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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs

Don Keith (N4KC) on February 20, 2013
View comments about this article!

 

TOP FIVE STATION ACCESSORIES EVERY HAM SHOULD HAVE

 

BY DON KEITH N4KC

 

Okay, so you have studied the manuals, answered hundreds of exam-pool questions on-line, and happily passed your licensing exam.  Congratulations!  You’ve finally gotten to the point where you can say your mouthful of a call sign without stumbling.  And you have purchased your primary station transceiver, something for VHF/UHF in the car, and have a decent antenna or two.  You may even be on the air already, making contacts and flinging RF all over the globe.

 

Now is the time to start thinking about what else you need in your shack to enhance your enjoyment and the fulfillment offered by our amazing hobby.  I have some suggestions for you, based on my own opinion and experience.  Others may have different ideas and I assure you they will not hesitate to express them in this worthy venue. 

 

First thing, I am NOT going to include on this list some items others may consider to be essential. I believe each of the following are “nice things to have” but not absolutely required to have yourself some fun and fully enjoy being a ham.  The other accessories I will then list in rank order are those I think should come first.

 

That “nice to have but not essential” list includes:

 

·       A linear amplifier.  Yes, they are wonderful to have when the going gets rough, but a good transceiver (which, when I say “good,” means a decent receiver with some modicum of filtering and noise suppression) and an efficient antenna system will open up the world for you with 100 watts.  Save your pennies and get you an amp someday.  I operated without one for the first 47 years of my ham radio tenure and have had a blast.  Now, I’m often glad I have the extra 9db of signal, but I still would not rate the amp as an essential accessory.

·       A tall tower and multi-element HF beam.  Again, nice to have, but not an option for many.  A well-designed vertical or wire antenna system will still allow you to work the world.  I did it with a G5RV and a multi-band trap vertical.  And I’ve done it with tri-band beams and my current hexbeam.  Beams are better but not essential.

·       An “antenna tuner.”  I can make a good argument for this being a required accessory.  If you have read previous articles by N4KC then you know I am an advocate of having at least one of your antennas being a long piece of wire (dipole or loop) fed with open wire feedline so you can use it on multiple bands.  If you have gone that route then yes, you must have a “tuner.”  The auto-tuner available in most radios these days may or may not be robust enough to cover all the bands and their segments on which you wish to dance.  However, for the purpose of this article, and because not every ham will require one, we will keep the antenna matching device in the “nice to have” category.  But keep in my mind it can also be a must-have gadget, depending on your antenna situation.

 

Now, what do I think you DO need?  What do I believe should be your top five accessory purchases as you delve into the hobby?  Here goes, in what I believe is the order of importance:

 

1.     A good watt meter.  And by “good,” I mean it should be reasonably accurate (lab grade not required) and ideally have the ability to see both forward and reflected power.  A cross-needle display is really nice so you can see forward and reflected power at the same time and get a decent idea of your antenna SWR. 

 

Those who have seen my previous articles here on eHam and in my book RIDING THE SHORTWAVES: EXPLORING THE MAGIC OF AMATEUR RADIO know that I believe SWR is a highly over-rated commodity.  Still, it is good to have an instant visual check on the integrity of your antenna system.  If the SWR is suddenly 10:1, you know something is haywire with either your antenna matching device, feed line, or antenna.

 

And as long as we are talking ideal, I would also get a watt meter that has a peak-reading function.  I am sure you remember from your studies that many watt meters do not react in such a way as to allow you to see what actual peak power is for such modes as SSB.  If you glance at that swinging meter movement over there, it may appear that you are only putting out 60 or 70 watts even though you are sure you set the transceiver’s output power at 100 big ones.  A peak-reading meter will show you more accurately what you are actually doing.

 

Nowadays, there are several manufacturers that make good peak-reading watt meters with either dual displays or a single cross-needle meter face.  Be sure it will handle the power you intend to shoot through it and that it will work on the frequency range for which you will need it.  I have seen—and purchased—several such meters, good for HF frequencies, for less than $100 new.  Add capability up to UHF and they get pricier, or you may want to just get a separate VHF/UHF meter.  Be wary of used meters at flea markets as they may have been scorched beyond repair, but you can also get a good bargain there, too.

 

2.     A dummy load.  Yes, a dummy load.  Stop airwave pollution while you fiddle with that new radio or tuner.  Avoid entertaining the rest of us and the shortwave-listening world while you adjust your transmit audio processing for hours on end with that oft-heard yodel, “H – e – l – l – l - o – o - o – o, radio – o – o – o!”

 

Again, be sure the dummy load you buy can handle the amount of power you intend to send coursing through its oily innards.  Read the manual to be sure you know what the tolerable on-and-off cycle should be so you don’t fry its resistors or send its oil bubbling over like a witch’s cauldron.

 

3.     A volt/ohm meter.  Look, I know not everyone gets into ham radio to learn all there is to know about electronics.  There is nothing wrong with that, and many other aspects of the hobby besides the technical part attract folks to its ranks.  However, a decent volt/ohm meter can serve a number of purposes in your shack.

 

I confess I usually go for the cheapest model Radio Shack has on its shelves (using those nice Shack gift cards my kids give me for Father’s Day) or something I pick up at hamfests.  As with the watt meter, you are not looking for something NASA might use.  If you do yearn to learn more and construction and kit-building are in your wheelhouse, invest in something heftier and more fully featured.  However, ninety percent of my VOM usage is checking continuity on coaxial cables and jumpers or making sure my 13.8 volt power supply—the one without benefit of a voltmeter on its plain-Jane face—is somewhere in the general vicinity of 13.8 volts.  That and checking the veracity of refugees from that pile of discarded AA batteries.  For this reason, I usually prefer an analog meter as opposed to a digital readout.  Take your pick.  Or have one of each.

 

4.     An antenna switch.  Even if you are new to the hobby and only have one antenna out back or stretched across the attic, trust me, you will soon have more.  I suspect mine are mating back there and having babies.  I put up a G5RV and a 2-meter/70 CM j-pole, and before I knew it, wires crossed my backyard with such regularity that birds can no longer safely fly through the maze.

 

My rig has two antenna outputs.  I have five HF antennas.  Simple solution: a 4-position coax switch (my big horizontal loop goes to a second output on my auto-tuner).  Read the reviews here on eHam on the various switches available.  Most are perfectly okay for amateur use.  Expect to pay up to $100 for a solid, manually-switched device and well above that if you opt for something you remote outside and switch electronically.  Either way, you prevent carpal tunnel from constantly screwing connectors on and off.  Using such a switch also neatens up the shack considerably.

 

5.     A computer.  I almost left this one off since it is so obvious anymore.  But I still talk with hams who have the computer upstairs and the rig downstairs.  When I became active again in 2005, I had my shack in my son’s old room and my office/computer in the old family room next door, both in the basement part of the house.  I somehow did not realize how firmly the ‘puter had become entrenched in the day-to-day operation of a ham shack.

 

It did not take me long to move the shack into the office with the transceiver right next to the desktop computer.  And I also keep my laptop on the desk, too, so I can interface easily with the radio for firmware updates, memory programming, and the like.  I use it to program my two HTs and the mobile HF/VHF/UHF radio, too.  The main computer is hooked up to the main rig through a SignaLink USB external sound card for digital modes.  And I usually keep DX Summit and QRZ.com open in the browser on one or the other machine for quick reference.  I love looking up the guy with whom I am ragchewing to see what he has on his QRZ page, enabling me to launch into conversation about some of the relevant things I might find there.

 

Of course, other logical uses of the computer in the shack include rig control and logging.  I came from an era in which we had to keep a paper log.  You cannot imagine the hassle when a QSL card floated in from the bureau and I had to try to find the logbook in which that particular QSO was logged.  Or when I figured I had worked up to another DXCC plateau and tried to track down the various countries to include by riffling through multiple spiral-bound logbooks. 

 

I am still a casual user of computer rig control.  Old-timer that I am, I still kind of enjoy twisting knobs.  But it is there when I want to use it.  And many now prefer it.  Note that a whiz-bang game-worthy computer is not necessary for most amateur radio use.  An Internet connection—and a reasonably fast one—is almost a necessity, though.

 

I suppose if you wanted to pick nits, you could say logging, digital mode, and rig-control software, and the digital interface between computer and rig are additional “accessories,” and I have actually named nine here.  Maybe so, but I think you get the point. 

 

And as previously noted, I bet many of you can think of numerous ideas you might suggest in addition to or instead of the ones I have ranked above.  If so, I hope you will list them here with justification for why they are recommended.

 

After all, the best “accessories” of all are probably an Elmer’s heart and an open mind.

 

(N4KC maintains two web sites” his personal/professional site at www.donkeith.com and his site dedicated to amateur radio at www.n4kc.com.  He also blogs on the subject of rapid technological change and its effect on media, society and amateur radio.  That blog is at http://n4kc.blogspot.com )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by W5LZ on February 20, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I agree with almost everything listed at least to some extent. I think something that was missed is so simple that it's either taken for granted (till you need it) or it's already there. That's a simple pencil and some paper.
- Paul

And a magnet! No particular/special reason but they come in handy too.
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by K5WLY on February 20, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
A relatively new ham, 3 years or so, and I have all the essentials!
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by K1PJR on February 20, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Don,

I would have to agree also. Pretty basic stuff but essential.

BTW, enjoyed Riding the SW along with Wizard of the Wind and Undersea Warrior. I think it's time to visit your site and get another book!

73
Phil
K1PJR
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by WX0V on February 20, 2013 Mail this to a friend!

Not to demean Don's other ideas, but the computer suggestion hit it out of the park for me. I was late to the party, but going from paper to electronic logging was huge for me.

Most of us probably already run them, but those new to amateur radio may not be fully aware of the computer's role in what we do.

Thank you, Don, for another educational and entertaining article...you the man!

73!

Scott - WX0V
Fridley, MN
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by VE6TL on February 20, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
One other accessory I would consider essential is a good pair of headphones. These are particularly useful when it comes to weak signals and working exotic DX. DXpeditions tend to work split and having the ability to listen to both sides of the QSO in separate ears is indispensible. Headphones can also block out noise within the shack.
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by N3YZ on February 20, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
A supportive XYL who understands that sometimes we need to escape, to talk to a new friend who can't see us, doesn't care what car we drive or how big the house is, but shares our amazement at how far we can talk on the power of a light bulb!

John, Annapolis, MD
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by AF5CC on February 20, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I agree with the headphones. I use them all of the time when on HF. Never rely on just the speaker unless I am mobile. They don't have to be expensive either. I use a pair of walkman headphones than went to the rig when the cassette player died. You can hear stuff so much better and don't interrupt the family.

I would also say a good pair of paddles is a necessity (you do do CW, right??!!). A straight key is a good way to start, but once you move up in speed you need something better. A set of Bencher paddles has worked for me since 1985 or so.

John AF5CC
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by N4KC on February 20, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Totally agree on headphones. I rarely use them, but on those early mornings when I get up to try to catch exotic stuff on 80 and 40, my headphones probably do a lot to save my marriage.

I do about 60% CW so I don't consider my paddle an accessory. It's as necessary as a microphone for SSB or keyboard for PSK31/RTTY!

Tnx for the input so far.

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com




 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by G7MRV on February 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I would agree with others, swap No. 5 from computer to a set of 'cans!

My computer, although nominally linked to the shack for data, PTT and audio, is near but not in the shack. Most of my logging is done manually, so a good notepad and a few pencils is more essential to me.

The headphones though I think should be in the essentials.
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by N4OI on February 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Nice lists! And a couple of comments... Underscore the dummy load -- make it a high-capacity, oil-filled can type right off the bat, even if you do not plan on running high power. The smaller dummy loads have a limited duty cycle and when you are troubleshooting, the last thing you will do is sit and wait for the dummy load to cool down! And another thing, connect it to that antenna switch so you can go to test mode and back in an instant.

Next for a "nice to have" is a new technology digital memory oscilloscope. I invested in a dual-trace, 50Mhz Rigol a couple of years ago for a pittance compared to what a similar scope would have been in the past. And a good scope is a great incentive for learning more about RF and digital electronics, and will help you make sure your equipment is in good shape. (When was the last time you looked at your keying waveform? Or checked the timing of your relay line out to your amp compared to transmitted RF?)

And the list goes on... Thanks again for sharing, Don!

73 ES GOD BLESS U ES URS DE KEN N4OI
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by KC5LVW on February 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article but I would amend the list with a must have item. the "Antenna Analyzer", e.g., MFJ-259B. My VOM & 259B have saved hours of leg work. Sure is nice to actually tune a tuner "on-the-air" with an analyzer vice QRMing with even a watt of RF from a rig. I often wonder how many trips up the tower have been avoided by this device. Besides the fact it does so much more homebrewing besides just checking antennas with making tuned coax lines, stuvs, checking baluns, etc. If the computer is going to make the list, I think this device is right there also. 73, KC5LVW
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by N6AJR on February 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I always reccommend folks pidk up odds and ends when they find them cheap. I found a deal for 2300 feet of coax (LMR 400) for 600 bucks delivered, or 122 crimpon N connectors for 150 bucks, a spool (500 feet) of rg6 cqabel tv cable for 5 dollars ( makes great buried radials for a vert) and so on. then when you need some you have it. you can also help out friends sometimess. A couple of good radio friends are certainly in the "must have" items.












 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by N4KC on February 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Headphones are edging out the computer on the "Top 5" list! And, as noted, I don't necessarily disagree. If the station is located in proximity to where other family members gather, a set of "cans" might go to the top.

N6AJR, thank you for some good ideas. However, this list is intended for the brand new ham, just putting a station together. 2000 feet of coax at $600 is probably not really high on the "accessory" list. But if you spot another similar deal on some cable, you know my email address...and it would be a good thing if others eventually developed your ability to scrounge and adapt. I'd even suggest that you do an article for eHam on the subject. We could all learn from you.

KC5LVW, my 259B is a treasured accessory to be sure but I would not trade it for the computer or other items on the "Top 5 Accessories" list. We assume all new hams want to experiment with antennas--as you and I certainly enjoy doing--but from my experience, they initially just want to get up an antenna that works and gets them on the air. I would hope a local friendly ham or two--with a 259B or other similar analyzer--would be around to help in the cause. Then, if antenna building becomes an interest, the new ham can invest in a good analyzer and put up some wire and aluminum. I'd certainly put an analyzer in my "Top 20" accessory list!

Anybody else have ideas for station accessories? I doubt I nailed all five in my list.

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com
(Author of the new book RIDING THE SHORTWAVES:
EXPLORING THE MAGIC OF AMATEUR RADIO)


 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by W2WO on February 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I agree with others about headphones, except that I would recommend a good, comfortable, over-the-ear type. I went through a bunch of lower-end headphones over the last 50+ years and finally bought some fairly good ones (~~$100 category). They make a difference. It is best to buy a set you can try first -- the super expensive audio nut type is not needed, but they should sound good with ham-type signals and be comfortable to wear for hours at a time. (I ended up with Sony MDR-V700, but there are undoubtedly other good choices.)

In the nice-to-have-but-almost-essential category I would add good coax. "Good" means good enough, not necessarily super high-end stuff that saves .1 DB.

Another almost-necessity (if you chase DX) is a little clock with the date and time set to GMT (..excuse me, that should be UTC).

Bill
W2WO
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by K5LDL on February 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Hello folks!

I have those except for the amplifier, that is next. But for me? My station is in the spare bedroom so I have a few essentials others may not have.

A coffee maker. I added it as it was a spare when I moved here. I put it on the table behind me.

A quartz clock up on the wall with UTC time. A wall map with thumb tacks of the places I've talked to.

A spare bed for those long nights waiting for gray line... the coffee helps!

A nearby restroom. It just happens to be right next door and not down the hall. And yes, it is necessary due to the coffee.

An understanding XYL and family who allow me the time to pursue this great hobby!

There's a few more, but this is my short list.

Luis K5LDL

 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by GILGSN on February 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Amp, tower, tuner and computer are absolutely not needed. The amp being the last thing any Ham needs. If you build your antennas correctly, you don't need a tuner, just a good SWR meter. Actually, I would suggest getting an antenna analyzer before buying any of that stuff.

100W is a LOT of power. I operate with 12W maximum and can't see why I would ever need an amp... But that's me... We are supposed to use the minimum power to reliably establish contact. If Hams actually followed that rule, an amp would be rarely needed. If you can't build a decent antenna or tune the one you bought, by all means spend three grand on an amp and warm up the air around you. The economy needs it.

A new Ham operator can start with an HF station under $100, and that includes everything. $300 is more like it, but if one followed the advise in this article, he would be out a few thousands!

You can't really broadly define a "Ham Station." My station fits in a small Pelican case; the whole thing, including radio, battery, key and antenna. It costs leass than a sixth of the price of a good amp.

I am not trying to start an argument here, but new Hams need to know that you don't need to spend a fortune or need 1KW to operate.

Gil.
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by AF6AU on February 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I would also say a good set of headphones over a computer, but a computer should be in the house at least. If you contest, a radio nearby computer for logging would out-priortise headphones. Choices, choices.... My rigs are in the garage, so I just use good speakers, and use log books (yes I'm old school...)

As to that quality wattmeter, get a multi-function one with SWR, if your rig(s) don't have SWR, be nice to have a good accurate SWR readings on all the bands you work right? And detecting SWR at low power would be easy on the finals, and reduce QRM for your neighbor Hams too.

If you consider a antenna switch, get 2. Find one that has a ground position, and one to connect to the dummy load. Handy when you are away. It's good when thunder storms come, as the antennas are grounded, and the rig sees 50 ohms. This adds 1 more layer of grandchildren/gremlins/mischief-maker protection for when you are not at home, Grams is napping, and the little invaders find joy in finding Gramps hidden mics and pushing on the power switches. After all these little kids are more tech savvy than we are by age 7.

I class these visitors as accessories we don't need.

So, how do we classify tools? How about a decent comfy chair? I would rate a small refrigerator with cool adult refreshment in July higher than a cheap RF signal generator in January...

Enjoy the hobby my fiends.
Ahhh Choices... ;-)
73's
AF6AU
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by W5DQ on February 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I agree with the proposed list but if a computer isn't in the offing then I would highly recommend a set of operating aids like a paper world map, a beam heading map if using a beam antenna, a prefix list to know what that just heard new prefix is located, a standard paper logbook and a myriad of other helpful items. While a dedicated computer for the shack use is the optimum choice for most of today's amateur radio ops, many of us had plenty of success prior to the introduction of PCs using the aforementioned paper aids. Even though I have a hot multi-core processor PC as an integral part of my day to day operations in the shack, I still keep my paper aids at the ready for many quick simple tasks that they excel in performing.

Gene W5DQ
Novice to Extra, a ham for 36 years.
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by K2JVI on February 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Not sure if you can call this an "accessory" but especially for a new ham or one building a station for the first time, consider the ac power aspects of a station.

In my case I have two circuits dedicated to my ham shack. a 20amp 120V line with four outlets(2 duplex outlets in the same box) and a 20 amp 240 volt for the amplifer. Seems to be a good combination for me. Keeps the load confined and may help with interference.
Just my .02

Bob
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by W4KYR on February 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
One thing I consider a Top 5 item is an alternate means for power. Whether it is a generator, or 12 volt deep cycle or gel cell batteries with a couple of solar panels or a combination of the two.
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by W7KKK on February 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
One critical thing you left off the list.

An understanding wife!
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by K0JEG on February 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
About the PC: if it's "the old one" or something from the 16bit era, it's time to put it out to pasture. I know it's illegal to get rid of a perfectly good piece of hardware just because it's obsolete, but a good, responsive PC will make operating much more enjoyable as opposed to fighting with a beater. If you can't bring yourself to pitch the old girl, pull out the motherboard, stick it in a frame and hang it on the wall as an art piece. Save the PSU for parts.
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by KB2HSH on February 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Yeah...OK...besides the OBVIOUS...how about a comfortable CHAIR.
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by KB6QXM on February 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
One of the needed items in the ham shack may not be in the top 5, but a good dog laying next to you while you are on the radio. Nothing more soothing than a good loyal dog at your feet to pet while you are rag chewing is to me ham radio at it's finest. At least in my opinion.
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by K9MHZ on February 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I could not agree more with #1....emphasis on "good". There's a lot of junk out there.
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by K4EJQ on February 21, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Don; Enjoyed your post as always.

Add to that list of "must needs" for the ham shack:

An operator with:

1. A good sense of humor.

2. The patience of Job.

3. Some "grey matter" 'tween his/her ears.

4. The ability to communicate thoughts and ideas.

5. The ability to know when it's time to use the VFO and or the " On / OFF" switch and WALK AWAY.

Remember, it's a HOBBY. ENJOY IT !!!

73, Bunky, K4EJQ
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by K4KK on February 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
A dummy load is important. However, it must be applied to the correct side of the transmitter. Far too often it is attached at the microphone!
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by KE4ZHN on February 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
This isnt a station accessory but it would be nice for us to have again. REAL FCC enforcement. Attacking power companies is nice for those of us who have to endure noisy power lines...but when is the FCC going after the same morons who have been destroying 20 meters for the past 20 years? The 12th of never obviously. Why does it take an act of congress to yank the tickets of the worst offenders who do their thing years and years on end? Typical bureaucratic stupidity and ineptitude at its finest.
 
OH NOES!! I'M DEFECTIVE!!!!  
by KASSY on February 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I do not have a wattmeter. I do not have equipment capable of exceeding the legal limit, so I'm not required. If I used SSB, I'd use an oscilliscope, since even peak-reading meters do not read peaks on SSB accurately.

I do not have a dummy load. I do not own any equipment requiring manual tuning. The only tuning I ever need is the automatic antenna tuner built into the rig. It has to be connected to the antenna it's tuning in order to tune. If you tune it into a dummy load, it will not be correct for the antenna.

OK, I'm not 100% defective. I own not one, but many VOMs, or more accurately, DVMs. They're handy for lots of stuff, the $5 ones from Harbor Freight work fine. One in the ham shack, one in the car, another in each of the toolboxes, one in the kitchen drawer.

I also have a handy gadget that plots voltage versus time on a graph. Mine is made by HP, more common is Tektronics.


People laff at my antenna switches. They're both very old ceramic knife switches, left over from gramps' collection. One switches between my wire beam and G5RV, the other one is the phasing line for the beam so I can aim east or west. OK, so I have an antenna switch, that's two out of five where I'm not defective.

Computer. Nope. I really dislike admining computers and the ham station isn't near the home office. For contests, I bring my laptop into the shack and log with it, and run the rig, too. But otherwise, I like the organic experience of twisting knobs. I do a day job where I'm mousing and typing and talking on a headset all the time, I want ham radio to be a break from it. Manual labor is required to xfer a contest log into a general logger, but I go through the steps. Haven't hooked up wit LoTW yet either.

So I'm a failure, a defective newb, a Luddite who will never learn the error of her ways, a throwback to the days of stone knives and bearskins.

I feel so awful.

Not really.

- k
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by WB0U on February 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
More suggestions:

A must have is the list of frequency allocations. I prefer the "USA Amateur Radio HF Band Plan" that ICOM gives out at swapfests. This is easier to read than the ARRL "US Amateur Radio Bands" handout.

A dry erase board is great tool. Mine currently displays DXCC worked/confirmed, LOTW QSOs/QSLs, states needed for 10 meter WAS, and date/time/location of the next SKYWARN training.

A nice to have is a cross listing of call sign prefix verses country. I have a DXCC hanging on the wall but I don't have all the prefixes memorized.

Another nice to have is a grid square map. Beacons on 10 meters often transmit their grid square which helps me determine where the band is open

73,
Lynn
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by N4KC on February 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Kassy, nobody's labeling you a Luddite! I fall firmly in the "Whatever yanks your crank" school of thought so long as your "yank" doesn't mess with my "crank." My list is a general one, aimed at newcomers. Knife-switch all you want and banish the computer from the shack if that is your preference. I suspect you enjoy the hobby just fine without all them fancy wattmeters and dummy loads.

WB0U: Agreed. I was thinking electronic accessories when I built this compendium. Those things you and others mention (except an understanding significant other...that, to me, is a given) fall into another list I may do someday of "operating aids." I have plenty hanging along the wall here in the shack/writing office, from left to right:

1) Prefix list
2) Metric conversion charts (comes in handy on the air and in the writing)
3) Beam azimuth maps--world and North America
4) Pictorial chart of how the station is connected (Yes, I DO have to refer to this at times!)
5) Calendar with large numbers for the dates
6) Two clocks, one local, one GMT
7) Bulletin board full of pretty QSL cards
8) US grid square map
9) The Icom amateur band plan chart
10) My 60-meter channel cheat sheet
11) World map with push pins marking entities worked
12) The University of Alabama football and basketball schedules.

OK, that last one may not be essential for most of you, but I have to plan my on-air time around certain tip-offs and kick-offs. Sorry. It's a sickness. Roll Tide!

73,

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com
(Author of the new book RIDING THE SHORTWAVES:
EXPLORING THE MAGIC OF AMATEUR RADIO)


 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by VE3XQQ on February 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Great list!

Interesting to see how and what others value. On the nice to have to have I would add a station scope and on the must have list I would add some sort of rf noise abatement like the ANC-4. The noise in a residential area can be deafening, I would not be able to use 160 or 80 without it... Large sreen tv's are horrid for noise.
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by W6UV on February 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
My top five accessories:

1. Headphones - I operate 100% with headphones as it lets me hear weak stations better and keeps ambient noise out. Especially useful in a split DX pile up when I can listen to the DX station in one ear and my transmit frequency in the other.

2. Computer - And not just a basic one. I like multiple monitors so I can have digital software like Fldigi open on one, my logging application open on another, and various other apps, like a grayline map, QRZ.com, and DX cluster on another.

3. Watt meter - I have an LP-100A, which does just about everything a watt meter can do.

4. Amp - Sometimes 100 watts is just not enough, especially for DXing and contesting on the low bands.

5. Various reference material - DXCC entities list, DX world atlas, beam headings chart, etc.
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by WA7DU on February 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I'm surprised that more of the comments here don't "second the motion" made by KC5LVW. So, I will: I find an antenna analyzer to be a very useful tool. I wouldn't want to be without mine--it's on my list. Those of us fortunate enough to have one should keep in mind that it does more than just indicate the resonant frequency of an antenna system. It's a multi-function tool. While on this subject, let me rattle a few old bones--remember Grid Dip Meters? Thanks to Don for starting another interesting and worthwhile discussion.
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by KE4DRN on February 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I agree, a good grid dip meter is nice to have.

the military surplus grid dip meter an/prm-10
show up all the time, built tough and work great.

73 james
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by ZENKI on February 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Every station should also own any SDR receiver for station monitoring or spectrum analyzer service.

If all the stations who habitually splatter owned a SDR they would only splatter deliberately. These comments particularly apply to those who run ESSB who seem to think that its their right to take out 15khz of bandwidth with splatter. If you see it on the SDR its real splatter thats there and causing interference.

Most SDR receivers have linear S-meters which is another bonus which can help you give honest signal reports and not give out bogus useless S-meter readings.

If you a own a PC why not a computer controlled SDR, its a no brainer.
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by K4JC on February 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
For someone just getting started in ham radio, many of the station accessories mentioned here can be extremely useful, and can be had very inexpensively. For example, some of the old Radio Shack power/SWR meters marketed for CB use are surprisingly accurate at HF frequencies and generally will accept 100 watts or more. I have seen them at hamfests, online swap sites, and even in thrift shops for as little as $5. I keep a couple handy for Field Day, go-kits, etc. Digital VOMs are available at discount tool places like Harbor Freight for very little; I bought a brand new one a couple of weeks ago for $3 on sale. Again, something I stock up on because you can never have too many VOMs! :^) And I have also found very nice, name brand, over-the-ear headphones at places like Big Lots for $10 to $15, less if they're on sale.

No, these accessories aren't essential but they will enhance your enjoyment of ham radio, and won't melt your MasterCard.

Now, as for the multiple towers with monoband Yagis...
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by WH6DZP on February 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Well, since you brought it up, I recently bought a Grid Current Meter (5 cents!) at my radio club auction. Appears complete and functional and old. Any idea how to get an operators manual? I'm a new ham and would love to put this to work. Decent headphones and mic are next, followed by antenna switches and SWR meter- hopefully in one purchasing extravaganza! Aloha, Steve.
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by KI4ABS on February 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
What a great discussion, and a great thread for new hams to checkout when planning their station!

After a rig and a quality antenna (can't stress that enough), definitely a station computer. With more and more invaluable internet resources for ham radio, this is crucial. No one can argue that it's not also the most versatile piece of equipment in any ham shack, as you can use it to control the radio itself, use it for logging, mapping, digital modes, DX cluster, discussion forums, antenna modeling, research, etc...

I'm in my mid-20s, but I still like the look and feel of knobs and switches and dials. I also like paper maps and charts. I keep a paper log that I transfer to a computer log every night. While it's nice to have the versatility of controlling my radio through software on a computer, I'd still rather reach over and turn a know or flip a switch and truly "dial" in a station.

SWR and wattmeters are critical ($30 at almost every Radio Shack). A comfortable, quality set of headphones are important for keeping peace and hearing those weak stations. I build antennas so my MFJ-259B is critical.

I'd encourage any new ham before setting up a new station and throwing thousands of dollars on the latest Icom/Yaesu/Kenwood HF rig and an expensive vertical or beam, do your research! Get an inexpensive HT or mobile radio and talk to some local hams on the local repeaters and ask them what they're running. Get some tips...and if you buy then dinner, they might even come help you out! I got my first HF radio (still have it, still use it from time to time) on the local swapnet for $150. Build a 40m dipole for $30 or less (see $4 antenna article) and start working the world.
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by W4VR on February 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Two more accessories:

A "compass" or "GPS" so you know where to aim your antenna!

For those with a technical background an "impedance bridge" so you can tune your antennas to the desired frequency for each band.
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by KU4UV on February 23, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I would agree with most of these, but I would include a good soldering iron or soldering station, as well as a frequency counter.

73,
KU4UV
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by K9MHZ on February 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
KI4ABS...."SWR and wattmeters are critical ($30 at almost every Radio Shack)"

ABS,

Admittedly nitpicking a little, but I would avoid that like the plague. They sell some very low-end stuff, and you're just asking for insertion loss issues, impedance problems, poor accuracy, and overall very low quality if you buy gear from Radio Shack.

With even a little effort, and yes asking around like you've described, you can find some very nice used gear in great condition that's pro quality that will last for many years.

Radio Shack is like a wreck on the highway....just move along, nothing to see there.

 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by K1CJS on February 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I would venture to say that those five items may not be needed at all--especially a computer--depending on the way the station owner tends to utilize his station. One person I know has all those items and many more besides, just to look at, since he never actually uses his station. It's there so he can say he has the most comprehensive station that money can buy!

Another has no need for any of those things because all he does is listen and transmit, he doesn't change anything or experiment at all. His station is the same way it was years ago. Another borrows equipment as it is needed and returns it as soon as his checking is done.

What I'm getting at is it depends on the operator and his/her preferences. It seems that the attempt to classify every ham--and tell them what they do and do not need and how they should operate--continues unabated. With all due respect, why don't these people who tend to think they know it all just keep their opinions to themselves?

 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by RADIOPATEL on February 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Hello Everybody

I appreciate all replies and this is a very good discussion. I think the thread should have been named as "First five and next twenty accessories". The list shall vary according to orientation of ham shack eg. homebrewer or user of commercial sets, multi mode or only CW etc.
However I shall consider following 5
1. A cross needle power meter
2. A linear supply with battery.
3. Manual or auto tuner.
4. Self made tool kit over period of time.
5. good quality antenna Switch

73 Dinesh Patel VU2DCI
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by N4KC on February 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Chris K1CJS:

Thank you for your opinion. No, wait. You maintain that people with opinions should keep them to themselves. So I guess you were not expressing an opinion, though it certainly looked like one to me.

I think what folks are doing here are making suggestions, not telling new hams what they MUST have. We forget sometimes what an intimidating hobby this can be to a newcomer. That first few months while the ink dries on the new license becomes a critical time. Antennas are especially daunting. So is jargon. And so is putting together a station that will give the new op a positive experience.

My suggestions--as stated--were not the be-all, end-all list. I asked for others to make suggestions, and there has been a good--though mixed--bag of them. I think many of them will be of help to the intended target, and each post was presented in the proper positive spirit.

On the other hand, I don't believe yours will or was. That's my opinion, but thanks for chiming in with yours nonetheless.

73,

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com
(Author of the new book RIDING THE SHORTWAVES:
EXPLORING THE MAGIC OF AMATEUR RADIO)


 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by KB2HSH on February 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
My thoughts EXACTLY, Don.

I have to admit that when I was still drinking, I became "embroiled" in a few poorly-worded posts here on eHam...and I have made honest efforts to make amends...but I have to say K1CJS...that you are a very bitter, opinionated, and mean-spirited person. I pity you. I pity those around you.

Get help.

John KB2HSH
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by G7SSE on February 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Not sure if these have been mentioned:

A World Map with prefixes.

A copy of the band plan;
usefull not only to stay legal but also as a guide for which modes operate where.
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by K9YNF on February 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Thank you, Don!

World-class writing as usual.

Being an out-of-the-box thinker and an Honor Roll DXer let me add my two centavos.

1) The new ham should check his/her ego at the proverbial door.
2) Listen, listen, and then go listen some more. THEN talk.
3) Develop a tough skin. There will be some hams who just can't help laying their negative vibes on you. After all, ham radio is just a microcosm of the world in general.
4) Find an Elmer and always say thanks. I've had several.
5) Ham radio is a niche hobby. No one niche is any better than the next. I am a DXer and former contester but I have of late found a whole new energy on PSK31.
6) Many hams are, by nature, shy individuals. Some know how to carry on a great and interesting conversation (QSO) and some don't have those social skills. Try to find a mix of friends on ham radio; some that chat well, some that are proficient at technical things, and some that just love to tinker and not operate much.
7) As a ham who has done battle in DX pileups for decades, don't be surprised that some of the guys misbehaving in the pileups have the top license.
8) Find yourself a significant other who you can share your love for this wonderful hobby. If she/he just doesn't value that, try to cut your losses. Strive for compromise that includes both your needs and hers/his.
9) With CC&Rs everywhere one looks for housing these days, never drop out if you can't seem to erect a great outside antenna. There is a LOT of stealth operating going on out in hamdom and you, too, can be a ninja operator.
10) Listen to Don Keith. Read his wonderful articles and books. He's a ham's ham. I am proud to call him my friend.

73,

Wayne, K9YNF
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by WH6DZP on February 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
As aforementioned, being a new ham, this article has been great, if only to verify that my shopping list, and current holdings in my shack are "appropriate" for my developing ham-ness. I'm sure other newbies here feel the same. Thanks, Don, great writing. I get most of my personal Elmering from my Club guys, but this is a bit more instantaneous, so, a question: Given a budget of $150 or less, what's you guys' opinion of the most "appropriate" Watt/SWR meter? I'm looking (tired of looking, actually...) for brand names and available models. Thanks, Aloha, Steve
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by N4KC on February 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Wayne, thank you, and well said, as always.

Steve, I use an MFJ-815C. You'll find them for less than $90 new. It is for HF only, though. I also have and sometimes use a Daiwa CN-101L. which is good to 150 mhz and can usually be bought for less than $100.

There are others, of course.

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by WA7DU on February 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Steve (WH6DZP):

You are in the right place to find out what your fellow hams think of a particular piece of gear. Check the REVIEWS section of the eHam website. You'll find largely honest commentary written by real users. There are two ways (or more) to approach reviews. Inside the REVIEWS section you can search for "watt meter" or "cross needle" or a similar term. The problem with this approach is that the search result will include transmitters, amplifiers, trans-matches, and other pieces of equipment that incorporate a watt or cross needle meter. The other approach is to search for a specific item by manufacturer's name, and model number or type. You can gather a small list of candidate items by perusing a ham equipment retailer's website, catalog, or the advertisements in a ham radio magazine. At the risk of raising the wrath of one (or more) of the un-friendlies out there, I'll also offer one more suggestion: eBay. I've had good experiences buying on eBay--due caution is needed, and there is obviously more risk than buying new from one of the reputable ham retailers, but there are bargains to be had on eBay for the careful buyer. (Let's see if this starts a tirade of angry responses, or just rationale and well-intentioned replies.)

73 de WA7DU.

 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by WB6DGN on February 24, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
"About the PC: if it's "the old one" or something from the 16bit era, it's time to put it out to pasture."

By all means! Sell it to one of us who tinker with old commercial two way gear. Most of that software will not run on the latest/greatest new computers, thus I have NO use for them but I'm always looking for a couple clean, working 386/486/P5 machines to keep at the ready.
Whatever you do, DON'T trash them. They still serve a valuable purpose.
Offered at the risk of raising their selling price by several orders of magnitude!
Tom
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by TTOMAS59 on February 25, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
A tv set so I can watch Jack Nicholson brown nose Michell Obama.
I never thought I would live to see a representative example of a masculine male have his ass handed back to him by a woman and wimp away with a smile on his face and his tale between his legs like I saw last night. A tv is essential in the shack.
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by VE3CUI on February 25, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Computers in the shack---while admittedly tremendously beneficial in so many ways---have actually HURT Ham radio in many others...

For starters, few so-called DX'ers of to-day actually scan the bands via a radio dial anymore: instead, they scan various on-line DX websites and real-time Reflectors & chat rooms ("Who has time to tune the bands anymore, right...?").

They've robbed many of us of the ability to engage in lengthy, meaningful !QSOs---"599 GL 73 QRZ?" is the norm now ("Who has time to chew the rag anymore, right...?").

They've stolen away from many of us real-time / actual proficiency with the key / keyer, replacing it with pre-programmed Function keys ("Who has time to actually send CW, right...?").

We've been robbed of the unique intricacies of individually hand-written logs ("Who has time to write anymore, right...?").

They're taking away the personality & creativity of real hard copy QSLs, in favour of the monotony of eQSLs & LotW ("Who has time to fill-out paper QSL cards anymore, right...?").

I could go on---but in short, I feel that the proliferation of computers in the hobby has made us all COLLECTIVELY LAZY. They've taken something VERY SPECIAL away from Ham radio, something that future generations will not miss even one iota, simply because we will have left them absolutely NO "footprints in the sands of our time."

~73~
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by VE3CUI on February 25, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Computers in the shack---while admittedly tremendously beneficial in so many ways---have actually HURT Ham radio in many others...

For starters, few so-called DX'ers of to-day actually scan the bands via a radio dial anymore: instead, they scan various on-line DX websites and real-time Reflectors & chat rooms ("Who has time to tune the bands anymore, right...?").

They've robbed many of us of the ability to engage in lengthy, meaningful !QSOs---"599 GL 73 QRZ?" is the norm now ("Who has time to chew the rag anymore, right...?").

They've stolen away from many of us real-time / actual proficiency with the key / keyer, replacing it with pre-programmed Function keys ("Who has time to actually send CW, right...?").

We've been robbed of the unique intricacies of individually hand-written logs ("Who has time to write anymore, right...?").

They're taking away the personality & creativity of real hard copy QSLs, in favour of the monotony of eQSLs & LotW ("Who has time to fill-out paper QSL cards anymore, right...?").

I could go on---but in short, I feel that the proliferation of computers in the hobby has made us all COLLECTIVELY LAZY. They've taken something VERY SPECIAL away from Ham radio, something that future generations will not miss even one iota, simply because we will have left them absolutely NO "footprints in the sands of our time."

~73~
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by TTOMAS59 on February 25, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
If we were living in a free country Jack would have told Michelle and AMPAS the line about holding chicken from the chicken salad.
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by N4KC on February 25, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
VE3CUI:

I think we can all agree that computers have changed a lot of things, most for the better, some for the worse. I blog on rapid technological change and its effect on media, society and ham radio. The blog is at http://n4kc.blogspot.com.

I do not, however, have quite so negative a view as you do of the computer's effect on amateur radio.

For DXers, the computer has merely replaced the old telephone system we once used when new DX popped up. Besides, someone is dialing around, listening, or nobody would "spot" a station in the first place. Oh, and nobody says you have to use clusters. Dial all you like. DXing is not a competition, necessarily. Find 'em and work 'em any way you want to.

Computer or no, I still hear plenty of ragchewing going on. I take part in my fair share. I don't quite understand how the proliferation of computers has had any effect at all on the ancient and honored art of QSOing.

Similarly, you don't have to use function keys or automated CW at all. Use that old J-38 straight key if you want to. I prefer my K8RA paddle but I do occasionally hit the pre-recorded memory button on the radio when I'm sending my callsign in a pileup. All I notice is that CW is enjoying an uptick lately and, even if some of it is computerized, that merely means there are more guys for you and me to exchange dits and dahs with.

Logs? Nobody has "robbed" you of your old paper log. Keep any kind of log you want. Or none at all! QSLs? I don't know about you but I get them all the time, including envelopes full from the bureau. I like Logbook of the World and use it all the time, but I also have a wall full of cards and stacks of them over there in the corner.

You can certainly argue that computers have made us lazy. But so did automobiles. And TVs. And just about every other technical innovation since fire and basic tools. But they also gave us the opportunity to do more things better.

BTW: TTOMAS59, I have no idea what you are saying, nor do I think I want to know!

73,

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com
(Author of the new book RIDING THE SHORTWAVES:
EXPLORING THE MAGIC OF AMATEUR RADIO)


 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by KD8IIC on February 26, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
A good scope or signal monitor and interface hardware plus the ability to use it.
It's quite neccessary to Know you aren't flat-topping thus wide and splattery.Especially critical if you are using mic processing and or an amp. 73
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by VE3CUI on February 26, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Don (N4KC)...

If I stop for a moment & think about some of the things that I l grew up loving (and continue to love) about Ham radio---and then put them into a perspective from a Ham's view some 40 years hence---it makes ZERO sense that the hobby would even mean anything to anyone in 2053. Indeed, it probably won't even exist at that time...

Why...?

Because we've all collectively taken that proverbial easy road that you so eloquently espouse, thanks to computers.

I love collecting my QSL cards: but will future Hams have such an attraction to the hobby...? Hardly, thanks to eQSL & LotW. Oh, confirmations WILL still exist, alright: but only as long as the power might remain on to power our computers allowing access to their viewing...

The current crop of instant-gratification Hams no longer bother to listen in pile-ups. And why...? Many feel they don't have to: if they see a spot on the DX.Edge, they simply plop their transceiver frequency there, & start calling. It's true. The calibre of operator in NA has diminished considerably in the past 20 years.

To-day's Hams don't appreciate the fine arts of timing, and "snooping around the bands". And why should they...? They rely upon the few that actually do, and who take the trouble to post their findings.

Lastly, I love my old QSTs, and have issues going all the way back to 1916. But guess what...? QST magazine has gone digital! Oh, you may say, PAPER versions are still available! Yes, but for how long? Look at NEWSWEEK magazine's recent cessation of hard-copy editions.

In short, I guess I'm trying to say that we Hams are leaving NO legacy of our time here on the bands to future generations. Some inspiration, huh...? If you need to access a computer to learn about Ham radio in 2053, why stop there...? If the hobby needs to "compete" with other things computer-related, why even bother? Whatever may have been unique & magical about Amateur radio will have been totally eclipsed...
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by N4KC on February 26, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
VE3CUI:

Thank you for the nice and well-reasoned response. I am still not nearly so pessimistic about the future of our hobby as you are, though. And my perspective is based on having been licensed now for 51 years and participating in just about every aspect the hobby offers.

Yes, ham radio will evolve. Yes, emerging technology will continue to draw the interests of new and old hams. Some parts of the hobby will no doubt disappear, whether you and I want them to or not. But I know guys who love and use AM just about every day, yet they employ SDRs to check bandwidth and record modulation. I know newcomers who embrace WinLink, APRS, and PSK31 yet they also ask me to help them practice CW so they can be proficient.

Tell you what. I'll bet you a six pack of Molson that the paper QSL card will still be around in 2053. I hope we both make it until then so I can collect!

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com
(Author of the new book RIDING THE SHORTWAVES:
EXPLORING THE MAGIC OF AMATEUR RADIO)


 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by VE3CUI on February 26, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Again Don,

You're on with that bet...!

My only hope in that regard is that they do NOT find some new-fangled medicinal way(s) of prolonging my own personal lifespan to 100 years, & that I will be the ONLY Ham in the world who might still indulge in paper QSLs...! :o)

Tell you what: on my 100th natal event, let's get together for an eyeball QSO---just you & I--& exchange cards, AND "kill" that 6-pack of Molson's...!

Whaddya say: do we have a date...?!

~73!~
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by N4KC on February 26, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Book it! I'm getting thirsty already!

And I'll present you with one of my QSL cards--the paper variety that you can see on my QRZ page--at the same time!

N4KC
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by WH6DZP on February 27, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Well thanks Don for the suggestion of the MFJ 815C, I ordered it yesterday. Which is cool as, by and by, and good or bad, it should supply me with that other necessary ham accessory- a strong opinion on the quality of MFJ products! Aloha, Steve.
 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by G0EVA on February 27, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Great article!

Rather than use an analyser I would suggest a Dip Oscillator - it is less expensive - and can be used for other things besides tuning antennas.

For data modes - Cheap Headphones, audio patch lead, and a rubber band - for I/O to computer sound card (use VOX for keying). Rig control via a proper purchased lead, along with software HRD, mixW, or whatever your preference.

I used this to trial data modes and the only addition to the interface has been a box to put the fist mike & headphones in.
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by K1CJS on February 27, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Don, My 'opinion' was presented with the thought that there are all too many know-it-alls that try to tell others what they have to have or to do to accomplish things. I didn't intend pointing a finger at you and you alone either, and if you took it that way, my apology. To those who feel it was mean-spirited, I apologize also, it wasn't meant as such--although I can see it did come across like that after I re-read it.

My opinion comes not from equipment issues, but from operating methodology. Things done according to well meaning methods pushed by some persons and/or groups. It got me a figurative black eye and a firm conviction that there isn't one darn thing (or list of things) that can be or should be followed while pursuing this hobby--including 'have to have' lists of any sort.

Maybe I am bitter, but I have good reason to be, and I am opinionated--but so is everyone else. I try not to say too much because of it, but for some reason, this time I felt I had to. I sincerely feel that we would all be better off if the so-called experts just let people discover things for themselves instead of leading them around and telling them they "need" something that they themselves really don't. If people want suggestions or help with this hobby, well, that's what the forums are for.

Again, apologies to those who thought my thoughts on the subject was inappropriate. One thing I admit is that I have to work on my diplomacy--or lack of it, as the case may be. However, this was supposed to be a discussion--or are you going to start arguing that any dissenters can't state their thoughts on the subject under discussion? 73.
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by K1CJS on February 27, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I should have also said 'discovering things for themselves' includes talking with an elmer who has a knowledge of what is actually going on with the person and his station directly. Kinda beats looking at a list and following it blindly.
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by N4KC on February 27, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Steve, one of the great sub-hobbies to ham radio is bashing MFJ! Just check the various forums here. At last count, I had 21 MFJ or MFJ-owned-company products in my shack and vehicle and I have had only one minor issue with one of them.

Could they do better? Maybe. But when you consider the sheer number of products they offer, how much they sell, and the price points at which they offer those products, their QC record is probably no better or worse than other companies. We tend to hear about the cold solder joints or flaky meters in a few pieces of gear and not the perfectly working ones. Last I heard, MFJ had a no-questions-asked warranty, too.

But hey, folks can buy from any dealer/manufacturer they wish. And if anyone thinks he can do better, he can start his own company.

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com


 
Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by VE3CUI on February 27, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Again Don,

Keep 16th March 2052 open---that's when I'll turn 100 years young(!), & we can get together at a place of your choosing to crack open those Molson wobbly-pops!

I can't believe I'll be 61 just a few days from now---as the late, great Mickey Mantle once said, "Gee, if I knew I was gonna live THIS long, I'da taken better care of myself!" :o)

~73~
 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by N4KC on February 27, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Eddy, I just put it on my Outlook calendar so it now has to happen! Sorry, but I use a computer for such things!

I look forward to sharing that six-pack with you, maybe there on the north shore of Lake Ontario, even though I'll be well past 100. I'm four years older than you.

73,

Don N4KC
www.n4kc.com
www.donkeith.com


 
RE: Top 5 Station Accessories Every Ham Needs  
by AD6KA on March 9, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Very nice article Don!

It's tough to narrow it down to 5 things
but I think you did a good job. As someone
who used to work in ham retail and got questioned
a lot by new hams, I would second the headphones
and maybe add a GOOD ANTENNA BOOK. There are
so many GREAT HF wire antennas that can be built cheaply,
instead of an expensive mediocre multiband trapped vertical(for example).

73, Ken AD6KA

PS: Many new hams ask "What can I GET to make
my station better?". I submit that if he/she
has the "basics", a good reply is "What can you do
to make yourself a better OPERATOR?". Learning
to use all your rig's features, learning to really
listen and listen well, studying propagation,learning
how to properly call in a pileup, etc.
These are all cost free and effective.
 
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