Questions and Answers About Ham Radio

By Scott McGrath N1NTT


Q. What is "Ham Radio?"

A. Ham Radio is the short term used for "Amateur Radio." It is a hobby that allows a person to get a license and transmit on certain FCC approved bands using many different kinds of equipment. There are many advantages to having a Ham License. Being able to build and test your own radio equipment for one, as well as the ability of talking on the bands to people with similar technical interests. Although it is a spinoff in some ways, the primary mission of Ham Radio is to provide emergency communications.

Q. How does one get a Ham license?

A. Getting your license involves taking an FCC test. The test must be given by 2 or more approved VE's (Volunteer Examiners). VE sessions are available at places called "Hamfests" (sort of an electronics fleamarket). They are also offered every 2nd Friday at the Red Cross building in Burlington at 7pm. The cost of a licensing test is $5. It tests your knowledge of transistors, radio frequency wave propagation, antennas, Ham Radio priveleges on given bands and license classes, and other related topics. When a license is issued, you will receive a callsign (like N1NTT, KA1UHR, WA1LYR) which only you can use. According to the FCC, a station's call letters must be aired a minimum of every 10 minutes.

Q. Do I have to know Morse Code?

A. No! Since 1991, a license class has been available that does not require a morse code element for licensing. This license class is call "No Code Technician" or just "Technician."

Q. How long will it take for my license to arrive?

A. You will receive your license and call sign about three weeks after passing the test. It used to take up to ten weeks, but now that the FCC has implemented electronic filing you will get your license in a reasonable ammount of time. Of course you don't even need to have physical possesion of your license, you can get on the air as soon as you are listed in the FCC Database.

Q. What should be my first equipment purchase?

A. Most newcomers to ham radio seem to initially take part in two areas.

Q. Can I use my computer in my new hobby?

A. Yes! It is called "packet" radio. Using a TNC (radio modem), you have to capability to communicate to thousands of other computer hams visa the world wide "packet" computer network that hams have installed. All that is needed is a two meter radio, a TNC, and a personal computer.


This page © Copyright 1997 By The W1VTC Amateur Radio Club (hams-l@vtc.vsc.edu)