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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Radio - Become a Ham, Part 9

Hello, Frank here.

 Hello everybody. Is everybody having a good time yet? This next stuff is so important that it is going to blow your socks off. By the way, I ran across an interesting chart called SWL Info, which is included here. It covers the HF bands, which for the Technician's test is not of major importance. This chart covers the ham bands and the shortwave bands. I like ham and I
think ham radio is very important, especially in a grid down situation. But knowing where to find shortwave frequencies and the stations on them, is also very important. When we finish the information for the Technician's test and we go on to study the information for the General Test, we will learn why some stations you can pick up during the day, but not at night, and the opposite of why you can pick up some at night, but not during the day. But for the purpose of the Technician's test, this information at this time is not relevant. But keep this chart, it is a great tool. The man that put it together, did a tremendous amount of work. His name is on the top of the chart. Do a Google search and check out his websites. Some of them may be seen as a tad bit controversial, but it's still a great chart, please use it.

Okay. We're going to talk about station set up and operation. Like last time, most of this information you just need to read and it gives you the answers. As I have mentioned before, if you need more detail, please go to the the ARRL website and check out their Technician, General and Extra class reference books. Again in this section, you're going to see 'all of the above' as the answer. It's always nice to know the exact answer, but if you don't, then 'all of the above' is the logical choice.

Okay. It says here that you will need a power supply for your radio. The first question there talks about voltage fluctuations. This is part of the reason why you want a larger power supply than what is needed. We talked earlier about the 80% rule, I hope you remember it. Never use over 80% of any piece of equipment's maximum rated output. Can you use more than 80%? Sure. But you're asking for trouble. Remember, P = E x I. If you buy a power supply that is minimum for the piece of equipment you
are operating, it will eventually cause you problems. Example: You buy a radio, you get the very smallest power supply you can, and your power supply works 100% all the time. Pretty soon, you're going to be buying another power supply. Let's say your radio uses 5 amps, which is about 60 watts or so. You have a 10 amp power supply, then you're using about 50% of the output of the power supply. Your radio will never be starved for power and your power supply will never be under strain. If you decide to add a few more gizmos to your power supply, like anything that works off of 12 volts...maybe a scanner, a weather radio, a couple of battery chargers for AA, a little AM/FM 12 volt radio......You will still have enough power to run all of these comfortably. Learn to check out power consumption. When in doubt, bigger is better. I would recommend somewhere around a 30 amp power supply. It will provide you with enough to run all of the radios you want to run and multiple accessories. 

Other equipment. It talks about a set of headphones. Some people use them, some people don't. Unless you are strictly into CW (morse code or continuous wave) you will need a microphone. Almost all radios come from the factory with a microphone. Most are more than adequate. If you have a radio with a microphone gain or microphone modulation ask somebody on the other end how you sound. But the biggest problem with a microphone either over or under modulating, is having the microphone too far from or too near
your mouth. Read your radio operating instructions, six to eight inches is about the norm. On occasion you will hear some guy talking and it sounds like he has swallowed his microphone. Needless to say, he is a tad bit too close, therefore, he is over modulating. This is important because if you're going to talk on the radio, you want people to be able to hear you and understand you. If somebody on the receiving end of your transmission tells you that you are over modulating, don't get bent out of shape, because you probably are. So, back off a little bit and thank the person that is helping you.

You cannot overground a piece of equipment. So when you put up your station inside your house have a grounding wire running outside your house or shack that you can ground all of your equipment. It works well in your car, too. Make sure that your radio is grounded. But you say there is not a grounding pole on it. Then connect it from your mount screw to a good grounding place in your vehicle. 

Starting on page 31 of the No Nonsense Technician Class Study Guide you're going to see four different figures. You're just going to have to memorize these figures. 

The little chicken foot thing is the antenna. And the end of it is a speaker. It goes through page 32. There are a lot of questions and answers here. 

You will see these figures, or some of them, on your Technician's test. There are about 20 possible questions here on page 31 and 32.

So, read it and read it again. If you are not taking your practice tests on one of the sites mentioned earlier, then you're wasting precious time.

The next items we are going to discuss are trying to troubleshoot some problems. As you will see here, many of the answers are 'all of the
choices are correct.' But it's real simple. If your radio station is causing interference on your neighbor's TV, then you are the problem. Yes, there are things that your neighbor could put on their TV, but it is not their responsibility. Now if you're causing interference on your own TV? Yes, there are filters and chokes that you can add to the TV reception lines. But it is not your neighbor's fault if you are creating a problem. With a big antenna stuck up in the air, it is not hard to tell where the problem is coming from. But if your station is operating properly, there is normally not an interference problem. Normally the biggest problem is caused by too much power.

Example: Most VHF/UHF radios with normal operating power put out about 50 watts. Some a little more, some a little less. That's not a lot of power. Now if you crank it up to 500 watts, that's 10 times more than 50. Most HF transmitters maximum power output is 100 to 200 watts and most are 100. Again, that's not a lot of power. If you're going to run high power, then your equipment will need to be tuned better. This is a good time to remind you about safety. I cannot say this enough. If you don't know what you're doing, DON'T DO IT. High power can fry your little girl's brain. Stupid is not funny. DON'T DO IT.

If you have yet to purchase a good multimeter, now is the time. You should have already had one and you should be practicing with it. These next few questions deal with an amp meter. So get a multimeter and practice. We covered amp meters a good while back. So go back and read those
pages. If I were you, I would make my first multimeter one that is very inexpensive. Because if you go and measure ohms on a live circuit, you're going to be buying a new multimeter. And if you measure 500 volts with the dial set on 5 volts, you're going to be buying a new multimeter. If you drop one off of your workbench onto your concrete floor, then you know what you need to do. Go buy a couple of $10.00 to $15.00 multimeters. There are electronic ones and there are ones that still have a little gauge that swings back and forth. All of my multimeters cost about $25.00, and I used the same $25.00 multimeter for about 25 years until it went to multimeter heaven because of old age.

We're probably going to have two, or at the most, three more posts about getting your Technician's license. I will explain to you about how to make a radio contact - about some of the rules and etiquette common in the ham world. That chart at the beginning of this post is about 11 pages long. Towards the bottom are some 'Q codes'. The Q codes are not used a great deal for VHF/UHF. They are used more in HF operation and used extensively with CW (morse code). In the next couple of posts I will explain which ones are the most common. That 11 page chart also has the phonetic call signs....Alpha, Bravo, etc. These are easy to learn. Go ahead and start practicing. 

Again, we are going to have two or three more posts at most. You need to get in touch with ARRL to find a testing location and time. These folks will also help you with any questions. They are happy to do so. But they are not going to call you. You have to call them. Everybody has always had a
first day. Everybody has always been new. Don't be afraid to ask questions, it's silly not to. So, the ball's in your court. We're going to finish up soon. I'll take a short break from radio world and then we will start covering the information for the General test. Because when you get your General license, if you want to stop there, that's great, because the General will give you the ability to use all the bands and the ham world will really open up at that stage.

We'll talk more later. 73, Frank

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