New rig fever

Gordon West Tech new radio watermarkHere’s another illustration I drew for Gordon West’s study guide for the Technician license, about buying your first radio. It’s easy to be swept away by something with the most bells and whistles — it sure looks shiny — but it’s not always the wisest purchase.

What’s my rig? Currently it’s an Icom IC-718, which fits my present budget just fine. Even though it’s marketed as a beginner’s rig, the IC-718 has almost every feature I need. Back when I got my first license in 1973, I would have killed for a radio with that many features.

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Musically inclined

Here’s another one of my illustrations from Gordon West’s new Technician class study manual. It illustrates a basic question many newcomers ask: Can I broadcast music on my amateur-radio station? For that matter, do I have to worry about music playing nearby that I accidentally transmit? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Gordo’s latest study guide covers the Tech question pool through 2022 and can be ordered here.

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All about public service

Gordon Wes Tech public service watermarkThis is another cartoon I created for Gordon West’s new Technician license manual, illustrating public service. We all know this guy, of course: Club baseball cap, orange vest, and a half dozen handi-talkies hanging from his belt. (The only reason I’ve never been this guy myself is I can’t afford a half dozen handi-talkies — a single dual-bander usually suffices.)

A lot of new licensees joined our ranks for just this purpose. Are you one of them? What public-service groups do you belong to? And how many radios do you carry on event day?

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Control operator?

Gordon-West-Tech-control-op-watermarkOne of my projects during Hamtoons’ hiatus was illustrating Gordon West‘s latest Technician Class license manual. I’ll be posting illustrations from it here from time to time.

Sometimes, all I could do was be literal to get the idea across. For example, do you know what a control operator is as defined by the FCC? (Hint: It does not have to do with putting a collar and leash on your rig.)

To get your own copy of the Gordon West study and learn the answer to this and other burning questions found on the Tech test, visit the W5YI website or call 800-669-9594.

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How fast is your CW?

N2EST cartoon for Gordon West Extra class study guideHere’s another cartoon I drew for Gordon West’s latest Extra-class license guide, shared for the CW enthusiasts among us.

Maybe 10 percent of my QSOs are CW these days (the rest are PSK31), and I can cruise along at up to 20 wpm as long as copy is good and I don’t have to write everything down. (Tip: You can speed up your CW if you read more in your head and learn to listen as if it were just another person talking.)

I thought I was fast — and compared to a lot of licensees, I suppose I am — but realized just how slow I really was when I worked Field Day with the CW old timers at the Alford Memorial Radio Club. Those guys copy 35-wpm-plus like it was nothing. I tried to help log and was left in the dust every time.

My goal for next year: Work enough CW that I can keep up with the Old Timers. What’s yours?

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Chasing waterfalls

Gordon West illustration 05Here’s yet another cartoon I drew for Gordon West’s latest Extra-class license guide. This one with a bare-bones PSK31 set-up is near to my heart, because that’s basically my station. My shack is in the living room, where PSK31 and other digital modes are perfect because they make no noise. My XYL Gail, N2ART, can watch TV while I’m on the air.

When I returned to the air a few years ago, I took the budget route: a used Icom IC-718 transceiver paired with a new SignaLink USB interface and a ground-mounted Hustler 6BTV vertical antenna. The monitor in the cartoon is actually nicer than what I really use, an old Windows laptop headed for the junk heap because the keyboard and mousepad had given out. All I had to spend was $10 for a cheap USB keyboard and mouse. With a particle-board platform to support the laptop above the rig, I was in business. Total cost, including coax and a few other doodads, was well less than $1,000. (My actual station is pictured here.)

While this set-up won’t dominate any pile-ups, I still have fun with it, talking all over the country and all over the world. Who says ham radio has to be obscenely expensive? Not me.

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Extra! Extra! (Class, that is)

N2EST cartoon for Gordon West Extra class study guideI’ve been licensed nearly 43 years but have a shameful confession to make: I’ve been stuck at General for about 42 of those years. The good news? A recent project finally inspired me to go all the way to Extra.

Last year I was commissioned to create new illustrations like this one for the latest Extra Class study guide by master instructor Gordon West, WB6NOA (along with my friend Eric Nichols, KL7AJ). Well, the new question pool just came out — and so did the book. And the book is so readable I now have no excuse not to upgrade. I plan to take the test before the year is up. All it took was this nudge.

For your own copy of the new study guide, you can order online at the W5YI website or by calling 800-669-9594. Or you can visit your favorite local ham-radio dealer where amateur-radio study guides are sold and pick up a copy.

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