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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Exit, pursued by a bear

W7CBA ham radio cartoon QSL by N2ESTSteve, W7CBA, lives in Montana and likes the great outdoors. Can you draw me being chased by a grizzly, he asked? Sure, I said. And thus began this QSL card.

I changed it up a little, with Steve fleeing in panic while the bears size up his abandoned handi-talkie and backpack. Next thing you know, the bears are going to want to get their Tech licenses. (By the way, there’s a really good Tech study guide that just came out with illustrations by N2EST. I imagine the bears will either find it helpful or delicious.)

For extra points: Who recognizes the source of the above headline? Hint: He wasn’t a ham-radio operator but did have something to do with Hamlet.

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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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TuBE or not tuBE …

Shakespeare and vacuum tubeI drew this a few years ago for “The Opus of Amateur Radio Knowledge & Lore,” an excellent book by my friend Eric Nichols, KL7AJ. It visualizes a chapter title about vacuum tubes — yes, vacuum tubes — that explained them and a lot of other stuff with intelligence and style.

In fact, the whole book is like that; it explains not only how to be a ham, but also why to be a ham. If you haven’t fired up your rig in awhile (and if you have only a tube rig, we’ll assume it’s been awhile), you’ll want to after reading “Opus.” I know Eric’s text inspired me to get back on the air and enjoy the hobby after too much time bruised by its club politics and not enough time just playing radio.

The book is already in a second printing, this time with extra material by the inimitable Gordon West, WB6NOA. It’s also available at your better candy stores (I know our Atlanta-area Ham Radio Outlet carries it). I highly recommend this book.

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