Ham Radio Guide for Beginners – (Ham Radio Basics, License and Accessories)

Kenwood TS440 Amateur HF Transceiver

You might love your smartphone so much and play all the cool mobile games loaded into it but for a ham radio enthusiast, there is nothing more cool than having your own base station.

So if you want to start your own adventure into the world of ham radio, this one is a simple yet comprehensive ham radio guide for you.

What is a Ham Radio?

Ham radio is the popular word used to call for amateur radio. Why ham?

Hint: It has nothing to do with the delicious meaty food. I’m getting hungry. 🙂

There are so many legend but one of the stories says that ham comes from the adjective  “ham-fisted” which means awkward or clumsy. It goes all the way back to some amateur guys who were working as low skill Morse code operators who were called as ham operators. And later on, amateur radio operators were called ham radio operators.

Amateur Radio Tutorial

But don’t be fooled by the word amateur.

A ham radio transmits around 1,500 Watts with its tall towering antennas. This power is huge enough to cause interference in other communication devices. If you are not careful working with your transmitter, you can electrocute yourself due to large power circuits.

You can’t operate a ham radio without a license from FCC.  You need to pass a licensure exam which requires proficiency and knowledge of radio theory, rules and regulations, and safety

What is a CB Radio (Citizen Band Radio)?

The best way to know what is the CB radio is to compare it with Ham radio. Both of them might be appealing to amateurs but there is a big difference between ham radio and CB radio.

You can use a Citizen Band radio without any license but you need a license from FCC to operate a ham radio.

While ham radio has ARRL (American Radio Relay League), citizen band radio has no national or international organization. Its members do not self police.

CB has only 40 channels while amateur ham radio has thousands of possible frequencies across numerous frequency bands. CB radio has limited power of just 5 watts while ham radio has as high as 1,500 watts.

Due to limited power, citizen band will allow you to contact someone close within line of sight. But Ham radio  allows you to contact people from other parts of the world. Amateur radio has power of about 1,500 watts and it uses communication booster like repeaters, IRLP, echolink and satellite.

What are the Uses of Ham Radio?

What are the benefits of ham radio and why people find ham radio fascinating?

You might think that with the current technology we have like smartphone, there is no use for ham radio. Well sure we have internet, Skype, viber and facebook messenger.

Below  are some of the reasons why people STILL love ham radio even up to this point:

  1. Hobby – When you make a successful call to other part of the world using a smartphone, viber or internet, it’s not a big deal. But when you are able to contact another ham radio operator thousand of kilometers away using the amateur radio transmitter that you have built, that’s simply awesome! It brings a feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction.
  2. Knowledge – Being an amateur radio operator requires you to learn the basics of ohms law, power law, decibels, transmission theory and electronics.
  3. Lifeline During Disaster – In the event of disaster like hurricane, the strong wind could take down cellphone towers and communication cable. You might expect as well that there would be no electricity. The good thing about ham radio is that the infrastructure is simple. You can also operate it with a battery or solar cell. Here is a real life story of how ham radio operators help in the rescue during hurricane Katrina
  4. Community – Ham radio clubs is a great opportunity to meet new buddies and form new friendship.  You get to share stories, knowledge and experiences. Ham radio communities thrive in volunteerism, mentorship and camaraderie.

What is Amateur Radio Code of Conduct?

Amateur Radio code of conduct was written by Paul M. Segal with a call sign of  W9EEA in 1928. You can find the copy at ARRL.

The Radio Amateur is:

CONSIDERATE never knowingly operating in such a way as to lessen the pleasure of others.

LOYAL offering loyalty, encouragement and support to other amateurs, local clubs and the American Radio Relay League, through which Amateur Radio in the United States is represented nationally and internationally.

PROGRESSIVE with knowledge abreast of science, a well built and efficient station, and operation beyond reproach.

FRIENDLY with slow and patient operation when requested, friendly advice and counsel to the beginner, kindly assistance, co-operation and consideration for the interests of others. These are the hallmarks of the amateur spirit.

BALANCED Radio is an avocation, never interfering with duties owed to family, job, school or community.

PATRIOTIC with station and skill always ready for service to country and community.

How to Get Ham Radio License?

Ever see a sign no ID, no entry? Then with ham radio, no license, no ham radio.

Getting a ham radio license is one of the stumbling blocks for those who want to start as ham radio operators.

Why FCC requires you to have a license before you can use ham radio?

  • It the same reason why drivers are required to have a driver’s license. A vehicle in the hands of an unskilled driver could lead to fatal accidents that result to lose of life and damage to property.
  • An unskilled and unlicensed Ham Radio operator can cause signal interference in other important communication systems. It can also lead to possible injuries and damage to property if you don’t know how to handle high voltage and high power electronic circuits – your radio transmitter.
  • Note: You don’t need a license to buy ham radio equipment or to listen to ham radio channel for transmission. You will need it when you start broadcasting and transmitting through your ham radio.

By the way, Here is a nice video from TitHatRanch

Getting Your Ham License

3 Kinds of Ham Radio License

Technician license

  • This is the first entry level among the three ham radio licenses
  • Technician license allows you to use bandwidth at 50Mhz and above
  • It also allows you to transmit voice at the 10 – meter band (28 to 29.7Mhz)
  • It also allows you to transmit CW (continuous wave)  Morse code below 30 Mhz
  • It allows you to operate at full power (1,500 Watts)
  • Technician license test has 35 multiple-choice questions.  Passing score is 26 out of 35.

General license

  • All the privileges of  Technician license plus all the other frequencies off limits to technician
  • General license allows you to use nearly all amateur frequencies, with only small portions of some HF bands remaining off limits.
  • This test has also 35 questions. Topics are covered in more details. Passing score is still 26 out of 35 questions.
  • Pre-requisite: You need to pass technician license exam.

Extra license

  • All general privileges plus access to several HF bands that are exclusive for Amateur Extra class
  • Channel is where the expert Morse code operators hang out
  • Extra license exam is consists of 50 multiple-choice questions. Passing score is 37 out of 50.

FAQ –  Getting Your Ham Radio License

Can you get license online?

No. You can prepare for the exam online for free. But you need to go to the examination venue near you. In the US, Volunteer Examiners (VE) report to one of several Volunteer Exam Coordinators (VEC).  One of the responsibilities of VECs is to ensure the integrity of testing sessions.  Each exam session must have at least 3 VEs.

How do I review and repare for Ham Radio license exam?

You can visit the following sites to get more information and to review:

You can also check out some of useful books for review:
ARRL manual
Pass Amateur Radio test

Ham Radio Equipment for Beginners

Getting started in ham radio can be a bit overwhelming. But with planning, you will be able to setup your own ham radio station in such a short time.

Your best resource is a knowledgeable ham radio friend. Better yet, group of knowledgeable friends.  Joining a local ham radio club is a smart move You can find local clubs via the ARRL.

You’ll be able to find helpful Elmers (ham radio mentors) who would be willing to teach you more about ham radio or they might even allow you to use their radio so you will be able to try different models before getting your own.

The first thing you need to decide is where to put up your ham radio station also known as radio shack or ham shack. This is where you place your equipment, antenna, power supply and where you will spend most of your time as you get on your ham.

You can have the ham shack in your home, in your vehicle or even make it portable on a backpack.

Home Shacks Ham Radio Station

Ham Radio Car Antenna

The second thing you need to have is your own radio. Your first radio doesn’t have to be new. There are many older transceivers that have years of useful service left in them. These transceivers (hams call them “rigs”) are often available for sale online.

Types of Ham Radio:

  1. Base or Fixed Radio – Very powerful radio usually used in your home shacks
  2. Mobile Radio – Radio used and installed in vehicles
  3. Portable radio – Radios on a backpack or something like that
  4. Handheld radio – Carried by hand

Different radio frequency bands

  1. HF radio – ham radio operating on High Frequency (3 Mhz to 30 Mhz)
  2. VHF / UHF radio – ham radio operating on Very high and ultra high frequency (30 Mhz to 3 Ghz)

You might want to start with having a HF (High Frequency) radio. HF or shortwave radios operate on the HF bands, which are under 30 MHz. All current HF radios are perfectly acceptable in transmitting and receiving on the HF bands.Basic HF radios are great for novice hams as they are relatively simple to use.

Kenwood TS440 Amateur HF Transceiver

VHF/UHF radios are becoming less necessary in recent years as many HF radios include VHF/UHF bands, some up to 1200 MHz. However, VHF/UHF radios can offer their own unique features, such as the ability to more easily use satellites for transmissions. Some VHF/UHF radios are even GPS enabled to make using the Automatic Position Reporting System (APRS) even easier.

Maritime VHF Sailor Radio

In summary, your ham radio setup will depend on how much budget you have and what do you want to get out of ham radio. You don’t need to buy them all the same time. You can spread out your purchases.

Here is a cool video from Michael giving you tips on buying your first amateur radio.

Tips on Buying Your First Amateur Radio

Ham Radio Accessories


Ham Radio Microphone

One of the radio accessories that you would need is a microphones.  Most radios come with hand microphones but you may wish to upgrade and get a better quality microphone.

You might to use a headset that combines headphones with a boom microphone positioned in front of the ham’s mouth. Note that some microphones are designed to work with higher frequencies while others are not.

Morse Code Key

Ham Radio Morse Code Key

Key is a mechanism used in Morse code communication that  produces a sound when you press the lever. Later on this tutorial, you will understand more what is a Morse code and how to communicate via Morse code.

For now, just remember that you need a Ham radio key for Morse code communication.

Ham Radio Battery

The power of ham radio is in its simplicity.  Ham radio equipment can be the last communication standing during major disasters because it is easy to install and it can run on batteries.

So which battery to use for your ham radio?

Types of Batteries and Your Ham Radio

Lead Zinc

Do not use the standard lead-zinc batteries. These batteries don’t last long and they could not deliver the current needed for the ham radio to work.

However, if that is all the battery you have, you can use them. You can connect them in series-parallel connection to get the correct voltage and to have higher current capacity.

Also lower your power consumption by keeping your transmission as hort possible. Remember, transmitting consumes as much as four times power than when you are receiving.

You can’t recharge these batteries. These batteries were not designed to be recharged. Once the electrolyte is used up, it changes to a different chemical composition which can not be broken back down to its original state.


Alkaline Battery Ham Radio

These are much better to use than the lead-zinc batteries. Alkaline have better current capabilities. Alkaline batteries can handle 2 to 3 Watts output. If you need more, you need another kind of battery. They have a wonderful shelf life which makes it ideal to be stored in a corner for times of emergency. Just store them in a cool storage place so that it can last up to 2.5 years.

Nickel Cadmium (NiCd)

Nickel Cadmium Battery

These are mature technology with longer use life, high discharge rate and reasonable price. But it you need to store it in a corner for future emergencies, it does not have a good shelf life. They can have a shelf life of about one month only.

But this type of battery can handle the instantaneous current demands of high-powered transmision. These are also rechargeable batteries.

To extend the life of a battery pack you need to disassemble it and recharge each cell individually a few times every year.

NiCd packs contains individual cells with different discharge/recharge characteristics. Eventually the weakest cell is forced into reverse charging for extended periods. This destroys the electrolyte of the weakest cell which ultimately damage the whole nickel cadmium pack.

Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH)

Nickel Metal Hydride Battery

A nickel–metal hydride battery is another type of rechargeable battery. The chemical reaction at the positive electrode is similar to that of the nickel–cadmium cell (NiCd) which uses nickel oxide hydroxide (NiOOH). However, the negative electrodes use a hydrogen-absorbing alloy instead of cadmium.

A NiMH battery can have two to three times the capacity of an equivalent size NiCd, and its energy density can approach that of a lithium-ion battery.

Power density is the term used to measure the amount of power it can produce for a given size or volume. But NiMH has lower peak output current than NiCd because of higher internal resistance.

Gel Cell/Lead Acid


Lead Acid Battery
Lead Acid Battery
Deep Cycle Gel Battery
Deep Cycle Gel Battery

These batteries are so much alike with just few differences. The Gel version can’t supply the level of instantaneous current that the liquid version can.
But the liquid version is more dangerous with a highly corrosive acid as electrolyte.

These batteries come in two types: “deep discharge” (also known as marine) and “starting” type. The starting battery is the one we have in our cars. Turning car key “ON” to start the car engine requires very high instantaneous current. It needs a current as high as 40A at 12V. That’s around 480 Watts of power. Starting type is perfectly designed for that.

On the other hand, deep cycle batteries are the ones we need for ham radio operations. These batteries were designed to deliver the most power at the longest time. Most 100 watt ham radio requires around 11 volts to operate well. Deep cycle battery are designed to handle that for a long period of time.


As with radios, choosing the right antenna is also a crucial decision. A great radio will be literally useless if you don’t have a good antenna design.

Most HF antennas are large and can be up to 33 feet tall or higher.

Higher frequency communication requires shorter antenna since higher frequency have shorter wavelength and therefore requires shorter antenna to transmit and receive.

Simple dipole HF antennas

Simple Dipole Antenna

It is an antenna that is cut in the middle where it attaches to a feed line. The feed line runs from the antenna to the transmitter, and is a coaxial cable in this case. The wire antennas maintain a fixed orientation.

Vertical Antenna


Another popular HF antenna is the vertical antenna. These are antennas that stood vertically with respect to the ground. Depending on the wavelength, some vertical antennas require a ground screen, which is simply a series of wires that radiate from the base of the antenna and lay on the ground.

But unlike the dipole antennas, verticals are omni-directional which means that your ham radio signal is radiating in all directions simultaneously.

Beam Antenna

A third type of HF antenna is the beam antenna. Beam antennas have several elements (those parallel parts) that reflect and direct energy all your signal in a specific directions.

The front part is usually called the director and the array of elements at the back are called reflectors.

These antennas come in multiple shapes and sizes with a few wires or a whole series of tubing.

Since beam antennas point to specific direction, they usually have the ability to turn or rotate in order to search the best signal location

For VHF/UHF transmissions, verticals or beams are most common. Verticals are almost the exclusive choice for FM operation, and beams are quite common for VHF/UHF DX-ing on SBB and CW signals.

Ham Radio Q Code

Ham Radio Q Codes are 3 – letter words that starts with Q. These are  internationally agreed codes with corresponding information.

Q Code is like a short hand or a shortcut that help ham radio users to convey information with just 3 letters. Q code can be used both a statement or as a question.

Below are some of the most commonly recognized and popular Ham Radio Q Codes.

Statement  Question
QRA My name or my call sign is ….. What is your name or call sign?
QRB The distance between our stations in km is ….. How far are you from my station in km?
QRG Your frequency in KHz  ….. What is your frequency in kHz?
QRI The tone of your transmission is (1: good, 2: variable 3: bad) How is my transmission signal?
QRL I am busy. Do not disturb. Are you busy?
QRN I am bothered by by static noise. Are you experiencing static noise?
QRO Increase transmit power Do you want me to increase transmit power?
QRP Decrease transmit power Do you want me to decrease transmit power?
QRQ Send faster Do you want me to send faster?
QRS Send more slowly Do you want me to send more slower?
QRT Stopping or aborting my operation Do you want me to suspend my operation?
QRV I am ready Are you ready?
QRX I will call you again …. When will you call again?
QRZ You are being called by … on … kHz Who is calling me?
QSA The strength of your signals is (1 to 5) (1 for very weak and 5 for very strong). What is the strength of my signal?
QSB Your signal is fading. Is my signal fading?
QSM Repeat the last message you sent me Shall I repeat the last message I sent you?
QSN I hear you on … kHz. Did you hear me on … kHz?
QSS I will use … kHz What frequency will you use?
QSX I am listening on … kHz Will you listen on … kHz?
QSY Please change transmission frequency to … kHz Shall I change transmission frequency to … kHz?

Ham Radio and Morse Code

Few years ago, you need to learn how to send and receive Morse code in order to avail the license for the Ham Radio. A technician ham radio license requires that you can send Morse code at speed of 5 words per minute.

General or Advanced class amateur radio license would require 13 words per minute. Extra license would require 20 words per minute.

However, in 1991 the Morse code requirement was eliminated from Technician license requirement. In 2000, it was reduced to 5 words per minute for all classes that still required code. In 2007, Morse code requirement was eliminated entirely.

But even though Morse code is not part of license requirement, there are still many Ham Radio Hobbyist who uses Morse code.

Morse code was invented by Samuel Morse. It is one of the simplest form of communications which is composed of short signal (dot) and long signal (dash). Also called in amateur radio as “dits” and “dahs”.

Below is the list of international Morse Code.

Morse Code and Ham Radio

The length of the dot is one unit. The length of the dash is three units. The space between parts of the same letter is one unit.
The space between letters is 3 units. The space between words is 7 units.

Learn Morse Code in One Hour Using the G System

Mr. G is simply awesome. If you take time to watch this Morse code system, you can master it in a very short time.

The G system is visual mnemonics based on the shapes of the alphabets to help you remember the correct Morse code for each English alphabet.

One of the simplest and easiest to remember is the Morse code message SOS. S is composed of 3 dots. O is composed of 3 dashes.
S (…) O (—) S (…)

Understanding Ham Radio Jargon, Lingo and Abbreviations

Access Code – A code to activate a repeater usually composed of One or more numbers / symbols

AC to DC adapter – A device used as power supply that converts AC voltage to DC voltage. Cellphone charges are one example of AC to DC adapter. Its input is the AC voltage from your outlet. Its output is a DC voltage usually 3V to 12V depending on the circuit design.

Ammeter – An instrument used to measure a current. It is inserted in series of the circuit path where you want to measure the current.

Ampere (A) – The basic unit of electrical current named after André-Marie Ampère. Current is the measure of the amount of electron flowing through a circuit. The higher the Ampere, the more electron is flowing and the hotter the wire is.

Amplitude modulation (AM) – A method of sending a signal information via a high Radio Frequency (RF) signal known as carrier frequency. The amplitude of the carrier frequency is varied to imprint the signal on the carrier frequency.

Amplitude Modulation Signal

Antenna – A device that sends out and picks up radio frequency signal. For the antenna to work, it needs to have at least a length of 1/4 of the wavelength of the carrier signal. Wavelength is computed as speed of light divided by frequency of signal. Most common type of antenna are dipole antenna, vertical antenna and beam antenna.

Antenna switch – A switch that allows you to select what antenna to use. It connect one transmitter, receiver or transceiver to any of your several antennas.

Antenna tuner – A device that matches your antenna impedance to the impedance of your transceiver device. It is also called an antenna-matching network, impedance-matching network, Transmatch, matchbox, antenna tuning unit (ATU), antenna coupler or feedline coupler. To have a maximum power transfer, your transceiver output impedance needs to perfectly match the input impedance of your antenna. Any impedance mismatch could lead to RF signal reflection which could damage your transceiver.

Antenna Tuner

Automatic Gain Control (AGC) – It is a circuit on your Ham Radio receiver which automatically adjust the sensitivity of your radio based on the strength of the incoming signal. If the signal is weak, AGC will increase the sensitivity. If the signal is strong, AGC will lessen the sensitivity.

Automatic Level Control (ALC) – A feedback mechanism in the transmitter output amplifier used to prevent amplifier from overloading.

Autopatch – A device that allows a repeater or a base station to make telephone calls. Autopatch is sometimes called a phone patch.

Balanced line: A feed line with two conductors having equal but opposite voltages, with neither conductor at ground potential (0 V). Example of balanced line are twisted pair or twin lead. Twin lead has impedance of 300 ohms. Twin pair has a variable impedance depending of the size of the wires and their distance from one another.

twin lead feedline antenna

Balun – A contracted term for Balance to Unbalance. This device (transformer) is used to connect balanced line to unbalance line and vice versa. For example, you can use it to connect a dipole antenna to coaxial feed line.

Base Station – a radio station located at a fixed location as opposed to a mobile station or portable handheld devices. Fixed permanent base stations are usually located in homes while temporary based station can be installed on camps.

Barefoot – A ham lingo for transmitting a signal using a transceiver alone without any linear amplifier to boost your signal.

Battery – A device that converts chemical energy into electrical energy that gives a constant voltage output regardless of the load. These are best used to power your ham radio during emergencies in the absense of electricity.

Beam antenna – An antenna composed of parallel elements known as reflectors and leading element known as director. It is designed to propagate and receive signal on a specific direction. It is usually designed to allow rotation to be able to point to desired direction. The most popular type of beam antenna is the Yagi Uda Antenna.

Bird – Ham jargon for satellite

Bleed over- An interference caused by ham radio station operating on an adjacent frequency channel

Bleeder resistor – These are resistors used to discharge filter capacitors when the power supply is turned off. At power off, One end of the bleeder resistor is connected to the filter capacitor while the other end is connected to the ground. This forces the stored charge in the capacitor to flow out into the bleeder resistor going to the ground.

Boat anchor – A term used to call antique ham equipment

Bootlegger – Somebody who pretends to be a ham and goes live on air without a ham license making up a fictitious call sign. Being a bootlegger is illegal. Always remember that you need a license and assigned call sign to go live on air with your ham radio.

Call sign – Series of unique letters and numbers assigned to a person who has earned an Amateur Radio license. Your call sign is unique and allows people to identify your geographical location (country).

Capacitance – A measure of the ability of a capacitor to store energy in an electric field. The unit is in Farad.

Capacitor – An electrical component formed by two separated conductive plates with an insulator in between. Capacitor stores electric field. It blocks DC and allows AC to pass. It is often used as a filter for power supply. Due to its ability to store electric field, it opposes the change of voltage in a circuit.


Closed repeater – A repeater that can only be used by those with Access code.

Coaxial cable – It is a type of antenna feed line with a conductor wire in the center and a grounded shield on the outside. It is an example of an unbalanced line with an typical impedance of 75 ohms.

Coaxial Cable

Continuous wave (CW)- Another term for Morse code

CQ – It means “calling any station”. It is a code used by ham to check if there are any hams on the frequency channel. It is like saying, “hello, anybody on the line?”.

Dip meter – It is also called grid dip oscillator (GDO), grid dip meter or just dipper. It is used to measure the resonant frequency of a radio frequency circuits. The heart of the dip meter is an LC (inductor and capacitor) circuit. Resonant frequency is the frequencies at which the response of circuit is at relative maximum. For example your antenna is tuned to have a resonant frequency of 30 MHz. Your circuit will have its best reception with signals transmitted at 30 Mhz carrier frequency.

Direct current (dc) – Electrical current that flows in one direction only. Example of DC is battery. The positive side is always positive voltage and the negative side is always negative voltage.

Double-pole, double-throw (DPDT) switch – It is a switch that has six contacts. The DPDT switch has two center contacts. The two center contacts can each be connected to one of two other contacts.

Double-pole, single-throw (DPST) switch – It is a switch that connects two contacts to another set of contacts. A DPST switch turns two circuits on or off at the same time.

Elmer – A ham lingo for an individual who acts as an advisor or mentor to a newly licensed amateur. You can find many elmers in your local ham radio clubs.

Feed line – The wires or cable that are used to connect a transmitter, receiver or transceiver to an antenna. The most usual feedline are coaxial and twin leads.

Filter – A circuit that will allow some signals to pass through it but will greatly reduce the strength of others. High pass filter allows high frequency signal to pass but blocks DC signal. Low pass filter allows DC to pass and block high frequency signals.

Frequency – The number of complete cycles of an alternating current that occur per second. The unit for frequency is Hertz (Hz). 1 Hertz is one cycle per second.

Frequency modulated (FM) – A method of sending a signal information via a high Radio Frequency (RF) signal known as carrier frequency. The frequency of the carrier frequency is varied to imprint the signal on the carrier frequency.

Frequency Modulation Signal

Front-end overload – A condition of circuit overload at the receiver caused by strong incoming signal. This is an electrical condition where the output of the receiver RF amplifier is much bigger than its power supply causing distortion to the signal.

Fuse – A thin metal strip inside a glass tubing added in your gadgets or electronic circuit to protect them during overload. During the circuit overload, the very high current would melt the metal inside the fuse. The fuse is designed to blow out first and open the circuit connection to protect your device or circuit during overload.


Ham – A licensed Amateur Radio operator

Hertz (Hz) – A unit of frequency which means cycle per second. For example: 100 Hertz means 100 cycles per second.

High-pass filter – A filter designed to pass high-frequency signals, while blocking lower-frequency signals.

Homebrew – A term used for home made and non – commercial radio equipment sort of a DIY kit.

Impedance – The measure of opposition to electric current in a circuit for a given operating frequency. Capacitors and inductors have different impedance values on different frequencies. Capacitors have very high impedance at DC and very low impedance at very high freuencies. Inductors have very low impedance at DC and very high impedance at very high frequencies.

Impedance-matching device – A device used to match two different part of circuits with different impedance. It is also called transmatch or antenna tuner.

Inductance – A measure of the ability of a coil to store energy in a magnetic field. The unit of inductance is Henry (H)

Inductor – An electrical component usually composed of a coil of wire wound on a central core which stores energy in a magnetic field. Due to its energy storing capability, inductor tend to oppose the change in current in the circuit.

Input frequency – It is the frequency of the signal received by the repeater.

Insulator – A material that does not conduct electricity. Example: Air, wood, glass, plastic and other non-metalic materials.

Key – In Ham radio, it is a device used to transmit Morse Code. It is sometimes called paddle.

Morse Code Key

Line-of-sight propagation – The term used to describe VHF and UHF propagation in a straight line directly from one station to another. In line of sight propagation, it is important that the transmitting antenna and receiving antenna “sees” each other. Any buildings or structure that prevents transmitter and receiver to see each other will degrade the ongoing communication between two stations.

Making the Trip – A ham jargon which means “transmitted the message successfully”

Negative copy – A ham jargon which means “unsuccessful transmission”

Negative offset – the condition where the input frequency of the repeater is lower than the output frequency.

Ohm – The basic unit of electrical resistance. Resistance is the amount of opposition to current at DC.

Ohm’s Law – A very basic law of electronics which states the relationship between voltage, current and resistance. See video below to understand Ohm’s law.

Open repeater – A repeater that can be used by anyone. It is open for all hams to use.

Oscillator – An electronic circuit used to create a sine wave with a given frequency. It usually uses a crytal to generate a very consistent sine wave signal.

Output frequency – The frequency of the signal transmitted by the repeater.

Peak envelope power (PEP) — The average power of a signal at its largest amplitude peak.

Pirate – A ham term for station who uses an existing call sign of somebody else and who illegally operates on the air without license

Potentiometer – Another name for a variable resistor. The value of resistance of a potentiometer changes as you move the wiper arm from end to end.

Power – It is the rate of of energy consumption computed by multiplying voltage with current. The other two ways to compute for power are multiply the square of current with resistance or divide the square of voltage with resistance

Power supply – A circuit used to provide dc voltage to your devices. It could be a battery or it could be an AC to DC adapter.

Q Code / Q signals – It is a combination of three-letter word that starts with letter Q. It saves time when used for Morse Code communication as you can transmit a sentence using 3 letters.

Radio-frequency interference (RFI) – Disturbance on electronic equipment or gadgets caused by radio-frequency signals

Repeater station – An amateur ham radio station that automatically re transmits the received signals of other stations. Repeater station were created to extend the reach of radio transmission.

Resistance – The ability of a material to oppose an electric current. Its unit of measurement is in Ohms.

Resistor – Any material that exhibits resistance in an electrical circuit. Resistors are usually used in the circuit to limit the flow of current.

Resonant frequency – The desired operating frequency of a tuned circuit (LC or RC circuits). In an antenna, the resonant frequency is the frequency where the feed-point impedance contains only resistance as the impedance of capacitor and impedance of inductor cancels each other.

RF burn – A burn produced by coming in contact with exposed RF voltages

RF carrier frequency – A high frequency signal that carries the information signal for transmission.

RF overload – Another term for receiver overload

Roger – A ham jargon which means “I understand or I got it”

Rig – Ham term for the radio you use to transmit and receive signal

Safety interlock – A safety feature of a device usuall a switch) that automatically turns off the power of the piece of equipment when the cover is removed.

Schematic symbol – A drawing / symbol used to represent a circuit component on an electronic wiring diagram.

Schematic Symbols

Selectivity – The ability of a receiver to separate two signals with very close frequencies

Sensitivity – The ability of a receiver to detect any weak signals. Automatic Gain control are usually included in the circuit to adjust sensitivy. When signal is weak, AGC increases sensitiviy. When the signal is strong, AGC decreases sensitivity.

Shack – The place where you install, keep and use your ham radio station equipment.

Short circuit – An electrical condition where a certain part of the circuit is directly connected to the groun unintentionally generating a very high current. This often blows up the fuse or worst can damage your equipment.

Silent Key – A ham radio term for a deceased Amateur Radio operator.

Single-pole, double-throw (SPDT) switch – A switch that connects one center contact to one of two other contacts.

Single-pole, single-throw (SPST) switch – A switch that only connects one center contact to another contact.

Skip zone – An area or a blind spot where is signal is poor usually due to its distance from ground waves or if it is too close for sky waves.

Sky-wave propagation – The transmission method where radio waves travel through the ionosphere and back to Earth.

SOS – A internationally and universally recognized Morse code which means call for help.

Space station – A ham radio station located more than 50 km above the Earth’s surface.

Standing-wave ratio (SWR) – It is sometimes called voltage standing-wave ratio (VSWR). It is a measure of how well the impedance of two circuits are well-matched. An SWR of 0 means that you have a perfectly matched line while an SWR of -1 or +1 means you have a perfectly unmatched line (either open end or short circuit end).

SWR meter – It is also called a Standing Wave Ratio meter. This instrument is used to measure Standing Wave ratio of a line.

Ticket – A ham radio jargon which means an Amateur Radio license. Hence no ticket, no ham operation.

Time-out timer – A device that limits the amount of time any one person can talk through a repeater.

Transceiver – A device composed of a radio transmitter and a radio receiver combined in one unit.

Transmission line – The wires or cable used to connect a radio transceiver to an antenna. It is also called a feed line. It can be a coaxial cable or a twin lead cable.

Transmitter – A device that produces and sends out radio-frequency signals with the use of antenna

Unbalanced line – A feed line connection where one path has different signal with the other path. A concrete example is using a coaxial cable as feed line. The inner wire contains the signal while the outer braided wire is connected to ground.

Variable capacitor – A capacitor that can have its value changed within a certain range. It is also known as varactor.

Variable resistor – A resistor whose value can be adjusted over a certain range, without removing it from a circuit. A good example is a potentiometer.

Variable-frequency oscillator (VFO) – An oscillator used in receivers and transmitters. The frequency is set by a tuned circuit using capacitors and inductors. The frequency can be changed by adjusting the components in the tuned circuit.

Vertical antenna – A common amateur antenna made of metal tubing with a vertical radiating element.

Volt (V) – The basic unit of voltage (electrical pressure).

Voltage – It is also called electromotive force (EMF). The EMF or pressure that causes electrons to move through an electrical circuit. The higher the voltage, the higher current flow it produces.

Voltmeter – A test instrument used to measure voltage.

Watt (W) – The unit of power. One watt is equivalent to producing a current of 1A with an electromotive force of 1V.

Wattmeter – It is also called a power meter. It is a test instrument used to measure the power output (in watts) of a transmitter.

Wavelength – It is the length of one cycle of a given signal frequency. The higher the frequency, the shorter is the wavelengh. Wavelength is computed as speed of light divided by signal frequency. Antenna usually needs a length of at least 1/4 of the wavelength before it can start transmitting. That is the reason why cellphone (which operates at very high frequencies) needs only a very short internal antenna to transmit signal.

Yagi antenna – It is one of the most popular type of amateur directional (beam) antenna. It has one driven element and one or more additional reflective elements.

Yagi Antenna


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