Radio Information

Copthorne Macdonald, ham radio enthusiast and the inventor of slow-scan television, recommends a number of radio information sources for amateur radio enthusiasts.
By Copthorne Macdonald
July/August 1980
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Amateur radio expert Copthorne Macdonald recommends a number of radio information sources for enthusiasts.
PHOTO: MADALEINE MACDONALD


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Copthorne Macdonald founded New Directions Radio and is the inventor of slow-scan television, a method of amateur radio transmission that allows ham operators to both hear and see each other during shortwave broadcasts.


I frequently receive letters from folks who are looking for in-depth facts and figures on some particular aspect of radio. In answer to such queries, I've put together a list of a few radio information sources that I know to be especially valuable.

Radio is, of course, a multifaceted medium, and its diverse nature tends to complicate data gathering a bit. Each "facet" group seems to have spawned its own separate literature of books and periodicals.

The International Scene

International broadcasting, for example, has inspired publications which focus on that activity alone. The serious shortwave listener (or SWL) is apt to find both the World Radio TV Handbook and the Review of International Broadcasting to be worthwhile investments.

The WRTVH contains listings of time, frequency, and language for all the major world shortwave broadcast services. Furthermore, the 1980 edition includes a comprehensive technical review of shortwave receivers. A one-year subscription to the monthly Renew of International Broadcasting can be had for $12.

Ham Radio Publications

Radio amateurs—because they're involved in two-way communication—have interests different from those of shortwave listeners. For many years now the primary source of ham information has been the American Radio Relay League, which is the national amateurs' organization. A year's membership in the League (costing $18) includes a subscription to QST magazine, a broad-spectrum ham radio publication presenting news of on-the-air activities and FCC regulatory matters as well as technical articles.

As you may remember, my last column dealt-in part-with Tune in the World With Ham Radio, the ARRL. package for beginners. Well, the organization's more advanced manual, The Radio Amateur's Handbook, has been ham radio's technical bible for some 57 years! The revised 1980 edition contains directions for building an uncomplicated beginner's receiver, as well as a number of other, more complex projects.

The comprehensive 23-chapter book also covers radio theory quite thoroughly. It doesn't "spoon-feed" the material, however . . . the volume will be most useful to folks whose high school algebra hasn't faded away completely, and who've had some prior exposure to basic physics. Anyone interested in the technical side of radio will find the Handbook to be a bargain at $10.  

There are a number of other ham periodicals that compete with—and serve as valuable supplements to—QST. CO magazine, for instance, features such informative pieces as George Jacobs' "Propagation" column, which forecasts radio conditions for the coming month.  

Worldradio, yet another good source of data, is a monthly newspaper dealing exclusively with the communications aspect of ham radio. Each issue is packed with news about how men and women are using the medium. Public service activities are stressed, and range from disaster communications systems to ham assistance at such events as auto races. Low-power enthusiasts will find the sort of information they're looking for in the British publication SPRAT... which is the quarterly journal of England's G-ORP Club. Each issue contains circuit plans for basic receivers, low-power transmitters, portable antennas, etc. Data sheets on a variety of related subjects are also avail able to club members.

There are also a good number of ham who want detailed antenna-building information, and I'd like to recommend three volumes that together contain enough design ideas to keep an energetic experimenter busy for several lifetimes The ARRL Antenna Book is a great buy, while The Giant Book of Amateur Radio Antennas contains interesting (and often unusual) designs for multiband and log-periodic antennas. And—for people who live in the country and have lots of space—Ed Noll's 73 Dipole and Long-Wire Antennas describes how to erect and tune a variety of high-gain, low-cost antennas.

Crystal Set Information

In letters to me, many MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers have expressed interest In crystal sets ... the simple earphone radios which use no energy other than that supplied by the received signal Itself. I've found Radios That Work for Free, by K.E. Edwards, to be a wonderful little book that shows how to build old-fashioned crystal sets—much like those common in the 1920's—using currently available materials. It's priced at $5.75 postpaid from Hope and Allen Publishing Company.

Summer Hamfests

I'd like to thank Matt Beha (N8BPI) for the reminder that summer and fall are the seasons when many radio groups sponsor "hamfests," the periodic regional gatherings of radio amateurs which present information as well as opportunities just to have a good time! Matt's club, for example, will be holding its hamfest in Benton Harbor, Michigan on Sunday, October 5 at the Lake Michigan College Convention Center.

In addition to the usual lectures and displays of new equipment, the event will feature demonstrations of solar power, of low-power radio equipment, and of slowscan television ... plus a large flea market at which parts and used equipment will be sold by individuals. Why not track down a local ham, or a nearby ham club, and find out what will be happening in your area in the months to come?


New Directions Radio is an international network of radio amateurs concerned with those ways of using ham radio (and related modes of communicating) that promote our own growth as individuals, and which we perceive as helping to create a more aware, more caring, and more responsible human society. We encourage all who share these interests to work with us. A current schedule of on-the-air activities is included in each issue o/ the bi-monthly New Directions Roundtable Newsletter, published by Art Mourad (WB2POB) as a service to the rest of us. 


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