Welcome to High Frequency Radio RF: an electromagnetic wave frequency between audio and infrared extremely low frequency, ELF - below 3 kilohertz extremely low frequencyELF very low frequency, VLF - 3 to 30 kilohertz very low frequencyVLF LF, low frequency - 30 to 300 kilohertz LFlow frequency medium frequency, MF - 300 to 3000 kilohertz medium frequencyMF high frequency, HF - 3 to 30 megahertz high frequencyHF
very high frequency, VHF - 30 to 300 megahertz very high frequencyVHF UHF, ultrahigh frequency - 300 to 3000 megahertz UHFultrahigh frequency SHF, superhigh frequency - 3 to 30 gigahertz SHFsuperhigh frequency EHF, extremely high frequency - 30 to 300 gigahertz EHFextremely high frequency electromagnetic spectrum - the entire frequency range of electromagnetic waves electromagnetic spectrum
The MUF chart for a CW radio circuit between Western Washington and Chicago with a smoothed sunspot number of 12 MUF curves give Maximum Usable Frequency predictions HPF (Highest Possible Frequency) FOT (from the French: Frequence Optimum de Travail) The MUF curves give Maximum Usable Frequency predictions vs. time-of-day. The blue curve is the median of the daily MOFs (Maximum Observed Frequencies) over all days of the month at a given hour. The HPF (Highest Possible Frequency) red curve gives values expected only 10% of the time. The FOT (from the French: Frequence Optimum de Travail) green values are defined as the frequencies where the MOFs will be higher on at least 90% of the days of the month at that hour. FOT is sometimes called OWF (Optimum Working Frequency)
160 Meters – 1.8-2.0 MHz (Top Band) It is actually MF, not HF. Not used in all countries. Sometimes only a portion is used. Used for local contacts during the day. Need good antennas for long contacts. For the longest contacts – the entire path needs to be in total darkness. The longest “Dawn to Dusk” contacts only last 10-15 minutes! Long distance peaks in winter because of lower noise levels.
80 Meters – 3.5-4.0 MHz Many other countries stop at 3.8 MHz. Above 3.8 MHz is found a broadcast band. This band can be busy at night – both with static and traffic. Can reach several hundred miles by day, and thousands at night. Great band during solar minimums – but works all the time. Great band for Grayline propagation (dusk & dawn). Best during Spring and Fall. Stations sound like they are “next door”. SSB DX occurs in the top of this band. Try to stay clear of the “top”, unless DXing. Observe your privileges! Some countries DX below above 3.8 MHz – others below 3.8 MHz.
60 Meters – various channels (USB Only 5.250-5.450 MHz) United States, United Kingdom, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Ireland and Iceland The 60 meter (5 MHz) band is a relatively new (2002) Amateur Radio allocation and originally only available in a few countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Ireland and Iceland. You will find a variety of beacon stations on 60 Meters from around the world. Fun to listen.
40 Meters – 7.0-7.3 MHz 40 Meters is a great band. Short haul by day, long haul by night. Beware of broadcast stations! With US privileges, we run into broadcast stations a lot! Grayline propagation is great! Short haul by day, and long haul by night – but short haul goes down! If you have a small transmitter and a fair antenna (trapped verticals, etc.), you can get good results with this band.
30 Meters – 10.1-10.15 MHz (200 Watts PEP) World Administrative Radio Conference held in 1979 (WARC 79). Although it has been available for many years now, it is still not very widely used although it but is capable of giving good results. This ham radio band is very similar to 40 Meters. Good Grayline activity and DX opportunities – even in solar minimums. Good for the small station. Less “big gun” competition. Due to the small size of the band and the high level of commercial activity (because it is shared with other services), most of the operation is in Morse. Most (all?) contests are excluded from this band.
20 Meters – 14.0-14.350 MHz This is the main long haul band of the world! The allocation is pretty much the same everywhere – so folks play on this band pretty well. Great year round, 24/7. Although, sometimes – you just hear nothing…when conditions are poor. During the day – you often can hear stations 2000-3000 miles away (500-1500 miles almost always). Can close at night – especially during winter. Good in Spring and Fall. Early morning – signals from the east. Then fade to local signals, then fade to signals from the west towards evening. Crowded band, big DX stations. Big antennas, big amplifiers… Jump in and make a friend!
17 Meters – 18.068-18.168 MHz Like the 30m band, this one was released for amateur radio use after the WARC 79 conference. Old rigs generally don’t cover this band. Sometimes acts like 20 Meters, and sometimes like 15 meters. Worth taking a look at… This is a fun band to play with and try to collect some rare DX. Folks with dipoles often use this band. Most “beam” antenna people don’t mess with 17 Meters.
15 Meters – 21.0-21.450 MHz When conditions are good – this band is GREAT! Sometimes, in the middle of the day, it is the hottest band going. Lots of fun. At the top of 15 Meters, is the 13 Meter broadcast band – use this to see if band is “open”.
12 Meters – 24.890-24.990 MHz This amateur radio band is the highest of the bands released for ham radio operation at WARC 79. This band is really narrow – but can be a lot of fun. I have made some terrific contacts on 12 Meters. It is super influenced by sunspot activity. It can be really open – or really closed!
10 Meters – 28.0-29.7 MHz 10 Meters is the highest HF band. Everything goes on in 10 Meters, SSB, FM, CW, digital modes, even repeaters in some countries. In the US – there is a place for Techs to Extras. Often you can get long distance propagation, or use it for short distance work. During solar minimums, it may only work for distance during the summer months using Sporadic-E. You can get about 1000 miles or more. When sunspot activity is high, you can get great propagation – but really only during the day! Then the spigot gets turned off. I find that during solar minimums, it works great for local work, but not great locally during solar maximums (noisy) Stations using low-power FM may be heard towards the top of the band. The recommendation is that FM activity should take place between 29.60 and 29.69MHz, with 29.60MHz as the calling frequency. There are some repeaters in the USA with outputs at 29.62, 29.64, 29.66 and 29.68MHz with inputs 100kHz lower.
How much should I spend on a Transceiver? This is a hobby! This is for fun! The point is not to spend every dollar you have to play radio. Your shack can – and should be built up over time. I believe you should purchase and ENJOY each piece of equipment before you move on to the next purchase. You acquire equipment as you acquire skill – don’t rush purchasing equipment.
Transceiver purchasing logic How do you want to operate? Phone? CW? Do you want to operate QRP? QRO? Portable? Mobile? Base Station? What kind of room do you have for antennas? Do you want a complicated rig: menus, lotso’ knobs, software controlled? What bands do you wish to operate on? What modes? How much space do you have in your shack?
Boat Anchors vs. New?! New Radios are “plug and play” not necessarily “plug and pray”. Many modern radios have sophisticated filters and features that make operation easier and more enjoyable. Modern rigs often can be connected to computers for control or remote operation, logging and band scope Older rigs may have more “user serviceable parts”, and are great for learning about electronics.
Antenna Systems (smart hams put their money here!!!) Long Wires – cut to length of band, cheap Dipoles – standard, OCF, G5RV Verticals – fits in small space – needs radials Yagi – excellent, gen. need tower, rotator Loops – either large, or compromised small Log Periodic – great antenna, $$ NVIS – TW2010, great for EmComm Others – fences, rain gutters, etc.
Power Supply - ~25-30 amps for QRO (9v for QRP?), regulated, switching (some folks don’t like!) Alinco & Astron are two big names. Coaxial Cable – best that you can afford! RG-8 (LMR-400, 9913) various kinds depending on placement and duty (in some instances – RG-8X) Cans – a good set of ear/headphones makes operating a lot be better. And, your family/friends will appreciate it! Microphones – comfortable mic that allows for handsfree operation is ideal. Foot switch is a great way to go. Ground System – is a must for safety and ensuring the best noise free signal possible.
Operating on HF First Rule of Radio Operation: LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN & LISTEN SOME MORE!!! You will learn more by listening to the experienced “Elmers” on the airwaves than anything else. There are nets on 10, 20, 40, 80 and 160 Meters that meet daily/weekly/monthly – often they welcome guests – join in! Make sure you are in-band! Protect your license.
Phonetic Alphabet It is a fine business to use the international phonetic alphabet! Don’t let other operators think of you as a lid!
Ham Radio QSO Format A contact (QSO) is a series of “overs”. Make sure frequency is clear – you often only hear HALF of what’s going on. QSO Format: 3x3 – “CQ, CQ, CQ, ALPHA FOXTROT SIX PAPA UNIFORM, ALPHA FOXTROT PAPA UNIFORM, ALPHA FOXTROT PAPA UNIFORM” (REPEAT 2X) Pause and listen – repeat as necessary A responding station will give your call sign, followed by their’s and a signal report and QTH – you do the same. Talk about – shack equip. & ants., weather, “what do you see out the window?”
Ham Radio QSO Format (cont.) You might discuss QSL cards – or discuss a “Bureau” to confirm contact. If you called CQ, then the frequency is generally yours to continue calling. Good operating practice to give callsigns at the beginning and end of EACH transmission – especially on short QSOs. In the United States, you must identify every 10 minutes and at the end of your QSO.
RST Signal Report T = TONE 1 -- Sixty cycle a.c. or less, very rough and broad 2 -- Very rough a.c., very harsh and broad 3 -- Rough a.c. tone, rectified but not filtered 4 -- Rough note, some trace of filtering 5 -- Filtered rectified a.c. but strongly ripple-modulated 6 -- Filtered tone, definite trace of ripple modulation 7 -- Near pure tone, trace of ripple modulation 8 -- Near perfect tone, slight trace of modulation 9 -- Perfect tone, no trace of ripple or modulation of any kind R = READABILITY 1 -- Unreadable 2 -- Barely readable, occasional words distinguishable 3 -- Readable with considerable difficulty 4 -- Readable with practically no difficulty 5 -- Perfectly readable S = SIGNAL STRENGTH 1 -- Faint signals, barely perceptible 2 -- Very weak signals 3 -- Weak signals 4 -- Fair signals 5 -- Fairly good signals 6 -- Good signals 7 -- Moderately strong signals 8 -- Strong signals 9 -- Extremely strong signals
SSB Operating Tips Read your Rigs manual – (in spite of what you’ve been told – real hams read manuals) Learn to use your microphone – stay about 1” away from mic – try speaking across mic Use the ALC (Automatic Limiting Control) meter. Adjust mic gain or speak softer. Use a comfortable switch – and don’t “stab” it. It will last longer and better on your rig. Microphone Gain and Equalization.
SSB Operating Tips (cont.) Most modern radios contain VOX IF you use it – learn how to use it well! Can lead to a lot of on air problems Many radios have speech compression More bang for bandwidth – Great for Contests Can distort your voice too much, turn it down if at all possible.
Keeping a Log Hams are no longer required to keep a log book – but it is a really good idea to do so! Three main ways to keep a station log: paper, using computer software or keep it in the “cloud” such as LoTW or QRZ.com
Joining a Conversation in Progress Join an ongoing conversation Make it a 3-way (or more) Listen first – try to jump in at a good spot (don’t be rude) If you can contribute something – that is almost always welcome! Say your callsign in a “break” or “pause”
Joining a Conversation (cont.) Don’t say “break” – you will hear other hams do it – but it’s bad operating style “break” means there is an emergency! Just say your callsign, “AF6PU”… you will hear “go AF6PU” or “go breaking station” You are now part of the conversation.
Chewing the Rag “Rag Chewing” is having a long, leisurely conversation on the air. Casual Conversation Style Follow all good operating practices Remember: you are representing your country and all hams everywhere!
Contesting/DXing – Short and Sweet Make as many contacts as possible Search and Pounce OR Run methods Provide the required information for the contest, and move on. Don’t Rag Chew Use proper phonetics. DX(ing) is contacting stations outside the US Chasing contacts or Wallpaper