fair: Most of the reason I started studying for the ticket was that my friends were speaking glowingly of how you could work Rangoon on three milliwatts into a bent paperclip in 1968. (And you only needed one milliwatt in 1957…) By the time Cycle 21 was peaking in 1980, I had discovered computers in a big way, and my trusty Kenwood mostly gathered dust. And of course, when the next peak rolled around in 1990, I was working myself to exhaustion getting PC Techniques off the ground. When Cycle 23 peaked in early 2001, the ionosphere was screaming again, and my publishing company, which had expanded so amazingly in 1990, was imploding along with the tech bubble. I had other things to think about.

So now life has settled down, and I have a marvelous multiband dipole up in the rafters. I need to talk some sense into my fire sensors, but the shielded alarm wire is on order and the rest is seat-of-the-pants attic carpentry. By the time the warm-weather QRN has receded south of the equator to deafen the VHs instead of me, I will have the best antenna system I've had in a long time. (Not like I've ever had anything especially jazzy.) Alas, the sunspots ran screaming three years ago, and the sun's complexion has rarely been this clear nor healed so rapidly once the occasional blemish appears. Supposedly, the first Cycle 24 sunspots have begun showing up, but they are so small that they can only be seen in significant telescopes, and disappear again in only hours. I'm sitting here starting to stress: What's going to keep me from getting on the air at the next peak in 2012? Oh, wait, I forgot: The world's going to end that year.

Bummer. I need to work on my timing.