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Saturday, September 19, 2009

30 Days

30 days can be a lot of things. A free trial period. An extra month for a paid annual subscription. Probationary period at a new job to see if you are going to make the cut.

In this case, it is simply a time to sit back and muse on my first month as a licensed HAM radio operator.

Why HAM?

I have heard some people say HAM radio is not as useful as it once was due to the proliferation and range of cell phones today. Others see it as "like a CB radio" and really only a time-waster for over-the-road drivers to chat with each other and warn about speed traps.

To some degree these are true, but there is also another side to HAM. When a disaster strikes (natural or otherwise) telephone communication is often the first to go, either as a result of the disaster or from the sheer volume of phone calls to and from loved ones to see if they are ok. This makes communication for rescue workers difficult. HAM radio operators can get communications established with minimal equipment and power, in some cases on battery power alone.

There is the social aspect of HAM radio to consider as well. To those of you that think that Twitter and FaceBook are what gave rise to Social Media, you are wrong. HAM radio enthusiasts have been involved in social media since before the Twitter and FaceBook creators were born.

It is hard. You need to learn Morse Code.

First of all, you do not need to learn Morse Code to get a HAM license. You do need to pass a written test, but with a little studying, that will probably not be any more difficult than passing your written driving test. The night I took my test, there was an 11 year-old at my table that took and passed the same test I took. All it takes is spending a little time with either a study guide (I bought a $20 book) or with a free practice test on the internet (I used the ones at

First Contact

W1ATV, Bil (with one 'ell') was one of the first people to answer my "signal check" call. He was very friendly, but pretty much everyone I have talked to have gone out of their way in welcoming me to the airwaves. When I have a question about operating procedures or radio usage, I ask and I get answers. I have also joined a couple internet sites and posted questions there and gotten great feedback and advice.

What Next?

Well, there are more frequencies I can use if I pass the next test or two and upgrade my Technician license and get my General or Extra class license. I was close to passing General when I took my test, so I know I can pass it. I think that I will learn more about maximizing my current license so I have a good understanding of what I hope to get out of a higher class license before I start down that road. My current radio will not do High Frequency anyway, so I would need to start spending more money to be able to use HF frequencies.

What About You?

Ever thought about getting your HAM license? Know anyone that is a HAM?


Frankie said...

Debbie's grandpa was big into HAM radio. I wasnt really around him enough before he passed away to experience it. I know he carried some of the equipment with him when he and Deb's grandma would travel up to the rim for the summer. He'd talk to folks while camping.

My 6th grade teacher was into it also. He actualy brought the eqipment to school, set up the antenna and we got to see him talk to folks while we were in class. It was cool. I remember him talking to someone in Great Britain and also somebody down at one of the scientific stations dwon in Antarctica, that was reall cool.

Have fun with it Stephen!

Stephen said...

After I got my license, I found out my Dad was radio trained in the Army. When he was in Vietnam, to call overseas, you usually had to use HAM radio and he talked to my Mom that way a number of times. One of those times, the HAM in AZ that was relaying the phone call was Barry Goldwater.