The Amateur Amateur: Fifteen Milliseconds of Fame
By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
My Amateur Radio book would have plenty of visual references, like
little smiley-faced electrons dancing merrily down the feed line.
December 20, 2003
I was talking on
the telephone with Chris--my brother and my Elmer. Now, I don't keep
a log of these calls, but if I did
, the message numbers would
be in the triple digits by now. As usual, I was asking him about
Amateur Radio theory rather than actual practice. I can find plenty
of sources that tell me what
to do, but very few that tell me
to do it.
I am infinitely more comfortable knowing
why I am doing something than I am doing it just because the manual
Chris kept on talking but my mind had stopped right there.
As usual, the discussion with my brother was about antennas.
"What does a counterpoise do?" I asked.
"Your vertical antenna is like half of a dipole," he began. "The
counterpoise acts as the missing half."
Chris kept on
talking, but my mind had stopped right there. This used to happen to
me in school a lot. I'd be following a lecture just fine, and then
the instructor would say something that I didn't quite understand.
I'd sit there ruminating over the statement, and by the time I'd
figured it out the instructor had already covered several more
"You see, the radiation resistance . . ."
I knew that term
from one of the books I'd studied while upgrading. I couldn't quite
remember what it meant. I knew that it was measured in ohms. Oh,
right! I remember now.
". . .
current return . . ." he was saying.
I realized he'd
lost me again. Isn't there a book that explains all this in simple
terms, I thought to myself. Something I can understand? I wished that
Chris were here instead of 700 miles away. I needed him to draw
pictures on a blackboard while he talked. I needed a visual
you take the drag coefficient . . ."
make things simple when I write about them in my column, I thought.
Heck, I should probably write my own book about Amateur Radio. At
least it would be understandable.
". . .
square of the hypotenuse . . ."
My book would have lots of things, like little smiley-faced electrons dancing
merrily down the feed line.
You know, that might not be a bad idea, I thought. I can write coherent
sentences. I think I could hold the reader's interest. I can draw,
too. My ham radio book would have plenty of visual references. It
would have lots of things like little smiley-faced electrons, dancing
merrily down the feed line.
". . .
party of the first part, herein known as the Plaintiff . . ."
The more I
thought about it, the more enthusiastic I became. It should be a
breeze to write about radio topics in simple, easy-to-understand
terms, because that's the only way I
understand them. I
wouldn't have to "dumb down" the discussion, as my grasp of
the material already is at the lowest, most basic level. During a
discussion of standing wave ratio (SWR), for example, I would show my
smiley-faced electrons rushing back down the feed line, yelling to
their forward-rushing counterparts, "Turn around! The traffic is
awful up ahead!"
according to Socrates..."
This could work. This could be great!
work. This could be great
! I already knew from e-mail
responses to my column that there were plenty of amateur amateurs
like myself out there, just thirsting for information. As I had, they
found most of the material available seemed to be written for
graduate engineering students, not for common folks like us. I could
fill that gap! My book could become very popular. I might even make
lots of money.
a bond with the chlorine atom..."
But wait. Before I could write such a book, I would have to thoroughly
understand the topics. At present I barely understand them at all. I
needed someone to explain all of the intricacies of radio to me,
perhaps even collaborate with me in writing the book.
"Uh, Chris, could you repeat that, please?" I said lamely.
"Glitches in the System"
A few years ago I
toyed with the idea of drawing an Amateur Radio related cartoon
strip. Eventually I developed a strip about little critters that
infiltrate radio equipment and create mayhem. I called it "Glitches
in the System." The magazine for which I created the strip went
belly up, however, and the cartoons never made it into print.
I recently unearthed the original six cartoons. As a holiday treat from me to
you, I've included No 1.
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
© 2003 American Radio Relay League