The Weekly Sedition

Saturday, 12 March 2011

About Amateur “Ham” Radio

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , , , — weeklysedition @ 3:12 AM

   Current mood: excited

Recently (10 March 2011), I went to a meeting of a local amateur “ham” radio club. While there didn’t seem to be any formally-established leadership, there were quite a few people who pointed me in the direction of getting started.

Way, way back in high school, I was one of three people (one was the faculty “advisor” who ran it) participating in the school’s Amateur Radio “club.” As with the group I met with above, there was no formal organization, just that “leadership” was on the basis of who was competent with the necessary technical skills. I didn’t go further with it then because you had to start off as a Novice operator, with Morse Code privileges only – no voice privileges until you passed the Technician test. A modern analogy would be getting on the internet by manually sending, receiving and interpreting the digital ones and zeroes that ultimately make up the relevant content.

Since then (1988 / 1989), the FCC licensing process has been simplified a bit, and the Morse Code requirements have been dropped from the tests. So when one of the members of the New Mexico Survival meetup group expressed an interest in “ham” radio, my own interest was rekindled.

Apologies for the digression there – back to the present.

At the meeting, I was told that resources for beginners are abundant, online[1], in print form[2], and from more experienced users willing to help out the newbies (“elmers”).

The testing seems relatively straightforward – it runs Ø14 to take the test for a Technician license, the bottom level of amateur radio operators. (The Ø14 test fee was what one of the attendees quoted to me as what it costs when he runs the test. Others may charge more.) IF you pass the Technician test, you then have the option to take the test for the General license at no additional charge. Should you pass the General license test, you then have the option to take the test for the Extra license, again at no additional charge.

I was also told that the Technician, General and Extra tests cover different material – you can’t just study for the Extra test and expect to pass the Technician or General class tests.

Club meetings – As I wrote above, club I met with doesn’t seem to have any sort of formal leadership – it’s just a group of retirees who enjoy amateur radio. (I was the youngest one there, at 40 years old.) They show up when they show up, there’s no formal agenda for the meeting. They just show up, have coffee and breakfast, and spend some time talking amateur radio, among other topics. This club meets on Thursdays at 7:00 AM at the McDonalds on the southeast corner of NM-528 and Coors (Alameda Blvd and Coors NW). Breakfast is on the no-host, pay-as-you-go plan.

The people who showed up there didn’t seem to have any hostility towards other clubs or groups – for example, they told me about another club that meets at the Krispy Kreme near IHOP, behind Kohls on Alameda NW, on Fridays at 1:00 PM.

If you are looking for a formal club, you can always search the ARRL site.

P.S. – If you’re a user of citizens’ band (CB) radio, it’s probably not a good idea to mention it too much at a ham radio club until you’ve already established your bonafides. Unless you don’t mind being ragged on and “dissed” a bit.


NOTES

  1. Online resources
    American Radio Relay League (ARRL) (Wikipedia page)
  2. Print resources
    QST magazine – Official Journal of the ARRL
    CQ Amateur Radio magazine
    Amazon search for ham radio books
  3. Equipment suppliersTexas Towers and Ham Radio Outlet are examples.

    Items available for sale include, but aren’t limited to, transceivers (portable, vehicle-mountable and the base-station variety), guy lines, antenna masts, aluminum conduit piping (for do-it-yourself antenna builders), cabling, connector parts, frequency tuners and analyzers.

  4. Reposted –
    1. Personal blog
    2. Partisans of the American Southwest


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