ARRL

Finding Technical Information Online

Introduction

Finding Technical Information Online can be a daunting task—there are far too many web pages to personally visit even a tiny fraction.  Fortunately, there are web sites that can be used for efficiently finding what you want.  The most useful sites are Google, Bing, and Ebay.

How to Search

Relax, take a deep breath. While you need the information right now, you need to think about the best words to describe what you are looking for.  Some words or phrases are useless because they are too common. Instead, try to think about what is unique about what you are trying to locate.For instance, “Bob Smith” is not a useful search—the name is just too common. Besides, what if he really goes by the name Robert on his web site? But, if you remember his call sign, that can be quite useful. Similarly, high voltage rectifier isn’t anywhere as useful as a part number, like 1N4007. 

It helps to have a fast web connection and be a quick typist, so you can quickly try a variety of web searches. With a good broadband connection, it might work to type in the first thing that pops into your head. But, if you have a slow dialup connection and need to search the web during the busy evening hours, you really want to choose your search terms wisely.

You should also think about whether the information is likely to be on the web. While there are excellent archives, such as the QST archive for members, such archives are actually quite rare.  In some cases, like 73 magazine, electronic rights were never purchased, so an archive isn’t legally possible, until the copyrights of the owners expire, or someone goes through the hassle of obtaining the rights from each owner—a virtual impossibility.  Even if the archive is available, it may be in the format of pictures, as it is rather expensive to accurately convert pictures into computer searchable text.  This is the case with the QST archive. 

Sometimes, a bit of luck is required.An example is finding a picture of an extremely rare piece of equipment that is unlikely to be documented by a collector.It takes a lot of work to put such sites together. You may get lucky and find someone selling that that very piece on Ebay—complete with pictures. Luck is needed, since auction details are stored for a short amount of time.It may also take a bit of luck to figure out how the equipment is described on Ebay—it is quite common for rare items to be improperly identified.

Search Sites

Google and Bing are big, general purpose search sites.  They can be amazingly fast with a broadband connection.  However, as the web has grown in size, they can no longer dig as deeply into web sites as they once did.  You may need use these sites to find specialized sites, and download files as needed to find the content you need. 

Ebay is the big auction site, used for buying and selling all sorts of stuff.  

Two excellent sites for looking for electronic parts are Digi Key and Mouser—not only will they tell you what they have in stock, but often have links to manufacturer’s data.

 

QST Archive Search

Remember the phrase—less is more!  A common error is to add far too many search terms into the search engine—if any item is incorrect—you won’t find the item you are looking for.  Instead, your best bet is to enter just the Author’s call sign.  Only a few authors are prolific enough to generate an excessively large list.  With many authors, you can easily scroll through a list of a dozen or fewer articles.  The next choice are unique words in the clever title—a good example is “mousefet.”  Unfortunately, the articles are stored as pictures, so there is no practical way to search for specific words or call signs that appear in articles.  At one time, we did have a lab staffer entering in Key words to assist in article searching—it can be useful to enter in tube types.