Showing posts with label Ham Radio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ham Radio. Show all posts

Monday, April 1, 2019

Activities For Radio Hobbyists

Amateur radio or ham is largely a hobby activity. The majority of the hobby time is spent on making contact and having conversations with people in distant regions and from different cultures. Two-way communications, identifying their location and station, zone, region and place is the usual custom. This is always followed by other casual communications. If the contact is made for a contest to make two-way communication with as many stations or ham radio operators as possible, this all the information that is shared.

DX-ing and DX-peditions:
An amateur radio operator’s main hobby is to make contact with as many stations as possible from as many parts of the world as possible. DX stands for Distant Stations. The DX-ing usually is followed with the QSO. (a Q code., see below) which means “a conversation”. 

DX-peditions are different in the sense that they are expeditions organized/planned solely for the purpose of making contacts with some special or rare stations and regions. Some people travel a long distance just to make contact with some unrepresented region or place.

Radio Frequency scanners available nowadays form the tool of great use in these attempts. The radio scanner scans for signals until a strong signal is found and so on.

QSL cards:
The Q code is a standardized collection of three-letter message encodings, all starting with the letter "Q", initially developed for commercial radiotelegraph communication, and later adopted by other radio services, especially amateur radio. In today’s audio signal transmission age, the Q codes are not essential. but still in use and are viewed as a sort of tradition.

As a part of DX-ing and DX-peditions, the QSL card or the proof of contact card is shared. QSL is one such Q-code that means “I acknowledge receipt”. The common practice was that the ones who made contact at a particular frequency exchange a QSL card in the mail to confirm their contact and conversations. These QSL cards can be used as a proof of their making contact and amateur operators who make contact with a certain number of other amateur radio operators in a specified time is awarded. Moreover, they are distinguished and honored since they are deemed to be efficient amateur radio operators.

Remote region contacting:
Some countries have less amateur radio operators, and making contact with these are considered special. So, when a radio amateur from these regions makes contact, other ham operators flock to make communication with this / these hams. Making contact with these less represented places has its awards and special considerations in the award programs.

Social events for ham families and friends. It’s something akin to the family-oriented social fests where there are sales, exchanges, meetings and fun. Similarly, the fest is filled with selling and exchanging hams, meeting real-life ham friends and fun events for a day or sometimes over a few days.

Discussion groups and Nets:
Ham operators form a discussion group based on common interests other than ham or it can also be a ham related discussion group and they can form nets or networks.

If a radio hobbyist gets involved with all of these different activities, he or she is sure to never be bored. Look into some of them, and see if you would like to get involved.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Radio Sports For Die-Hard Hobbyists

Contest-Station - Photo: Wikipedia
Radiosport as a term is sometimes used as two separate words, or as a single word. It refers to the use of amateur radio equipment or the “ham”, in short, as a part of playing some sort of game. It might be a group event or a single person event. It can involve other competitors in real time like a race or like a performance or achievement over a given time frame.

The contests are usually sponsored events and can last anywhere between a few hours and 2 days, the worldwide contests being two days usually. It can be local in a specific region or may involve traveling a long distance.  It can be a cumulative contest taking place over many weekends, or a sprint contest which lasts only a few hours. The rules are specific for the event and they include which stations (which regions) may participate and the like.

This is usually called radiosports. This can be any of the following.

This is when stations are to make two-way contact with as many stations as possible over the longest distance possible. This is called the International DX-Contest today. Awards may be given for the following accomplishments. The “Worked All States Award” if the entrants make contact with someone from every state in the USA. The “Worked All continents Award” is given for making contact with someone from every continent. “Worked All Zones Award” is the same concept with time zones. Other awards include the DX Century Club award and the UHF/VHF Century Club award.

Another event is an Amateur Radio Direction finding using radios. A specific number of transmitters needs to be found from a specific region on a map before reaching the end line. This relies on the athletic ability of the ham operator as well as some direction finding skill with radios.

Fox Oaring or Bunny hunting: This is similar to the previous contest but involves more short-range equipment of the hams, and so it relies more on the direction finding skills of the contestant rather than the athletic ability. It’s more technical in nature than the previous contest, and the radio can detect signals only 100 meters or so away, so the contestant must locate the transmitter hidden in an area of a 200-meter radius.

A more severely restricted game than the Fox Oaring is the Radio orienting contest in compact areas. This requires very high technical skills.

There is another form of the amateur radio direction finding, or bunny hunting, that utilizes transportation with vehicles over long distances. The hams have to travel in their vehicles to the specific region and find the transmitter. Whoever finds the transmitter first and reaches the finish line is the winner. A variation is that the one to find a specific number of transmitters hidden in different places first is the winner. This relies on the traveling skill, orientation skill and the equipment efficiency too.

These events are called ARDF contests, which is short for Amateur Radio Direction Finding Contests. Contests or radiosports are just a part of the hobby activity. Entering contests is not a requirement, but there are many who pursue this almost obsessively and collect winning certificates by the dozen in fact. On the other extreme are those that are equally passionate about being a ham, but do so purely for communication and satisfaction.

The significant thing about hams that need to be mentioned here is that the hams can and do make regular contact with space stations. Many astronauts are licensed amateur radio operators and use their radios for educational purpose as well as an emergency backup.

So what was once spanning a small region locally in the beginning now has penetrated into space! What was once only Morse code based has now evolved into greater variations involving voice, digital transmission and so on? It is exciting to see how much radio transmission has changed in recent years.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Roots Of Radio Hobbyists

A commercial 1-kilowatt spark gap radio transmitter manufactured by William J. Murdock
Photo: Wikimedia
Radio hobbyists can play with their equipment all day without giving a thought to the origins of their hobby. Early radio hobbyists were part of something that was, at the time, new and fairly crazy.

After radio technology was stabilized, there was a steady growth of radio signaling in the fields of navigation of ships and for rescue operations. On the other hand, the amateur radio operators also started to dominate the air. The first documented and famous amateur wireless enthusiast was a then young man named Irving Vermilya born in 1890 when the wireless transmission was being born. The young man since age 12 heard Marconi and built his own wireless transmission equipment and was often “heard” telegraphing with ships during that time. In 1911 he became a member of the Radio Club that had been formed. He got himself certified in 1912 when law mandated all wireless operators to be certified. In his own words, 

This was the pre-audio era, and communication was purely in Morse code. Irving then organized his own amateur group who had regular meetings monthly and would communicate daily wishing “GM” (good morning) and “GN” (good night), some of the first amateur jargon to be used. He also proceeds to describe in his series of articles published in QST magazine in 1917 as to how they managed to lay the telegraph lines and such and how they “drew juice” for the wireless operation from the electric lines instead of relying on batteries.

Meanwhile, apart from the “professionals” and “amateurs”, with the audio wireless signal transmission, there was a new revolution setting in. A Dutch engineer in Hague was the first to make regular wireless transmission via radio. This could be considered the first regular radio broadcast. After this, there was slow development until the commercial radio stations came into being.

The requirement to be certified killed the enthusiasm in many amateurs, and the number of amateurs dwindled. But then after WWI, there was a boom. The first radio clubs were formed in 1909 and this was the beginning of the radio hobbies which included radio as a part of the hobby activity.

During the WWI the amateur radio operators were asked to stop their activity and dismantle the equipment. Radio operators in uniform helped in military communications. They got back on the air again by November 1919 again. A similar lull in amateur radio happened during Second World War and got back on air by 1946. After lots of battles over the frequency range that the amateurs can tune into, the amateur radio is here to stay!

At present (2007), there are more than 170,000 ham operators which are possibly not the complete picture. It is still increasing. So, with Irving Vermilya was born the amateur radio operation, since he was the first radio hobbyist. After lots of developments, including the discovery of the transistor which greatly decreased the size of the radio equipment, the old ways still remains which included “waiting for someone to signal”. 

The rules to get oneself certified and licensed included a Morse code proficiency until the World Radiocommunication Conference in Geneva in 2003 that eliminated the need for Morse code proficiency from the licensure tests. Taking effect from February 23, 2007, the Morse code has been eliminated from the tests for amateur radio license tests.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Getting Started With Ham Radio Control As A Hobby:

Photo: Wikimedia
Ham or amateur radio as a hobby involves some hard work in the form of getting licensed and acquiring knowledge of the technical details. The hobby itself starts in the first step by one getting the ham device. Selection of a good ham radio is best done under the guidance of a person who knows about the radios well. More than that, one must know the local laws and rules with respect to the ham operation.

Getting to know your ham:
It is important to know about hams and, to know about your own ham as soon as you feel the urge to buy/assemble one. If you want to know about the ham, then again, internet, books, and other hobbyists are all good places to start with. If you know no technical details of the electronics but find yourself fascinated by the idea, then it is time to learn a bit of jargon in the field.

So, if you do not know something, you should come out and seek answers either from those who might know or from resources like the library or the internet. One must spend some time and effort to learn about the hobby that one wants to pursue. Just a wish is not a good enough reason to pursue a hobby. One needs more than just a wish to be able to pursue an activity as a hobby. So, recognition of the hobby and the right kind of activity that suits you is important. 

Ham operation can be taxing and sometimes it can be tiring in spite of the modern equipment that does the scanning on its own. It is like the astrophysicist searching for some communications from aliens. If that idea grabs your attention, then this hobby will be to your liking since the activity is virtually the same, except for the helpful fact that we know there is someone who exists for sure, and one gets more than just “radio signals of unknown nature”. You get interaction from real people, from out there in the world, who live in flesh and blood as you do.

Your choice of equipment depends on how involved you are, and what your budget is that you can afford to invest in a ham equipment. There are good stores out there that sell ham radio at a reasonable cost. Again, as usual, it’s wise to chat with those who are ham radio operators, and also to visit and know the prices from various shops that sell ham radios to be able to select the best deal.

The cost of the radio equipment that can connect to longer distances will be higher than the ones that have a lesser range. Moreover, the recent advancements in digital voice transmission and such can be more costly than the simple Morse code wireless telegraphing model.

Getting licensed is the next hurdle. The amateur radio operator license exam does not require Morse code proficiency anymore as it is has been allowed to be dropped as agreed in 2003 in the World Radiocommunication Conference in Geneva. The test will include the knowledge of ham etiquette, the communication laws that apply internationally as well as in your region and such. Once licensed, one is free to use the allotted bandwidths and is allowed to change or modify the equipment within the limits imposed by “spurious standards”. 

So…what are you waiting for? Go get a ham and get your license: get going! 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Modern Radio Hobbyists - HAM RAdio

Ham Radio Girl - Photo: Wikimedia

An amateur radio is called a Ham radio, and the operator is called as an amateur radio operator. They pursue the ham radio operation as a hobby, and it is a vastly popular hobby at that.

The origin of the word “ham” for an amateur radio operator is rather interesting. “Ham” was used to mean anybody who was NOT efficient or talented in the field. In the early days, the amateur operators had a notorious reputation for sending in garbled Morse code. So, these amateur operators were called by many names including “ham” as opposed to the professional wireless operators. But, over time, the name stuck up for the amateur radio operators and now it is no longer used in its initial derogatory way.

The hobby of amateur radio operators was also of public service during many times. In 1920 Amateur Police Radio was instituted to help “relay” information on crimes and thefts of vehicles and was very successful. Apart from using ham radio to connect to friends, families, they also connect to complete strangers. The ham operators have time and again been of great service during emergencies and disasters like earthquakes and other natural disasters in transmitting reliable real-time information about the condition and for the speedy movement and dispersal of the relief measures.

This is a great public service since during these emergencies the only thing that works is the radio! The phone lines severed, other communication methods are ruled out and it is common for even the mobile networks to be clogged in traffic during these emergencies leaving hams as a great tool. There have been many documented evidence of the ham radio enthusiasts helping someone in trouble or helping to locate and nab a criminal.

Thus, the first radio hobby started out as amateur radio operation. It was restricted to few miles and must be relayed across. Now, all-powerful and advanced radio equipment is still evolving and improving. So, one does not need to rely on relay anymore but can almost connect to halfway across the world as opposed to the initial days.

The amateur radio has become very organized since the first clubs of 1909. Each has a uniquely identifiable code by which they are known. The first hobbyists relied on communication by making connections to as many radio operators who were as distant as possible, with their meager equipment. Usually, they were constantly upgrading it. This was called Dxing when one would try to connect to as many amateur radio operators as possible. The radio enthusiasts are on the lookout for constant updates and most are proficient in the wireless technology. Even though they now get ready-made ham equipment, most are known to have a good knowledge of the working of the ham equipment as well as minor repairs and such.

In the day of the mobiles, internet, and blue-tooth, ham radio has its own place and reputation. After all, the disasters and emergencies have themselves to be a special place that the radio transmission can come in handy. There is also the family radio service, also known as the Walkie Talkie to operate within around about 2-3 miles. A modification of the same is used when the parents can fix a transmitter to a child’s bag or pocket, and when the child walks out of the range, the parents are sent an alarm! As you can see, radio usage is not just limited to hobbies, but it spans across many different useful purposes.