The Amateur Amateur: The HF Chronicles--Part Deux--or--So Many Knobs, So Many Buttons
By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
My last column
described installing an HF antenna. The antenna sat on the roof of my
house, not connected to anything. Once I worked up the courage (and
money) to purchase an HF transceiver, I looked through catalogs and
perused Web pages. I did this for a long, long time. The array of
options available on HF transceivers was truly bewildering. I didn't
even know what most of the features were.
July 25, 2002
After a great deal of careful thought, I bought what was on sale.
Knobs and Gibberish
My new Yaesu FT-847 transceiver: Compact, but mystifying.
When my new HF
transceiver arrived, I gleefully opened the box, then simply stared
at it. The transceiver itself was smaller than I had anticipated, but
it had what seemed like dozens, no, hundreds
of knobs and buttons on it. What was
None of it seemed
to be labeled in English. The labels said things like "AF,"
"VFO," "AGC," "NB," "MOX" and
other letters that sounded like gibberish. But you know how it is. I
wanted to at least turn on the transceiver and listen to it for a
while. I could always read the Operating Manual
Not so fast.
Amateur radios are not typical consumer goods. First of all, one
cannot simply plug them in and turn them on. There is no plug! Being
a clever, albeit amateur
Amateur Radio operator, I had already
anticipated this and had ordered a power supply along with the
transceiver. I won't bore you with the details. (Translation: nothing
went wrong). Second, transceivers need antennas. Ha! I had
anticipated this part as well. Not only were the antenna and the feed
line ready, I had also ordered and received a mysterious box called
an antenna tuner. Everything went together smoothly. (I told
you I was clever.)
The Operating Manual: Always start here.
was connected. It was time to turn on the transceiver, which I did.
Fans hummed, lights lit, dials illuminated, and . . . nothing. I had
expected at least static or hiss (remember: this was not an FM
radio). There was no sound!
I tried to turn
up the volume. Yes. I tried
to turn up the volume. I couldn't
find the volume control! Nowhere among the masses of knobs, dials,
lights, bells, whistles, and shaving cream dispensers was there
anything labeled "volume" or even "vol." I am
embarrassed to tell you how long I looked.
If this had been
a football game it would have been the time to drop back and punt. In
Amateur Radio ventures it was the time to read the Operating
. So I did.
I found that
the volume control knob was marked "AF" for reasons that
still elude me. I turned up the AF
knob and, lo and behold . .
. nothing! There was still
no sound. Now I was really
I studied the
transceiver's display carefully, hoping that among the hieroglyphics
I would find a clue--something like "please fasten seat belt"
or "push button Z for sound." There was nothing but a lot
of cryptic nonsense, a message that said "TX," and the
incessant whine of the fan. Ah well. I shut off the radio, got my
reading glasses, a can of soda, and sat down in my easy chair to read
I hadn't read for
very long before three alarming facts came to light. First, the TX
indicator meant that the radio was transmitting! Nah, it couldn't
have been. Second, the fan only ran when the radio was transmitting!!
Third, the speaker was disabled when the radio was transmitting!!!
The infamous MOX button.
The evidence was
mounting. I must have been transmitting the moment I turned on the
transceiver! But how
? I had not touched the microphone. The
"talk" button was not depressed. Did I have a faulty
microphone? Or transceiver? Rather than face those horrible prospects
I continued reading.
Oh, wait. Now
was an interesting feature. Just below the POWER
switch was a button labeled "MOX." Apparently, depressing
button had the same effect as pressing the microphone
push-to-talk button and holding it on
the transceiver. Sure enough, the MOX
switch was depressed. I
released it and voila
! The TX
indicator went off, the
fan turned off, and blessed static roared from the speaker!
was embarrassing! My very first act on the HF bands was to jam the
airwaves with an open microphone, violating countless rules, and no
doubt angering whoever might have been listening. Not a very good
Many Miles Before I Sleep
There was clearly
a lot to learn before I even tried to listen
with my new
transceiver. I shut it off and disconnected the power supply. I left
my shack and went to the kitchen and got another soda. I then headed
for my study and plopped down in my easy chair. Sighing, I hefted the
I had a lot more reading to do.
(Note to self:
Delete references to being "clever"
before submitting to the editor.)
note: ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, lives in Florissant,
Missouri. He's been a ham since 1995. Hoffman says his column's
name-- "The Amateur Amateur"--suggests the explorations of
a rank amateur, not those of an experienced or knowledgeable ham. His
wife, Nancy, is N0NJ. Hoffman has a ham-related
Web page. Readers are invited to contact the author via e-mail,
© 2002 American Radio Relay League