CQ Engineers & Technicians: QST a Great Resource
Kirt's Cogitations™ #259
These original Kirt's Cogitations™ may be reproduced
(no more than 5, please) provided proper credit is given to me, Kirt Blattenberger.
here to return to the Table of Contents.
Cog·i·ta·tion [koj-i-tey'-shun] – noun: Concerted
reflection; meditation; contemplation.
Kirt [kert] – proper noun: RF Cafe webmaster.
as busy as most peoples' lives are, precious little time is left over for recreational reading. A seemingly
endless selection of engineering monthly publications are available at no cost:
High Frequency Electronics,
Microwaves & RF,
Microwave Product Digest, et al. Most
libraries carry copies of science magazines like Discover,
Scientific American, and
Popular Science, that are freely available; some libraries
even allow you to check them out for a week or two. Add to that list the plethora of online reading material
available. All the aforementioned provide a healthy diet of information overload. Maybe for people working in the
science or engineering realm that can be considered not so much recreational reading as competency maintenance.
So with all the free or mostly free information available, why would I suggest that you add the American Radio
QST magazine to your reading list
even if you are not a Ham radio hobbyist? Simple. The articles presented are always, without exception,
well-written and chock full of information that is profitable for consumption by engineers and technicians.
The magazines that I read each month are gone through literally from cover to cover; if I do not feel compelled to
do so, the title gets dropped from my list. That is not to say that I read every last word of each one, but I am
sure to not miss anything I consider useful. In fact, a lot of the material I get for the weekly and monthly
content for RF Cafe comes directly from those sources (sometimes it comes from people sending me e-mails). Since
receiving QST as part of my ARRL membership - which began last spring - it has assumed an honored spot on my list.
Right at the top of the chart of my favorite features are the monthly Q&A-format columns, because the guys hosting
them are extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of RF.
Doctor Is In, written by Joel R. Hallas (W1ZR), is the first feature I look for. He is the kind of guy you
would like to have as a mentor when you show up for work, fresh out of college, on your first day on the job. You
can tell from his answers to questions that he knows most of the stuff cold, and doesn't have to go look it up. I
had the good fortune to work with a guy just like him: Jim Wilson, a life-long Ham and engineer at Westinghouse in
Annapolis, MD (likely retired now). I was a technician at the time.
The scanned page to the right is an
example from the December 2010 edition of QST (it is purposely illegible in order
to not violate any copyright).
Topics such as SWR matching, mast-mounted antenna configurations,
proper wattmeter usage, and a very eye-opening (even to W1ZR) RFI sleuthing exercise are covered.
not unusual for Mr. Hallas to include antenna plots or other more technical content as part of the answer to a
very well done column is Hints & Kinks, by Steve Sant Andrea (AG1YK). As the title suggests, you can expect to
find all kinds of good tidbits on how to implement your ideas, including solving some issues that have been
evading and confounding you for a while. Sometimes those ideas come from reader submissions, while others are Mr.
Sant Andrea's ideas for the questioner.
RFI, EMI, and other noisy gremlins are a continual nuisance to
everyone involved in radio communications, so this column's frequent attention to such matters, including the
December issue, make for very interesting reading.
For those interested in vintage radios and their
accompanying history, John Dilks (K2TQN) provides an interesting read. Having restored an old
Crosley floor model radio many moons ago, I enjoy the column. There are usually some cool photographs printed
Ward Silver (NØAX) does a series that is a little more technically rigorous, which helps to give balance to the
magazine's content. Even after being an engineer for 20 years and a technician for 10 years before that, I still
find myself sometimes thinking, "Oh, yeah, I used to know that!"
In the December edition of QST, shown to
the right, Mr. Silver discusses the makeup of a sinusoidal waveform. If you are a little rusty on how to convert
between peak, effective, and average voltage and current, or how to calculate the power under the curve, this is a
great way to do a refresh. Even though I know those particular formulas by heart after working with them forever,
it is still useful to read through everything - even if it just a proofreading exercise in case an error slipped
in (so a correction can be printed).
Other features of the magazine include product reviews, news about amateur radio events at home and around
the world, and columns written by guest authors. In fact, QST is yet another possible venue for you to potentially
have your own articles published. If you have submitted a relevant paper to other magazines but have not made the
cut, maybe with a little editing to fit the QST format you can get it published there! It's worth a try. Remember
that QST's vast audience is composed of not just hobbyists, but career technicians and engineers, all of whom
appreciate fresh ideas.
So, I highly recommend signing up for your own copy of QST each month since the
full content is not made available for free online (they have to make money to cover costs and run the
organization). The subscription is included in a yearly
membership in the ARRL, which at this time is a mere $39 per year.
After finishing with my copy of QST
each month, I put it in a stack with most of my other magazines to drop off at the local library, doctor's office,
or dentist's office. Hopefully, doing so will inspire someone else to get involved, or at lease gain an
appreciation for the activities and services provided by others. You might want to consider doing the same.
Along with the magazine, the ARRL offers many world class quality publications that are useful for professionals,
all at far less than what you pay for titles by the "big boys" like
Artech House and
Cambridge University Press. Check out the
RF Cafe advertiser Coaxial Dynamics is a regular advertiser in QST!