The Digital Amateur: Building a Web Page (part 1)

by Brad Rodriguez, VE3RHJ

"The Digital Amateur" is a deliberate ambiguity. Does it mean using computers with amateur radio? Or experimenting with digital electronics? Both! This month's article will tell how to use the Internet to publicize and share your amateur radio activities.

Do you want to present a "web page" on the Internet? Have you a project you'd like to share, an activity you'd like to publicize, or just some shack photos you'd like to show off? Well, you're in luck: it's never been easier or less expensive. If you have even a basic Internet account, with just a little work -- and no money at all -- you can be a "webmaster."

In case you're new to this… when you use an Internet browser, like Netscape or Microsoft Internet Explorer, you are usually looking at the part of the Internet known as the World Wide Web (WWW). The Web is an immense collection of "pages," each of which can include text, drawings, or photos. What makes the Web unique is that the pages are stored on thousands of computers around the world, and that any web page may "link" to any number of other web pages. When you click on a web page link, you may be telling your computer to go halfway around the world to fetch another web page -- and it's all automatic, so you don't have to know how it works.

To put your own web page on the Internet, you need to create a computer file in the proper format, called HTML. Then you need a place to store the web page on the Internet -- on a computer called a "web server." To illustrate the process, here's how I made a web page for my amateur radio activities.

The Tools

Web pages are written in a computer language called HTML (HyperText Markup Language). You can write this with an ordinary text editor, but it's a real pain. It's easier to use an HTML editor. My preferred editing tool (and my preferred web browser) is Netscape Navigator 3 Gold. It's free, and it has everything you need, including the FTP program to copy your pages to the web server (more on this in a moment). Download Netscape 3 Gold from and install it on your computer. Make sure you get Navigator Gold -- it includes the web page editor -- and not just plain Navigator.

You can also use Microsoft Word 97 and WordPerfect 7 (and later versions) to create HTML documents, or you can buy software specifically designed to create web pages. In either case, you'll probably need a separate FTP program, like WS_FTP. You might also have a later version of Netscape. If so, you're on your own. I don't know those programs, and to keep this simple, I'm giving instructions only for Netscape 3 Gold.

The Storage Space

Now you need to find a host computer for your web pages. There are three options:

  1. Your Internet Service Provider may provide a modest amount of web space with your Internet account. Greynet gives 5 megabytes of storage space free, for personal web pages, to all customers. Other ISPs may charge for this.
  2. There are companies, "Web Hosting Services," who rent web space. The fee can range from $10 a month on up. They cater mainly to commercial users who need a lot of space.
  3. Other companies will provide web space for free, as long as they can display advertising on your pages. A few such companies are listed at the bottom of this article; there's a much bigger list at Or look for "Free Web Pages" with an Internet search engine like Infoseek or Lycos.

For my ham radio page, I chose a free web host called FreeServers. They give12 megabytes of space and handle all the advertising automatically. I went to and signed up. For their "domain name", I chose "ve3rhj"; this means my web pages will be at (Other free web hosts work differently.) After filling out some basic information, I received an email telling me how to activate the web space. (Most web hosts do this, to make sure they can contact you.) After activation, the space is ready to receive web pages.

There's some important stuff to write down. You'll be using an Internet function called FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to copy your web pages from your computer to the web server. To use FTP, you'll need to know the host name (also known as the FTP server name), and what directory to use on that computer, and you'll need a user name and a password. You choose (or are assigned) the last two when you sign up -- these may be different from your dial-up and email user names and passwords. The web host provides the first two: look for a "read me" or "instructions" or "information" or "FAQ" (Frequently Asked Questions) page when you sign up. Here are two examples:

Web Host:



Host name:




User name:

your Greynet username



your Greynet password


On FreeServers, you get to specify "yoursite", "yourname", and "yourpassword" when you sign up for web space. On Greynet, your FTP user name and password are the same as you use for your regular Internet service. On Greynet you also have to specify the directory /public_html when you transfer files; on FreeServers you don't.

The Content: Your first web page

Most visitors to your web site will start with your main web page (your "home page"). Here's how to create a simple text-only page.

Start the Netscape program. Click File/New Document/Blank; this starts the Netscape editor. Now you can type whatever text you want, like "VE3RHJ's Ham Radio Page."

At the top of the window, under the pulldown menu "File Edit View Insert Properties Options Window Help", you should see three toolbars (rows of buttons). At the start of the second row will be a window saying "Normal" and having a down button. Click on that button, and you'll see all of the text styles you can use in an HTML document. Most of your text will be "Normal," but you can use the different "Heading" styles to create titles and subheadings. Select your first line of text by clicking and dragging the mouse over it. Then click the style box button, and click on "Heading 1". Presto! This makes your first line the topmost heading -- as though it was the title. You can then use Heading 2 for subdivisions, Heading 3 for smaller subdivisions, and so on. (Incidentally, it's considered bad form to skip heading levels, say from 1 to 3 to 5.)

Now you can type some more text (in "Normal" style) under the first line. Type "Welcome to my home page", or "This page under construction", or whatever you'd like. You can experiment with the first six buttons on the third toolbar, which decrease and increase the text size, specify an arbitrary text size, and select bold face, italic, and fixed width ("typewriter") font.

When you've typed enough for your first page, you need to save the file. Click File/Save. It's a good idea to keep all of your web pages together in a special folder on your home computer, so use the "New Folder" button to create a folder. I'm assuming you know how to use the "Up One Level" button, and how to double-click on folders, to navigate around your hard disk. You can put the new folder on C: or in some other folder. Type a name ("webpages" or something) and press Enter. You have to create this new folder only once. Select your new folder by double-clicking it. Then type a file name. Usually your home page must be named index.html (and this must be typed in all lower case). Then click Save.

Don't worry, we'll add more to your page later. The important thing now is to get a page onto the Internet. Many free web servers will cancel your account if you don't create a page within a few days.

Sending your page to the host

After you save your index.html file, leave Netscape running, and dial up your Internet provider. When you've established a connection, return to the Netscape window, and click File/Publish. Now you need the information you wrote down earlier. Under "Upload files to this location (FTP or HTTP)", you should type


where hostname and directory are those provided by your web host. For example, on Greynet you would type On FreeServers you would type (remember, you don’t have to specify a directory for FreeServers.) This resembles a normal Internet URL (Uniform Resource Locator), except that it begins with ftp:// instead of http://.

In "User name" type your FTP user name, and in "Password" type your FTP password; and click "Save Password". Netscape will save this information so you don't have to type it all again the next time you send a page to your web host. Finally, click OK. It'll take a minute or so for Netscape to transmit your file to the host computer.

Some free web servers don't let you use FTP to upload your pages. In this case, you'll have to follow whatever instructions the server company provides you.

Next time…

In the next installment I'll describe how to create additional web pages, and link them together.

Appendix: some free web hosts

Here's just a few of the many places you can get free web space. Except for Freeservers, I haven't tried these, so I can't vouch for them. I offer this merely as a starting place for your search.