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Short Takes #7: Great SWL Site and Two New Books!

By Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

A couple of years ago I noted a QRZ forum thread on something called "Radio Garden." I checked it out at the time, but it appeared to me to be just another way to take the "radio" out of radio and put it on the Internet. Recently, I checked back with the site and had a lot of fun poking around with its super-easy Globe interface and listening to the music/news that people are exposed to around the world. These are actual radio stations, not Internet stations, that Radio Garden sets up to stream across the portal with a user interface that now works very smoothly and allows you to dial into any part of the world to see what's happening on the radio. No matter how you feel about radio being streamed to the 'net, this site and its technology is impressive 

You'll find Radio Garden at this link. Make sure you save some time for this, because you may just get hooked and sit there like a dummy playing with it for an hour as I did. It's truly addictive. It was developed a number of years ago by a non-profit out of the Netherlands, and yet it hasn't aged. It has only improved, as hundreds and hundreds of stations have been added to the roster (you have to fill out an application to get your radio station on the site, and it must be easy to do because the site has improved ten times over in the last two years.) Due to its open nature and the fact that they don't pay government fees, some countries (notably Turkey) have banned it.

Will this site lead young people to think more about radio communications as a hobby or career, as SWL did fifty years ago? The jury is still out on this. Please comment in the attached forum (see end of article).

 

 

 

 

A New Book about CW that Just Might Get You Back On a Key

I'm one of those many hams who discovered radio through Morse code, and who then gradually moved to phone modes (or digital modes now) and never looked back. That is, until I realized one day that my knowledge of code still lurked somewhere in the back of my brain. I started playing around more and more on the CW frequencies, and my interest came back quickly. It's so much fun . . . a completely "secret" language, one that the little boy or little girl in you will remember if you come from those days when decoder rings were the rage. 

I received a review copy of The CW Way of Life by Chris Rutkowski (NW6V) and thought it might be interesting, but wondered how an entire book could have been written about this side of our hobby. And then I read the Prelude and was hooked. (Don't skip this - I often miss a Prologue because they are usually just a dedication to editors or friends. This one is a dedication as well, but to Chris's dad who was a CW operator extraordinaire. The story behind his calling is terrific.)

Chris's book, available through Amazon, sets the reader on a path of some history, but one which never gets boring. I learned more about Morse and especially his practical "Engineer type" partner, Alfred Vail. Did you know that the first instance of complaining about someone's fist (a common gripe in our world, right?) came from Samuel Morse to Vail after their first communication, and reads as follows. It's still good advice!

"Everything worked well yesterday, but there is one defect in your writing which I wish you would pay particular attention to. Make a longer space between each letter, and a still longer space between each word. The letters and words are often confounded for want of this simple attention."

A lot of Chris's book is dedicated to those who are learning CW or on a path of constant improvement (something we all seem to seek from our code). I very much enjoyed his views on "from code to the hand" method of learning versus the "from code to the brain" method (much preferred). When telegraphers were taught code, they didn't even know what they were taking down until after they read it . . . That's not what I want to do! Like everyone else, I want pure head copy. 

Chris's approach to head copy is quite a substantial part of the book. He suggests that we use "code talking" by speaking out loud the dits-and-dahs of CW. He develops a written method of helping us with this code talking and the result, hopefully, is an increased ability to learn and use the code in a practical manner. I am still reading, but enjoying this book a great deal.

 

A New Course for the EXTRA Class License

When I screwed up and let my license expire, I was so far past the FCC forgiveness stage that I had to take the tests again. I began with Stu Turner's (WØSTU) excellent book on the Technician Class license. Studying that book, and later Stu's book on the General Class license, allowed me to go all the way through to passing the Extra Class test one Saturday morning a few years ago. I have since kept in touch with Stu and his ham training activities, and recently he told me about the new approach he's taking, along with Bob Witte (KØNR). He's released a new book for the Extra Class test and now provides related study materials on his website, HamRadioSchool.com.

Clearly there are many ways that hams study for these exams. If you've seen some of the other materials in the market for the Extra class, they can be so, so complicated and detailed. That's OK for some people, but not for others. At the other end of the scale, there are books that simply show the questions and highlight the right answer. Then, your journey is one of rote memorization. I'm not really certain that's the best approach, but many people do it. You can choose this approach if you're interested in getting the license first and then figuring it all out later.

But what I like about Bob and Stu's book is that it's a nice middle ground. The job was difficult - to take what are some very sophisticated electrical/electronic principals and make them easily digestible. That's tough! But I have to take my hat off to the two fellows, as they've done a great job of it. I believe there's enough detail to give value to the prospective licensee, while also being a great resource for General licensees who want to move directly, as fast as possible, into the Extra Class.

The Ham Radio School system consists of the book, which in this case is $29.95 (no shipping charge if ordered from their website), online quizes that are coordinated with the printed material, a series of "Supplemental learning aids" (videos, other links) and then Practice Exams. It all works together very well. In my case, and this was before Stu and Bob set up this system, I used books plus flash cards, and I passed on my first attempt . . . this is most likely due to the fact that since college I've been good at multiple choice questions. Did I learn enough to truly be an Extra Class operator by flash cards and guessing at multiple choice questions? No I didn't. It was a few years of practical "hamming it up" and headknocking experiences that brought it all into focus.

So, whether you're a flash cards kind of person or someone who really loves the detail, you'll like Stu and Bob's book, as I believe it rides this fine line in style.

 

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Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

Dave Jensen, W7DGJ, was first licensed in 1966. Originally WN7VDY (and later WA7VDY), Dave operated on 40 and 80 meter CW with a shack that consisted primarily of Heathkit equipment. Dave loved radio so much he went off to college to study broadcasting and came out with a BS in Communications from Ohio University (Athens, OH). He worked his way through a number of audio electronics companies after graduation, including the professional microphone business for Audio-Technica.  He was later licensed as W7DGJ out of Scottsdale, Arizona, where he ran an executive recruitment practice (CareerTrax Inc.) for several decades. Jensen has published articles in magazines dealing with science and engineering. His column “Tooling Up” ran for 20 years in the website of the leading science journal, SCIENCE, and his column called “Managing Your Career” continues to be a popular read each month for the Pharmaceutical and Household Products industries in two journals published by Rodman Publishing.


Articles Written by Dave Jensen, W7DGJ

This page was last updated April 6, 2023 02:50