Have you been curious about getting your ham radio license? Not sure where to start? Don’t have a lot of experience with electronics and radio but want to learn? The best first step is to go out and get yourself a copy of the ARRL Ham Radio License Manual. The current revision was published in 2010 and will be revised next in 2014. You do not have to be an electrical engineer to be a ham radio operator, nor do you have to have any prior electronics experience (but it would likely help).
Topics covered include the history of wireless communications, the basics of electricity and electronics, radio waves and propagation, frequencies, bands, band plans, antennas, radio components and functions, operating rules and regulations and etiquette, and most importantly, safety. Everything you need is in the manual, and this particular book is dense with information by my personal standards. The book also contains practice questions that are cited when that topic comes up in the text.
While some aspiring radio operators may only need this book to get their ticket punched, I also want to encourage you to attend any classes being held by experienced operators at your local radio club. Amateur radio is about making contact and communicating with other amateurs, and attending a training session is an excellent way to get out there and pick up some new things from someone that’s been there and done that already. You might even find yourself an Elmer (an amateur radio mentor) to help you navigate the examination and ticketing process.
Before I wrap this post up, I want to remind the reader that you must have atleast a technician class or higher license to transmit on amateur radio bands. Your license class determines the privileges you have as an operator, what modes on which bands you are allowed to transmit on, but you do not require a license to receive signals. Ham radio is a self regulated community which means that you are being tested by other amateurs instead of by a government agency, but respecting the rules of operation is what allows the amateur radio community to have this privilege.
Good luck and good night. This is KK4TSJ, 73 and clear.
So far, I’ve been scanning the local North Atlanta repeaters around Cobb, Fulton, and Gwinett county. I’m able to pick up fairly strong reception from some of the local repeaters, and I’m very impressed with the quality of freely available software that was available to help me get on the air. I’m presently making use of an inexpensive 4 Watt Baofeng UV-5R. I’ve been working with computer systems, unix system programming, embedded programming, and electronics for nearly a decade and a half, and it was only natural that I was going to come across some use cases that would require a radio license.
Initially, my interest was video downlink connection from model aircraft, but I’ve since come across digital modes for weak signals, and it’s consumed my interest. I have some designs captured in schematics for a Texas Instruments based PCM2900C USB sound card interface with auxiliary input/output and monitor. I’ve looked at the Signalink USB, and it’s interesting, but ham radio is about cooking up your own mad science! I’m still working on laying out a reasonable PCB before sending the order off the OSHPark or one of the other fine PCB bundling services. I intend to publish my work under the Creative Common Attribution Share Alike license when it’s ready.