Understanding Antennas-A Simplified Perspective

A PowerPoint slideshow, Understanding Antennas / A Simplified Perspective for Ham Radio Operators is downloadable here:  Understanding Antennas-A Simplified Perspective

This presentation provides a working understanding of amateur radio antennas without being overly technical or dry.

The target audience is newer hams with limited knowledge of antennas.  It is presented at the Technician license level. You will see Continue reading

ham, not HAM

Following up on the previous post regarding the origin of the term ham for an amateur radio operator, it is my duty to inform the world that the term is ham, not HAM.

Sorry, this is a pet peeve of mine.  Certain publications and organizations insist that an amateur radio operator is a three letter acronym (TLA).

It’s not HAM!  It’s ham.  The ham in ham radio doesn’t stand for anything like Host Adapter Module or High Altitude Mountaineering or Hospital Account Manager.  You don’t eat a HAM sandwich, you eat a ham sandwich.

Not sure exactly why, but some places insist that ham is all-caps.  Perhaps they are so bureaucratic and accustomed to acronyms that they simply think that ham must be short for a three-letter phrase.  And when you tell them otherwise, they don’t believe you or don’t care.

Please do your part and just write ham, not HAM.

Thank you.  I feel better now.  🙂

What’s a Ham?

Ham is an informal and time-honored name for an amateur radio operator.  Amateur radio and ham radio are synonymous, as are amateur and ham in the context of radio.

What a strange moniker for such a noble practitioner!  How did we get to be called hams?

Well, the absolute truth is lost to history and there is a fair bit of disagreement and some urban legend out there.  But we know Continue reading

Zed, not Zee

A side note to the previous post on using a phonetic alphabet–

When formally identifying yourself or another radio station with the letter Z in the call sign we use Zulu for proper ITU phonetics.

But we don’t always use phonetics for identification.  Once the call signs have been logged and acknowledged properly, we typically identify with call signs spoken normally (no phonetics).

So here is the wrinkle…  If there is a letter Z in any call sign, we should not pronounce “zee” when using non-phonetic identification.  Z is easily confused with C and to a lesser extent, G and P and T and V, especially if there is interference or noise.

To avoid this, simply say “zed” instead of “zee” when not using phonetics.  Zed is how the originators of the English language pronounce that last letter of the alphabet anyway, so let’s give the UK a show of support.

Using Zed solves the confusion and it’s widely known and understood.  You will hear experienced hams say Zed all the time when they’re not using phonetics.  Just remember to say Zulu when phonetics are needed.

It’s Zed, not Zee.  Get into the habit!

Phonetics

One of the first things a new ham needs to learn when they get on the air is the phonetic alphabet.  Because many alphabet letters sound similar over the air (especially in poor conditions), it is helpful to use phonetics when spelling out words or giving your call sign accurately.  This is particularly important in emergency communications (EmComm) and when checking into a radio net, which is where many new hams get started.

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A good phonetic alphabet is clear, differentiated, and commonly understood, unlike this joke phonetic chart:

Phonetics 2

These days,  amateur radio protocol favors the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) phonetic alphabet, also used in international aviation and the NATO military, making it fairly universal.  You are likely to hear other phonetic alphabets on the air but should know the ITU version and use it.  Start learning even before you take your license exam so you are ready to go when you get your ticket.

The best way to learn ITU phonetics is to practice.  Familiarize yourself with the phonetics and then practice by spelling words out.  A great way to do this is while sitting idle at a traffic light or while walking through a parking lot.  Just start spelling out signs and license plates phonetically.  When you see a stop sign, just say out loud, “Sierra Tango Oscar Papa.”

Note that there are official pronunciations for each character and a few may seem a little odd; this is to accommodate many native languages, not just American English.  There are also specific ways of pronouncing certain numbers (niner is the most obvious one) and punctuation.  Be advised that the official ITU number pronunciation is very odd (a mixture of languages) and the ones shown below are more common for amateur radio usage.

One good ITU phonetic alphabet link is pasted below.

Character

 

A

Phonetic

 

Alfa

Pronunciation

 

ALFAH

B Bravo BRAHVOH
C Charlie CHARLEE
D Delta DELLTAH
E Echo ECKOH
F Foxtrot FOKSTROT
G Golf GOLF
H Hotel HOHTELL
I India INDEE AH
J Juliett JEWLEE ETT
K Kilo KEYLOH
L Lima LEEMAH
M Mike MIKE
N November NOVEMBER
O Oscar OSSCAH
P Papa PAHPAH
Q Quebec KEHBECK
R Romeo ROWME OH
S Sierra SEEAIRAH
T Tango TANGGO
U Uniform YOUNEE FORM
V Victor VIKTAH
W Whiskey WISSKEY
X X-ray ECKSRAY
Y Yankee YANGKEY
Z Zulu ZOOLOO
0 Zero ZEE-RO
1 One WUN
2 Two TOO
3 Three TREE
4 Four FOW-ER
5 Five FIFE
6 Six SIX
7 Seven SEV-EN
8 Eight AIT
9 Nine NIN-ER

The official ITU chart is found here >>  ITU phonetic chart

For a tad more fun we present a pictorial-enhanced ITU phonetics chart, author unknown:

What is Ham Radio?

Ham radio is a common term for amateur radio.  It is a licensed personal communications service for non-commercial use, meaning you can’t use the airwaves to make money.

For many people ham radio is a fun and interesting hobby, communicating with people around town, across the country, or on the other side of the world using various methods.  For others it’s part of personal or community preparedness and emergency response.  Some use ham radio to talk to family and friends in remote locations where other means of communication are unavailable or too expensive.  Ham radio is also used to control high-performance radio-controlled aircraft or other RC models.

Ham radio means all this and more.  There are dozens of different aspects to amateur radio and because you’re reading this, at least one of them probably appeals to you!

Anybody can listen in on any ham radio frequency but transmitting requires an amateur radio license.  This is obtained from the federal government by demonstrating knowledge and skills associated with ham radio.  Requirements vary by country and there are usually multiple license levels available with increasing privileges corresponding to proficiency.

Ham radio can be a lot of fun but it can also be practical in times of disaster or disruption; sometimes it’s the only way to communicate.

In the USA ham radio is governed by federal regulations under 47 CFR Part 97 which lists five principles for the existence of amateur radio.  These can be summarized into four purposes for ham radio:

  • To encourage the advancement of the art and science of radio.
  • To promote the development of an emergency communication capability to assist communities when needed.
  • To develop a pool of trained radio operators.
  • To promote international good will by connecting private citizens in countries around the globe.

Hams are not all alike as there are many different aspects of amateur radio that appeal (or don’t) to individuals.  However, we can identify six basic things that hams characteristically do:

  • Communicate
  • Experiment
  • Build
  • Compete
  • Serve their communities
  • Engage in life-long learning

Learn more about amateur radio from these excellent references:

ARRL

HamTestOnline

Wikipedia

Welcome

Welcome to the NewHams.info site.  Its purpose is to provide training, information and general encouragement to new or prospective amateur radio operators (hams).  Sort of a virtual “Elmer”, as we say.  Experienced hams should find it interesting and useful as well.

Organized in sort of a blog format, post topics are usually small and simple. You can scroll through the posts sequentially or search for key words or click on a category of interest.

The reader can sign up for email notification of new posts by clicking on the Follow button below Categories on the sidebar.

Topics generally cater to USA hams getting started in amateur radio with local VHF/UHF communications.  However, HF band operators and hams in other countries should find something interesting here as well.

You will see US license exam questions and answers in green boxes in various posts to to clarify the topic and refresh your knowledge.

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