by Nick England KD4CPL

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ATV (Amateur Television) is real-time color TV (with sound) - just like broadcast TV except we hams are doing the transmitting and receiving!

ATV is really starting to pick up speed in the Research Triangle Area. There is an ATV repeater located in Durham, a number of people are already on the air, and some nifty new applications are being planned. Some people are still recovering from Hurricane Fran antenna damage, but you can often find video QSO's on the repeater (sometimes with 3-4 stations participating). We're going to start a regular ATV net some time soon.

So what's it like? It is both fun and useful. Just the other day I was in an ATV QSO with Sean KF4IVA and mentioned I needed a manual for a gadget that I picked up at the last Durhamfest. Sean said it sounded familiar and asked me to show it to him. So I did, and it turns out that he has a similar unit, which I have borrowed to help troubleshoot mine. Yesterday, I was showing him how I have built adapters to use various microphones in my shack. I didn't attend the RARS Field Day activity, but I saw it all live from Raleigh via Mark WD4KSE's ATV station. And of course, I've been able to see what other hams' stations (and family and visitors) look like via ATV - it is definitely a more personal experience than talking to a disembodied voice on my HT. And it is a good intro to ham radio's capabilities - the dozen or so Cub Scouts who visited WD4KSE's shack in person and my shack via ATV had a great time. Other local hams already on the air include Joe KD4LLV and Woody KJ4SO. Several others have rigs but can't quite make it into the repeater site in Durham yet - the wideband nature of ATV makes it tougher to get through compared to FM voice so better antennas are required. And ATV is about to go airborne! KF4IVA is building a model rocket that'll include an ATV transmitter (eat your heart out, NASA) and Dewey WA4AHR plans to include ATV on board his radio-controlled model airplane.

But there is a more serious side to ATV too - one of our goals is to make ATV part of the capabilities hams bring to emergency situations - imagine on-site damage assessment relayed back to emergency management centers. Just after Hurricane Fran, WD4KSE was beaming color video from Cary to me in Chapel Hill, showing the destruction around his neighborhood. I'm not sure if it was even possible to drive between our two stations, but ham TV made the trip just fine. I've also duct-taped my camcorder to my crank-up tower and sent it up for a look around via the rotator. Some day we'll have that kind of ability with remote cameras at various sites within the triangle. And some day we'll have a repeater site with wider coverage or linked repeaters that will let a ham with a mobile ATV station send images directly from a disaster site to the Red Cross or other agency.

The ATV repeater was put together by hams from across the region who formed the Triangle ATV Association. With generous financial support from DFMA and RARS, Charlie WA4WTX's donation of tower space and equipment, and hard work by hams from Durham, Cary, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh, this has truly been a triangle-wide project. The repeater call sign is KJ4SO, as Woody KJ4SO was the prime force in getting the ATV project started and building the repeater.

The ATV repeater is 434.00 MHz input and 421.25 MHz output (horizontally polarized). If you have a "cable-ready" TV set, the repeater output frequency is cable channel 57. Try hooking up an antenna and see if you can receive the repeater, particularly if you're located in the north Durham area - the repeater is on "TV Hill".

    73 and SEE you later, Nick KD4CPL

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