Help for New Hams

In a box of stuff recently donated to WA2HOM, our amateur radio station at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, there was a book by Doug DeMaw, W1FB, titled W1FB’s Help for New Hams. This book hits on just about all the topics that a new ham in the late 1980s would want to know about, and W1FB does a great job of walking the new ham through these topics.

Of course, being 25 years old, some of it, is out-of-date, and it doesn’t cover some questions that a new ham today would ask. So, I’m thinking of writing my own Help for New Hams. Mine would probably be a little less HF-centric and include advice on joining clubs and how to use a computer in the shack. Or, maybe I should write two separate versions: an HF version and a VHF version.

At any rate, the outline of the W1FB version is shown below. If you have any comments about this outline, and what I should perhaps include in my version, I’d love to hear from you.

  • The Newly Licensed Amateur
    • First things first
    • What about homemade equipment?
    • Transmitter power
    • Surplus radio equipment
    • Used gear
    • Equipment features
    • Digital or analog aeadout?
    • KISS
    • Station accessories
    • HF antennas
    • VHF FM equipment
    • Exotic modes
  • Your New Equipment—Getting Acquainted
    • Your friend, the operating manual
    • The front panel and those many knobs!
    • Tuning up
    • SWR and the solid-state transmitter
    • Dial-settings chart
    • CW operation
    • The sidetone level
    • SSB operation
    • What about speech processing?
    • SSB and VOX controls
    • The woes of transmitter misadjustment
    • Getting to know your receiver
    • RF gain or attenuator
    • Noise blanker
    • Using the notch filter
    • S-meters in general
    • Receiver AGC
    • Normal and narrow SSB and CW filters
    • IF shift and width controls
    • Your RIT controls
    • Receiver RF gain controller
    • Using a linear amplifier
    • Amplifiers can cause problems
    • Amplifier switches
    • ALC circuit
    • Tuning your amplifier
    • Safety first!
    • Equipment malfunction
    • Avoiding unwanted RF currents
    • Earth ground and station locations
    • Some antennas cause RF problems
    • How to use your SWR meter
    • How to use a transmatch
    • Transmatches with balun transformers
    • Outboard balun transformers
  • Constructing and Using Antennas
    • Locating your antennas
    • How high is too high?
    • A closer look at antenna-height effects
    • Where is true ground?
    • Artificial grounds
    • Choosing your feed line
    • Balanced feed lines
    • Grounding your station for safety
    • Building dipole antennas
    • Inverted-V antennas
    • The half-sloper antenna
    • Multiband dipoles
    • Multiband trap dipoles
    • Vertical antennas
    • Big loop antennas
    • What about horizontal loops?
    • Directional beam antennas
    • Multiband trap Yagis
    • Do you really need a rotary beam antenna?
    • Bringing feeders and control lines into your shack
  • Station Layout and Safety
    • Radio room location
    • Keep your antennas near the shack
    • Ham shack lighting
    • Your operating desk or table
    • Increasing the surface area of your office desk
    • Arranging your equipment
    • Cable arrangement
    • Your station ground and AC line filters
    • The chair in your stations
    • Avoid stacking your equipment
  • TVI and RFI—Strange Bedfellows
    • Your first responsibility
    • How to use your transmitter
    • AC line filtering
    • Filter selection and ratings
    • Antenna precautions
    • Transmitter low-pass filter
    • TV high-pass filtering
    • The VCR monster
    • Telephone interference
    • CATV interference
    • Neighborhood diplomacy
    • QRP vs. interference
  • Operating Problems and Fears
    • Inability to copy the other station
    • Honesty in signal reporting
    • On-the-air topics
    • Getting on frequency
    • Split-frequency operation
    • Don’t be afraid of QRM
    • The break-in operator
    • Problems with spelling
    • Don’t be afraid of keyers and keyboards
    • Multiple comebacks—what to do?
    • How to deal with DX
  • On-the-Air Conduct and Procedures
    • Calling CQ
    • Specific CQs
    • Directional CQs
    • Answering a CQ
    • Operating via a repeater
    • When to ID
    • The fiber of a QSO
    • Avoid cliches
    • The “here, there” syndrome
    • Joining a QSO in progress
    • QSK and VOX operation
    • The “ah” syndrome
    • Taboo language
    • How to use your speech processor
    • Transmitter output power
  • Station Accessories—What to Buy?
    • Bugs, paddles, and keyers
    • Advantages of keyer use
    • Keyboard keyers
    • Microphones
    • Antenna tuners, or transmatches
    • Automatic antenna tuners
    • SWR indicators
    • Outboard audio filters
    • Antenna rotators
    • Do you need a tower?
    • Phone patches
    • Dummy antenna
    • External speaker
    • Antenna switch
    • 24-hour clock
    • Linear amplifier
  • DX and Contest Operating
    • Equipment needs
    • Your receiving setup
    • Receiver IF filters
    • Using an audio filter
    • Split-frequency operation
    • How to snag the DX station
    • Answering the CQ of a DX station
    • The DX ragchew
    • Avoid certain topics
    • The business of contesting
    • How to operate
    • Contest logging
    • Certificate hunting
  • Logging, QSL Cards, and Record Keeping
    • The 24-hour time system
    • Logging the DX
    • Another logbook advantage
    • Dealing with QSL cards
    • Tips for obtaining confirmation
    • The outgoing QSL service
    • QSL managers
    • Sending QSL cards to ARRL HQ
    • Other records you may want to keep
  • Obtaining Accurate Information
    • Using reference books
    • ARRL direct information services
    • Some tips about your technical inquiries
    • The importance of QST and ARRL membership
    • Other ARRL periodicals
    • W1AW bulletins
    • Attend technical seminars

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