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Foundations of Amateur Radio

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Get a Contesting Buddy

Foundations of Amateur Radio There is a solitude about amateur radio. Sitting in your shack, listening to the bands, trying to locate an elusive station and if you're doing a contest then even that can be something that you do alone. Don't get me wrong, I like my own company as much as the next introvert, but there is much joy to be found in finding a companion. Over the years I've participated in group activities, camping, field-days, contests, activations, antenna building, ham-fests and...


Logging of a Different Kind

Foundations of Amateur Radio Logging of a Different Kind We as radio amateurs log things. We log our contacts, we log our progress towards an award, we log how many different countries we've contacted, which stations we heard with WSPR, how many kilometres we managed per watt, which stations were in a net, what callsigns received a QSL card, what location we're in when we made a contact. You get the point, we log things, many things and for many different reasons. Here's a log that I started...


The Internet of Digital Radio

Foundations of Amateur Radio The topic of how radio evolves and embraces available technology is one that describes the hobby itself. From spark-gap through AM, SSB and FM our community picked up or invented solutions to make communication possible. When the internet came along it too became a tool ripe for picking and in 1997 a connection between a radio and the internet was made with the Internet Radio Linking Project or IRLP when Dave VE7LTD, a student at the University of British...


How to find other Amateurs on Air

Foundations of Amateur Radio Where are all the Amateurs is a question that I am asked regularly by new entrants into our community. The journey most new amateurs go through and the one I followed starts with becoming interested, getting a license, buying a radio, setting it up and then turning on your radio. If you're lucky you are at this point surrounded by other amateurs, hopefully in a club setting, or you have a friend nearby and you're off and running. The reality is likely that even...


How does a waterfall display work?

Foundations of Amateur Radio With computers becoming more and more ensconced within the confines of our radio shack the variety of information available is increasing regularly. The introduction of a waterfall display has dramatically simplified the process of detecting what the activity level is on a particular band. If you've never seen a waterfall display, it's often a real-time, or nearly real-time display of radio activity. Leaving aside the mechanics of how this comes about, or how...


Why do you contest?

Foundations of Amateur Radio The other week I participated in a contest. This particular contest was on the 80m band, around 3.5 MHz. The contest itself, while worthy of a mention, the Harry Angel Memorial Sprint, runs for 106 minutes and commemorates every year of Harry's life, at the time, the oldest radio amateur in Australia. I made two contacts. Count 'm and weep. Two. So, you could do the thing that I might have done in a previous contest, smiled, thought, "Wow, that's not very many...


Preparation for an outing ...

Foundations of Amateur Radio Previously I've talked about leaving your shack and setting up your station in a different location. I have my car configured as a mobile shack of sorts, that is, it's got a radio, an antenna mount and wiring to manage the location of the speaker, the head-unit and the microphone. This weekend I'm planning to do a contest and it's been a while since I operated my radio from my car. I've been advocating that you should do some preparation before actually going...


SWR assumptions

Foundations of Amateur Radio In the past I've talked about the Standing Wave Ratio, the SWR, and how it describes some of the characteristics of your antenna system. I say system because it's not just the antenna, it's the connection between your radio and the antenna as well. The coax or feed line, their length and how you've connected your antenna, all feature in the performance of the entire kit and caboodle. As an aside, that's why measuring an antenna with an SWR meter at the bottom...


Learning on 2m FM

Foundations of Amateur Radio Last week during F-troop something very interesting happened. If you're not familiar with F-troop, it's a weekly net for new and returning amateurs and every Saturday we welcome callers to the one hour net to discuss anything and everything amateur radio. It's been going for about seven or so years, about as long as I have been making this weekly contribution to the hobby. Normally there's a host, often it's me, but not always, handing the microphone to the...


Shakespeare and Coax Stub Filters

Foundations of Amateur Radio If you read it on the Internet, it must be true, but what happens if you read it and there are 700 different answers? In my day job I search countless times a day for answers to problems. Based on my experience I can look at a list of responses to a question and tell myself what the skill-set is of the poster, "they don't know what they're talking about", "they're guessing", "they've got no clue", "they tried it", "ah, this one knows what they're talking...


Experience comes from doing ...

Foundations of Amateur Radio During the week a friend reminded me that the process of determining what's happening within a shack comes with experience. In my day job my whole skill-set can be summed up with one word: "debugging", in all its many and varied guises, fixing code, hardware, business processes, skill-sets, what ever it may be. The process is pretty much, figure out what's going wrong, find out what shouldn't be happening and attempt to join the mismatch together with anything...


eBook Volume 6 - short

Foundations of Amateur Radio is now available as an eBook. In Volume 6 - Joy of discovery - read about microphone technique, the dead band, propagation maps, melting coax, amateur radio satellites, strange antennas, self-training, SOTA adventures and more. Search for my callsign - VK6FLAB - on your local Amazon store to have a Look inside. I'm Onno VK6FLAB


You and the IARU

Foundations of Amateur Radio Have you ever considered the infrastructure that exists to make it possible to tune to 7.090 MHz, call CQ and make contact with anyone on the planet? In a world where we as radio amateurs share spectrum with radio and television broadcasters, mobile phones, wireless networks, satellites, GPS, drones, wireless headphones, radar, boating, aviation, citizen band, garage door openers, fitness trackers and any other wireless gadget imaginable, not to mention radio...


Coax Loss vs Connector Loss - now with more coax

Foundations of Amateur Radio Recently I spent some time discussing the losses associated with connectors between your radio and your antenna. The traditional wisdom, and I use the word "wisdom" ironically, says that each connector introduces loss into the feed line. There is an understanding that the more connectors you have the worse it is and the more loss you have. Jim W6LG did the test, connected up 30 odd connectors and measured. His measurements were done on 14 MHz and on 50 MHz,...


eBook Volume 5 - short

Foundations of Amateur Radio is now available as an eBook. In Volume 5 - Getting on air - read about the perfect SWR, how to become a better operator, what batteries to use, the difference between a propagation forecast and reality, the phonetic alphabet, antenna compromises, Q-codes and more. Search for my callsign - VK6FLAB - on your local Amazon store to have a Look inside. I'm Onno VK6FLAB


Coax Loss vs Connector Loss

Foundations of Amateur Radio A question that comes up regularly is one about loss, specifically loss in the coax and connectors between your radio and your antenna. The general wisdom is that better coax gives you better results and more connectors is bad. Anything with double joiners, or such like is really bad. So, essentially we've been taught that we should have the shortest coax possible with as few connectors as possible. Pretty fair and reasonable, right? During the week I was...


Amateur Radio Minimalism

Foundations of Amateur Radio The ultimate radio shack is a nirvana that most amateurs I've met strive for all their life. One of the many views I've heard on the topic keeps speaking to me, one of minimalism, less is more, what is the absolute minimum that you can use and still call yourself an amateur? As you know, I've recently moved and my shack was packed up into some boxes and is now slowly being unearthed. At the moment there are two antennas, a radio and a power supply. Keen...


eBook Volume 4 - short

Foundations of Amateur Radio is now available as an eBook. In Volume 4 - Just get started - follow my journey through the amateur radio community, how to use QSL cards, mobile antennas on HF, licensing requirements, policing the airwaves, the super check partial list, packing up coax, lightning protection and more. Search for my callsign - VK6FLAB - on your local Amazon store to have a Look inside. I'm Onno VK6FLAB


What improbable antenna solution works?

Foundations of Amateur Radio There is some truth in simplicity. I've mentioned in the past that "suck it and see" is a perfectly valid solution to figuring out if something is going to work or not. I've moved into my new home, my new QTH. The roof is colour bond, that's basically a corrugated iron roof, painted in some random colour. I think it's grey, but don't quote me on that, could be green. Inside is a mezzanine floor, essentially carving out a space within the roof area. It's going...


What criteria do you have for your ideal shack?

Foundations of Amateur Radio From time-to-time people move and their shack tends to move with them. For me that move is happening right now, I'm moving all of 900m up the road, a long story in itself, but perhaps best told over a camp fire far from civilisation. As I started the process of working out what needed to be done I realised that I made a few rookie errors. The first one, one that I've made before, but at the time my excuse was that I knew nothing about amateur radio - some say I...