What use is an F-call?


Starting in the wonderful hobby of Amateur or HAM Radio can be daunting. Using low power with little experience is challenging but can be very rewarding. Every week I look at a different aspect of the hobby, how you as a beginner might fit in and get the very best from the 1000 hobbies that Amateur Radio represents. Note that this podcast continues as "Foundations of Amateur Radio".

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Starting in the wonderful hobby of Amateur or HAM Radio can be daunting. Using low power with little experience is challenging but can be very rewarding. Every week I look at a different aspect of the hobby, how you as a beginner might fit in and get the very best from the 1000 hobbies that Amateur Radio represents. Note that this podcast continues as "Foundations of Amateur Radio".
🇬🇧 English
last modified
2017-11-28 04:51
last episode published
2015-06-13 17:00
publication frequency
7.24 days
Onno (VK6FLAB) author  
Onno Benschop owner  
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What use is an F-call? This podcast started life in 2011 when I was asked to record a story I shared during the production of the weekly amateur radio news in Western Australia. I'd been a licensed radio amateur, or ham, for a few months and found my...
Onno VK6FLAB author

L.A.S. - Lead Arse Syndrome

What use is an F-call? It seems that there is a disease within the amateur radio community. It's spreading and seems to be contagious. There doesn't seem to be a cure and it seems to be pretty virulent. Symptoms include listlessness, deafness, stubbor...
Onno VK6FLAB author


What use is an F-call? When you make contacts around the world with other amateurs the traditional way of confirming a contact is with a QSL card. It's a postcard-like affair that has the details of the station, and if all is well, the details of the ...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Retaining two letter callsigns is rubbish.

What use is an F-call? Recently I witnessed a discussion about callsigns. As you know, your amateur callsign is akin to your personal on-air identity. It's the thing that distinguishes your station from all the other stations on the globe. My callsig...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Stop whining and get with the program...

What use is an F-call? We are part of an amazing hobby where inventiveness, inquiry and exploration is part and parcel of the thing we do. It's that spirit that got me interested in this hobby and fortunately I have enough friends in the hobby who sha...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Stop and enjoy the electrons along the way...

What use is an F-call? I'm a child of my time and my perspective is the result of input from fellow amateurs. I'm often in the group of amateurs who would rather buy than build, rather get something done, than do it yourself. The black box brigade if ...
Onno VK6FLAB author

How to roll up coax and rope?

What use is an F-call? When you start in Amateur Radio you'll come across the problem of rolling up coax and rope. If it goes the way it went for me, you'll be doing what you always did, that is, winding up the coax on your arm until someone stops you...
Onno VK6FLAB author

The Community Spirit of Amateur Radio

What use is an F-call? I've talked in the past about the community spirit that is embodied by Amateur Radio. Yes, I know there are several not very nice people around, some even brag about it, but by enlarge, that's absolutely not the case. I had the...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Learn from every outing!

What use is an F-call? Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a contest that was specifically set-up for QRP. That is, 5 Watts or less. There was an hour for digital modes, including Morse, but I don't yet speak that, so I sat tight for the ...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Super Check Partial

What use is an F-call? If you're into contesting, you're likely to have heard of a thing called the Super Check Partial list and if you haven't then you should. It's a simple thing, maintained by Stu, K6TU, it contains a rolling list of the callsigns...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Your local repeater is like magic...

What use is an F-call? If you're new to Amateur Radio like I am, it's easy to turn on your radio, set it up to key your local repeater and call CQ. After the first time it's a trivial matter that you might take for granted. The repeater just sits ther...
Onno VK6FLAB author

How do you get gain if you don't change power?

What use is an F-call? Recently I talked about a digital mode that had the ability to give you an estimated gain of 13dB over Analogue FM. It's the equivalent of gaining more than 2 S-points or like turning up your transmitter power from 10 Watts to 2...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Planning for operating portable

What use is an F-call? Operating from your shack is a different experience from operating in another station. It's a completely different experience again if you operate your station portable. At first glance, what's the problem, you pack your radio ...
Onno VK6FLAB author

CODEC2 - 13dB gain, what does it mean?

What use is an F-call? Recently I spoke about digital voice communications. I made mention of the CODEC2 project being developed by Dave Rowe, VK5DGR. I also made reference of the kinds of things that digital voice improves, battery life, channel sepa...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Share your radio skills with non-amateurs

What use is an F-call? During the week I had the opportunity to hear several people use a radio in day-to-day communications. In this particular instance it was a water taxi speaking to their base. They were using their own frequency and essentially u...
Onno VK6FLAB author

A rotator on 4 wheels...

What use is an F-call? As you might recall, I've been struggling to get an antenna installed on my car. It's been a process that started seven months ago, resulted in the purchase of four single band antennas and finally the purchase of an antenna tun...
Onno VK6FLAB author

A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

What use is an F-call? Amateur Radio is about communication as much as anything else. The whole idea is to get a message from one place to another. This hobby attracts people from all walks of life, people who are physicists, truck drivers, pastry che...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Self policing license conditions

What use is an F-call? Over the years that I've been an amateur I've spent many hours discussing the ins- and outs of being an amateur. I've talked about what you're allowed to do, where the LCD falls short, what things you can build, what activities ...
Onno VK6FLAB author

More on lightning and bonding.

What use is an F-call? Last week I spent a little time talking about lightning. I discussed how lightning can affect many different things, not just by being a direct hit, but by having a nearby hit, that is, something that is in some way electrically...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Lightning, not just the radio...

What use is an F-call? During the week we were subjected to some unusual lightning activity. There was lots to go around and it raises the issue on what to do when lightning is nearby. The obvious comments about disconnecting your radio from your ant...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Digital Voice in Amateur Radio is broken...

What use is an F-call? Digital Voice in Amateur Radio is broken. It's a big call for a mere F-call to make, so let me back that up with some facts. There are three basic digital voice products you can buy as an amateur today, D-Star made by ICOM, Sys...
Onno VK6FLAB author

WIA Awards System

What use is an F-call? As you've heard me talk about making contacts with other countries on many occasions, I thought I'd spend a little time describing what I do when I've actually made the contact. At the moment I'm logging my contact on CQRLOG, i...
Onno VK6FLAB author

How do nets work?

What use is an F-call? In the normal day-to-day interaction between amateurs on air we use the procedure to say the other station's call-sign, followed by our own. If there's two people on-air, this is a simple way to have a discussion. But what if t...
Onno VK6FLAB author

The LCD is a living document.

What use is an F-call? When was the last time you went online and downloaded a copy of the LCD? Do you even know where to find it? Do you know when it last changed and what changes it contained? If the answer is, "I have a copy from 2005 when they in...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Which way is the Grey Line?

What use is an F-call? I recently spent some time talking about the Grey Line, about the way it moves around and how it will help you make contacts along its path. If you recall, the direction of the Grey Line changes throughout the year. As the tilt...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Remember to stop fiddling every now and then...

What use is an F-call? I've now been an amateur since December 2010. In the time that I've been part of this hobby I've come to understand that a large part of the experience is to tinker. We tinker with radios, batteries, antennas, coax, connectors,...
Onno VK6FLAB author

QRM and morons

What use is an F-call? Man-made interference is a wonderful thing. It allows you to appreciate that there are both people and morons on air. Some people become morons, either by accident, or on purpose, but every now and then you have special people w...
Onno VK6FLAB author

The Gray Line changes through the year!

What use is an F-call? In the past I've mentioned the Grey Line. If you recall, this is a twice daily phenomenon. During dawn and dusk, and often slightly before and after, there is an enhanced level of DX propagation. That is, if you're listening whi...
Onno VK6FLAB author

We need mentors!

What use is an F-call? Amateur Radio is a personal thing. It's an expression of communication, of exploration, of invention, learning, electronics, physics and personal achievement. The community we are members of is a living organism. We pick up rand...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Programming repeaters.

What use is an F-call? You purchased a shiny new radio and it's all you imagined and it works great and you're over the moon with your purchase and you're raring to go, but you find yourself constantly typing in the frequencies, or twiddling the VFO t...
Onno VK6FLAB author

What is your level of preparedness?

What use is an F-call? Recently I was part of a discussion about emergency preparedness. The idea being that as radio amateurs we're ideally suited to being communication hubs and conduits to pass messages along. Of course as part of that we need to h...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Raspberry Pi SDR

What use is an F-call? I've just built myself v1.0 of a Raspberry Pi SDR. It still has some way to go until I can show it off - needs a touch screen, a power supply that runs on 12V, some user interface elements, but the functionality is there. If yo...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Share your experiences...

What use is an F-call? Amateur Radio is a social activity. It's about communication and community. Ironically, as much as we are about talking to one and other, we still do some activities all on our own. If you're hunting for a rare station, trolling...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Learning from listening...

What use is an F-call? As an F-call, working DX, you'll spend many hours looking for that elusive contact, or you'll turn on your radio, tune around, hear a station, call back and bag a new country. It's all there for the taking, one contact at a time...
Onno VK6FLAB author

The QSL card is not dead!

What use is an F-call? On previous occasions I've discussed the QSL system in Amateur Radio. It's a mechanism that uses what's known as out-of-band communications to confirm contacts. For over a hundred years that has been mostly in the form of QSL ca...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Small Changes can have a Big Effect

What use is an F-call? Yesterday I learned an interesting lesson. It wasn't a simple lesson to learn, but I'm guessing it's going to take me some years to come to grips with what I experienced. Said plainly, "Small Changes can have a Big Effect" Tha...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Tuning mobile antennas...

What use is an F-call? I've recently purchased four verticals, one for each of the HF bands I'm allowed to use. I installed them and started playing, only to be confronted with some interesting results. The 80m and 40m verticals have a very high Q, t...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Everyday Terms, think about them sometimes

What use is an F-call? In our hobby we come across terms and names that we use and commonly understand, that is, we think we understand them. I mean, what's a velocity factor and what is a dielectric? Simple right? The velocity factor is something t...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Everything Changes All The Time ... pay attention

What use is an F-call? When you operate your station on a regular basis you might find yourself lulled into the belief that all is well with the world and that your station will continue to operate as expected. It worked yesterday, so why wouldn't it ...
Onno VK6FLAB author

QRP is everywhere

What use is an F-call? Having a Foundation License, the basic amateur licence in a three tiered system that is in use in Australia, means that you have access to low power only. 10 Watts PEP is the limit today, though that might change as reviews get ...
Onno VK6FLAB author

It's not about sitting in a shack talking on the radio...

What use is an F-call? As I've said many times before, Amateur Radio blows me away. Every week I see new and imaginative things that this community achieves through trial and error, from contacts across new bands, coordination of new activities such a...
Onno VK6FLAB author

There are more than just Amateurs Listening...

What use is an F-call? In the past I've mentioned that we're not alone on the bands. We as a community, Hams, or Radio Amateurs have radio spectrum we can use, specific ranges of frequencies that are available to our exclusive or shared use. Radio be...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Newness should not be a barrier to participation

What use is an F-call? When I started recording this weekly segment, there were lots of things I didn't know. I was apprehensive about how my contribution to Amateur Radio might be received, about what I should talk about, how long it should last, wha...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Learn from your mistakes and share them...

What use is an F-call? Recently I received an email from an Amateur who has had their license for over 30 years and been in the electronics field for more than 40. He shared with me an experience that goes to the heart of why it pays to share, even if...
Onno VK6FLAB author

How much do you gain from more power?

What use is an F-call? When you get an amateur radio license, you learn that different license classes have different power limits. The basic power limit in Australia, the foundation license, or f-call, has 10 Watts as the limit. The standard license ...
Onno VK6FLAB author

How to do a contest?

What use is an F-call? If you've just gained your license and you're still not sure what to do with it, I can strongly recommend that you have a go at the Remembrance Day contest. It's an annual event where amateurs spend 24 hours commemorating the ce...
Onno VK6FLAB author

dB and dBm

What use is an F-call? In a previous discussion I talked about decibels. The take home from that was that a decibel represents a ratio between two things. The gain of an antenna over the gain of a standard reference antenna, or the power loss between ...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Looking at mobile antennas for HF.

What use is an F-call? As you might know or recall, I don't have HF at my QTH. So far my DX activities have been using other people's equipment and using my 12m squid-pole when I'm either camping or set-up at some waterside location. This seriously cu...
Onno VK6FLAB author

Clubs and F-calls?

What use is an F-call? Amateur Radio is a hobby that gains and loses members as does any other hobby. One aspect of the hobby differs, that of licensing. To join Amateur Radio, you need to be licensed, that is to say, if you want to transmit, rather t...
Onno VK6FLAB author

No more bullies

What use is an F-call? If you're new to Amateur Radio, you may be surprised to learn that we have bullies among us, but if you've been around for a while, you'll have heard it, or perhaps even experienced it first hand. Yesterday I received two commu...
Onno VK6FLAB author