Foundations of Amateur Radio-logo

Foundations of Amateur Radio

Talk Show Replays

Starting in the wonderful hobby of Amateur or HAM Radio can be daunting and challenging but can be very rewarding. Every week I look at a different aspect of the hobby, how you might fit in and get the very best from the 1000 hobbies that Amateur Radio represents. Note that this podcast started in 2011 as "What use is an F-call?".

Starting in the wonderful hobby of Amateur or HAM Radio can be daunting and challenging but can be very rewarding. Every week I look at a different aspect of the hobby, how you might fit in and get the very best from the 1000 hobbies that Amateur Radio represents. Note that this podcast started in 2011 as "What use is an F-call?".


United States


Starting in the wonderful hobby of Amateur or HAM Radio can be daunting and challenging but can be very rewarding. Every week I look at a different aspect of the hobby, how you might fit in and get the very best from the 1000 hobbies that Amateur Radio represents. Note that this podcast started in 2011 as "What use is an F-call?".






The dynamic nature of your shack

Foundations of Amateur Radio If you have the opportunity to build your shack, it might start off as a table in the corner where you plonk down a radio, plug into nearby power and run coax to. That's pretty much how most shacks start, mine included. For me the step of running coax was an activity that took weeks of planning and procrastination and days of climbing on the roof. After actually completing that and getting two runs of coax to my planned shack, one for HF and one for UHF and...


When you just have to try things ...

Foundations of Amateur Radio A little while ago I was gifted a new radio, well, new to me. A Kenwood TS-480HX. It's an all mode HF transceiver with 6m. Does 200 Watts, but you know me, I'm into QRP, low power, so I first had to figure out how to dial the transmitter down to 5 Watts and that was after figuring out how to feed the dual power supplies from one source and have the fuses work as expected. When I received the radio, I took stock of all the bits that it was packed with, all...


Portable experiences ...

Foundations of Amateur Radio Last weekend was memorable for all the right reasons. Filled with 24 hours of amateur radio, spent with friends, in a park, making noise and having fun, marking the first time I recall setting up in a park for that length of time with so few extra resources. Normally we'd be decked out with tents, or in my case a swag, we'd have camping stoves, perhaps even a caravan or two, tables, cutlery, the whole shebang. This time we brought none of that. Just radios,...


The remote edge...

Foundations of Amateur Radio The landscape of remotely operated amateur radio is changing by the day. Once the territory of home brew DTMF decoders and remote controlled radio links, now more often than not it's a Raspberry Pi with an internet connection, or some variation on that. Before I continue, I must point out that amateur regulations vary widely around the globe, especially in this area. It appears mostly due to the rapidly changing nature of remotely operated radios. For example,...


Making observations

Foundations of Amateur Radio Amateur radio is an environment for infinite possibilities. I've spoken about the way that contacts can happen, seemingly out of the blue, how propagation has so many variables it's hard to predict what will happen at any given moment. During a contest you might scan up and down the bands looking for an elusive multiplier, a contact that's worth extra points, or a missing DXCC country, in your quest to contact a hundred or more. It's easy to get swept away in...


Word of the day: software

Foundations of Amateur Radio Every community has its own language. As a member of that community you learn the words, their meaning and their appropriate use. For example, the combination of words "Single Side Band" have a specific meaning inside amateur radio. Outside of radio, those same words are random words with no relationship. Sometimes a term like "FM" can be heard across many communities with similar understanding, though not identical. It gets tricky when a word is used widely...


How many hops in a jump?

Foundations of Amateur Radio Amateur radio lives and dies with the ionosphere. It's drilled into you when you get your license, it's talked about endlessly, the sun impacts on it, life is bad when the solar cycle is low and great when it's not. There's sun spots, solar K and A indices, flux, different ionosperic bands and tools online that help you predict what's possible and how likely it is depending on the time of day, the frequency, your location and the curent state of the sun. If...


You Can't Always Get What You Want

Foundations of Amateur Radio One of the things about amateur radio that I find intensely fascinating and to be honest sometimes just as frustrating, is that you don't know what the outcome of an experiment might be at any one time. Not because you cannot control the experiment, or because you don't know what you're doing, but because the number of variables involved in most meaningful amateur radio experiments is pretty much infinite. I've spoken about this before, the idea that if you...


Running out of things to do ...

Foundations of Amateur Radio So, there's nothing on TV, the bands are dead, nobody is answering your CQ, you're bored and it's all too hard. You've run out of things to try, there's only so many different ways to use the radio and it's all too much. I mean, you've only got CW, AM, SSB, FM, there's Upper and Lower Side-band, then there's RTTY, the all too popular FT8, then there's WSPR, but then you run out of things. I mean, right? What about PSK31, SSTV, then there's AMTOR,...


What's in a prediction?

Foundations of Amateur Radio Over the past little while I've been experimenting with various tools that decode radio signals. For some of those tools the signals come from space. Equipment in space is moving all the time, which means that the thing you want to hear isn't always in range. For example. The International Space Station or ISS has a typical orbit of 90 minutes. Several times a day there's a pass. That means that it's somewhere within receiving range of my station. It might be...


Changing of the guard ...

Foundations of Amateur Radio When you begin your journey as a radio amateur you're introduced to the concept of a mode. A mode is a catch-all phrase that describes a way of encoding information into radio signals. Even if you're not familiar with amateur radio, you've come across modes, although you might not have known at the time. When you tune to the AM band, you're picking a set of frequencies, but also a mode, the AM mode. When you tune to the FM band, you do a similar thing, set of...


The Vagabond HAM

Foundations of Amateur Radio This podcast began life under the name "What use is an F-call?" and was renamed to "Foundations of Amateur Radio" after 206 episodes. To mark what is effectively this, the 500th episode, I considered a retrospective, highlighting some of the things that have happened over the past decade of my life as a radio amateur. I considered marking it by giving individual credit to all those amateurs who have helped me along the way by contacting me, documenting things,...


The APRS of it all ...

Foundations of Amateur Radio Amateur radio is a living anachronism. We have this heady mix of ancient and bleeding edge, never more evident than in a digital mode called Automatic Packet Reporting System or APRS. It's an amateur mode that's used all over the place to exchange messages like GPS coordinates, radio balloon and vehicle tracking data, battery voltages, weather station telemetry, text, bulletins and increasingly other information as part of the expanding universe of the Internet...


The other radios in the world ...

Foundations of Amateur Radio When you join the community of radio amateurs you'll find a passionate group of people who to greater and lesser degree spend their time and energy playing with radios in whatever shape that takes. For some it involves building equipment, for others it means going on a hike and activating a park. Across all walks of life you'll find people who are licensed radio amateurs, each with their own take on what this hobby means. Within that community it's easy to...


The impossible task

Foundations of Amateur Radio For decades I've been playing with every new piece of technology that comes my way. In amateur radio terms that's reflected in, among other things, playing with different antennas, radios, modes and software. One of the modes I've played with is slow scan television or SSTV. It's an amateur mode that transmits pictures rather than voice over amateur radio. A couple of months ago a local amateur, Adrian VK6XAM, set-up an SSTV repeater. The way it works is that...


Testing a link, on a band, at a time.

Foundations of Amateur Radio The other day I wanted to know what kind of communication was possible between my station and the station of a friend of mine. We want to do some experiments and for that to be possible, we need to have a reliable communication channel. Traditionally you would get in touch with each other and attempt to find a suitable frequency on a band to make a QSO or contact. That generally involves picking a band, then tuning around the band, finding a frequency that's...


When will it ever end?

Foundations of Amateur Radio Mark Twain is often misquoted in relation to reports about his death, pithy as always, he said: "The report of my death was an exaggeration." Similarly the death of amateur radio has been reported on many different occasions. Letting amateurs near a Morse key, banning spark-gap transmitters, introducing transistors, integrated circuits, computers, the internet, software defined radio, the list grows as technology evolves. I can imagine our descendants decrying...


If you want to do HF in an apartment, where do you start?

Foundations of Amateur Radio One of the many vexing issues associated with getting on-air and making noise is actually making that happen. So, let's look at a completely restricted environment. An apartment building, seven stories off the ground, no ability to make holes, an unsympathetic council, restrictive local home owners association, et cetera, et cetera. On the face of it your amateur radio hobby is doomed from the start. In reality, it's only just beginning. So, to hear HF right...


2m reciprocity and other assumptions

Foundations of Amateur Radio Over the past nine and a half years I've been hosting a weekly radio net for new and returning amateurs. Called F-troop, it runs every Saturday morning at 0:00 UTC for an hour. Feel free to join in. The website is at In making the better part of six thousand contacts during that time I've learnt a few things about how nets work and how there are built-in assumptions about how a contact is made. There are several things that seem...


Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance

Foundations of Amateur Radio The other day I was adding an item to my to-do list. The purpose of this list is to keep track of the things in my life that I'm interested in investigating or need to do or get to finish a project. My to-do list is like those of most of my fellow travellers, unending, unrelenting and never completed. As I tick off a completed item, three more get added and the list grows. Given some spare time and to be honest, who has that, I am just as likely to find an item...