Review by Jim Kearman, KR1S, of "Ionospheric Propagation, Transmission Lines and Antennas for the QRP DX’er," September, 2011; posted 1/13/2012 on:
Long-time QRP (less than 5-W output) ham-radio operators will recognize the name and callsign of Ade Weiss, W0RSP. Several years ago Weiss published "The Joy of QRP," the first book to seriously address the problems, frustrations and satisfaction experienced in low-power operation -- in those days, mostly with home-made equipment. Weiss followed 'Joy' with "The History of QRP In The U.S., 1924-1960" a review of the then-scant literature on historical low-power operation. 'History' is more than nostalgic, it's inspirational, and was a driving force behind my own contribution to the literature, "Low Profile Amateur Radio" (First Edition), published by ARRL in the 1990s (the second edition is not my work). As far back as "Joy of QRP," Ade promised to produce a book about antennas and propagation for QRPers. Now apparently retired from teaching, Ade has at last published "Ionospheric Propagation, Transmission Lines and Antennas for the QRP DX’er." This book is currently not available in printed form, but only in PDF files
on a CD.
First, a few words about Ade Weiss. Like many of us, he was bitten by the radio bug at an early age, in his case (and mine) the 1950s. Like me, he didn't follow his radio interests into a technical career (he was a professor of English), but he remained fascinated by the physics of radio. His early articles, in magazines like CQ and his own periodical The Millwatt, were some of the first examples of usable solid-state transmitters. Ade is a throw-back to the 19th-century amateur scientist, and I believe that's why his work is so useful and so important: He uses his training as a scholar to research technical and scientific information, then presents it in terms we non-engineers and non-scientists can understand. "Ionospheric Propagation, Transmission Lines and Antennas for the QRP DX’er" isn't light reading, but neither is it hamstrung by eye-glazing math. The title is somewhat misleading. While written for a certain class of ham-radio operators, the book will be valuable to (and understandable by!) anyone interested in high-frequency (3-30 MHz) antennas and propagation. Though it teaches about its subjects, this is more a handbook than a textbook, and readers will refer to it again.and.again.
A complete Table of Contents appears at the end of this review; this is a summary of the book's four chapters, which span more than 300 pages.
Chapter 1, Path Losses, Ionosphere Propagation Overview and Refraction, Computer Propagation Analysis, reviews the conditions to which radio signals are subjected as they travel from transmitter to distant receiver. Commercial amateur-radio transmitters and transceivers typically produce 100-W or more output power, and many hams still don't believe it's possible to communicate with less. Ade disproves these doubts with simple explanations of the power losses along the signal's route, providing a good base for more-detailed explanations of ionospheric propagation to come. Propagation-prediction software is common now, and this chapter includes descriptions of popular programs, some free, some available at reasonable cost. (The CD includes installation programs for several programs, including two I use regularly, W6ELProp and DXAtlas.)
Chapter 2, Antennas, Transmission Lines, and SWR, may be of more interest to readers who transmit, as most receive-only stations seem to rely on random-length wire antennas with minimal attempts to match their impedances to the receiver. Power loss is power loss, however, whether transmitting or receiving, and we all can use better antennas. Many of the antenna-related questions asked on radio forums are answered in this chapter.
Chapter 3, Formation and Structure of the Ionosphere, was, for me, where the book really started to get interesting. You might think we can't see the ionosphere, but this chapter comes close to showing it in all its variations. Will knowing how solar radiation creates and modifies the ionosphere make you a better listener? Perhaps not, but if you're like me, understanding better what happens to signals between the transmitter and your receiver enhances your enjoyment of radio. You won't read this chapter once and feel like an expert; you'll come back to it (and the next chapter) again and again.
Chapter 4, The Propagation of H.F. Radio Signals in Real Ionospheres, builds on the theory developed in Chapter 3 to describe how real signals are refracted by the different ionospheric layers. If you refer back to Chapter 2, you'll understand the importance of optimizing your antenna system for different frequency bands. Radio propagation isn't one-hundred-percent related to sunspots: the angle at which an antenna favors signal propagation plays a big role as well. Propagation-prediction programs use default radiation angles. If your antenna's characteristics vary greatly from the defaults, the software is of little value. Chapters 2-4 will help you to give the progams the information needed to make them work for you.
Antennas and propagation are probably the areas least understood by radio experimenters. It's relatively easy to characterize a radio on the workbench. We can measure an antenna's complex impedance, but it's harder to determine and comprehend what happens to a signal when it leaves the antenna, or how even a simple modification of an antenna can improve listening results. Much hobbyist literature tells how to build antennas, but has little to say about why one antenna may be preferable to another. "Ionospheric Propagation, Transmission Lines and Antennas for the QRP DX’er" is the first and only book I know of that covers the seemingly inscrutable subject of radio propagation in lay terms, while also relating propagation theory to real-world antennas. "The New Shortwave Propagation Handbook" by Jacobs, Cohen and Rose (ISBN 978-0943016115, CQ Communications, Inc.: 1995) is starting to show its age, but may be a useful adjunct to this book. If I could have only one though, it would be Ade Weiss's book.
The book is available for purchase here; Ade's earlier works are there as well:
Table of Contents:
CHAPTER 1. Path Losses, Ionosphere Propagation Overview and Refraction, Computer Propagation Analysis.
Part 1. Working DX with QRP?
Part 2. Path Losses and Receiver Noise Floor
Part 3. Path Loss Figures and Nomogram for 14, 21, and 28Mhz
Part 4. Ionospheric Layers: Overview of Solar Radiation Factors and Path Loss
Part 5. Ionograms, Oblique Refraction of HF Signals, and Path Geometry
Part 6. MUF(3000)F2 Contour Maps and Path Analysis
Part 7. Enter K6GKU: The New World of PC Propagation Analysis. MINIMUF 3.5, MINIPROP, MINIPROP v2.0, W6ELProp
Part 8. VOACAP, PROPLAB-PRO V. 3.0
Part 9. Alex Shovkoplyas VE3NEA’s Propagation Analysis Suite: DXAtlas, HamCap and IonoProbe
CHAPTER 2. Antennas, Transmission Lines, and SWR.
Part 1. Intrinsic Loss Factors, Deterioration, and Environment
Part 2. Transmission Line Dynamic Characteristics and Operation
Part 3. Antenna Resonance, Radiation Resistance, Reactance, and SWR Fallacies
Part 4. Reflections, Vectorial Summation, and Impedance Transformations for Resistive vs. Reactive Loads
Part 5. Transceiver, Transmatch, Transmission and Line Terminal Impedance.
CHAPTER 3. Formation and Structure of the Ionosphere.
Part 1. Vertical Distribution of Constitutent Gases and Photon Emissions in the Ionization-Recombination Process
Part 2. Formation of the Layers of the Ionopshere
Part 3. Solar Radiation Variables Controlling the Ionosphere
Part 4. Critical Frequency vs. Zenith Angle and Sunspot Number
Part 5. Ionospheric Absorption in the D- and E-Regions
Part 6. The Geomagnetic Field and F-Layer Behavior
Part 7. Latitudinal, Hemispheric, and East-West Zone Variations in F-region Behavior
CHAPTER 4. The Propagation of H.F. Radio Signals in Real Ionospheres.
Part 1. Vertical-Incidence Ionograms and the Refraction Process in Oblique-Wave Propagation
Part 2. Basic Mechanics of Oblique Propagation Using the Flat Earth Model
Part 3. Oblique Half Wave-Paths in Five Real Ionospheres Using the Curved-Earth Model
Part 4: Evolution of Oblique-Ray Tracing in Real Ionospheres and Resulting Insights
73, Jim, Amateur Radio Station KR1S
Celebrating My 50th Year In Ham Radio