Radio Rules & Regulations

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

Before we get into how radios operate, or sometimes don’t operate, we need to understand where our government stands on rules and regulations. At this point right here, right now, it doesn’t make any difference what you think or feel about the government. I wrote a piece recently about the government is the enemy, and I still feel that way, but they are the government, they have the big stick and we are slaves to their dictates. So let’s try not to upset them any more than necessary.

Here are the basic rules governing the type of radio communication that we are interested in participating in. To be fair, there are reasons we have rules. They are not just there to punish us and limit our activities and freedom, and they’re not always the product of some tyrannical government. Many rules involve safety. You don’t want to fry your little girl’s brain by being stupid. You don’t want to burn your house down. You don’t want to interfere with other frequencies and maybe cause a plane to fall from the sky, or a pipeline valve to open at the wrong time. So, there are rules and they do have a reason for being there. 

DON’T BE STUPID. Don’t try to prove to your buddies that you are the most stupid in the group. Radio can be fun, entertaining, it is a tool, you can use it for business, emergencies, it’s a great hobby. You will hear me say frequently, DON’T BE STUPID. If you are offended by that, get over it. We all do stupid things.

If some of the information I put out is wrong, please let me know. That is not my intent. Let’s get started.

Below is a link to Title 47, Chapter 1, Subchapter D. This link will take you to the rules that you and I need to follow. Open up this link and we’re going to take a look at it.

Ok. Follow me here. Look down the list and you will see Part 90 and Part 95 and Part 97. This is where we will spend our time. You will notice Part 96 says Citizens Broadband Radio Service – this is a different frequency range than CB radios. The CB radios that we will be talking about are under Part 95.

A brief overview to start with. Part 90, or sometimes called commercial radio. That little Baofeng that you have in your hand? Take out the battery, look inside the radio, and it will probably say Part 90 certified. This applies to police departments, fire departments, ambulances, a lot of public service activities and private business. Can you listen to these frequencies? Absolutely. Can you transmit on these frequencies? Sometimes. If you are with, or affiliated with, an agency that gives you the authority to transmit on these bands or frequencies, then yes, you can transmit. 

Example. You are with a volunteer fire department. Your Baofeng radio, if programmed correctly, will transmit on these frequencies. If the authorizing entity gives you permission to use this radio on a specific frequency, then yes, you can use it to transmit. 

Can you use it to transmit on unauthorized frequencies? Absolutely. This is a case in point where you are trying to prove how STUPID you are. Do not mess with an ambulance call, running hot, to a crash scene just to cause confusion. Let me reiterate here. THIS IS STUPID.

By the way, if you are authorized to use your handheld on any of the above mentioned bands, and your kid gets a hold of it and decides to go play with it, remember, you are the adult, they are the kid.

Moving on. Part 95. This is the general concern for the vast majority of people. So click on that 95 from the link you opened above. You will see Subpart A, which is General Rules for Personal Radio Service. Scroll down a little farther, Subpart B, Family Radio Service, FRS. 

Skip Subpart C, unless you’re into remote control, which a lot of guys are. 

Subpart D, CB Radio Service. You will notice it is called CBRS.

Subpart E, General Mobile Radio Service, GMRS.

GMRS and FRS are the frequencies preprogrammed into the handheld radios that you buy across the counter at sporting goods stores. 

Skip Subparts F, G, H, I.

Subpart J, Multi Use Radio Service, MURS. MURS is a group of frequencies that you might want to consider along with GMRS, FRS and CB.  Your Baofeng will transmit and receive on all of these frequencies except CB. To transmit on the CB frequencies, you will need a CB radio. Later on, we will cover stuff like VHF, UHF, HF, 2 meter, 11 meter, AM, FM, and SSB which are things you will eventually learn, but right now we’re talking about rules. 

Ok. Scroll back up to Subpart E, General Mobile Radio Service, GMRS. Look down the list just a couple of items and the third category down is licenses. Go down a little bit farther at 95.1761 and you will see GMRS transmitter certification. Your Baofeng radio is NOT certified to transmit on GMRS frequencies. Will it? Yes. Is it illegal? Listen very carefully here. Is it illegal? YES. Make no bones about it, you are using an unauthorized radio to transmit on an unauthorized frequency. 

Ok. A parable here. Can you buy a car that will go 100MPH? Yes, you can. If the speed limit is 35MPH, and you are driving 36MPH, are you breaking the law? Yes. If you drive 96MPH in that same 35MPH speed zone, are you breaking the law? Yes. Which one will get you the most attention? 36 or 96? If you choose to use your commercial radio, your Baofeng, which is Part 90 certified, on the GMRS frequencies then you are violating the law. Do people do it everyday? Absolutely. Is it illegal? Yes. It is illegal to drive 36MPH in a 35MPH speed zone. It is also illegal to drive 96MPH in a 35MPH zone. Can you buy that car that will do 100MPH? Sure you can. Can you buy that radio that will transmit where you shouldn’t be? Yes, you can.

Another example. If the power limit is 4 watts and you are using 5 watts, that is illegal. If the power limit is 4 watts and you are using 100 watts, that is also illegal. Which one will get you the most attention? Do people use these little radios everyday for unauthorized transmissions? Yes. Is it illegal? Yes. So is driving 36MPH in a 35MPH. CB radios are a perfect example. There are people that run power everyday on CB radios. I think the power limit for a CB is 4 watts AM. But some guys run 1000 watts and it’s not uncommon at all for people to run 50 watts. Illegal? Yes. Common? Yes.

If your transmission interferes with someone else’s activity. Example. Their television signal, telephone service, an intercom system between a baby’s crib and a parent’s room. Legal or illegal, you need to stop transmitting and make appropriate adjustments. Here is a case where using too much power, and this is not a joke, you can fry your little girl’s brain. No joke.

Another topic. Amateur radio. On that same list you have there, it’s Part 97. Amateur radio is a different ballgame. I will call it ham radio. If you get your ham radio license, this does not give you the authority or permission to transmit on any band or frequency that is not ham radio. Some ham radio operators are sadly delusional and believe that they can operate on unauthorized frequencies. This is not the case. As your learning curve increases, you will learn that CB frequencies come between two common ham frequencies. Can you use a ham radio to transmit on a CB frequency? Yes, you can. Is it illegal? Yes. Do not kid yourself that you get special privileges with a ham radio license.

One other sensitive topic. If you do choose to get your ham radio license, and you violate any of the above mentioned rules and regulations, you can lose your ham radio license FOREVER. Something to consider. Can you have a ham radio and a CB radio sitting right beside each other? Yes. Can they use the same power supply, coax and antenna? Yes.

Okay. For the brand new guys, a lot of information here today. I use my handheld, my mobile radios and my ham radios everyday. We use them on our little farm here and I use them to communicate 40-50 miles via use of a repeater. Everything that I do is legal. I have my ham radio license and I follow the rules. By the way, that little Baofeng radio is 100% legal on ham frequencies. That’s what I use everyday.

Understand the rules. If you choose to go outside of the rules, that is your choice. If you go a little bit, or a whole lot, that’s your choice. Let me finish on a negative note here. If you mess around on frequencies where you shouldn’t be, let’s say aircraft frequencies, and you think that your government is incompetent and stupid, then you will very quickly find out who is REALLY STUPID. These guys will track you down and shut you down, and rightly so. This is the same government that can send a missile thousands of miles and pinpoint a target to precise accuracy, whether it’s launched from submarine, aircraft or ground based, monitored via satellite by a person sitting at a console in an air conditioned office. Never underestimate the power of the government. They are very good at what they do, and you do not want them breathing down your neck. DON’T BE STUPID.

Next time things will be on a more positive note, so let’s start having fun.

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 – Stay In Touch

Hi Everybody, Frank here.

Hope all are well, and I hope everybody had a pleasant Thanksgiving. It’s always nice to stay in touch with friends and relatives, and Christmas is just around the corner. 

There are some of us out there that see we’re in perilous times. Let me explain. Have you paid attention to the Dow Jones lately? Record highs, right? And I know you’re paying attention to crude oil, copper, silver and

Baltic Dry. One market’s going one way, while other markets are going the other direction. And I know you’ve been paying attention to Ferguson, Missouri. A tragic event happened there. But the way the community responded, should have you seriously concerned. And I know you’re paying attention to the amnesty issue. On the other hand, there are multiple issues, and if I take off my shoes and socks, I can count many, many more issues, seriously pushing the envelope. If you can’t see what I’m talking about, then quit reading, turn on the football channel, and watch the cheerleaders jump up and down. Good. There went the vast majority of people to the football channel. Now we can talk without interruption. And, that’s what you want to do. To be able to talk without interruption. 

As mentioned above, you want to stay in touch with your friends and relatives. Here are some ways that you can stay in touch without grid power. Because if you agree with some of the dark topics I mentioned

earlier, then you know that one day we’re going to have some form of economic shutdown. We are in the process of it as we speak. Now. How are we going to stay in touch when the cellphones and hard line phones don’t work? When the internet is not working? We’re going to stay in touch the same ways hunters do when they’re out walking in the woods, and the same way the military and FEMA does for longer distance communications. Okay. Let’s go.

First, short distance communications. This is considered to be line of sight. If you’re on water, it’ll go a long ways. Hilltop to hilltop, a long ways, but it’s still line of sight. Now I’m going to talk about UHF and VHF frequencies. The first little radio is a GMRS/FRS. You can buy these at any sporting goods store, big box store, or online. They have 22 channels, up in the 460

MHz range. This is the type of radio hunters use, kids play with, and for the most part they are good solid radios. But, what you have in your hand, is what you’ve got. Some advertise 50 channels, not true. It is 22 channels with slight variations. Some advertise 36 miles, not true, unless you live in a perfect world, and that’s not true. I’m going to direct you to a previous post. But here is the GMRS that I recommend. These radios are not expandable and you cannot modify them. But if your buddy down the road, one mile, two miles or farther, depending on your terrain, has one, you can stay in touch. These are good radios, they’ll last for years if you take care of them.

Next, I would like to introduce what is called a commercial radio. It is made by BaoFeng, it operates in the VHF/UHF frequencies. It can be modified and expanded. Let me explain what a commercial radio is. If you buy this radio, there are no pre-programmed frequencies in it, like the above mentioned GMRS. It’s what is called open. The GMRS is UHF around 460 MHz. You can program in these same channels or frequencies into the 

BaoFeng radio. They are made for police department, fire department and ambulance type use. Some businesses also use them for commercial purposes, hence the name, commercial radio. Some big stores use these frequencies, Wal-Mart, Sam’s, and drive through type restaurants may use these commercial frequencies. But, remember, you need to program these radios, and there are various ways to do this. At this site, if you scroll down you will see a programming cable. It comes with a little disc, you put this in your computer, use the programming cable, and you can program this radio via your computer. This is where you can put in your GMRS frequencies. This is where you can put in the police department, fire department, and VHF/UHF ham radio frequencies. This little radio will work perfectly fine on these ham radio frequencies. Here is a link to a broader explanation about these handheld radios. The good part is, this handheld radio costs about $35.00 to $40.00. It is not a sophisticated radio. It is two channel operation, but you can only listen to one channel at a time. Read the previous posts, and you will get a lot more information. But these little radios work. They cost about the same as the GMRS mentioned above, will do the same job the GMRS does, and a whole lot more.

Word of caution. To operate the GMRS radio mentioned, you are supposed to have a license to do so. I guess some people do, but I’ve never met one that did. To transmit on any ham radio frequency, you will need the appropriate level ham radio license. These ham radio folks are very serious about other folks using radios inappropriately. Police, fire and EMS are also very serious about unauthorized people using the police and fire frequencies. Do not under any circumstances broadcast on any police or fire frequencies. They will find you and they will shut you down. But for the other frequencies, like GMRS, that is your call. These handheld commercial radios can be connected to an exterior antenna, something like a magnet mount on top of your car, that will sharply extend your range. You can find this information mentioned in the previous posts.

Next, we’re going to do a step up to another type of commercial radio. It will require an external antenna, an external power supply, and produces quite a bit more power. These are often used in automobiles, they can be used for home operations. For your home you will need a power supply and an external antenna. For your automobile you can use the same

antenna mentioned above and your car battery for a power supply. They have the same basic features as the handheld, except that you can listen on two channels at the same time, and you have much greater range due to the higher power. These radios also cost more, starting around $300.00, some a little more, some a little less. I would recommend the AnyTone AT-5888UV. The same laws and regulations apply to this radio that applies to the handhelds. For your ham radio operator, they’re sharply cheaper than most dual band ham radios. If you do search and rescue with proper authorization you can use these radios on police, fire, EMS, and you can use them with the ham frequencies if you have a ham radio license. It is legal with proper authorization and with proper licensing.

All the above mentioned radios are either VHF/UHF or just UHF. These are considered line of sight communication devices. If you live in an area that has a ham radio repeater, and you have a ham radio license, you can use the commercial radios. You can use the repeater which is still line of sight, but you broadcast from your radio to the repeater, then it repeats the signal out to other radios. Now to use these radios, as mentioned above, you’ll need an external antenna, and a power supply if you want to operate inside your house. I will provide links to some of these sites

This is a good time to mention safety. Handheld radios as a general rule do not produce enough power to do anyone harm. Your mobile radio, with more power, can. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it. Take a little time and read some of my previous posts about safety and equipment, and most of your questions should be answered there.

Now let’s talk about a little bit longer distance radio communications. The same safety rules apply. This type of radio communication is seldom used with a handheld or mobile radio. It can be, but not very successfully. You will be required to have a ham radio license to transmit on this type of system, but that doesn’t mean you can’t listen. ICOM makes an entry level HF radio, which is a solid, functional High Frequency transmitter and receiver. This radio will also receive all of the shortwave frequencies,

and it will transmit and receive all of the lower band ham frequencies with the proper antenna. You will also need a power supply. But the type of transmitting that I’m going to talk about now is NVIS. Do a Google and check this out. It has a radius of around 300 miles. The military and FEMA use this same type of system. It is a fairly reliable way to transmit and receive, covering a larger area. Again, about a 300 mile radius. You see, ham radio transmissions that bounce off of the atmosphere, some days are reliable and some days aren’t. But this type of system, NVIS, for the most part is reliable. NVIS, check it out. You will need a ham radio license to transmit on any ham radio. I’ve mentioned this type of system in other posts. Please take the time to read them. Follow all safety requirements.

What I’ve tried to put together today is a group of relatively inexpensive radios that are solid performers, and do a more than adequate job. If you need a radio with more bells and whistles, they’re available. If you want basic, reliable communications, what

I’ve given you here is a good start. There may come a day when you want to stay in touch with your friends and family, when normal forms of communication may not be available. I make no profit whatsoever from any radio post, it’s just that God has given me the ability to see what is coming. And if I can share with you, just a little bit, and encourage you to make that step, then maybe you can stay in touch with your loved ones when there are no other means of communication available. Under a very worse case scenario, you might be able to let your Bubba down the road know that something bad is coming his way. And in return, he can do the same for you. This is all just food for thought. 

While you’re at it, please check out the humble CB radio. At this link start at the bottom of the page and you will see four posts dealing with CB radio. There is a lot of very good information there. When things shut down, it will find it’s place again. 

You ask, “Well, how do I power these radios when things have shut down?” Read some of the earlier posts. A solar panel is a real easy way to have radio communications. If you’ve got a little extra jingle in your pocket, read the post about scanners. That’s all they do, and they’re much faster than the scan on your handheld radio. 

Get ready. It gets closer everyday. Now, aren’t you glad you didn’t change to the football channel? This is not a joke boys and girls, and once it hits the fan, it will be too late to prepare.

We’ll talk more later. 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

Radio – Wanna Be a General, Part 2

Hello, Frank here.

Again, I’m sorry for the absence, but now that that’s over, let’s start working on the General. By no means do you have to have your Technician’s license to read the following material. We still live in a relatively free country, so please continue reading. 

With the Technician’s license, you were able to access all frequencies above 30 MHz. If you don’t know what MHz means, then please read back in the previous posts. If there is a new concept that you have not been exposed to yet, I will give that information to you, otherwise, I assume

that you know the basic terms, like MHz. Above 30 MHz includes 6 meter, 2 meter, 440 band and up. Beyond a doubt the most common of these bands is 2 meters. 2 meters is where most repeaters are, and it provides guys with, in some cases, 200 to 300 mile diameter range. In some bigger towns, the 440 band is also very popular, which is called UHF. It has about the same range, 200 to 300 miles, on a good repeater on a tall hill. All of these above 30 MHz are great frequencies for their purpose. In the Technician’s class, I kind of had a little humor with 6 meters, and bouncing off of a meteor, but that information is, or can be, on the Technician’s test. I think it’s kind of silly myself, but if I could ever actually see it done, I think that would be really, really cool. But remember, VHF and UHF, even though they are great frequencies, are limited to line of sight and repeater use, in most cases. 

With the Technician’s license, a portion of the HF bands is also available. Let me clarify. Anything in any of these posts, deals with voice or phone. There is a large CW part of the ham bands, but I only cover the voice part. So, that Technician’s license opens up a piece of the 10 meter HF band: 28.3 to 28.5 MHz. With 10 meter, you can talk about as far as you want to, but the band has to be right, which means, the ionosphere has to be cooperating. When these things are working together, that portion of the 10 meter band will get you anywhere you want to go. That’s kind of a wrap up of the Technician’s license.

With the General license, it opens up a portion, if not all, of the HF bands. If you’ll look at the ICOM chart that I’ve given you before, you’ll see what  

I mean. So, if you think that you have to get the highest license, not at all. A General will get you just about anywhere you want to go. For the benefit of discussion, you know that you don’t have to learn Morse Code for any level of test. Some of the old hams don’t like this, but that’s the way it is. You do not have to learn Morse Code. So, if you meet some ham radio operators that believe that the quality of amateur radio has been lessened by removing the Morse Code requirement, these guys just need to get over it and put on their big girl panties.

Another topic here. If you do want to bounce a signal off of a meteor, or you want to contest, or you want to do Morse Code or CW, then I’m not going to be able to help you. My intention is to get people in the door of ham radio. Nothing wrong with the things mentioned above, if that is what you want to do, that is wonderful. My intent is to get people prepared for what is eventually going to get here. I use ham radio to communicate, to listen, to know what’s going on, not only in the world, but in my own neighborhood. Don’t forget, if you have an HF ham radio, then you have a first class shortwave radio. Shortwave just operates on a different group of frequencies. There may come a day in the future where we are looking at a type of survival mode. Just use your imagination for what’s going on right now in the Ukraine, a country torn between being east or being west. A modern nation, very 

modern. We’re going to have to wait and see how this one plays out. But these things happen very quickly and the last time I read, there were Russian troops, equipment, planes and helicopters heading into their country. This morning on the HF bands there were multiple contacts coming out of Ukraine. There are all different reasons to have your General license. One reason is just to be able to listen to what’s happening in the world. Like you’ve heard me teach before, a solar panel, the associated equipment, an appropriate battery, whatever ham radio you choose, and associated equipment, and if the lights go out, you can still know what’s going on around the world and your local environment. With some other pieces of associated equipment, you can talk to your buddy down the street.

So, let’s get started on the Romanchik manual, No Nonsense Study Guide, General License. Okay, there are about five pages of the table of contents, a couple of pages of recognition, and let’s do a brief review of how the manual works. On page 4 it starts off with electrical principles. In the first full paragraph it talks about the Ohm and it says, “Ohm is the unit used to measure reactance. (G5A09)” What you have here is the question and the answer. Ohm is the answer. G5A09 is the section and number, because these questions are grouped into specific categories. This is the same as it was for your Technician. Each question

is multiple choice, with four possible answers. So this should look very familiar to you. Even if you don’t use this manual, and you use one of the online practice tests, this is still the same question, with the same answer and the same categorical system, G5A09. 

When I studied for my Technician’s test, as I’ve said before, I used the Romanchik Technician manual, which is free, by the way, and the QRZ.com practice tests, which are also free. When I was preparing for my General test, I did not use the Romanchik manual and I did not use QRZ online, but instead, I used HamTestOnline, which is a paid service. The reason I used the paid version of HamTestOnline, is because I need all the help I can get, and it worked for me. It worked quite well. But I also have a friend that used QRZ.com, which is free, for his Technician and General. So, it just depends on what you want to do. If and when I ever pursue my Extra license, I will use the paid version of HamTestOnline. 

On a side note, you don’t learn everything you really need to know by taking these online tests, whether free or paid. So I bought the ARRL manuals for all three levels, Technician, General and Extra. I use these

as reference material. But remember, there are some things that you’re just not going to learn about operating your radio successfully unless you do a little bit more independent study. A quick example. “The gray line.” What is it? How important is it? What does it do? The reason I mentioned this particular item is that I did not see or hear the term during my Technician or General studies. I learned what it was while reading through shortwave material. So, you want to know what it is? Look it up. So don’t think that what you’re going to pick up here is going to teach you everything you need to know, it just won’t do it.

Okay, on this introduction to electrical principles you see a couple of formulas. If you want to build a radio, then these are very important. If not, then memorize these questions and answers because you will never see this again. Now there are some things that you don’t need to know the exact answer, but you do need to understand the principle of how it works.

Another example. A 10 meter radio. Okay, think 10 meters, for the benefit of teaching, a meter is a little bit longer than a yard. So, 10 meters is about 30 feet. Half of 10 meters is, therefore, about 15 feet, and one quarter of 10 meters is about 7.5 feet. Okay, so, you have a 10 meter wave. A quarter of that wave is 7.5 feet. If your cell phone used the 10 meter frequency and had a quarter wave antenna, then your cell phone, if it were 10 meter, would have a 7.5 foot antenna. This is probably not cool. But, since your cell phone is around 900 MHz, then your antenna is significantly shorter. So, you need to have the basic idea of how things function. The higher the frequency the shorter the antenna, the lower the frequency the longer the antenna. We’ll talk much more about that later, but you need to understand the concept. That’s why, if you’re going to memorize an answer, try to have a basic idea of what it means. And if it still doesn’t click in for you, then just plain old memorize the answer.

Okay, let’s continue. As I mentioned earlier, we’re going to go through this General study guide much quicker, because at this stage you should have a functioning knowledge of terminology and how most things work. I’m on page 6 now. Here’s a couple more formulas. You will see this information on the test. But after the test is over, you will not use it again. There are two formulas that you need to know. E = I x R, and P = E x I. You will find in many manuals that E and V are used interchangeably. They both mean voltage. Okee-dokee?

The first part of these manuals always start out with the formulas. And for some people this is a real turn off and they quit. If formulas are not your cup of tea and you don’t ever plan on building a radio, don’t worry about it. Memorize the answers. Ham radio now days is very similar to a plug and

play type system. There are some things you need to know. But these formulas are not one of them. Have I mentioned safety yet? If you don’t know what you’re doing, DON’T DO IT! But, you say, “You just told me I don’t need to know what these formulas mean.” And that’s true, you don’t need to know what these formulas mean. But you do need to know basic safety and 90% of safety is common sense. Example. Don’t stand in a bathtub full of water and change an electric light bulb. Some people would consider that to be stupid. That’s what I mean by safety and common sense.

Okay, I’m on page 8. More stuff to memorize. But it is nice to know that if you put batteries in series you increase the voltage. If you put batteries in parallel, the voltage stays the same and you increase your amperage. Yes, the General test is a little bit more complicated than the Technician, but not a great deal.


Okay, I’m up to page 10. A little reminder here. If you see an answer that says, “All of these choices are correct.” and you don’t have a clue what the answer is, if I were you I would guess, “All of these choices are correct.” That tends to be the answer more often than not, but not in every case.

 
Okay, we’re going to quit here today. We’ll pick up next time on page 11 of Romanchik. But you need to remember, that with VHF and UHF, your chances of doing damage through RF is possible, but not a major concern. When you get into the HF frequencies, you generally start running more power. Your average HF radio puts out about about 100 watts of power, 

and with an amplifier, a whole lot more power. This is where you can start doing damage. If your radio is operating right, your coax cable is in good shape, your antenna is of proper size to handle the power and your equipment is grounded, then in most cases, you’re good to go. So, that’s why I will stress safety a whole lot more in this section. Yes, there are some people saying, “But you can do damage with VHF and UHF.” Yes, you can. But, an example here. 40 to 50 watts of power will not do near the damage of 500 watts of power. All of these utility work vehicles, police cars, ambulances use 25 to 50 watts of power on average, and their antennas are any where from 2 to 5 feet away, and this is a standard practice. If it were dangerous, then we would have a whole lot more injured people. So, be concerned and study up, and know what you’re doing. Take safety very seriously.

I hope you enjoy this series. I will try to use some down home type humor, but I cannot stress the importance of communications enough. There are bad things going on around the world. Modern countries like ours are in the process of collapsing, and folks, if you don’t think it can’t happen here, then you are not paying attention. If you think that communications is something that you might want to do, if you start studying today, by whatever means  

you chose, you can have your Technician and General license within a month. I will give you radio and antenna recommendations, but it will be the Chevrolet version and not the Cadillac version. An HF radio makes an excellent shortwave receiver. Same radio, same antenna, same power supply and you can listen to the world, and if you choose, you can also talk to them. The Chevrolet version will do the job, but if you like Cadillacs, they will do the job too. Remember, it’s all about choices. There’s nothing wrong with a Cadillac. Let’s get it done.


We’ll talk more later. 73, 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 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