Copyright 2016, 2018, 2020 by Richard J. Ballard -- All Rights Reserved.
Today's technically-inclined youth learn computer programming and play video games. Before personal computers, technically-inclined youth often chose amateur radio (also called ham radio) for a hobby. I earned my WN9UAP amateur radio Novice class license in 1966. I earned my WA9UAP amateur radio General class license (significantly enhanced operating privileges) in early 1967, and earned my WA9UAP amateur radio Advanced class license (slightly enhanced operating privileges plus advanced status) in late 1967. Due to relocations my amateur radio call sign changed to WD0GDR in 1978 and to KD0AZ in 1983. My KD0AZ radio amateur Advanced class license is valid today.
The 1960's attraction of amateur radio was learning radio electronics plus camaraderie with fellow amateur radio operators. We built our own equipment from kits (that included step-by-step assembly instructions); or from scratch, bending metal (i.e., chassis physical assembly) using soldering guns and soldering irons to wire our own vacuum tube homebrew electronics from circuits described in texts and in magazine articles. As (heat-sensitive) transistor electronics became available we switched exclusively to small soldering irons, often purchasing the project-specific pre-engineered circuit cards offered by magazine article authors. And amateurs jeered at CBers (Citizen's Band radio operators) with their limited capability commercially-built transceivers and their rubber ducky antennas.
Homebrew circuit design and assembly became increasingly complicated as integrated circuit technology grew in complexity. Today it is difficult for a radio amateur to match the technical sophistication of the commercial electronics industry. And cellular telephone technology eroded amateur radio's unique luster: the ability to communicate over long distances using one's own personal gear. Licensed amateur radio operation still offers unique opportunities for electronics experimentation, but smartphone modern technology somewhat drowns out the amateur radio hobby's siren song.
Before the Internet, the ARRL's Radio Amateur's Handbook was the single comprehensive textbook for radio amateurs. Radio amateurs treated the handbook like a family Bible: they might replace the handbook as technology evolved, but they never discarded older handbook editions. The handbook grew every year. The 1966 edition has 601 numbered pages plus numerous spec pages, discussing vacuum tube circuitry in great detail but hardly discussing semiconductor technology. The 1977 edition has 664 pages plus numerous spec pages, and discusses both vacuum tube and semiconductor circuitry. The 2008 edition switches to chapterized page numbering, but the 2008 handbook is equally thick in a larger page format, and semiconductor circuitry [including analog and digital integrated circuits (ICs)] predominate in the 2008 handbook.
The handbook contains sufficient detailed information to teach amateur radio communications. Each handbook has sections covering electronics component theory; fixed and mobile power supply design; receiver, transmitter and antenna design; construction practices and test measurements; and radio operations non-interfering practices. The handbook's operating modes discussion expands as technology evolves: the 1966 operating principal modes are Morse code and voice (AM/FM/SSB). In 1977 the operating modes expand to include digital terminal-based teletype (TTY) and slow-scan television (SSTV). And the 2008 handbook adds digital operating modes: satellite communications, (data) packet radio, and voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) speech.
The ARRL handbooks remain a modern and affordable comprehensive textbook for people wishing to learn radio communications theory and practice.
This handbook provides a high level overview of the amateur radio satellite (AMSAT) program, discussing AMSAT history; satellite orbit types and procedures for tracking the non-geostationary AMSATs; antenna and transmission line considerations during AMSAT operation; transmitter and receiver considerations during AMSAT operation; and operating protocols used during AMSAT operation. The handbook ends with a collection of (primarily antenna) construction project articles, and two technical appendices discussing satellite orbit and satellite physical subsystem details.
The ARRL Satellite Handbook is a useful introduction to the AMSAT program, but its descriptions are not sufficient to implement an AMSAT working ground station. The handbook indicates the complexity and the cost of building a predictably-working AMSAT ground station, a project IMO best accomplished through an amateur radio club's shared station.
Imagine the most eager-beaver optimistic amateur radio novice: I'm gonna purchase / construct state-of-of-the-art bleeding-edge communications equipment! I'm gonna be great balls of fire! An antenna is at the bottom of the eager-beaver's priority list, even though a superior antenna best improves a radio station's performance. The ARRL Antenna Handbook contains 28 chapters and over 700 pages of detailed yet practical advice on radio antenna configuration and construction, a comprehensive encyclopedia of radio antenna design. The handbook has evolved over fifty years as knowledgeable radio amateurs developed antennas for every conceivable situation, both for their club and home stations (their ham shacks), and also for their in-the-field expeditions. The handbook covers just about any situation, including attic antennas and electrically loading a residence's aluminum storm gutters as an invisible antenna in areas having zoning restrictions. The included designs range from simple, low cost antennas to stacked antenna arrays on high towers requiring a lineman's maintenance skills.
An amateur radio ideal backyard has an unobstructed sky view and abuts a lake (sandy beach optional). I purchased my current residence (QTH) in 1978. My QTH's backyard is surrounded by (HF) masonry buildings on the north and the south. My QTH's backyard is surrounded by (VHF / UHF) large trees on the east, the south and the west such that my next door neighbor experienced summer leaf trouble with his commercial TV satellite dish. Despite the handbook's wealth of antenna practical solutions, my QTH remains antenna-challenged.
The United States Marine Corps has extensive experience providing field communications in diverse environments. Antenna Handbook MCRP 8-10B.11 is a one-volume guide instructing mathematically-minded Marines in field antenna construction. Amateur radio operators can benefit from Marine Corps practical experience; and best of all, the referenced webpage provides a link to a no-cost downloadable PDF-formatted version of the handbook.
There were three amateur radio major magazines: QST, CQ and 73. QST (a Morse code abbreviation denoting General message to all amateur operators) magazine was published by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and was conservatively written; QST dedicated many pages to discussing the ARRL's ongoing monthly activities and amateur radio-related legislative issues. CQ (a Morse code abbreviation denoting Who wants to communicate?) magazine was comparatively middle-of-the-road; CQ discussed amateur radio legislative issues but also offered project-related articles. Wayne Green's 73 (a Morse code abbreviation denoting Best regards!) magazine was somewhere between liberal and radical. Publisher Wayne Green ran a tight ship, Wayne ridiculed the ARRL as a not responsive bureaucratic monolith, and Wayne lived the amateur radio operator's dream life, taking (sponsored) DXpeditions (expeditions to distant places) so that (sponsoring) amateur radio operators could score acknowledged contact with regions having few amateur radio operators. 73 magazine featured a wealth of project-related articles, but IMO the projects were not as technically sound as CQ magazine's technical project articles. And 73 magazine featured less rigorous but affordable product advertisements (e.g., high frequency quad antennas whose supporting struts were fabricated from bamboo).
Wayne Green was an amateur radio rabble rouser, but he got things done: Wayne had his soapbox magazine, Wayne had his DXpeditions, and Wayne was one of computer hobbyist BYTE magazine's founders. 73 magazine was published from October 1960 to May 2003, 519 issues total. If 73 magazine's content sometimes was questionable, 73 magazine always was entertaining. The technology and events discussed in these 73 magazine back issues are obsolete, but I purchased this 73 magazine four-DVD set for the back issues' historic and fun value. In the 73 magazine May 2003 final issue, world traveler Wayne Green still solicited annual subscriptions while he described his travels to Afghanistan and to Iraq.
Forty-eight chapter, 1975 sixth edition of the classic commercial handbook for radio engineering.
1972 unpublished manuscript (4 chapters) discussing the physics of electromagnetic wave propagation within transmission lines.
Engineering at microwave (very high) frequencies is different than radio engineering or electronics engineering. Due to the microwave energy's comparatively short wavelengths, wires become inductors (i.e., chokes) and randomly radiating antennas, while adjacent wires become lossy capacitors. Microwave energy generation often is accomplished inside precision-engineered metallic cavities, and microwave energy often is transmitted between antenna and circuitry through precision-engineered metallic waveguides (i.e., plumbing).
This 580 page text provides a complete foundation for microwave engineering. The author begins by reviewing relevant electromagnetic theory (prior exposure to electromagnetic theory is assumed). The author reviews and extends transmission line theory, presenting the waveguide concept. The author then develops microwave frequency equivalents for classic electronic component and circuit elements, including vacuum tubes and filters operating at microwave frequencies. The author ends with a discussion of the maser (i.e., Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation), the laser (i.e., Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation), and semiconductor-based microwave frequency Parametric Amplifiers.
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