Fists #3027, CC#351

Alan Wormser, N5LF
Annandale, VA USA
Fairfax County, Grid: FM18jt

Keep the Amateur Service Fundamentally Technical!

SUPPORT the Fists CW Club Petition for Rulemaking

Read the Petition (RM-10811)


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(Be sure to refer to Proceeding RM-10811)

Quick Site Index: How to Become a Ham, Elmer Hall of Fame, QSL Cards, CW Traffic Nets, Lots of Links

Ham Radio - Something for Everyone - Try it All!

Amateur Radio is so broad and so varied that you just can't get bored.  I happen to be a CW freak (CW="continuous wave"=Morse Code).  BUT - I also enjoy digital modes & SSB, computers, kit building, DXing, QRP (low power), traffic handling, emergency operations, helping newcomers, and being a volunteer examiner. Through the technical side of ham radio you can learn about things like electronics, magnetism, propagation, and antennas.  You can experiment to your heart's content.  But even more important is the human side: talking to people in far off lands, helping newcomers, and taking part in your community's disaster preparedness.

And if you thought hams are no longer adding to the radio art...  Tell that to the British ham who INVENTED an entirely new digital mode: PSK31. You see, even though the commercial interests have the money and lab gear, we hams can dabble in things that may not seem profitable.  We thrive on exactly the kind of redundancy and eclecticism that the commercial world can't afford.  But it only works if we help each other and teach each other -- that is what being an ELMER is all about.

Hobby or Service? Even though we hams regard this as our hobby, to the governments that license us it is a service. If it ever becomes "just a hobby," don't expect to get further government support.  It is a service first and foremost.  So, give something back to your community by whatever opportunities your nation provides.  In the US, examples include ARES, RACES, or the Red Cross. Be a volunteer examiner - that program alone saves the FCC money and personnel worth thousands of (taxpayer) dollars.

Explore it All and Have Fun!  Only operating one mode is like going to an international buffet and only having the hamburger and fries.  There's a whole world out there to explore, skills to hone, things to learn.  Most of all,  we learn about ourselves!

How to Become a Ham

First, go to the American Radio Relay League (ARRL).  That is the national organization in the US.  They also have links to their counterparts in other nations.  The ARRL can put you in touch with US clubs--especially the ones that teach licensing classes.  Exams are given by Volunteer Examiners (VE).  Most cities have amateur radio clubs that are affiliated with one or more VE programs.  In most cities, there are test opportunities at least every month or two.  The ARRL also publishes study guides, and there are mock exams on the web as well.

There are three types of license in the US, and one will certainly suit your needs:

Technician - Technician written exam, no Morse Code (CW) exam
General - General written exam, 5 wpm (words-per-minute) CW exam
Extra - Extra written exam, 5 wpm CW exam

As you progress through the license classes, you earn more and more privileges.  The Technician is limited to frequencies above 30 MHz.  But you can work plenty of DX (distant stations) on the 50 MHz band, and local ragchewing is common on 144-148 MHz and higher.  You'll be able to talk through satellites and experiment with digital modes.  Local emergency relief is handled in this frequency range too.

The General class gives you access to the frequencies below 30 MHz, which is also known as shortwave.  Worldwide coverage is a daily event on shortwave.  You also have access to all the modes and activities ham radio offers.  Regional and international level emergencies are handled on shortwave, too.

The Extra class is the jewel of the crown.  Extra class licensees have all the frequencies available to US hams.  There is a lot of fun for all classes of license.

You can find much more information on the ARRL web page.  Check the information on learning Morse code, at the bottom part of my home page.  A very good summary of licensing info can also be found on the Montgomery ARC web site (a club in the Washington, DC area).

Join us and have a blast!

The Culture Corner

N5LF's Elmer Hall of Fame
Elmer: A mentor. A ham who helps newcomers become proficient in electronics and CW, who helps them set up their first station, or practices with them on the air.  Being an 'Elmer' is the most important thing we can do!

An Ode to CW
In days of old, when ops were bold, 
And sideband not invented; 
The words were passed by pounding brass, 
And all were quite contented.
(Anonymous, courtesy W6ROY)

Nice rhythm on a key:

Other corny CW folklore:
Chicken clucking = E E E EA
"Dah didn't do it.  Didadah did it!"

World War II Humor:
"Three dits, four dits, two dits, DAH !
Signal Corps, Signal Corps,
Rah Rah RAH !!"

Morse Music from RAC


My Ham Radio History:

Discovered hams on shortwave: 1967 
Novice (WN5QLF): November 1975 
General (WB5QLF): March 1976 
Advanced: October 1996 
Extra: November 1996 
New callsign (N5LF): December 1996

Original QSL card: 

Current QSL card: 


Dancing Around the World on a Radio Wave!
I designed my QSL card to show off my other big hobby - International Folk Dancing. The Austin International Folk Dancers meet each Saturday and do dances from all over the world. The variety of music and dance styles is amazing! If you have a folk dance group in your area, check them out. It's fun, it's good exercise, it's easy, and you don't need a partner or experience! They'll show you what to do when you get there.

Other interests that I just couldn't fit onto my QSL card include Genealogy, Astronomy, Archeology, Historic Preservation, Travel, Chess, Go (the national game of Japan).

And where else (other than at Folk Dancing) would you meet a bunch of nice, interesting folks who know geography? ...That's right: Amateur Radio!

Traffic Handling
CW Traffic “Netiquette"
"Why CW?" essay from Mich. Net
NTS Methods & Practices

Tips for Learning CW
W9EM's suggestions & links
A Beginner's Guide to Making CW Contacts
N0HFF: The Art & Skill of Radio-Telegraphy

Emergency & MARS
American Radio Relay League
Virginia ARES & RACES
Military Affiliate Radio System (MARS)
EMMCOMM: Training & great essays

Telegraph History
Maritime Radio (in German)
Women Telegraphers (Scholarly articles)


CW Software
Koch CW Trainer by G4FON
Morse Academy (Windows & DOS) 
Pileup! (Windows)
CW Midi (Make Morse sound files)
The Mill (DOS, RR telegraphy)

Clubs & Friends
FISTS: (Accuracy transcends speed!)
Grupo Argentino de CW
Deutscher Telegrafie Club
Ludwig Szopinski's web site
Mike Dinelli's web site

More CW Fun
QRP: Low power operating & kits
Tom Perrera's Telegraph Museum

Morse to the Rescue!
"Rescue at Sea," the Jack Binns story
David Ring & the ms Prinsendam
James Farrier in the Guatemalan jungle!

Other Digital Modes
(many use a PC & sound card)
TAPR: Packet & much, much more!
NB6Z's Overview of digital modes
PSK31: New, narrow band mode on HF
Hamcomm: Easy, "low" tech approach
Digital voice on HF: New mode?

More Interesting Modes
Hellschreiber: Fuzzy logic & 'wetware' DSP
Satellites: Skill and patience pay off
Spread Spectrum: Meet the future!
Moon Bounce & Meteor Scatter

Linux & Ham Radio
HamSoft: Linux Software Listings
Linux Newbies Page
Linux Gazette - monthly hints & tips
G0TVJ's Not-Very-Technical Page

What is it about Linux?
In many ways, Linux is the ham radio
of the computer world. It is a natural for
anyone who has the homebrewer
mentality. And, like ham radio, Linux
users form a community of free spirits
who enjoy teaching and learning
from each other.

73 ES BCNU SK DE N5LF dit dit