For nearly a century, we have all read and learned a lot from the ARRL Handbook for radio communications. How many have you owned?
Pretty much every English speaking ham radio operator has at least one copy of the venerable ARRL Handbook. Recently, I have criticized QST Magazine for its declining technical articles. But, I realized, I really must credit ARRL for its long standing handbook.
I don’t think any other hobby has such a valuable compendium of technical information pertaining to almost all aspects of hobbyist interest. At more than 1,200 pages, this hefty (and heavy) publication now also comes in a six-volume book set to make it easier to handle. If you want to learn a lot about electronics, radios and antennas, you can’t for wrong at $US50.
Above, you can see the covers of my first and last hard copy handbooks. Recently, I have shifted to digital copies for later editions.
Like most young hams, I received my first handbook as a hand-me-down from a local mentor. While I did not understand much of it, flipping pages was the stuff of dreams. My last handbook was purchased as a memento of a family trip to Florida. If you have never read the ARRL Handbook, you can find several older versions online with a Google search.
Do I still use my copies? Yes, but not that much, as I have a pretty good collection of other books and articles, on topics of interest. Still, as a broad reference book, it has a lot of value still.
ARRL Handbook Production Over the Years
If you compare the tables of contents over various editions, you will find the format of the ARRL Handbook has been pretty constant. My first 1964 edition was dominated by tubes. Now, it’s pretty much solid state.
The authors do a great job of writing for and explaining matters to the “average ham”. Math is typically limited to algebra and is pretty easy to follow along. Material is foundational and prepares you for taking deeper dives into areas of interest.
ARRL editors have done a good job of updating content every year and introducing new technologies and features. I am not sure they need to publish a new edition every year, though. I get a new copy every five years or so, and that’s good enough.