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Ham Radio, The Easy Way

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What we have covered so far may satisfy the needs of many readers. Only you can decide what works best for you. “So,” you may wonder, “why are some people still bothering to get Amateur Radio (‘Ham Radio’) licenses, if I can do so much without one?”

The simple answer is twofold:

  1. Because “Hams” can connect with just about anyone in the world, not only in conversation, but also in digital modes that allow for something like their own “over-the-air” internet connection, including wireless transmission/reception of images.
  2. It’s not that difficult to pass a short test to get a ham “ticket” (license).

Ham Radio: Can You Communicate without cell or internet

Technician Level Tickets

A lady in our family, with no knowledge of things electrical, got her ticket at age 75 by reading over some of the materials we gave her, on her own time. We discussed some of them in the evenings and after a couple weeks, she sat down for a proctored exam and rose with a passing score of 86%.

Her ticket was issued at the entry, or “Technician” level. This qualifies her to operate on “2-meter” (VHF, or Very High Frequency) radio frequencies. VHF operates “Line-of-sight” so, depending on your terrain, a range of 30 – 40 miles is common. In hilly or mountainous terrain, only a few miles might be required to reach a “Repeater,” which receives your signal then re-broadcasts it to a far greater distance.

Repeaters are often maintained by local radio clubs so they are found all over, and they can be “linked” to one another, too, so your signal can reach even greater distances.

And, once you have the “Call sign” that comes with your ticket, you are eligible to enroll in “Echolink,” a computer program that enables you to operate your radio for worldwide contacts from your laptop computer.

Advanced Tickets

Many ham radio operators are satisfied with just the VHF privileges that come with the Technician ticket. Many never aspire to study for one of the next two tickets, “General Class,” and “Extra Class.”

While General Class gives you privileges to operate in the High-Frequency range (“HF” radio frequencies), Extra Class expands those HF frequency privileges to an even larger number. Extra Class ticket holders are generally more technically qualified, and are needed to be present as proctors when license exams are being administered.

If you’re curious enough about becoming a Ham that you might want to look into it a little more. Here are a few “non-committal” steps to start you off:

Radio Clubs

Before you spend anything on reference or “how-to” books about ham radio, you should visit one of the local radio club meetings in your area. Most of them probably meet monthly and may announce the scheduled meeting in your local newspaper.

You’ll find those clubs will welcome your interest and, if you explain that you are just looking for information about the hobby most will begin with a basic overview and help you with answers to your most basic questions. They’re always looking for prospective new members, and may even offer classes and testing for you to get your first “ticket.”

After that initial introductory explanation, feel free to visit that, or other clubs again. And, if your interest begins to generate more questions, you may want to invest in a couple references to study.

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Adrey Garret uses a ham radio at Williams Air Operating Facility during the 1956 winter

HAMRADIO1956 from the U.S. Navy | Public Domain

Reading Materials On Ham Radio

For beginners, check with eBay or Amazon for a general reference like “Ham Radio for Dummies”. It comes as a Kindle or in paperback; prices range anywhere from $7 to $20, as a rule. However, your best references will come from an organization you’ll want to join someday, called, “ARRL”. The Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) is a treasure trove of information, both for members, and prospective members. Spend some time on their web page (www.arrl.org) and you’ll find a wealth of links for newcomers to the hobby.

Their library offers a wealth of references like a “Glossary of terms” which will help a lot in the beginning, and a “Ham Elmer” handbook. In Amateur radio, an “Elmer” is someone who takes you under his/her wing to help you get started. Here’s how ARRL describes it:

Elmering or mentoring has long been the backbone of Amateur Radio. While technology constantly evolves, the human interaction between hams will not be replaced and will always remain one of the hobby’s strongest traditions. As licensed hams we are all ambassadors of Amateur Radio and we should always be looking at ways in which we can welcome newly licensed hams and project a positive image that will attract others to ham radio.

Buying Ham Radio Equipment

As we said before, once you have a license you can get on the air by simply logging into “Echolink” on your smartphone or laptop.  But, when you are ready to invest in some radio gear later on, your new friends at the local club will be happy to help you look over the many choices available. One place to get some equipment at reasonable prices is at a “Hamfest,” a ‘Garage-sale’ type of setup often held in the local school gymnasium on a Saturday. Many times, they can steer you toward sources of perfectly good equipment available from families of a “Silent Key”. A deceased ham is known as an “SK,” and his/her equipment is often made available to the first person who is willing to haul it away, at reasonable prices.

If you missed my previous articles, be sure to check out:

Introduction To Bug-out Communications

Citizens Band (CB) Radio

So now that you know where to start, are you ready to take on the challange of becoming a Ham radio operator?

Let me know in the comments below!

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