Winter 2009 Issue

Beginner’s Guide

An Exciting Time in Amateur Radio
The Basics of 2 meters and the FM Mode

By Rich Arland, K7SZ

Welcome to the new “Beginner’s Guide” column in CQ VHF. My name is Rich Arland, callsign K7SZ, and I have been playing this ham radio game for over 45 years. However, that doesn’t mean I know everything! As a matter of fact, there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t learn something new about radio, the hobby, and/or computers and IT technology.

What an exciting time to be a radio amateur! Technology is growing exponentially and our hobby is changing daily. The days of stringing up an end-fed wire and working CW contacts has been enhanced by the technological explosion associated with our hobby. Don’t get me wrong, as I have had (and continue to have) a lot of fun on the HF bands using QRP (less than 5 watts output power) and simple antennas to work some fantastic DX. However, there is real excitement on the VHF/UHF bands and the associated “magic black boxes” that have opened a vast new world of communications that could only have been dreamed about a brief 10–15 years ago. Back in the late 1960s and early ’70s, how many of us could have envisioned Star Trek type “communicators” that look very much like our present-day cell phones? Ditto with our PCs and wireless networks that literally are everywhere! Technology is the name of the game in today’s radio hobby.

Technology can be formidable and quite intimidating, especially for a newcomer to our hobby. It can also be quite a challenge for us old timers, who grew up on vacuum-tube theory and power supplies that could kill you! My job, as editor of this column, is to help radio amateurs who are just starting out in the hobby or transitioning from HF to the VHF/ UHF bands better understand the current trends and technologies that make the VHF+ arena such a great place to be.

Above all, this is your column. I welcome input on the content and direction of the column from you, the reader. My e-mail address is <k7sz@arrl.net>, so feel free to write to me and let me know what you want me to cover in future issues of CQ VHF.

On a personal note, I am all for taking the least expensive road to meet a particular communications task. That means buying used gear, scrounging parts (along with “dead” gear) for simple (and sometimes complex) homebrew projects for the shack. This includes recycling old TV antennas, computer equipment, and even TV antenna rotors! Not only does this tack save you money (and with the current state of our economy that is a very attractive idea), but it gets you, the newcomer to VHF+, to take a proactive part in your pursuit of the hobby. After all, ham radio is a technical hobby, so don’t be afraid to become fully immersed in building accessory projects for your station. The QRP crowd that I still hang out with is positively overcrowded with avid homebrewers, proving that the art and science of “rolling your own” gear is not a lost art! The same can be said of the VHF+ operators. As a matter of fact, it seems that the higher in frequency you go, the more you encounter a whole group of homebrew aficionados. Don’t worry if you can’t tell the difference between the ends of a soldering iron. We’ll address that, too, in this column!

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