Ham Radio & Survival Communications, Volume 2

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, six radio classes and one test day have passed. The radio class is now finished. Or, in the old radio days, we’re over and out, or in the police world, we’re now 10-7, which means out of service or off duty. But the sad fact is, the class is finished. Now, we can let the real learning begin.

As mentioned in the previous post, some folks were not interested in getting their ham radio license, and whatever the reason, it is theirs. Two of the gentlemen that chose not to pursue their license have purchased radios of high quality that can receive, transmit and listen. This is what they wanted and this is what they are doing, therefore, they can contribute to our neighborhood communication network. Both of them are in good locations. Radio is kind of like operating a business. Location, location, location.

You see, my house is a poor location for line-of-sight communications. But if I can reach one of these guys, which I can, they can relay information to me and from me, which is critical. So don’t think that you have to have a ham radio license to be a vital contributing member for a radio communication system. One of these gentlemen is relying on CB radio for two-way communication. He also has a scanner and a shortwave radio, which are for listening. The other gentleman is a little bit more private. I know he has a capable VHF/UHF radio, and both of these gentlemen are in very good locations.

Now onto the ham radio part. I didn’t really teach a lot about ham radio out of the Romanchik manual, but that was the manual we used for our information about what was on the ham radio licensing test. Some of the folks used QRZ.com for free online practice tests, others used Ham Test Online, which is a paid practice test service with tutorials. We spent time on some of the formulas, which are only about three for the Technician, and about the same for the General test. The concept that was taught was read the manual repeatedly, and take as many practice tests as you humanly can. Lots of people are busy right now. Some of the people in this class work a full-time job, go to school at nighttime, and attend school kid’s functions, so as you well know, their time is limited.

The majority of the time we spent just talking about what I call radio. We talked about antennas, radios, power supplies, coax and other associated radio equipment. We talked about a lot of things that normally aren’t covered in licensing classes. We talked about how you push the button and talk into the microphone, how you call somebody else on the radio. If you’re using a handheld, which direction do you face? We talked about simple, practical things when it comes to using a radio. Like, don’t put your antenna on your filing cabinet right next to your head and turn the power up. It’s not cool to fry your brain. Some of us are already operating with diminished capabilities, we certainly don’t need to increase that negative load.

It was a fun class. A couple of the people in there enjoyed my ultra dry humor. I learned a lot from them, too. Some of the questions that came up were things that I had never really thought about. But being a retired, professional teacher, I just made up an answer that sounded somewhat technical. They didn’t know the difference anyway. Ultra dry. That’s the way some people like it. On occasion we talked about the coming war, and most everybody was okay with that, because there is one coming, and it may be here a whole lot sooner than you think.

Back to the ham class. Well, test night came. We had to change location due to a scheduling conflict, and that went well. The people that came out to give the test, it was their first time, too. Our local emergency management office started a testing group. These guys are called VEs, volunteer examiners. They are a group of local ham radio operators that have qualified to be examiners, and volunteer their time, hence the term VE, volunteer examiner. So now our local emergency management office can offer ham radio test sessions without having to ask the help of a local ARRL ham radio club.

So how did test night go? We’ve got the building secured, the VEs showed up early, it is required to have a minimum of three, and there were five. We had nine people test.  Seven were taking their Technician’s license, and I’m happy to say that all seven passed. Of those seven, one gentleman also took his General test which he passed. We had two folks that already had their Technician license that both took the General test, and they both passed. We had one woman in the group that tested. We had one young adult male, I think he is 17. If you’ve been reading along, you will know that everybody that took the test passed. In the mathematical world, that’s 100% success. Now that was a good night.


One of the guys in the group had a concrete truck coming the next day to pour the base for his ‘to be’ future antenna tower. There were a couple of people that couldn’t take the test that night due to a conflict in schedule. They will take the test at a later date. But our area now has seven new Technicians and three new Generals, and that Ladies and Gentlemen, is a good deal. We also have two local folks that chose not to take the test that are actively pursuing communication skills.

Here in a week or so, I’m going to get back in touch with everybody to see if we can start practicing communication between individuals and groups. It will take a week to ten days for the folks that took the tests to get their FCC online approval and call sign. When I said

earlier now the learning begins, that means we’re going to learn to communicate with each other. Different locations, different antennas, different radios, some AM, some FM, some VHF/UHF, some HF, CB which is HF, GMRS which is UHF, MURS which is VHF. We have folks out here that are strung out for miles, and a couple on the other side of a mountain. Without giving locations, if the testing site was the center of the circle, we have folks from the class about 25 miles north, 30 miles south, 20 miles east, and eight miles west. If the electricity is on we will use repeater connections. If the electricity is not on, we will use line-of-sight communications and NVIS (look it up).

So now the work begins. It’s been fun. It’s been challenging. I truly hope that this works, because folks, we have a war coming. Read into that whatever you want to, but it is coming and it can’t be stopped. Some of us have made the choice that we want to be able to communicate. Maybe we can get a few more neighbors or a couple more relatives on board, because right now we cover a large logistical area. We need to be able to warn our neighbors, therefore, we need to be able to communicate.

We’ll talk more later, Frank

Radio – Wanna Be a General, Part 1

Hello, Frank here.

Time to put our thinking hats back on, tin foil inserted or not, is entirely up to you. But, I kind of like tin foil in my hat. The General test is going to be more complicated than the Technician. This is just the nature of things and it is nothing to be afraid of. The formulas are going to be a little bit more sophisticated, but as before, there are only so many formulas on a test, and if you can’t figure them out, then memorize the answer. 

This first post over the General test is going to re-familiarize you with some former sites that you used during your Technician test. But before we start, let me remind you of safety. Not only can you electrocute yourself, or your cousin Billy, you can also do internal damage with RF signals. This is not a joke. You heard me talk earlier about frying your little girl’s brain. Studying your General test, you’re going to step into more power, a lot more power sometimes, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, DON’T DO IT. Pay attention to safety. 

Again, throughout this series of blogs, I’m going to reference Universal Radio, because I find their website easy to use, and they provide data and information about the equipment they carry. I will also be referencing many other radio websites.

Whatever style or mode you choose to use, whether it be the Romanchik, General Class No Nonsense Study Guide, the ARRL manuals, online tutorials, or a combination of the above, use what works for you. I have a friend that studied QRZ.com only, which is a free online service, for his Technician and General, and it worked for him. So, if your goal is to just pass the test, then this is one way. I needed more information, so I used the Romanchik manual for my Technician and the QRZ website. For the General, I did not use the Romanchik manual, but instead chose to use the paid version of Ham Test Online. This worked well for me. Ham Test Online provides tutorial information about subject material. This is what I used, it works for me. By the way, the Romanchik manual, online version has links at the end of the units for additional information that the Technician manual did not. Just more food for thought.

Practice test resources:

   QRZ.com



HamTestOnline



   HamStudy.org

A resource that I found very valuable was ARRL. Their website has so much information, it’s just hard to discuss. But if you need to locate a local club, which I would recommend, and find yourself an Elmer, that you

can easily communicate with. Most of these guys are good, down to earth people. There are some things that you just can’t figure out from a book or a manual, so I highly recommend that you get in touch with ARRL and find yourself an Elmer. ARRL also has a catalog section where they sell manuals for the Technican, General and Extra, as well as other manuals for these tests also. This catalog also contains a plethora of books on ham radio and SWL. Use ARRL, they’re a handy, handy website.

FCC. The FCC is the group that controls the rules, regulations and licensing. I’m going to include a section for ham radio rules and regulations. I’m also going to provide you with a link to their licensing webpage. Amateur radio is pretty open to making your own modifications and adaptations, but you don’t want to get out of the rules. An example, if you’re broadcasting and you’re interfering with Gramma’s TV down the road, whether you’re legal or not, doesn’t make any difference. You need to stop and fix the problem. Another example, if you live close to an airport, again, whether legal or not, you don’t want to be messing or interfering with aircraft communications. So, there are some rules you do need to know and you do need to follow. But if you want to build your own antenna that looks like Sputnik, go ahead. Try not to burn your house down in the process. So, follow the rules. Did I mention safety? The General will cover significantly more information about RF emissions and proper grounding.

So, we’ve talked about manuals and ways to get there, ARRL contacts, FCC, safety. The need for communications. During your Technician studies we covered mostly VHF and UHF and, of course, we learned about bouncing a signal off of an asteroid, which was on the test, wasn’t it?

 And we covered a teeny, weeny portion of the 10 meter band. Getting your General license will open up the HF frequencies, plus the 160 meter band. The HF bands are what most people consider to be ham radio. It provides the opportunity to talk and listen very long distances, so this will open up a new world. Getting your HF radio will also provide you with a first class SWL radio. I enjoy listening to radio news stations from other countries and continents. This is really not ham radio, it’s just a bonus feature. 

The radio equipment, overall, is going to be little bit more expensive. The radios will have bells and whistles that you will not have heard of before. The antennas are going to be more sophisticated than sticking a 2 meter mag mount on your car. There are a number of different types of antennas, and everybody and their cousin will have a preference as to which one is

the best. If you remember from my previous posts, there is no best of anything, it’s all up to you. But then there’s that deer in the headlight look, “I don’t know which one is best.” So, you go to one of these ham club meetings, sitting in this room is a world of knowledge, mostly guys, and everyone of them has a different opinion of what is best. So, what do you do? That’s a good question, I can’t answer that one for you. I will tell you what I think is best. So, just pretend like I’m number 15 in that room full of guys.

I got into ham radio for the communications aspect of it only. I have no intention of ever contesting. I’m not trying to “work all states”. And for the guys doing this, that is fine. It’s a big stadium, and there’s lots of room for

everybody. I spend most of my time listening. I listen to Beijing Radio often on shortwave. I listen to folks all around the country and spots around the world. I use very simple equipment, and simple generally equates to less expensive. My entire purpose for listening is to ascertain information from around the world, around the country and local. Some of us believe that someday some catastrophe is going to happen, who knows what it will be, but there is a probability we are going to see reduced electricity and more government control. This is why I want to be able to listen. A couple of days ago, I was playing on my CB radio, which is an HF radio 11 meter. I was on AM and talked to a man in Boston and one in California, and I live in southeastern Oklahoma. 

So, during the Technician’s test, we talked about GMRS, FRS, MURS, these are forms of local communication. Now, with the General, we’re going to step into long distance, or DX. So, as mentioned above, this will open up a new world. If you will look at the ICOM band chart, you will notice that 10, 12, 17 and 160 meters are entirely open to the General class. ARRL also has a band chart that is a little bit different, but you can figure it out. The other bands not

mentioned above, are partially open to the General. So getting your General license will open up the majority of the HF bands. Don’t forget, you don’t need morse code for any level of amateur license. Decide how you want to pursue this. If you want to use Romanchik, go ahead and download the manual, borrow, or purchase any other books that you want to use. Check out the websites for tutorials, and I didn’t mention earlier, that local ARRL clubs often have free classes for the Technician and sometimes for the General. Another reason to check out your local ARRL. 

The pace on this particular class will be sharply quicker than the Technican. I will primarily use the Romanchik manual, but at a much quicker pace. This manual starts off like the Technician did, covering formulas and using some general math that occasionally intimidates people. As mentioned earlier, if you can’t master the formulas or the math,

then just memorize the answers. After the formulas and math, it is just general knowledge like it was in the Technician’s manual and it is a whole lot easier to learn. There are some old salts that disagree with this idea and technique, but don’t worry about them, they’re not the ones taking the test. So, if you need to, memorize the whole test. That’s what my wife did, she just memorized the whole test. She learned a little bit, but not much. I on the other hand, have a background in electronics and some of it I just memorized. So, do whatever you need to do to pass and don’t worry about what somebody else thinks, it’s a waste of time.

So, gather up the tools you’re going to use and we’ll get started here shortly. But, please do not wait on me, if you are a self learner, then you may be finished by the time I start. If you have your Technician license, and you take your General and pass it, you do not have to wait for the FCC to post your new license before you can start transmitting. If you pass your General test, you can start that day.


We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank


Radio – Become a Ham, Part 5

Hello, Frank here.

Oh, you’re back. I know in many classes, when you get into the math portion and simple formulas, you start to lose people. I don’t mean from an educational, intellectual point of view. What I mean is, people’s feet walk out the door. That’s a shame, because there are only 36 questions on the test and I have seen the odds and probabilities of getting math or formula questions on the test. I don’t remember what they are, but they are very small. So, if you can’t get the math or you can’t get P = E x I, then just memorize those answers. Memorize the questions too. It helps to know which ones go together. I hope some of you have signed into QRZ, if not, start now. This is not difficult, but it will take a little bit of time and it will take a little bit of study. There are many adults that have not studied for a test in a long, long time. So, brush away some of the cobwebs. As Mother Superior would say, “Put on your thinking cap”, and do what you need to do.

Now, as before, and will be the case everytime, I am going to use the No-Nonsense Technician Class, Study Guide by Dan Romanchik, KB6NU. If you do not have this by now, then I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Today I’m going to be starting on page 10, Electronic Principles and Components. Many of these components you use in every day life. If you turn on a light switch in your house, which you probably do, then you use one of these components. The way this manual describes these components is the very basic level. Because that is what is on the test. In some cases you will see different symbols for the same item in different books. These symbols are not cast in concrete. There are slight variations. For the purpose of this class, these are the ones that are used on the test. So if you see a symbol that is different from one that you learned sometime in the past, it’s okay. It’s not necessarily wrong, but the one that is here is the one that is on the test. The object of this whole exercise is to pass the test.

The area we are going into, you are just going to need to learn it and figure it out. There will be a couple of diagrams coming up very shortly. These are simple diagrams with simple explanations as to what the components are. Remember, this is a simple test. It is not detailed. If you choose to study for more advanced licenses, they will become a little more detailed. But for right now we’re going to make this simple. 

On page 8, under the word resistor, which is the first component, you will see a group of numbers and letters. The one under resistor is T6A01. This is the section and number of this question in the question pool. Here is the Technician 2010 question pool. Skip the first 3 pages, these are corrections that have been made. Pages 4 – 6 explain the different sections. It also tells you how many questions on the test come from each section. Starting on page 7 are the actual questions. In section T1A, the first question is T1A01. Next to that is the letter ‘D’ in parenthesis (D), that is the answer to this question. T6A01, answer (B) is on page 41.

These are all the answers to all the questions. You will see these numbers and letters next to questions on all the free and paid practice tests. How cool. All the questions and all the answers. So here it is. Keep this document, it is invaluable. When you go to QRZ and sign in and do the practice tests, it will have this same T6A01 for this question. Wa-la! Isn’t life good?

The first electronic component is the resistor. It does exactly what is says, it resists. As you’re reading along, remember, that I am going to cover this part quickly. Resistors have values and that value is measured in ohms, which on your brand new mulitmeter, is measured in the resistance area. Remember, don’t measure resistance on a live circuit or you will be buying a new

mulitmeter. The next word in bold letters is potentiometer. This is the volume control on your radio. Resistance is controlled by your potentiometer. A potentiometer is a coil of wires that is adjustable. If you have a dimmer light switch in your house, it’s also called a rheostat, but for our purposes here it is a potentiometer. It is measured by resistance. 

Next is a capacitor. It stores energy. This is

one of those components that will get more sophisticated as we go along, but for now it stores energy. How much energy it can store is it’s capacitance. This is measured by the farad. You have probably heard talk of a Faraday Cage which people like to store their electronic gear in in case of an EMP or CME, which we’ll talk more about later. But the term farad comes from Michael Faraday. 

Next is an inductor. It also stores energy in a magnetic field and this stored energy is called inductance. It is measured by the henry. A coil of wire is an inductor. Here in just a moment you will see where you can take two inductors and make a transformer. You can also take an inductor and make a switch. More on all of this much later.

Next term is switch. When you turn your lights on in your house, it’s a switch. And, of course, switches can get very complicated. But the one here is ON/OFF (on slash off). 

Next is a fuse. A fuse protects circuits from surges of power and too much power that doesn’t come in the form of a surge. 

The next little bit is going to be about rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries. On this test, the non-rechargeable is referred to as a carbon zinc battery. This is not on the test, but C, D, AA, AAA non-rechargeable batteries are all 1.5 volts VDC. On this test rechargeable are referred to as NiCad batteries. 

These batteries are 1.2 volts VDC. So there is a difference in the voltage that comes out of a chargeable battery and a non-rechargeable battery. For the most part, this is not on the test, most electronic pieces of equipment will accept rechargeable batteries in place of non-rechargeables. Every now and then, you will find the exception to the rule. Note: I use lots of rechargeable batteries.

Okay. We’re going to step into a different type of component now. A diode allows current to travel in one direction. Remember, this is a simple diode. Anode and cathode are the names of the two electrodes in the diode. Anode and cathode are also used a lot more. Example: the terminals of a battery are sometimes referred to as anode and cathode. But for this test purpose, it’s the name of the two electrodes of a diode. The cathode side is identified with a stripe.

Transistor is a modern day type switch, or an amplifier. It’s a cool little instrument. This little gizmo is what has allowed big jets to fly, men to go to the moon, and for you and I to carry a cell phone in our pockets that

has more storage capability than what used to take a large building to store. Of course, all that is not on the test, and maybe someday in the future, we will discuss what that means. All these little gizmos now are the size of little circuit boards, a little bit bigger than the diameter of a hair. That little transistor was invented by two men playing in their garage, in the good old United States of

America. Because without that invention, we would not be having this discussion over this medium. You’ll see the term gain used with a transistor. This term is used to discuss how well it works. A bipolar junction transistor, just read the little descriptions about it there in the book, there could be two questions on it. FET stands for field effect transistor and it has a gate electrode.

An LED is that wonderful invention that has changed the way lighting is used. It means light emitting diode. I love LED’s. All of my flashlights and some of my interior lighting are LED’s and the little gizmos appear to work forever. Your batteries will last significantly longer. They produce little to zero heat and they just work. Somebody made a better mouse trap. I wish somebody could make a good coffee pot that works as well. Sorry for the distraction.

Okay. Schematic symbols is a name for standardized representations of components. That’s what is on the test, but as I mentioned earlier, not all symbols are going to be the same in different places. Figure T-1. Here is what some of these components are that we have been talking about. Don’t get figure T-1, T-2 and T-3 mixed up.  

In figure T-1, component 1 is a resistor. Remember, it resists. Component 2 is a transistor. In this function it is a switch to control the flow of current. Component 3 is a lamp. Component 4 is a battery. It is not mentioned here in Figure 1, but component 5 is ground. And it’s not mentioned here either, but in component 4 also tells you which side is negative and positive. More on that later.

Let’s scoot down to Figure 2. Okay. Component 2 is a fuse. It actually looks like a fuse, the old type that is still used in lots of pieces of equipment. If your car is newer, it has a blade type fuse, but the symbol represents a fuse. Component 3 is a single pole, single throw switch. Component 4 is a transformer. See the two coils there together? What it is going to do here is change AC, which remember is alternating current, into DC, which is direct current. In this figure, component 1 is not mentioned, but it is your AC input. Component 5 is a rectifier. If you look, component 8 and 10 also look like a rectifier, the reason is, that they are, just a little more complicated. This is a rectifier diode. It only allows current to go in one direction. Component 10 is not discussed at this time, but for future reference it is a zener diode. And also, component 8, is an LED. In this case, it tells you that the system is on. Component 6 is a capacitor. Read the description about a capacitor, they will get much more complicated. And a capacitor can also injure you. But for now you need to know what it says on page 13. Component 9 is a variable resistor. That little arm with the arrow going across the resistor, in the future, you will see that little arrow on other components. Component 7 is also not mentioned, but it is a resistor.

Okay, moving on to Figure T3. Component 3 is a variable inductor. Remember, an inductor is normally a coil. Component 2 is a capacitor, except in this case, it is a variable capacitor. More on that later on, but for this test, this is all you need to know about a capacitor. Component 4 is an antenna. You will also see other symbols for antenna and you will see other symbols for ground. 

Okay. Stay with me. We are just about finished. I am on page 14 of this manual. A relay is a switch controlled by an electromagnet. Relays are

used in all types of equipment and they are actually magnets. A relay can be used to open a circuit or close a circuit. An example: if you have a gas stove in your house, and the electricity goes off, you might not be able to use your cook stove because when the power is on a relay holds the gas valve open. When the electrical power goes off the relay closes and shuts off your gas. It is a safety feature.

Okay. Meter. This is not the type of meter we talked about earlier, like millimeter. This is actually a physical device that you can read on a numeric scale. The temperature on your air conditioner and

heat is a meter that tells you what the temperature is or was. A regulator regulates. In this case, it’s talking about voltage. It controls the amount of power. LED, we talked about before, is a visual indicator or light that tells you something is on or off. And last, is an integrated circuit. It puts several things together. Not mentioned here, but it is commonly referred to as IC, integrated circuit. If you work in the electronics field, then you know that an IC is ancient electronics. A term you will see, that is not on the test, is SMT, surface mount technology. These are those little, bitty, teeny things that you can barely see without a magnifying glass. These are the resistors and diodes and etc. of today’s ham radios.

Okay. Play with these diagrams. You will see at least one of these on the Technician’s test. Read it over and over. Play with the questions in your head, and over time these things will start to come together. If you need more answers to questions that you can’t put together, contact your local ARRL chapter and ask for an Elmer. An Elmer is a teacher or buddy or friend that will help you. They are good people and they will be glad to help. What I’m doing right now, I’m trying to help a handful of people. So. 

We have completed page 14. A whole lot of the test coming, is just common sense stuff. We’re going to start dealing with sine waves. And to me, this is the fun part of what we’re doing. It’s actually what radio is made up of. So, if you haven’t had fun yet, now is the time to start. Have I told you about God and his sense of humor? If you don’t believe God has a sense of humor, then just go look in your bathroom mirror. And if you don’t think that is funny, then look again.

Seriously, I hope that some of you have already read this manual and made arrangements with your local ARRL to take the Technician’s test. Go to QRZ, sign up, and start taking the practice tests. When you get to about an 85% pass level, then go take the test. You should know by now that the next test is the General. It is available in the same format as the Technician Guide and you can take the practice tests free on QRZ. 
 

It’s raining at my house today. Temperatures are about to drop. Autumn is about here.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

P.S. Frank told me this would be the shortest radio post yet! I just laughed.    Fern

Radio – Become a Ham, Part 2

Hello, Frank here.

In the last post, I gave you a lot of information, websites to go to, places to get free test data and sites that you can pay for. I know a man that came to one ham radio class. He wanted to get his technician’s license and he had some questions. He got his questions answered, never came back and passed the technician test a week later. He used the No Nonsense Study Guide, Technician Class that I gave you in the last post. 

In that technician’s guide on pages 6 & 7 it starts dealing with Ohm’s Law. People that have a fear of formulas and math, lots of times will quit right here. There are only two formulas used for the technician’s license. The first one is in the picture triangle, which is V over I times R. The V means voltage, the I means current or amps, and the R equals resistance. In the electronic world, we are going to substitute the letter E for the letter V. Therefore, E equals voltage in place of V equals voltage. So in your mind, or on a piece of paper, draw it out and substitute an E for the V. Now you  have E over I times R.

Look at that triangle again. If you are looking for voltage and you have current, which is I, and resistance which is R, put your finger over the V, which is an unknown and you have I x R = V.

Or in the electronic world  I x R = E and E = voltage. Let’s say you have a given of voltage and current and you are looking for resistance. Put your finger over the R, which means resistance. Now I am going to drop the letter V from our discussion and call it E. Now you have the E on top and the I underneath which means you divide E by I, which equals R. This is how this triangle works.

I mentioned there are only two formulas. The first one is E = I x R and you have the triangle to look at. The next formula is P = E x I. A new symbol – P which equals power or wattage or watts. So, power equals current

times E or voltage. This is the formula that you will use the most. Make a triangle, put the P on top and the I and E on bottom, and you can use the same technique to find the unknown. In most of the ham radio world the E will always be 12 volts or 13.8 volts. Those two numbers are interchangeable. The reason is, your car has a 12 volt system. But, when you are driving down the road, it is actually producing 13.8 volts. When you buy a power supply to put in your house, it will convert 110 volts AC to 12 volts DC. But in reality, it will be about 13.8 volts. 

Now, a little exercise here. Your power supply is putting out 13.8 volts and you have a 30 amp power supply. How much wattage or power will it produce? You cover up the P on the triangle. You have I x E. I is 30 amps. E is 13.8 volts. You take those two numbers

and multiply them. You should get 414 watts. So that means if you have a 30 amp power supply at 13.8 volts it will easily push a 100 watt radio. Easily. Here is where I like to use the 80% rule. Never use 100% of any piece of equipment. So 80% of 414 is 331 watts. Okay, let’s go back to our 3rd and 4th grade math. Anytime you hear the word of, it means multiply. The 80% rule is actually 0.80. Drop the percent sign and move the decimal two places to the left. Now you have 0.80. Okee-dokee? I know I could hear all of you say ‘Okee-dokee’.

These are the only two formulas you will use for math to get your technician license.            E = I x R and P = E x I. Draw a little triangle with a T in it. Put the formula in there with the E on top, with I and R on the bottom. 

Draw another triangle with a T in it. Put a P on top and an E and I on the bottom. You don’t really have to draw the triangle, just put a big T with one letter on top and the other two letters on the bottom. Learn how to use these formulas, they will come in handy all through life. I have taught kids for years to use what I call the ‘T formula’. 

Now, these two formulas will give you the answer to any mathematical question on the technician exam. Sometimes you have to use one or the other to find an unknown so you can apply that unknown to the other formula. It’s not tricky, maybe unknown to you at this time, but once you do this a handful of times, it’s really pretty easy. And, yes, on the test, you can use a calculator. A basic four function calculator.

When I took my technician test, I asked for a piece of scratch paper. And once we all started, I wrote these formulas on the top of my piece of scratch paper. I also put other things on that piece of paper, that we will discuss later. Primarily having to do with decibels. Remember, as long as you start with a blank sheet of paper. That’s your piece of scratch paper. You can put anything on there you want. But again, the only two mathematical formulas that you will use are the two we have just discussed. E = I x R and P = E x I. Also remember, V or E = voltage. I = current or amperage. R = resistance. P = power or wattage.

The man I mentioned earlier that came in and had questions he needed answers to? He walked out with the two formulas and a week later, he passed the test. The No Nonsense Technician Guide is a great way to study for the technician’s test. And if you want a place to take free practice tests, I would recommend QRZ.com. Remember that you can use a four function calculator. No computers. No cell phones. But if you can push the multiply button and the divide button, then take the given information and you will have the answer.


Next time, we’ll talk about what milliamps and kilowatts are and what they mean. Don’t worry about the math. One other thing. Always think safety. This is a great hobby, but you don’t want to fry anybody’s brain. And it may be more than a great hobby when the electricity goes off and stays off. Just food for thought. So. Think safety. If you don’t know what you are doing, don’t do it. 

Now, go get a piece of paper and draw two triangles, put a T inside each one. Put an E on top, an I and R on the bottom in the first triangle. In the second one, put a P on top and an E and I on the bottom. Get a pencil with an eraser, a four function calculator and practice some of these questions on pages 6 & 7 of the No Nonsense Technician’s Guide. If you find yourself whining, then quit whining. Go in the bathroom, look in the mirror and remind yourself that God has a sense of humor.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank