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The Best Ham Radio Tech Tip of All:
Don't Ask Technical Questions
Like many of you, I'm on Facebook and other Social Media and belong to several Ham Radio groups. On a daily basis, I see new and not-so-new Hams asking for help or advice on a variety of topics. And certainly, there are knowledgeable Hams who reply with solid information in a friendly and courteous manner. Kudos to them. Sadly, there are two other types who respond as well. Some like to belittle the questioner, cranking up their Keyboard Kourage to make themselves feel superior. They are fools, and should be ignored. But worse, in many ways, are those who think they know it all. And pass along erroneous information, falsehoods, old wives tales, opinions disguised as facts, and even dangerous recommendations. Many times, they may even think they are being helpful. Nope! Not at all!
Here's the problem in a nutshell. The questioner most likely can't distinguish between the true answers and the false ones, since both may sound plausible on the surface. Often enough others will jump in on both sides, and it rapidly devolves into a typical Facebook "spitball fight". Leaving the questioner with no better information but a lot more confusion. The short and simple answer: Don't ask technical questions on Facebook! Instead, do some real research using reliable sources. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
For mobile installation and operation, Alan Applegate's K0BG web site is a great resource. He has articles covering just about any question you might have about operating on the road.
Tom Rauch, W8JI is another respected authority with articles on a wide variety of topics. Tom has designed quite a few Amateur Radio products that are in commercial production today, including amplifiers and antennas. He knows his stuff.
The legendary L.B. Cebik W4RNL (SK) left an amazing legacy of antenna-related literature. He was also a recognized expert on antenna modeling software. His work is preserved here.
Dave Casler, KE0OG has quite a few videos both instructional and practical. Here's a good example where he shows how to install crimp-on coax connectors.
If you really want to understand SWR and antenna matching, you really need to read Walt Maxwell's excellent book Reflections. A PDF version is available here. It's a lot to read, and the math and theory can be a bit dense (to me, at least!). But if you can read and understand just the first two chapters you'll be way ahead of the game.
Several years ago I wrote a series of short articles for this newsletter about SWR, feedlines, baluns, and related topics, and another series on DC Power. They're short easy reads, and I tried to keep things simple and easy to understand. You can read them on my Web Site here.
Folks, the ARRL is simply a great resource. Some Hams have some strong opinions (both for and against) about the League. I won't get into that debate here. But without a doubt, their ARRL Handbook and ARRL Antenna Book are two references that belong on any Ham's bookshelf. They are often available used, and to be honest they don't change very much year to year. Well worth a modest investment. The League also publishes a wide variety of books dedicated to particular topics or facets of Ham Radio. In addition, they have an amazing number of technical articles available, even though they seem to do quite a poor job of letting folks know they exist. I believe the ARRL makes a very serious effort to produce accurate, scientifically based information. You can rely on what they print.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. There are many more great articles, and many more responsible Web Sites out there. But you won't go wrong by relying on any of the sources I've mentioned.
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