Amateur Radio

Friday, September 9, 2011 by darco
Posted in

The home automation project that I've discussed a lot on this blog got me interested in how radios work. When I started it all seemed a bit magical.

Then I went ahead and built the IM-Me Spectrum Analyzer, and I was fascinated. I could now see how the radio spectrum was being used in real-time. I started to wonder, what were those blips around 430-460MHz? It turned out a large chunk of it was an amateur radio band. My curiosity piqued, and I knew what had to happen next.

I got my amateur radio license (Callsign: N6DRC) a few weeks ago, and I love it. I highly recommend anyone even remotely interested in electronics, radio, or public safety to go out and get at least the technician-class license. Best twelve bucks I ever spent.

From the public safety perspective, when TSHTF and your power is out and your cell phone doesn't work the hams are the only ones who can communicate easily. I don't want to be just another casualty who is at the mercy of others when the big one hits. I want to know what's going on around me in an emergency situation, and be able to let others know when I or someone I care about needs help.

From the curious engineer perspective, the deeper I dive into this stuff the more parallels I see with the world around me and the projects I've been working on. For example, a new approach for the soil moisture sensor might be to treat the length of the sensor as an unterminated transmission line. My measuring the time and magnitude of the reflections I should be able to calculate the dielectric constant of the soil and thus determine its moisture content. Maybe.