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Got My Amateur Radio License

Ham Radio

Why Amateur Radio?

I've been listening to scanners since I was a young teen, first at my grandfather's house outside of Philadelphia (which was a lot busier than where I lived) and later at my own home where the scanner is now non-stop police calls 24 hours a day. In High School and for at least 10 years afterward I had a CB as did most of my friends and we used the radio to coordinate to meet up at the parks or out in the woods. We all had ridiculous handles and our range was terrible even with a sweet K40 antenna none of us ever really bothered to actually learn anything about radio. If we had, we could certainly have made them much more useful.

Back when my parents first got their Amateur radio licenses sometime in the late 90s I started studying to get mine as well. CB had become a wasteland and no one I knew was using it anymore anyway. I had taken some classes at the local community college in basic electronics and was already working in the fire industry so radio was definitely interesting to me but for some reason I just never scheduled myself to take the test and eventually lost interest. Recently I decided to pursue it again, and now with the internet the resources are just everywhere. There really is no excuse to not learn as much as you want about anything. Hams with YouTube channels will mentor you for free and there are web sites which offer free study and practice exams you can do right in the browser with instant feedback.

Beyond the interest that I have in scanning and radio in general, I'm also curious about some of the possibilities in digital radio networking. While a lot of older Amateurs seem to have gotten into the hobby mainly for voice communications, contesting (how many contacts can you make and how far away), and emergency preparedness (radio can still function even in a grid down situation), a lot of younger Amateurs (and this includes anyone who grew up in the early days of computing and BBS) seem to have an additional interest in radio for purposes of networking for multiple media types.

How I Prepared for my Technician and General test

Ham RadioTo prepare for the exam I used hamstudy.org which is provided by IComm (a radio manufacturer). The site is nice because you can authenticate with Google without having to set up yet another account and its interface was slick and easy to use and understand. It keeps track of which questions you've seen and the percentage of those you've gotten correct. You can review the questions by section and take practice exams. It worked so well that I passed for Technician within about a week of study. The math was really just a few simple formulas (V=IR, P=EI, and a rule of thumb: 300/Freq in MHz = wavelength in meters), the rest is really just memorization. The General exam had a lot more information to become familiar with, but I managed to prepare for that over a couple weeks and passed on Apr 28, 2018. I've already started studying for the Amateur Extra exam!

Links to Interesting Amateur Radio Related Topics


Resources for Digital

Digital Modes


What's needed for a complete system?

Meters I should probably have

Transcievers (radios) I'm interested in


Yaesu (Japanese)


Features I may want

PoFeng (Baofeng) handi-talkies

While I consider my options for a good base station, part of my plan is to have an HT (handi-talkie) which can be used to communicate while on the road or camping.


HF (High Frequency) - 3 to 30 MHz (100 to 10 meters)
VHF (Very High Freq) - 30 to 300 MHz (10 to 1 meters)
UHF (Ultra High Freq) - 300 to 3000 MHz (1 to 10 centimeters)

Fixed installation

Low horizontal antennas, such as dipoles between 1/8 and 1/4 wavelength above the ground work best for daytime skip communications on low frequencies.

Mobile Antennas

Most folks stress how important it is that the antenna be solidly grounded - good grounding straps to the frame if you're mounted on a trunk lid for example. The idea of "grounding" something to a vehicle is funny to me given that the whole thing is insulated from the actual ground by big rubber tires.

I think I like the NMO mounting method more than the UHF type, and I've read that its easy to convert from NMO to UHF but not the other way around.

That leads to the next investigation, what is the best way to mount it on the vehicle.


Great Mentors

Vanity Call Sign ideas

When you get your Amateur license you are assigned a call sign from the next available call sign by the FCC. This might not be a desirable call sign to you, but you are allowed to request a "vanity" call sign. Since you're going to end up using the sign alot this is definitely something I'm interested in. I'd love it to match my domain name, but N8WRL is already taken. I started a list of signs I might want and ended up finding a bunch of joke signs which I neither want nor probably could get. Not sure what I'll do yet, I might just keep whatever I'm assigned.

Vanity Call Sign

After getting a horrible FCC auto-issued call sign I started to research "vanity" call signs which I'd be happier using. I was surprised that most of the signs I came up with were actually already in use. I've left off a bunch of joke signs like K9SEX which, while hilarious, would probably eventually embarrass me. It took exactly 18 days for it to come through, but I'm much happier now.


The call sign of the repeater is either the call sign of the owner or the call sign of the club that owns / operates the repeater.

When programming a repeater into the radio, you need to enter not only the frequency, but usually a tone frequency to which the repeater will respond.