The Foundation License Manual for Radio Amateurs - Alan Betts, G0HIQ

This is perhaps my way of saying I've studied for and passed the foundation-level amateur radio license exam, and can now send off for my call-sign! A colleague at work mentioned that one of the changes due to coronavirus is that you can now take the exam online and skip the practical, which really reduces the barrier to entry around having to find a club etc. So I went for it!

I've never quite got interested in radio before. My father had some interest, and I saw a couple of books around the place - but I never understood things like SWR and side-bands and antenna design, and chatting with strangers over the radio never really appealed to me.

However, software-defined radio is pretty neat, and my long-term physics osmosis means that a lot of the technical aspects of radio make a lot more sense to me now. So, it seemed a fun time to go for it. The UK licensing system has three levels, with the foundation level being very simple. None of the levels need morse any more, which is a pleasant speed-bump removal. The higher levels are needed for building your own equipment, which is likely to be the direction I'm interested in.

Foundation-level knowledge is pretty basic - the electronics part incredibly so, and the mathematical elements really, really straightforward. I felt I got a good, if basic, introduction to antennas and feeders, propagation and EMC, for example. The regulatory and operational aspects are... well, they are what they are.

All this knowledge can be picked up from this book, or from a course (like this one that I joined). The Manual does feels like it's just for passing the exam - any subtlety or depth that isn't required is excised. Mathematical or physical detail is happily dropped. It's much more Educational Material than a book - it's A4 with stapled binding, and the text itself has a strong "plain English" vibe to it, which is a little... uninspiring.

This isn't to say it's bad per se. Indeed, it's a great way to build up that base-level knowledge. I haven't read any more advanced texts, but I imagine this is a great way to build up the basic knowledge assumed by other books which you can read if you want to go into the subject in more depth.

When I have the free time I plan to progress to the intermediate level (building equipment, remember? :), so in time expect a comparative review with the associated manual.

Posted 2020-07-19.