The Successful Ham Radio Operator's Handbook

This book is aimed at the newly licensed ham who is trying to understand where to go next or the old-timer coming back to the hobby and learning about all the changes in radios and modes that have happened during years of inactivity due to a career and family. In it you will find explanations of how the various parts of your ham radio - the transmitter and receiver - work  plus how these are being implemented using software designed radio technology.  Operating techniques for VHF/UHF repeaters, HF radio DXing techniques, and the new digital modes are covered. Radio propagation, antennas, transmission lines, SWR and the mysteries of baluns are explained. Building your HF station, choosing a radio, connecting your radio to a computer, and mobile and portable operation are extensively covered.

How does The Successful Ham Radio Operator's Handbook differ from other introductory books?
  • With nearly 110 years of ham radio experience between them, the authors are still excited about the challenges this wonderful hobby offers.  The Successful Ham Radio Operator's Handbook will guide you when exploring some of these.
  • Its goal is to help new operators and returning old-timers learn about the breadth of exciting ham radio activities and challenges available today.
  • It answers the question "Why is ham radio relevant in the Internet age?"
  • It covers a wide range of topics, helping the reader to understand the excitement of different facets of ham radio and to choose a challenging and exciting activity to pursue.
  • It helps the reader better understand how the radio works.  Many hams only use a small fraction of the features of their radio. For example, if you understand how a noise blanker or a roofing filter or the AGC works, you will be able to more easily use these, and other, features of your radio to your benefit.
  • It provides exercises designed to apply the knowledge to cement your understanding of how your radio works without being radio-specific.  It is good for all makes and models.
  • It helps the reader get enough background to understand much of the jargon hams who pursue special activities, such as the various digital modes, VHF contesting and moon bounce. It quickly takes the novitiate reader to higher level of understanding and provides URLs and websites that help the reader go deeper into new interests.
  • Antennas remain a key area where all hams can still successfully experiment and create a key part of their station. This book provides information to help new hams get started cutting their own verticals and dipoles. It explains why some popular multiband antennas may have compromises that impact performance.
  • It gives practical guidelines about choosing transmission lines and building and using baluns and chokes.
  • Digital modes such as RTTY, PSK and the new WSTJ modes are explained.  The computer-to-radio connections needed for these modes are discussed and illustrated.
  • Many hams are motivated by public service and emergency preparedness.  This book describes typical local emergency organizations and national networks.
  • Hams who like to operate while traveling will find practical information on reciprocal international agreements and how to get permission to operate legally.
267 pages, 211 figures and diagrams, and 53 tables of data make understanding the sometimes complicated ham radio operations much easier.  The book follows KE7X's philosophy of presenting material in several forms to accommodate people with different learning styles -- reading, visualizing, hands-on -- with the many figures and text explanations and there are hands-on exercises throughout the book that can help you learn more about  your particular radio.

Click on the Chapter titles to read a short summary and to see sample text of each chapter.

Appendix A. Microphones
Appendix B. Q-Signals and Other Abbreviations

Click on Table of Contents to see the full table of contents.

To get personalized help from Vic and Fred, join the successfulhams group at

To contact Fred or Vic for more information, please email

About the Authors

Fred Cady is Professor Emeritus in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Montana State University.  He holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Canterbury, NZ, and is a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.  His teaching career of 40+ years was spent in helping EE students learn basic and complex Electrical Engineering topics.  He garnered many teaching awards and has published five textbooks on microcomputers.

Fred has been licensed since 1959, holding an amateur extra class license.  His calls over the years have been WA2GHN, KC4USM, ZL3ADY, KE7X/YV5, KE7X/YV7, KE7X/6Y5, 6Y9A, 3D2XA, and C6AKX.  He is an avid CW contester and a member of the world-record holding contest group Team Vertical. 

Vic DiCiccio is a Research Professor and directs the Institute for Computer Research, University of Waterloo in Canada.  He fosters research collaborations involving companies and universities in a broad range of topics in computing, communications, and applications of technology including new media, cybersecurity and privacy, and data science.   

Vic has been licensed since 1968 and holds an Advanced Canadian Amateur Radio Operator Certificate.  He was initially VE3AOD and returned to ham radio as VE3YT in 2013 after a hiatus of a few decade.  Vic enjoys contesting, primarily CW.