Amateur Radio – Journey of a Waveform

Not all Amateur Radio Operators (HAM) has access to every available radio frequency. The Federal Communication Commision (FCC) in the United States of America is the governing body. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies and governs. Hams worldwide are regulated on which radio frequencies, mode of operation and power output they may use. These same governing bodies also regulate commercial use of radio waves. The major Television/Radio networks in the United States, {ABC-CBS-NBC} are regulated and licensed by the FCC. They claim protection to whatever misinformation, fake news and general lies they broadcast using the “First Amendment” as that basis. If you want to make them accountable and creditable one can petition the FCC in not to renew the license that allows them the use of frequencies to transmit. They are also required to; The FCC requires radio and television station licensees to serve the public interest in some way; failure to do so can result in a station losing its license. However, this is extremely rare, as it requires something particularly egregious and ongoing on the station’s part.

In modern times, almost everything we use is a transceiver. In Ham radio, operators listen to incoming radio signals on a radio receiver. They use a radio transmitter to “send” radio waves to other listeners. It is common to have one radio device that combines the receiver and transmitter into a single unit called a transceiver. Your cellular/smartphone is a transceiver. It transmits and receives radio waves to and from a radio antenna (cell) tower. Your automobile and personal computer also send and receive waveforms.

My personal journey with radio waves began with listening to AM radio stations. And later FM radio stations. Before I was a teen-ager, I had discovered that everywhere in the world people listened to some kind of radio broadcast. It was simply a way for us to stay informed. At one time, before the Internet, it was the fastest way to learn about local and world events. The Television transformed the way we learned about local and world news by inclusion of video into the transmitted radio waves. By sending both an audio and video signal together, on the same carrier, we can see and hear news in nearly real time.

The Internet has made the world like a small village. In the earlier times of Internet, almost all network traffic was transmitted along copper wires. Some traffic was transmitted through radio waves via satellite signal as well. Today we use many forms of radio transmission to send, receive information that is transformed into a visual rendering on our phones and other “smart devices”. Amateur radio also utilizes the Internet to send and receive messages, link voice communication and send digital signals to operators worldwide. Sometimes this is accomplished by transmitting from a transceiver, through an antenna to a repeater which retransmits the signal again over a greater distance. Repeaters also can link a received radio transmission to the internet via digital platforms.

Radio waves are everywhere. At this very moment it is possible millions of radio waves are passing through your body. Our own sun produces radio frequencies, some of which are harmful like x-rays and gamma rays. Normal exposure to most radio frequency is harmless. However, long term exposure at close proximity to some forms of radio emissions can be harmful. This mostly depends on frequency and power levels. Even though radio frequency is a form of radiation it is unlike the types of radiation found in uranium and its isotopes. Nevertheless, it is wise to limit close exposure to a radio transmitting antenna and NEVER, EVER touch any antenna that is or may be transmitting, this will certainly cause a painful burn to your skin.

My Ham radio adventure began in 1975 when I passed the exam required to achieve the Novice Class Amateur License (WD4KFI). There was a written exam and a Morse Code proficiency test. I had to send and receive 5 words per minute in morse code and passed… barely. And this class of license only enabled me to use CW (continuous wave) or morse code on a limited amount of frequency at a limited amount of power. I had a Realistic DX-160 receiver and a homemade 10-watt, crystal-controlled CW transmitter. connected to 100 feet of copper wire hanging in the treetops. Surly it was on budget for a teenager. Still, I made contacts with Europe and South America and many North American stations. Later I saved up enough money to purchase and assemble a Heath kit 80-10-meter 100-watt transmitter.

When I was 10 or 11 years of age, a neighbor gave me a Johnson 123 Citizens Band (CB) radio, a power supply and a 102-inch stainless steel antenna. I mounted the antenna on the tin roof of our outbuilding and ran an extension cord to my radio power supply. This opened a new chapter for me in the radio world. I could listen to truckers on Channel 11 and 19 and maybe even some emergency on channel 9. There was always some activity on the other channels too. But I could not talk on it as I did not have a Class D Radio license. (You had to be 18 to apply for one) However, my father had one that allowed me to use the radio as it was under his control.