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Главная » 2021 » Декабрь » 26 » Foundations of Amateur Radio
Foundations of Amateur Radio

After discussing the notion that it's not really possible to determine how your gear is performing without measuring, several people commented that in the good old days an amateur was expected to have sufficient equipment to test performance of their gear.

I flippantly pointed out that once upon a time, computers ran on punch cards too. That's not to dismiss the notion of testing, but rather that times have changed. Testing equipment that was suitable in the 1980's is still available around the place, but expect to pay for it. Some of it is still relevant, some less so.

Even if you do acquire suitable equipment, how do you know if what you're measuring is real? How do you know if the frequency counter that you have is accurate, how do you know if 1 Volt is 1 Volt, or 1 second is 1 second? As I've said before, measurement is the act of comparing two things.

If you think that's ludicrous, consider the rulers and tape measures in your home. They all indicate the same measurement, right? Just for a laugh, pull out all the ones you can find and see what you discover. If you've not done this, you're in for a surprise.

I don't want to dissuade you from getting testing equipment, far from it, but don't expect to fork out to get the equipment and call the job done. The point being that spending lots of money on gear isn't the end of the story, it's just the beginning and in my opinion it's not the place you should start.

Based on community responses, ninety recommendations in all, so hardly scientific or representative, but still a good feel for the space we're playing in, the single most important piece of equipment you should get after sorting out your radio, antenna, coax, power supply, computer, software and other fun things we fill our shacks with is the Digital Multi Meter. You can spend anywhere from $10 to $500 on one, but it should be high on your list. As with the rulers, your results will vary, so be mindful of that when you go shopping.

While the SWR meter and the Watt or Power meter appear regularly, they're not the next highest ranked testing gear. Mind you, most current radios have those built-in to some extent, so perhaps the numbers are somewhat distorted here.

The next essential piece of equipment is some form of monitoring. Either active, passive, programmable, automated, manual, what ever. Hardware like the NanoVNA, the TinySA, even using a Software Defined Radio feature high on the list. Most of these devices either generate a signal to test against, or they rely on your radio to do the heavy lifting, depending entirely on what you're testing. An antenna analyser is among these kinds of tools.

As an aside, the dummy load, either a high power one, or a more modest one, come recommended by many different people.

Together with this list of monitoring equipment comes associated accessories, adaptors, patch leads, attenuators and filters.

After that comes equipment such as variable power supplies, Watt meters, grid dip meters, oscilloscopes and frequency counters.

I will observe that from the responses I received there was a distinct flavour to the recommendations.

On the one hand there was the combination of recommending something like a station monitor, or a signal generator, an oscilloscope and a frequency counter, including things like a Bird 43 RF Watt meter. On the other hand were recommendations for spectrum analysers, NanoVNAs, SDRs and the like. It's not quite across the analogue to digital divide, but it's close.

Note at this point that I'm a software guy in the process of restoring an analogue HP 606A Signal Generator from the early 1960's, so I'm not pointing the finger anywhere.

There were other tools recommended too, an LCR meter, a tool that allows you to measure Inductance, Capacitance and Resistance, something you can buy in kit form if you want to get started, or similarly, can be purchased for varying amounts of money online. Speaking of money, varying amounts that is, the service monitor was on the wish list for several people. Prices between that of a new radio or a new car with varying amounts of warranty.

I will make mention of a bi-directional coupler which was marked as essential by one amateur. It's a tool that allows you to sample a signal in the forward and the reflected path which comes in handy when you're trying to test and build equipment.

As mentioned before, your transceiver has some of this equipment built in, or can be set-up to do some of this, so there's no need to go out and spend thousands of dollars to set-up your testing bench on day one, but the day after, I'd add it to my birthday list.

No doubt that there's many and varied opinion on this. What is your essential testing equipment?

I'm Onno VK6FLAB

 This article is the transcript of the weekly 'Foundations of Amateur Radio' podcast, produced by Onno Benschop, VK6FLAB who was licensed as radio amateur in Perth, Western Australia in 2010. For other episodes, visit http://vk6flab.com/. Feel free to get in touch directly via email: cq@vk6flab.com

 If you'd like to join a weekly radio net for new and returning amateurs, check out the details at http://ftroop.vk6flab.com/, the net runs every week on Saturday, from 00:00 to 01:00 UTC on Echolink, IRLP, AllStar Link, Brandmeister and 2m FM via various repeaters, all are welcome.

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