I accept your challenge

I wish to test this claim.

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"15,000 watts"

Can I borrow a big ass shortwave rig for a moment? I’d like to see how many milliseconds this lasts before becoming a plasmoid cloud of hissing metallic gas.

Don’t leave your radio near me

Because I’ll start playing with it.

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The only thing that prevented my coworker from winding up with memory channels named after colorful air-entrained car wash products is that I really didn’t like that touchscreen user interface. A+ for cleverness though. I’ve heard the Yaesu System Fusion digital mode on these radios works very well and sounds great.

A sad state.

I never liked how Pandora sounds. Their audio compression is pretty lossy; some quality was sacrificed to ensure smooth streaming on lousy mobile data connections.

The ad insertions aren’t coordinated with the programming either, but this isn’t such a big deal as most of them are just dry reads; it’s not like booming tones and overprocessed voice comes yelling out of there. It’s just a little odd to have everything come to a sudden pause of just some lady reading a spot over silence in between power metal ballads. Granted this also means your classical stream won’t launch you through the roof when a spot plays…

But yeah, terrestrial radio is dead and burned thanks to the new Neilsen PPM encoding systems that cause audio defects to the point of stripping guitar chords out of some songs, eight minute stop sets of ads that come across with great… Mountains of acoustic fnords… before you are returned to a six song music library that you can’t hear properly anyway.

Not that I’m bitter. Just a little bit. Okay, I am.

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Pissing and moaning.

Amateur Radio Exam Resources

This isn’t a comprehensive guide by far but these are the resources I like to guide people to if they’re interested in taking the licensing exams for amateur radio in the US.

Ham radio. Get it? Yeah... I'm that bad
Sorry, I had to drop this silly dad joke on you. I just had to.

KB6NU’s No Nonsense Study Guides – Free downloads available of PDF versions, ebook versions also available for Amazon Kindle, epub, etc…

HamStudy.org – an interactive study system based around generating practice exams

For practice exams:

AA9PW’s practice exam generator

Android exam generator app free and no ad garbage. Yay.

iOS app for practice exams

So, once you can take a practice exam and pass it reliably, find out where to take the real thing near you:

ARRL Exam Session Search

Some exam sessions are walk-in, others may require advance reservations.

What to bring to the exam session:
Photo ID
A calculator (ideally not a graphing calculator)
Your FRN number, if you have one already. This can make the filing process with the FCC faster and easier. You can apply for an FRN number ahead of time. It is not necessary to have an FRN number ahead of time, it just makes things easier.
The exam fee ($14 at the time I wrote this – not needed if you’re at a Laurel VEC session)

Once you successfully pass the exam, if this is your first license, you will need to wait for your call letters to be assigned before you go on the air. If you have an FRN number, go here and search by your FRN number each business day. Continue until it comes up. Celebrate. 😀

QRZ.COM maintains a daily list of all new/changed licenses where you may also find yourself.

Good luck and see you on the airwaves 🙂

A tale of amplifiers.

Here’s a story I’ve been meaning to tell for a while.

Once upon a time, there was a wonderful isle of dreams, and a television station built upon it. To carry the sounds to accompany its magically delivered pictures, there was a set of audio distribution amplifiers.

And oh baby what amplifiers they are….

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The guys on the right. Ignore the dark power lights, they're soldered in incandescent...

And their, uh, not the best side

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The company stuck around until 1985

And now the heart:

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Those of you who are like me will also notice, this is six individually transformer isolated outputs and one transformer isolated input.

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Fairly simple amp stages.

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The dual power supply. One regulator on each end. This is the older design; the newer one has two separate regulator cards.

These lived happily until one day, one regulator card let out a biiiiiig fart.

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For comparison, this is what the other end looked like:

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Oh how it stank that morning on the wonderful isle of dreams!

The finest nose on the isle located the stench and an engineer set to restoring the precious music of the angels to flow beyond it. Fortunately he found only two channels still in use, each feeding one output… Thus:

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Emergency passive near unity gain audio distribution system.

This engineer was haunted from that day by the knowledge that some very mission critical audio still runs through that stack and the amps aren’t getting any younger.

However, they are, at least, better than the modern equivalent.

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I'll just take my chances with the old Ramko Research shit boxes, thanks

Well look at that… A Daven.

Penny & Giles, eat your conductive plastic hearts out.

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The tab at top is the cover lock; push it and turn to remove it for cleaning and service

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Big silver contact studs lead to the resistors inside.

In normal service these would be lubricated with Daven oil. This is a total mystery to me — it’s been out of production for decades, and I have no idea what a proper substitute would be.

The only other place I’ve seen rotary switches this hardcore are in avionics.

The Daven step attenuator was used in older broadcast consoles — I’m not sure on the details but I’ve heard that WVUM had one.

HF antenna fail.

Before using any conductive objects, LOOK UP. If there are power lines nearby OR within range such that the object could fall and hit them on the way down, STOP!!!

Otherwise the whole world will laugh at you after you EXPLODE your radio and knock out power to a fairly large area…

Image by WU2F, link to Reddit thread.

Fail
Oh sure the antenna’s DC grounded, it’ll be fine

 

The ham responsible all but vaporized a nice Flex Radio HF transceiver, power supply, and the electrical wiring in his camper. LUCKILY, nobody was injured, but it could VERY VERY EASILY have been much worse. You don’t get a second chance with contacting power lines.

For extra lulz, let’s see if he tries to sell this radio for what it’s ‘wurf’ on eBay in the future. 😉

RF safety? What’s that? WMBM-AM’s tower.

No no of course not, you can’t burn things with RF unless they’re inside the microwave.

Presenting WMBM-AM, Miami Beach, Florida.

The tower stands in a courtyard behind Radio Bar. The courtyard is fully enclosed. Except…….. The bar uses it as an entrance and exit and storage area and leaves it open to the public.

Sorry for blur in these images, I was unable to stop laughing.

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Pretty hallway.

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To the right just inside.

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To the left just inside.

Note that this tower is not on insulators. It is [barely – see below] grounded. The transmitter output goes to a three wire skirt that starts well up out of reach and is fed by, uh, let’s visit that later

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Kinda sorta ground. One small wire, about 6 gauge.

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See that red square? That’s the transmitter output. Right there. It’s like seven feet up in that corner. You can see the two pipes in the photo above. Only a chain and defaced warning sign (not even a standard RF exposure warning sign) separate bar guests and that.

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Possibly remains of an older feed to the tower…. even more exposed.

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No, the tower lights don’t work.

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Dafuq?!

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This has apparently been how it’s stood for years.

On a side note, here’s an at&t installation. The old vault is on a berm above ground to protect it from storm surge. The VRAD, used to supply PooVerse I mean UVerse television, internet, and kind of sort of phone, not so much.

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You’re, uh, welcome.

The Harris Quest FM

I could write volumes on how awful and ridiculous this box is, but… Here, I summarized it in one image: if you add thick eyebrows, a moustache, and a goatee to it, it looks every bit as malevolently untrustworthy as it truly is. They’ve been out of production for a long time (cheers were probably heard all over Quincy when the order to discontinue them was made) and certain key parts are looooong gone.

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Cool ferroresonant power supply though.

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