The Road Home

The Road Home
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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Radio - Wanna Be a General, Part 2

Hello, Frank here.

Again, I'm sorry for the absence, but now that that's over, let's start working on the General. By no means do you have to have your Technician's license to read the following material. We still live in a relatively free country, so please continue reading. 

With the Technician's license, you were able to access all frequencies above 30 MHz. If you don't know what MHz means, then please read back in the previous posts. If there is a new concept that you have not been exposed to yet, I will give that information to you, otherwise, I assume
that you know the basic terms, like MHz. Above 30 MHz includes 6 meter, 2 meter, 440 band and up. Beyond a doubt the most common of these bands is 2 meters. 2 meters is where most repeaters are, and it provides guys with, in some cases, 200 to 300 mile diameter range. In some bigger towns, the 440 band is also very popular, which is called UHF. It has about the same range, 200 to 300 miles, on a good repeater on a tall hill. All of these above 30 MHz are great frequencies for their purpose. In the Technician's class, I kind of had a little humor with 6 meters, and bouncing off of a meteor, but that information is, or can be, on the Technician's test. I think it's kind of silly myself, but if I could ever actually see it done, I think that would be really, really cool. But remember, VHF and UHF, even though they are great frequencies, are limited to line of sight and repeater use, in most cases. 

With the Technician's license, a portion of the HF bands is also available. Let me clarify. Anything in any of these posts, deals with voice or phone. There is a large CW part of the ham bands, but I only cover the voice part. So, that Technician's license opens up a piece of the 10 meter HF band: 28.3 to 28.5 MHz. With 10 meter, you can talk about as far as you want to, but the band has to be right, which means, the ionosphere has to be cooperating. When these things are working together, that portion of the 10 meter band will get you anywhere you want to go. That's kind of a wrap up of the Technician's license.

With the General license, it opens up a portion, if not all, of the HF bands. If you'll look at the ICOM chart that I've given you before, you'll see what  
I mean. So, if you think that you have to get the highest license, not at all. A General will get you just about anywhere you want to go. For the benefit of discussion, you know that you don't have to learn Morse Code for any level of test. Some of the old hams don't like this, but that's the way it is. You do not have to learn Morse Code. So, if you meet some ham radio operators that believe that the quality of amateur radio has been lessened by removing the Morse Code requirement, these guys just need to get over it and put on their big girl panties.

Another topic here. If you do want to bounce a signal off of a meteor, or you want to contest, or you want to do Morse Code or CW, then I'm not going to be able to help you. My intention is to get people in the door of ham radio. Nothing wrong with the things mentioned above, if that is what you want to do, that is wonderful. My intent is to get people prepared for what is eventually going to get here. I use ham radio to communicate, to listen, to know what's going on, not only in the world, but in my own neighborhood. Don't forget, if you have an HF ham radio, then you have a first class shortwave radio. Shortwave just operates on a different group of frequencies. There may come a day in the future where we are looking at a type of survival mode. Just use your imagination for what's going on right now in the Ukraine, a country torn between being east or being west. A modern nation, very 
modern. We're going to have to wait and see how this one plays out. But these things happen very quickly and the last time I read, there were Russian troops, equipment, planes and helicopters heading into their country. This morning on the HF bands there were multiple contacts coming out of Ukraine. There are all different reasons to have your General license. One reason is just to be able to listen to what's happening in the world. Like you've heard me teach before, a solar panel, the associated equipment, an appropriate battery, whatever ham radio you choose, and associated equipment, and if the lights go out, you can still know what's going on around the world and your local environment. With some other pieces of associated equipment, you can talk to your buddy down the street.

So, let's get started on the Romanchik manual, No Nonsense Study Guide, General License. Okay, there are about five pages of the table of contents, a couple of pages of recognition, and let's do a brief review of how the manual works. On page 4 it starts off with electrical principles. In the first full paragraph it talks about the Ohm and it says, "Ohm is the unit used to measure reactance. (G5A09)" What you have here is the question and the answer. Ohm is the answer. G5A09 is the section and number, because these questions are grouped into specific categories. This is the same as it was for your Technician. Each question
is multiple choice, with four possible answers. So this should look very familiar to you. Even if you don't use this manual, and you use one of the online practice tests, this is still the same question, with the same answer and the same categorical system, G5A09. 

When I studied for my Technician's test, as I've said before, I used the Romanchik Technician manual, which is free, by the way, and the practice tests, which are also free. When I was preparing for my General test, I did not use the Romanchik manual and I did not use QRZ online, but instead, I used HamTestOnline, which is a paid service. The reason I used the paid version of HamTestOnline, is because I need all the help I can get, and it worked for me. It worked quite well. But I also have a friend that used, which is free, for his Technician and General. So, it just depends on what you want to do. If and when I ever pursue my Extra license, I will use the paid version of HamTestOnline. 

On a side note, you don't learn everything you really need to know by taking these online tests, whether free or paid. So I bought the ARRL manuals for all three levels, Technician, General and Extra. I use these
as reference material. But remember, there are some things that you're just not going to learn about operating your radio successfully unless you do a little bit more independent study. A quick example. "The gray line." What is it? How important is it? What does it do? The reason I mentioned this particular item is that I did not see or hear the term during my Technician or General studies. I learned what it was while reading through shortwave material. So, you want to know what it is? Look it up. So don't think that what you're going to pick up here is going to teach you everything you need to know, it just won't do it.

Okay, on this introduction to electrical principles you see a couple of formulas. If you want to build a radio, then these are very important. If not, then memorize these questions and answers because you will never see this again. Now there are some things that you don't need to know the exact answer, but you do need to understand the principle of how it works.
Another example. A 10 meter radio. Okay, think 10 meters, for the benefit of teaching, a meter is a little bit longer than a yard. So, 10 meters is about 30 feet. Half of 10 meters is, therefore, about 15 feet, and one quarter of 10 meters is about 7.5 feet. Okay, so, you have a 10 meter wave. A quarter of that wave is 7.5 feet. If your cell phone used the 10 meter frequency and had a quarter wave antenna, then your cell phone, if it were 10 meter, would have a 7.5 foot antenna. This is probably not cool. But, since your cell phone is around 900 MHz, then your antenna is significantly shorter. So, you need to have the basic idea of how things function. The higher the frequency the shorter the antenna, the lower the frequency the longer the antenna. We'll talk much more about that later, but you need to understand the concept. That's why, if you're going to memorize an answer, try to have a basic idea of what it means. And if it still doesn't click in for you, then just plain old memorize the answer.

Okay, let's continue. As I mentioned earlier, we're going to go through this General study guide much quicker, because at this stage you should have a functioning knowledge of terminology and how most things work. I'm on page 6 now. Here's a couple more formulas. You will see this information on the test. But after the test is over, you will not use it again. There are two formulas that you need to know. E = I x R, and P = E x I. You will find in many manuals that E and V are used interchangeably. They both mean voltage. Okee-dokee?

The first part of these manuals always start out with the formulas. And for some people this is a real turn off and they quit. If formulas are not your cup of tea and you don't ever plan on building a radio, don't worry about it. Memorize the answers. Ham radio now days is very similar to a plug and
play type system. There are some things you need to know. But these formulas are not one of them. Have I mentioned safety yet? If you don't know what you're doing, DON'T DO IT! But, you say, "You just told me I don't need to know what these formulas mean." And that's true, you don't need to know what these formulas mean. But you do need to know basic safety and 90% of safety is common sense. Example. Don't stand in a bathtub full of water and change an electric light bulb. Some people would consider that to be stupid. That's what I mean by safety and common sense.

Okay, I'm on page 8. More stuff to memorize. But it is nice to know that if you put batteries in series you increase the voltage. If you put batteries in parallel, the voltage stays the same and you increase your amperage. Yes, the General test is a little bit more complicated than the Technician, but not a great deal.

Okay, I'm up to page 10. A little reminder here. If you see an answer that says, "All of these choices are correct." and you don't have a clue what the answer is, if I were you I would guess, "All of these choices are correct." That tends to be the answer more often than not, but not in every case.

Okay, we're going to quit here today. We'll pick up next time on page 11 of Romanchik. But you need to remember, that with VHF and UHF, your chances of doing damage through RF is possible, but not a major concern. When you get into the HF frequencies, you generally start running more power. Your average HF radio puts out about about 100 watts of power, 
and with an amplifier, a whole lot more power. This is where you can start doing damage. If your radio is operating right, your coax cable is in good shape, your antenna is of proper size to handle the power and your equipment is grounded, then in most cases, you're good to go. So, that's why I will stress safety a whole lot more in this section. Yes, there are some people saying, "But you can do damage with VHF and UHF." Yes, you can. But, an example here. 40 to 50 watts of power will not do near the damage of 500 watts of power. All of these utility work vehicles, police cars, ambulances use 25 to 50 watts of power on average, and their antennas are any where from 2 to 5 feet away, and this is a standard practice. If it were dangerous, then we would have a whole lot more injured people. So, be concerned and study up, and know what you're doing. Take safety very seriously.

I hope you enjoy this series. I will try to use some down home type humor, but I cannot stress the importance of communications enough. There are bad things going on around the world. Modern countries like ours are in the process of collapsing, and folks, if you don't think it can't happen here, then you are not paying attention. If you think that communications is something that you might want to do, if you start studying today, by whatever means  
you chose, you can have your Technician and General license within a month. I will give you radio and antenna recommendations, but it will be the Chevrolet version and not the Cadillac version. An HF radio makes an excellent shortwave receiver. Same radio, same antenna, same power supply and you can listen to the world, and if you choose, you can also talk to them. The Chevrolet version will do the job, but if you like Cadillacs, they will do the job too. Remember, it's all about choices. There's nothing wrong with a Cadillac. Let's get it done.

We'll talk more later. 73, Frank

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