It’s here! The new HamRadioSchool.com General License Course is now available. Following the popular success of the HamRadioSchool.com Technician License Course, Stu WØSTU has developed a General Class license preparation system modeled after the friendly reading, depth-with-simplicity style of the Technician Course. The book is absolutely jam-packed with informative and educational graphics, and the VE exam question language and content is highlighted with easy-to-spot, heavy boldface print and question ID tags in the margins, just like the Technician Course book. And of course, there is ample explanation of General Class concepts in common language and examples. We can all Really Get It at the General Class level now with HamRadioSchool.com’s approachable style. With so much good information easily within grasp, you’ll want to keep the book as a handy reference after passing your General Class VE exam!
Ever wonder just how our learning system gets developed? Want to know more about the author and creators? HamRadioSchool.com Junior Correspondent Jake, WØJAK, took a few moments to speak with our author, Stu WØSTU about this latest HamRadioSchool.com learning system product!
WØJAK: Hi, and thanks for interviewing with me!
WØSTU: My pleasure, thanks for doing it. It should be fun. What would you like to talk about?
WØJAK: First, tell us a little about the new book, the General License Course book.
WØSTU: OK, sure. For folks who have read our Technician License Course, they’ll find it very familiar. The General Class book is styled after the Technician Class book and it has all of the same features. For instance, all of the exam questions are covered in the book – all 456 of them for the General Class VEC pool – and they’re presented as objective statements using each question’s language. And each question’s content is in heavy bold text with the question identifier next to it in the margin. Each question item is nested within a framework of explanation, with lots and lots of graphics to help. If you’re a visually oriented person you’re going to like this book even more than the Technician Class book. And the complete question and response selections are online at our web site, organized section-by-section for convenience and effective studying.
WØJAK: Are there other things similar about the General Class book and the Technician Class book?
WØSTU: Oh yea, let’s see… There’s a thorough topic index and complete question ID index. It starts with a Chapter Ø, a “Before We Begin…” chapter to review some important topics from Technician Class material and to kind of establish a foundation for all readers to begin from. The sections are organized with a building block approach to concepts and they’re all pretty brief so you can read through a section in a short time – I think the longest couple of sections are maybe 16 or 17 pages, with lots of graphics, while the average section is about 8 to 9 pages. There are 27 sections in all. Oh, and the cut size is 6 x 9 inches again. So, very similar style, but with General Class content. And we are working up web site multimedia support for this book just like the Technician book, and we already have the iOS practice test app submitted for the market.
WØJAK: You’ve mentioned the book graphics a couple of times. How many graphics are in this book?
WØSTU: (Laughing) Ha! Well, I’d have to count to be sure. I think if you include the tables of summarized information in the count there’s just shy of 200 non-text items. That’s computer-generated graphics to illustrate concepts, photographs of radio operations, gear, and components, and a few tables of summary info to help with exam studying. So, if you consider that there are 268 pages of explanation content, that’s about… (pause) 3⁄4 of a graphic per page or… one and a half graphic items for each two-page spread. Is that right? Sorry, I hate doing math in public. But I think that’s about right.
WØJAK: Wow, that’s a lot. Who made all those?
WØSTU: It’s a mixed bag, but I made all of the computer-generated graphics, and that’s the bulk it. I made a number of the photographs myself, too, especially the ones that show antennas and equipment or components. And some of our WØTLM club members were kind enough to provide me some photos where I needed them. Those depict things like RACES service and DXpeditions, a Flex software defined radio and a Hi-Q loaded mobile antenna. Bob KØNR supplied some photos of electronic measurement gear and got some nice oscilloscope screen shots from Agilent Technologies for us. I’m sure I’m leaving out something, but those come to mind under interview pressure.
WØJAK: OK, cool. Well, while we’re on graphics, how about the cover picture? Did you do that and how did you come up with it?
WØSTU: Yea, mostly I did. The HamRadioSchool.com logo is by James KDØMFO and his company Bucknall Interactive. James was the genius behind our Technician book cover, and he’s our webmaster too. But I created the rest of this book’s cover image and I suppose it’s just kind of a whimsical concept. The little building is supposed to be like an old fashioned little red schoolhouse, and the transmission from the antenna on the schoolhouse is blasting out all sorts of General Class radio concepts that are in the book. So you have a couple of electronic schematics, and a CW key, and an antenna analyzer, and a couple of other things that I just picked out from the interior graphics set.
WØJAK: I think it looks pretty good, and it’s got Cole WØCOL on there. Well, what made you decide to write a General Class book, and when did you start it? How long did it take you?
WØSTU: That goes back to the Technician Class book really. You know, along with Bob KØNR and Paul AAØK and Joyce KØJJW, I was teaching a Technician licensing class for WØTLM for a few years using some other books. One book was essentially just the exam pool questions with very short explanations and no integration of concepts. Folks who read that book came to class having memorized lots of the correct answers to the test questions but not having a clue what any of it actually meant! They usually had a hopeless, dazed and confused look about them upon arrival. The other book was pretty technically written, with tons of depth, but it was just too heavy for most of our students to get through unless they already had an engineering degree.
So, after a couple of years I decided to take our experiences in the classroom – lots of the explanations and examples that we had good success with – and put that into a Technician Class book. That became the HamRadioSchool.com Technician License Course book, and the web site materials and the iOS practice exam app that are all coordinated with it, section by section. My goal was to produce a whole learning system in that middle ground between the “memorize without comprehension” approach and the “kill you with content” approach. I believed there was a better way to get folks started in ham radio, a way that produced solid, competent operators without a college-level engineering treatment. Based on the feedback we’ve received and the classes we’ve taught with our Tech book, I think we achieved that goal. We’re really proud of it.
This General Class book is a natural extension of the same philosophy. Every time we went to a hamfest or a trade show to promote the Technician Class book we had hams asking us left-and- right if we had a General Class book. The students from our Technician Class kept asking for the same thing. We were getting email and Facebook queries about a General book. It seemed that folks liked our Technician book really well and wanted a similar General Class book. So, about last October (2012) I decided to get started on it, and it is in press right now as we’re chatting in early May (2013). So, what’s that… about seven months of part-time effort, and several very long weekends of no-sleep-marathons. I wanted to get it done for the Dayton Hamvention later this month, and we made it!
WØJAK: What was Bob KØNR’s job with this book?
WØSTU: Well, let me just say first that I am very thankful to have had Bob’s support on this project. I could not have done it without him, and because of his editing and advice the book is rock solid technically. Bob was my Technical Editor, so he carefully and meticulously reviewed every section and every graphic to make sure that it was technically correct, readable, and organized well. He gave me tons of feedback and provided consulting on my questions. It was a really fantastic experience to have his help. He was my Elmer, after all, and an experienced author himself, and I never stop learning things from him, so he was a natural choice – and my first one – to be the editor. I was ecstatically happy when he agreed to do it because I knew at that instant this would be a much better product, a much better learning system, than it could possibly have become without his help. So, I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his work and for keeping me between the technical ditches!
WØJAK: Mr. Bob is a really nice guy. I like him a lot, too. Good pick! What was the hardest thing about putting the book together, and what did you like the most about it?
WØSTU: Let me start with the thing I liked most. That’s a pretty easy one. I really like producing the graphics. I used to be quite an avid photographer when I was a boy about your age, so I enjoy the photography aspect. I’m also a very visually thinking kind of person – that’s just how my mind works, with mental images and visualizing things. So, I’m always trying to build images in my head to remember stuff and to explain how things work or go together. That mental exercise gets to come out with the computer generated graphics, and it’s very rewarding to see those mental images become real on the pages of a book. But in a more general way I just enjoy creating – creating the images, creating the words, creating the organization of the content… it’s all a big work of creativity blended with a little knowledge and with a couple of good skills picked up over the years, and especially with a lot of support from good friends and radio colleagues.
WØJAK: What about the hardest thing, or what you didn’t enjoy?
WØSTU: (Laughing) I was kind of hoping you’d forget about that part! But, I suppose there were a couple of things in that category. The first one will seem contradictory, but it’s not. Generating the graphics was sometimes a real challenge. I reckon that’s because I like to get them just right, or as right as my skills allow. So, sometimes I would spend a bunch of time on just one picture trying to tweak it just perfectly, and usually failing by my own standard and compromising with something that still gets the point across, I hope. The graphics thing is both challenging and rewarding for me, and that’s why it’s not a contradiction really.
The other thing that comes to mind is the final formatting of the pages. Gee whiz, can that be mind numbing! It’s essentially a repetitive task on the computer, moving text around, sizing and placing images, inserting the highlighting or italics. It just gets boring and painful after a couple hundred pages worth, and it is kind of the end game for getting the effort completed, and so it just seems to drag on forever. I was mighty happy to get it completed.
WØJAK: Yea, I can understand how that might be boring. But the layout looks great, so you did a good job. What can you tell us about the content? I’m a Technician, but I want to get my General Class license. Is the General content a lot harder than Technician, and what’s the hardest stuff in the book?
WØSTU: Wow, good question. Yea, I guess I’d say first of all that the General Class content is more advanced, certainly, than the Technician Class. And as a result I suppose that some of the content of this book is more sober, if that’s the way to characterize it, than the Technician book. It’s a little more difficult to have fun writing with an equation editor than an alphabet! But that said, it’s not overwhelming at all, and I think we’ve managed to present the most challenging content in a straight-forward and easily understandable way. There’s nothing beyond early high school math, and not that much of it really – one or two sections require some algebraic equations. I suppose that most folks will consider the hardest content to be some of Chapter 6, Hamtronics. That chapter is all about radio and RF power electronic components and circuits, and it has a couple of sections with some equations to remember, and you have to marry-up the right equation with the question situation. So, in other words, you have to recognize when to apply a given equation and then you have to remember the equation itself. I know that kind of thing is a little scary for some folks, but really anybody can get through it with a little study and practice. And I hope that I’ve done a decent job of explaining the concepts behind those equations so that it’s not just rote memorization. That’s always the hardest thing for me, just trying to memorize something without meaning.
The other General Class content that I know a lot of people might see as challenging is in our Chapter 4, How Radio Works. That chapter describes the component parts and circuits inside of receivers and transmitters, and it details how the signals flow through those components and how they are changed each step of the way. That gets a little ethereal for some folks because it’s not real intuitive sometimes to imagine all these waveforms and frequencies getting shifted and filtered and mixed together by the electronics. So, I relied pretty heavily on some graphic concepts in that chapter to help get the ideas across, and I hope it works for our readers.
But all that said, you can make General Class with a little study and practice examination. Everybody who wants to upgrade to General should realize this one thing: You are probably not going to fully understand everything that you study prior to your VE exam. Everybody is different – everybody learns differently. So, what is easy to one person may be challenging to another, and vice-versa. What I recommend is to study hard, learn as much as you can and really understand as much as you can right now. Try your best to really get it! And realize that there are going to be a few things that just don’t get through to you the first couple of times around. That’s OK, and you can still pass your exam, and you can still be a very competent General Class operator!
But, keep the books around and use them as a reference as you move into General Class station operations. I guarantee you that as you begin to do more things with ham radio you will have a bunch of “Aha!” experiences where you suddenly understand one of those things you studied and just didn’t quite get back before your test. You’ll go back to that book and read that section again, nod your head and say, “OK, now I really get it.” That’s the way this business works for 99% of operators, and most every one of them was on the HF bands making contacts before they fully comprehended everything they tested about. That’s why you have to earn only 26 of 35 correct exam responses! This hobby is all about learning, and you will learn as you gain more experience along the way!
WØJAK: That’s a great way of looking at it! Maybe I’ll start working on General this summer then. Thanks for the interview. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
WØSTU: Thanks a lot, Jake, for talking with me. All I’d like to add is a big, big THANK YOU to all the hams and prospective new hams who are reading our HamRadioSchool.com books, using our practice exam apps, and visiting our web site to learn more. I know that I can speak for the entire HamRadioSchool.com family in saying that we appreciate your business and we hope that our learning products meet your expectations for quality and ease of use. If you have any suggestions for us or if you just want to share your ham radio success story, drop us an email at the web site, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.
Thanks again, Jake. It’s been fun!
WØJAK: Thank you, and good luck with the General Class learning system. 73!