I've served the public during sporting evens, and emergencies.
I've had a lot of fun talking to people all over the world using all manners of methods of communication.
I have to say though, that thing that I like most about it is that HAM radio, no matter what aspect of the hobby you enjoy the most, is a very hands on hobby. My wife can tell you I'm always plottin' something to get another antenna in the trees, or saving for a radio to build. Some places and people are not friendly to my hobby though. There's entire communities that force people to live antenna free. I refuse to own propery in such a place. I do, however sympathize with people who do live in deed restricted, covenant restricted communites, and do my best to help others get on the air despite, or in spite of whatever restrictions they face.
A buddy of mine once lived in an apartment, and had just got his General Ticket, so he had access to the HF bands. Apartments are notoriously antenna unfriendly, so I helped him set up his gutters as an antenna. Let me tell you how we did it.
If you decide to do something similar, use caution! This is for power not to exceed 100 watts. First of all, you should never use more power than you need to communicate. Secondly, RF can and does start fires, it's how microwave ovens warm your Hotpockets. Plus, even at 100 watts, my buddy would sometimes experience rf in his shack, or interference with the TV and telephone. The simplest solution to this is to turn the power down.
Notice, I said, on the gutters, not in the gutter.
Gutters, if they are made of metal, can carry RF, and they can do it reasonably well, if some things are kept in mind. They basically function as a random length wire antenna, although if you have the space for it, and do a little planning and experimentation, you could possibly create a system resonant on a particular frequency. Here are the rules about using METAL gutters as antennas:
1. ELECTRICALLY connect the pieces. Most gutter pieces are either friction fitted, or connected together via a small screw. This is a mechanical connection, and is not good enough for RF. RF needs to see the pieces as one piece electrically, so there needs to be a low resistance connection between the pieces. As it stands, they are loosely electrically connected joints, and can actually act as product detectors, meaning they they are small bits of radios themselves! This results in all kinds of noise and interference on your received signal. Fortunately this is easy to fix, but it does take work. This is also good information for you to store away when you want to install a mobile radio, as you will want to electrically connect the various body panels on your vehicle.
To connect gutter pieces you will need:
- self tapping screws (many)
- A machine screw
- 2 washers (for machine screw)
- locking nut (for machine screw)
- copper bearing conductive grease.
- A coax pigtail, one end with an SO-239 connector, the other should have the braid and center conductor seperated for about 6-10 inches.
- ohm meter
4. Run as short a line as possible from the antenna's pigtail to an antenna matching device. You may or maynot need a balun. The antenna matching device should be grounded to the same point as the antenna, although if you can't do that, don't worry. Just get it grounded.
That's how you make a gutter system into an antenna. At my buddy's apartment, we stealthily connected the pieces of a downspout together electrically, and it wasn't easy. Fortunately, the downspout could be accessed from a stairwell. He had a great time on HF with 100 watts and less, but had a better time with a stealth longwire. That's for another post though...
EDIT: Links for other downspout antennas will go here as people get them to me!