Ham Radio, ready to jump in (I think)

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Rekd
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Ham Radio, ready to jump in (I think)

Post by Rekd » Wed Feb 14, 2007 10:51 am

So I've made a bit of money writing in my blogs. I bought a Coolpix 7600 camera last month, and am trying to decide between a (new) gps and amature radio.

I already have an old garmin e-trex (that doesn't do mapping) which I use at the desert, so I'm leaning more towards ham equip. I'm not real familiar with it, but I'm sure I'll want a (mobile) base system for the hauler or truck, and at least one hand-held, along with the antenna and probably certification.

What kind of prices will I be looking at to get going (new and/or used)? Should I buy new, or can I rely on used equip? (I see Old Guy had some equip for sale last year, e-mail sent to see if it's still available)

Any and all help will be greatly appreciated.
Last edited by Rekd on Wed Feb 14, 2007 11:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by jhitesma » Wed Feb 14, 2007 11:28 am

The cost of the test varies depending on the group doing testing in your area...but it's usually in the $10-$20 range. Check out arrl.org to find lists of groups that offer the test in your area. IMHO the best way to prepare for most people is to just keep taking the practice test until you get good scores:
http://www.qrz.com/p/testing.pl

As for equipment....I think ALL of mine is used. Except for my old mid 80's era FT-23r handheld that was bought new as a reward for getting my technician upgrade (Back when you started as novice with CW only and had to upgrade to Tech to get voice privileges.)

Well, ok some of my equipment is homemade...so I guess it's not ALL used. But all of my 2m/440 gear is used.

Best bet on buying used gear is to go to a local hamfest (again check arrl.org for lists) preferably with someone who knows more than you do about radios to help you evaluate what you find for sale. ebay you can occasionally find deals, I got my FT-470 on there at a GREAT price, but most of the guys selling stuff on ebay think their stuff is worth as much or more than it was when they bought it. Maybe it's just that they're used to haggeling at hamfests and forget you can't go that direction on price on ebay :D

If you can afford it I'd suggest looking at dual band 2m/440 radios. You probably won't use 440 very much but it's nice to have and opens up opportunities to do things like communicate through some of the amateur satelites. 2m is the workhorse band and where you'll find the most other users and repeaters.

As for what radio to get...that's a HUGE question with so many variables it's almost impossible to answer. Icom, Kenwood, Yaesu/Vertex, Alinco all make great radios but each individual model has it's ups and downs.

If you're near one you may want to check out a Ham Radio Outlet store (http://www.hamradio.com) they usually have really helpfull floor staff and will go over a lot of different options on radios with you. They can also point you in the right direction to get licensed and usually have a variety of used radios for sale on consignment.

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Post by Rekd » Mon Feb 19, 2007 10:07 am

Awsome info, thanks!

I will probably go single band (2m) for now, with a mobile (Yaesu or Kenwood look good so far) that I can put in the truck/trailer or rail, or at home with a converter. Then I'll get a hand-held later for the wife to take on her rides.

I went to HRO last weekend and got lots of good info and a catalog, plus I've taking a couple of tests at the site you suggested. I think if I do that enough times to get consistant 80%+ scores I'll be confidant enough to take the test within a few weeks without having to buy any manuals. (I'm glad you don't have to test for Morse code, but I'll prolly end up learning it eventually just because.)

Thanks again for the info!

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Post by jhitesma » Mon Feb 19, 2007 12:17 pm

As far as the test just think of it as being like a drivers license test. You don't learn everything you need to know to drive - but you learn enough about the basics that you should know enough to be a good citizen while learning the rest in practice.

Getting on the air is the best way to learn more.

As you mentioned CW (Morse code) isn't required anymore...but it's still valuable to know. I had to learn it back when I got licensed but I've never been very good with it and that's always been dissapointing to me. I've met guys who were cross country truck drivers who would operate CW on the road (one wire taped to their steering wheel and the other taped to a finger to work as a key for tapping out code.) The nice thing about CW is that it takes VERY little power and can get through where voice can't. So on the road like that they were able to make international contacts with minimal antennas.

If you do get licensed I'd HIGHLY recomend going the extra step and taking the General test as well. It opens up HF options which let you really start talking around the world. If you don't learn CW then another good option is PSK-31...it can get through even when CW can't...but you need a computer to decode PSK. Even so I've got a little 5watt radio built just for 20m PSK that I use with an old notebook computer and a whip style antenna on my Manx that doubles as my whip. With it I've talked to someone in Anchorage Alaska while I was sitting on the mexican border watching Dr. Phillips (NN7A) count PMV.

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Post by Rekd » Mon Feb 19, 2007 12:56 pm

jhitesma wrote:If you do get licensed I'd HIGHLY recomend going the extra step and taking the General test as well. It opens up HF options which let you really start talking around the world. If you don't learn CW then another good option is PSK-31...it can get through even when CW can't...but you need a computer to decode PSK. Even so I've got a little 5watt radio built just for 20m PSK that I use with an old notebook computer and a whip style antenna on my Manx that doubles as my whip. With it I've talked to someone in Anchorage Alaska while I was sitting on the mexican border watching Dr. Phillips (NN7A) count PMV.
This AM I've taken the test 4 times and passed 3 of the 4 with 75% or better. My biggest problems are some of the formulia. How long do I have to wait between tests, and is there a charge for the test?
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Post by jhitesma » Mon Feb 19, 2007 2:10 pm

Rekd wrote: This AM I've taken the test 4 times and passed 3 of the 4 with 75% or better. My biggest problems are some of the formulia. How long do I have to wait between tests, and is there a charge for the test?
I assume you mean the real test and not the practice tests?

You can retest immediately, when I did my General upgrade there was a girl who almost passed her tech and retested that same day...just had to pay for the second test.

There is a fee for the test but it can vary, it's to cover the time/expense of the volunteers administering the test. Best bet is to contact a local club that does test days and ask for their details.

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Post by Rekd » Mon Feb 19, 2007 2:14 pm

jhitesma wrote:
Rekd wrote: This AM I've taken the test 4 times and passed 3 of the 4 with 75% or better. My biggest problems are some of the formulia. How long do I have to wait between tests, and is there a charge for the test?
I assume you mean the real test and not the practice tests?

You can retest immediately, when I did my General upgrade there was a girl who almost passed her tech and retested that same day...just had to pay for the second test.

There is a fee for the test but it can vary, it's to cover the time/expense of the volunteers administering the test. Best bet is to contact a local club that does test days and ask for their details.
Yeah, I was referring to the real test.

The guy at HRO said they do it there, I'll give them a call this evening (if I can pass the test test a couple more times in a row) and see what their policy is.

Thanks again for your time/info.
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Post by djw » Wed Feb 21, 2007 8:14 pm

I'll give them a call this evening (if I can pass the test test a couple more times in a row) and see what their policy is.
Good luck to ya.

With the Morse Code requirement gone, I heard that the VEC's (testers) are gearing up. there's been an increase in intrest in Ham.

Here in Riverside it's around $12 to 14. I'm going for my General (maybe Extra).

I have a station set up here in Riverside, maybe set up a QSO with Jason to get our sea legs on proper HF operation. Otherwize, I can show you some VHF/UHF operation that you might be interested in before you take the plunge into gear.
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Post by Rekd » Thu Feb 22, 2007 6:52 am

djw wrote:Otherwize, I can show you some VHF/UHF operation that you might be interested in before you take the plunge into gear.
That would be awsome. I've been looking at a couple of 2m mobiles that catch my eye, but I'm not exactally sure what I'm looking at. :wink:

I just got (most) of the funds pulled together, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to test this weekend. (Still trying to get my quad broken in before the desert next weekend)

I was going to do my test with sandarc, but the schedule is kind of weird with them. Looking into other options.
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