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June 11, 2021, 09:11:54 PM

HAM Radio & Survival.

Started by Hoofer, January 10, 2021, 04:04:47 AM

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Hoofer

Probably should have started this a long time ago.

I have held my Extra Class Amateur Radio license since 2007, just a couple of months AFTER the Morse Code requirement was dropped.  I am "a no-code Extra", a "johnny-come-lately" - whatever, get a life.
Before HAM radio, I designed and built CB antennas, used graph paper & plotted everything by hand - it took WEEKS to do what I can do in 1 hour today.  The hobby is EASY compared to 10 years ago, and nothing like it was in the 1970s.  My dad was a Radio man in WW2, my first introduction to Short Wave (SW) was via crystal radio sets he helped us build.  On the farm, we listened into wee hours of the morning, stations from So. America, Israel, London, Germany, Italy, and of course, the USA.

During the attack on Israel by Saddam Hussein - we listened to KOL Radio Israel, on a 1938 RCA model 281 beauty.... hearing the Skuds coming in, before the US news media put it on the air.  When Hurricanes hit the islands Costa Rica, St. Croix - we heard first hand from people there, what was going on over an Elecraft K3.  Unfiltered, unedited, pure gut wrenching "journalism".   I've been to St. Croix, and operated from the beach with 10watts to NY, KY, OK, a little hand held Elecraft KX2, battery powered radio on an antenna I built (and sell).  Anyone can do what I'm doing.  I've talked literally around the globe, to Madagascar, and heard my voice echo back on occasion, with just 100 watts of power.  My log is filled with thousands of contacts, from all over the world.   And I enjoy taking to a bunch of guys/gals who are just a couple of hours drive - we know each other, but never shook hands in person.  Some of them are quite *interesting* maybe an understatement.   For instance, I've learned how to make &age good moonshine, how to bury Conex boxes for an underground house, when to buy feeder cattle & goats & why northern Hickory is better for smoking meat.

What does it COST?   As much as you want to spend.   My dream radio is $18,000, hand made, just a like driving a very nice car, with all the bells & whistles.  The radios I currently use cost $900 and $3500, IC-7000, IC-7300 & IC-7610.  I've owned Elecraft, Yaesu, Kenwood, it's like cars, some you like, some are OK, some you sell.  My favorite car was a 1967 Datsun 1600 Roadster... it finally rusted away, even wifey loved driving that little thing - maybe it was all the guys trying to chase her down...?  Like cars, there is no "rule of thumb" to how much you can expect to spend, whether you buy new or used.

The really CHEAP way... SDR radio (software defined radio).
All radios are going the direction of SDR.  About a dozen years ago, Elecraft led the way with one of the finest SDR or semi-SDR radios, which reset the standards for radio receivers.  Now everyone is migrating, with Icom's entry of the IC-7300 about 4 years ago, blowing the market wide open ($900-1100).  The radio I'd recommend to anyone looking for a solid, portable, intuitive HF radio.  Easy to operate and a little help learning how, an "Elmer" (helper), is where you'll get a good start.   This isn't CB radio.

But, what if all you want to do is LISTEN and not talk?  It's even cheaper, but requires a computer (no internet needed).  Enter the ultimate in SDR radio, the AirSpy HF Discovery (https://airspy.com/airspy-hf-discovery) plugged into your computer's USB port running SDR Console or SD Sharp, hooked up to a simple wire, or any kind of antenna gives you the *world* of AM, FM, SSB - broadcasts, HAMs, CB, TV, it picks up *everything* - about $170, add an adapter for an antenna, or just stick a wire in the end of it, download the software, and start playing.  This is like me, as an 8yr old, with a super-duper crystal radio.  The size of this "dongle radio" - about the size of a box of matches, fits into your shirt pocket.  There are other RTL-SDR radios, but curiously in reviews, the Airspy is absent, yet, it's the *easiest* to set up and use.  Note:  NO License is required to use a receiver, but, it will take a little investment of TIME to get comfortable.  If you live in the country, may suggest 75-80 meters at night, LSB - just to get a good listen to guys/gals rag-chewing (plain talking).  A SDR radio will pull in stations, world wide, with very little for an antenna, and it's got electronic filters to scrub out the noise.

About Antennas.  Bigger is better for the lower frequencies, smaller antennas *can* work to receive, but... it takes a "tuner" to transmit.   Tuners can come built into the radio, or as a separate, device that inserts between the radio & antenna.  There are manual and automatic tuners.  Manual tuners are about 1/10th the cost of Automatic tuners, and there are also more and more RF Amplifiers with Automatic tuners build in....now, we're getting into REAL money.  It's all the other stuff that's added, where the cost really goes up.  This is where a HAMfest, Swapmeet, comes in handy - and you can often find good, used gear that someone has grown out of, moved on to bigger, more expensive gear, or even a new equipment dealer.  Prices from dealers are essentially the same as going online - trust me, as a veteran HAMfest dealer, they don't make money selling expensive radios.  The real money is in all those accessories you've just gotta have, wall hangings, desk junk, adapters, etc., which does make the hobby that much more enjoyable.

Listen or Talk, sooner or later, everyone is gonna wanna talk.  To get some valuable experience, CHEAP, get an SDR dongle, load up the software, stick a wire in the end of it, and start tuning around.  They have really fine audio quality.  The software is free, your investment is under $200.

OK, for the people who just want a GOOD radio, with superb reception, AM & FM.  Look for these $50 gems, the GE Super Radio III.   They have great AM receivers & good speakers - I have one at my bedside, playing softly at night to help cover my tinnitus.  The station I listen to is 800mi away.  I can easily hear clear channel stations at night, from Toronto to Atlanta to Cincinnati, Chicago.  The wide/narrow let's you tune between the weak stations.  This old radio has been around a long time, we have several as backup radios, they're great on low power consumption (8D cell batteries and a power cord), we keep one in the basement for the Tornado warnings.  And they sound GREAT.

A good portable SW radio, Tecsun PL-880.  It can recharge the battery off a USB port, and gives you some nice features, but, most importantly, USB & LSB (Upper Sideband & Lower Sideband), which is ESSENTIAL to listen to HAM radio in the HF bands.  USB/LSB takes less power to go further, that's one of the main reasons we use it.  AM takes a lot of power, and uses more bandwidth (like space), to do the nearly the same thing.  The real benefit of a decent SW radio is when your local stations are playing crap, or something unrelated to the real news - think us listening to Radio Israel instead of some local, playing pre-recorded Dr. feel-good pills, during the air raids.  At a low, reasonable volume, the single 3.7v rechargeable battery has lasted us 40hrs continuous on a single charge.  Not the easiest to operate, but, as a radio that's compact, & does it all, we have several for the kids, and us if we need them.

I'll end with this - since I work on the Internet for a living, the transport side, the provider to the providers - I know the vulnerabilities, strengths, limitations and where the future of Internet is probably going.  Even plain old telephone is going over the net, SIP trunking, IP phones, the old telephone systems are being dismantled from localized systems for big centralized switches.  That means, if those "pipes inbetween" are shutdown/interrupted, or they're too busy for you in New York to handle your phone call to your neighbor 1 mile away - your call is not gonna go through.  The local Central Office is going away.  Your wired home phone service will still seem the same, but it's "switched" out of another state, maybe 1000 miles away.  It's not a conspiracy, it's driven by cost savings & demand for cheaper service.  Take 50 big, 20-30yr old energy hog 5ESS or DMS phone switches, delivering service over an aging, decaying copper plant, and convert it over to a router/switch, in a centralized location, at 10th the electrical, cooling cost with 1000x the computer horse power & features... why we can even offer free caller-id & long distance, cheaper to the customer.  Maybe you're already on SIP or IP trunking and didn't realize it?  How many digits do you dial for a local call?  7 or 10?  7 is a local switch (the old stuff), 10 is a newer switch in tim-buck-two, over IP trunks, just like you CELL PHONE is.

HAM radio is the last form of free communications left.  CB radio is pretty short ranged, and is not self policed, but HAM radio is self-policed.  The FCC gets involved with those breaking the law, the jerks who abuse the privilege, making radio life miserable for all of us.  The FCC is very, very slow to do anything.  OK, so it's not completely "private" - yea, everything broadcast goes everywhere - so, expect the whole world to be listening in.  The beauty of that, you'll connect with people of similar interests easily, if you want to.  There are specialized "nets", preplanned times for people of similar interests, religions, prepping, radio projects, military, aviation, maritime, travel, weather, etc., they get together and talk over long distances, sometimes send a message - and it's all free.  If you don't want to talk, but would just like to listen, here's a link to a PDF, last updated awhile ago, but an example of times and frequencies.

I can't think of a better time to get your Amateur Radio License, start connecting with similar minded people.  HAMs run the whole gambit of geeky techs to good-ole-boys... getting sloshed on the air.  But, it's kept pretty clean & family friendly.  HAMs have been on the cutting edge of communication technologies from the start - and still are, and always be the place where those looking for innovation in communications, look to.  Virtually every means of communications in use today, has the fingerprints of HAM Radio folks all over it.

When all else fails - there's HAM radio.
All animals are created equal; Some just take longer to cook.   Survival is keeping an eye on those around you...

Trisha007

I thought I would try this out with the way things are going.  So I got this today:

TIDRADIO TD-F9GP Ham Radio Handheld Upgraded Version of Baofeng UV-5R Radio Uhf VHF Radio 2 Way Radio High Power Dual Band Walkie Talkies (1Pack-Black)

It is charging right now.  I also got a book, Ham Radio for Dummies, mainly because well, I know nothing about these types of transceivers.

So, tomorrow after is is charged full, I will be programming it.  I'll read my book, and go from there.  Wish me luck.

:smile:
💋

Hoofer

Quote from: Trisha007 on January 15, 2021, 09:04:45 AM
TIDRADIO TD-F9GP Ham Radio Handheld Upgraded Version of Baofeng UV-5R Radio Uhf VHF Radio 2 Way Radio High Power Dual Band Walkie Talkies (1Pack-Black)

:smile:
Everything I said prior was for HF radios, lower frequencies, which do not make use of repeaters.
Your VHF/UHF radio is typically meant for repeater use.  You'll need THIS:
https://www.repeaterbook.com/repeaters/index.php?state_id=none/
to find the repeaters in your vicinity.  You'll need to program in the frequency, offset and any DTMF tones to 'open the repeater'.   I would store the 'name' of the repeater as something easy to remember, "Madison", "Roanoke", etc., only because the "call signs" don't help much if you're driving around town with the radio.  You'll want to pay attention to 2 meters and 70 centimeters!

Speaking of driving, look for an mag mount antenna, and an adapter to fit it to your hand held radio.  The "reach" a roof top antenna on a car is 10x that of the little antenna on the radio.   It'll be small & convenient to use, listen as you run around, etc.   You'll quickly notice everyone has a call sign, which means they are FCC licensed.  Don't even both keying up (hitting the talk bar), until you've got at least your Technician License - you'll get run off the air, possibly reported to the FCC and fined.   Study for the license online.  Note: you still can use the radio in a dire emergency to call for help, licensed or not.

In the meantime, listening is a really good way to get comfortable with how the conversation flows, you'll eventually get to know people by call-sign or the sound of their voice.  Best thing about those little radios, besides being cheap, it gives you access to repeaters.   Occasionally, someone will give the traffic, some repeaters spit out the weather, temperature, and linking information.   

Another thing you'll notice, people linking from far-far-away, over the internet.  They "hit" a repeater local to them, it hits the internet, then to the repeater near you, and spits out what they said.   Not a whole bunch of HAM stuff going on, but the idea of distant communications (1000mi) with a radio generally not suited for more than 50mi, can be quite helpful.

Then there's the weekly "Nets" - and just about every HAM club hosts one, usually near the beginning of the week, evenings.   Now there are also daily nets, populated by everyone and their brother, mornings, which can last 5 minutes or and hour, depending on numbers of callers & topics.  We have several by me, that typically last 45-60 min.

OK, so the handhelds & repeaters use FM & digital modes, either you got a signal, or nothing - and... only one person can talk at a time.  When 2 people try to talk it's all garbled, but the signal if you got it, is very clear, sometimes a little "popcorn" in there.
AM and SSB (LSB or USB) is a different animal.  It goes further in distance, and SSB does allow for 2 or more people to talk at the same time.  AM & SSB doesn't use repeaters, but, more expensive radios do operate in the ranges of your radio, you just won't be able to understand them.

CB sounding talk, "breaker-breaker" is frowned upon.   So, listen, learn the Q-codes, and you'll get comfortable with the flow of the conversation quickly.   Get your Technician license, and then you'll be able to talk - and... you'll be pleasantly surprised how helpful people are to new HAMS.

At this point, just getting the radio repeaters plugged in... can be a nightmare, don't get discouraged.
All animals are created equal; Some just take longer to cook.   Survival is keeping an eye on those around you...

Solar

Quote from: Trisha007 on January 15, 2021, 09:04:45 AM
I thought I would try this out with the way things are going.  So I got this today:

TIDRADIO TD-F9GP Ham Radio Handheld Upgraded Version of Baofeng UV-5R Radio Uhf VHF Radio 2 Way Radio High Power Dual Band Walkie Talkies (1Pack-Black)

It is charging right now.  I also got a book, Ham Radio for Dummies, mainly because well, I know nothing about these types of transceivers.

So, tomorrow after is is charged full, I will be programming it.  I'll read my book, and go from there.  Wish me luck.

:smile:
I bought two for the wife and I. These little radios are monsters! You can't beat the sound quality by any means, pop in a bluetooth earpiece and you're good to go for the entire day.
Good choice! :thumbup:
Official Trump Cult Member

#WWG1WGA

Rick

Did I miss any reference to Chirp. Makes it easy to program.

Two other things. I have real bad luck with the Nagoya brand add on antennas. Two have broken a week out of the box. These are used to extent your range.

These radios can also be programmed for the FRS/GRM marine radio frequencies. Nice to have and scan.

I dream of the day a chicken can cross the road with out it's motives being questioned.

dickfoster

Quote from: Hoofer on January 10, 2021, 04:04:47 AM
Probably should have started this a long time ago.

I have held my Extra Class Amateur Radio license since 2007, just a couple of months AFTER the Morse Code requirement was dropped.  I am "a no-code Extra", a "johnny-come-lately" - whatever, get a life.
Before HAM radio, I designed and built CB antennas, used graph paper & plotted everything by hand - it took WEEKS to do what I can do in 1 hour today.  The hobby is EASY compared to 10 years ago, and nothing like it was in the 1970s.  My dad was a Radio man in WW2, my first introduction to Short Wave (SW) was via crystal radio sets he helped us build.  On the farm, we listened into wee hours of the morning, stations from So. America, Israel, London, Germany, Italy, and of course, the USA.

During the attack on Israel by Saddam Hussein - we listened to KOL Radio Israel, on a 1938 RCA model 281 beauty.... hearing the Skuds coming in, before the US news media put it on the air.  When Hurricanes hit the islands Costa Rica, St. Croix - we heard first hand from people there, what was going on over an Elecraft K3.  Unfiltered, unedited, pure gut wrenching "journalism".   I've been to St. Croix, and operated from the beach with 10watts to NY, KY, OK, a little hand held Elecraft KX2, battery powered radio on an antenna I built (and sell).  Anyone can do what I'm doing.  I've talked literally around the globe, to Madagascar, and heard my voice echo back on occasion, with just 100 watts of power.  My log is filled with thousands of contacts, from all over the world.   And I enjoy taking to a bunch of guys/gals who are just a couple of hours drive - we know each other, but never shook hands in person.  Some of them are quite *interesting* maybe an understatement.   For instance, I've learned how to make &age good moonshine, how to bury Conex boxes for an underground house, when to buy feeder cattle & goats & why northern Hickory is better for smoking meat.

What does it COST?   As much as you want to spend.   My dream radio is $18,000, hand made, just a like driving a very nice car, with all the bells & whistles.  The radios I currently use cost $900 and $3500, IC-7000, IC-7300 & IC-7610.  I've owned Elecraft, Yaesu, Kenwood, it's like cars, some you like, some are OK, some you sell.  My favorite car was a 1967 Datsun 1600 Roadster... it finally rusted away, even wifey loved driving that little thing - maybe it was all the guys trying to chase her down...?  Like cars, there is no "rule of thumb" to how much you can expect to spend, whether you buy new or used.

The really CHEAP way... SDR radio (software defined radio).
All radios are going the direction of SDR.  About a dozen years ago, Elecraft led the way with one of the finest SDR or semi-SDR radios, which reset the standards for radio receivers.  Now everyone is migrating, with Icom's entry of the IC-7300 about 4 years ago, blowing the market wide open ($900-1100).  The radio I'd recommend to anyone looking for a solid, portable, intuitive HF radio.  Easy to operate and a little help learning how, an "Elmer" (helper), is where you'll get a good start.   This isn't CB radio.

But, what if all you want to do is LISTEN and not talk?  It's even cheaper, but requires a computer (no internet needed).  Enter the ultimate in SDR radio, the AirSpy HF Discovery (https://airspy.com/airspy-hf-discovery) plugged into your computer's USB port running SDR Console or SD Sharp, hooked up to a simple wire, or any kind of antenna gives you the *world* of AM, FM, SSB - broadcasts, HAMs, CB, TV, it picks up *everything* - about $170, add an adapter for an antenna, or just stick a wire in the end of it, download the software, and start playing.  This is like me, as an 8yr old, with a super-duper crystal radio.  The size of this "dongle radio" - about the size of a box of matches, fits into your shirt pocket.  There are other RTL-SDR radios, but curiously in reviews, the Airspy is absent, yet, it's the *easiest* to set up and use.  Note:  NO License is required to use a receiver, but, it will take a little investment of TIME to get comfortable.  If you live in the country, may suggest 75-80 meters at night, LSB - just to get a good listen to guys/gals rag-chewing (plain talking).  A SDR radio will pull in stations, world wide, with very little for an antenna, and it's got electronic filters to scrub out the noise.

About Antennas.  Bigger is better for the lower frequencies, smaller antennas *can* work to receive, but... it takes a "tuner" to transmit.   Tuners can come built into the radio, or as a separate, device that inserts between the radio & antenna.  There are manual and automatic tuners.  Manual tuners are about 1/10th the cost of Automatic tuners, and there are also more and more RF Amplifiers with Automatic tuners build in....now, we're getting into REAL money.  It's all the other stuff that's added, where the cost really goes up.  This is where a HAMfest, Swapmeet, comes in handy - and you can often find good, used gear that someone has grown out of, moved on to bigger, more expensive gear, or even a new equipment dealer.  Prices from dealers are essentially the same as going online - trust me, as a veteran HAMfest dealer, they don't make money selling expensive radios.  The real money is in all those accessories you've just gotta have, wall hangings, desk junk, adapters, etc., which does make the hobby that much more enjoyable.

Listen or Talk, sooner or later, everyone is gonna wanna talk.  To get some valuable experience, CHEAP, get an SDR dongle, load up the software, stick a wire in the end of it, and start tuning around.  They have really fine audio quality.  The software is free, your investment is under $200.

OK, for the people who just want a GOOD radio, with superb reception, AM & FM.  Look for these $50 gems, the GE Super Radio III.   They have great AM receivers & good speakers - I have one at my bedside, playing softly at night to help cover my tinnitus.  The station I listen to is 800mi away.  I can easily hear clear channel stations at night, from Toronto to Atlanta to Cincinnati, Chicago.  The wide/narrow let's you tune between the weak stations.  This old radio has been around a long time, we have several as backup radios, they're great on low power consumption (8D cell batteries and a power cord), we keep one in the basement for the Tornado warnings.  And they sound GREAT.

A good portable SW radio, Tecsun PL-880.  It can recharge the battery off a USB port, and gives you some nice features, but, most importantly, USB & LSB (Upper Sideband & Lower Sideband), which is ESSENTIAL to listen to HAM radio in the HF bands.  USB/LSB takes less power to go further, that's one of the main reasons we use it.  AM takes a lot of power, and uses more bandwidth (like space), to do the nearly the same thing.  The real benefit of a decent SW radio is when your local stations are playing crap, or something unrelated to the real news - think us listening to Radio Israel instead of some local, playing pre-recorded Dr. feel-good pills, during the air raids.  At a low, reasonable volume, the single 3.7v rechargeable battery has lasted us 40hrs continuous on a single charge.  Not the easiest to operate, but, as a radio that's compact, & does it all, we have several for the kids, and us if we need them.

I'll end with this - since I work on the Internet for a living, the transport side, the provider to the providers - I know the vulnerabilities, strengths, limitations and where the future of Internet is probably going.  Even plain old telephone is going over the net, SIP trunking, IP phones, the old telephone systems are being dismantled from localized systems for big centralized switches.  That means, if those "pipes inbetween" are shutdown/interrupted, or they're too busy for you in New York to handle your phone call to your neighbor 1 mile away - your call is not gonna go through.  The local Central Office is going away.  Your wired home phone service will still seem the same, but it's "switched" out of another state, maybe 1000 miles away.  It's not a conspiracy, it's driven by cost savings & demand for cheaper service.  Take 50 big, 20-30yr old energy hog 5ESS or DMS phone switches, delivering service over an aging, decaying copper plant, and convert it over to a router/switch, in a centralized location, at 10th the electrical, cooling cost with 1000x the computer horse power & features... why we can even offer free caller-id & long distance, cheaper to the customer.  Maybe you're already on SIP or IP trunking and didn't realize it?  How many digits do you dial for a local call?  7 or 10?  7 is a local switch (the old stuff), 10 is a newer switch in tim-buck-two, over IP trunks, just like you CELL PHONE is.

HAM radio is the last form of free communications left.  CB radio is pretty short ranged, and is not self policed, but HAM radio is self-policed.  The FCC gets involved with those breaking the law, the jerks who abuse the privilege, making radio life miserable for all of us.  The FCC is very, very slow to do anything.  OK, so it's not completely "private" - yea, everything broadcast goes everywhere - so, expect the whole world to be listening in.  The beauty of that, you'll connect with people of similar interests easily, if you want to.  There are specialized "nets", preplanned times for people of similar interests, religions, prepping, radio projects, military, aviation, maritime, travel, weather, etc., they get together and talk over long distances, sometimes send a message - and it's all free.  If you don't want to talk, but would just like to listen, here's a link to a PDF, last updated awhile ago, but an example of times and frequencies.

I can't think of a better time to get your Amateur Radio License, start connecting with similar minded people.  HAMs run the whole gambit of geeky techs to good-ole-boys... getting sloshed on the air.  But, it's kept pretty clean & family friendly.  HAMs have been on the cutting edge of communication technologies from the start - and still are, and always be the place where those looking for innovation in communications, look to.  Virtually every means of communications in use today, has the fingerprints of HAM Radio folks all over it.

When all else fails - there's HAM radio.
I haven't heard the words ham radio in years. I was really into it back in the day and was even in charge of a MARS station for awhile. Of course there was a code requirement back then but I'd already learned that as a boy scout as did many.
Crazy but not stupid!

Solar

Quote from: dickfoster on January 16, 2021, 02:55:38 AM
I haven't heard the words ham radio in years. I was really into it back in the day and was even in charge of a MARS station for awhile. Of course there was a code requirement back then but I'd already learned that as a boy scout as did many.
LOL! To think, back in the day the only way I could call home to the states from the DMZ was a MARS link, but today, everyone has mobile service, as if they never left home.
Over and Out...
Official Trump Cult Member

#WWG1WGA

Hoofer

ALL radios need antennas.  The closer the SIZE of the antenna to the wavelength, the better that antenna will receive *wanted* signals (and attenuate or not receive so good unwanted signals).   Antennas come in several flavors, shapes and construction materials.  Some materials make poor antennas, but, they look just dandy.  Generally speaking insulation of the conductors makes the antenna slightly "electrically" shorter.  The fatter the conductor, the wider the bandwidth.  A rule-of-thumb, from best to worst, Silver, Copper, Aluminum, Steel, Chrome - Stainless Steel & Gold just look pretty.

Everyone has seen a neat little chrome-plated telescopic antenna on an FM radio.   It's about 3' long fully extended, and seems to work well enough to bring in the local stations.  Tuning the radio to select a frequency, is just part of it, swinging the antenna round to pick up a stronger signal, AND, adjusting the length of the telescopic whip helps.   Higher frequencies - shorter whip, lower frequencies - longer whip.  If that doesn't make a difference, you're pretty close to the transmission tower.  FM covers 88MHz to 107Mhz, which is just below the HAM 2meter band, and just above the 6meter band.   AM radio is between .540MHz and 1.700MHz (or 540KHz to 1700KHz), even lower than the 160meter HAM band.

What is this "Meter" stuff?   If you remember what a Sine Wave looks like, starts at 0, increases positive to a peak, then falls back to 0 where polarity flips, it goes negative to a similar peak, finally rising again back to 0 - that is one wave length.  Lower frequencies are LONGER wavelengths (longer antennas), Higher frequencies are SHORTER wavelengths (shorter antennas).  If you've got a wind chime, the short chimes have a higher pitch, or resonating frequency, the long chimes resonate (vibrate) at a lower pitch.  Everything "resonates" very well at a certain frequency - like a tuning fork.  Using a test set, we can determine what that frequency actually is, the resonate frequency of the antenna.   That resonate frequency is going to be the "loudest" receive frequency, providing the highest signal strength to the radio's receiver.

Finding / choosing the correct antenna length is pretty important for listening, and transmitting.  While every antenna is probably going to pick up everything broadcast, we'd have a mishmash of garbage signal, were it not for "tuning" the radio to reject the unwanted signals.  SDR radios convert the analog signal to a digital signal, and just pull out the frequency it wants.   Analog radios (they have a tuning dial), uses a small capacitor to dial to the desired frequency.  Sometimes, a station is so strong, or your antenna is "just the right length" to pull a certain frequency in - it over powers your radio.  It's potential damage to the radio's "front end" is real.  Reorienting the antenna, turning the antenna, changing the length, longer or shorter, or adding attenuation (reduces signal strength) usually cure it.

The airwaves are full of competing Radio Frequency energy (RF), some electrical energy, like a EMP is so strong, things which might not conduct easily, are suddenly overwhelmed with so much energy, it conducts, damaging everything.   Funny, that's never happened to my cat after rubbing my wool socks on the carpet & touching her nose...

Back to antennas, meter stuff.   To receive a 2meter signal best, you'd want an antenna to match that 2 meter wave length (electrically).  A 70centimeter signal is much shorter, but, can we go even shorter, would it still work?  Yes, a 1/2 of the wavelength (wl) or a 1/4wl works, almost as good.  The goal, again, is getting the length close to the frequency, 1/2wl or 1/4wl. So, the actual length of the wave, from zero back to zero is where we get the Bands from, 160meters is a L-O-N-G wave, 2meters is about 6' in length.  From here, it antennas get really interesting.

Those old TV antennas, with a whole bunch of aluminum tubing, gradually tapering, from wide to narrow, is a Log Periodic.  They're rather wide in bandwidth, with all those "elements" of aluminum receiving and interacting with the others so that the reception pattern is narrowly focused.

Some HAMS also use a Yagi, which sort of looks like a Log Perodic, but the elements are just about the same length.  Both are beam antennas, they're kinda "deaf" on the sides and back, so the signal coming from the front is the strongest.  We call those "deaf" areas NULLS - like no signal, or very weak.
When you spin the little whip antenna round on the FM / AM radio to find the best signal, you're taking advantage of the antenna's NULLS to attenuate unwanted stations and noise.  NULLS are very important to antenna performance, this can work for or against you.

The natural NULLS on a wire antenna are directly off the ends, the strongest signal faces the antenna's sides, weakest signal is where the antenna is pointed.  If it's a a roof mounted antenna on a car, the weakest signal is directly above the car, strongest hits the antenna broadside.  A car antenna is typically a 1/4wl - there are lots of variations to that, loading coils, capatance hats all designed to make a short antenna perform closer to a long antenna - the goal is resonance, that wonderful (electrical) length.

FM home receivers, typically come with a translucent wire antenna, which hooks to the back of the radio, runs up 4-5' and then branches off in opposite directions.  That's a Dipole antenna, which is one of the most popular antennas with HAMs.  The antenna "hears" best, broadside, and like the rest, the NULLS are off both ends of the wires - yielding a figure 8 reception pattern.  If you have the space, this antenna can be turned to NULL-out (attenuate) unwanted signals and pull in desired signals.  A Yagi, Moxon, Log, are essentially Dipole antennas with extra elements to "focus" on the signal receiving or transmitting.

There's one antenna that defies it all, by working with the ground to sort of generate a signal the radio can use, a Beverage antenna.  Because the radio signal travels down a wire faster than through the ground, the difference between the two, produces a weak, but very clean electrical difference / signal, which the radio can easily amplify.  These are very simple, and highly effective for the lower HF bands (40-160meters), over long distances.  Completely different type.

Then there's the Loop antenna.  You've probably seen some movie with the Germans trying to track down a rogue underground transmitter, the guy has a loop of wire, slowly turning, it... he points and off they go.  Like a Dipole, a Loop has 2 NULLS, rather narrow, so by turning the antenna, to the "weakest" signal, we get a direction.. well 2 directions.   We use variations of Loop antennas for Treasure Hunting, locating underground utilities, and HAM radio.  If the Loop has just one turn of wire, it hears best broadside, and NULLS are off the edges, all the way around.  If we turn the Loop so it's parallel to the ground, the NULLS are sideways off the edges, and the signal hits it from directly above.  As from space.

How does that Loop get a signal from the sky?   The earth is surrounded by electrically charged belts.  As the sun rises and sets, those belts at different levels charge up or diminish - and they make GREAT electrical "reflectors" for HAMS.   During the sunrise & sunset, there's a line of gray, when everything is sort of mixing up - it forms a sort of RF Duct.   If you hear someone talking on 2 meters that time of day, it could be their signal is being "Ducked" right up that pipeline to you!   Sometimes, you hear your echo, the signal bouncing back and forth, seconds later, it's you!  Once things settle down, for the evening, that reflective layer above the earth (the Ionosphere) is quite a bit higher than during the day.  HF signals will use it, bouncing off the layer, back to earth, bouncing like a fading ball, eventually fading out as it travels around the world.  So the Loop antenna fires UP and receives from whatever bounces down.

People often say, "Oh no... there's a big solar storm approaching, it's wipe out ALL COMMUNICATIONS, your radio will be worthless, probably let the magic smoke out of it..."  (Magic smoke is used to construct very delicate components - we can't fully grasp how it gets in there, but once it leaks out... it's over).
So a Solar storm is coming, like a meteor shower of invisible electrically charged particles.   It's not over for HAMS, some bands work better, using that energy, and BTW... we can bounce signals off meteors, the moon and even talk to satellites with a little 2m / 70cm hand held radio!  Usually there's a HAM onboard the Space Station - yeah, it probably gets boring up there in that tin can, maybe they'd like to phone home? 

We can, bounce RF signals off of all kinds of stuff, it might come back weaker, or, if it's the right shape, with tremendous power.  That's what a Dish antenna does, narrowly focus the signal (sent or received) to a beam, and is virtually deaf (NULLS) to anything else.  Of course, the Dish's are made to match the frequency, small for VHF/UHF and larger for lower frequencies.

Not mentioned are the more specialized antennas - yes, HAM radio is a hobby where you can spend a LOT of money to go where few have gone before.  Besides the fun and fellowship of like minded people, there's always a band/frequency open, someplace to communicate.   Which is why we say, when all else fails - Ham Radio gets through.
All animals are created equal; Some just take longer to cook.   Survival is keeping an eye on those around you...

Rick

Wow, we found your button didn't we.
I dream of the day a chicken can cross the road with out it's motives being questioned.

Rick

I dream of the day a chicken can cross the road with out it's motives being questioned.

walkstall

A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, of the next generation.- James Freeman Clarke

Always remember "Feelings Aren't Facts."

Hoofer

(a little more on this - I personally take it with a grain of salt, because I live in the country, far away from incidents of political unrest.)
----------------
AmCON-2 as of 20210112-1730hrs Zulu
Due to multiple major social media and mainstream media services purging President Trump's accounts and the concerted efforts to silence him, his administration, and his supporters, we are increasing the AmCON to Level-2, indicating an ongoing disruption in conventional communications.
Additionally, there is an evident purge of hundreds of entities and individuals who are being purged and deplatformed for expressing conservative, traditional American, Christian, values and views.  This trend appears to be spreading daily, and sometimes hourly.
Action Items for all patriot-oriented citizens:

Conduct Ops Checks of your equipment. Charge all batteries and check fuel
Search for alternative social media applications (such as *Parler, Instagram, Gab, etc)
Develop non-internet communications plans with your friends and family, such as a phone tree, radio communications plans, etc.
Develop secure email accounts, such as Switzerland based Protonmail.ch or Startmail.com
Explore anonymous and secure non server based internet communications such as Bitmessage, Confidantmail, Qtox, etc.
If you don't already, begin using a VPN Service, such as NordVPN
Tune in to the scheduled AmRRON Nets to receive the weekly AIB, and other regularly scheduled net.
Practice using your gear and upgrade your communications capabilities to include receiving (at minimum!) digital ham radio modes.
(On the website here, simply type in 'Digital' for numerous tutorials and information.

*Parler is in transition away from its Amazon based server to a more free-speech friendly hosting server.

NOTE:  Any digital mode traffic sent out by AmRRON National will include a file hash which will be posted at AmRRON.com and elsewhere for you to authenticate the documents you receive **over the air.

**This is why digital capability is so important.  When sent/received using certain modes and methods, a true and authentic copy of the original traffic can be ensured, and 'man-in-the-middle' attacks and altering of intended traffic can be minimized or eliminated.

Hash File for the AmRRON Intelligence Brief (AIB-20210112) is:

e4bb4227da8f328bcc561297982db71290c22a711b84fa0868c304ace26b281d
------------

This is what you need to know, to save batteries, and listen on the right schedule.

Third hour, channel 3, for 3 minutes.  (no, I didn't come up with this stuff, but, it's easy to remember.)
All animals are created equal; Some just take longer to cook.   Survival is keeping an eye on those around you...

Hoofer

Grounding is a much debated topic, often disagreed among engineers, electricians, and NEC.
So, here's what I personally believe, and WHY I did my station the way I did.

a.  Power outages.   My station is grounded to provide just 12VDC power to my radio gear, computers & monitors, without any inverters, or noise generating devices - just pure 11-14VDC (12 volts nominal).
When commercial power fails, I am completely isolated from the Grid, it's the elimination of noise -so as to increase my signal-to-noise ratio (stronger, cleaner signals with less noise - more on that later).

b.  Bad neighborhood grounding.  I have already been the best ground in the neighborhood.  Never again.  As ground rods age, they rot away, oxidize away, sort of "insulate themselves" from the real purpose, to provide the path to dissipate the stray energy from the Grid, lightning, static and the neighbor's TV set.   You've heard it, lightning, like water, seeks the least path of resistance to ground.  Well, I had it - lightning hit 2 farms down the road (confirmed it with the neighbor), and finally found my place, blew up the transformer, my oven controls, computers - anything connected to my excellent grounding system.  I suffered because I had the better ground.

c.   Isolation from everything.  All kinds of noise generating devices exist today, thanks to importing cheap electronics from China, which do not meet FCC interference requirements.  Wall warts are notorious for, buzzing, popping, crackling on HAM bands.  How?   They convert the 120Vac 60Hz Grid power to a high frequency signal, then down convert the signal from Alternating Current (AC) to Direct Current (DC), and sorta.. kinda... filter the residual noise, or just hope the DC device it's powering will somehow "absorb" & dissipate that stray RF energy - instead of radiate it into Hoofer's radio.  Either a wall switch, or a power strip with an on/off switch is handy.  Who knows how much POWER all these "instant on" and "always on" devices actually cost you annually?  If you're off-the-grid, I bet you've already eliminated as much of these small power drains as you can!

d.  RF shielding is difficult and expensive.  There are Youtube videos of "preparation for the EMP using garbage cans" - they turn on a radio, set it in a garbage can, and Presto!  The radio can no longer pick up a micro-volt radio station's signal (very, very low lower than milli-volts).  Two problems with that, the radio is not connected to any sort of ground path (Chrystal Radios used both the antenna & ground to work), and the darn signal is too weak to resonate the garbage can!  Serious, here, the power your AM/FM radio receives is so weak, the RF doesn't effect your body.  An EMP is thousands of times more powerful, a metal garbage can does not have the ability to dissipate that kind of energy - you can't block it, it's going to energize the trash can.  The EMP cabinets where I work are 3500 lbs of alternating layers of steel, lead, steel, lead, etc., to absorb & dissipate the raw energy of a very strong signal.  An EMP would be a multitude of frequencies of very high energy, it'll likely induce lethal voltages / static into anything metal, as it seeks the ground & spreads out to dissipate.

One school of thought, ground the faraday cage (garbage can) - the other is insulate it from the ground.
Grounding makes the can more attractive as part of the electrical path to earth, insulating might leave the can charged like a capacitor, you touch it, and your body becomes the path to earth.  Airplanes get struck by lightning, whether on the ground or in the air!  As long as there is an imbalance in electrons, one area has a whole bunch, and another area lacks - there is Potential Voltage, and it's gonna wanna equalize the charge between the two.  This is not a "bad" thing, it's also how transmitters send signals out - so, we want to control it, not fear it... we just don't want our bodies as part of the electrical path, the kid with the thumping car... eh, nevermind.

Noise cancelling is not a new technology, in fact, those headsets that have active noise cancelling is based on HAM radio, both the radio & antennas.  The audible noise moves in pressure waves, add the opposite pressure wave, the same frequency, 180 degrees opposite, same energy level, and there appears to be no noise!  Now that computers are fast enough to hear & regenerate the same signal out-of-phase (180 degree opposite), the new signal is added to original noise signal - and supposed silence results.  Noise cancellation.  We do the same thing with antennas, by spacing them so far apart, adding in coax delay lines, we can effectively cancel unwanted signals, and/or signals from the unwanted direction by timing them the signals out-of-phase.  Newer SDR (software defined radio), have lots of computer horsepower behind noise elimination, select the right filter, and the noise appears to vanish.

e.  Filter whatever I can as a last resort.  Here's where most people start, IMO, the last thing they should consider.   Our Electric Fencer makes a "pop" sound in 2 second intervals, that's something a NB filter (noise blanker) is designed for, "Impulse Noise".  NB filters are good for Ignition Noise on tractors, cars, almost anything but, do not work on 16yr old rappers, wanna-bee joy riders, with the thumping cars.  But since their cheap electronics can't filter out 1000 watts of my RF, I've been tempted to "Key up & give them what-for"!  Sort of, a, "I can hear you - can you hear me now?"  For mechanical filters, a "snap on choke" works wonders (like to snap a choke on that 16yr old kid driving by...).  It's adding a "transformer" onto a cable to absorb the voltage spike and then dissipate it (some as heat, some as signal).  A noisy dishwasher motor can just wreck havoc on communications between Virginia and Alaska.   Sort of like running a blender during a football game.  Chokes are IMO, when nothing else really works, and some electric motor is just spitting out all kinds of RF noise.  The key to snap on chokes, get one big enough to wrap the wire through it several times, the choking effect is multiplied with each wrap.  Since a choke is a transformer (iron core), you can do almost the same thing by wrapping the electrical cord onto itself, at least it will buffer the signal a little.

The bottom line is, the easier the electrical / RF path to my radio, the more NOISE I'm gonna have to wade through just to hear the desired/target signal.   As a rule, I mechanically isolate, insulate and filter.
If bad weather is rolling in, or anytime I'm leaving the house for awhile, I disconnect the radios from the antennas - Outdoor antennas that is.  Some people put the end of the lead in wires / coax into a glass jar, at the very least, disconnect and move the end of the coax away from sensitive electronic gear.


So, part of my job is installing -48 volt DC power systems for communications.  Grounding and a return path are absolutely essential in these systems.  The "color" of the cables often confuses electricians (I am a former), "Black" is the Return, "Red" is the Load.   If the nominal voltage is NEGATIVE, the load wire is negative, not positive (like on your car, unless you have an old 6v truck with a positive ground) - knowing what your working on, is... what.. essential?  a no-brainer?  I've seen person after person, hook up batteries, rectifiers, power sources BACKWARDS, because they make assumptions and/or because the labeling is wrong or non-existent.  Thankfully, high end communications gear has built in power reversal protection - however, HAM radio gear does not have that.   We always check and recheck power between the load & ground, load & return, return & ground; just like a good electrician would when installing electrical service for a house.   When building your station or radio shack, test for problems, the obvious ones.  Think of the Ground wire as the last resort electrical path.

At a certain Cable TV & Internet service provider, we were installing brand new Internet terminal gear, which would eventually hook up to a very expensive Cisco router.  All were -48vdc, fused correctly, hooked up to a big backup battery bank which was charged by a 2000amp rectifier system.  Part of the checks before powering up, we check for voltage from the Load to the Return, and Load to the Ground, Return to Ground, the actual relay rack the gear is mounted in.   I had lots of power where it should not be, between the Return & Ground wire.   Working my way back to the rectifier, I notice the 750mcm bonding cable from Return to Ground as required by NEC code, was missing.  Mark says, "we had that professionally installed by a qualified electrician".  (he obviously did not complete the job)  Opening the manual for the rectifier, I find the page, with the warning, "Return & Ground Buss must be bonded using 750 MCM conductor at the source".  (that is a wire as thick as your thumb, and insulated on top of that.)

When I walked into the site, a Cable TV tech was trying to figure out why certain channels would "tile" about every 2 minutes.  The signal was fine, and suddenly, everything would drop/freeze, moments later, resume as if nothing was wrong.   I watched, suggested "something is creating a pulse in the signal or supply".  He had gone over everything with a "fine tooth comb", it only started happening when he tied the Cable gear into the signal source, it was like clockwork, ever 2 minutes, freeze for a second and restart.  Customers had complained there was 5-6 channels kept "tiling", like squares frozen, about 2 minutes, etc.

Mark wasn't really sure that big cable was "required" for his system, even though the NEC and install manual said it *must* be installed.  When I returned with the VOM (volt ohm meter), we started checking for POWER between the Ground Buss and the Return Buss (like between the ground & neutral in a house).   About 36 volts, and over 6 amps!   "WTF...? where's that coming from?", Mark said.  I said, you gotta install that wire, because if you don't you're very expensive Cisco router is gonna have a big electrical fight with our properly grounded gear, and I can attest, our stuff is quite a bit more robust.  We hooked up a temporary ground wire, just 2-3 feet, between the two big buss bars, rechecked the gear I'd installed, problem fixed.  "Hey, whatever you guys did, the channels quit tiling!"  OMG, that electrical pulse, 2 minutes apart was his Cable TV gear charging up with static, and discharging through 5-6 pieces of his gear - it was the ONLY path to ground, *through* his gear.  Their Cable TV amplifiers were generating tons of RF signal, leaking all over the room, energizing everything until the static was so strong, like a lightning bolt, it discharged through several pieces of electronics.

"Did you guys ever feel a slight shock, when you touched anything in this room?"
"Occasionally, but, we figured it was just winter dryness... like rubbing a cat."

Years later, I got a service call to the same Cable TV / Internet provider, "Hey Mark, did you guys every replace that temporary #6 wire with that... " - as I opened the cabinet, my little black wire, was looking back at me, "Nope!  I guess not... you know this is a NEC code violation, how come the city electrical inspector didn't catch it?  If you had an electrical fire and they caught this, you think your insurance company would still cover you?"  The email sent, was replied, with, "Thanks for the reminder, we got it fixed."

I see grounding in the world of HAM radio as the easiest method of reducing STATIC & NOISE. 
One last comment, computers are great static generators, just as Monitors & TVs are.  If your church has problems with Hummmm over the PA system, it's probably not the microphone cables.   Just take some wire, and connect the chassis of everything together, connect it to a ground (even the electrical socket), and see if that doesn't knock out the hum.   Ground the sound board, computer, monitor, amps, laptops, everything that touches the sound system, we call it "bonding".  People are quick to say "it's the lights" or "those long cables, just pick up noise" and just live with it.  Well, if you got noise in your sound system, that's probably because something else in the auditorium has found your sound system's input is an easier path to ground than it's own.  It could be a Laptop, plugged into the sound board (believe me, I've knocked out that noise with a cable with alligator clips).  Bond it all together & ground it - to hear better, what you want, and not the noise.
All animals are created equal; Some just take longer to cook.   Survival is keeping an eye on those around you...

Rick

Thanks for the memory. Just spent the week with an RS 485 system ground/ground loop/shield issues. Multiple building, multiple power sources, multiple locations. Only lost one controller, when my helper tied 12v to a 5v buss.
I dream of the day a chicken can cross the road with out it's motives being questioned.

Hoofer

Quote from: Rick on January 17, 2021, 01:59:25 AM
Thanks for the memory. Just spent the week with an RS 485 system ground/ground loop/shield issues. Multiple building, multiple power sources, multiple locations. Only lost one controller, when my helper tied 12v to a 5v buss.
It use to be required, upon entering a building, all coms cables were tied down to lightning/gas tube protectors of some sort.  Stuff we run across today, usually by fly-by-night cabling contractors - down right scary (sometimes dangerous).   As long as it works, who cares.

Wonderful thing about Optical connects, there is no voltage potential between the locations, just light.
The bad thing about Optical - it's creating lazy people, just too simple & idiot proof. 

Was in a large data center, one of those places who owns a very popular operating system, provides cloud services, etc.   None of the techs running fiber had proper fiber cleaning gear or power meters.  No need to ask about attenuators - would have gotten strange looks.
"How do you clean the fiber connectors, without ...?" - (shut up dummy, they're paying big time to have you drive 3hrs and clean the connectors!)  When they finally bought fiber cleaning gear, it was the least reliable type, and nobody seemed to know "how" to use it.

I figured out the difference between them and us.  They have college degrees, no experience, and make 3x what I do. 
So, they look at the gear / fiber that's feeding 8TBits of data into the site, and absolutely cannot believe that kind of bandwidth is coming in over 2 fibers.  I mention DWDM OCGs, watch their eyes glaze over, unable to relate to such well educated people.  "Why that's faster than a processor can handle!"
Yup, it's just magic... like witchcraft, black smoke & mirrors - let the smoke escape, and it's toast.

It's a lonely profession.  Not like people are dummies - there's so much foundational information needed before they're able to understand the most basic aspects of the job.  Like the copier tech, who walked in to find the copier idle.  After a couple of minutes, he pulls a rubber mallet out of the toolback and smacks the copier one time - the machine comes back to life.  He bills the company for $600 service call. 
"$600 for smacking the copier...???" - the owner objects!  I want an itemized bill.

The itemized bill shows up, and reads:
Transportation to/from site:  $150.00
Knowing where to smack the copier:  $400.00
Attempting to explain why & dumb looks (discounted): $50.00

Or the licensed electrician who said, "I could do your job!" - then I asked how his work passed the inspector, with all the conductor colors reversed.  "This isn't your car battery you're hooking up."

Or, the time I got called in for a special meeting with a Master Electrician, 2 Journeymen and the Data Center Manager - who said the DC plant had a severe load imbalance, and insisted on "fixing it".
"I'll only say this once, to turn off that breaker(s) to move those conductors around in the panel - runs the risk of dropping all Internet service into this data center." - and followed up the warning with an email to him, and everyone I had an address for in the place.  Later, he asked "why"... and I said, there is redundancy built into this system, HALF of it is idle, the other half is carrying traffic, that's the load you see.  You'll never see a balanced load on this multi-million dollar transport gear.

I got a lot of stories...

So, we get all kinds of "alarms", Internet traffic is halted, it looks like our transport gear is OK, but the Routers hooked up it are down-down.  We're transmitting, but there's nothing on the other side.
A few years before, we were told our old fashioned DC power plant was obsolete, everyone was going to UPS backups, and this was wasting money, space & resources - the Customer said this.  We maintained it was still the most reliable way to power this multi-million dollar transport gear to their data center.  Power for the entire data center is on huge UPSes... and one little 4"x4" controller.

When we got to the site, it was rather dark... except the transport gear, just blinking away, with lots of red lights.  You could hear the fans from our transport gear running quietly from 100 feet away, the whole place was that quiet - and they were the only lights among cage after cage of Routers, Switches & Servers.  14 hours later, a new UPS controller arrived - our battery system held - they brought the entire system back up, slowly - and on the next data center expansion, nobody questioned the wisdom of battery backup or why we still use DC power for transport gear.  That outage was the first one of several.

the latest power backup technology, still evolving is Hydrogen Fuel Cell - which is still DC power.  No oxygen tanks, just Hydrogen.  One little tube from the storage into the site.  Someone is gonna get really, really rich - when they figure out how to eliminate batteries from Solar systems by merging Fuel Cell technology into home systems.
All animals are created equal; Some just take longer to cook.   Survival is keeping an eye on those around you...