Ham Radio For Dummies

( 8 )


Hams do cool things like talking to folks around the world and helping with communications during emergencies. If hamming it up sounds like fun, here's the scoop, including licensing requirements and how to set up a station. And if you're already licensed, this book will help you start sounding (and feeling) like a pro!
Read More Show Less
... See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers and in stores.

Pick Up In Store Near You

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (7) from $11.98   
  • New (3) from $15.66   
  • Used (4) from $11.98   
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
Seller since 2008

Feedback rating:



New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.


Ships from: BAY SHORE, NY

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Seller since 2015

Feedback rating:


Condition: New
Brand new.

Ships from: acton, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Seller since 2008

Feedback rating:


Condition: New

Ships from: Chicago, IL

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Sort by


Hams do cool things like talking to folks around the world and helping with communications during emergencies. If hamming it up sounds like fun, here's the scoop, including licensing requirements and how to set up a station. And if you're already licensed, this book will help you start sounding (and feeling) like a pro!
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780764559877
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 4/5/2004
  • Series: For Dummies Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 7.38 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

H. Ward Silver got his first ham radio license in 1972. His ham experiences led to a 20-year career as an electrical engineer, designing microprocessor-based products and medical devices. He writes for the American Radio Relay League and publishes a popular ARRL e-newsletter, The ARRL Contest Update.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
About This Book 1
Conventions Used in This Book 2
Foolish Assumptions 2
How This Book Is Organized 2
Icons Used in This Book 4
Where to Go from Here 5
Part I What Is Ham Radio All About? 7
Chapter 1 Getting Acquainted with Ham Radio 9
Tuning In Ham Radio Today 10
Roaming the World of Ham Radio 15
Communicating with Ham Radio 16
Building a Ham Radio Shack 16
Chapter 2 Getting a Handle on Ham Radio Technology 19
Fundamentals of Radio Waves 19
Basic Ham Radio Gadgetry 22
Ham Radio on the Air 25
Dealing with Mother Nature 26
Chapter 3 Finding Other Hams: Your Support Group 29
Radio Clubs 29
The ARRL 33
Specialty Organizations and Clubs 37
Online Communities 41
Hamfests and Conventions 44
Part II Wading through the Licensing Process 49
Chapter 4 Figuring Out the Licensing System 51
The Amateur Service: An Overview 51
Becoming Licensed: Individual License Classes 54
Understanding Call Signs 58
The Volunteer Licensing System 59
Chapter 5 Studying for Your License 61
Demystifying the Test 61
Finding Resources for Study 62
Finding a Mentor 65
Mastering Morse Code 67
Chapter 6 Taking the Test 71
Finding a Test Session 71
Signing Up for a Test 73
The Big Day 74
Chapter 7 Obtaining Your License and Call Sign 79
Completing Your Licensing Paperwork 79
Finding Your New Call Sign 81
Registering with the FCC Online 84
Picking Your Own Call Sign 86
Maintaining Your License 88
Part III Hamming It Up 89
Chapter 8 Making Contact 91
Listen, Listen, Listen! 91
Tuning In a Signal 93
Deciphering a QSO 103
Q-Signals 106
Making a Call 107
Chapter 9 Casual Operating 117
Operating on FM and Repeaters 118
Chewing the Rag 131
Pounding Brass--Morse Code 137
Receiving Messages Afloat and Remote 142
Chapter 10 Operating with Intent 145
Joining an Emergency Organization 146
Preparing for an Emergency 149
Operating in an Emergency 152
Providing Public Service 156
Operating on Nets 157
Handling Traffic 159
Chapter 11 Specialties 165
DX-ing 165
Taking Part in Radio Contests 178
Chasing Awards 187
QRP: Low-Power Operating 189
Getting Digital 193
Operating via Satellites 203
Seeing Things--Image Transmissions 206
Part IV Building and Operating a Station That Works 209
Chapter 12 Getting on the Air 211
Setting Goals for Your Station 211
Choosing a Radio 215
Choosing an Antenna 225
Supporting Your Antenna 236
Computers in the Shack 243
Buying New or Used Equipment 246
Upgrading Your Station 246
Chapter 13 Organizing Your Shack 249
Designing Your Ham Shack 249
Building in RF and Electrical Safety 258
Grounding Power and RF 260
Chapter 14 Housekeeping (Logs and QSLs) 263
Keeping a Log 263
Selecting a QSL Card 265
Sending and Receiving QSLs 266
Chapter 15 Hands-On Radio 269
Acquiring Tools and Components 269
Maintaining Your Station 275
Overall Troubleshooting Tips 276
Troubleshooting Your Station 277
Troubleshooting Your Home and Neighborhood 283
Building Equipment from a Kit 288
Building Equipment from Scratch 288
Part V The Part of Tens 291
Chapter 16 Ten Secrets for Beginners 293
Listening, Listening, Listening 293
Buddying Up 293
Knowing Your Equipment 293
Following the Manufacturer's Recommendations 294
Trying Different Things 294
Nobody Knows Everything 294
Practicing Courtesy 294
Joining In 295
Getting Right Back in the Saddle 295
Relax, It's a Hobby! 295
Chapter 17 Ten Secrets of the Masters 297
Listening, Listening, Listening 297
Learning What's Under the Hood 297
Reading History 297
Having a Sharp Axe 298
Practicing Makes Perfect 298
Paying Attention to Detail 298
The Problem Ain't What You Don't Know 298
Antennas Make the Difference 298
A Decibel Is a Decibel Is a Decibel 299
Ham Radio Is a Lifetime of Learning 299
Chapter 18 Ten First Station Tips 301
Being Flexible 301
Looking and Learning 301
Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket 302
Used-Equipment Bargains 302
Building Something! 302
Being Well-Grounded 302
Saving Money by Building Your Own Cables 303
Building Step-by-Step 303
Finding the Weakest Link 303
Being Comfortable 303
Chapter 19 Ten Easy Ways to Have Fun on the Radio 305
Listening for People Having Fun and Joining In 305
Special Events and Contests Are Looking for You! 305
Making Up Your Own Contest 306
Sending a Radiogram, Ma'am 306
Joining the Parade 306
Going Somewhere Cool 306
Squirting a Bird 307
Learning a New Lingo 307
Shortwave Listening (SWL-ing) 307
Visiting a New Group 307
Chapter 20 Ten Ways to Give Back to Ham Radio 309
Preparing Yourself for Emergencies 309
Preparing Your Community for Emergencies 309
Volunteering in Your Club 310
Performing Public Service Assistance 310
Experimenting 310
Participating in On-the-Air Monitoring 310
Acting as a Product Tester or QSL Manager 311
Representing Amateur Radio 311
Being an Elmer 311
Making Lifelong Friendships 311
Part VI Appendixes 313
Appendix A Glossary 315
Appendix B The Best References 329
Web Portals 329
Operating References 330
Technical References 335
Amateur Magazines 339
Vendors 340
Index 341
Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Ham Radio For Dummies

By Ward Silver

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7645-5987-7

Chapter One

Getting Acquainted with Ham Radio

In This Chapter

* Becoming a part of ham radio

* Traversing the world of ham radio

* Making a contact with ham radio

* Constructing a ham radio shack

Ham radio invokes a wide range of visions. Maybe you have a mental image of a ham radio operator (or ham) from a movie or newspaper article. But hams are a varied lot - from go-getter emergency communicators to casual chatters to workshop tinkerers. Everyone has a place, and you do, too.

Hams use all sorts of radios and antennas on a wide variety of frequencies to communicate with other hams across town and around the world. They use ham radio for personal enjoyment, for keeping in touch with friends and family, for emergency communications, and for experimenting with radios and radio equipment. They communicate using microphones, telegraph or Morse keys, computers, cameras, lasers, and even their own satellites.

Hams meet on the air and in person. Ham radio clubs and organizations are devoted to every conceivable purpose. They have special ham radio flea markets and host conventions, large and small. Hams as young as six years old and centenarians have been hams since before ham radio licenses. Some have a technical background, but most do not. One thing all these diverse individuals do have, however, is an interest in radio that can express itself in many different ways.

Tuning In Ham Radio Today

Hams enjoy three different aspects of ham radio - the technology, operating, and social points of view. Your interest in the hobby may be technical; you may want to use ham radio for a specific purpose; or you may just want to join the fun. All are perfectly valid reasons for getting a ham radio license.

Using electronics and technology

Ham radio is full of electronics and technology (see Chapter 2). To start with, transmitting and receiving radio signals is a very electronics-intensive endeavor. After you open the hood on ham radio, you're exposed to everything from basic direct-current electronics to cutting-edge radio-frequency techniques. Everything from analog electronics to the very latest in digital signal processing and computing is available in ham radio. I've been in the hobby for more than 30 years and I've never met anyone who is an expert on it all.

You may choose to design and build your own equipment or assemble a station from factory-built components, just like an audiophile might do. All that you need for either path is widely available in stores and on the Web. Hams delight in a do-it-yourself ethic known as homebrewing and help each other out to build and maintain their stations.


Hams also develop their own software and use the Internet along with radios to create novel hybrid systems. Hams developed packet radio by adapting data transmission protocols used over computer networks to amateur radio links. Packet radio is now widely used in many commercial applications. By combining GPS radiolocation technology with the Web and amateur mobile radios, the Automatic Position Reporting System (APRS) was developed and is now widely used. More information about these neat systems is contained in Parts III and IV.

Voice and Morse code communications are still the most popular technologies by which hams talk to each other, but computer-based digital operation is gaining fast. The most common home station configuration today is a hybrid of the computer and radio. Some of the newer radios are exploring software-defined radio (SDR) technology that allows reconfiguration of the circuitry that processes radio signals under software control.

Along with the equipment and computers, hams are students of antennas and propagation, which is the means by which radio signals bounce around from place to place. Hams take an interest in solar cycles, sunspots, and how they affect the Earth's ionosphere. For hams, weather takes on a whole new importance, generating static or fronts along which radio signals can sometimes travel long distances. Antennas, with which signals are launched to take advantage of all this propagation, provide a fertile universe for the station builder and experimenter.

Antenna experimentation is a hotbed of activity for hams. New designs are created every day and hams have contributed many advances and refinements to the antenna designer's art. Antenna systems range from small patches of printed circuit board material to multiple towers festooned with large rotating arrays. All you need is some wire, a feedline, and a soldering iron.

Hams also use radio technology in support of hobbies such as radio control (R/C), model rocketry, and meteorology. Hams have special frequencies for R/C operation in the 6-meter band, away from the crowded unlicensed R/C frequencies. Miniature ham radio video transmitters are frequently flown in model aircraft, rockets, and balloons, beaming back pictures from heights of hundreds and thousands of feet. Ham radio data links are also used in support of astronomy, aviation, auto racing and rallies, and many other pastimes.

Whatever part of electronic and computing technology you most enjoy, it's all used in ham radio somewhere ... and sometimes all at once!

Operating a ham radio: Making contacts

If you were to tune a radio across the ham bands, what would you hear hams doing? Contacts run the range from simple conversation to on-the-air meetings to contesting (recording the highest number of contacts).


By far the most common type of activity for hams is just engaging in conversation, which is called chewing the rag; such contacts are called ragchews. Ragchews take place between continents or across town. You don't have to know another ham to have a great ragchew - ham radio is a very friendly hobby with little class snobbery or distinctions. Just make contact and start talking! Find out more about ragchews in Chapter 9.


Nets (an abbreviation for networks) are organized on-the-air meetings scheduled for hams with a similar interest or purpose. Some of the nets you can find are

  •   Traffic nets: These are part of the North American system that moves text messages or traffic via ham radio. Operators meet to exchange or relay messages, sometimes handling dozens in a day. Messages range from the mundane to emergency health-and-welfare.
  •   Emergency service nets: Most of the time, these nets just meet for training and practice. When disasters or other emergencies strike, hams organize around these nets and provide crucial communications into and out of the stricken areas until normal links are restored.
  •   Technical Service: These nets are like radio call-in programs in which stations call with specific questions or problems. The net control station may help, but more frequently, one of the listening stations contributes the answer. Many are designed specifically to assist new hams.
  •   ALE Mailboxes and Bulletin Boards: If you could listen to Internet systems make contact and exchange data, this is what they'd sound like. Instead of transmitting 1s and 0s as voltages on wires, hams use tones. ALE stands for Automatic Link Establishment and means that a computer system is monitoring a frequency all the time so that others can connect to it and send or retrieve messages. Sailors and other travelers use ham radio where the Internet isn't available.
  •   Swap Nets: In between the in-person hamfests and flea markets, in many areas a weekly swap net allows hams to list items for sale or things they need. A net control station moderates the process and business is generally conducted over the phone once the parties have been put in contact with each other.

DX-ing, contests, and awards

DX stands for distance and the lure of making contacts ever-farther from home has always been a part of ham radio. Hams compete to contact faraway stations and to log contacts with every country. They enjoy contacting islands and making personal friends in a foreign country. When conditions are right and the band is full of foreign accents, succumbing to the lure of DX is easy!

Ham radio's version of rugby, contests are events in which the point is to make as many contacts as possible, sometimes thousands, during the contest time period, by sending and receiving short messages. These exchanges are related to the purpose of the contest - to contact a specific area, use a certain band, find a special station, or just contact everybody.

Along with contests, thousands of special-event stations and awards are available for various operating accomplishments, such as contacting different countries or states. For example, in December 2003, the station W4B was set up at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and operated during the centennial of the Wright Brothers' first flight.

DX-ing, contests, and awards are closely related, and if you enjoy the thrill of the chase, go to Chapter 11 to find out more about all of these activities.

Joining the ham radio community

Because of their numbers and reliance on uncomplicated infrastructure, hams are able to bounce back quickly when a natural disaster or other emergency makes communications over normal channels impossible. Hams organize themselves into local and regional teams that practice responding to a variety of emergency needs, working to support public safety agencies such as police and fire departments.

Is it hurricane season? Every fall in North America, ham emergency teams gear up for these potentially devastating storms. Hams staff an amateur station at the National Hurricane Center in Florida (fiu.edu/orgs/w4ehw/) and keep the Hurricane Watch Net busy on 14.325 MHz (hwn.org/). After the storm, hams are the first voices heard from the affected areas with many more standing by to relay their messages and information.

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, hams manned an emergency operations center around the clock for weeks. Government agencies had to focus on coordinating recovery and rescue efforts. The hams were able to handle "health-and-welfare" messages to support the emergency workers in their efforts.

Every June, on the last full weekend, hams across the United States engage in an emergency operations exercise called Field Day. It's an opportunity for hams to operate under emergency conditions. An amateur emergency team or station probably is operating in your town or county.

Hams provide assistance for more than emergencies. Wherever there is a parade, festival, marathon, or other opportunity to provide communications services, you may find ham radio operators helping out. In fact, this is great training for emergencies!


A particularly beneficial relationship exists between ham radio and philately, or stamp collecting. Hams routinely exchange postcards called QSLs with their call signs, information about their stations, and often colorful graphics or photos. Stamp collecting hams combine the exchange of QSLs with collecting by sending the cards around the world with local colorful stamps or special postmarks. Foreign hams return the favor with a stamp of their own. The cheerful greeting of those red-and-blue airmail envelopes from an exotic location is a special treat!

Hams like to meet in person as well as on the radio. Membership in at least one radio club is a part of nearly every ham's life. In fact, in some countries, you're required to be a member of a club before you can even get a license. Chapter 3 shows you how to find and join clubs - they're great sources of information and assistance for new hams.

The two other popular ham gatherings are hamfests and conventions. A hamfest is a ham radio flea market where hams bring their electronic treasures for sale or trade. Some are small, parking-lot-size get-togethers on a Saturday morning while others attract thousands of hams from all over the world and last for days. These are more like the conventions hams hold with a variety of themes from public service to DX and low-power operating. Hams travel all over the world to attend conventions and meet friends known only as a voice and a call sign over the crackling radio waves.

Roaming the World of Ham Radio

Although the United States has a large population of hams, it by no means represents the majority. The amateur population in Europe is growing by leaps and bounds, and Japan has an even larger amateur population. With more than 3 million hams worldwide, very few countries are without an amateur.

Hams are required to have a license, no matter where they operate. The international agency that manages radio activity is the International Telecommunication Union, or ITU (itu.int/home/). Each member country is required to have its own government agency that controls licensing inside its borders. In the United States, hams are part of the Amateur Radio Service, which is regulated and licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Outside the United States, Amateur Radio is governed by similar rules and regulations.

Amateur Radio licenses in America are granted by the FCC, but the tests are administered by other hams acting as volunteer examiners, or VEs. I discuss VEs in detail in Chapter 4. Classes and testing programs are often available through local clubs.

Since the adoption of international licensing regulations, hams operate from many different countries with a minimum of paperwork. For example, a ham from a country that is a party to the international license recognition agreement known as CEPT can use his or her home license to operate from within any other CEPT country. The ARRL has gathered a lot of useful material about international operating on its Web site at arrl.org/FandES/field/ regulations/io.

Because radio signals know no boundaries, hams have always been in touch across the political borders. Even during the Cold War, U.S. and Soviet hams made regular contact, fostering long personal friendships and international goodwill. While the Internet makes global communications easy, chatting by voice or Morse code over the airwaves to someone in another country is exciting.

Communicating with Ham Radio

Though you make contacts for different purposes - chatting, emergencies, a net, or to win a contest - most contacts follow the same structure.

After you get a response from your call or respond to someone else calling, you exchange names, information about who you are, and the quality of your signal to gauge conditions.


Excerpted from Ham Radio For Dummies by Ward Silver Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2004

    An Excelent Book for ANY Amateur

    I got this book shortly after I got my Technician Class license and I find it facinating! There is an almost unending amount of information offered! A must have for anyone that has an Amateur License or is interested in getting one!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2004

    Ham Radio for Dummies not just for beginners!

    Ward Silver N0AX has done a superb job of distilling the essense of amateur (ham) radio to a manageable volume that is a valuable resource for both the beginner and expert alike. After 35 years as a ham I still managed to find several interesting topics and tid-bits even after only my first cursory review. A great read but more importantly a good introduction for folks who either have never heard of the ham radio hobby before or whose perception kept them from pursuing the hobby further. 73 - Dino KL0S

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2013


    Is the answer screw

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 8, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    An Excellent Overview, However, NOT A Study Guide!

    This book is an excellent overview of Amateur radio. Every technology I am aware of at prescient time is covered in reasonable depth. Anyone who is curious about HAM radio will do well to read this book.

    What this book is not is it is not a study guide to help pass the Amateur license exam. Although there are many questions on that exam that may be answered within this book do not attempt to take the test unless you have used a study guide!

    I read the Nook version which shows a newer copy write than the paper version. I do not have a hard copy to compare with but it appears the Nook version does not have new material. Furthermore, many of the URL's hyperlink'd in the text are now dead.

    If the URL's were good I'd have given up five stars...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 22, 2011

    Sensory Overload

    I know almost nothing about Ham Radio. This book kept introducing new concepts at such a pace I could barely keep up and it seemed to be in kind of random order. Maybe if I read it again it would go more easily. I WAS surprised how much I remembered once I started studying for my Technician license, so some of it did sink in.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)