Category Archives: Ham Radio Articles

WT8WV “Colossus” Air Cannon Antenna Launcher

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These are the basic parts to make my “WT8WV Colossus” antenna launcher.

Folks, this has been a fun and hilarious winter project.  Yesterday, when I built this air cannon antenna launcher it was -4 degrees outside and this was a perfect evening project to put together.  For years, me and my two ham radio buddies (WR8S Bill Shultz and WV8TG Tom Graf), have enjoyed ARRL Field Day activities and usually used a slingshot and a 3/4 ounce fishing sinker weight and an old Zebco fishing reel (with 20 pound test line) to shoot and suspend our doublet dipole antennas high into the trees.  Certainly, the slingshot worked pretty much flawlessly… but… boys will be boys, and the idea of an air cannon / spud launcher / potato gun type system seemed to be a new desire.  (Most people, our wives included, wouldn’t trust our 3-man team with a slingshot, let alone a potato gun!  But I digress.)  Actually, our local ham radio club (Monongalia Wireless Association) had a version of a potato gun antenna launcher, so we decided we needed one of our own… and to make some design modifications in the interest of… “science”… plus our own sadistic pleasures.  (Make sure you read below WV8TG’s initial “pressure test” experience.)  The following pictures hopefully provide the basic concept and parts we used.  Tom and I split the cost of the parts needed to make launchers and each built our own version, but they both are the same basic design with only length dimensions of the air chamber and barrel being the difference.

All parts where sourced from our local Lowes store in their plumbing department, except the Schrader valve which can be purchased at an automotive store.  Total cost about $40 but you could make a couple of them as a joint project with a friend and reduce that cost per launcher a bit.  I got a small rubber gasket for the outside nipple of the Schrade valve to act as another seal on the exterior of the air chamber.  You will need to drill holes for Schrader valve, barrel slug stop and projectile slug caps to attach the screw eyes to attach the fishing line.  I used 3 inch PVC for air chamber, 1.25 inch PVC for the barrel and short sections to mate the air chamber, trigger valve and threaded barrel.  The projectile slugs were made from 3/4 inch PVC and caps and I filed off the nubs on the caps with a Dremel tool for a smooth fit into the barrel.  I used PVC Prep on each joint before applying the glue.  When gluing joints together, insert the sections together and twist a quarter turn for a solid adhesion.  Let all glue set up for 24 hours before testing air pressure chamber.  I will pressurize the chamber inside and let it sit overnight to see if it loses any pressure.  It’s too cold right now to take outside in -4 degree temperatures to test, but I will use a bicycle pump with a pressure reading valve, and start at 40 psi… then 50 psi… and then 60 psi for test shots to see how it functions and check for any air pressure leaks.  We use 60 psi for our club launcher.

WV8TG (Tom) charged his air chamber (barrel not attached) and let it set overnight to test for chamber air leakage.  When he opened the trigger value… there was NO leakage… but there was a sudden LOUD release of 60 psi air gush out of a 30 inch long, 3 inch wide fully charged air chamber.  He indicated the compressed air release was… impressive.  However, his wife was not impressed… nor was she aware of the scientific test that was taking place.  #surprise!  #WHOOOOOOOSH  #loudwifeexpressions  I have no reason to doubt Tom will find his projectile slugs in the next county using his design.  The club chamber was 12 inches long versus his 30 inch air chamber.  #overkill?  I designed my air chamber for 14 inches and will conduct all tests… outside.  #potentialmeanwife

 

 

 

 

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Comparing the Yaesu System Fusion FT1Dr and FT2DR

Yaesu FT1DR Review

Yaesu  FT2DR Review

Complete Overview of MESH for Amateur Radio (2014) by VA3BCO

MESH communications in Ham Radio is another area where Amateur Radio pushes the edge of the envelope and  has put a tremendous amount of work into this slideshare that goes from A to Z on how to run a MESH!  (Click on his website for more!)

Originally published on Nov 6, 2014

This is a comprehensive introduction to MESH for amateur radio enthusiasts. It is particularly useful for anyone new to MESH but will also include some nuggets sure to be helpful to the experienced operator. Topics include:

1. HSMM MESH vs. traditional digital modes
2. Router review & comparison
3. Firmware selection & configuration
4. Antenna considerations
5. Application scenarios for ARES and experimentation
6. Updates on local efforts & recent software announcements

Visit VA3BCO.COM for more details.

Ham Radio… Do they still DO that?

This is a great slideshare from KB6NU Dan Romanchik,who unequivocally answers, “Oh HECK yes!”  After more than 45 years of having a blast using my ham radios and talking all over the world using all sorts of cool technologies, I echo Dan’s message here.  Thank you, Dan!  If you want to find a great hobby that you will enjoy for a lifetime… drop me a note… I’ll hook ya up!

REVIEW: Yaesu Fusion FT2DR dual-band digital portable radio

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This is a solid review by Don Trynor from VA3XPR from July 2015 of the Yaesu FT2DR dual-bander HT.  (They have a very nice website!)

Our local ham radio club, Monongalia Wireless Association, recently bought 2 of the Yaesu Fusion repeaters and I am doing my own research into being able to enjoy a new type of technology. I am looking at my options and hope to find something to get my hands on at the 2016 Dayton Hamvention!  I would think that prices would be moderating downward by now as others adopt the new radio and there may be some rebates floating around or “Specials” by some of the dealers.  (Read Don’s full review here…  Review: Yaesu Fusion FT2DR dual-band digitl portable radio )

The FT2DR is a good choice for anyone looking for a full-featured dual-band portable radio that is compatible with Yaesu’s Fusion line of digital radios. While this radio has some innovations, we think that they may not justify the $550 USD price point of this unit. In addition, we feel that Yaesu could improve upon future radios like this one, especially as it relates to the overall user experience. In this day and age when a good user experience for touch screen devices is the norm, such as with smartphones and computers, we think devices like this have room for improvement. All in all, if users can live without the touch screen display and louder audio, they might want to consider a cheaper alternative in the Yaesu FT1DR, which retails for $300 USD.

Amateur Radio Licensing in the UK

Ever wonder how folks in the United Kingdom get their Amateur Radio licenses?  It’s different… but also similar to how we go about things here in the United States.  Let’s take a look at the YouTube video from Essex Ham

WinLink… What is it?

K4REF tells us from his YouTube Channel the basics of this interesting technology that we can use as Amateur Radio Operators.  It is most likely very similar to a technology we use daily… away from our radios!

 

Famous Ham Radio Operators and their Callsigns

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I love learning who shared our favorite hobby… and the list is very long!  It was so interesting to see not only WHO they were but also WHAT they did to be famous.  Literally from every corner of the globe (try and find a corner on a globe).

samuel-morse_postage_stamp

I found this on the DX-QSL website and somehow the Bedworth Lions Club apparently had something to do with the creation of the list.  I am quite fond of the good work The Lions do and I belong to a couple fraternal organizations (Masonic Lodge and Woodmen of the World) myself, so I am sure there is a story about The Lions being connected to this list.  The list is long, so grab a refreshment and enjoy!  Be prepared to be surprised!

Click the link below…

World Famous Ham Radio Operators  

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Amateur Radio, Radar, Lidar & Radio on Postage Stamps

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I love  collecting stamps and vintage baseball cards and have quite a collection of both… but I have NEVER seen this many RADIO STAMPS in one setting!  Kirt Blattenberger, KB3UON, has a really cool website with lots of neat things to read.  This caught my eyes INSTANTLY.  Thank you, Kirt!  His quote and stamp array begins below.

************    ************    ***********    **********    ***********

Over the past many decades, my involvement in stamp collecting (philately) has waned and ebbed with the amount of time available to dedicate to it. Commemorative stamps – from all countries – have always been of the greatest interest to me. Even if you are not a philatelist, your interest in radio should be piqued by the large number of postage stamps that have been issued in radio’s honor. Although I do not own most of the stamps pictured here, there are some that are in my collection. This is a small cross-section of what is available. Over time, I have added to the list and will continue to do so. Please let me know if you have relevant stamps to add.

I was amazed to discover how many countries have postage stamps recognizing the important role that weather radar has played in history.

Note: Many of these images are uncredited because although I might have retrieved them from a particular website, they appear to be replicated in many places. Therefore, the true origin is not known. My policy is to always provide attribution as part of the “Fair Use” law when the source is certain. I will be glad to link back to the owner’s website if evidence of ownership is provided.

Amateur Radio Postage Stamps
Amateur Radio on USA postage stamp - RF Cafe
Amateur Radio
USA
Postage Stamp
 Réseau Luxembourgeois des Amateurs d’Ondes Courtes (RL) -- that country’s IARU Member-Society celebrating its 75th anniversary - RF Cafe
Amateur Radio
Luxembourg
Postage Stamp
Amateur Radio on China postage stamp - RF Cafe
Amateur Radio
China
Postage Stamp
Amateur Radio on Germany postage stamp - RF Cafe
Amateur Radio
Germany
Postage Stamp
Amateur Radio on Bosnia postage stamp - RF Cafe
Amateur Radio
Bosnia
Postage Stamp
Amateur Radio on Japan postage stamp - RF Cafe
Amateur Radio
Japan
Postage Stamp
Amateur Radio on Canada postage stamp - RF Cafe
Amateur Radio
Canada
Postage Stamp
Amateur Radio on Viet Nam postage stamp - RF Cafe
Amateur Radio
Viet Nam
Postage Stamp
Vietnam Radio Postage Stamp - RF Cafe
Amateur Radio
Bulgaria
Postage Stamp
Amateur Radio on Bhutan postage stamp - RF Cafe
Amateur Radio
Bhutan
Postage Stamp
Amateur Radio Stamp Bulgaria - RF Cafe
Amateur Radio
Bulgaria
Postage Stamp
Zazzle Amateur Radio Postage Stamp - RF Cafe
Amateur Radio
Zazzle
Postage Stamp
Russia Amateur Radio Postage Stamp - RF Cafe
Amateur Radio
Russia
Postage Stamp
Zazzle Amateur Radio Postage Stamp - RF Cafe
Amateur Radio
Zazzle
Postage Stamp
Poland Amateur Radio Postage Stamp - RF Cafe
Amateur Radio
Poland
Postage Stamp
Qatar Amateur Radio postage stamp - RF Cafe
Amateur Radio
Qatar
Postage Stamp
Tuvalu Amateur Radio postage stamp - RF Cafe
Amateur Radio
Tuvalu
Postage Stamp
Slovania Amateur Radio Stamp - RF Cafe
Amateur Radio
Slovania
Postage Stamp
Austria Amateur Radio Postage Stamp - RF Cafe
Amateur Radio
Austria
Postage Stamp
Sweden Amateur Radio Postage Stamp - RF Cafe
Amateur Radio
Sweden
Postage Stamp
Radio Postage Stamps
Radio on USA postage stamp (1) - RF Cafe
Radio
USA
Postage Stamp
Radio on USA postage stamp (2) - RF Cafe
Radio
USA
Postage Stamp
Radio on USA postage stamp (3) - RF Cafe
Radio
USA
Postage Stamp
Radio on USA postage stamp (4) - RF Cafe
Radio
USA
Postage Stamp
Radio on USA postage stamp (5) - RF Cafe
Radio
USA
Postage Stamp
Radio on USA postage stamp (6) - RF Cafe
Radio
USA
Postage Stamp
Radio on East Germany postage stamp - RF Cafe
Radio
East Germany
Postage Stamp
Radio on Slovenia postage stamp - RF Cafe
Radio
Slovenia
Postage Stamp
Radio on Russia postage stamp - RF Cafe
Radio
Russia
Postage Stamp
Radio on Canada postage stamp - RF Cafe
Radio
Canada
Postage Stamp
Radio on Germany postage stamp - RF Cafe
Radio
Germany
Postage Stamp
Radio on East Germany postage stamp - RF Cafe
Radio
East Germany
Postage Stamp
 Radio on Columbia postage stamp - RF Cafe
Radio
Russia
Postage Stamp
Radio on Belgium postage stamp - RF Cafe
Radio
Belgium
Postage Stamp
Radio on Russia postage stamp - RF Cafe
Radio
Russia
Postage Stamp
Pitcairn Islands Radio Postage Stamp - RF Cafe
Radio
Pitcairn Island
Postage Stamp
Tuvalu Radio Postage Stamp - RF Cafe
Radio
Tuvalu
Postage Stamp
India Radio Postage Stamp - RF Cafe
Radio
India
Postage Stamp
Moscow Radio Postage Stamp - RF Cafe
Radio
Moscow
Postage Stamp
Germany Radio Postage Stamp - RF Cafe
Radio
Gremany
Postage Stamp
Republic of Transkei Radio stamp - RF Cafe
Radio
Republic of Transkei
Postage Stamp
Transkei Radio stamp - RF Cafe
RadioRadio
Republic of Transkei
Postage Stamp
USSR Radio Stamp - RF Cafe
RadioRadio
USSR
Postage Stamp
Monte Carlo Radio Postage Stamp - RF Cafe
Radio
Monte Carlo
Postage Stamp
Cuba Radio Postage Stamp - RF Cafe
RadioRadio
Cuba
Postage Stamp

RadioRadio
Romania
Postage Stamp
Radar Postage Stamps
Radar on Chinese postage stamp - RF Cafe
Radar
China
Postage Stamp
Radar antenna on Barbados postage stamp - RF Cafe
Radar Antenna
Barbados
Postage Stamp
Sea radar on Solomon Islands postage stamp
Sea Radar
Solomon Islands
Postage Stamp
Radar altimeter on Gilbert & Ellice Islands postage stamp - RF Cafe
Radar Altimeter
Gilbert & Ellice Islands
Postage Stamp
Meteor tracking radar on Fiji postage stamp - RF Cafe
Meteor Tracking Radar
Fiji
Postage Stamp
HF radar on France postage stamp - RF Cafe
HF Radar
France
Postage Stamp
Weather Radar Postage Stamps
Weather radar on Jamaican postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Jamaica
Postage Stamp
Weather radar on Belize postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Belize
Postage Stamp
 Radar on North Korean postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
North Korea
Postage Stamp
 Weather radar on Iran postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Iran
Postage Stamp
Weather radar on Iranian postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Iran
Postage Stamp
Weather radar on Senegal postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Senegal
Postage Stamp
Weather radar on Philippines postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Philippines
Postage Stamp
 Weather radar on Qatar postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Qatar
Postage Stamp
 Weather radar on Libyan postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Libya
Postage Stamp
Weather radar on Malagasy postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Malagasy
Postage Stamp
Weather radar on United Nations postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
United Nations
Postage Stamp
Weather radar on Viet Nam postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Viet Nam
Postage Stamp
Weather radar on Taiwanese postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Taiwan
Postage Stamp
Weather radar on Spain postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Spain
Postage Stamp
Weather radar on Republic of Central Africa postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Central African Republic
Postage Stamp
Weather radar on Belgium postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Belgium
Postage Stamp
Weather radar on Afghanistan postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Afghanistan
Postage Stamp
Weather radar on Austria postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Austria
Postage Stamp
Weather radar on Bahamas postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Bahamas
Postage Stamp
Weather radar on Bahamas postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Bahamas
Postage Stamp
Weather radar on Afghanistan postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Afghanistan
Postage Stamp
Weather radar on Bangladesh postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Bangladesh
Postage Stamp
Weather radar on Canadian postage stamp - RF Cafe
Weather Radar
Canadian
Postage Stamp
Lidar Postage Stamps
Lidar on France postage stamp - RF Cafe
Lidar
France
Postage Stamp
Lidar on Australia postage stamp - RF Cafe
Lidar
Australia
Postage Stamp
Electricity Postage Stamps
Electricity on Britian postage stamp - RF Cafe
Electricity
British
Postage Stamp
Also of interest are Radio Reception Stamps that were used by commercial radio stations to officiate reception of signals. These were not official Postage Stamps
KDKA Radio Reception Stamp - RF Cafe
KDKA
Pittsburgh, PA
Radio Reception Stamp
KFUM Radio Reception stamp - RF Cafe
KFUM
Colorado Springs, CO
Radio Reception Stamp
KFSO Radio Reception stamp - RF Cafe
KFSO
San Francisco, CA
Radio Reception Stamp
KFQZ Radio Reception stamp - RF Cafe
KFQZ
St. Louis, MO
Radio Reception Stamp
RF Cafe - WTIC radio reception stamp - RF Cafe
WTIC
Hartford, CT
Radio Reception Stamp
CNRO Radio Reception stamp - RF Cafe
CNRO
Ottawa, Ontario
Radio Reception Stamp
WDAF Radio Reception stamp - RF Cafe
WDAF
Kansas City, KS
Radio Reception Stamp
WBEN Radio Reception stamp - RF Cafe
WBEN
Buffalo, NY
Radio Reception Stamp
WGBF Radio Reception stamp - RF Cafe
WGBF
Evansville, IN
Radio Reception Stamp
WSYR Radio Reception stamp - RF Cafe
WSYR
Syracuse, NY
Radio Reception Stamp

A more comprehensive list can be found on the Ground-Based Remote Sensing in Meteorology (Radar, lidar, sodar, etc.) website from Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) at Colorado State University.

This website has a few other communications Postage Stamps.

Yet another source is Joseph Morris‘ Flickr collection.

What Is D-Star All About?

Yaesu has System Fusion… guess who has this thing called, D-Star?  You can probably guess pretty quickly, if you don’t already have an idea.

Discover D-STAR from Icom

Yaesu System Fusion Introduction

Cory Sickles (WA3UVV) is active in our local ham club, Monongalia Wireless Association, and he has been guiding us in installing a new Yaesu System Fusion repeater system up on Chestnut Ridge.  Are you wondering what Yaesu System Fusion is?  What is C4FM?  What is the difference between Fusion, D-Star, P25 and DMR?  Well… here are a couple videos that might give you some insight into primarily Fusion… but the second video looks at some comparison.  (Spoiler alert… it gets territorial quickly.)  Hats off to HamRadioOutlet and HamRadioNow for spending the time on these cool systems!

Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS)

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I love DX.  I love chatting to interesting people all over the world and making new friends.  For short range chatting I use our Monongalia Wireless Association W8MWA Repeater on the 144/440 frequencies.  Sometimes it’s more difficult to talk short distances than it is to talk half way around the world.  Let’s consider Near Vertical Incidence Skywave  (NVIS) antennas with our HF radios.

NVIS is something every Ham needs to learn about.  The antenna system is not difficult to construct and can serve an important function for shorter range communications, especially in time of an emergency when normal local / regional communication systems are down for some reason.  (i.e. cell towers, cellphones, landlines, etc.)  Hams may be called into service quickly.

Here is what Wikipedia says about NVIS communications…

Near vertical incidence skywave, or NVIS, is a skywave radio-wave propagation path that provides usable signals in the range between groundwave and conventional skywave distances—usually 30–400 miles (50–650 km). It is used for military and paramilitarycommunications, broadcasting,[1] especially in the tropics, and by radio amateurs. The radio waves travel near-vertically upwards into the ionosphere, where they are refracted back down and can be received within a circular region up to 650 km from the transmitter.[2] If the frequency is too high (that is, above the critical frequency of the ionospheric F layer), refraction fails to occur and if it is too low, absorption in the ionospheric D layer may reduce the signal strength.

The most reliable frequencies for NVIS communications are between 1.8 MHz and 8 MHz. Above 8 MHz, the probability of success begins to decrease, dropping to near zero at 30 MHz. Usable frequencies are dictated by local ionospheric conditions, which have a strong systematic dependence on geographical location. Common bands used in amateur radio at mid-latitudes are 3.5 MHz at night and 7 MHz during daylight, with experimental use of 5 MHz (60-meter) frequencies. Broadcasting uses the tropical broadcast bands between 2.3 and 5.06 MHz, and the international broadcast bands between 3.9 and 6.2 MHz, Military NVIS communications mostly take place on 2-4 MHz at night and on 5-7 MHz during daylight.

Optimum NVIS frequencies tend to be higher towards the tropics and lower towards the arctic regions. They are also higher during high sunspot activity years. The usable frequencies change from day to night, because sunlight causes the lowest layer of the ionosphere, called the D layer, to increase, causing attenuation of low frequencies during the day [3] while the maximum usable frequency (MUF) which is the critical frequency of the F layer rises with greater sunlight.

NVIS is most useful in mountainous areas where line-of-sight propagation at VHF or UHF frequencies is ineffective or when the communication distance is beyond the 50-mile (80 km) range of groundwave, and less than the 300–1500-mile (500–2500 km) range of lower angle sky-wave. Another interesting aspect of NVIS communication is, that direction finding of the sender is more difficult than for ground-wave communication (i.e. VHF or UHF). For broadcasters, NVIS allows coverage of an entire medium-sized country at much lower cost than with VHF (FM), and daytime coverage similar to MW (AM) nighttime coverage at lower cost and often with less interference.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_vertical_incidence_skywave

Below are a few very good links to articles for the nuts & bolts of putting together a simple and good NVIS antenna.

http://www.tactical-link.com/field_deployed_nvis.htm

http://www.qsl.net/wb5ude/nvis/index.html

http://www.w0ipl.net/ECom/NVIS/K2GW-NVIS.htm

http://www.w0ipl.net/ECom/NVIS/cbp-nvis.htm

Here is a sample video by NG9D with an 80 Meter End Fed NVIS Field Antenna.

See How a Schematic Diagram is ACTUALLY Visualized

“How to read an Electronic Schematic” by Paul Wesley Lewis

Wonderful example of how to visualize and equate the schematic diagram with the actual circuit build out.

How Do I Read a Schematic Diagram?

How to Read a Schematic by RimstarOrg 

If you are going to build a simple crystal radio, a QRP rig or even a 100 Watt HF transceiver, you are going to want to understand how an electronic schematic diagram is read.  It’s not that difficult.  RimstarOrg has a great video on understanding the basic concept of reading a schematic.

 

Multimeter Tutorial by AfroTechMods

THE BEST Multimeter Tutorial

The voltmeter… the Volt-Ohm Meter… the Multimeter… digital or analog… continuity… amperage, voltage and ohms… COME ON, MAN!  What is it and how hard is it to use in the every day life of a ham radio enthusiast or just someone working in their workshop?  Once again, Afrotechmods has an excellent tutorial on his YouTube channel for us to learn from!

 

 

What the heck is an Amp-Hour?

Battery amp-hour, watt-hour and C rating tutorial

Regardless if it’s your flashlight, your 2 Meter hand-held radio, your QRP rig, your Field Day station(s), your APRS setup, your balloon launch radio transmitter, your trolling motor, your emergency preparations or your personal GoBox… understanding how long those batteries that supply operating power will last becomes quite important.  It will also assist you in deciding what battery to select for a particular project or product.  Afrotechmods has several excellent YouTube videos on his channel that we all can enjoy!

Battery Technology Comparison by KF7IJZ

Small AGM vs A123 ALM-12V7 LiFePo4 Battery Module

Explaining USB 3.0

ExplainingComputers YouTube Channel, Christopher Barnatt, explains USB 3.0 and how it compares to USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 and data transfer rates.

Do Volts or Amps Kill You?

Does Volts or Amps Kill You? Voltage, Current and Resistance

This should be a good lesson for everyone, especially Hams that tinker and homebrew serious radio equipment.  You’d be surprised how much is too much!  Safety around radio equipment, coaxial cables, power chords, power lines, lightening storms, grounding straps and towers needs to be at the forefront of our mind.

Excellent YouTube video by RimstarOrg.

 

Analog Oscilloscope bandwidth considerations with W2AEW

Get the right O-Scope!

Monitor your Ham Radio transmitter with an oscilloscope with W2AEW

More O-Scope training!  This guy is so good at teaching it!

Arrow Antenna Bracket by Randy K7AGE

If you are interested in a relatively easy way to chase “The Easy Birds” (amateur satellites), K7AGE can help you get set up and successful QUICK!

Ham Radio Satellite Arrow Antenna

How to track satellites with K7AGE… Randy is great at explaining the how and why!

How can you become a Ham Radio operator QUICKLY?

Ham It Up_HR-RGB

You won’t believe how easy it can be!  You take it in bite-size chunks of information and at your own pace.  NO MORE MORSE CODE REQUIREMENT!  (But Morse Code is a blast to still use and also the most efficient form of radio communication!  I had to be able to send and receive 5 words per minute for the old Novice License… 13 wpm for General Class… and 20 wpm for Advanced and Extra Class licenses.  There are no longer any Morse Code requirements and the Novice and Advanced Class licenses are no longer available.)  For more than 100 years ham radio operators have been exploring the world and beyond from their own little ham shacks / ham station / living rooms.  It never gets old and there is always something to explore!

What can you do with a ham radio?  Talk to people all over the world with as little as 1 watt or less… or even 1500 watts.  Assist in Emergency Communications.  Assist with branches of the US Armed Forces.  Build your own radios and equipment.  Experiment with your own antennas.  Go to fun “Hamfests and Flea Markets” to learn and get great bargains.  Find new friends who are hams in your local club.  Participate in the Annual ARRL Field Day Contest and exercises!  Talk to the astronauts on the International Space Station.  Talk to other hams around the world THROUGH many ham radio satellites orbiting the earth!  Use your local VHF/UHF Repeaters to talk to family and friends from the car, handheld radio or from home.  Track ham radio equipped balloon flights.  Work with hams with disabilities.  Refurbish or collect old time ham radio equipment.  Teach others ham radio courses and/or help with exam sessions.

ARRL-Centennial-Logo-small-1024x868           skywarn           amradiospace2013           amateur_radio_emergency_service_thumb  
                                                               

There are three different licenses you can obtain and they are designed in a way that as you study to get the first license, what you learn there will help you understand the next license study material.  The really nice thing about it is that you will have ALL the multiple choice questions in each exam pool AND THE EXACT ANSWER TO EVERY QUESTION!  That’s pretty good to have all the Q’s and A’s to study!  The sample questions in your study materials are the EXACT questions you will see on the exam.  A score of 74% gets you the license!  There are also FREE practice exams you can take online or even from your smartphone!  (I took a couple practice exams each evening as I sat watching TV in my favorite chair in my living room.)  Soon the questions you have missed in the past practice exams are embedded in your brain with the correct answers reinforced!  Each question will have four (4) possible answers; and on most of the questions you can just about eliminate two of the possible answers just by looking at them.  (I will give you some good pointers about how to study and prepare for the exams at the end of this post!  Read them before you buy any study guides or books!)

ham-radio-test

You will just need to do some interesting and fun reading, look at the questions (and the exact answers) from each chapter of the book… and before you know it you will be ready to take the exam!  You are going to learn some really cool stuff each time you read the material.  PLUS, as you advance to a higher class of Ham Radio license you can pick your own call sign!  (In the early 1980’s my first call sign was KA8LJO from the FCC as a Novice Class licensee… then I was assigned KB8FIR by the FCC when I got my Technician Class license… and better yet, when I got my Extra Class license I picked my own call sign, WT8WV… “Whiskey Tango 8 Whiskey Victor”.  I chose it for three reasons… I am fond of an occasional taste of good whiskey… I love my state of West Virginia… and phonetically it stands out and sings in a pile-up during a Ham Radio contest!)

GWTW14Stech

The first license you study for is called the Technician License and the exam has only 35 questions!  You will learn some very basic things about electricity, how your radio signals move through the air, some of the rules that the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) expects us to abide by for best practices, antennas, radios, the frequencies you can use in your new radio, and much more!  You will gain legal access to some very good frequencies for both voice and data communication in several excellent ham bands.  You could be ready to take this exam in a couple weeks of study!

gwgw11gen

The second license is called the General Class License and also has only 35 questions.  This course adds to what you learned in the Technician Class study.  It really dives just a bit deeper into some common things you will find will help you get more out of your antenna, radios, contesting, which ham bands magically open at specific periods of the day and year, some simply explanations of a few electronic circuits we use every day, and much more!  You will also gain even MORE frequencies on the ham bands to use at your pleasure!  You could be ready to take this exam in 2-4 weeks of easy study!

gwem-12extra

The third (and highest class of Ham Radio license) is called the Extra Class License and consists of a 50 question exam.  This study course really dives deeper in what you have learned in the Technician and General Class license preparations.  It will take a bit more time to study and prepare, and has a few more questions on the exam.  You gain ALL frequencies allotted to Ham Radio communications, with several excellent niches within certain ham bands reserved for ONLY Extra Class licensees!  You could be ready to take this exam in 30-60 days with some good study and practice exams under your belt!

ARRL-Logo

The Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) also offers all sorts of study books for not only all the licenses but a myriad of way cool ham related stuff for every facet of this vast hobby!  I have been a member of the ARRL for years and the monthly QST magazine alone is worth my dues!  Plus you get discounts on all the other books and items.  You can even find a local ham radio license class!  http://www.arrl.org/find-an-amateur-radio-license-class  Here is a link to the ARRL study guides for the three licenses.  They are much more in-depth than the Gordon West series of license books and a good addition to your study… but I personally feel the Gordon West series in the best way to get that license quickly.  Below for more information.   http://www.arrl.org/ham-radio-license-manual

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License Exam Study and Preparation Tips

Select which study book you will use for the license you are going to test for.

Find a quiet place to read.

Have a yellow highlighter handy to highlight things you might need to refer to for a question.

Study about 20 minutes a day.  That way you won’t overload your brain!

Download a smartphone app with the ham radio practice exam questions and answers.  I used this all the time whenever I had to wait around for something or someone… or in a boring meeting (once in a while).

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.iversoft.ham.test.prep&hl=en

Watch free YouTube videos to help you prepare or further understand the chapter.  I have watched all of Dave Casler’s YouTube videos and they were a tremendous help to UNDERSTAND not just the question but the concept for every ham license book.  He does each video by chapter or topic and they a short enough to consume in a sitting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEWmiMotimY&list=PL07A7D1C9D7BF7F48

I highly recommend the Gordon West Technician Class License Value Pack for getting your Technician License quickly!  I don’t get paid for saying this!  Grin.  However, I will tell your this is the best investment in getting a license you can find.  Gordo makes it fun to learn and he tackles every question and answer in a way that will etch it deep in your memory.  You will absolutely burn through the questions and he’ll teach you ways to remember even the questions that seem difficult for some reason.  I have met him at the Dayton Hamvention and he’s a wonderful person and so helpful.  He even gives you his personal telephone number to call if you have a question!  I suggest burning the CD’s to an MP3 format and put them on your iPod, iPhone, Android or other device so your can listen to them anywhere… car, at lunch, on the treadmill, working out, hiking, etc.  Worked for me every time I did my 30 minutes on the treadmill and lifting weights!  (After I completed my Extra Class license with his book and CD’s I sold them for half-price to another General License ham in our club who is now studying with them!  You could recoup some of your cost, too!)

http://www.w5yi.org/catalog_details.php?pid=78&sort=4

I highly recommend the Gordon West General Class License Value Pack for getting your General Class License quickly!  http://www.w5yi.org/catalog_details.php?pid=59&sort=4

I highly recommend the Gordon West Extra Class License Value Pack for getting your Extra Class License quickly!  http://www.w5yi.org/catalog_details.php?pid=43&sort=4

Practice Exams, Practice Exams, Practice Exams, Practice Exams, Practice Exams!

These are free and a good way to see what areas you need to focus on so you can master a question.  I did this about every evening during commercials watching TV!  Great feedback on how you are progressing in your studies.  When you begin scoring 80% on these practice exams you will be ready to sit for an exam!  (If you buy the ARRL study books, they come with a CD with all the questions in the pool, the answers, scores your exams, shows you the areas you need to focus on, and tracks your progress by each section of the question pool.)  

http://www.eham.net/exams/

Getting you Ham Radio License is NOT rocket science… but it will be fun!  It’s a hobby that is ageless.  What happens if the cellphone towers don’t work, or if there is a prolonged power outage, or a natural disaster prevents normal communications?  Ham radio operators are often the first folks getting the word out and getting the help coming in!  I doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby, either!  I have pieces of equipment I have either built myself or purchased dirt cheap at a flea market.  I have also saved my money for some other items in my ham shack.  It’s also a fun hobby to share with family, friends, and associates worldwide!  GET ON THE AIR!       

Click on picture below to enlarge it so you can see the frequency privileges you get with each license!

band_planou

10 Most Popular Microphone Wiring Diagrams

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This is an excellent article from QRZNOW.COM showing the pin-outs for the 10 most popular microphone cables.  This QRZNOW website is a huge resource for hams everywhere.  Click article link below for full article and wiring diagrams…

10 “Most” Popular MIC Wiring Diagrams

GPS and APRS… A Marriage Made In The Heavens

24satellite

How GPS Works

Basic APRS – An Introduction

Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS)

(Click link above for the ARRL APRS webpage explaining APRS)

 The Global Positioning System, or GPS, is pretty amazing and chances are, it’s playing a much greater role in your life than you realize. Anthony explains how GPS works and tells you about some pretty cool upgrades coming soon.

GPS
http://www.gps.gov/
“Official U.S. Government information about the Global Positioning System (GPS) and related topics”

GPS Modernization Video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chNQW2…

GPS is getting an $8-billion upgrade
http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/…
“Without it, ATMs would stop spitting out cash, Wall Street could blunder billions of dollars in stock trades and clueless drivers would get lost.”

New Satellites Could Make GPS Harder to Jam
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/…
“Without GPS, drones can’t fly, communications networks can’t function, and you don’t have a chance of figuring out how to get to your Aunt Sadie’s place in New Jersey. And right now, GPS is highly vulnerable because its weak signals are coming from an aging constellation of satellites.”

How GPS Receivers Work
http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/…
“Our ancestors had to go to pretty extreme measures to keep from getting lost. They erected monumental landmarks, laboriously drafted detailed maps and learned to read the stars in the night sky.”

Check out the Air Force Collaboratory:
https://collaboratory.airforce.com/

Watch More:

How Collaboration Leads To Great Ideas
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ga1_a4…

How Robots Help Search And Rescue Teams
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1Jztu…

Voyager 1: Where To Next?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRbG3y…

Space Weather Impacts Everyone… including amateur radio!

space weather

From the U.S. National Weather Service YouTube page… click video links below…

We rely on advanced technology for almost everything we do today. Satellite communications, GPS applications, and the electric power grid provide the backbone to our Nation’s economic vitality and national security. This technology however, is vulnerable to a threat from space — our Sun. Eruptions from the Sun can have a profound impact on society. In Boulder, Colorado NOAA space weather forecasters maintain a constant vigil on the Sun, alerting a diverse customer base when storms are imminent. Operators from many sectors will take mitigating actions to protect the critical infrastructure that we have come to depend on.

An Introduction to Space Weather and the Space Weather Prediction Center

Space Weather Impacts: Communications

Space Weather Impacts: GPS

Space Weather Impacts: Power

Radio Signal Identification (Sample Audio and Waterfall Images)

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Did you ever wonder what some of those strange radio signal beeps, boops, squeals and braps are when you tune across the radio frequencies?  Click the link below for a neat wiki page, off one of The DXZone and Sigidwiki.com website pages, that not only allows you to listen to short audio segments of them but also shows what the signal looks like in a waterfall image.

Signal Identification Guide

 

Historical Events in Amature Radio… 1894 to 1998

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This is a fun read about our amateur radio hobby from it’s infancy.  Well written factoids from The Ham Radio Files website.  Click the link below for the article…

Historical Events in Amateur Radio

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