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Get on air and make some noise ...

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by VK6FLAB, Oct 27, 2018.

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  1. VK6FLAB

    VK6FLAB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    Get on air and make some noise ...

    Get on air and make some noise is a phrase I use often to encourage amateurs to be active on-air and use the bands that are available to us.

    One thing that's often glossed over is how to actually make that noise. It can be scary to make that first contact.

    If you've got your radio installed, your antenna erected, your operating position set-up just right and you're ready to actually key your microphone, how do you do that and how do you get the attention of those around you?

    First things first.

    You need to establish if your radio is actually working as expected. If you're using a UHF or VHF radio, often the simplest way is to find a local repeater, key-up your radio and give your callsign. The result should be at least a carrier, a beep or a callsign in Morse-code. Some repeaters even have a voice ident, so you can hear that your action of keying the push-to-talk had an effect. If that isn't working, then there are lots of things you can troubleshoot, but that's for another day.

    If you want to do the same on HF, unless you happen to be in a position that there is a repeater within propagation distance, generally only on the 6m and 10m bands, then you're essentially out of luck. There isn't a beep, or a carrier, or a voice-ident to be found. This means we have to solve the problem in a different way.

    First of all, if you cannot hear any stations, the chances of someone hearing you are slim. So, the first thing to do is to check that the squelch on your radio is set to allow all signals to arrive at your speaker. Then find a band where it's noisy. When I say noisy, find one where there is lots of hiss. Generally speaking an open band, one where propagation is getting a signal to you, makes noise, lots of noise. There are exceptions to this, but for now, find the noise.

    Depending on how you have your antenna set-up, you need to make sure that you're using the right antenna for the band you're using. Some antennas work on multiple bands, others only on one, it depends entirely on what you have got hanging off the end of your radio.

    Once you've found the noisiest band, go hunting for beeps, as-in Morse-code beeps, or voices, or digital sounds. Find a signal, find evidence of activity. If you have multiple noisy bands, check them all.

    You might recall that this is all dependent on the ionosphere, so depending on what's going on with the sun, things will change, sometimes within a minute, an hour, or weeks. Generally there is a difference between day and night and sunrise and sunset, so experiment.

    Once you've found some activity, you need to find someone to talk to. If the voice you hear is weak, look for a strong one. The stronger the better. While this isn't universally true, it's a good starting experience. Every radio and antenna combination has a sweet spot on where you know that they can hear you, but you don't know yet what that sweet spot is, so trial and error is the way to go.

    HF is not like the local repeater. The people on HF can be anywhere on the planet. They might be there for the first time, or for the third time that day having been on air for sixty years, it's hard to tell.

    A good analogy is to think of a sport stadium with a hundred thousand people in it. There are people all around you and you're trying to make contact with one of them. You can pick their frequency, but they're likely to be talking to someone else. You might be interrupting a daily chat, a regular net, or happen upon a contest or a special event station. You don't know which one it is and sometimes you can't hear both sides of the conversation. So, before you key your microphone and make some noise, listen to what is going on.

    Once you've figured out that the station you're hearing might be amenable to talking, wait for a break in the conversation, key your microphone and just say your callsign phonetically, once. If there's no break, that's a good indication that the other station doesn't want to talk to you, unless there is an endless stream of stations, in which case the going might be tough and you might be there for a while.

    If the other station acknowledges your call, great, you just made contact. Confirm that you have their callsign and that they have yours, write it down with the time and frequency, then start with exchanging information, start with a signal report. In the beginning, less is more. Your first name and city is often more than enough.

    All we're doing is establishing that we can talk to someone and that they can talk to us. Don't overdo it, get a feeling for what's going on.

    Then do it again.

    And again.

    Before long you'll have some experience on how to get on air and make some noise and you can start learning about improving your skills, becoming familiar with your radio and being an active amateur.

    Hopefully that wasn't so scary, and remember, every amateur had to make their first contact one day, even those who have been on-air for longer than you've been alive.

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB

    To listen to the podcast, visit the website: and scroll to the bottom for the latest episode. You can also use your podcast tool of choice and search for my callsign, VK6FLAB.

    All podcast transcripts are collated and edited in an annual volume which you can find by searching for my callsign on your local Amazon store, or visit my author page:

    Feel free to get in touch directly via email:, or follow on twitter: @VK6FLAB (

    If you'd like to join a weekly net for new and returning amateurs, check out the details at, the net runs every week on Saturday, from 00:00 to 01:00 UTC on Echolink, IRLP, AllStar Link and 2m FM via various repeaters.

    W3MT, VU2USA, AE8F and 2 others like this.
  2. NU4R

    NU4R XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I think one of the best things WE can do for new to CREATE the QSO...and make it easy for them. Ask them questions, easy questions, to get the newbies to talk. For instance,what's their equipment, what is or what was their career? Quickly look up their QTH and ask about the area and such.

    Hear an unfamiliar call or a call with an obvious new issue on our local repeater, Fusion, D-Star, etc????

    STOP IGNORING THEM! Introduce them to others who just might be on-the-air, invite them to a meeting, maybe explain an ARES scenario to them. But most importantly...

    AH2AP, N7MSI, KE0DZW and 9 others like this.
  3. KC8WIK

    KC8WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Here! HERE!
    AH2AP, KF1P and NA4RA like this.
  4. G3SEA

    G3SEA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Many complain of lots of Noise ie Background Big Bang Microwave Noise :cool:

    However Conditions for the SSB Contest were actually good. and VP6D is banging away on cw with the Pileups.

    FT8 sigs are like a Tsunami :cool:

  5. N1NDN

    N1NDN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Onno, your short Podcasts are perfect, I've listened to several. Keeping it succinct and short is key to maintaining the attention of the younger generations that we would like to see in the hobby!

    I can also appreciate the remarks from NU4R, Stop ignoring them! We have many listeners in this hobby and eventually there will be no more talkers. Make some noise people!
    KF4ZKU and G3SEA like this.
  6. WN1MB

    WN1MB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    At the risk of coming across as sour grapes, doesn't there seem to be an excessive amount of hand holding going on these days?

    I'm fairly certain that I'm not alone when I recall listening to a LOT of on-air conversations well before receiving my license in the mail. That was just part of the game. You know - get an idea of what was going on before taking the plunge yourself. ARRL and other publications provided information on on-air operational procedures. I didn't have an Elmer but I did have a lot of books - the pages of which were well dog eared.

    That's not to say early contacts were free of the sweaty palms frequently associated with testing before FCC examiners. But the novice sub-bands were full of us teaching each other how to do this "radio thing." And occasionally a higher class licensee would venture into our kindergarten and chat with us.

    But then again, society has changed. There's a generation or two of people who walk around with cell phones, but seldom talk, let alone have real conversations on their "phones." Instead, deliberately truncated texts are sent or status updates posted. Groups of people sit around and instead of talking to one another, they're hunched over cell phones with "conversations" being limited to, "Hey, check this out."

    Different day and age, I guess.
    KY5U, KF4ZKU, N8ZL and 6 others like this.
  7. N1NDN

    N1NDN Ham Member QRZ Page

    You're right, different day and age. Although we don't understand the ways of the younger generation, its not ours to judge, they will never be like our generation. I remember my parents saying the same thing when I was a kid.

    I think you missed out by not having an Elmer, I had several and have been one to many Hams in this area. Our club has a group of Elmers, myself included, who reach out to new Hams and offer help. Yes, there are plenty of videos and books out there, but nothing beats a personal offer of help and advice in my opinion.
    KF4ZKU and KF1P like this.
  8. WN1MB

    WN1MB XML Subscriber QRZ Page


    Oh wait, that was your opinion; not judgment, right?
    K8AI, AK5B and W5TTW like this.
  9. N1NDN

    N1NDN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Taking my statement out of context like you did could make it appear that way, but yes. Its my opinion.
  10. WN1MB

    WN1MB XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I'm simply fed up with the current trend of treating "judge" and "judgment" as nasty, four letter words. I call BS on anyone who self-righteously proclaims "I don't judge."
    KY5U, K8AI, AK5B and 3 others like this.

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