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 Articles - Intro to Radio 

Evil Wrangler's Commo Column
written by Groove

Visit Groove at his website. KI5DR.COM Ki5dr's web site!

  Welcome to the first edition of EvilWrangler’s Communications column.  This column is designed to help you understand the world of mobile communications, both on road and off.  It is always recommended to go off road with a group, never alone.  How do you keep in contact with the rest of your group?  What happens if you get separated?  What happens if you get into trouble?

  Let me introduce myself.  My name is Scott, and I’ve been an avid CB and Ham operator for over 14 years.  I currently hold the top class of FCC Amateur Radio licenses, and have taught Amateur radio classes, as well as done many presentations on different aspects of communications, from scanners to CB to Ham to building antennas to mobile installations.  Although I’m certainly not the MOST qualified person on the planet, I am friends with Tank, and he asked me to write a monthly column.  So here’s the first issue!

Types of communications
  We all have a desire to keep in touch.  Even though sometimes we go off-roading to “Get away from it all”, there’s still an underlying need to keep some type of communications equipment with us.  This could be a CB, FRS radio, Ham, Commercial, or even Cellular.  With technology growing at such a rapid rate, the number of offerings in today’s market are staggering!  Let’s take a moment to begin sifting through the technologies.

CB versus Cellular versus FRS
  Unless you live in a cave or in a rundown shack in Montana, you’ve most likely heard of Cellular telephones.  There are several different offerings on the market today, from Analog to Digital, even Two-way enhanced.  Currently the majority of the United States has some type of cellular coverage.  Interestingly, these areas do not always cover the “Outback”.  Often, Cellular companies try to place their relay towers close to densely populated areas, and major interstates and freeways – directly where most off-roading is not.  Fortunately, Cellular phones are not longer a luxury item for the rich.  Good market competition has kept the costs of cellular down, to the point where they are beginning to compete with Land-based telephones.  500 minutes per month and no long distance charges for $49 makes me think twice about getting a wire line phone for my new house!

    Ahh, the CB radio craze!  Thoughts of BJ and the bear, convoys and the Dukes of Hazzard bring back fond memories of a time when CB radios were the craze.  Is CB radio dead?  Not likely!  Back in the 1970s with the FCC allocated a portion of the Radio Spectrum to low-powered public communications, they never realized how much it might evolve.

    CB radios today don’t enjoy the mass market appeal like they did in the 70s and 80s, mostly because of the cellular industry.  But don’t believe for a minute that no one is buying CBs.  We all know truckers still use them extensively, but that’s simply due to their convenience and benefit.  Their capacity for short to medium range communications is still unmatched.  In addition, new technologies available like DSP (Digital Signal Processing) that remove a lot of the static and hiss are helping CB make a comeback.  There is also a large hobbyist following that keeps the industry alive.

  Recently, however, a new form of communication has popped up – Family Radio Service (FRS).  In 1998 the FCC approved the use of small, handheld UHF FM Walkie-Talkie style radios for use without the need for a license.  Many models are now on the market with wide ranging features like hands-free, voice encryption, and portability.  These little devices offer short range, excellent sound quality, portability and long battery life.   

Two-way out in the country
  There are many factors that can influence your decision on what type of communications equipment to purchase.  Cost, desired range, safety, convenience, and installation considerations can all be factors.  Over the next few articles, we’ll take an in-depth look at the options and the pros and cons of each.

Coming editions
What to choose?
Types of antennas

Power connections
Getting on the air

Written by Scott Pederson - e-mail:

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