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Thread: Im new-- looking for some advice

  1. #1

    Default Im new-- looking for some advice

    Hello all,
    I have recently been intrigued by Ham radio. I, however, know nothing about radios, frequencies, bands, etc. All I know is from the scanner I have where I plug in the police/fire and local repeater frequencies. I live in a neighborhood, and am not too crazy about putting up a tower, would I be able to have a smaller one in an attic or something? What would be a good first radio? What other things do I need to know? Is there some web source I should look at to learn the basics?

    Thanks for your time!

  2. #2
    M0TTB's Avatar
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    Default Re: Im new-- looking for some advice

    Hi and welcome.
    I'm sure others can offer better advice than myself, but a reasonably good overview of amateur radio can be found on the wiki page for it
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amateur_radio
    A first port of call if you really want to get involved would be your national assosciation for amateur radio in the U.S. http://www.arrl.org/ They can put you on to a local club, who will be a great help, especially as far as tuition goes for gaining your licence.

    As with over here in the U.K. it is a 3 tiered licence structure, the U.S. system giving progressively more frequencies to operate on as you progress (in the U.K. it is more output power related as you progress)... none of the exams are too difficult, the first is pretty much a cakewalk and revolves more around safety and interference prevention than anything.

    Despite the impression you can get, in fact 'us' amateurs can get at times!!, most of us cannot put up a large tower or big antenna array... most of us are in the exact same position as yourself, and the fun and reward is making the best out of it. With a bit of wire in the attic you can talk to someone on the other side of the world.

    Because most of us live in normal urban areas, there's plenty devoted to antenna design for restricted space, in fact I think there are dedicated books on how to make antennas for use in an attic.

    I'd investigate amateur a little bit more before contemplating a radio, as you will probably need to have some idea of what part of amateur radio attracts you. If you have a scanner, I suspect you have received amateur transmissions on FM in the 2m band (145mhz area), maybe 70cm (440mhz) or even that other one that the U.S. has but we don't around 220mhz....although though if you live in or around a large city, 2m FM repeaters may not always be the best advert for amateur radio :lol:

    For the busier amateur bands where world wide communication takes place, you will need to be down below 30mhz and need a receiver capable of resolving ssb transmissions. Maybe buy a cheap secondhand HF receiver and listen in on all the activity on these bands. A few popular bands include 3.5-4mhz, 7.0-7.3mhz and 14.0 -14.35mhz. There are other amateur bands below 30mhz, but these will be the busiest.

    Of course you're not restricted to voice communications on amateur radio, you can get to know morse code (still very popular and a hugely efficient mode of communication), computer aided data communication such as PSK or RTTY and even sending TV. Other areas of interest are using satellites to aid communication and even bouncing your signals off the moon or asteroids showers. You can even end up talking to someone on the international space station.
    Here's the complete ARRL bandplan available to amateurs in the U.S.
    http://www.arrl.org/FandES/field/regula ... dplan.html
    When looking at a frequency bandplan for the first time, 'phone' relates to voice communication, generally ssb (single sideband).

    cheers,
    Andy
    73
    Andy

  3. #3

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    Default Re: Im new-- looking for some advice

    Hello 2E0KBC,

    Now that's an unusual first name, I'm not even sure how to pronounce it! :lol: :lol:

    Andy's correct about the Amateur Radio Hobby and recently here in the U.S.A our F.C.C. lowered the requirements to written tests, no Code required to Pass as part of the exam, just basic electronics which you can purchase a Study Guide and/or Go On-Line to read about the Questions and Answers. The F.C.C. also eliminated two of the Classes of Licensing which left the Technician, General and Extra.

    The Technician Class License allows an operator to use the following frequency bands 50~54 MHz, 144~148 MHz, 222~225 MHz, 420~450 MHz, 902 MHz, 1296 MHz & Microwave Bands. The Modes of Operation include: AM, FM, SSB, CW, Digital AMBE, PSK-31, FSK RTTY, AMTOR, PACKET & ATV - Slow Scan or Fast Scan. You can use up to 1.5 KW P.E.P. Power Output on SSB, 750 Watts Output on AM, FM, CW, Digital AMBE, PSK-31, FSK RTTY, AMTOR, PACKET & ATV "EXCEPT" the 420~450 MHz Band where we are Limited to 50 Watts Output because we share this band with the U.S. Air Force's PAVE PAWS Coastal Radar system The Technician Exam is the Entry Exam and is one of the easiest to pass in regards to Technical Questions to be answered.

    The General Class License allows an operator to use portions of all of the Low Bands covering 1.6 through 30 MHz plus all of 50~54 MHz, 144~148 MHz, 222~225 MHz, 420~450 MHz, 902 MHz, 1296 MHz & Microwave Bands. The Modes of Operation include: AM, FM, SSB, CW, Digital AMBE, PSK-31, FSK RTTY, AMTOR, PACKET & ATV - Slow Scan or Fast Scan. You can use up to 1.5 KW P.E.P. Power Output on SSB, 750 Watts Output on AM, FM, CW, Digital AMBE, PSK-31, FSK RTTY, AMTOR, PACKET & ATV "EXCEPT" the 420~450 MHz Band where we are Limited to 50 Watts Output because we share this band with the U.S. Air Force's PAVE PAWS Coastal Radar system The General Exam has more Technical Questions to be answered.

    The Extra Class License allows an operator complete frequency coverage on all the Low Bands 1.6 through 30 MHz plus all of 50~54 MHz, 144~148 MHz, 222~225 MHz, 420~450 MHz, 902 MHz, 1296 MHz & Microwave Bands. The Modes of Operation include: AM, FM, SSB, CW, Digital AMBE, PSK-31, FSK RTTY, AMTOR, PACKET & ATV - Slow Scan or Fast Scan. You can use up to 1.5 KW P.E.P. Power Output on SSB, 750 Watts Output on AM, FM, CW, Digital AMBE, PSK-31, FSK RTTY, AMTOR, PACKET & ATV "EXCEPT" the 420~450 MHz Band where we are Limited to 50 Watts Output because we share this band with the U.S. Air Force's PAVE PAWS Coastal Radar system The General Exam has more Technical Questions to be answered. The Extra Exam has much more Technical Questions to be answered.

    Contact the A.R.R.L. for more information as to where YOU can take the Exams:

    http://www.arrl.org/

    This is a Great Hobby that will enable YOU to meet so many interesting people from all walks of life!

    73,

    Dan
    WA9WVX


    40+ Years as an Amateur Radio Operator with the same Call Sign!

  4. #4

    Default Re: Im new-- looking for some advice

    Thanks for your responses. You said that the tests are a cake walk, but you also mention tuition. Is the test something that you mail in or do you have to go to a testing site? Also, with the lowest level license, what am I able to do? (I'm assuming it has to do with range?) I dont quite understand the mhz. Is there a quick guide to mhz and what they can do?

    Thanks for your help!

  5. #5
    M0TTB's Avatar
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    Default Re: Im new-- looking for some advice

    Quote Originally Posted by jt1965
    Thanks for your responses. You said that the tests are a cake walk, but you also mention tuition. Is the test something that you mail in or do you have to go to a testing site? Also, with the lowest level license, what am I able to do? (I'm assuming it has to do with range?) I dont quite understand the mhz. Is there a quick guide to mhz and what they can do?

    Thanks for your help!
    Ah

    Are your aware of the term 'frequency'? Hertz is the name of the smallest unit of measurement of frequency (as millimeter is to length) kilohertz and megahertz are larger measurements of frequency (as kilometer is to millimeter). Technically it refers to cycles per second, you'll see computers processors measured the same.

    The radio frequency spectrum goes from from medium wave broadcast radio (around 1Mhz) up to the radio frequency used in a microwave oven to heat your food (around 2.45Ghz which is Gigahertz, which is 2450Mhz). In fact the entire frequency spectrum goes far further each way than that, and at the very lowest it turns into audio frequency (sound) and at the very highest it turns into light. I wouldn't worry to much about the above for now.

    Think of the entire radio spectrum as a tape measure, different segments along the length are used by different services for different uses... amateur radio has various little segments all over the length. Your scanner listens to a little segment for the fire department.
    Have a look here for an idea
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_spectrum

    As to tuition and exams. They are simply multiple choice question exams held by your local amateur radio club at an approved test centre, quite possibly their regular meeting place.

    For passing the first test in the U.S. you are able to use most amateur bands above 30Mhz, with very small portions of the amateur bands below that. You are able to use quite a lot of power, where-as in the U.K. the first licence allows you to use practically all amateur bands but at lower powers.... so there's slightly different ethos either side of the Atlantic as for as what 'novices' are allowed.

    The key is, you have to be able to use your equipment safely without causing interference to other radio users (not just other amateurs), radio is a powerful tool and has to be used carefully and within the parameters laid down in the regulations... which is why much of the intial exams will be on regulations and how to avoid/cure any interference you may cause. In the U.K. we have booklets available for each of the 3 exams, the first two are quite thin and skimpy and can be read in a few hours, and contain everything you need to know to pass.

    I would presume that the ARRL publish similar booklets for the exams over there.

    cheers,
    Andy
    73
    Andy

  6. #6
    Administrator M0TZO's Avatar
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    Default Re: Im new-- looking for some advice

    Quote Originally Posted by 2E0KBC
    The radio frequency spectrum goes from from medium wave broadcast radio (around 1Mhz) up to the radio frequency used in a microwave oven to heat your food (around 2.45Ghz which is Gigahertz, which is 2450Mhz). In fact the entire frequency spectrum goes far further each way than that, and at the very lowest it turns into audio frequency (sound) and at the very highest it turns into light. I wouldn't worry to much about the above for now.
    Andy, yes, a lot farther, in fact here in UK (not sure about in US or elsewhere) the Frequencies useable by Hams goes up to 250 GHz (or 248,000-250,000 MHz or 4mm band).

    Here is the RSGB UK Bandplan.
    Paul, MØTZO - my websites
    Please PM me if you wish to change your username to your callsign

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    M0TTB's Avatar
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    Default Re: Im new-- looking for some advice

    Quote Originally Posted by M0TZO
    Quote Originally Posted by 2E0KBC
    The radio frequency spectrum goes from from medium wave broadcast radio (around 1Mhz) up to the radio frequency used in a microwave oven to heat your food (around 2.45Ghz which is Gigahertz, which is 2450Mhz). In fact the entire frequency spectrum goes far further each way than that, and at the very lowest it turns into audio frequency (sound) and at the very highest it turns into light. I wouldn't worry to much about the above for now.
    Andy, yes, a lot farther, in fact here in UK (not sure about in US or elsewhere) the Frequencies useable by Hams goes up to 250 GHz (or 248,000-250,000 MHz or 4mm band).
    Yep, I was just trying to keep it simple and give a general idea for the o.p. of RF uses he may be aware of (MW broadcast and Microwave oven) rather than bands available to us ... of course we have lower than the 1Mhz that I quoted as MW ballpark frequency as well.

    cheers,
    Andy
    73
    Andy

  8. #8

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    Default Re: Im new-- looking for some advice

    Hello Paul, Andy & Everyone Else,

    I did not think that I would cause such stir regarding the use of three letters MHz following the frequency bands. I've used the H / KHz / MHz / GHz since 1968 when the U.S. Elontronics Industry Association changed from Cycles to Hertz - C / KCs / MCs / GCs so its been Forty (40) Years of using this nomenclature on a everyday basis.

    By stating our Maximum U.S. RF Power Output levels on the VHF / UHF / Microwave Bands & Modes would provide the Newbie perhaps the option of purchasing or building RF Amplifiers for the frequencies of their choice, perfectly Legal to own and operate. I should have stated that the new ham operator would not necessarly want to start their Amateur Radio Station with the High Power Output but they could eventually work their way up to those RF levels.

    Antennas Systems are the King of the heap of other items used by Hams the world over. Operators should consider the "Antenna" as an Equal to the "Transceiver" and certainly it's a balancing act weighing the Pro's & Con's (Specifications) between both items. One item the Ham community here in the United States always need to do is be informmed about where they live because of CC & R Rules & Regulations on their property with local city or county government laws enacted and on the books that sometimes challenge the right to erect outside antennas. Unfortunately "Stupidity" is not a valid excuse in a Court of Law. "I didn't know .... Good, the Fine will be $$$$$$$!" :oops:

    The United States Amateur Radio Exams carry a small fee for the Testing and they're administrated by 2 or 3 "Extra Class" Volunteer Examiner Coordinators Qualified by both the F.C.C & A.R.R.L..

    http://wireless.fcc.gov/services/ind...g_5&id=amateur

    http://www.eham.net/articles/20388

    The United States Amateur Radio Community has one (1) Long Wave frequency band to use with limitations on RF Power Output, the Antenna Lenght and only Generals, Advance & Extra are privileged to use the KHz frequency allocation. It's down below the Commercial AM Broadcast Band.

    And YOU new Ham operators, you need not start out with Brand New Equipment as there's many websites available on the "WWW" besides the Amateur Radio Dealers to purchase used equipment from other than EEKBay. :lol:

    73,

    Dan
    WA9WVX

  9. #9

    Default Re: Im new-- looking for some advice

    Thank you for your responses everyone. You all have been very helpful. Ill let you know if I have any more questions.

  10. #10

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    Default Re: Im new-- looking for some advice

    Welcome to ham radio: I just got my FCC ticket rather recently myself (QTH is in central NJ). Welcome to Ham, and if you have any q's about ham radio, I'll do my best to help.

    btw - just found this (very useful) link ... most of the common phrases you'll encounter. Also, I'd recommend when you sign onto the local net, especially when it is busy, it is useful to have pen/paper around. I know on mine, it's run very formally, where the net control officer will do a roll-call. Then, hams will operate in sequence, and when you are finished you have to sign off and call up the call letters of the next ham in order. Even with my good memory, I could never hope to keep track of all the call letters, and then when I finally started getting the hang of who was before me (you have to thank them by call letter, then give yours and start talking) and after me (so I could sign off and let them go) those people started signing off! :lol: Got a little frustrating not only for me, but net control (KC2TRK) since they constantly had to help me out every single time.

    Tonight I'm bringing a pen and pad of paper, since it's so easy to lose track of stuff.

    http://www.magiclink.com/web/shurst/Page5.htm

    That's the link, let me know if you need anything else.

    - JR / KC2UFP
    VHF (2m band) - KC2UFP. Fired up the rig! Made my first contact yesterday (December 12th). Made my furthest contact yet today ... somewhere between 80 and 90 miles from the Quakerbridge Mall to Dover, DE where I made contact on the W3HZW repeater with a frequency of 146.970 MHz and a PL of 77Hz.

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