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The Electronics Cranny: So You Want to Be a Ham

By Fritz Tennis Electronics Expert

By Fritz Tennis Electronics Expert

Long ago, the only requirement for obtaining the lowest level amateur radio operator license (Ham Class) was being able to pass a five words-per-minute Morses Code Test. Still, many people failed even this. In fact, the code test kept many an aspiring Ham from ever even taking the test. Many died, lonely and fat, in dark, spare, curtain-less rooms, unable to even bring themselves to look out at the world which fully recognized their abject failure. It was a sad period.

But as time has marched on, it has become significantly easier. “It’s a reasonably simple test now,” noted Lankville Communications Commission (LCC) associate Lance Heath. “We dropped the code requirement and instituted the 35-question true/false written test. We also don’t really monitor the test very closely so there’s an awful lot of cheating. Probably something we should look into.” Heath yawned expansively and began staring mindlessly at a series of binders that lined his window ledge.

By means of helping the hopeful ham acquire his license (and also become familiar with some of the basic questions of operation), I will outline some of the most frequently asked questions below.


Q.  What is the best way to measure frequency drift on a transceiver?
A. The best way is with a small, low-cost frequency counter. Be sure not to limit to one band and be sure to extend your arms outwards far in front of you and from a high window if possible. Wave the counter up and down and then move it in circles. Make sure it’s daytime and some people are around, watching you as you hang out of the window with your counter– this will significantly help your readings.

Q. How can I get a more uniform response from a pair of magnetic headphones having a dc resistance of around 4000?

Figure One

Figure One

A. Common problem. Refer to figure one.  You’ll notice that Lamp No. 40 requires a miniature screw compared to a bayonet.  This is what we see happening time and again and there seems to be no end to it.  

Q.  How do you know if your cables are any good?
A. The best way is to buy a large, specialized device available by mail from the Electronics Cranny. It reads in the thousands of megaohms and will be able to tell immediately if you are working with faulty cables. If you want to be cut-rate about it, then use a scope. If a scope is not available or if someone crushed yours in a challenge, then a VTVM set at the highest range might work.

Q. What is a good study guide for the Ham license?
A. Ham License Guide Today is a very good reference marred only by the strange inclusion of a series of lewd photographs of the author. Fritz Tennis’ You Too Can Be a Ham Right Now, Everybody! is probably the most up-to-date publication on the subject as the author edits it continually late at night while his sexless wife snores loudly in the next room. Other manuals or guides may not be revised sufficiently to include the latest changes in the LLC exams.

Q. Once I get my license, will I be allowed to broadcast my own version of the news?
A. Absolutely not. The LCC strictly forbids you from communicating with anyone other than fellow hams. Broadcasting news, playing music, or cussing of any kind will cost you all of your ham equipment and likely a fine and some time in jail. “Yeah, we have a little van to go after those guys,” noted Heath, who had fallen asleep while staring at the binders. “Do that and it’s possible that we could show up at your door.”

Hopefully, this will help you on your way.  Good luck!

  1. Mikhail Goberman
    June 10, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    You’re nuts!

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