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Fan Vertical Antenna

Foundations of Amateur Radio One of the single most recurring topics within our community is that of antennas. Everywhere you look is a story or a photo or a website or a contact about an antenna that came into being because somebody had an idea. Now if you've been in the ideas field for a while you'll have learnt that having the idea is often just the start of the process. After that there's planning, sourcing, building and testing. If you're lucky you'll end up with something and a story...


Empirical evidence and the scientific method

Foundations of Amateur Radio Empirical evidence and the scientific method The hobby of amateur radio is a curious animal. It sits at the junction between empirical evidence and the scientific method. On the one hand it's all about physics, electricity, magnetism and the science behind those. On the other hand it's about trying something out and seeing what happens. When I started in this hobby, I was all about the science. I wanted to know "Why is it so?" "What evidence is there to support...


QRP EME project update #1

Foundations of Amateur Radio QRP EME project update #1 Over the past year and a half I've been working on a secret project. Today I'd like to share what I've been up to. To set the scene, I'm not doing this on my own, a fellow co-conspirator is Randall VK6WR who became an amateur about 20 months ago. Randall has a long association with the Engineering Development Array and the Murchison Wide Field Array, two of several radio telescopes that are built on one of the few radio quiet areas in...


What are you proud of?

Foundations of Amateur Radio Often we forget the things we've done or achieved and every now and then it seems like a solid use of time to reflect a little on what went before and what that did. Recently I asked various amateurs what they were proud of having done or achieved in the past year, their little personal victory, their thrill to keep coming back to the hobby. For me it was the research and production behind "Is man-made noise really vertical?". It took several weeks to research...


Contest Headphones and glorious HF SSB

Foundations of Amateur Radio Recently I managed to get some quality on-air time when I participated in a contest. This isn't about contesting. Although I suppose tangentially it is. It was a most enjoyable experience shared with some friends and because we did it at a local radio club, Sunday morning had all manner of visitors joining us for a little social chat, just the ticket for breaking the monotony of calling CQ. Normally when I do a contest I wear headphones, actually it's a headset,...


How do I get a better antenna?

Foundations of Amateur Radio The question that new amateurs most often ask after "What radio should I buy?" is "How do I get the best antenna?". In a household where you're the only antenna affected aficionado the question is likely more along the lines of: "Why do you need another antenna?". The answer is pretty much the same, an antenna is fit for purpose, generally only one purpose. Going from A to B without walking might involve a car. If it's just you, one seat is enough, if your local...


When does knowing more make it harder?

Foundations of Amateur Radio The other day one of my non amateur friends asked for some help. He wants to set up a receiver for his bush fire brigade that's available via the internet so his community can listen to the communication channels when there are fires around, or when a volunteer is out of radio range but still wants to hear what's going on. His question was about hooking up an antenna. We started to discuss what he already had and it turns out that he has enough coaxial cable in...


Are you an Elmer?

Foundations of Amateur Radio Are you an Elmer? In our hobby there is a term "Elmer", referring to someone who helps new amateurs find their way inside the community, locate resources, understand techniques, etc. It's part of what we might consider the folklore of amateur radio. I started this with the intent to quickly introduce the concept of an Elmer and then spend some time talking about our own role in this adventure, but as is often the case, I was side-tracked by my own investigation....


When failure doesn't matter ...

Foundations of Amateur Radio The other day I read a message from Theodore KS5I who has been around the block a couple of times. He recalls the excitement he experienced when he was first licensed in 1967, the year I was born. He described that at the time transistors were just coming into their own and it was so wonderful to be learning about them. The closing sentence sealed it for me: Theodore wrote: Perhaps, its time for some of us more mature operators to release the past so our hands...


The Golden Age of Amateur Radio is Now

Foundations of Amateur Radio The Golden Age of Amateur Radio is Now Imagine a world where electronics are pervasive, a transceiver can be purchased for the price of two Big Macs, kits are designed and built using simple tools at home, software makes it possible to invent new methods of communication on an almost daily basis, where long distance contacts are made throughout the day using milliwatts while ionospheric propagation is at an all-time low, where national parks and peaks are being...


Everything you wanted to know about amateur radio but were afraid to ask!

Foundations of Amateur Radio There are people who ask questions and there are people who answer them. Sometimes the people who answer even know what they're talking about, but sometimes they just repeat what they've been told without any form of critical thought. The reason I raise this is because when you're a new amateur with a shiny new license, you're like a little puppydog, going from tree to tree to have a sniff. Does this smell good, what about this, ooh, that's a nice smell, I wonder...


Get on air and make some noise ...

Foundations of Amateur Radio Get on air and make some noise is a phrase I use often to encourage amateurs to be active on-air and use the bands that are available to us. One thing that's often glossed over is how to actually make that noise. It can be scary to make that first contact. If you've got your radio installed, your antenna erected, your operating position set-up just right and you're ready to actually key your microphone, how do you do that and how do you get the attention of those...


Celebrate accomplishments

Foundations of Amateur Radio Mistakes are common in all aspects of life. Sometimes they are only known to you, other times they are public knowledge and open to ridicule and lambasting. Getting on air for the first time is an accomplishment and often the initial source of mistakes, mishaps and great frustration. Once you've made it on air, the reception to this feat is often underwhelming, people around you don't appear to appreciate the amount of effort you went to in order to key your...


Everything you know about dipole (calculators) is wrong ...

Foundations of Amateur Radio Everything you know about dipole (calculators) is wrong ... The other day I did an experiment. I searched for "dipole calculator" and using the first 20 results I calculated the length of a dipole suitable for 7.130 MHz. I chose the frequency for no other reason that there is a 7130 DX net every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and for the longest time I've been unable to participate due to the lack of a HF antenna in my new shack. So here's some things I learnt from...


Random bits of wire ...

Foundations of Amateur Radio One topic that is longer than all other topics combined is that of antennas. Designing, planning, sourcing, building, tuning, using, you name it, all of this is regular fare in the day of a radio amateur. I've discussed the topic here regularly and no doubt I'll revisit that when the mood or necessity takes me. One topic that is rarely discussed is that of failure. About six months ago I moved house. I've been rebuilding my shack, doing all manner of fancy...


Is man-made noise really vertical?

Foundations of Amateur Radio One of the often repeated attributes of noise and antennas is that man-made noise is vertically polarised and that is why a vertical antenna sounds noisier than a horizontal dipole. It's an interesting thing to say, but it it true? Let's start with what constitutes man-made noise. Cars driving past, solar panel inverters, pool pumps, high-tension power lines, garage door openers, broadband internet modems, LED lights, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, plasma televisions...


Antenna Polarisation and you

Foundations of Amateur Radio The first time I came across the concept of antenna polarisation was a decade before I became a radio amateur. To connect to the internet while driving around Australia I became the proud owner of a portable satellite dish. Portable in the broadest sense of the word, 150 kilos with a dish that's 2.4m high, 1.8m wide, steel base, electronics, power and patience to erect and point. The dish has a receiver and transmitter component that needs to be aligned, just so,...


Cloud Warming in style or what is NVIS?

Foundations of Amateur Radio The term NVIS, or Near Vertical Incidence Skywave is in my short experience as an amateur heaped with scorn and ridicule. Terms like cloud-warmer come to mind when people discuss the principles associated with NVIS, but that does happen in the context of where I live, that is, one of the most isolated cities on the planet, Perth in Western Australia. NVIS has several advantages over other forms of HF communication, it can be done with low power, there is little...


How can I talk to my friend?

Foundations of Amateur Radio A recurring question for people who are not yet, or newly licensed is something along the lines of: I have a friend who is 400 kilometres away, can I talk to them on my hand-held 2m radio? This particular question arrives in different forms, but generally along the lines of attempting to communicate between point A and point B at some or other distance. The responses, on social media at least, less so on-air, are often very technical, or offer the advice to get a...


Nothing like the standard of Morse Code ...

Foundations of Amateur Radio Nothing like the standard of Morse Code ... Morse Code is a way of communicating with people across the globe using dits and dahs and the spaces between them to convey a message. It's no longer required to get an Amateur License, but that doesn't mean that it's not useful, in fact, far from it, Morse is still heavily used in this hobby. I've been attempting to learn Morse code for quite some time. To do this I was told, time and time again, over and over, ad...