Some Amateur Radio Definitions
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For those new to ham radio, here are some useful definitions, pertaining to antennas and DX-ing.
- S.W.R. -- A term, applied to any part of the antenna system, which means: "Savings-to-Watt Ratio". Based on
the inverse relationship of dollars in the bank and effective radiated power.
Characteristic Impedance The
usual reaction of your spouse when told about the proposed antenna system.
- Traps -- Devices installed in antennas to collect rain-water, to keep it from running further down the
- Wind Loading -- The measure of how much more awkward it gets to handle a big beam as you ascend the tower.
- Balun -- (Pronounced: "balloon" by many). An anti-surveillance device, installed in coaxial lines at the
antenna, to prevent nosy neighbors from eavesdropping on you through their TV sets.
- Transmatch -- A device mistakenly believed to decrease S.W.R.. The premise is that this device allows you
to load up into a mis-matched antenna. Unfortunately, it the cost of one that lowers your S.W.R.
- House Bracket -- A device which secures the house and the tower together. It lets the tower do double-duty
by holding up the house during severe windstorms.
- Rotator Control Box -- A device which is designed to let you monitor antenna "windmilling".
- Windmilling -- A technique whereby prevailing winds are allowed to rotate the antenna, enabling the
operator to "scan" the radio horizon.
Dummy Load -- A measure of the stress exerted on a tower by a ham who climbs the tower without a safety belt.
- Coax -- (Usually mis-pronounced as two syllables). A term applied to the maneuvering of a piece of
transmission line through the attic or walls of a house.
- Db's Gain -- A bunch of yellow-jacketed wasps found a great place to build their nest, at the bottom of
the rotator housing on my tower.
- Db's Loss -- Fortunately, lightning struck the tower and the wasps were totally destroyed.
- Vertical -- A much-maligned antenna, said by some critics to "radiate equally poorly in all directions".
This is not true, as many who have built one know. In fact, the vertical can have directional characteristics,
and not radiate at all in some directions. I hope this clears up that myth once and for all!
- Sloper -- A variation of the vertical, where high winds have affected thin-walled aluminum tubing used in
- Inverted Vee -- A clever, but inferior, reverse adaptation of the true, "upright Vee", which allows the
use of a single support instead of the usual two.
- Dipole -- Another modification of the true "Vee", and used where it is not possible to get the center feed
point close to the ground.
- Ground Plane -- Usually, an array of 1/4-wavelength arms extending from the base of some verticals (or
"slopers"). These arms are not recommended unless a rotator is also used, to take advantage of their directional
- Directional Coupler -- A device inserted into the transmission line which monitors the environment outside
the shack, by utilizing the antenna as a remote sensor. For example, when the antenna responds to weather
conditions such as severe icing or heavy winds, the coupler will produce indications of these responses. A
special directional coupler has even been designed, presumably, to tell you when BIRDs are sitting on your
- Smith Chart -- An alias, to be used when you don't want people to know what chart you really used to
design your antenna.
- Long Path -- The direction you are told to aim your antenna, to work a rare DX station, as suggested by the
other fellows in the pileup.
- Element Spacing -- A critical antenna design factor which is optimized to place the tunable traps on a
beam as far out of reach as possible, from the tower.
- Diversity Effect -- A property in which the quad-type antenna far excels over the yagi-type antenna. It
relates to the number of directions an antenna can collapse into, under heavy winds.
- Selective Fading -- A quirk of propagation, whereby a signal arrives at a distant point by multipath, and
where the different signal components arrive with varying phase relationships. This causes the signal to be
"cancelled out" at some points. This wonderful effect helps eliminate some of the QRM from distant DX stations
when you are trying to copy the pileup.
- "Off the back of the Antenna" -- A technique used by more experienced DX-ers, where the antenna is pointed
away from the station being contacted. This creates a challenge similar to running QRP.
- QRP -- Restricting final input power to the transmitter to anything less than 500 watts, on 20 meters.
- Speech Processor -- A "state of the art" device which permits one to communicate with as many others at
the same time as possible. However, beginner operators need to learn how to use one properly, to expand the
signal beyond a narrow, 3 KHz bandwidth.
- "IMOKINCALLBK" -- An expression used in a CW QSO, to say: "you send me your QSL card first, turkey, and
then I'll send you mine".
- IRC -- An economic instrument, administered by the Postal Service, to control the balance-of-trade
- Parasitic Element -- A person who takes lists for DX-stations.
- LISTS -- A method of making DX contacts, where some self-appointed person takes a list "on the air" (aka:
his buddies on 2-meters) of people who wish to "work" a person in some DX location. This makes it easy for hams
who do not have the patience or time to learn real DX skills to get a quick, easy contact. In fact, if you can't
hear the actual report from the foreign station, the list-controller will often help ("...OK, there, WB6xxx, did
you hear Jose give you a '59' signal report?").
- QSL Manager -- The station you worked in Juan De Nova tells you to send a "Green Stamp" to a ham in
Germany who is called a "QSL Manager". It is his duty to send your card to a ham in California, who then (after
holding it for 8 months) sends you a QSL card.
---from the Portland Amateur Radio Club website, Copyright Brett Coningham AB5P 1996