Before I got my license back in 1994, I enjoyed more than a decade of SWLing. I soon found out that monitoring the amateur radio bands was much more exciting than listening to the propaganda machine international broadcasting services were transmitting. The belgian IARU society UBA attributed me the SWL sign ONL4003. I did "all" the things many HAMs do: begging for QSLs, chasing new countries and collecting awards. Over 30,000 QSLs confirming my reception reports were packed together in shoe boxes.

Having never studied electronics at school, I thought the licensing exam would be an insurmountable burden. For more than a decade I never gave it much thought, especially as I had a great time being ONL4003. It must have been springtime of 1994 that I coincidentally got a copy of the ARRL's "Now You're Talking" book. Even for a novice like me, the questions for an american Technician license seemed rather elementary. Later that year, I passed the exam at the american airforce base in Bitburg and got my Technician Plus license with a CSCE for the written part of the General test. The perfect incentive to practice the morse code! A few months later, I upgraded to Advanced with yet another CSCE for the 20 wpm code exam. I had been issued the N1TOI callsign by the FCC and did not change it after the upgrade. The Amateur Extra theory was really difficult to master... but I relentlessly kept studying until I felt comfortable to pass the test. So I ended up with the highest possible grade of the US amateur radio license.

Being a belgian citizen, I got a reciprocal license on basis of my US license in many european countries I visited, but I was forced to pass the belgian examination to get on the air from at home. After the theory exam at the belgian authorities I immediately asked for permission to take part in the morse code exam. Just a few days before the CW part of the 1995 CQ WW DX Contest, I got my ON4CAS license in the mail. That weekend I joined the fun and made some 500 CW QSOs. It was one of the biggest thrills in my life... since then, over 100,000 contacts have been made.

Want to take a look at my QTH? Click here to download the KMZ file and discover my antenna in Google Earth.

ON4CAS on the air...

On VHF & UHF my callsign is rare DX... chances are slim you will find me in your log. If you're reasonably active on the HF bands you might find ON4CAS amidst the stations you worked.

Being a city dweller requires one to make compromises when it comes to low band operating and power handling. Keeping the neighbours happy means I keep my output to a very modest 100 watts... I even don't own an amp. Fortunately, I was able to erect a 40 ft roof top tower on which my antennas are mounted. Space really is a problem so low band operation isn't much of a success story.

 


CW and SSB contacts make the vast majority of my QSOs. Now and then, you may encounter me in RTTY and at a few occasions even in PSK31.

HAM operators come in a great variety: some prefer homebrewing, others ARDF or ragchewing on a weekly local net. I'm a real "hunter" when it comes to QSOs . They form the most significant part of my ham career... or should I say... to me they simply are ham radio? Whether countries, islands, lighthouses, castles, counties, zones, provinces, states, ... I chase them all. Collecting QSLs of these stations lay the basis of my award and certificate hunting. Talking of QSLs...

 

The Final Courtesy of a QSO...

Let me make myself clear: if there's one adage I stick to... this one is it! There should be no...I repeat NO excuse for any ham not to confirm a first band/mode slot with a QSL card, whether that be a "normal" or a contest QSO. To me QSLing is part of my operating habits. Most of my cards are being sent out via the bureau system which - whatever some may pretend - does a marvelous job. Not belonging to one's national radio club (and so refusing to support amateur radio in general) shouldn't even be considered by any HAM worth of that name. As most IARU societies run QSL bureaus this means this service is available to nearly every ham.
If I'm particularly eager to have a quick reply, I do - of course - also send out some cards direct. Except for the ARRL's Logbook of the World (LOTW) I do not like eQSLing... guess I'm a bit old fashioned as I prefer to hold, feel and look at an actual card.



Three jewels of my QSL collection


An often heard bad excuse from even worse QSLers is the financial burden involved. Have they ever thought about the money they spent building a station capable of making all these contacts they're reluctant to confirm? QSLing is probably just a fraction on an active ham's overall budget.
I enjoy contesting but have a family life as well... so whenever I just casually hand out some points in yet another contest, I usually keep an eye on my logbook and simply ignore a "CQ contest" call from stations which never bothered to answer my QSLs.... every medal has two sides.

 

ON4CAS at your service...

Since some years, I have been the award manager of the UBA and have been named official belgian checkpoint for several international and regional award programs. An up to date list for exactly which awards I may check cards from belgian amateurs or HAMs in the Benelux region can be consulted on the dutch and french HF award page of the UBA's website.

Furthermore, I am very proud to be designated DXCC Field Checker by the ARRL. Any HAM who would like me to check his QSL cards in accordance with the DXCC Field Checking services may contact me after thoroughly examining the DXCC webpage and its links.

 

 

Equipment






HF
Icom IC756PRO @ 100 W
Cushcraft A3S+40m addon
Cushcraft D3W (WARC)
Fritzel W3-2000 (80 & 40m)
Kelemen short 160m dipole

VHF/UHF
Yaesu FT480R
Yaesu FT51R (HT)
Comet Vertical ANT

Other Hardware
Bencher BY1 paddle
Telereader CWR685
MFJ 949E tuner
Yaesu G-1000SDX rotor
microHAM microkeyer

Major HAM Software
DX4WIN (version 8.02)
Writelog
Super Duper
HAM Office
HAM Diplom
HAM Atlas
MTTY
MixW
UI View

 



Contesting

Although most of my contest operating is rather casual, I do enjoy taking part and submitting my log.

Not being a big gun I set my goals rationally. To me, contests often are a valuable tool in working some badly needed stations for one or another award program.

Once in a while, I can't resist facing the challenge of making 1,000 QSOs in a large contest such as the CQ WW DX contest. Occasionally, I even find myself competing in the right category and get an award for achieving the first place in Belgium...

Click on the button below to visit my contest page


contest page

 

QSL & QSO stats & logsearch

Starting the first minute I became active on the HAM bands, I accurately kept track of the number of QSOs made, the amount of QSL cards received, etc...

Using the right logbook software is a must if one desires to keep a correct overview of one's activities.

Click on the button below to visit my QSO & QSL statistics page

 

 

 

Award Chasing

Award and certificate chasing is a major motivating force that occur on the bands day after day. I find the reward of having a beautiful certificate or even plaque very gratifying. It takes skillful operating to qualify and aside from expanding one's general amateur radio related knowledge, it's also a fascinating way to learn about geography, history or political structure of the world.

Most active HAMs try to achieve DXCC, WAZ and perhaps a few other. However, there's a world beyond these classics. Over 3,000 awards worldwide are available. Most national radio clubs offer at least one award for confirmed contacts with the states, provinces, districts, ... that form their territory. I'm after these and many other awards... they form the motive for nearly all the QSOs I make day after day and year after year.

I've been hooked on award chasing ever since I started as a SWL. Nowadays, my collection consists of well over 1,500 awards.

If you'd like to get acquainted with award hunting in general or read a bit more about my own award chasing activities, click on the button below

award pages