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My first year as a ham...

Aug 4th 2016, 02:07


Joined: Aug 4th 2016, 01:59
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Total Posts: 0
OK, so I just noticed that I got my Ham license one year ago tomorrow and figured I'd sum up my first year and get some advice. I took the Technician and General exams and was roaring to go - excited to get started and get on the air. Then I........

That's it. That's my first year as a ham. You see, I went crazy trying to consider my options on a radio. Got overwhelmed with all the talk about needing a huge antenna. I couldn't find another ham in the area and I don't see that there's a club within 35 miles or so.

When I went to take the exam I drove about 50 minutes and thought I may be able to get involved in the club there. I took the test and stayed for a meeting afterwards. However, despite my being new and eager, not a soul in the club introduced themselves to me... I probably should have tried harder, but I left the meeting a bit intimidated and came home figuring that I would figure things out on my own. But it didn't happen.

So, here I am a year later. Without a radio or an antenna, and hoping now to make year two better. I really want to be part of the hobby, and I really want to get my son involved - he's 8. But I'm not yet ready to build a tower in the yard and what not...

Thanks for reading this. I hope to get moving soon and be a contributing member of the hobby.
Aug 4th 2016, 13:14


Super Moderator

Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
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Total Posts: 0

Do you have trees? An antenna strung between trees is usually the quickest way to get started on HF.

A quick an effective way of choosing a radio is to go to eham's review section and narrowing down your choices to the popular radios--the radios that have lots of reviews and high ratings. Then pick one. By choosing a popular radio it will be easy to get help on the Internet if you have issues to be sorted out.

Zack W1VT
ARRL Senior Lab Engineer
Aug 5th 2016, 13:38


Joined: Apr 4th 1998, 00:00
Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 0
Firstly, welcome!

Secondly, it's good that you haven't lost your enthusiasm.

Thirdly, press on. While a club can be a good support mechanism, it's not necessary to success in amateur radio. In the absence of a club, having the advice of a few individuals you trust can prove valuable. Admittedly, it's not easy making a choice on a radio and for the newcomer anything used seems to have a high possibility of being someone's junk. If you're looking to buy new, most anything affordable will get you on the air in fine shape. If used, you may prefer to buy from an established dealer that will offer some guarantee that the unit will not be Dead On Arrival (DOA).

Fourthly, don't be discouraged that your first antenna will likely be a compromise. All antennas are compromises in some way having advantages and disadvantages. This is where you will learn a lot. You will also find at some point an antenna that suits your operating style and meets your goals. Funny thing about hams (humans?) is that they will project their style and goals on you, unfortunately, so some comments must be taken with a huge grain of salt (likely this one as well).

Fithly, Zach offers good advice. I would caution that eham reviews can sometimes be a (un)popularity contest. I have also found by reading eham reviews that there are apparently hams out there who can break an anvil with a rubber mallet! There are gems in the reviews. You'll need to apply your own common sense to separate the wheat from the chaff and arrive at a decision that you think is right for you.

Finally, the most important thing to do is get something together and operate! That is when you'll start learning. Like you, I've been of a mind that things have to be "perfect" to get started. Well, at that rate we'll never get started. Often times I've had to set that aside and go with "good enough" and then improve later. It often works out that the later improvement is much different than the "perfect" I envisioned at the outset.

Now, go forth and enjoy amateur radio!

73, Nate
Oct 3rd 2016, 14:12


Joined: Aug 18th 2015, 16:03
Total Topics: 0
Total Posts: 0
I just got my license in Oct. You have to realize some hams are more comfortable on the air than in person. Some are not very approachable. They're okay among people in their club they've known for years. It took a while before the club I went to finally opened up. I ended up redoing their website and helping out when I could.

As far as getting started my first radio was a Baofeng UV-5R handheld I got for $34 and that was with free shipping. I used the Chirp program to program in the local repeaters and weather. I could listen in to see what people were talking and how. After that I bought an inexpensive magnetic mount antenna for my car. This at least let me test the waters some and see how interested I was. A lot of people are using these radios with small home made antennas to pick up satellite communications and talk to the International Space Station.

Just a couple of weeks ago I spent more than I've spent on myself in a long time. I spent $600 on a HF rig. An old Kenwood TS940S-AT. I hooked it to my computer and used Fldigi to see what digital mode communications I could pick up. It was really cool. Very glad I spent the money now as I'm hooked. Anxious to get it hooked up so I can send here soon.

As far as antenna is concerned I bought a 40m half dipole I think for like $60. The coax was $80. But that's because I needed 150ft of cable to reach in my back yard anywhere I needed.

So you don't have to spend a fortune. If you really want to go budget there's tons of information on building your own antennas. A buddy of mine loves building antennas more than he spends on the air I think. lol Every person finds an area that fascinates them.

At least with a HF rig you have a lot of bands at your disposal.

I'm just thinking of getting my General license so I have a lot more that I could transmit on when I want.


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