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
- Novice Radio Amateurs (with five words per minute
Morse code knowledge) like to get on the ten meter ham band to
communicate long distance. If this sounds like you then a used
HF rig would probably be a good place to start.
- Technician The code-free class of licensee usually
turns first to the popular two meter ham band. Two meters is
used for semi-local communications and where most of the local
ham operators hang out. Radio range is increased by a "repeater"
which retransmits local two meter signals at higher power from
antennas in high elevations. If you are looking for high quality
audio in local communications then a 2 meter HT (Handheld
Transmitter) would be a good place to start.
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