Sunday, April 2, 2017

Interesting Ham Radio Podcasts

If you are not familiar with the term, podcasts are downloadable audio files that you can listen to on your smart phone, tablet, or computer. The term was originally coined in the early 2000s by joining the words "iPod" (the first commercially successful MP3 player) and "broadcast". When you lead a busy life, podcasts present an opportunity to keep up with interesting subject matter while attending to other chores like walking the dog, exercising, washing the car, etc. If you have a commute that takes significant time, podcasts are a great way to make that time go quickly. I listen to A LOT of podcasts, many hours worth every week (audio files compress very nicely), addressing a dizzying number of subjects. In both the Android and Apple iOS ecosystems there are several "podcatcher" apps that allow you to subscribe to a show and automatically download new content as it becomes available. The apps also help with content management; for example, what to do with a show after you've finished listening to it. Overcast (iOS) is my app of choice and it is set to delete the episode when I'm done, saving space on the phone. Most podcasts have "show notes" web pages where you can find web links to topics or items discussed on the show. Overcast embeds the show notes right in the app to make follow up extremely easy.

Here are a few ham radio podcasts I find interesting, perhaps you will too:

ARRL The Doctor is In;  with Joe Hallas W1ZR and Steve Ford WB8IMY
A short 20-30 minute podcast produced every two weeks or so by the ARRL, covering a wide array of technical topics in amateur radio. Very high production value, tightly scripted, highly educational. 5 out of 5 rating, especially for the new ham but those of us that have been in the hobby a while will learn things as well. 

Ham Radio 360; with Cale Nelson K4CDN and interview guest. While a relatively new ham, Cale had a previous career in FM broadcasting and it shows. Very high production value, by which I mean great sounding audio, tasteful intro and outro music, and minimal advertising interruptions. This podcast has only been in its current form a little over a year and was previously the FOTime Podcast. After some listener feedback Cale took the show from just recording some friends discussing amateur radio topics to a commercial quality endeavor. Cale is a great interviewer and makes subjects that aren't necessarily my "thing" interesting to listen to. 5 out of 5 stars, look forward to this one every other week.

Ham Radio 360: Workbench; with George Zafiropoulous KJ6VU and Jeremy Kolonay KF7IJZ.
George and Jeremy started out as co-hosts with Cale Nelson K4CDN on the Ham Radio 360 show but now have spun off into a new show focused on the building/making aspects of ham radio. To be honest, it took a show or two for George and Jeremy to gel as a team but they are working great now. Lots of good technical content that is easily accessible to almost any ham with out being too basic. The show just completed an Antenna Analyzer build project and are in the midst of designing a DC power management accessory. Workbench is released on opposite Tuesdays from the main 360 podcast, so there is fresh content very week. This is an up and coming show, don't miss a minute of it!

QSO Today Podcast; with Eric Guth 4Z1UG and interview guest. Eric is another talented interviewer and his guests comprise the entire spectrum of ham interests. Contesting, DXing, homebrew, QRP, VHF, moonbounce, you name it, Eric has interviewed at least one of the leading lights in the hobby on any particular subject. His guests are a diverse mix of amateurs from all over the globe and the interview is always a deep dive. High quality production, excellent content.

ICQ Podcast; with Martin M1MRB/W9ICQ and Colin Butler M6BOY along with rotating cast of co-hosts discuss general ham radio topics with a distinctly British flavor. The first half of the show is a round table news and current events discussion followed by topical monologue with Martin. It's a very general interest program recommended for newer hams or someone that wants to hear more of amateur radio from a European perspective. Good production value and content, produced fortnightly.

The Soldersmoke Podcast; with Bill Meara N2CQR and Pete Juliano N6QW. Soldersmoke is the granddaddy of ham radio podcasts in continuous production for almost 10 years. The show has gone through several iterations starting with Bill and Mike KL7R (SK) from Juneau, AK talking about QRP operating and home construction. Bill is a diplomat for the US State Department and during the early years of the podcast we follow his exploits with his family starting in London and later moving to Rome. The podcast was an outgrowth of their Skype conversations that Mike posted on the internet for anyone that was interested. Almost as interesting as the homebrew and QRP discussion were Bill's "travelogue" segments, seeing the DX side of ham Radio from an American ham's perspective. At one point the podcast went silent for several months after MIke was killed in a car accident while on vacation in Hawaii. After a time Bill took up the podcast again as a monologue and Soldersmoke morphed into a more radio talk show format while still focusing on homebrew electronics, QRP, some amateur astronomy and travelogue thrown in. The third turning of the show occurred after Bill and family returned to the US, settling in Northern Virginia. The episodes got a little intermittent for a while, then Bill started doing interviews as part of the show. In late 2015 and early 2016 he had an excellent series with Peter Parker VK3YE (check out Peter's YouTube channel if you like homebrew electronics and portable operating from 'Straya mate

About a year ago Bill found a new regular co-host, Pete Juliano N6QW. Pete is an inveterate home brewer, but surprisingly not big on CW so the podcast has taken a bit of a turn to SSB and higher power construction projects. Bill and Pete have a super personality chemistry kind of like the ham radio version of the NPR classic Car Talk. Highly, highly recommended, even if you don't build radios. Produced approximately monthly.

On the podcast you may hear an occasional reference to the K2ZA Memorial DX-100; after my Dad passed away I was finding homes for equipment that I just didn't have room for. On one of the episodes around that time, Bill was lamenting the loss of his beloved Heathkit DX-100 transmitter, from his youth, that had been "disposed of" by his parents while he was in the Army. I contacted Bill and offered my Dad's DX-100 to him and made arrangements to deliver it to the "wilds of Northern Virginia". Bill and his family are some of the most lovely and gracious people I've ever met, they made the delivery a real special occasion.

So this was just a review of ham radio oriented podcasts that I subscribe to, I hope you find them interesting and enjoyable as well.

73 de John K2ZA