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It's been quite a while since I heard about amateur (ham) radio. I think it's a good hobby to dabble into to develop an understanding of communication technology and electronics. But whatever research I have done to date turns up things that describe it for someone who buys ready made radios. I want to dive into the electronics and understand how all of it works, I don't want to think too abstractly.

Can anyone please guide me to some website or book which can guide a beginner to get started in radio technology but also provide at least a basic understanding of how everything works and how to get your hands dirty? I know I have to get a licence and I am preparing for the exam.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't want to make a stir, but... is this question off-topic? It is related to electronics, and I personally have a license and think it's a good thing to learn. But it's a very different angle than most of the other posters take on this board. \$\endgroup\$ – J. Polfer May 15 '10 at 17:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ I thought it was relevant because I specifically asked for resources to understand the electronics of this field. If I would have asked for where to buy the equipment and how to setup antennas then that would have been off topic :) . \$\endgroup\$ – Rick_2047 May 15 '10 at 18:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's a question about getting started in an area of electronics. There are broad scope questions already on the board about other topics, like robotics, Arduinos, and microcontrollers. The question itself (second paragraph) doesn't even mention amateur radio. The mention of amateur radio sets the context of the question. You could reword the question, swap out "amateur radio" with specifics - multi-band two-way voice/CW/digital communication in the MF/HF/VHF/UHF frequencies, and my answer probably wouldn't change. \$\endgroup\$ – W5VO May 15 '10 at 23:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a perfect question for the forum Rick. These are the types of questions I prefer to see, too often someone asks a question here because they are too lazy to ready a simple wikipedia article. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk May 16 '10 at 5:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ I see a new SE site being voted upon for Amateur Radio, if you are interested in Ham - go there and vote for it area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/43029/amateur-radio \$\endgroup\$ – Ron J. Aug 31 '13 at 13:47
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Look at free Crystal Sets To Sideband book, which gets you through building your own equipment. For more advanced stuff there is the excellent Experimental Methods in RF design book, which does the same with a lot more sophistication.

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A book that meets your requirements would be the ARRL Handbook for Radio Communication. I haven't looked at this year's edition, but they typically have a section on electronics and radio theory, radio construction projects, antenna projects, and other side projects like power supplies. The projects run through the whole frequency range, though the HF projects are usually easier to build. The nice part is that not a lot of initial knowledge is assumed, and the theory sections are readable.

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It's also a good idea to join your local amateur radio club. I'm on the committee of HERC, the Hastings Electronics and Radio Club, and we provide free training for all three levels of the UK Amateur Radio License. Students get free club membership! Most other clubs do the same.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I searched for a local Ham radio club but couldn't find any. Actually most of the Ham radio clubs are concentrated at south india and I am in west India(Gujarat) and specifically in my own city I couldn't find anyone who can help. \$\endgroup\$ – Rick_2047 May 15 '10 at 17:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ The issue is that each country has it's own specific set of rules, I will ask my friend who is Tamil and does RF what he would do in india. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk May 16 '10 at 5:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you go to qrz.com and type your city name you will find the names and addresses of many local radio amateurs (I just tried it). I'm sure that if you contact one them he will be able to help you and will probably let you operate his station. You might find that there is a local club. \$\endgroup\$ – Leon Heller May 16 '10 at 6:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ The problem with qrz is that they provide only mail addresses. I cannot go knocking at the door of a ham you know. That would be kinda embarrassing. \$\endgroup\$ – Rick_2047 May 16 '10 at 6:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ You should be able to find email addresses, in some cases, or phone nunbers. \$\endgroup\$ – Leon Heller May 16 '10 at 20:14
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The range and variety of interests within amateur radio is quite large, enough so that in a local club there may be a number of members each with their own unique interests, but as it has been a global hobby for over a century, there is large community of amateurs how may share an common sub-interest as yourself.

Two "sub-interests" that spring to mind are the QRP (low power) groups and members, including the QRP-L and qrp-l.org mailing lists, Northern California QRP Club, G-QRP club, and numerous others including Ashhar Farhan VU2ESE, who became a mini-celebrity with his BitX20 (affordable home made 20/40 meter dual band SSB transceiver). There are also numerous clubs and small to medium businesses selling QRP oriented kits. Because of the simplicity of not having large and complex power amplifiers, they often design and build simple CW (Morse code encoded on a C-ontinuous W-ave signal) transceivers, or even separate transmitter and receiver pairs. Many affordable (and a few not so affordable) QRP kits are available.

The other major area is in microwave frequency operation, as less amateur oriented equipment is available, so many adapt surplus commercial equipment or build their own gear to operate above 1GHz.

A few "big" references for amateur radio building are:

Keep an eye out for used copies of the ARRL or RSGB Handbooks, either one makes a great technical (RF oriented) reference about many aspects in ham radio including learning electronics and building things.

Informally, I find that UK and Indian hams are more likely to build some or all of their equipment than US/Canadian hams. So they tend to have affordable approaches to getting on their air, and operating.

If you have a decent understanding of basic electronics (i.e. the basics of diodes, transistors, ICs, digital logic) then the EMRFD is an excellent starting point, which starts off in chapter 1 with a couple of simple and small projects to start with.

Another interesting reference is the ARRL published book and column in their monthly magazine, QST, both by Ward Silver. The latter is for members only. The book chapters, or magazine columns form a series of very short treatment of a single topic, typically 1-4 pages with a simple and quick experiment or two.

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The Amateur Radio Relay League recommends, as do I, Ham Radio for Dummies. Easily the best guide I ever read to Ham radio. It prepares you on some level for all three exams. I went into my technician knowing more than I needed to, as did I with my General.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Today the League's name is "American Radio Relay League". A quick Google search didn't reveal when they changed "Amateur" to "American". \$\endgroup\$ – Pete Becker Aug 31 '13 at 20:24
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You might want to look into the ARRL QEX publication (http://www.arrl.org/qex). Aimed more at experimenters/builders. QST is also good, but is a balance between building and operating.

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