The Road Home

The Road Home
There is no place like home.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Radio - Wanna Be a General, Part 1

Hello, Frank here.

Time to put our thinking hats back on, tin foil inserted or not, is entirely up to you. But, I kind of like tin foil in my hat. The General test is going to be more complicated than the Technician. This is just the nature of things and it is nothing to be afraid of. The formulas are going to be a little bit more sophisticated, but as before, there are only so many formulas on a test, and if you can't figure them out, then memorize the answer. 

This first post over the General test is going to re-familiarize you with some former sites that you used during your Technician test. But before we start, let me remind you of safety. Not only can you electrocute yourself, or your cousin Billy, you can also do internal damage with RF signals. This is not a joke. You heard me talk earlier about frying your little girl's brain. Studying your General test, you're going to step into more power, a lot more power sometimes, and if you don't know what you're doing, DON'T DO IT. Pay attention to safety. 

Again, throughout this series of blogs, I'm going to reference Universal Radio, because I find their website easy to use, and they provide data and information about the equipment they carry. I will also be referencing many other radio websites.

Whatever style or mode you choose to use, whether it be the Romanchik, General Class No Nonsense Study Guide, the ARRL manuals, online tutorials, or a combination of the above, use what works for you. I have a friend that studied only, which is a free online service, for his Technician and General, and it worked for him. So, if your goal is to just pass the test, then this is one way. I needed more information, so I used the Romanchik manual for my Technician and the QRZ website. For the General, I did not use the Romanchik manual, but instead chose to use the paid version of Ham Test Online. This worked well for me. Ham Test Online provides tutorial information about subject material. This is what I used, it works for me. By the way, the Romanchik manual, online version has links at the end of the units for additional information that the Technician manual did not. Just more food for thought.

Practice test resources:


A resource that I found very valuable was ARRL. Their website has so much information, it's just hard to discuss. But if you need to locate a local club, which I would recommend, and find yourself an Elmer, that you
can easily communicate with. Most of these guys are good, down to earth people. There are some things that you just can't figure out from a book or a manual, so I highly recommend that you get in touch with ARRL and find yourself an Elmer. ARRL also has a catalog section where they sell manuals for the Technican, General and Extra, as well as other manuals for these tests also. This catalog also contains a plethora of books on ham radio and SWL. Use ARRL, they're a handy, handy website.

FCC. The FCC is the group that controls the rules, regulations and licensing. I'm going to include a section for ham radio rules and regulations. I'm also going to provide you with a link to their licensing webpage. Amateur radio is pretty open to making your own modifications and adaptations, but you don't want to get out of the rules. An example, if you're broadcasting and you're interfering with Gramma's TV down the road, whether you're legal or not, doesn't make any difference. You need to stop and fix the problem. Another example, if you live close to an airport, again, whether legal or not, you don't want to be messing or interfering with aircraft communications. So, there are some rules you do need to know and you do need to follow. But if you want to build your own antenna that looks like Sputnik, go ahead. Try not to burn your house down in the process. So, follow the rules. Did I mention safety? The General will cover significantly more information about RF emissions and proper grounding.

So, we've talked about manuals and ways to get there, ARRL contacts, FCC, safety. The need for communications. During your Technician studies we covered mostly VHF and UHF and, of course, we learned about bouncing a signal off of an asteroid, which was on the test, wasn't it?
 And we covered a teeny, weeny portion of the 10 meter band. Getting your General license will open up the HF frequencies, plus the 160 meter band. The HF bands are what most people consider to be ham radio. It provides the opportunity to talk and listen very long distances, so this will open up a new world. Getting your HF radio will also provide you with a first class SWL radio. I enjoy listening to radio news stations from other countries and continents. This is really not ham radio, it's just a bonus feature. 

The radio equipment, overall, is going to be little bit more expensive. The radios will have bells and whistles that you will not have heard of before. The antennas are going to be more sophisticated than sticking a 2 meter mag mount on your car. There are a number of different types of antennas, and everybody and their cousin will have a preference as to which one is
the best. If you remember from my previous posts, there is no best of anything, it's all up to you. But then there's that deer in the headlight look, "I don't know which one is best." So, you go to one of these ham club meetings, sitting in this room is a world of knowledge, mostly guys, and everyone of them has a different opinion of what is best. So, what do you do? That's a good question, I can't answer that one for you. I will tell you what I think is best. So, just pretend like I'm number 15 in that room full of guys.

I got into ham radio for the communications aspect of it only. I have no intention of ever contesting. I'm not trying to "work all states". And for the guys doing this, that is fine. It's a big stadium, and there's lots of room for
everybody. I spend most of my time listening. I listen to Beijing Radio often on shortwave. I listen to folks all around the country and spots around the world. I use very simple equipment, and simple generally equates to less expensive. My entire purpose for listening is to ascertain information from around the world, around the country and local. Some of us believe that someday some catastrophe is going to happen, who knows what it will be, but there is a probability we are going to see reduced electricity and more government control. This is why I want to be able to listen. A couple of days ago, I was playing on my CB radio, which is an HF radio 11 meter. I was on AM and talked to a man in Boston and one in California, and I live in southeastern Oklahoma. 

So, during the Technician's test, we talked about GMRS, FRS, MURS, these are forms of local communication. Now, with the General, we're going to step into long distance, or DX. So, as mentioned above, this will open up a new world. If you will look at the ICOM band chart, you will notice that 10, 12, 17 and 160 meters are entirely open to the General class. ARRL also has a band chart that is a little bit different, but you can figure it out. The other bands not
mentioned above, are partially open to the General. So getting your General license will open up the majority of the HF bands. Don't forget, you don't need morse code for any level of amateur license. Decide how you want to pursue this. If you want to use Romanchik, go ahead and download the manual, borrow, or purchase any other books that you want to use. Check out the websites for tutorials, and I didn't mention earlier, that local ARRL clubs often have free classes for the Technician and sometimes for the General. Another reason to check out your local ARRL. 

The pace on this particular class will be sharply quicker than the Technican. I will primarily use the Romanchik manual, but at a much quicker pace. This manual starts off like the Technician did, covering formulas and using some general math that occasionally intimidates people. As mentioned earlier, if you can't master the formulas or the math,
then just memorize the answers. After the formulas and math, it is just general knowledge like it was in the Technician's manual and it is a whole lot easier to learn. There are some old salts that disagree with this idea and technique, but don't worry about them, they're not the ones taking the test. So, if you need to, memorize the whole test. That's what my wife did, she just memorized the whole test. She learned a little bit, but not much. I on the other hand, have a background in electronics and some of it I just memorized. So, do whatever you need to do to pass and don't worry about what somebody else thinks, it's a waste of time.

So, gather up the tools you're going to use and we'll get started here shortly. But, please do not wait on me, if you are a self learner, then you may be finished by the time I start. If you have your Technician license, and you take your General and pass it, you do not have to wait for the FCC to post your new license before you can start transmitting. If you pass your General test, you can start that day.

We'll talk more later. 73, Frank

No comments:

Post a Comment