Radio – CB & the Future

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

Hope everybody is doing well. Weather is gradually changing, or it is for us lucky people that live in the south anyway. I know some of you still have a little snow here and there, maybe even a lot. A lot of you still have water covering everything. On an individual basis, this water is devastating. On a national basis, and even worldwide, we need to pay very close attention to these floods. This could very possibly cause a strain on our food supply. Pay attention. This might affect us all. I hope those folks dry out soon and recover quickly. As for you folks still shoveling snow, we are getting ready to plant a garden. There are reasons why old people move south. If you live long enough, you will get old.

Okay. Moving on.

The basic nature of man is to communicate. We’ve always wanted to know what’s going on in other parts of the community and even know what’s going on in other parts of the world. It’s just a basic, innate, psychological response of man. We want and need to know what’s going on, close and distant. Right now, most of us have immediate communications – TV, commercial radio, cell phone, computer and other forms of electronic gizmos. That’s a professional term, by the way, only used by the highly qualified. Use at your own peril and risk. I will attempt to drift back into reality here.

So, what if there’s a disruption in this immediate communication? Maybe something like a power grid malfunction, happens all the time locally, natural disasters occur, power goes down. But there’s always a back up not too many miles away. Power companies come in from other parts, fix things up and ‘Bingo!’ we’re good to go. Ice cream is back on the shelves, frozen burritos are restocked. Yep, Bingo! we’re good to go. Another one of those high tech terms, you know, Bingo!

But all joking aside, we are going to have a shut down. There’s lots of terms for it, call it what you like. The power will go off, then the local gas stations won’t be pumping gas, the hospital generators will run out of fuel, as will the nuclear power plants. Sure hope you’re not downwind from one. Anarchy will occur and things will go dark. It IS going to happen.

So, how are you going to communicate? Since it is an innate human need, it’s kind of like psychotropic drugs, once you are addicted, you are, well, addicted. You have to have them, kind of like sugar, which is addictive. Instant communications, don’t tell me you haven’t noticed from every teenager to grandmother, people using their smart phone for some purpose. Get the point here? How are you going to check to see what everybody’s doing on Facebook? Yes, it is addictive. Ok? 

So, what are you going to do when the power goes off and stays off? Yes, you need water, you need food, you need shelter, you need the means to protect yourself and you need to have the mind set to deal with all of these issues. Why is mindset important? Because if your head is not screwed on right, it doesn’t make any difference how many preps you have. If you check your phone every five minutes to see if you have a message, then you’re in trouble. You are addicted. Well, I’ll just quit my cell phone. It’s a psychological addiction. You’ll have the same withdrawals from a psychological perspective as a person having physical withdrawals from psychotropic drugs, sugar, alcohol, tobacco, just to name a few. Some people are obsessed with flushing their toilet. Oops, power is off, water plant motors don’t pump, your cell phone is dead, the police aren’t coming, the grocery stores are in utter chaos and you don’t have a clue what’s going on. 

Welcome to reality. Get the picture? You might as well sit down in your driveway and start crying.

Next chapter. So, today we’re going to talk about CB radios. Why? Because it is the most common two way form of communication out there. Yes, I know CB’s get a bad rap and there’s good reason for that. There’s a lot of nasty language from foul mouth people. Well, they will quickly be off the air, they will be sitting out in their driveway crying right next to many. They will be off the air because they don’t have power, and they won’t have batteries, or a small solar panel to keep a car battery charged.

CB used to be an 11 meter frequency. That is a ham radio term. 11 meters is also about 27 Mhz, but you don’t need to know that. What you need to know is how to push that button and have a successful transmission, which means you need an antenna, a piece of wire connecting the antenna to the radio, and power for the radio, which in this case will come from a car battery and a small solar panel. That’s it. Yes, the system needs to be tuned to work.

By the way, that same solar panel and battery will also provide power for your scanner, shortwave radio, AM/FM radio, a small LED light and it will charge your handheld radios and some rechargeable AA batteries for your flashlights. If you don’t have these things right now, then go out and get in line sitting in the driveway because that is where the vast majority of people will be. Sitting on their fat butts waiting for the government to come and save them. Enjoy the wait, because I ain’t gonna be there and neither is Fern.

What I put together today is four previously published articles about CB radios. It’s the basics, but it will provide you with a plethora of information to get started. Remember, this information is dated, some of the embedded links may or may not work. CB radio, in my humble opinion, will be the most useful radio tool available to man. Now, don’t run out and buy a bunch of CB radios today. Read, learn, talk and listen. Ask questions, discretely. There are other forms of radio communication, too.

Let’s get this thing started. Radio – CB & the Future.

We’ll talk more later,  Frank 


P.S. Fern and I had a interesting visit from a relative that we see very seldom. It was a pleasant visit, a young man, his wife and two daughters. The reason I mention this is that when he was about two or three, we had a picture of him holding a day old chick. You see, Fern and I have been preparing for many years now, and this young man, now in his 30’s, also has chickens and is preparing for what is coming. He and his wife’s father have many CB radios. It’s just interesting to observe that there are others that are preparing. Fern and I hope to see him more in the future and wish him the very best, and I wish all of you, the readers, the very best also. Many people think time is short.

Originally published June 8, 2013

Radios – CB

Hello, Frank here.

In a previous post we talked about safety and family radio regulations. This time I’m going to direct you to some of the popular CB manufacturer’s sites and to a few dealers that sale and service radios. This way you can start to look at some of the features the radios have and get an idea of the approximate cost.

While you are looking at the CB radios at the dealer’s sites, you will notice a radio called a 10 meter radio, sometimes called an export radio or one of the big boys. I’ll discuss these in greater detail, when I talk about ham radios.

There are CB radios that can cost less than $50.00 and there are CB radios that can cost hundreds of dollars, but they all come from the factory with the same advertised power maximum which is four watts. 

While you are perusing these radios, check out the ones with the letters SSB, which stands for single side band. Not all manufacturers produce SSB radios. Understand, it is still a CB radio with 40 channels, but has single side band capabilities. This is not technical and don’t let it throw you off. 

If what you want to do is talk to your neighbor two miles away, then any CB radio will do that job if you are in a pretty flat area. This is assuming you have the proper antenna which will be discussed more later. If you want to talk to and listen to people hundreds of miles away it can be done with a CB radio that has SSB capabilities with the proper antenna. 

The more popular CB manufacturers are: 

Cobra
Midland 
Uniden 
Galaxy

After you look through these manufacturers websites, you will see that they also make many other communication items. Some of them, but not all, make marine band radios, weather radios, scanners, GMRS/FRS radios and accessories. In future posts, we will go into further detail about all of these.

Next are a couple of online retail outlets. This is not an endorsement, pro or con, for these companies. I have bought from all three and am happy with the service I have received.   

CB World

Looking at these online retail sites will give you some ideas about prices and the products that are available. Between looking at the manufacturers and some retail sites, this should give you lots of information to play with. 

Remember, to operate a CB radio, you will need an antenna, a radio and a source of power. Almost all of these units operate off of 12 volt DC power. They are intended for mobile operation inside of a car, but can be easily used at home as a base station with a 12 volt DC power supply. Again, this is not complicated or technical. If you are going to put it in your car, you have a power supply. If you are going to use it at home, then you will need a separate 12 volt power supply.

Don’t be in a big rush. In the next few posts, we will talk about CB radios, antennas, power supplies and SAFETY.

There is one recommendation I would make. If you are looking for a CB as a means of communication. I would be looking for one that has SSB (single side band) capability. This will narrow your search greatly. 

And for fun, check out CB Radio Magazine, this site will answer many of your questions because there is a continuous debate about the best radio or antenna.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank 

Originally published June 14, 2013

 
Radio – Mobile CB

Hello, Frank here.

So, it’s time for a CB radio. I wouldn’t purchase one just yet, there are some other things I want to tell you, especially about 10 meter export radios. But, if your heart is set on a CB, then let’s talk about a possible radio for your vehicle, which is referred to as mobile, or a base station which in many cases can be the same style of radio.

CB radios can go in cars, trucks, boats, four wheelers, farm tractors – anywhere that has a motor and some type of battery. We talked earlier about single side band, SSB.  The type of radio you choose depends upon what type of mobile operation you want. If you want a basic CB radio, there are numerous types to choose from. But if want to include weather (NOAA) and/or SSB, then your selection choice drops sharply.

Examples: If you take your pick-up truck and go mudding, then you probably want a very basic CB radio. If you spend more time in your vehicle in a quiet world, then please consider an SSB CB radio. What activity you do will determine what type of radio you want and the type of antenna.

Some folks for mobile operation have a magnet mounted antenna. But again, if you are mudding or hill climbing, then you will want something permanently mounted. There are lip mounts which attach on the lip of a hood or a back door hatch. 

Mirror mounts, are what you think of when you see the big rigs. Mirror mounts, in some cases, will also attach to luggage racks. What you get depends on your need. 

The antennas themselves come from eight feet long to about two feet long. As a general rule, the longer the antenna, the farther you can transmit and the better your reception. There are all metal antennas, metal antennas with little spools of wire in the middle, fiberglass antennas with wire embedded in the fiberglass. Some are flexible, some are rigid.

So much for antennas, mounts and radios. Now you need to decide which type you want. Included in a previous post are some websites for CB radio dealers. I will include these sites again at the end of this post.

So, now you have picked a radio, you’ve picked the type of mount and antenna you want. The power supply is going to be the 12 volt system in the vehicle. It is best to connect the radio power cable directly to the battery. The positive side connected to the battery and the negative side to the battery or to any good solid metal attachment. You might have to buy a little extra cable to do this.

A cigar-type plug connected in the cigarette lighter outlet or any 12 volt accessory outlet will also power the radio. The problem with plugging into a cigarette lighter adapter is that sometimes there will be engine and computer noise from the vehicle on the radio.
In future posts, I will talk more about power supplies. The closer you connect the power cable to the battery, the less background noise there will be from the vehicle.

Whatever type of mount and antenna you choose, you will need to run coax cable to the antenna connector on the radio. Most mag mount antennas come with this cable already connected with a plug-in adapter on the end of the cable. Some mounts come as kits with cable and adapter provided, with others you will have to provide your own. Most people run the cable through a door opening and bring it into the vehicle. If you run it underneath seats, make sure it is not in an area where moving the seat forward or backward will damage the cable. 

Now that just about covers it. You have the radio, a place to mount it inside your vehicle, and the antenna with a cable plugged into the radio. A slight warning here, NEVER key the microphone on the radio to transmit without an antenna connected. This is a very easy way to fry the radio.

You are ready to go – almost. There is this little thing called SWR, which means standing wave ratio. Somebody with an SWR meter needs to check and see if the SWR on your radio is low or high. Either the antenna or the coax cable will need to be adjusted to lower the SWR if it’s high. This may sound extremely complicated, but if you are going to be successful with a CB radio, then the SWR needs to be low. You ask, “What is SWR?” To make it very simple, SWR is the radio frequency waves bouncing back from the antenna to the radio, restricting the ability of your transmitted signal to be transmitted successfully. This applies to any transmitted signal, whether it is mobile, base, CB, MURS, or ham radio. Any local CB shop should be able to help you tune your radio system so that the SWR is low and your enjoyment is maximized.

Many CB radios have a built in SWR meter. These meters are not known to be tremendously accurate, but they are a good start. Some antenna systems will say pre-tuned at the factory and that is probably true. They were pre-tuned at the factory for whatever piece of test equipment they were using. That does not mean it is pre-tuned for your vehicle and your radio. How you tune the radio’s SWR can be affected by the location of the antenna on the vehicle, the length of the cable running from the antenna to the radio, or how the excess cable is gathered, normally under a front seat. So – being tuned at the factory – take that for what it is worth.

Firestik is a new website that I would like for you to check out. I have done business with these folks, as I have the others mentioned. They make good, quality, American made products. Their site also has a library of information. Besides looking at their products, go to their FAQ and technical help sections. This should answer the vast majority of CB technology questions and problems.

This may sound technical and complicated, but it’s really not. Next time we will talk about specific radios for mobile use in a vehicle, because there is a big difference between vibrating down the highway at 65 MPH in the rain or snow, and a radio sitting stationary inside your house. As stated earlier, some radios will do both. 

We’ve learned some new terms this time. Study some of the websites. Remember, some radios have weather, SWR, and even have alarm clocks – which could come in handy if you are sleeping in your car, for whatever reason. If you know of a reputable, local CB shop that installs radios, stop by and visit with them. You might pay a few extra bucks for this service, but if the people know what they are doing, they can teach you how to install a radio properly.

I would still recommend a CB radio with SSB. There are only a few on the market. One is made by Cobra, some are made by Galaxy and Uniden makes a new one. If you want to sit at home at night and talk to stations around the country, then your best bet is a single side band. If you want to talk to your neighbor down the street, SSB will also work for short distance line-of-sight communications. Again, remember, CB radio is line-of-sight communications unless you are using a radio with SSB. Yes, on rare occasions any CB radio will work long distance by bouncing off the ionosphere. But a radio with SSB, will bounce off the ionosphere more often and with more reliability.

Think safety.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

CB World

Originally published June 21, 2013

Radio – Base CB
 
Hello, Frank here.

Last time we talked about mobile CB radios. For a base station most of the equipment will be the same – power cable, radio and coax cable. What you will need different this time is a power supply. Since almost all CB radios operate off of 12 volt or 13.8 VDC, then you are going to need a separate power supply that produces this voltage.

In most cases, you will also need a base type antenna. If you have a metal roof, you can get creative and stick a magnet mount antenna, (the kind used on a vehicle) on your roof, and it will work okay. But most choose to go a different route. I am going to talk about two antennas – the 102 and the A99. I will also give some examples of power supplies. 

Next I am going to give a formula that will be used through all levels of radio communications. And guess what it is? P = E x I.  Now, you need to remember this. P equals power or watts. E equals voltage. I equals current or amps. Alright. If your radio uses four watts of power (P) and the voltage is 13.8 (E), then divide P by E and get I, which in this case is about .3 amps. So, you will need a power supply that produces .3 amps. Most amateur power supplies are rated with their output in amps. Now, you might say, that is not a lot of amperage. You will need

more than .3 amps to transmit. But then, 4 watts is not a lot of power. Another rule: The rule of 80. The maximum you ever use of any piece of equipment is 80% of maximum rated output. So, in this case, go ahead and purchase a power supply that puts out at least 2 amps minimum. 80% of 2 amps is 1.6 amps. You need .3 amps for a 4 watt radio to listen, so there is power to spare with this set up, but not a lot. Something else to remember, you cannot have too much amperage, but you can have too little. 

This is a side note here. If you are never going to add any more equipment to your system, then a 5 amp power supply will work fine for years to come. But – if you have plans to add more power to a CB radio or you might buy a manufactured radio that uses more power, like an 11 meter radio, or most ham radios, then you might want to buy a larger power supply now. Remember, you can’t have too many amps. Universal Radio and Bells CB both have many power supplies and a lot of information. I have done business with both companies and am satisfied with their service and products.

Example: Let’s say you purchased a 30 amp power supply, which is a good choice for long-term planning. This is, of course, at 13.8 volts. Everything we are talking
about here is. Then go back to the formula of P = E x I. You have 13.8VDC (direct current) times 30 amps, equals 414 watts. That is your usable wattage output. Now figure in the rule of 80 – 414 times 80% equals 331 watts, which you can use very comfortably with a 30 amp power supply. We’ll talk a whole lot more about P = E x I. Learn it now. Look up above to see what P, E, and I mean.

 There are many, many antennas sold by many, many dealers. Every antenna promises the maximum output and the best reception. I’m going to recommend the classic 102, which is a stainless steel, whip antenna. 102 means one hundred and eight inches in length. It is actually a 102 with a six inch spring attached to the bottom. Wa-la! giving you 102 inches. To mount this antenna you will need a trucker mirror type mount, because it will probably go on a pole attached to the outside of your house. We’ll talk more about attaching the antenna to the pole in just a minute. By the way, the 102 antenna, in my opinion, is the best antenna made for mobile operation. It really looks cool on a jeep. Again, my personal opinion.

Next is the A99 made by Antron. It is about 16 feet long, comes in three fiberglass pieces and is a standard in the industry. It comes with a radial plane kit. Some will say the kit is needed and others will say it’s not. This antenna is a pole mount only and if you use the radial plane kit, you will need to go a little higher because the radials point downward at an angle. The mounts that come with this antenna, will mount poles about an inch and a half in diameter. Do some research and find the exact size, because you want the pole to be smaller than the mounts call for. The same is true with mounting the 102. 

Now you are going to need some cable or coax. It is actually called coaxial cable. On each end of the cable you will need a PL259 connector. Of course, it depends on how far your antenna is up in the air as to how much cable you need. Buy a few extra feet. Depending on the length needed and the power used, a standard cable is RG-8X. If you’re running high power, and greater length than, let’s say 25 feet, then you will need a different coax cable. We’ll talk more about that when we talk about high power equipment.

Okay. Now, you’ve picked out a power supply that will cost you any where from $50 -$100. You have chosen your antenna. A 102 antenna will cost at the most, $50. An A99, with radial attachment, will be, maybe $130. Without the radial attachment, less. Pre-made coax cable with connectors on each end, let’s say, 25 feet – $35 or $40 or less. Now you need a radio.

All CB radios operate on AM, which is amplitude modulation. They all operate around 26 to 27 Mhz (megahertz). This is the operating frequency. All manufacturers make a good, solid radio. You can find one from $75 to $125. Some have weather (NOAA), some have alarm clocks, some the dials change colors, others light up at night and during the day, some have echo, some have talk back, some have SSB, some have adjustable power, adjustable microphones, adjustable input power – there are many, many choices to pick from. Like I said before, if you want to talk to your buddy half a mile down the road with no hills in the way, any radio will do. If you want to talk to somebody a long ways away, then not any radio will do.

Talk back and echo, I think, are a little silly. Lighted dials come in very handy, especially in a mobile situation, and sometimes they just look cool. A weather option is your choice. SSB (single side band) is necessary if you want to talk long distance. 

Cobra makes the 148, which is a classic SSB radio. Galaxy makes a handful of SSB radios: 949, 959, 979. Uniden makes the Bearcat 980. These are all strong contenders for single sideband radios. The Uniden is a new radio. It hasn’t been out long, but it is well worth a look. My personal preference is the Galaxy line of radios. All of these radios tend to cost a little bit more than your average non-SSB radio, and work well in a mobile environment. Having the same radio in your house and your car means you become more familiar with the knobs and it’s operation. Something to think about.

Now, we have a radio, an antenna, cable, and a power supply. That’s about all you need. There are some things I cannot tell you on a blog. You are going to need a pole to put up your antenna. Some people use fiberglass. You can purchase these at some Army/Navy stores. Hardware stores that carry fencing supplies that come in 10 foot sections work pretty good too. I like to have the pole attached to the ground, attached to the side of the house and just far enough above the roof line so that the antenna will fit. Mount the pole in it’s chosen place; mount the antenna to the pole; connect your cable to the antenna; run your cable into your house however you choose; READ THE RADIO MANUAL; READ THE RADIO MANUAL; connect the cable to the back of your radio; connect your radio to the power supply, which is real easy – red connects to red, black connects to black; turn the on/off switch in the appropriate direction – which is normally also your volume; and you are in business. If you purchased an SSB radio, most CB SSB is conducted on the LSB (lower side band). It is usually done between the frequencies of 30 & 40. Example: Channel 34 LSB.

Now, CAUTION. During a thunderstorm or electrical storm unplug your radio antenna connection. Some people also disconnect their power supply. Depending on how you ran your coax into your house, put your antenna connection into a glass jar, because lightening can and will fry your radio and all associated equipment. CAUTION. If you choose to pep up your radio and run more power, then you can do RF (radio frequency) damage. If you don’t know what you are doing then don’t do it. With 4 watts of power this is not a concern. 

I have talked on my SSB CB radio from southeastern Oklahoma to Grants Pass, Oregon; Ontario, Canada; and southern Florida. I hope you enjoy your CB radio. But if you do want more options, or more power, then in a couple of posts we are going to be talking about 10 meter and export radios, which are on many of the sites I have given you before. 

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

Originally published June 27, 2013

Radios – CB Export/10 Meter

Hello, Frank here.

I would like to tell you about a CB radio that is not really a CB, but it can be. I don’t understand exactly why these are made or sold, but I would assume it has to do with profit. There is going to be some new jargon on this post, so like always, if you don’t understand everything, wait a little while and it will soak in. 

Export radios, to the best of my knowledge, are what they say they are. These radios are meant to be sold outside of this country – exports. Other countries use different bands and frequencies for their radio communications. Therefore, these radios are easy to modify and can be used for the frequencies and bands in this country as well. Some export radios are programmable via computer which makes it easy to add the CB frequencies. Another option is power capabilities up to 100 watts, 200 watts and more. These radios also tend to be more expensive. Are they legal to use on the CB frequencies? The answer is no. Do people use them on the CB frequencies? The answer is yes. Some of the previous sites I have posted sell export radios. If this is what you are looking for you will probably never have any problems with the FCC unless you are interfering with other forms of transmission. 

10 meter radios are similar in nature to export radios. Almost everything I said above applies to 10 meter radios. Let me explain the difference. A 10 meter radio operates on the amateur radio frequencies or ham radio. You have to have an amateur radio license to use the radio on 10 meters. I will talk more about amateur radio licensing and frequencies in a future post. Okay. Follow me here now. Some of the ham bands are 10 meter, 12 meter, 15 meter and so forth. The CB radio frequencies fall between the 10 and 12 meter ham bands. CB is often called 11 meters. Meters have to do with the length of the frequency signal. But at this time, that is not important. It will be discussed more later.

So. You can buy a 10 meter radio with a small modification or you can program in the CB frequencies with the computer program option if it is available. Let’s clarify something here. A ham radio license does not allow the ham radio operator to operate on 11 meters because CB radios are approved by the FCC to operate on CB frequencies only. Is it legal to operate a 10 meter radio on CB frequencies? The answer is no. Do people use 10 meter radios for CB purposes? The answer is yes. These same dealers mentioned above also carry some of the 10 meter radios. It’s a matter of driving 56 MPH in a 55 MPH zone and driving 95 MPH in a 55 MPH zone. Both are illegal, one will attract a whole lot more attention than the other. 

Can you mount these radios in your car or truck? Sure, you can. If the radio runs higher power, it will come with the appropriate size power cable. If you need

to extend this cable to your battery, use the same size cable or larger. In most cases, you can use the same antenna as any CB radio, unless you are running an exorbitant amount of power. In that case you need to make sure your antenna will handle the power. If you need to tune these, you can do it yourself or you can take it to your local CB shop and they can tune your rig for you.

If you are giving thought to purchasing one of these types of radios, please get one with SSB. Remember, some, but not all of these radios can be used for 10 meter ham radio operation.

If you choose to use this type of radio for a base station, your one amp power supply will not work. A quick review here: P = E x I. P = power or watts, E = voltage, and I = current or amps. Let’s say you are running 200 watts of power. That is your P. Your voltage will be 13.8, that is E. That is 200 divided by 13.8, equals 14.5 amps or I. Don’t forget the rule of 80. This means you will need at least 18 amps just to run this radio. That’s why on the last post it was recommended that you purchase a 30 amp power supply for your home. 

There is something I failed to mention on the last CB post. You cannot take your base station and outside antenna to a CB shop and have it tuned so you will need to do it yourself, or have a competent friend help you. This will involve an SWR meter, and a three foot jumper, which is a short piece of coax with a 259 connector on each end which allows you to put the meter in line between the radio and the antenna. This will allow you to tune your SWR down. Read the FAQ at this site. It will answer most of your questions about SWR. Again, make sure your base station antenna can handle the power you are using. Don’t push any antenna to the maximum, use the rule of 80.

If you can, ground your radio. The radio may or may not have a ground plug on the back, most CB’s don’t. If it doesn’t, slide in a piece of flexible, coated, copper wire about size 12-14, where you attach the screws to mount the radio. This will give you a good, solid ground. In your car, find a screw somewhere connected to metal. In your house, run the ground wire back the same way you brought in your antenna wire and attach it to the three foot copper rod that you placed in the earth. Do you have to ground your radio? No. Will it help clean up some sound issues? Yes. When we talk about ham radios, grounding will be covered in greater detail.

By the way, if you choose to get your ham radio license, you can use these radios to operate on 10 or 12 meter frequencies. Just a little bonus there if you decide to make that switch. 

I know all of this information about the CB radios, export radios and 10 meter radios is a general and broad view. I would encourage you to read some of the earlier posts about laws, regulations, safety, and some of the websites that have FAQ sections about radios and antennas. There is a lot of information about CB radios that is not included here. In future posts we’ll be talking in more detail about power supplies, antennas, coaxial cables, connectors, ham radios, GMRS, FRS and commercial radios.

What I have to say now is a personal observation. The reason I got into radio communications is because someday there may not be the regular types of communications that we have now. When I say regular, I am talking about cell phones, hard-line phones, internet, television, AM/FM radio, etc. A lot of people currently have CB

radios. Some folks approve of the type of traffic on them and some don’t. But if there is a nationwide emergency, CB radios and GMRS will be excellent forms of communication. Most people don’t realize that the two-way communication radios that they have right now are of an excellent quality and can be used during an emergency. Of course, I hope this day never comes. But I believe that the wolf is at the door. I would recommend all families have some type of communications, whether it is two-way or listening only. We will talk more about receive only radios – how to power them with things such as rechargeable batteries, small solar panels or car batteries. This is all part of communications. 

This finishes up my posts on CB’s for now, more will come later. Next I am going to talk about GMRS, FRS, and MURS. 

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

 

Radio – Let’s Get Started

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

I recently received this comment under a non-radio article. I’m going to share the comment with you, I’ll answer this man. He had some very good questions, valid points and is seeking information. The comment will be edited, by removing what part of the country he is from, otherwise it is mostly intact. 

Following the answer to his comment, I have included an older article that is a beginning step for understanding radio. Some of the information in here is dated, in other words, out dated. I’ll talk about that before you get to the article.
 
Hi Frank, Thanks for offering additional help! I’m interested, like you, in “survival communications”. Two primary areas of interest. First, I’m reading about two-way radios like the Midland you referenced; also looking at a Baofeng. Trying to decide if I want to get the license, etc. I’d like to be able to communicate with wife, children, and neighbors/church family around me. Neighbors are within a mile. Wife/kids could be 30 [miles] if I’m at work (or on way home) and they are home. Second, I’d like to get a good SW [shortwave] radio with SSB for listening. The new Baofeng I’m looking at has variable power, up to 8 watts. Not sure if one can charge batteries while in the unit like you can with the Midland.  Best Regards, Tim

Tim had some excellent points here. My very quick recommendation. A Baofeng. Why? It will do the same thing that the Midland radio will do, and significantly more. In many cases, for that matter, most cases, it costs less. The Baofeng can be charged in the cradle, it has a plethora of accessories, and you can attach an external antenna. 

One negative for the Baofeng is that it has to be programmed. There are multiple ways to do this. There are YouTube videos, you can attempt to decipher the instructions, there is a free program called Chirp, and the system that I use is called RT Systems. Chirp and RT Systems are via computer. I will include more information in future articles about the Baofeng.

While we’re here, in the article that follows, I recommended a Wouxun radio. It’s a good radio, but the Baofeng is newer and, in my opinion, just as good and costs significantly less. 

Tim’s second question. A good shortwave radio. Few shortwave radios have SSB, single side band. Why is this important? If you want to listen to the ham radio operators, you will need SSB. If you’ve got the jingle, here’s what I would do. Purchase an HF radio, which is a ham radio. You can listen to all the lower ham frequencies, plus all of the SW frequencies. It is a higher quality radio and has listening features that few SW radios have. You can also listen to CB on it, and if you ever get the desire to have your ham radio license, you can transmit on it. Remember, you can listen to any radio signal being transmitted. Transmitting is an entirely different ballgame. 

So, Tim, I would recommend a Baofeng UV-5R+, about $30.00 on Amazon. An RT System for programming, about $45.00. The money you will save on the Baofengs will pay for the programming system. 

For SW, an IC-718 made by ICOM. This radio runs new about $650, used $300 and up. Remember, it will do AM radio, CB, SW, all the lower ham bands which are 160-10M. For this radio you will need a power supply and an antenna which are both an extra expense. When you get your ham radio license, then you can use this radio to transmit on. The legal frequencies, anyway. Getting a ham radio license is very easy.

Ok, Tim, and everybody else. Next is an older, dated article that I think you will enjoy. It’s a start. Every few days I’m going to include an older article about radio in an order that will help folks get started. There have been some changes and I will point these out. Safety has not changed and will never change.

If you have a question, ask. Others have the same questions. Utilize YouTube. Check out ARRL. Check out QRZ.com

We’ll talk a whole lot more about this later. This is not difficult, it’s just new. And there are some new radios out there, too. There’s some new guns out there, too. Some are better, some are not. If you have a question, ask.

By the way, in this following article, there is a new weather radio I would recommend. I’ll get to it later. Enjoy.

We’ll talk more later.  Frank Feral 

Radio Communications Review

Originally published August 12, 2013

I’m going to try to summarize what we have talked about in the last ten posts. The reason being, my next radio post is going to start into ham or amateur radio. So, let’s go back and talk about all of the stuff I have covered so far. We have talked about the rules and regulations, and I will give you my recommendations on certain radios. Okay, let’s go.

CB radio is probably the most popular radio around and more people have them than any other type. There are basically two types of CB radios – non-single side band radios and single side band (SSB) radios. Remember, CB radio is line-of-site

communications, most of the time. CB radio operates at about 27 MHz. It will also bounce off of the ionosphere similar to HF ham radios. In some circles the CB radio is called an 11 meter radio. Any CB radio will skip off of the atmosphere if the conditions are right, but an SSB (single side band) will do a better job of it and give you greater distance. So if you want to talk to your cousin Leroy two blocks down the road, and there is not a hill in the way, any CB radio will do the job. If you want to play and listen to other folks much farther away, then SSB is the preferred method. I recommend the Galaxy line of CB radios with SSB. There are other manufacturers that make a quality radio, I just think the Galaxy is more dependable and is prettier. No one likes looking at an ugly radio.

We’ll talk about antennas, power supplies and coax cable later in this post. Next, let’s talk about GMRS/FRS radios. These radios are also very popular. The vast,

vast majority of them are handheld radios. People use them a great deal for hunting, keeping track of the kids and just play-type radios. These are also line-of-site communication. These will not bounce off of the ionosphere so you are not going to be hearing frequencies from around the world. These radios function at about 465 MHz. Because of the higher frequency they will work better from inside a building than your lower frequency radios. The big difference between these radios, in my opinion, are the batteries or power systems inside the radios. 

While we are writing this, there is a major electrical storm in our area. All of my antennas have been disconnected and our computers are unplugged. If I were a little bit smarter, I would also unplug my power supply.

In a previous post, we talked about the difference between GMRS and FRS, they are basically the same radio. These are excellent, high quality radios with a good clear signal for line-of-site communications. Do not believe the advertisements for 10, 20, 30 miles – this is a sales gimmick. Not all of us live on a flat planet, if we 

did, then the advertisements would be correct. Remember, line-of-site. All GMRS radios will communicate with other GMRS radios regardless of the manufacturer. All the channels are the same frequencies. I recommend the Midland GXT1000VP4 or GXT1050VP4. They are the same radio – one is camo and one is black. The reason for this recommendation is that you can put four AA rechargeable batteries in the radio and the batteries will recharge while in the charging cradle. Some other Midland radios look identical, but they charge slightly different and will not recharge rechargeable batteries while in the charging cradle. I have used this radio for a number of years on our little farm.

Okay. We have reviewed CB and GMRS. There is one other type of radio frequency and it is the MURS frequencies. MURS comes with five frequencies operating at about 151 MHz. It is also line-of-site communications and will work fine inside of most buildings. There is not a major manufacturer that produces a MURS handheld radio, but you can buy a commercial radio, which we will talk about in just a minute, to use on the MURS frequencies. OK, CB, GMRS and MURS are the basic frequencies for non-ham communications. All three have about the same power output. CB and MURS do not require a license, GMRS does.

A slightly different type of radio is a commercial radio. These radios are not set for any particular frequency and they will not operate on the CB frequencies. But they will operate on the GMRS, MURS and the VHF/UHF ham radio frequencies. You have to program these radios yourself. Most of them come with a programming cable and computer disc that you download. My recommendation is the Wouxun handheld commercial radio. Many dealers sell them. I would recommend Universal Radio. It is 100% legal to use these radios on the ham radio frequencies. It is not legal to use these radios on MURS or GMRS. We will discuss legalities and license requirements in just a minute.


Non-transmitting radios. This is a group of radios that you listen to only. We’re going to talk about shortwave receivers, scanners, weather radios and there are a few others, but for the most part this covers them. Let’s start with weather radios. Weather radios connect to a radio frequency provided by the National Weather

Service. Most parts of the country receive good, clear weather radio signals. Very few places don’t. I would highly recommend a weather radio with S.A.M.E.  This feature will narrow down severe weather signals to the county level. If you live in an area that has the potential for tornadoes, I would highly recommend one of these for your home. My recommendation is a Midland WR300. It can be powered from a wall outlet, any 12 volt source and has a built in battery back up for when the power goes off, you can still receive signals. As I mentioned in a previous post, it is a little difficult to program. You can connect an external antenna and a flashing red beacon for those that are hearing impaired.

Scanners are another type of listen only radio. There are handheld, mobile and base scanners. The big question right now is whether it is digital or analog. Some communities are going to a digital signal similar to what TV did nationwide a few

years back. This is not a national movement. This is a local decision as to whether to go digital or stay analog. Many communities are not going digital. You will need to check with your local emergency management office. Some scanners are S.A.M.E. capable for weather alerts. New scanners will not receive telephone communications. Some will not receive the CB frequencies, but all will receive police, weather, fire, GMRS, MURS and the VHF/UHF ham frequencies. Some have external antenna capabilities. In some states it is illegal to have a scanner in your vehicle. This is your responsibility to find out the laws in your state.

I’m not going to talk much about marine band radios. Marine band is a two way radio. If you have a boat, or you live near the coast of the ocean or any large lake, or any navigable river then you can listen to marine band signals which includes
the Coast Guard. There are commercial frequencies on the marine bands. There are about 88 channels on each marine band radio. They operate at approximately 157 MHz. The commercial radio I mentioned earlier will also broadcast on these frequencies. Your scanner will also receive marine band frequencies. A little side note – your scanner will also receive railroad frequencies. If you choose to purchase a marine band radio and you choose to transmit on a marine band radio, then know which frequencies the government is using and do not use those frequencies.

Shortwave receivers receive the lower frequencies. 30 MHz down to about 1.8 MHz. These are receive radios only. Shortwave and ham band frequencies are intertwined everywhere between 30 and 1.8 MHz. Most shortwave broadcast signals are AM (amplitude modulation) radio, as is your CB radio, which falls in these frequencies. All ham radio frequencies are AM/SSB. So if you want to listen to the ham frequencies, you will need a radio that receives SSB. Most shortwave radios (SW) do not receive SSB. Some SW radios are capable of external antennas. If you are considering going into ham radio this would be the place to go ahead and buy an HF ham radio transceiver, which will transmit and receive on the SSB ham frequencies and also receive all of the AM shortwave

transmissions. Shortwave radios can be as inexpensive as $50 – $80 up to $10,000 and up. A beginner’s HF ham radio that will transmit and receive starts at around $700 and goes up. You do not have to have a license to listen to any frequency on any radio. But to transmit on the ham frequencies, you will need a ham radio license. We are going to discuss ham radio in much greater detail starting with the next radio post.

Ok. So much for radios. Power supplies. If you have a handheld radio, it will probably be powered by batteries. Some come with a built-in rechargeable battery. Some operate off of AA or AAA batteries that you can replace with

rechargeable batteries. If they will operate off of rechargeable batteries, I would recommend you go this route. All mobile radios, because of the nature of being mobile, will operate off of 12 VDC, which is actually 13.8 VDC. If you choose to use a mobile radio as a base radio, then you will need a separate power supply. Most receive radios use very, very little power. Just about any power supply will work. If you use a mobile CB as a base station then you will need a power supply that puts out 3 or 4 amps. If you’re going to operate a ham radio or more equipment off of your power supply then I would recommend that you go ahead and pick up a 30 amp power supply. This will provide you with enough power to operate your radios, receivers, battery chargers, charge your cell phones and other similar items. 

Antennas. Some radios will need an external antenna. If you are operating

in a vehicle, the only radio we have discussed that will need an external antenna, is a CB radio. Most people use a magnet mount antenna. If you decide to go into ham radio, then your antennas will become more varied because different frequencies need different antennas. There is no one antenna fits-all frequencies. For your CB base station at home, you will also need an external antenna. Go to the post where we talked about CB base station antennas. Your handheld radios, like GMRS and MURS, will operate for the most part off of their attached antennas. If you choose to attach an external antenna to your scanner or weather radio, I would recommend a basic discone antenna. It is built to receive these VHF frequencies. If you choose to connect an external antenna to your shortwave receiver, then I would recommend a long wire type antenna for this purpose. In the previous post about shortwave receivers, there is information about antennas. There may come a day when you need some coaxial cable. This is what connects your antenna to your radio. You will also need a plug on each end of this cable and in most cases, it will be a PL-259, or a BNC type connector. For overall general purpose use, I would recommend RG-8X cable. It is a good all purpose cable for low power, short distance runs of under 25 feet. It also works well for your receive only radios.

Licensing. There is no license required for any receive radio. If you choose to become a ham radio operator, you will need a license. More on that in the next radio post. CB and MURS do not require a license. GMRS does. As I stated in a previous post, I have never met a person with a GMRS license. Which brings us to legal regulations. If you operate any transmit radio that interferes with any other type of telecommunications signal, then you are required by law to either fix your problem or cease transmitting. This is seldom, seldom a problem with legal power transmitters. If you choose for example to increase your CB power from 4 watts to, let’s say, 400 watts of power, and you cause the lady next door’s TV signal to be distorted, then you are running illegal power. If your 400 watt CB radio does not bother anybody or anything, then your radio is still illegal, but for the most part,

no one will care. If you decide to buy a commercial radio, which you can, and you choose to operate it on a frequency, for example the one the local airport is using, then you will find out very quickly that being stupid does not pay. If you choose to use an unauthorized frequency that interferes with the local fire department, again you will find out that some people might not think this is cute. If you run 5000 watts of power, as an example, and you want to talk to your buddy down the road and you don’t bother grandma’s TV signal and you don’t interfere with the local airport or fire department, then probably no one will care. If you choose to operate or modify your radio, and it is now considered illegal, this is your choice. Something I said earlier, if you are driving 36 in a 35 MPH zone, probably no one will notice or care. But….if you choose to drive 96 in a 35 MPH zone, then someone will notice and care. Again, this is your choice.

Speaking of 5000 watts. 5000 watts may be a tad bit of an exaggeration. But if you choose to pump up whatever radio you are using and you do not know what you are doing, you can fry your brain. No joke. No kidding. If you don’t know what you are doing with radio frequency, then DON’T DO IT. Lot’s of ham radio guys and non-ham radio guys run what is called, extra power. It’s not a question of legal or illegal, it’s a question of, if you don’t know what you are doing, you can cause permanent damage to your cute little girl’s brain. So, one more time, if you don’t know what you are doing, DON’T DO IT. Safety comes first. Always.

Next time, we’re going to get into ham radio. You will find the frequencies very similar to GMRS, FRS, CB and MURS because ham radio is not some miracle, mysterious thing. It’s just a group of frequencies or bands or meters that we all share every day. I hope this has helped somebody, somewhere along the way to understand radio communications just a little bit better. Look through the previous radio posts. They are filled with links, dealers, manufacturers, and regulations. 

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

Radio Communications Review, Part 1 – A Re-Post

Hello, Frank here.

If you are a regular reader, then you know a week or so back we introduced a re-post of an article that was a year or so old. This effort was very well accepted and we genuinely thank you. 

As most of you are aware, when, not if, our society shuts down, or collapses, then it will be too late to start making general preparations. I believe communication is one of the areas grossly overlooked by those that are trying to prepare. Whether you want to transmit on a radio, listen to local events or world events, then there are certain types of equipment that you will need. Most of these items can be dual or triple purpose, and will not break the bank unless you choose to do so. 

The following article is a re-post about basic radio communications. You can find many other articles listed under Frank’s Radio Communications. If this is of interest to you, then please read some of these articles. They are written in easy to understand language with the beginner in mind. Thank you for your considerations, and I hope you enjoy the following re-post. If you have a comment, please share it, because this is one way for all of us to learn. That little radio in your hand may some day save your life. Thank you again.

Originally published August 12, 2013

Hello, Frank here.

I’m going to try to summarize what we have talked about in the last ten posts. The reason being, my next radio post is going to start into ham or amateur radio. So, let’s go back and talk about all of the stuff I have covered so far. We have talked about the rules and regulations, and I will give you my recommendations on certain radios. Okay, let’s go.

CB radio is probably the most popular radio around and more people have them than any other type. There are basically two types of CB radios – non-single side band radios and single side band (SSB) radios.

Remember, CB radio is line-of-site communications, most of the time. CB radio operates at about 27 MHz. It will also bounce off of the ionosphere similar to HF ham radios. In some circles the CB radio is called an 11 meter radio. Any CB radio will skip off of the atmosphere if the conditions are right, but an SSB (single side band) will do a better job of it and give you greater distance. So if you want to talk to your cousin Leroy two blocks down the road, and there is not a hill in the way, any CB radio will do the job. If you want to play and listen to other folks much farther away, then SSB is the preferred method. I recommend the Galaxy line of CB radios with SSB. There are other manufacturers that make a quality radio, I just think the Galaxy is more dependable and is prettier. No one likes looking at an ugly radio.

We’ll talk about antennas, power supplies and coax cable later in this post. Next, let’s talk about GMRS/FRS radios. These radios are also very

popular. The vast, vast majority of them are handheld radios. People use them a great deal for hunting, keeping track of the kids and just play-type radios. These are also line-of-site communication. These will not bounce off of the ionosphere so you are not going to be hearing frequencies from around the world. These radios function at about 465 MHz. Because of the higher frequency they will work better from inside a building than your lower frequency radios. The big difference between these radios, in my opinion, are the batteries or power systems inside the radios. 

While we are writing this, there is a major electrical storm in our area. All of my antennas have been disconnected and our computers are unplugged. If I were a little bit smarter, I would also unplug my power supply.

In a previous post, we talked about the difference between GMRS and FRS, they are basically the same radio. These are excellent, high quality radios with a good clear signal for line-of-site communications. Do not believe the advertisements for 10, 20, 30 miles – this is a sales gimmick. Not all of us live on a flat planet, if we did, then the advertisements

would be correct. Remember, line-of-site. All GMRS radios will communicate with other GMRS radios regardless of the manufacturer. All the channels are the same frequencies. I recommend the Midland GXT1000VP4 or GXT1050VP4. They are the same radio – one is camo and one is black. The reason for this recommendation is that you can put four AA rechargeable batteries in the radio and the batteries will recharge while in the charging cradle. Some other Midland radios look identical, but they charge slightly different and will not recharge rechargeable batteries while in the charging cradle. I have used this radio for a number of years on our little farm.

Okay. We have reviewed CB and GMRS. There is one other type of radio frequency and it is the MURS frequencies. MURS comes with five frequencies operating at about 151 MHz. It is also line-of-site communications and will work fine inside of most buildings. There is not a major manufacturer that produces a MURS handheld radio, but you can buy a commercial radio, which we will talk about in just a minute, to use on the MURS frequencies. OK, CB, GMRS and MURS are the basic frequencies for non-ham communications. All three have about the same power output. CB and MURS do not require a license, GMRS does. 

A slightly different type of radio is a commercial radio. These radios are not set for any particular frequency and they will not operate on the CB

frequencies. But they will operate on the GMRS, MURS and the VHF/UHF ham radio frequencies. You have to program these radios yourself. Most of them come with a programming cable and computer disc that you download. My recommendation is the Wouxun handheld commercial radio. Many dealers sell them. I would recommend Universal Radio. It is 100% legal to use these radios on the ham radio frequencies. It is not legal to use these radios on MURS or GMRS. We will discuss legalities and license requirements in just a minute.

Non-transmitting radios. This is a group of radios that you listen to only. We’re going to talk about shortwave receivers, scanners, weather radios and there are a few others, but for the most part this covers them. Let’s start with weather radios. Weather radios connect to a radio frequency

provided by the National Weather Service. Most parts of the country receive good, clear weather radio signals. Very few places don’t. I would highly recommend a weather radio with S.A.M.E.  This feature will narrow down severe weather signals to the county level. If you live in an area that has the potential for tornadoes, I would highly recommend one of these for your home. My recommendation is a Midland WR300. It can be powered from a wall outlet, any 12 volt source and has a built in battery back up for when the power goes off, you can still receive signals. As I mentioned in a previous post, it is a little difficult to program. You can connect an external antenna and a flashing red beacon for those that are hearing impaired.

Scanners are another type of listen only radio. There are handheld, mobile and base scanners. The big question right now is whether it is digital or analog. Some communities are going to a digital signal similar to what

TV did nationwide a few years back. This is not a national movement. This is a local decision as to whether to go digital or stay analog. Many communities are not going digital. You will need to check with your local emergency management office. Some scanners are S.A.M.E. capable for weather alerts. New scanners will not receive telephone communications. Some will not receive the CB frequencies, but all will receive police, weather, fire, GMRS, MURS and the VHF/UHF ham frequencies. Some have external antenna capabilities. In some states it is illegal to have a scanner in your vehicle. This is your responsibility to find out the laws in your state.

I’m not going to talk much about marine band radios. Marine band is a two way radio. If you have a boat, or you live near the coast of the ocean or any large lake, or any navigable river then you can listen to marine band signals which includes the Coast Guard.

There are commercial frequencies on the marine bands. There are about 88 channels on each marine band radio. They operate at approximately 157 MHz. The commercial radio I mentioned earlier will also broadcast on these frequencies. Your scanner will also receive marine band frequencies. A little side note – your scanner will also receive railroad frequencies. If you choose to purchase a marine band radio and you choose to transmit on a marine band radio, then know which frequencies the government is using and do not use those frequencies.

Shortwave receivers receive the lower frequencies. 30 MHz down to about 1.8 MHz. These are receive radios only. Shortwave and ham band frequencies are intertwined everywhere between 30 and 1.8 MHz. Most shortwave broadcast signals are AM (amplitude modulation) radio, as is your CB radio, which falls in these frequencies. All ham radio frequencies are AM/SSB. So if you want to listen to the ham frequencies, you will need a radio that receives SSB. Most shortwave radios (SW) do not receive SSB. Some SW radios are capable of external antennas. If you are considering going into ham radio this would be the place to go ahead and buy an HF ham radio transceiver, which will transmit and receive on the SSB ham frequencies and also receive all of the AM shortwave transmissions. Shortwave radios can be as

inexpensive as $50 – $80 up to $10,000 and up. A beginner’s HF ham radio that will transmit and receive starts at around $700 and goes up. You do not have to have a license to listen to any frequency on any radio. But to transmit on the ham frequencies, you will need a ham radio license. We are going to discuss ham radio in much greater detail starting with the next radio post.

Ok. So much for radios. Power supplies. If you have a handheld radio, it will probably be powered by batteries. Some come with a built-in rechargeable battery. Some operate off of AA or AAA batteries that you

can replace with rechargeable batteries. If they will operate off of rechargeable batteries, I would recommend you go this route. All mobile radios, because of the nature of being mobile, will operate off of 12 VDC, which is actually 13.8 VDC. If you choose to use a mobile radio as a base radio, then you will need a separate power supply. Most receive radios use very, very little power. Just about any power supply will work. If you use a mobile CB as a base station then you will need a power supply that puts out 3 or 4 amps. If you’re going to operate a ham radio or more equipment off of your power supply then I would recommend that you go ahead and pick up a 30 amp power supply. This will provide you with enough power to operate your radios, receivers, battery chargers, charge your cell phones and other similar items. 

Antennas. Some radios will need an external antenna. If you are

operating in a vehicle, the only radio we have discussed that will need an external antenna, is a CB radio. Most people use a magnet mount antenna. If you decide to go into ham radio, then your antennas will become more varied because different frequencies need different antennas. There is no one antenna fits-all frequencies. For your CB base station at home, you will also need an external antenna. Go to the post where we talked about CB base station antennas. Your handheld radios, like GMRS and MURS, will operate for the most part off of their attached antennas. If you choose to attach an external antenna to your scanner or weather radio, I would recommend a basic discone antenna. It is built to receive these VHF frequencies. If you choose to connect an external antenna to your shortwave receiver, then I would recommend a long wire type antenna for this purpose. In the previous post about shortwave receivers, there is information about antennas. There
may come a day when you need some coaxial cable. This is what  

connects your antenna to your radio. You will also need a plug on each end of this cable and in most cases, it will be a PL-259, or a BNC type connector. For overall general purpose use, I would recommend RG-8X cable. It is a good all purpose cable for low power, short distance runs of under 25 feet. It also works well for your receive only radios.

Licensing. There is no license required for any receive radio. If you choose to become a ham radio operator, you will need a license. More on that in the next radio post. CB and MURS do not require a license. GMRS does. As I stated in a previous post, I have never met a person with a GMRS license. Which brings us to legal regulations. If you operate any transmit radio that interferes with any other type of telecommunications signal, then you are required by law to either fix your problem or cease transmitting. This is seldom, seldom a problem with legal power transmitters. If you choose for example to increase your CB power from 4 watts to, let’s say, 400 watts of power, and you cause the lady next door’s TV signal to be distorted, then you are running illegal power. If your 400 watt CB radio does not bother anybody or anything, then your radio is still illegal, but for

the most part, no one will care. If you decide to buy a commercial radio, which you can, and you choose to operate it on a frequency, for example the one the local airport is using, then you will find out very quickly that being stupid does not pay. If you choose to use an unauthorized frequency that interferes with the local fire department, again you will find out that some people might not think this is cute. If you run 5000 watts of power, as an example, and you want to talk to your buddy down the road and you don’t bother grandma’s TV signal and you don’t interfere with the local airport or fire department, then probably no one will care. If you choose to operate or modify your radio, and it is now considered illegal, this is your choice. Something I said earlier, if you are driving 36 in a 35 MPH zone, probably no one will notice or care. But….if you choose to drive 96 in a 35 MPH zone, then someone will notice and care. Again, this is your choice.

Speaking of 5000 watts. 5000 watts may be a tad bit of an exaggeration. But if you choose to pump up whatever radio you are using and you do not know what you are doing, you can fry your brain. No joke. No kidding. If you don’t know what you are doing with radio frequency, then DON’T DO IT. Lot’s of ham radio guys and non-ham radio guys run what is called, extra power. It’s not a question of legal or illegal, it’s a question of, if you don’t know what you are doing, you can cause permanent damage to your cute little girl’s brain. So, one more time, if you don’t know what you are doing, DON’T DO IT. Safety comes first. Always.

Next time, we’re going to get into ham radio. You will find the frequencies very similar to GMRS, FRS, CB and MURS because ham radio is not some miracle, mysterious thing. It’s just a group of frequencies or bands or meters that we all share every day. I hope this has helped somebody, somewhere along the way to understand radio communications just a little bit better. Look through the previous radio posts. They are filled with links, dealers, manufacturers, and regulations. 

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

Our New Battery Powered Propane Cookstove

Frank has told you before about the problems we were having with our propane cookstove. The electronic panel that controls the oven, timer and clock kept going out. The cooktop burners still worked fine, but the oven would not heat to the indicated temperature, or keep an even heat, or would heat way past the indicated temperature. We were always told it was the electronic control panel. So we replaced it instead of buying a new stove, after all, we bought this stove new in 2008, and it should last a long time, right? Not right. After replacing the control panel for the third time at $150.00 each, the third replacement didn’t work for over a week. Time’s up. We needed a new stove, but after the experience we had, we didn’t want a stove with an electronic control panel. 

Do you know how hard it is to find a new stove without an electronic panel? Almost as hard as trying to find a washer that doesn’t decide how much water you need to wash your clothes. Almost, but not quite, because we did find one, even though it may be the last one. We had chosen a particular model and asked our local appliance store if they could order one, they tried, and it had been discontinued. So, we found another one and asked the same question. They had one left in the regional warehouse, and that was it. This model has also been discontinued. We don’t know if they are still available anywhere else, or if a new similar model will be built. Even so, we wanted to show you this stove and explain why we chose it.

 
This is not a top of the line stove. In fact, most people would consider it to be on the other end of the scale. But, you know what? I am just tickled pink. It is plain, simple and battery operated. No, it doesn’t have any moving parts or talk or flash or even beep. But if the power goes out, I can still cook and bake to my heart’s

content, all because of this 9 volt battery. The ignition strikers all work off of this battery, even the oven. Yea! I have always wanted an oven that would work when the power is off. Now I have one, and I consider it to be a very important part of our preparations for the hard times ahead. Yes, I know that most cooktops will light with a match when the power is out, but very few ovens will. I feel fortunate to have one of the few ovens that will light when the power is off, very fortunate.

 

Here is a tour of the stove. It is a Hotpoint. All four burners have the same BTU output. The burners are not sealed, but the top is easy to remove and clean.

 

 

 

The oven lights similar to one in a travel trailer or camper. You hold the knob in for 10 seconds then set the temperature and make sure it lights.

Rechargeable battery
Battery charger

All of the burners and the oven can be lit with a match if the battery dies and there is not a replacement. The battery compartment description indicates the use of an alkaline battery, so we stocked up on a few. The manual indicates the battery will last two to three years. We would rather use rechargeable batteries, but when Frank contacted the manufacturer, he was told to only use alkaline batteries. The reason is that an alkaline is 9 volts VDC, and a rechargeable 9 volt is actually 8.4 VDC. Our battery charger will work off of a regular wall plug in, but transforms the power to 12 VDC. We operate ours directly from Frank’s radio power supply, which is 13.8 volts or 12 volts. Using rechargeable batteries will extend the length of time we are able to use battery power for many different things if the electricity is down for any length of time, including the stove. Yes, Frank’s power supply is 110 volts, but we also have a 12 volt solar system for the long term. And, yes, the stove works fine off of the rechargeable battery. Another yea!


I’ve been waiting for this stove for a long time. Frank’s back surgery slowed things down a little bit, but it is here, it is working, and it’s exactly what we have wanted for a long, long time. I have not tried to bake anything yet, since it just arrived this morning. If there are any problems with the oven I will let you know, because tomorrow is Saturday, and Saturday is biscuit day. I look forward to not wondering when they will be done and if they will be gooey or burnt. And besides that, Frank really enjoys our Saturday morning biscuit tradition, and I enjoy providing them for him. It’s all part of the blessings of marriage and family traditions. He spoils me rotten with the things I want, like this stove, but in return, I get to spoil him with biscuits. Isn’t life grand?

Until next time – Fern

Radio – Basic Equipment & Start Up

Hello, Frank here.

I’ve had a couple of requests lately about entry level basic equipment and getting started. For those of you working on your General, I hope you’re well into whatever program you are using. I believe next in our studies is antennas, which is where we will continue. But tonight, will be a different topic.

Okay. Entry level equipment. First, you will need your Technician’s license. That will give you transmitting privileges from 30 MHz up, which includes VHF and UHF. Now, remember, this is just my opinion and recommendation, and this is the very minimum. I’m not going to cover HT’s (walkie talkies) here.

You will need a radio, an antenna, coax cable and a power supply. Radio. Alinco DR-635T. This radio covers your VHF/UHF ham bands, and if you have the desire to open up or modify this radio, it is very easy to do. This will allow you to transmit on MURS, GMRS/FRS frequencies, and if you’re really stupid, it will allow you to transmit on police and fire frequencies, too. This radio is not approved for broadcast on the modified frequencies. There are commercial radios made that will accommodate this need. This radio will work both in your car and as a base station.

For your automobile you now have your radio, your battery is your power supply. You will need an antenna. My recommendation is the Comet M-24M. That for your automobile is your complete kit. You will need to attach the radio to the battery for power, or you can use the cigarette lighter plug. The battery is first choice.

For your base station. Same radio. You will need a base

antenna. I am going to recommend a Comet CA-2x4SR. Yes, this is a mobile antenna. If you choose to modify your radio, this antenna will work for all of the frequencies mentioned above. With this you will also need a ground plane kit. Make sure both the antenna and the ground plane kit have UHF connections. Now, you will need some kind of pole to put this up on. Top rail fencing from your local lumber yard works great. Two 10′ pieces, with one bracket attached to the highest part of your house, normally the ridge. Put this antenna and ground plane kit at the very top. Now you will need some coax. For VHF/UHF short length and low power, use RG8X. If you’re going to run more than 50′ then a higher quality cable is needed. For your base station, you will need a power supply. Here is my recommendation for a small power supply, MFJ-4125. This will power your radio needs for years to come. That’s all you need for your base station. You have a radio, an antenna and ground plane, coax cable and a power supply. You need to have a way to get your antenna into your house. I drilled a hole

through my wall, used a PVC pipe, a 45 degree angle and ran it through that way. To keep out bugs, I use stainless steel scrubbing pads on both sides and spray heavily twice a year with bug spray. You will also need a grounding rod connected to the base of your antenna pole and connections between the pole and the grounding rod. Speaking of this antenna pole, this is the horizontal pipe that goes along the top of a chain link fence, it’s called top rail. One end is slightly crimped to allow the next piece to slide over it. Cut off one of these crimped pieces, about 3′, drive the non-crimped end into the ground, with the crimped part sticking above ground surface. Now slide the rest of your pole over the piece in the ground, align it with your bracket attached to the side of your ridge, of course, make sure it’s straight up and down. Now you have a good, solid pole. Some lumber yards carry 21′ lengths of this top rail and some don’t. Lowe’s carries it, but you will have to special order it. And if you do that, get the thicker gauge metal.

Okay, that’s your VHF and UHF mobile and base station. This is as basic as you can get. No switches, no power strips, that’s it. For lightening protection, unplug your power supply and disconnect your coax cable from the back of your radio. Put that piece of coax that you just disconnected into a glass jar

laying sideways. If you want to know what your SWR is for your radio, you will need an SWR meter. A very basic one is the MFJ-842. You’ll also need a coax jumper, RG8X will do fine. Footnote: all jumpers and coax should be PL-259 to PL-259. Okay that will do you for VHF/UHF.

I’m not going to discuss HF for mobile use. For most people it’s just not practical. There is a small portion of 10 meter that a Technician can use. For the other parts, you will need your General license. So, here goes. For your base station radio, let me reiterate, this is just one man’s opinion. My recommendation is the ICOM IC-718. You will need an antenna tuner. You do not have to

have an antenna tuner, but I highly recommend it, and my recommendation is the LDG IT-100. For this you will also need a jumper, RG8X will work just fine. Next you will need an antenna, for this my recommendation is a dipole antenna. If you only choose to operate one band, then a simple dipole will work great. If you choose to operate

multiple bands, here is a pretty good selection. These are made by Alpha Delta and they are all good dipole antennas. This dipole antenna, like most antennas, the higher the better it operates. Metal roofs and power lines will take away greatly from it’s performance. But you can mount it on the same pole as your VHF antenna. Come down about one foot from your VHF antenna, drill a hole through the pole, attach an eye hook and a light weight pulley. This is how you will attach your dipole at the center. Each end of the dipole is up to you. Again, the higher the better. For your coax use RG8X. You will also need an SWR meter and for this radio an MFJ-860 will work fine. You will also need one more jumper. This

radio operates off of the same power supply as the Alinco base station. Lightening applies the same with this radio. During a lightening storm unplug your outside antennas coming in and your power supply. 

Again, this is your very basic operating equipment. By the way, these are the radios that I use and the antennas that I use and the meters that I use. What I didn’t mention here is that it is not required that you have the following pieces of equipment. Power pole connectors make life very handy. Power strips come in real handy if you’re operating multiple 12 volt DC devices. A more professional tower comes in handy. All you need is a radio, an antenna, a power supply, coax cable, a meter, a couple of jumpers, a way to hold your antenna in the air and you need to ground the antennas attached to the pole by grounding the pole. Remember, always follow basic safety rules, it will pay off in the long run.

The reason for this post is because of the following email. All the equipment I mentioned here is new, and don’t forget, the HF radio is also an excellent shortwave receiver. The writer addresses time on the radio. There is no requirement for any time at all, just what you choose. Also remember I do radio from a survival perspective. I do not contest, but if you choose to, you certainly can. 98% of my radio time is listening.

I would like to start with Ham radio, but what has stopped me is the expense. Maybe you can write some posts for the lowest common denominator. Ham radio for the lowest of budgets. That would be helpful. Usually when people write about Ham radio operations it is just too much information, just like people who write about solar power. I got started with solar by watching a 2 minute or less video. The person broke it down and made it super easy. I was able to get started with less then $300 and it is enough power to run a laptop, light and modem and router for hours. By putting the few pieces together I learned what it took to do solar. That simple tutorial that showed a small setup hooked up and running was more valuable to me then all those complicated books and articles that I read about solar power!
I think if you write for the ‘haven’t started but would like to start’ crowd that would be a great service and it would get more people involved in Ham radio. In most people’s mind it seems too complicated and too much of a commitment – people have a lot on their plate. Economy is on everyone’s minds. Show how to start simple with just the basics so we can get the idea. People can always upgrade as their budget allows. It would be nice to have excellent equipment but that is not always possible for everyone. Having a small setup to communicate with is better then not having anything at all.  And then there is the subject of how much time does a person need to spend on the air?  That could be a show stopper for many.  I have a busy schedule with all my homemaking and homesteading duties and do not want to spend a gillion hours on the radio but want to have the abilities and skills should the occasion arise.

The person below has requested vendors which I have included with each item discussed. There are vendors that are cheaper and some that are more expensive. The items that I have listed can be found for less from some other vendors. I like Universal Radio, but I also buy from many other good folks out there. Hope this information helps.
 
I would like to buy a ham radio and antenna, but do not know what I should buy.  I am a  beginner, so I am not interested in a radio with lots of bells and whistles.  Just a basic get the job done type of radio.  Also looking for a good vendor to purchase said radio and antenna.  Also need to know how to properly install and set up antenna for best reception.

Also, where to get the study guides to get licensed.  In the future a license probably won’t be too important, but the knowledge on how to properly operate a radio using approved standards will be critical.

Any information you can give me will be great. 

Please remember, these are just my recommendations and opinions. Many people will disagree and say you have to have this and you have to have this. If you want to get started, this will get you there. Both of these radios are good, solid pieces of equipment. Many veteran ham operators use this same equipment everyday. Again, this is just my opinion. I will remind you that I am of the persuasion that someday we are going to face some type of collapse. Radio may be one of your only means of communication. I also use solar power. Please take the above statements with a grain of salt, because it is also, my opinion.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

 

Radio – Become a Ham, Part 9

Hello, Frank here.

 Hello everybody. Is everybody having a good time yet? This next stuff is so important that it is going to blow your socks off. By the way, I ran across an interesting chart called SWL Info, which is included here. It covers the HF bands, which for the Technician’s test is not of major importance. This chart covers the ham bands and the shortwave bands. I like ham and I

think ham radio is very important, especially in a grid down situation. But knowing where to find shortwave frequencies and the stations on them, is also very important. When we finish the information for the Technician’s test and we go on to study the information for the General Test, we will learn why some stations you can pick up during the day, but not at night, and the opposite of why you can pick up some at night, but not during the day. But for the purpose of the Technician’s test, this information at this time is not relevant. But keep this chart, it is a great tool. The man that put it together, did a tremendous amount of work. His name is on the top of the chart. Do a Google search and check out his websites. Some of them may be seen as a tad bit controversial, but it’s still a great chart, please use it.

Okay. We’re going to talk about station set up and operation. Like last time, most of this information you just need to read and it gives you the answers. As I have mentioned before, if you need more detail, please go to the the ARRL website and check out their Technician, General and Extra class reference books. Again in this section, you’re going to see ‘all of the above’ as the answer. It’s always nice to know the exact answer, but if you don’t, then ‘all of the above’ is the logical choice.

Okay. It says here that you will need a power supply for your radio. The first question there talks about voltage fluctuations. This is part of the reason why you want a larger power supply than what is needed. We talked earlier about the 80% rule, I hope you remember it. Never use over 80% of any piece of equipment’s maximum rated output. Can you use more than 80%? Sure. But you’re asking for trouble. Remember, P = E x I. If you buy a power supply that is minimum for the piece of equipment you

are operating, it will eventually cause you problems. Example: You buy a radio, you get the very smallest power supply you can, and your power supply works 100% all the time. Pretty soon, you’re going to be buying another power supply. Let’s say your radio uses 5 amps, which is about 60 watts or so. You have a 10 amp power supply, then you’re using about 50% of the output of the power supply. Your radio will never be starved for power and your power supply will never be under strain. If you decide to add a few more gizmos to your power supply, like anything that works off of 12 volts…maybe a scanner, a weather radio, a couple of battery chargers for AA, a little AM/FM 12 volt radio……You will still have enough power to run all of these comfortably. Learn to check out power consumption. When in doubt, bigger is better. I would recommend somewhere around a 30 amp power supply. It will provide you with enough to run all of the radios you want to run and multiple accessories. 

Other equipment. It talks about a set of headphones. Some people use them, some people don’t. Unless you are strictly into CW (morse code or continuous wave) you will need a microphone. Almost all radios come from the factory with a microphone. Most are more than adequate. If you have a radio with a microphone gain or microphone modulation ask somebody on the other end how you sound. But the biggest problem with a microphone either over or under modulating, is having the microphone too far from or too near

your mouth. Read your radio operating instructions, six to eight inches is about the norm. On occasion you will hear some guy talking and it sounds like he has swallowed his microphone. Needless to say, he is a tad bit too close, therefore, he is over modulating. This is important because if you’re going to talk on the radio, you want people to be able to hear you and understand you. If somebody on the receiving end of your transmission tells you that you are over modulating, don’t get bent out of shape, because you probably are. So, back off a little bit and thank the person that is helping you.

You cannot overground a piece of equipment. So when you put up your station inside your house have a grounding wire running outside your house or shack that you can ground all of your equipment. It works well in your car, too. Make sure that your radio is grounded. But you say there is not a grounding pole on it. Then connect it from your mount screw to a good grounding place in your vehicle. 

Starting on page 31 of the No Nonsense Technician Class Study Guide you’re going to see four different figures. You’re just going to have to memorize these figures. 

The little chicken foot thing is the antenna. And the end of it is a speaker. It goes through page 32. There are a lot of questions and answers here. 

You will see these figures, or some of them, on your Technician’s test. There are about 20 possible questions here on page 31 and 32.

So, read it and read it again. If you are not taking your practice tests on one of the sites mentioned earlier, then you’re wasting precious time.

The next items we are going to discuss are trying to troubleshoot some problems. As you will see here, many of the answers are ‘all of the

choices are correct.’ But it’s real simple. If your radio station is causing interference on your neighbor’s TV, then you are the problem. Yes, there are things that your neighbor could put on their TV, but it is not their responsibility. Now if you’re causing interference on your own TV? Yes, there are filters and chokes that you can add to the TV reception lines. But it is not your neighbor’s fault if you are creating a problem. With a big antenna stuck up in the air, it is not hard to tell where the problem is coming from. But if your station is operating properly, there is normally not an interference problem. Normally the biggest problem is caused by too much power.

Example: Most VHF/UHF radios with normal operating power put out about 50 watts. Some a little more, some a little less. That’s not a lot of power. Now if you crank it up to 500 watts, that’s 10 times more than 50. Most HF transmitters maximum power output is 100 to 200 watts and most are 100. Again, that’s not a lot of power. If you’re going to run high power, then your equipment will need to be tuned better. This is a good time to remind you about safety. I cannot say this enough. If you don’t know what you’re doing, DON’T DO IT. High power can fry your little girl’s brain. Stupid is not funny. DON’T DO IT.

If you have yet to purchase a good multimeter, now is the time. You should have already had one and you should be practicing with it. These next few questions deal with an amp meter. So get a multimeter and practice. We covered amp meters a good while back. So go back and read those

pages. If I were you, I would make my first multimeter one that is very inexpensive. Because if you go and measure ohms on a live circuit, you’re going to be buying a new multimeter. And if you measure 500 volts with the dial set on 5 volts, you’re going to be buying a new multimeter. If you drop one off of your workbench onto your concrete floor, then you know what you need to do. Go buy a couple of $10.00 to $15.00 multimeters. There are electronic ones and there are ones that still have a little gauge that swings back and forth. All of my multimeters cost about $25.00, and I used the same $25.00 multimeter for about 25 years until it went to multimeter heaven because of old age.

We’re probably going to have two, or at the most, three more posts about getting your Technician’s license. I will explain to you about how to make a radio contact – about some of the rules and etiquette common in the ham world. That chart at the beginning of this post is about 11 pages long. Towards the bottom are some ‘Q codes’. The Q codes are not used a great deal for VHF/UHF. They are used more in HF operation and used extensively with CW (morse code). In the next couple of posts I will explain which ones are the most common. That 11 page chart also has the phonetic call signs….Alpha, Bravo, etc. These are easy to learn. Go ahead and start practicing. 

Again, we are going to have two or three more posts at most. You need to get in touch with ARRL to find a testing location and time. These folks will also help you with any questions. They are happy to do so. But they are not going to call you. You have to call them. Everybody has always had a

first day. Everybody has always been new. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, it’s silly not to. So, the ball’s in your court. We’re going to finish up soon. I’ll take a short break from radio world and then we will start covering the information for the General test. Because when you get your General license, if you want to stop there, that’s great, because the General will give you the ability to use all the bands and the ham world will really open up at that stage.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

Radio Communications Review, Part 1

Hello, Frank here.

I’m going to try to summarize what we have talked about in the last ten posts. The reason being, my next radio post is going to start into ham or amateur radio. So, let’s go back and talk about all of the stuff I have covered so far. We have talked about the rules and regulations, and I will give you my recommendations on certain radios. Okay, let’s go.

CB radio is probably the most popular radio around and more people have them than any other type. There are basically two types of CB radios – non-single side band radios and single side band (SSB) radios.

Remember, CB radio is line-of-site communications, most of the time. CB radio operates at about 27 MHz. It will also bounce off of the ionosphere similar to HF ham radios. In some circles the CB radio is called an 11 meter radio. Any CB radio will skip off of the atmosphere if the conditions are right, but an SSB (single side band) will do a better job of it and give you greater distance. So if you want to talk to your cousin Leroy two blocks down the road, and there is not a hill in the way, any CB radio will do the job. If you want to play and listen to other folks much farther away, then SSB is the preferred method. I recommend the Galaxy line of CB radios with SSB. There are other manufacturers that make a quality radio, I just think the Galaxy is more dependable and is prettier. No one likes looking at an ugly radio.

We’ll talk about antennas, power supplies and coax cable later in this post. Next, let’s talk about GMRS/FRS radios. These radios are also very

popular. The vast, vast majority of them are handheld radios. People use them a great deal for hunting, keeping track of the kids and just play-type radios. These are also line-of-site communication. These will not bounce off of the ionosphere so you are not going to be hearing frequencies from around the world. These radios function at about 465 MHz. Because of the higher frequency they will work better from inside a building than your lower frequency radios. The big difference between these radios, in my opinion, are the batteries or power systems inside the radios. 

While we are writing this, there is a major electrical storm in our area. All of my antennas have been disconnected and our computers are unplugged. If I were a little bit smarter, I would also unplug my power supply.

In a previous post, we talked about the difference between GMRS and FRS, they are basically the same radio. These are excellent, high quality radios with a good clear signal for line-of-site communications. Do not believe the advertisements for 10, 20, 30 miles – this is a sales gimmick. Not all of us live on a flat planet, if we did, then the advertisements

would be correct. Remember, line-of-site. All GMRS radios will communicate with other GMRS radios regardless of the manufacturer. All the channels are the same frequencies. I recommend the Midland GXT1000VP4 or GXT1050VP4. They are the same radio – one is camo and one is black. The reason for this recommendation is that you can put four AA rechargeable batteries in the radio and the batteries will recharge while in the charging cradle. Some other Midland radios look identical, but they charge slightly different and will not recharge rechargeable batteries while in the charging cradle. I have used this radio for a number of years on our little farm.

Okay. We have reviewed CB and GMRS. There is one other type of radio frequency and it is the MURS frequencies. MURS comes with five frequencies operating at about 151 MHz. It is also line-of-site communications and will work fine inside of most buildings. There is not a major manufacturer that produces a MURS handheld radio, but you can buy a commercial radio, which we will talk about in just a minute, to use on the MURS frequencies. OK, CB, GMRS and MURS are the basic frequencies for non-ham communications. All three have about the same power output. CB and MURS do not require a license, GMRS does. 

A slightly different type of radio is a commercial radio. These radios are not set for any particular frequency and they will not operate on the CB

frequencies. But they will operate on the GMRS, MURS and the VHF/UHF ham radio frequencies. You have to program these radios yourself. Most of them come with a programming cable and computer disc that you download. My recommendation is the Wouxun handheld commercial radio. Many dealers sell them. I would recommend Universal Radio. It is 100% legal to use these radios on the ham radio frequencies. It is not legal to use these radios on MURS or GMRS. We will discuss legalities and license requirements in just a minute.

Non-transmitting radios. This is a group of radios that you listen to only. We’re going to talk about shortwave receivers, scanners, weather radios and there are a few others, but for the most part this covers them. Let’s start with weather radios. Weather radios connect to a radio frequency

provided by the National Weather Service. Most parts of the country receive good, clear weather radio signals. Very few places don’t. I would highly recommend a weather radio with S.A.M.E.  This feature will narrow down severe weather signals to the county level. If you live in an area that has the potential for tornadoes, I would highly recommend one of these for your home. My recommendation is a Midland WR300. It can be powered from a wall outlet, any 12 volt source and has a built in battery back up for when the power goes off, you can still receive signals. As I mentioned in a previous post, it is a little difficult to program. You can connect an external antenna and a flashing red beacon for those that are hearing impaired.

Scanners are another type of listen only radio. There are handheld, mobile and base scanners. The big question right now is whether it is digital or analog. Some communities are going to a digital signal similar to what

TV did nationwide a few years back. This is not a national movement. This is a local decision as to whether to go digital or stay analog. Many communities are not going digital. You will need to check with your local emergency management office. Some scanners are S.A.M.E. capable for weather alerts. New scanners will not receive telephone communications. Some will not receive the CB frequencies, but all will receive police, weather, fire, GMRS, MURS and the VHF/UHF ham frequencies. Some have external antenna capabilities. In some states it is illegal to have a scanner in your vehicle. This is your responsibility to find out the laws in your state.

I’m not going to talk much about marine band radios. Marine band is a two way radio. If you have a boat, or you live near the coast of the ocean or any large lake, or any navigable river then you can listen to marine band signals which includes the Coast Guard.

There are commercial frequencies on the marine bands. There are about 88 channels on each marine band radio. They operate at approximately 157 MHz. The commercial radio I mentioned earlier will also broadcast on these frequencies. Your scanner will also receive marine band frequencies. A little side note – your scanner will also receive railroad frequencies. If you choose to purchase a marine band radio and you choose to transmit on a marine band radio, then know which frequencies the government is using and do not use those frequencies.

Shortwave receivers receive the lower frequencies. 30 MHz down to about 1.8 MHz. These are receive radios only. Shortwave and ham band frequencies are intertwined everywhere between 30 and 1.8 MHz. Most shortwave broadcast signals are AM (amplitude modulation) radio, as is your CB radio, which falls in these frequencies. All ham radio frequencies are AM/SSB. So if you want to listen to the ham frequencies, you will need a radio that receives SSB. Most shortwave radios (SW) do not receive SSB. Some SW radios are capable of external antennas. If you are considering going into ham radio this would be the place to go ahead and buy an HF ham radio transceiver, which will transmit and receive on the SSB ham frequencies and also receive all of the AM shortwave transmissions. Shortwave radios can be as

inexpensive as $50 – $80 up to $10,000 and up. A beginner’s HF ham radio that will transmit and receive starts at around $700 and goes up. You do not have to have a license to listen to any frequency on any radio. But to transmit on the ham frequencies, you will need a ham radio license. We are going to discuss ham radio in much greater detail starting with the next radio post.

Ok. So much for radios. Power supplies. If you have a handheld radio, it will probably be powered by batteries. Some come with a built-in rechargeable battery. Some operate off of AA or AAA batteries that you

can replace with rechargeable batteries. If they will operate off of rechargeable batteries, I would recommend you go this route. All mobile radios, because of the nature of being mobile, will operate off of 12 VDC, which is actually 13.8 VDC. If you choose to use a mobile radio as a base radio, then you will need a separate power supply. Most receive radios use very, very little power. Just about any power supply will work. If you use a mobile CB as a base station then you will need a power supply that puts out 3 or 4 amps. If you’re going to operate a ham radio or more equipment off of your power supply then I would recommend that you go ahead and pick up a 30 amp power supply. This will provide you with enough power to operate your radios, receivers, battery chargers, charge your cell phones and other similar items. 

Antennas. Some radios will need an external antenna. If you are

operating in a vehicle, the only radio we have discussed that will need an external antenna, is a CB radio. Most people use a magnet mount antenna. If you decide to go into ham radio, then your antennas will become more varied because different frequencies need different antennas. There is no one antenna fits-all frequencies. For your CB base station at home, you will also need an external antenna. Go to the post where we talked about CB base station antennas. Your handheld radios, like GMRS and MURS, will operate for the most part off of their attached antennas. If you choose to attach an external antenna to your scanner or weather radio, I would recommend a basic discone antenna. It is built to receive these VHF frequencies. If you choose to connect an external antenna to your shortwave receiver, then I would recommend a long wire type antenna for this purpose. In the previous post about shortwave receivers, there is information about antennas. There
may come a day when you need some coaxial cable. This is what  

connects your antenna to your radio. You will also need a plug on each end of this cable and in most cases, it will be a PL-259, or a BNC type connector. For overall general purpose use, I would recommend RG-8X cable. It is a good all purpose cable for low power, short distance runs of under 25 feet. It also works well for your receive only radios.

Licensing. There is no license required for any receive radio. If you choose to become a ham radio operator, you will need a license. More on that in the next radio post. CB and MURS do not require a license. GMRS does. As I stated in a previous post, I have never met a person with a GMRS license. Which brings us to legal regulations. If you operate any transmit radio that interferes with any other type of telecommunications signal, then you are required by law to either fix your problem or cease transmitting. This is seldom, seldom a problem with legal power transmitters. If you choose for example to increase your CB power from 4 watts to, let’s say, 400 watts of power, and you cause the lady next door’s TV signal to be distorted, then you are running illegal power. If your 400 watt CB radio does not bother anybody or anything, then your radio is still illegal, but for

the most part, no one will care. If you decide to buy a commercial radio, which you can, and you choose to operate it on a frequency, for example the one the local airport is using, then you will find out very quickly that being stupid does not pay. If you choose to use an unauthorized frequency that interferes with the local fire department, again you will find out that some people might not think this is cute. If you run 5000 watts of power, as an example, and you want to talk to your buddy down the road and you don’t bother grandma’s TV signal and you don’t interfere with the local airport or fire department, then probably no one will care. If you choose to operate or modify your radio, and it is now considered illegal, this is your choice. Something I said earlier, if you are driving 36 in a 35 MPH zone, probably no one will notice or care. But….if you choose to drive 96 in a 35 MPH zone, then someone will notice and care. Again, this is your choice.

Speaking of 5000 watts. 5000 watts may be a tad bit of an exaggeration. But if you choose to pump up whatever radio you are using and you do not know what you are doing, you can fry your brain. No joke. No kidding. If you don’t know what you are doing with radio frequency, then DON’T DO IT. Lot’s of ham radio guys and non-ham radio guys run what is called, extra power. It’s not a question of legal or illegal, it’s a question of, if you don’t know what you are doing, you can cause permanent damage to your cute little girl’s brain. So, one more time, if you don’t know what you are doing, DON’T DO IT. Safety comes first. Always.

Next time, we’re going to get into ham radio. You will find the frequencies very similar to GMRS, FRS, CB and MURS because ham radio is not some miracle, mysterious thing. It’s just a group of frequencies or bands or meters that we all share every day. I hope this has helped somebody, somewhere along the way to understand radio communications just a little bit better. Look through the previous radio posts. They are filled with links, dealers, manufacturers, and regulations. 

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank