New to ham radio

Discussion in 'Survival Communications' started by vonslob, Oct 30, 2014.

  1. vonslob

    vonslob Monkey++

    I have been listening to shortwave radio for years now and now want to get my tech license. I should be ready for the test by december. Currently i own vertex vx-150 transceiver, a icon rc-7000 both of which i have never used. The icom came with both an antenna and a baum. I also have a couple of grundigs that i use with wire antennas that clip onto the telescopic one that comes with the radio. However neither one has SSB. I want to get a 10m transceiver for my truck. So here is my question, i have learned that getting the license does not really help you understand all that goes into using transceivers or high end receivers. Where to i go to learn these things. I realize that i can learn a certain amount from the manuals but they are written for experience hams not newbies. I bought an AARL book that is so over my head i am embarrassed to admit. Any ideas you more experienced guys can pass on would be great.
    stg58 and DarkLight like this.
  2. DarkLight

    DarkLight Live Long and Prosper - On Hiatus Site Supporter

    You need to find the local club (if there is one) and go hang out. Generally, as long as you are a part of the community at least a little, everyone is very friendly and willing to help. It's when folks show up and try to take over the club that things get less than cordial.

    An elmer (still no idea where the term came from...heard a few stories but they are all lacking) can help with everything from theory to equipment use.

    For instance, your Icom came with (I assume you meant) a you know what it's for and why/when you would use it? I ask not to point out a deficiency but to give you an example. I have seen folks hook up a ladder-line antenna to their radio and use a balun and then gripe about poor performance. I've also seen folks throw a length of wire over a limb and again, gripe about performance.

    Having someone who will walk you through not just what to do but why is a HUGE plus and will ultimately make the experience that much more enjoyable.

    As for the book, which one did you get? If you got the Technician study manual (red book), it should start out fairly basic and build on it as you go. The thing to remember about the Tech license is that it's mostly about rules, regulations and restrictions. Yes, there's some theory and you have to be able to use Ohm's Law to do some simple math but really, that's it. There's a whole slew of memorization needed but again, mostly related to what portions of which bands you can operate in at a Tech (and a good idea of what General and Extra allow).

    If you have specific questions, go ahead and post them here and we'll see what we can do. BTPost used to work for the FCC and has an Advanced (I think, correct me if I'm wrong), for example. ghrit has his General (again, I think) and I've got my Extra. There are a number of folks with decades of experience either in electronics, electrical engineering, radio and specifically HAM that should be able to answer most questions as well as go into the theory if you are really interested.

    The key is to not get so overwhelmed that you give it up. I like to think of myself as a pretty smart feller but I admit it took me two readings of the book and probably an additional two or three rereads of the section about wavelength before it clicked that wavelength is actually, literally describing the length in space of the sine wave (start to finish) of that specific frequency. It was, for me, a duh moment and I'll admit I felt pretty dumb but once I got it, SO much started to fall into place.
  3. vonslob

    vonslob Monkey++

    That is what i am talking about. I have no idea what a baum is and where it goes in relation to the radio and the antenna. And that is only one of one thousand questions that i have. I did not get the study guide, i copied the questions off a website and am memorizing them. As for learning material i am seriously lacking. I will look into local clubs this week.

    I will post questions here as i come across them, and btw please point out all my deficiencies and be cruel i can handle it ;)

    Thank you.
  4. KAS

    KAS Monkey++

    Talk with BTpost he is full of knowledge ...
    Also one of the guys from LA but i forget his name !!
    vonslob likes this.
  5. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    All good questions @vonslob I think DL and a few others, @BTPost and @ghrit are quite knowledgeable. I look forward to reading your questions and learning also.
    vonslob likes this.
  6. DarkLight

    DarkLight Live Long and Prosper - On Hiatus Site Supporter

    You are very welcome and we're usually pretty gentle.

    As for the device you are referring to, it is actually called a 'balun' and is short for 'balanced/unbalanced' or 'balanced to unbalanced'.

    The signal generated by a radio (and what it would prefer to receive) is referred to as balanced. What this means is that...well, think of two pieces of cable, one coax (like what comes out of the wall right now for your TV (although it's slightly different for HAM radio...more on that in a later post) and the old two conductor antenna cable that either went from the rabbit ears or the one on the roof to the TV.

    The two conductor cable, when used as the feed line for an antenna (the line connecting the antenna to the radio) is considered balanced since there is signal going in one direction on one cable and back on the other. The two "shouldn't" interfere with each other and the amount of signal on each wire or conductor is the same.

    The coax cable is considered "unbalanced" due to the fact that a) there is only one true conductor, the central core, and b) the return signal (commonly referred to as "ground") comes back on the shielding which is either wire mesh or commonly aluminum foil. Additional reasons for the unbalance are the fact that copper wire (central core) and both copper mesh and aluminum have different electrical conductivity characteristics. Lastly, the fact that the return signal both in much closer proximity to the central core and completely surrounds the central core also contribute to signal degradation.

    So, what does all this mean? Well, like I mentioned earlier, the balun is used when connecting an unbalanced feedline (or antenna for that matter) to a balanced device, the radio. I won't get into the physics here but suffice it to say, a balun "balances" an unbalanced signal sufficiently to make the radio happy (better signal to noise ratio, etc.).

    Are they required? No, not always (the shorter the unbalanced feed-line and or the higher the frequency and thus shorter the antenna, the less likely you need a balun) but they can help in many situations to improve the performance of a sub-optimal antenna.

    I don't think I screwed any of that up but it was off the top of my head so...but I hope it helps.

    As for a study guide...if you are looking to purchase (I have one but it's loaned out right now), this one is my suggestion. It's from the ARRL and like I said, walks you through each step and builds on each successive layer of knowledge.

    Ham Radio License Manual: ARRL Inc.: 9781625950130: Books

    And yes, the above link kicks a little back to the monkey. ;)
  7. vonslob

    vonslob Monkey++

    Thank you i totally got that. you put it into meat and potatoes terms.
  8. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    The ARRL Tech license manual is not technically challenging, I recommend you get it, there are some fairly decent data points in it that will come in handy after earning the ticket as well as study material before hand. Also, go ahead and join the ARRL, it is a deep pool of info. Buy any manuals you decide to get thru Amazon (entering from SM, of course) they are cheaper by a couple bux than buying from the ARRL directly, shipping included.
    You might also sign up on "" There are a couple guys there that will bend over backwards to help, and most newbie type questions are already answered on the forums.
    vonslob likes this.
  9. vonslob

    vonslob Monkey++

    Thanks for the info. I will join today. The AARL book i got was the radio manual.
  10. vonslob

    vonslob Monkey++

    The studying is going okay, life has gotten in the way a little. I have two questions. First decibels how important is it that i understand the concept or can i get away with memorizing the questions. I really know nothing about logarithmic scales. The second question is about equipment. I am interested in a wide band receiver. Alinco DJ-X11T this is the one i am looking at. Does anyone have any experience with portable wide band receivers? Any input is greatly appreciated.
  11. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    dB are important for theoretical understanding, but all you'll need for the examination are the examples in the study materials. Memorization will do.

    Can't help with the receiver question other than to say it is a really full featured hand held unit and Alinco has a good rep. That said, for the same or similar dollars, you can get a handheld transceiver that will do as much and have transmitting ability on 2M and 70 cm bands for after your ticket is issued. (Or you can pop for a Kenwood TH-F6 tribander that has 1.25M with the other two. Gotta say, I have yet to see or hear of any 222Mhz operations yet.)
    vonslob likes this.
  12. vonslob

    vonslob Monkey++

    Thank you. i got the mobile covered. Christmass present from the old man (dad) Wouxun KG-UV920P.
  13. vonslob

    vonslob Monkey++

    When i first started studying for the test i thought i would just memorize the questions and learn the rest later. I was wrong. The more i study the more i learn, the more i learn the more curious i get.
  14. William Warren

    William Warren Monkey++

    It's a good idea to spend some time with the concept: I don't think anything we learn is ever wasted, and knowing about the logarithmic scale is going to help you a lot later on, when you make decisions about equipment. For example, when you want to move up to a linear amplifier, and you know that twice the signal strength costs you four times the power, you'll be able to save lots of money, because you'll understand why a smaller amp gives you all the gain that's worth having. It helps in other ways, too, and you'll have a much better chance of making good decisions about things like receiver preamplifiers, antennas, and feedlines. All the specifications are always in decibels, so knowing how to work with them will put you way ahead of the game.

    It's a good idea to read the reviews in QST and other magazines, to get an idea about what each manufacturer's unit can do, so that you'll be a more informed buyer. Before you purchase a receiver, though, consider that it's a "listen only" gadget: the Alinco unit will receive a lot of channels, but there's not much on most of them that you'll want to hear.

    You might do better to plan ahead for when you get your license, and purchase a used "ham" transceiver instead. "Low Band" transceivers can be had for prices in the ~$400 range, and they'll usually let you listen to all the HF frequencies between 500 KHz and 30 MHz, which will include some ship-to-shore, shortwave broadcast, aeronautical, and even CB reception along with the ham bands. Plus, you'll be ready to transmit on the 10 Meter amateur band as soon as you get your Technician license, and to use lower frequencies when you upgrade to the General class, without having to save up for another unit after spending for a receiver.

    The best advice is probably something you've already read: get an "Elmer", i.e., a ham friend who can teach you what isn't in the books. Visit to find a local ham club, and ask for help at their next meeting.


    William Warren
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2014
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  15. vonslob

    vonslob Monkey++

    purchasing a transceiver might be the way to go, however i do like the idea of having a general purpose radio to receive both commercial and amateur broadcasts. thank you for the advice
  16. melbo

    melbo Hunter Gatherer Administrator Founding Member

    vonslob and Yard Dart like this.
  17. vonslob

    vonslob Monkey++

    No I have not, got sidetracked with family things and then tax season started. I am passing the practice tests with scores in the 80% range, so I have been studying for the general and plan on taking both at the same time.
    Airtime, BTPost and melbo like this.
  18. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Just a NOTE, here... Most of the Modern HF Transceivers are WideBand RX, (100 Khz - 30Mhz) and Ham Only TX, these days.... and the TX Limitations can be "Opened Up" usually with very simple modifications. (MARS/CAP Mods)
    vonslob likes this.
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