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How To Become a HAM Radio Operator






plstu

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#21
Count me and Smallz (my boy) in! Sounds like a great way for us to do a little father/son bonding which we desperately need at his age of 14!

Thanks Steve!
 

NYECOGunsmith

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#22
Count me and Smallz (my boy) in! Sounds like a great way for us to do a little father/son bonding which we desperately need at his age of 14!

Thanks Steve!
See you on the 14th of January then.

If you have questions about the study materials between now and then, give me a yell or drop me a PM.

If you study it together for 1/2 an hour a day between now and the HAM CRAM class and exam, you'll ace it I'm sure. Cross quiz each other on the study materials, and take the practice exams on QRZ.com, when you are scoring at least 80% on the latter, you will know you've got it whipped, as the exam only requires a 74% passing grade.

And Top, there ain't no such thing as a free transceiver, or is it a free lunch, I forget.

Geo uses "STEALTH" radio waves, that's why his antenna never appears to be in use. He's one of those NINJA HAMS you hear about, but never see.
 
#23
Can someone post some information about equipment, places to buy, homemade-ability, etc etc etc?

I've always been interested in getting a HAM setup. My grandfather had one (I would suspect illegal lol) in his basement, and I remember him talking with friends in Saskatoon (In Canada) from his basement in Co Spgs, Colorado.

I understand the use for "fun", but in an emergency, is anyone important really listening? Military bases, police...whom ever.. are they going to respond or listen to some dude in Summerlin with a Ham radio, in the event of SHTF?

Carrying a portable unit in my SHTF bag seems like a good idea, but I wonder about the real-life usefulness.

As much as it interests me, it seems like an expensive "hobby" more than anything to me, right now.


(HINT--- Talk me into why I need to do this :) )
 

ScottyS

Now we try factory ammo
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#24
Can someone post some information about equipment, places to buy, homemade-ability, etc etc etc?

I've always been interested in getting a HAM setup. My grandfather had one (I would suspect illegal lol) in his basement, and I remember him talking with friends in Saskatoon (In Canada) from his basement in Co Spgs, Colorado.

I understand the use for "fun", but in an emergency, is anyone important really listening? Military bases, police...whom ever.. are they going to respond or listen to some dude in Summerlin with a Ham radio, in the event of SHTF?

Carrying a portable unit in my SHTF bag seems like a good idea, but I wonder about the real-life usefulness.

As much as it interests me, it seems like an expensive "hobby" more than anything to me, right now.


(HINT--- Talk me into why I need to do this :) )
So.....there are several applications of Amateur Radio, each a little different depending on the nature of the emergency. All have to do with the transfer of information. If you consider receiving and sending information important, then Amateur radio is valuable.

Because radio does not depend upon intermediate infrastructure (like television and the internet), it can be utilized as point-to-point comms from portable setups.

Yes, it's all "hobby" until you need it. Personally, I check into regular traffic nets on HF quite a bit, so that I am comfortable knowing where I would look for information, and if necessary, how to participate. There are individuals who maintain contacts with (or are already part of) local emergency management personnel, they would be the primary hubs for everyday amateurs to communicate with during emergencies.

Different band and license privileges determine the types of distances and modes used to communicate (and which radios you would use). The most common utilize repeater systems on VHF and UHF, where long-distance is not possible without the intermediate infrastructure. In most emergencies (partial loss of power, natural hazards, riots, etc) these systems will still function and many mountaintop repeater sites are attached to ~2-week backup power sources. For large scale SHTF and no power, then a combination of VHF/UHF for local comms and HF for regional is what would be required. We don't have hurricanes here, but HF is quite useful in that scenario, and the rest of the active Amateur world (thousands and thousands) will be monitoring.

There are so many people with tickets that, during a serious large-scale emergency, I am sure that things on the Amateur bands would be a little chaotic and overwhelming until cooler heads and capable operators starting working things out.

Most radio types can be operated in a portable capacity, I regularly take my HF system with me to the field and work local and the world from battery power. There are radios that are specifically designed for this, just as there are monstrous, expensive things designed for the pure hobbyist that would never do in the field.

Good luck.
 
#25
For some reason, I'm not having the ability to form my thought on this into words, without it sounding derogatory. Please don't take my comments as me thinking this is "just a stupid hobby"....

What is on the air waves during the course of a day, usually? I mean, it is more like CB radio channel 19... Trucker radio? Random people talking, with no real order (Other than where the cops and accidents are).... as an example.... Or... I don't know... I've read where some people have talked (Or just listened) to the space station. Have any of you done that?

I'm all for a "technical" hobby like this... I just wonder if I would get bored with it over time.
 

ScottyS

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#26
For some reason, I'm not having the ability to form my thought on this into words, without it sounding derogatory. Please don't take my comments as me thinking this is "just a stupid hobby"....

What is on the air waves during the course of a day, usually? I mean, it is more like CB radio channel 19... Trucker radio? Random people talking, with no real order (Other than where the cops and accidents are).... as an example.... Or... I don't know... I've read where some people have talked (Or just listened) to the space station. Have any of you done that?

I'm all for a "technical" hobby like this... I just wonder if I would get bored with it over time.
No worries. There are occasional idiots (or idiot repeaters) for sure, but nothing like CB. There are regional FCC-designated monitors (volunteers) who generally keep track of repeated violations inside the amateur bands.

Again, there are virtually unlimited ways to participate - formal and informal nets, DX, exotic modes and power levels. I stay away from computer-related modes simply out of preference, but there are a lot of digital mountains to climb if you want a challenge. I'm not a satellite/moon bounce/space station guy, but anybody with some technical know-how could do it. I generally stay off the VHF/UHF side unless absolutely needed.
 
#27
OK. I'll have do do some research, and find out what all there is out there.

I've always been interested in it, but I guess I never realized it has the following that it has.

Thanks!
 

NYECOGunsmith

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#28
For some reason, I'm not having the ability to form my thought on this into words, without it sounding derogatory. Please don't take my comments as me thinking this is "just a stupid hobby"....

What is on the air waves during the course of a day, usually? I mean, it is more like CB radio channel 19... Trucker radio? Random people talking, with no real order (Other than where the cops and accidents are).... as an example.... Or... I don't know... I've read where some people have talked (Or just listened) to the space station. Have any of you done that?

I'm all for a "technical" hobby like this... I just wonder if I would get bored with it over time.
Several HAMS here in Pahrump, and some in Las Vegas as well as in Salt Lake City and a few other locales nearby, work a net every day on the HF side of the hobby, where they provide communications for a number of ships at sea.

These ships are commercial as well as pleasure craft, and a great many of them rely on the HAM Maritime Mobile Net to pass messages to loved ones.
We don't (we are prohibited by law) pass traffic of a commercial nature, for example, we don't tell a shipping company that their ship just radioed that they are going to be a day late getting to port.

We would relay a message from a crew member, for example to his or her family to let them know that they will be late arriving home.

We also , through the MARS (Military Auxiliary Radio System) pass messages home for Solders serving over seas.

And we provide backup communications for a great many city, county, state, and federal agencies during emergencies.

When the power was out to all of Pahrump for more than a day back in January of 2007, the phones were all dead as well. We Hams provided communications for the Nye County Emergency Services to both Carson City, and to Reno and Las Vegas. We also provided communications for the local hospital with hospitals in Las Vegas, and we provided backup communications for the Sheriffs Office and the Fire and Rescue Department.

This event and our handling of all that emergency traffic impressed the County sufficiently that they have since allowed us (the local ARES/RACES Radio Club) to put our antennas and repeaters on their tower sites as well as on other county sites.

And it convinced them to purchase and install VHF/UHF/HF radios with multiple backup power supplies in the hospitals here in Pahrump, in Beatty, and Tonopah, and to have employees there trained by us so that they could easily pass the license exams so as to be able to operate those radios directly.
Further they also requested and received volunteers from amongst our local HAMS to man the radios at the hospitals, and the radio room that we HAMs helped build out at the Nye County Emergency Operations Center.

Sure, they have their own radio systems, However, they are USERS not true operators. They are not accustomed to passing large amounts of informational traffic, and if the radio doesn't work when they press the "ON" button, they are lost.

The county has ONE radio repair tech, to cover the nearly 19,000 square miles of the county and all it's systems. So we HAMS volunteer our time to perform system checks for them, and do a number of repairs as well.
The county has no one in their employ certified to climb radio towers to effect repairs on the cables and antennas, but they do have me as a volunteer, and I am certified to climb towers and make those repairs, so instead of waiting for outside help, they call us.

HAMS are used to improvising, adapting, modifying and making radio systems work. We have demonstrated this to the county on several occasions, improvising antenna systems for example, when theirs were damaged by environmental conditions.

So we provide a lot of useful functions, all of which keep our skills sharp for real emergencies. We also have periodic training exercises to keep them sharp.
Geo and I just participated in such a state wide exercise last weekend.

And of course we do just talk to one another to pass the time.
A number of us have communicated with the space station, it's quite easy and can be done with a 5 watt hand held radio and a good Yagi (gain type/ beam ) antenna.

You can talk to the far side of the Earth with that same set up using a technique called EME , Earth Moon Earth, where you bounce the signal off the moon, and it hits the far side of the earth, again with a 5 watt hand held.

There are also satellites (AMSATS) you can bounce a signal off of, or through a repeater on board, and communicate with the far side of the planet with just 5 watts on VHF bands.

Otherwise you need the HF bands to effectively communicate long distances with low power.

It is possible to cover some tremendous distances on the HF bands with just one tenth (1/10) of a watt of power going out the antenna.

We also make use of Slow Scan TV transmissions, and Fast Scan TV also now.

HAM radio works and communicates when all else fails. Where there is no cell phone coverage, no land line phones, and no one else around, you can generally always get a signal out, and there is a good chance someone will hear you and respond to your need for help if that's what it is.

You might want to read one of my earlier posts on the subject, about a buddy of mine who got himself out of a jam many miles from nowhere in Death Valley last December, by contacting me via his 5 watt handheld and a magnetic mount antenna on the roof of his 4x4. It was "Broken Down in Death Valley"

http://nevadashooters.com/showthread.php?t=15888&highlight=Stella%27s+Cabin

He was able to hit a repeater on Mt. Potosi, over 120 miles away (he had a straight line of sight to the repeater at the time) and request assistance from a very remote spot with no cell coverage at all. Would have been a long walk out otherwise.

So it definitely has it's many and varied uses as you can see.
You can build your own radios, although that requires a good working knowledge of electronics and radio theory. You can easily build your own antennas for pennies on the dollar with just a rudimentary working knowledge of antenna theory and basic math skills (add, subtract, divide, multiply I mean).

You can find the equipment used at some very good prices, you can buy new, basic equipment that will serve your needs at very good prices and that will last you lifetime.

Many times when you become a ham, someone you know, but who you may or may not have known was a ham, will give you their extra, or older equipment.

You can have one helluva set up for VHF,UHF and HF, both mobile, and in your home (base station) , for less than the cost of a new AR15 and a case of ammo for it. WAAAY less if you shop around, build your own antennas, etc.


Or you can go nuts and spend more on one radio than most folks do on a car, say, $15,000K for a fully optioned Yaesu FT9000 HF rig, plus another $7,500 for a top of the line Alpha 1,500 watt linear amplifier, $5k for a top of the line Step IR antenna, and $25,000 for a 100 foot tall tower for the antenna.

But you could communicate just as effectively as that guy above with your $200 used Yaesu FT100 VHF/UHF/HF radio, and a $5 length of wire strung up between two trees. I work the world with that very setup, except that FT100 was given to me, so all I am out is the $5 for the wire, and another $50 for some coax cable to connect to it.

Geo goes wild world wide with a $500 Icom HF rig and a $55 G5RV antenna. To each his own. You can put as much or as little into it Dollar wise as you want to.

And you will get as much use and / or pleasure out of it as you put into it.
 

Justified

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#29
If I've searched correctly the FT 100 is not a handheld. Do you have recommendations for something that can be used out hiking?

Edit: not that there is anything wrong with a unit for home or the truck.
 
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NYECOGunsmith

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#30
If I've searched correctly the FT 100 is not a handheld. Do you have recommendations for something that can be used out hiking?

Edit: not that there is anything wrong with a unit for home or the truck.
If you are looking for a handheld VHF or UHF or a dual band (VHF&UHF in one unit) hand held, the Yaesu FT60 is a good entry level radio. Or the Yaesu VX7, dual band, dual receive.

Icom and Alinco and Kenwood and Wouxon all make similar units to both the above, my own personal preference based on a lot of years of using all of them is just for the Yaesu is all.

No one currently makes a hand held in the HF band that I am aware of.
BUT, Yaesu makes a radio, the FT-817, which is very small, very light, and which does do HF as well as VHF and UHF.

It only puts out 5 watts, but you can still work a long ways with 5 watts on the HF side, and you can use it for the other two bands as well.
It weighs under 3 pounds with batteries, a microphone and back of set antenna. It's about 5.5x6.5x1.5 inches in size.

The FT-100 is a mobile/base HF/VHF/UHF radio that went out of production close to a decade ago. They were around $1,400 new, now can be found for $100 to $200 used in good shape, but they are not nearly as small or lightweight as the FT-817. They weight about 5.5 pounds with mic and back of set antenna, but there is no provision for a internal battery, so you have to carry a small 12v Gel Cell if you want to go portable/remote.
 

ScottyS

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#33
For instance, the Washoe County ARES team (http://www.wcares.us/) is involved in the current Caughlin/Pine Haven fire emergency in Reno. Briefing updates are being relayed, and last I heard it was requested that they set up 24hr operator stations at the evac locations.
 

bplv

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#34
I was thinking about it before, but now I am studying for the test.

Question: Can a group of people, say like the nevadashooters forum, informally designate a frequency to monitor so that if another HAM gets lost, stuck, or hurt on their way to or from formal or informal gatherings they have statistically higher chance of reaching someone nearby for help?

I read through Part 97.113 (prohibited transmissions) and the closest thing I see to prohibiting it would be, (5) Communications, on a regular basis, which could reasonably be furnished alternatively through other radio services. Yet since it be infrequent and only a backup method it doesn't seem to apply?

The big reason I'm interested in getting the license is as a backup form of communication when I am places that don't have cell coverage. However, reaching someone that is hundreds of miles away is less ideal than reaching someone a mile or so away.

Or are there already designated frequencies for off-roaders to monitor for and reach out for help?
 

NYECOGunsmith

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#35
I was thinking about it before, but now I am studying for the test.

Question: Can a group of people, say like the nevadashooters forum, informally designate a frequency to monitor so that if another HAM gets lost, stuck, or hurt on their way to or from formal or informal gatherings they have statistically higher chance of reaching someone nearby for help? YES, you can. While no one owns a frequency or has any rights to it (within the HAM bands I mean) we often designate a particular frequency as a local area "monitored" frequency just for such things.
Nationally, the 146.520 MHz frequency (in the two meter band), and the 446.000 MHz frequency (in the 70 CM band) are the nationally designated "Hailing Frequencies" which nearly every HAM keeps a radio tuned to, or monitors, both at home and on the road. You make contact on the Hailing Frequency (some times referred to as the "National Calling Frequency"), then you agree to switch to another frequency so that you don't tie up the hailing frequency.

There are also national/ international hailing frequencies in the HF bands, some for phone (voice) communications, some for CW (Morse Code), and the same principle applies there.

In the Las Vegas and Pahrump Valleys, most folks will also monitor the repeaters located on top of Mt. Potosi, and use those to call for assistance, or just to chat with someone.

Good HAM practice dictates that if you contact someone through a repeater, that you then try to establish communications on a clear (not in use by others) simplex frequency so that you don't tie up or monopolize the repeater.

I read through Part 97.113 (prohibited transmissions) and the closest thing I see to prohibiting it would be, (5) Communications, on a regular basis, which could reasonably be furnished alternatively through other radio services. Yet since it be infrequent and only a backup method it doesn't seem to apply?
That's true. We are prohibited from conduction communications for commercial purposes, or for "broadcasting" which is the one way transmission of information where we expect no response, such as the Commercial Broadcast AM and FM stations do.
We can't use our HAM bands for commercial gain, such as using your HAM radio repeatedly to get directions so you can perform your job of delivering Pizza, prescriptions, newspapers, furniture, anything, etc.

We can, and do, simply communicate/talk/ratchet jaw, rag chew, etc. on our bands, breaking frequently to let others use the frequency or join in, and that is perfectly legal.

The big reason I'm interested in getting the license is as a backup form of communication when I am places that don't have cell coverage. However, reaching someone that is hundreds of miles away is less ideal than reaching someone a mile or so away.
Not true! The goal is to reach someone, anyone, when you are in trouble. We often receive calls from folks stranded hundreds of miles away, or even thousands, and most if not all HAMS will drop what they are doing and make the necessary calls, on phones, radio, whatever, to get someone some help.
Just a few years ago, I heard a gentleman calling for assistance on a HF frequency, he was broken down in the rural part of Nebraska, had not gotten any response on the VHF or UHF frequencies, and so he tried the HF. I heard him, he need a tow and his wife was having chest pains. I got his location, land line phoned the Nebraska State Patrol and the Sheriff's Office of the town nearest to him. Stayed on the radio with him until they both arrived.
The chest pains turned out to be nothing more than severe indigestion, but who wants to risk otherwise in a 77 year old woman?

We also do this for ships at sea (the MARITIME MOBILE NET) for both commercial ships and pleasure sail boats, power boats, yachts, etc.
Sure it would be nice to always contact someone who can instantly be by your side to assist you, but that is rarely going to happen, so we make do with contacting whoever we can.

Or are there already designated frequencies for off-roaders to monitor for and reach out for help? No, there are no such frequencies. They just use the National Calling/Hailing frequencies, or those of the local (to their location) repeaters.
There is a book available from a number of sources, runs about $12, that lists ALL the repeaters on ALL HAM frequencies nation wide, with all the information needed to allow you to be able to use any of those repeaters (assuming you are withing range of them of course!) to contact folks. There is a similar book for repeaters in a number of other countries as well.

Hope this helps.
 

bplv

uber Member
#37
Thanks Steve. I guess a "Hailing Frequency" is what I was looking for, even though I didn't know what to call it.

I'm cramming for the Dec 3rd test in LV. We'll see how it goes.
 

NYECOGunsmith

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#39
Timely article. I'll bet the dropping of the Morse Code requirements are responsible for at least a few people getting their license.
You'd be right!

Although in the last year or so, we have seen a growing number of folks, who, after getting their license, decide to go ahead and learn the Morse Code anyway.

It's handy to know, and you can often get a message through (speaking strictly of HF here) with it when the atmospheric conditions make it tough to do so with voice, with standard, off the shelf, readily available, low end (cost) equipment that is.

With the higher dollar stuff, (more filters and Digital Signal Processing circuits) voice becomes as reliable as Morse even in the worst of conditions.

But this is rarely ever a problem, you can generally always get through on one band or another with voice on the HF (High Frequency) bands.
 
#40
Steve you said:
"It is possible to take all three exams and pass them at one time, for only $15, and go from no license to Extra class in one jump." .....

Do you need to let the exam site know ahead of time if you plan to take more than one exam (tech and general) at the scheduled date or just when you arrive?

Thanks for starting this thread, it was something I wanted to do and never got around to. Thanks to you and your enthusiasm for the sport I just bought Gordon West's books and will soon take my exam.

Kent