CQ de what? Welcome to the geeky world of ham radio 🙂 A short introduction to a technical hobby!
What is ham radio?
Ham radio is a technical hobby and it is all about international friendship and the experimental use of radio technologies. Nowadays it sounds a bit outdated because you can easily chat with anybody from the other side of the globe. Imagine the 60s when this was a lot more complicated. Today, as it was back in time, it is a pleasure to find solutions to technical challenges or questions. Some examples:
- How can you establish contact with somebody without local infrastructure?
- Can you talk with an astronaut of the International Space Station?
- Can you use the moon as a reflector for your radio signals?
The later one sounds fancy and you could compare it with episode S03E23 of The Big Bang Theory (“The Lunar Excitation”). Sheldon & Co used the moon as a reflector for a laser beam. There is no real commercial use in it but, admit it, it sounds like a lot fun 🙂
If you want to call yourself a ham radio operator, you have to take an official exam and apply for an call sign. So DO2MAS – or in the spoken form of the international alphabet Delta Oscar Two Mike Alpha Sierra – is me and my unique call.
Being “on air” requires some equipment. While most operators have a stationary rack, I built up a portable system:
- Short-wave radio Xiegu X108G Outdoor Version ([↳] cqxiegu.com)
- Sotabeams The Band Hopper 2 ([↳] sotabeams.co.uk
- Fibreglass pole 10m ([↳] dx-wire.de)
As a power source, I use a lead-acid battery (12V, 2.3Ah) and I consider switching to a Li-Ion battery because of its higher energy density.
The photo shows the boxed equipment in my living room. Stay tuned to read another post of my first day out with the radio! From the left to the right: Radio&Mic (1), fibreglass pole (3), antenna (2) and battery.
DXing or (long) distance contacts
In the ham radio jargon, “DXing” means distance contacts. Longer distances require a little help from the weather and solar activities. I know, this sounds funny, so let me explain why.
The electromagnetic waves (short wave, e.g. 14MHz) can get reflected by the atmosphere. This happens for certain frequencies during the day when the sun light is ionising parts of the atmosphere, the so-called “E layer” of the ionosphere at around 85km altitude. Websites like [↳] DX Propagation on dr2w.de show this effect in a visual way. The map shows an exemplary station in the middle of Europe. While you could not reach parts of the world marked in blue, you have good chances to hear somebody from other regions highlighted in yellow or red:
This was my introduction post to the topic of “Ham Radio” and I hope it was an interesting one.
I will keep you up-to-date and share some photos next time.