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Thread: New Hams - Expectations, expenditure and evolution.

  1. #1

    Default New Hams - Expectations, expenditure and evolution.

    Reading lots of the topics recently it occurs to me that many new hams do have very high expectations from the hobby, but seem unwilling to invest their money in it. I realise I'm speaking historically, having got my licence in 1980, but people's 'needs' are really elevated nowadays. They want it all and they want it now! They don't, however, wish to pay for it. I've done a little investigation with other hobbies to see if the same thing applies, based on two popular hobbies here in the UK. Fishing and model railways - which like our hobby have been going on for a long time (and I could get stats on!)

    It seems these other hobbies have a similar problem to us - you can buy starter kits that cost typically between £60-£100. This closely matches the cost of a handheld from China, a bit of cable and a very basic antenna for slapping up outside. However, if you start to look at serious kit that does the job so much better, the prices change rapidly. A Hornby Flying Scotsman is £110! A popular fishing reel is around the same price.

    It appears none of these hobbies can exist without people starting with something very much under-priced, or low performing, then as you get hooked (or not) you move on. Having a read of the forums on these two hobbies, they have exactly the same thing - people who want top performance from the lowest price kit.

    In my area, when I started this kind of thing simply didn't happen. There was no cheap kit you could buy. Everything involved serious outlay, and in my own case, borrowing the money and taking a year or two to pay it off. Now we invest, if that is the right word, the equivalent of a round of drinks.

    We also expect amazing performance. When I started the nearest VHF repeater was 35 miles away (and still is) This mean in my case, an 8 element vertical beam to get into it with 10W. I could also swing the beam and get into the next closest - 50 miles away. The locals could chat on 2m, and none of us lived more than 5 miles from each other, apart from two regulars who used gainy antennas to get into the nets. Portable was pointless - a couple of watts gave no capability to just sit a handheld on the window sill - you needed outside antennas and a bit more power. We installed a local UHF repeater in the town, and we could then buy ex-Police radios that we could use within the town portable - great advance. Car wise, 10W with at least a ľ wave, but if you wanted to get a bit further, a 5/8th or maybe a ⅝ over a ⅝ on UHF? We could drive maybe 15 miles from the repeater with these. The VHF repeater was no use in town, but once you got 10 miles closer, you could use it mobile. Our UHF repeater has been silenced because the site has been lost, so we're back to the dark ages. I no longer have a beam. My farm of verticals cannot get me into the VHF repeater - too far. The UHF one in a nearby city is too far, so the local hams are back to chat with outside antennas, just like in 1980. A radio black hole from the modern perspective. Already I've spotted a few vertical beams and rotators are appearing, and the locals are having to spend money - something the under 40's have never had to do, as a handheld did everything using the local repeater.

    The notion, as often seen in many new topics, that you buy a £30 handheld, stick a bit of cable on it and put a low/zero gain antenna on the end as a starting point won't work here any more. A mobile type radio, good feeder and a gainy vertical is now the minimum spec for my area, and England is smaller than many US States, so there must be far more places in the US where repeaters are very distant, if at all.

    Should we try to convince new hams that they should up their game if they want to do anything more worthwhile than chat with very local people? The price of a mobile/feeder and antenna worthy of getting better results is here, around £400-500, compared with a cheap hand-held and basic outside antenna of maybe £100. Locally, the £100 option no longer works for new hams, if you bought a £30 Baofeng, it's now totally pointless.

    Maybe this isn't a bad thing? With better gear, you get the chance to expand. I tried going back 5 years on this and another forum. Looked for newcomer topics where they had less than 5 posts, and then looked for this member's stats. The ham drop out rate appears to be very high. Maybe a consequence of too cheap a start up? How many starter train sets actually end up being converted into serious model railways, and how many fishermen stick at it? Is starting too cheap really bad if you simply don't get the return?

  2. #2


    I've discovered ham radio is not a cheap hobby, but beginners can get on the air in some way or form with less than a week's pay and even less if they can build/not buy some stuff. My own interests did not really peak until I got into DX on HF a few years ago. I got bored with local VHf/UHF repeaters, not knowing many others hams and subsequently my interest in ham radio was lax for many years after I got my first license. It was not until I took the time to learn and upgrade, that I became fascinated everyday with this hobby. But, along with that interest came a pretty hefty cost for a poor boy from the mountains of Carolina on a tight budget. I'm envious when I see pictures of shacks with a wall of equipment to play with. I'm still crying crocodile tears over my recent expenditure for my first very used small linear amp, but I'll get over it. As with many things in life, if you take care of it, things can give a lifetime of enjoyment only to passed along to someone else to be their caretaker after we are gone. After all, no one owns anything. We only use, abuse and care for stuff until it is someone else's turn to get it.

  3. #3


    I hear you, I hear you!

    For many years I was an active photographer, shooting mostly aviation. During that time I followed several photography forums, similar to this one, including at least one based on the make of camera I had. Exactly the same situation you describe above existed (and probably still does) in photography. Someone would go out and buy the latest, greatest whiz-bang digital SLR camera body, then equip it with inexpensive after market lenses and accessories. They'd go out and start shooting and then wonder why their photos weren't sharp or improperly exposed and would come crying on the forum when their off-brand (usually Chinese made) accessories broke after 3 weeks of use.

    I learned my lesson early on when I bought a really nice lens (or so I thought) made in Korea. I had it no more that a month when it literally fell apart in my hands. I took it back to the shop where I bought it and they sent it off for warranty repair. When it came back, it worked fine for a while and then the same thing happened. Back it went again. And it came back unrepaired the second time. Finally I sent it off to the repair shop listed with the paperwork that came with the lens. When the package came back from the repair center unopened, I threw the entire works in the trash without ever opening it again.

    When I got into ham radio, I applies the lessons learned in photography. In the seven years since I got licensed, I have always purchased name equipment and mostly from reputable sources. For the most part, I have stayed away from Chinese products, because of issues of quality control. I have a Baofeng that works fine but I don't use because of their issues with spurious emissions. Until I can have it tested on a spectrum analyzer, it will sit unused.

    A good source of quality used gear is an amateur radio club. My club has been the recipient of several donations of used equipment from either the families of silent keys or hams that are getting out of the hobby. I have managed to buy several pieces of equipment from the club at very good prices. This is a path that I recommend for anyone just getting into the hobby. It will take some of the sting out of getting started.

  4. #4


    I have an amazing collection of radios, because like my guitars, I rarely sell anything, and keep them for rainy days! I work from home and have buildings at the rear - and they're pretty full. We're having to replace the carpet in one big room indoors, and as I'm about to go away to work for ten weeks, she's worried that she'll be left to have to empty the big room for the carpet fitters, so wouldn't it be sensible to be able to get the two sons to pop in at short notice and move the contents into my store? No point arguing so I started to clear the space, and found a case of radios I had forgotten about. Inside were all kinds of stuff. Icom business and marine radios from the early 1990s - and one of them, an Icom H16 still had enough battery power to turn on and transmit. I found a few of the first Chinese radios, and none of them will take a charge, and the cases of most are cracked, and knobs wobbly. This is long before Baofengs appeared! I found a couple of Icom 2 channel VHF radios, and bar one, labelled as water damaged, they're all great. A Trio (Kenwood) UHF ham radio from around the same time - which is fine, but doesn't have CTCSS, only tone-burst, and a few battered Motorolas that are well worn, and still seem to work. I've dug up two Icom chick chargers and some brand new, but old packs and all this stuff is working. 25 years old at least. One of the H16s still has a price label on it - £220. That's what? Over a grand in todays money. There's a speaker mic with a twenty pound label on it.

    Our hobby has never been so accessible price wise. I've tried to sell a couple of times on ebay an underwater housing for a Sony camera from the 80s, and no takers because most bargain seekers are young, and nobody has a matching camera.

    I think it amusing we talk about antennas at about 50-80 pounds (Dollars?) as expensive because they're attached to a pocket money price radio. People economising on feeder cable because it's a pound a mtr+ for decent stuff, and connectors are expensive - well, they are compared to the radios.

    It's just a little mad. I like K6CPO's comments on photography. Expensive camera, cheap lens and a very cheap tripod. If you spend hundreds or thousands on decent photo gear people then buy a cheap chinese tripod to put it on!

    Every hobby seems to have so many entry products that are terrible. The DIY people buy cheap power tools, but always seem to end up with DeWalt or Makita after the first few cheap ones can't cut the deal.

    I note there are still no cheap, good sounding loudspeakers, but there are cheap good sounding microphones?

  5. #5


    Hello I was gonna go introduce myself. But I read this post first. I am 32 years old and have been interested in Ham since I was a child. Budget wise itís always been to much for me to get into. Now that Iím older and have been into the RC hobby for many years Iíve started to dabble in FPV. So the whole reason for me getting me license when btw I went and took the test today and passed, was to be able to use 5.8ghz video transmitter over 25mw and to use uhf and vhf night power control links. High power being 5watts or less.

    So later this evening I started looking at radios again. Right now I canít really afford a full featured home station but I figured I could get a decent mobile for 300 which is my budget. Then I saw the handheld beofang or however itís spelt and saw all the good reviews and ended up spending 40 bucks plus got the upgraded antenna. I was excited to be able to get into this part for so cheap. I know there will be money involved if I want better and I do. Building something isnít to far off for me either having a background in electronics and such but Iíve also seen that the kits that are available are more expensive than a prebuilt that usually has more features. Maybe Iím not looking in the right place but thatís whats I am seeing.

    In the end I decided to hold off on spending a lot and get my feet wet until I learn a little and integrate with some online and local communities. Find out what I like sorta thing. I know uhf and vhf is not going to satisfy me. I want to do long distance (dx)? I believe. I make the majority of my antennas for my rc stuff. For both 2.4ghz and 5.8ghz. Mainly circular polarized stuff. Fact is I love working and tinkering and seeing if I can make it or make it better. That being said I feel I will fit in just fine in this hobby.

    Sorry for the long post. And to wrap up my name is Jonathan Troutt. I donít have my callsign yet but was told it will start with KD9. I live right outside Indianapolis.

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