Embarrassingly Clueless

Usually for us one of the hardest parts of any project is the decision making and shelling out the money part. And since it took us three years to finally purchase our SSB radio, it would seem that would be the case here too. I am afraid maybe it isn’t. We still have to complete the install-a critical step and apparently not exactly a straightforward one. Then we have to learn how to use the radio. Let me focus on the second one for a second.

I am going to be completely honest, no matter how embarrassing, and admit how clueless I am. I still don’t know how a radio (music, VHF, ssb) even works. I do not know how a phone works (the kind on the wall or the kind in my pocket). I do not know how the internet works or really what it is. I can’t explain the difference between 12v power and AC power or how an inverter works. I don’t understand wavelength bands, frequencies, or baud rates. I know I am not dumb, I actually have a degree in science and work in a lab but that is all biology/chemistry. Keith, of course, has a much better handle on most of these topics, he is very comfortable with electricity and the mechanical side of things but he too is a bit lost on the electronics aspects as computers aren’t really his thing. So we are figuring this out together. Last night Keith gave me a crash course on a few simple topics. For example: Diode=like a one way check valve in plumbing-only in electricity. I get it now. Only a couple hundred more concepts to go.

So why do these things matter? Obviously I have had no problem making phone calls without understanding the principles at use my entire life. I should be able to call on the radio without understanding the principles at use there too-right? Well they matter because I need to get my ham license in order to use the service that will allow me to send/retrieve files (weather) over the radio for free using Winlink. There is a fee-based service that works on the ssb bands, Sailmail, but I like free better. That, and I think we will need to understand the basics for installation and operation anyway.

I downloaded a ham study guide and a list of study questions, but I am finding it difficult to make heads or tails of the material when I don’t understand 4 out of 10 words in a sentence. I just don’t have the vocabulary or base knowledge. Words like rectifier, oscillator, azimuthal pattern, bandwidth, reactance, and propagation mean nothing to me. I have so much studying to do. I had hopes that getting the ham license would help learn how to use the radio. Now I am just hoping that I don’t need to know this stuff to use the radio!

So, are we over complicating this whole thing? We can’t be the only ones befuddled by this. Someone please tell us that once you start using the radio it is actually not too complicated!

In the mean time, my other little study partner is helping out too!