There are some who may read this post and wonder if it is necessary for me to say these things. After observing humans for over 65 years and seeing how they treat other people’s property I say yes it is necessary. Most of the disrespect for other people’s property, I believe, comes from a lack of training so it is my purpose to give just a little training.
When you set up an emergency ham radio station it will most likely be on property you don’t own; in other words you will be a guest who been allowed this privilege. Respect that property whether it is a building, an open field, or whatever is provided. It, most likely, is a place where someone else lives, works, or plays. When you return it to them they would like for it to be returned to them just like you found it when you got there.
Before rearranging furniture, equipment, or any thing else take time to look and write down how these items are arranged and where they are located. Again I say write it down and draw a diagram because, if your memory is anything like mine you may forget just how it was; also there is the possibility that someone else may have to break down the station and set things back in order when the emergency is over.
Leave gates the way you found them. By that I mean if you enter through a gate and it was closed before you entered it stop and take the time to close it. You may not see any reason why a gate should be shut but if the owner has shut it then it should be shut even if you are not going to be there very long (animals can escape very quickly even if you don’t see them.) You don’t have to know why. If the gate was open then don’t take it upon yourself to shut the gate.
For the most part the same thing can be said about doors in a building.
Keep your vehicle on the road or designated area for vehicle. Even if you think it will be okay to drive there, if you have not been given specific instruction to drive there, don’t drive there.
Do not litter. If you brought it in then remove it. If someone else brought it in for you to use then make sure, if you are not able to remove it, that someone is responsible to remove it and follow up to see that it has been removed. Except maybe under some conditions, do not use their trash cans. Take your trash off the property.
Do not duct tape antennas to the wall. Duct tape will sometimes cause paint to chip when it is removed. Do not put nails or staples in anything.
Amateur radio stations need antennas.
If you erect an antenna in trees be sure you do not damage the trees or any fruit that may be on them. In like manner treat any structure you may use for erecting an antenna or installing equipment with respect.
If you do cause any damage inter the information in your log book and notify your leader and the owner if you are able to.
Many times people feel like it is no big deal. They would not be bothered if someone else did that to them but the owner or manager of the property may not have the same standards as you have.
Showing respect can get an invitation to use that property again if needed in the future but a lack of respect can result in a big wall being put up against any future use.
Amateur radio still servers an important function in our society. When old timers like me go silent key it is the younger generation that will keep it going. Encourage young people into ham radio and encourage them to be active.
(Photo from QRZ Now – Ham Radio Facebook page)
The best antenna you can afford that will fit on the real-estate you have is important but it also important that you not exceed what you can afford and lets face it you can’t put ten tons of fertilizer in a one ton truck.
My first antenna was a center fed 40 meter dipole feed with 300 ohm twin lead. The transmitter was a Viking Ranger which, as anyone who ever owned one can tell you, will load just about anything.
Being a novice I could work the 80, 40, and 15 bands and they all worked using that one antenna. I was happy with it and worked a lot of stations but older hams told me that I couldn’t do that. I had to use 50 ohm coax cable to feed that antenna so I took down the twin lead and put up coax. The Ranger would still load all three bands but 80 meters did not work well at all while 40 and 15 meters showed no improvement that I could see.
Later I purchased a 23 foot vertical antenna that had a big coil at the base. By using an alligator clip the inductance of the coil could be changed thus allowing the antenna to be used from 160 to 10 meters. I could not put down radials but I made a lot of contacts on that antenna.
It is true that to operate most efficiently a vertical antenna needs a good ground plain. This means having a sheet of metal or metal radials at least one quarter wave long running out from the base of the antenna in all directions from the antenna.
A ground plain for UHF and VHF is fairly easy to make but when it comes to making a ground plain for a vertical HF antenna it can become a lot more complicated because of the size of real-estate that is needed. To ground mount a 20 meter vertical antenna for optimal performance a ground plain of just over 33 feet in diameter needs to be laid down. That would be a tight fit for most city lots even if you had nothing else in your back yard.
There are vertical HF antennas available today that can be put up a few feet above The ground with no radials and I am told they work quite well. Having never experienced them personally but having very reliable recommendations I would say if you can afford
one this would be the best way to provide an omni-directional vertically polarized amateur radio station.
If you can not afford a no ground plain required vertical HF antenna but you do have access to or can build an antenna that would best be operated with a ground plain but you do not have room for such a ground plain the soil should provide sufficient ground plain allow reasonable operation. Not optimal but reasonable.
In the late 1960’s I lived in Sacramento and used a Hy-Gain 18AVQ which is a 80 through 10 meter vertical antenna. It should have had a metal ground plain but there was not enough room to put one in for the antenna. Using that antenna on a 180 watt PEP input (approximately 90 watt PEP output) transceiver I was able to work many DX stations including Europe, South America, Japan, Australia, and more. I was also able to run weekly phone patches for a missionary in Liberia to his family living locally.
The point is, when it comes to setting up a ham radio station, part of the fun is to evaluate your resources and make the most effective operating station you can. Be sure you are not radiating any unwanted signals. Then have fun. I am sure it will work better then you might think it will.
As any regular reader of this blog knows, I firmly believe using ham radio during an emergency situation is of great importance in to the well being of our communities. Cell phones, land line telephone, and internet are very effective means of communication most of the time, but these all have a complex infrastructure and if that infrastructure fails, as it is very apt to do during an emergency, these means of communications become useless. Ham radio does not have an infrastructure so as long as some means of emergency power is available (sun, wind, water, hand cranked generator, etc) communications is possible. Many times in the past ham radio has been the only means of communications in and out of stricken areas, and without doubt it again will be many times in the future.
The ARRL sponsored ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services) provides a means whereby ham radio operators can facilitate a higher level of preparedness for themselves and their station. ARES provides training, information, and organization for emergency operation.
In the spirit of amateur radio emergency preparedness the Sacramento Valley ARES has put together a website which, though most specifically aimed at Sacramento Valley, will help any ham radio operator or group of hams to be more prepared. This includes ARES membership information, training resources, information on local nets, links to a variety of other related sites, and much more.
This site can be found at: http://www.sacvalleyares.org
A few weeks ago a ham gave me a report on my 40 meter SSB signal quality. He told me that my carrier was fine but my audio was low. That is when it became obvious to me that either I had a problem with my transmitter or he did not understand what SSB was and I think it was the latter.
Normally the term SSB is used to mean Single-SideBand suppressed carrier (SSB-SC). In other words, if the transmitter is operating correctly there is no noticeable carrier. It is possible and legal to send a SSB signal with carrier but I have never heard this done on the ham bands.
When two alternating current signals are combined in a non-linear circuit they will product heterodynes of the sum and the differences of the signals.
(Heterodyne is an English word that is composed of two words of Greek origin. the first part, hetro, comes from the Greek word heteros [ἕτερος] which means another of a different kind. The second part of the word is dyne which comes from the Greek word dynamis [δύναμις]. The English word dynamite is also from δύναμις. It means force, power, or energy. When the two words are put together it means an energy or signal of a different kind or different frequency in this case.)
So if there is a 1 MHz signal mixed with a 1 KHz signal it will produce a third signal equal to the sum the two (1 MHz plus 1 KHz) or 1,001 KHz called the upper sideband. It will also produce an other signal equal to the difference of the two or 999 KHz (1 MHz minus 1 KHz) called the lower sideband. If the 1 MHz carrier is transmitted with the two side bands it will result in an Amplitude Modulated signal with a 1 KHz tone.
To send a SSB signal the carrier and one of the sidebands must be removed. The carrier is normally removed in the balanced modulator and the unwanted side band is removed by a filter.
There is a process of removing the carrier and unwanted sideband by phasing networks but I do not know of any modern transmitter that uses this process.
So when giving a signal report on someone’s SSB signal do not say the carrier is fine because if it has a carrier that is not good and they need to be told.
Many people consider history to be a very boring subject, but most regular readers of this blog probably realize that I have a certain fascination with history especially radio history.
If you are one of those who find history boring try thinking of it this way. Suppose you are lost in the woods and you don’t know how you got there. You seriously don’t think anyone knows where you are, or that anyone will notice your disappearance. Then a search team finds you. Wouldn’t you want to know how you ended up in the woods and how the search team knew too look for you and where to look?
That’s what history is all about. History tells us who we are, where we came from, and how we got to where we are today. It also tells us about the people who found the places, developed the philosophy, and invented the objects that make us who we are, and placed us where we are now.
Whether it is your ham radio, cell phone, television, broadcast radio, or other wireless device it started with Hertz’s spark. Electronic communications, which includes the telegraph and telephone, started earlier. Marconi did not invent the radio he just put together the wire, and wireless components that others had already invented and showed how they could be used for wireless communications.
I do not want to go back to the spark gap days of radio, but I do want to know what it was like for 6CC (later W6CC) who proctored my novice class test and for others of that era.
This morning I found a web site that not only describes the spark gap transmitter but even has some examples of how it sounded, both in Morse code and AM. Notice I said Morse code and not CW because spark gap transmissions were not CW (continuous wave) but it was a damped wave. This site explains the difference. The sight can be found at http://www.hammondmuseumofradio.org/spark.html (CLICK HERE).
(For an interesting history of Amateur Radio mostly from the political view read Two Hundred Meters and Down: The Story of Amatuer Radio by Clinton B. DeSoto (Click Here).
Frequently I hear one ham tell another, while talking through an FM repeater, “your audio is low but maybe when you get closer it will come up.” That statement shows a lack of understanding about how FM works.
FM is short for Frequency Modulation. That means the intelligence, voice or other information, volume level is increased by increasing the deviation (the shift in frequency plus and minus from the un-modulated carrier frequency). One of the reasons FM is such a good mode of modulation when using a repeater is because the level of audio output remains constant after full capture (full quieting) of the repeaters receiver is achieved. So if the received signal is sufficient for full capture of the signal by the repeater’s receiver the audio will not increase or decrease with an increase or decrease of power reaching the receiver.
So if your audio is low and you have full quieting on the repeater output and you have not experienced that problem in the past using that repeater make the following checks.
Check the mike connector and mike cable. If possible change mikes to see if there is a change.
Check antenna connector, cable, and SWR to make sure no RF is getting into the audio stages and deteriorating their operation.
If your transmitter is capable of the new narrow band FM check to be sure the narrow band switch has not been toggled.
The deviation level of most modern transceivers can be adjusted by programming the desired deviation level. If your transceiver has such a programming feature then check to be sure it is correct. If deviation is set by an internal potentiometer it might be wise not to try to set the level without a deviation-meter.
If your transmitted audio is reported to be distorted and low check to be sure you are equipment is set to the proper frequency. It is easy to set the transmit frequency 5 KHz high or low in frequency and while the signal may still open up the repeater it will be distorted.