Table of Contents

The Successful Ham Radio Operator’s Handbook

Best Practices for all Hams

By

Fred Cady – KE7X

Vic DiCiccio – VE3YT

 

Table of Contents

 

Chapter 1.           So you want to be a Successful Ham Radio Operator        1

1.1          Challenges          2

1.1.1      Awards and Certificates                2

1.1.2      Public Service and Emergency Communications 7

1.1.3      Other Challenging Activities        9

1.2          Road Maps to Success   10

 

Chapter 2.           The Beginnings 13

2.1          Where Did the Term HAM Come From?                13

2.2          What is a Ham Radio Station        13

2.3          Frequencies and Bands 14

 

Chapter 3.           VHF/UHF Portable Radio Operations       17

3.1          Overview            17

3.2          FM Repeaters   17

3.3          Using FM Repeaters       20

3.4          Two Meter Band Plan    24

3.5          What Other Non-Amateur Services Use VHF/UHF?          25

3.6          IRLP       26

3.7          Digital Modes – D-STAR, Fusion, and DMR            27

3.7.1      D-STAR 28

3.7.2      Fusion   28

3.7.3      DMR      28

3.8          Advanced VHF and UHF                31

3.9          Awards and Contests     33

 

Chapter 4.           Setting up Your HF Station           35

4.1          Overview            35

4.2          The Transceiver                35

4.3          Planning and Building a Station  39

4.3.1      Accessories        39

4.3.2      Grounding          43

4.3.3      Antennas            46

4.3.4      Station Layout and Assembly      47

4.3.5      Tools     51

4.4          Suppressing RF Interference      54

 

Chapter 5.           Operating Tips   56

5.1          Overview            56

5.2          Speaking the Lingo – Q-Signals and Other Abbreviations                56

5.3          Making Your First Contact            56

5.3.1      HF           56

5.3.2      VHF and Repeaters         57

5.4          SSB Operating Techniques and Tips         57

5.5          QRP Operating  57

5.6          CW Operating Techniques and Tips          58

5.7          Zero Beating the Station               62

5.8          DXing    63

5.8.1      First You Have to Find the DX      63

5.8.2      DXing with a Panadapter              65

5.9          CW Skimmer      66

5.10        Reverse Beacon Network – RBN               68

5.11        Split Operating  69

5.12        Portable, Mobile, and Foreign Operations            74

5.12.1    Portable Operations       74

5.12.2    Mobiling              76

5.12.3    Operating in another Country    82

5.13        Why Can’t I Make a Contact -- Troubleshooting Flow Chart           84

 

Chapter 6.           Radio Wave Propagation              86

6.1          Overview            86

6.2          Radio Wave Propagation – Part I               86

6.2.1      Skip Propagation or Line-of-Sight              87

6.3          Radio Wave Propagation — Part II            89

6.3.1      The Ionosphere                89

6.3.2      The Geomagnetic Field 91

6.4          Propagation Conditions to Watch Out For             92

6.4.1      How to Find the Propagation Conditions               92

 

Chapter 7.           Antennas and Antenna Tuning  93

7.1          Overview            93

7.2          Those Pesky Decibels     93

7.3          Resonance          97

7.4          The Transmitter and Antenna    98

7.5          Antenna Impedance      100

7.6          The Antenna and the Transmission Line                101

7.7          Feed line Characteristic Impedance         102

7.8          A Matched System          103

7.9          Standing Wave Ratio – SWR        103

7.10        How Long is a Wavelength?         104

7.11        SWR Impedance Transformation              105

7.12        The Problems with High SWR      108

7.13        Matching to Achieve Maximum Power Transfer                109

7.14        Choosing a Coaxial Feed line       111

7.15        Coax Connectors              112

7.16        The ATU – Antenna Tuner Unit  115

7.17        SWR – The Bottom Line 116

7.18        Balanced and Unbalanced Systems, Baluns, and Un-Uns               116

7.18.1    Balanced Systems            116

7.18.2    Unbalanced Systems      118

7.18.3    Baluns   121

7.18.4    Un-Uns                127

7.18.5    Antenna Baluns and Un-Uns – The Bottom Line 128

7.19        Cut Your Losses                128

 

Chapter 8.           Some Practical Antennas              130

8.1          Overview            130

8.2          Half-Wave Dipole             130

8.3          G5RV     136

8.4          Off Center Fed Dipole    136

8.5          One-Quarter Wave Vertical         137

8.6          Buddipole           138

8.7          Magnetic Loop Antenna               138

8.8          Random Wire    139

8.9          End Fed Half Wave (EFHW)          140

8.10        The Counterpoise            141

8.11        Single-Band or Multi-Band Whip               142

8.12        Near Vertical Incident Skywave – NVIS Antennas              142

8.13        Indoor Antennas              143

8.14        Build Your Own Wire Antennas  144

8.15        Yagi Antennas   146

8.16        More Information           147

 

Chapter 9.           Transmitters and Operating Modes         148

9.1          Overview            148

9.2          Continuous Wave – CW                148

9.3          Amplitude Modulation – AM      150

9.4          Single Sideband – SSB    152

9.5          Frequency Modulation – FM      153

9.6          XIT and RIT          154

9.7          Let’s Go Digital  155

9.7.1      Baby Steps          155

9.7.2      Ultimate SDR     156

9.8          The Antenna Tuner Unit – ATU  157

9.9          Transmitter Adjustments             160

9.9.1      Automatic Level Control – ALC   160

9.9.2      Microphones     161

9.9.3      Transmit Audio Equalization        162

9.9.4      Monitoring         164

9.9.5      Transmitter Adjustments – the Bottom Line        165

 

Chapter 10.         Receivers            166

10.1        Overview            166

10.2        Receiver Block Diagram – the 10,000’ View           166

10.2.1    Two Receiver Radios      170

10.3        Software Designed Radio – The Receiver              172

10.4        Receiver Signal Processing           172

10.4.1    Filtering                172

10.4.2    Noise Blankers  179

10.4.3    Considerations for Noise Blanking and Noise Reduction 180

10.4.4    RF Level Controls – Preamplifier and Attenuator               181

10.5        RIT and XIT          182

10.6        Automatic Gain Control – AGC   183

10.7        Diversity Reception         188

10.8        Other Receiver Components      190

10.8.1    Dual VFOs           190

10.8.2    RST and the S-Meter      191

 

Chapter 11.         Transceivers and Amplifiers        194

11.1        Overview            194

11.2        Transceivers       194

11.3        Amplifiers           195

11.3.1    Buying the Amplifier       196

11.3.2    Choosing a Vacuum Tube versus a Solid-State Amplifier 197

 

Chapter 12.         Software Defined Radios              200

12.1        Overview            200

12.2        Software Defined Radios – SDRs               200

12.2.1    How High (and Low) Can You Go?             201

12.3        SDR Receive Hardware  203

12.4        SDR Software    205

12.5        The Panadapter                207

 

Chapter 13.         Computer Interfaces      210

13.1        Overview            210

13.2        Serial Interfaces               210

13.2.1    RS-232 Interfaces             210

13.2.2    The Universal Serial Bus (USB) Serial Port Emulation        215

13.2.3    Building Your RS-232 Cable           216

13.2.4    Virtual Serial Ports           218

13.3        Data Mode Interfaces    220

13.3.1    Sound Cards       221

13.3.2    Bonding to Reduce Digital Noise                225

 

Chapter 14.         Digital Modes    226

14.1        Overview            226

14.2        Keyboard-to-Keyboard or Computer-to-Computer          226

14.3        Radio Teletype – RTTY   226

14.4        Phase Shift Keying – PSK              236

14.5        Weak Signal Communications – WSJT     237

14.5.1    The Basics           238

14.5.2    QSO Sequencing              239

14.5.3    Slow Modes and Fast Modes      239

14.5.4    WSJT-X Protocols (Modes)          243

14.5.5    WSJT Mode Frequencies              244

14.5.6    Setting up WSJT-X           245

 

Appendix A        Microphones     246

Appendix B         Q-Signals and Other Abbreviations          247

 

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