Author Topic: Where to start?  (Read 6674 times)

Offline Red Dog

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Where to start?
« on: June 14, 2009, 06:59:53 AM »
I'm in the earliest stages of trying to figure this whole HAM thing out. What are some good sites, books, or other sources of info for somebody who doesn't even know where to start looking for info on this stuff. I'm talking real basics like what HAM stands for. :)

adp113

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2009, 09:23:23 AM »
As for what HAM stands for, there are many variation on this one.

First, do you know any local hams that could help you.  This is the best help.  Or, find a local club.

Check out these sites
www.arrl.org - best reference
www.qrz.com
http://www.hamdepot.com/states/va.asp
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ham_radio

Ham radio is a licensed service, licensed by the FCC, so you will need to take a test that is given by a local radio club.  The tests are not difficult, there are different classes of license each test being more difficult than the last.

Radios start at about $100 and go from there.  Depending on the radio, transmitting band, transmitting power, and transmitting mode you can talk across the street, across town, across the country, or around the world.

June 27th and 28th is ham radio field day.  If you can find a local club that is setting up for field day, I would suggest showing up and watching, ask questions, and have fun.

Last thing, do you own a radio scanner?  If you do, scan 144mhz to 148mhz, you should hear ham radio in action.

Offline Red Dog

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2009, 07:05:41 PM »
Thanks adp. I met some local operators recently and they mentioned a local club. I'll have to check with them and see if there is anything going on locally for the field day. I'll check out the links thanks again.

adp113

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2009, 07:17:11 PM »
Having someone local "Elmer" you in the hobby is the best way to get started and avoid buying costly stuff you don't need or won't use.  It's a good way to get cheap or free antenna and odds and ends.  I got into it about 14 years ago, a guy at work got me started.  It's a lot of fun and is pretty useful as well.  Just got my wife licensed last year.

Offline DeltaEchoVictor

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2009, 09:16:31 PM »
I'm in the earliest stages of trying to figure this whole HAM thing out. What are some good sites, books, or other sources of info for somebody who doesn't even know where to start looking for info on this stuff. I'm talking real basics like what HAM stands for. :)
Check out the Getting Started In HAM Radio Primer in The Repository.

Offline Tactical Badger

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2009, 08:28:39 PM »
Whatever you do...don't buy an HT as your first radio.  Buy a decent mobile unit.  An HT will only piss you off. ;D

Offline The Wilderness

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2009, 08:42:21 PM »
Whatever you do...don't buy an HT as your first radio.  Buy a decent mobile unit.  An HT will only piss you off. ;D

Tactical Badger could you elaborate on this please ? Sis and I are going to test in a week or so and planned on HT's as our first radios. We are planning on using them primarily to communicate in the event of an earthquake and are both on foot rather than mobile. We intend on getting mobile units and a base sometime in the future.

TW

Offline DeltaEchoVictor

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2009, 09:11:42 PM »
Tactical Badger could you elaborate on this please ? Sis and I are going to test in a week or so and planned on HT's as our first radios. We are planning on using them primarily to communicate in the event of an earthquake and are both on foot rather than mobile. We intend on getting mobile units and a base sometime in the future.

TW

I'm guessing he's talking about the improved functionality & ability to reach out farther that a mobile offers over an HT.  Once you find out how much fun (but limited) an HT is, you'll wish you had more to play with.

At this point I'd have to agree.  An HT is a good start though, it let's you get into the hobby for not much money.  Though there are some good inexpensive (but excellent quality) 2M mobiles out there that will do the same thing, plus offer you more functionality.

Offline Tactical Badger

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2009, 05:39:14 AM »
I'm guessing he's talking about the improved functionality & ability to reach out farther that a mobile offers over an HT.  Once you find out how much fun (but limited) an HT is, you'll wish you had more to play with.

At this point I'd have to agree.  An HT is a good start though, it let's you get into the hobby for not much money.  Though there are some good inexpensive (but excellent quality) 2M mobiles out there that will do the same thing, plus offer you more functionality.

Exactly!

I LOVE my Yaesu VX-6R.  I use it a lot for scanning.  And I have used it for some limited contact work.  But, yes, you'll wish in a real hurry you had more power.  5 Watts just doesn't seem to have much punch. You can make it work a little better by using an external antenna.  You're still probably going to be wanting more power though. 

You're absolutely right about having an HT for when you're on foot.  And, I normally carry my HT with me all the time.  But, counting on hitting repeaters all of the time is probably not the safest bet.  You need to be able to carry on simplex comm's.

If you can swing it, I'd get both an HT and a Mobile.  Yaesu is running a special on their FT-2800'sriht now.  You shouldbe able to pickthem up for $130.  It's a really good radio in my extremely limit experience.  And, 65 Watts will make comm's MUCH easier.  I drag my back and forth fromthe car to the house and use it as my base station. 

My Humble Opinion

Offline DeltaEchoVictor

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2009, 05:55:08 AM »
Quote
Yaesu is running a special on their FT-2800'sriht now.  You shouldbe able to pickthem up for $130.  It's a really good radio in my extremely limit experience.  And, 65 Watts will make comm's MUCH easier.
The FT-2800M is what I have in my Cherokee.  I can cover the entire county with it & hit repeaters 30-50 miles away easily.  My antenna has a 3db gain though too.  A good antenna is just as important as a good radio TW, that can't be overstated.

If you can stand to wait for a bit longer the newer version of the 2800M will be coming out soon.  It's the FT-2900R, it'll be pushing 75 watts with the same mil-std. rugged design as the 2800M.  I'm planning on picking one up as soon as they're available & moving my 2800M to Tina's car since she has her ticket now.

For handhelds we have the VX-170's, I bought a pair for Tina & I.  They're great little water proof radios but I wish I'd bought the dual band version now for the added functionality & added repeater options.  I'm not in any way displeased with their performance, I just wish I had the extra frequency options.

Fred_47460

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #10 on: July 06, 2009, 04:24:26 PM »
Tactical Badger could you elaborate on this please ? Sis and I are going to test in a week or so and planned on HT's as our first radios. We are planning on using them primarily to communicate in the event of an earthquake and are both on foot rather than mobile. We intend on getting mobile units and a base sometime in the future.

TW


I have Ht's....I bought 2, one for myself and one for my wife. We used them for about 2 months before we bit the bullet and purchased mobile radios....one for her car, and one for mine. We've had these HT's for about 14 years now....all they do is gather dust. They are just too darn limited by range (there will be people who differ with any opinion), and batteries don't suddenly die in mid chat like they do on HT's (mobiles use automobile power). 5 watts into a 3 inch long antenna just don't compare with 50 watts into a 30 to 54 inch long antenna. We do commute over a 50 mile range as well...which makes HT's a waste of money for us.

All that being said....in your (TW and Sis) particular case...it would be good to have a couple cheapy HT's for SHTF scenario. You could use them HT to HT simplex over perhaps 3 to 5 mile range (depending on the topography) and be reasonably sure no one was listening in. They would be ok for emergency comms around the neighborhood. California is supposed to have a pretty robust repeater density....you will be able to use them if you can find an open machine within your range...and provided the SHTF hasn't happened yet and the repeaters still have power (some claim to have emergency power....and some even work when that happens.....but more often NOT) You can install a mobile antenna on your vehicle and still use your HT...and the mobile antenna will help immensely!

Have I confused you yet??

If you stay pretty close together....and you are not far from an open repeater system, then HT's may work ok, The bonus will be in SHTF scenario where you stay close together and wan't to be able to stay in touch "around the neighborhood".
If one or the other travels a fair distance from the other....especially in areas that have poor repeater coverage....then HT's won't work real good for you.
« Last Edit: July 06, 2009, 04:28:10 PM by Fred_47460 »

Offline Ragnar

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2009, 10:15:53 PM »
you will probably want HT to begin with (just because you can take it anywhere) then after a while you will get a mobile. I got my first HT and could do ok into area repeaters (ended up using a normal Antenna at home for better coverage and a normal mobile antenna) then I bought a used mobile that I would take out between my car and home (with power supply)  Nothing wrong with an HT, in fact after several years (college) of being out of Ham radio and coming back the first thing I bought was an HT. I seldom use my HT with the exceptions on helping out in community events, even then I have a mobile set up as a base to use.

If you get an HT make sure to get or make a roll up J-pole, I would even suggest that you try making one just for the experience of it. there is something about the portability of an HT that is appealing but a mobile is more fun.   I am even considering a 817 for portability when I have to travel.

I think it is easy to get sucked into the HT with all the features but you really can get a good HT for a little over a hundred. that is how I would start.

I got my Ticket when I was in college and although I have gone thru periods of inactivity I always come back to amateur radio. It is fun, the one thing is you are always learning and I definitely see this as a hobby that I can enjoy for years to come. I actually figure I will be more active as I get older.

One of the other things I enjoy is the community events, helping out in bike races and such, best thing you can do to meet other hams (although those meeting can be expensive as you see things you want to make or buy)

Offline Tactical Badger

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2009, 03:56:34 AM »
See...I don"t get the whole 817 concept.  Maybe its just that I'm not all that familiar with HF operation.  But the 817 just seems to me to be the largest, most cumbersome HT, without an antenna, on the market.

Yes, I know you don't need a kaquillion watts to work HF.  But the 817 is 5 watts.  I can't believe that it will run very long on the internal battery pack.  So...you'll probably end up using an external battery pack most of the time anyway.

Why not get an 857 and have 100 watts at your disposal?  An 857,a small gell cell battery, and some sort of portable antenna seems a better way to go to me.

Please let me know if I'm wrong about this.  But, I've been limited to 5 watts.  It sucks.  I know HF is different than VHF.  But if you need the wattage to reach out and contact someone, you need the wattage.

Fred_47460

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2009, 03:49:30 PM »
See...I don"t get the whole 817 concept.  Maybe its just that I'm not all that familiar with HF operation.  But the 817 just seems to me to be the largest, most cumbersome HT, without an antenna, on the market.

Yes, I know you don't need a kaquillion watts to work HF.  But the 817 is 5 watts.  I can't believe that it will run very long on the internal battery pack.  So...you'll probably end up using an external battery pack most of the time anyway.

Why not get an 857 and have 100 watts at your disposal?  An 857,a small gell cell battery, and some sort of portable antenna seems a better way to go to me.

Please let me know if I'm wrong about this.  But, I've been limited to 5 watts.  It sucks.  I know HF is different than VHF.  But if you need the wattage to reach out and contact someone, you need the wattage.

I agree that the 817 is not the best radio to make contacts with....although 5 watts, morse code, and a simple wire antenna will get you around the world....but for phone hf and VHF/UHF 5 watts isn't real effective. Where I think the 817 does make sense is if you are more interested in reception.....such as a SHTF scenario where you want to be able to receive a wide range of frequencies and bands to monitor world wide, regional, and local conditions. It may be that you won't want to transmit at all....just listen. For THIS purpose the 817 is a good choice....especially because of it's extremely low current consumption. It is true that a much cheaper AM/FM/Shortwave portable will do most of the same things....but not as well....nor do they usually cover ham vhf/uhf bands.

My own current radio choices include several AM/FM/Shortwave portables, an Elecraft K2 (I built from a kit) for extremely low power ham band HF, and a Kenwood TS-2000 for when I have the power to spare.....of course I do have a couple of HT's around here as well (somewhere around here). I've got several other Ham tranceivers around as well....but the above list is all I feel I need for world wide, regional, and local communications on nearly ANY band and mode.

Offline Tactical Badger

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Re: Where to start?
« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2009, 06:14:56 PM »
I totally agree with you about "reception".  Truth be told, sitting in your bunker or BOL, transmitting is probably not the smartest thing to do.  It wouldn't take much at all to locate you.