Encourage Young People into Ham Radio

Girls with antennaAmateur 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)

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Does Your Antenna Work?

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.

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Phony Phone Numbers

If you are like me you hate harassing phone calls from telemarketers. They call and take you away from what you are doing but you try to be nice and tell them you are not interested. Then within a day or two they call again and then again.

Such misuse of  the telephone has caused many people, when asked for their phone number, to give a false number. Sometimes they are real numbers just not the number of the person giving out that number. The result of that is someone else gets the call.

You may be wondering what this has to do with ham radio.

When taking a test for ham radio you are asked for your phone number. It is estimated that over half maybe as high as three quarters of the numbers given are incorrect numbers.

These numbers are used by the ARRL to send a message of congratulations to those who successfully pass the test. It is not necessary to enter any number so if you do not want to receive the message of congratulations from the ARRL just leave that space blank. It is just common courtesy.


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The Sacramento Valley ARES Website

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

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What Is SSB?

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.






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The Fascination of The Spark

Spark Gap Transmitter

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). 

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Your Audio Is Low.


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.

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Wayne Green

On September 13, 2013 Wayne S. Green II, W2NSD (Never Say Die”) became silent key.

Green was well known in the ham radio community as one who was not afraid to make his opinion known especially during the 1950s and 1960s. Amateur radio was not the only area where Wayne was willing to make his opinion known. He would speak on almost any subject and made a few guest appearances on the talk radio program Coast to Coast which is hosted by Art Bell, W6OBB.

Waynewas a strong advocate for SSB back when many of us (yes I was one) were dragging our feet and saying we liked AM. He was also a strong advocate for hams to move away from the glow in the dark technology into the solid state world. Green was a pioneer in ham radio FM and interfacing ham radios with computers.

Wayne Green was the chief honcho for CQ magazine for 5 years then from 1960 to 2003 he called himself the, “El Supremo and Founder”

73 Magazine encouraged hams to build their own equipment.

of 73 magazine.

ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ said, “Waynewill be remembered in many different ways by many different people, but he will be long remembered. He maintained his membership in the ARRL despite being a persistent critic. In the early days of packet radio he gave me some good advice as to how the ARRL should promote the new technology: ‘Talk about it as if everybody’s doing it, and eventually they will be.’”

 Much more could be said about the accomplishments in amateur radio made by this icon as we say goodbye. He will be greatly missed

(The “Final” in his blog says, “Wayne Green passed away September 13, 2013 in a peaceful, painless transition from this life on Earth. An eternal optimist, and one who loved to share his never-ending zest for life, he was a friend to many and will be missed greatly. Wayne was not afraid of dying and was very much ready to embark on his next great adventure to the afterlife. http://www.waynegreen.com/wayne/news.html)

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FCC Public Notice – Encrypted Messages Allowed on Ham Bands

Are there times when amateur radio operators should be allowed to send encrypted messages? That is the question the FCC is asking. It can be found in Public Notice RM-11699 on the ARRL web site (www.arrl.org) and other ham radio web sites. It can also be found on the FCC website (http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/comment/view?id=6017446911).

If you have any opinion on the subject you can submit your comments to the FCC on their website at: http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/upload/display?z=uvxci

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Another Field Day Past

Well 2013 field day is over. How did you do?

The first official Field Day operations were in 1933. This year marks the eightieth year sense that Field Day, but it was not the eightieth Field Day because there were several years during which ham radio operations were banned because of World War Two.

Many times a push pole is used to support an antenna on field day.

One of the most common mistakes made when trying to raise a push pole is first extending it to full length and then pull it up. That won’t work. You can see the results in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3aKS9eKwNQ. Someone can be heard in the background saying he thought the ground was too soft. That was not the reason for the failure.

The problem is when you are trying to raise the pole part of the pull is going to raise the antenna, and part of it is going to pushing down on the pole. The longer the pole is the greater the problem also with the pole fully collapsed there is the strength of each section so it can not bend and break.

A push pole should be fully collapsed when you raise it up then guy and secure the bottom section. Then use a ladder and first raise the upper most section by pushing it up out of the lower sections and tighten its set screw. Then raise the next highest section and tighten setscrew. If there is another section then push it up.

It really is a tricky project, and,  if at all possible, you should have someone in the group who is experienced at raising push poles.

For more information see the “ARRL Field Day Handbook.”

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