Tag Archives: Amateur Radio

The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual Spiral

The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual SpiralThe ARRL Ham Radio License Manual Spiral by ARRL Inc
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My son was at the library for LEGO Club. I picked up the latest issue of MAKE magazine. In it I saw a little piece about a guy who launched weather balloons that radioed its flight path back to him via amateur radio signals. That reminded me that once upon a time I had studied for my amateur radio licensed. Hmmm . . . twenty years ago.

I became all excited to do this, ordered this book, studied it (along with an app I purchased), and passed my Technician exam. 🙂 Yeah, me! I purchased a handheld radio to use since I am now licensed. Yeah, greatly disappointed. No one seems to use analog radio any longer. While I am willing to investigate the digital bands, my excitement of just picking up a radio and talking without any prep work has been squashed.

The Technician exam is a 35-question test taken from a bank of questions. I believe there are 400 altogether, but I am not 100% positive of that. The test covers a variety of topics from regulations, equipment, antennas, circuits/electricity, etc. This book prepares one to take that test.

More than just merely memorizing answers, this book provides the theory behind the concepts. I appreciate that. I definitely know more than when I started. I can actually read schematics now. Some of it intimidated me at first, but it all falls into place. I scored 34 out of 35 correct on my test. I do not know what I missed, but there was one question on the test I swear I never saw in any of my studying. 🙂

The material is re-written every four years, so ensure yourself you have the current edition (currently the 4th edition) to study.

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Amateur Radio License

Dropped Jesse off at the Philadelphia airport. Then I began the laborious job of driving to Warminster, PA. Google took me south to the Blue Route then to the turnpike. It originally said to go west on the turnpike. It switched to east when I went right to get a ticket instead of EZ-Pass. I was able to go west after that. Google didn’t like that. Oh, it took forever.

I eventually made it. Found a geocache and had dinner.

Went to the old folks’ home for the test. Six others were there to test as well. One of them heard that the tests weren’t there. This sure looked like it was shaping up to be a bust like yesterday was.

The guy eventually showed up. We began at least a half hour late. Of course, I was the last one processed.

Heard all the scores. We all passed. I had the highest grade (34/35). Wonder which one I missed. Will say I took many practice tests while I waited. I passed them all, but I was missing questions all over the place. Three questions on the exam I can attribute to having “learned” in the waiting room right before the exam. It seems to me there was one question that I didn’t even recognize.

They encouraged all of us to take the General test as well. The scores I heard were 12 and 16. I was in the 20s. They didn’t tell me an exact score, just that I missed it by a couple. Damn! Not bad for never having looked at that exam before. Despite them telling us 70% of it was from the Technician exam, I recognized but one question. With the questions changing Monday, I have decided to wait until the new material before I test. I have ordered the new book. 🙂

What was interesting is that while I think I was a tad nervous prior to the test (Who wouldn’t be?), I did not have a feeling of relief, happiness, accomplishment, etc. when I was informed I passed. I don’t think it was confidence. I just think I am emotionless about this at this stage of my life.

Anyhow, I am now a licensed amateur radio operator. Now, if I could figure out how this radio actually works . . .

My Introduction to Amateur Radio

Twenty years ago I began studying for my amateur radio license. I had a book and a Morse code keyer. If I remember correctly, there was a novice exam before the technician exam. The novice did not require Morse code, the technician did. I was striving for the technician license.

I met my wife and amateur radio went away from my life. I suppose I felt like a pretty woman was more interesting than radio.

Advance forward to last Tuesday, and I hadn’t thought much about amateur radio since. But I was browsing through the latest Make magazine and saw a blurb about weather balloons. A circuitry device was attached to the balloon to relay positioning via radio waves. Also, it included a Go Pro camera. This is just the kind of thing that interests me. Immediately, I was back on the amateur radio kick.

I ordered a study manual from ARRL. I purchased (yes, I actually paid for it) an app for my phone. On Thursday I began in earnest to study for my technician license. On Friday I went to Delaware to purchase a radio. The salesman didn’t give me the information I thought I would get. Instead he suggested a different radio. I went home and researched that.

In my research, I saw there was a radio club in Bridgeton and the president just happens to be someone I know through Toastmasters. I e-mailed him and asked if we could get together to discuss radio. He said to give him a call. I did. He wasn’t there. He hasn’t returned my call in several days.

On Saturday I went to Field Day at the Gloucester County Fairgrounds. Lots of hams there. I just announced that I wanted to talk to folks about radio. An older guy engaged me. He told me about the $7,000 camera he had in his hand . . . and the $12,000 radio at home. He basically said what I was looking to get was junk. Explained that if I wanted to moon bounce, I would need $30,000 worth of equipment. While he was friendly, he didn’t really help a newbie much. No one else seemed to want to talk.

I drove back to Delaware and bought the recommended radio. Different old guy at the store that day. Didn’t seem to want to sell me on the hobby. I had to ask for the replacement antenna and car charger. He was no salesman, that is for certain.

Haven’t heard one word on the radio in the three days I have owned it. Obviously, I am in need of hand-holding. I suspect, although I hope I am wrong, this area has no activity on the 2-meter band.

Yesterday, I drove to Erma to take my technician exam. My hope was to take it, pass it, and have it registered in the system by my birthday on Wednesday. Took me 75 minutes to get there as shore traffic is already at insanity levels. Testing was at the Knights of Columbus across from the airport. I thought I’d have celebratory beer afterwards. Went in. The old lady running the bar, which was loads better than the one here in Millville, knew nothing of the event. But seeing as though I was early, I could sit in the room and wait. And wait I did. She explained the guy did run testing sometimes. At 1:01, I e-mailed him. It bounced. Then I texted him. A day later he still hasn’t returned the text. I left at 1:15 very disappointed. I can’t believe he didn’t show. Yes, it was open to the public. Yes, walk-ins were welcomed. I note that he has another session scheduled for next month. Yeah, right!

Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of local options to take a test. I can wait several weeks for one, but I am ready for the test now. I have the radio now. I don’t want to wait.

I did this totally wrong. More than a decade ago I made myself wait a year before purchasing a smoker because I know I have a tendency to rush into things. And over the last year I have been offloading things . . . like the beer making equipment and the studio lights from such impulsive purchases. And here I went and bought a radio. Had I not purchased the radio, I could have cut my losses at the expense of the book and app. I could have even thrown in the cost of the test just to say I did it. But I have $200 tied up in a radio that cannot be returned. It doesn’t work (yet) and I am not licensed. Sheesh . . .

So, I am on the hook of driving someone to the airport today in Philly. I see there is an exam being given this evening an hour north of the airport. I e-mailed the guy and confirmed it was still a go. I will travel that distance and take the test. It seems a bit anti-climatic, but eventually, it won’t matter.

I still need an Elmer to walk me through this.

Amateur radio is supposed to be a friendly pursuit. Apparently, the hobby is on hard times trying to get newbies involved. My initial experience has been such that I am not surprised. No one is bending over trying to help the new guy. No wonder the hobby is suffering.

But I will persevere!

I will eventually get to the weather balloons. I also want to fox hunt and DX. Weather balloons and DXing will be down the line as I will need better equipment (and licenses) for that. There should be enough on the 2-meter and 70cm bands for me to learn. That is what secured me doing this. I just have to figure it out.

I want to learn Morse code. I can see getting involved in the community emergency programs too. And someday, probably after I retire, I will put my experience as a teacher to good use and teach newbies how to do this, so they won’t struggle like I am presently.