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Author Topic: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?  (Read 1327 times)

PogoJack

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Been neglecting this one for a long time. Back in CA there was a couple who would do training for the basic HAM license.

What steps/sites/basic equipment would you recommend for a know-nothing who wants to get into HAM so they can communicate with neighbors in a real SHTF scenario where internet comms are dead for the average person?

Your many years and experience are most appreciated here.

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    K

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #1 on: April 01, 2020, 07:06:09 pm »
    It might be tough right now to get a license, but you can definitely use this time to learn and be more than ready for an exam when they become available.

    American Radio Relay League (ARRL) - arrl.org is a good starting place - see the top line "Get Your License"

    There are numerous You Tube and other videos if you prefer that form of learning - search for amateur radio license etc. based on what you read at arrl.

    Depending on where you live you can contact about any operator and they will be happy to work through any questions you have, show off their equipment, etc. You are probably living near someone with a license - if you go to https://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsApp/UlsSearch/searchAmateur.jsp you can search your local area - I'm usually surprised by finding names of people I didn't know have a license that live near me.

    Other places to poke around include QRZ.com and radioreference.com. Hours of enjoyment  :woot to come.

    The actual exam questions are available to study and prepare - but everyone recommends you learn more than the minimum.

    Another great way to come up to speed is just to listen - get a scanner (you will always find a use for it), and check out the local vhf and uhf bands. The repeaters are listed on websites - one I recently used was http://www.azrepeaters.net/ - most traffic in arizona has historically been on 2 meter - but the 70 cm band is alive around all the cities, too. Long range (aka HF) radio takes a bit more work and more licenses and $$ - so start with VHF / UHF unless you are fairly 'EM friendly' from previous work or activities.

    And of course you can work with local clubs to get an 'Elmer' to help you and then to set up your exam, etc. If you can't find a local club name on the net shoot me a note and I can maybe find one for you.

    Good luck and be patient - it is a bit like drinking from a fire hose when you first get started.

    Minor cautionary tale that hopefully won't start a flame war - if possible get a 'name' brand radio as soon as you can afford one. Although they work (and I keep a few around to share and as spares), the low priced radios are typically a case of you get what you pay for.

    And now some ham-speak for you to decode.

    73,
    N7MXO de DM42



    h8pvmnt

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #2 on: April 02, 2020, 06:59:07 am »
    This is a great resource and its locally owned i believe. Use this to study and take practice tests. I am sure the Superstition Ham Club has cancelled all VE Testing for the next month at least. But normally they do it once a month.

    http://www.hamtestonline.com/study.jsp?action=1fl49fiws72v

    http://www.hamradiolicenseexam.com/index.html


    GTGallop

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #3 on: April 02, 2020, 09:30:26 am »
    This is a great resource and its locally owned i believe. Use this to study and take practice tests. I am sure the Superstition Ham Club has cancelled all VE Testing for the next month at least. But normally they do it once a month.

    http://www.hamtestonline.com/study.jsp?action=1fl49fiws72v

    http://www.hamradiolicenseexam.com/index.html

    BINGO!

    Also The Ham Radio Crash Course on YouTube has great vids and a support community on Discord and Facebook.
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChAu6Cof9KlfFxSbL9ytosQ

    I recommend getting the ARRL book from Amazon or Half Priced Books.
    https://www.amazon.com/ARRL-General-Class-License-Manual/dp/162595106X/ref=sr_1_4?crid=1879NQHIEOSKE&dchild=1&keywords=arrl+technician+class+license+manual&qid=1585843672&sprefix=ARRL+Tech%2Caps%2C258&sr=8-4

    There are three classes of license
    Technician - This is the Intro Level and it gives you access to UHF and VHF.  These are your "Line Of Sight" bands.  It also gives you 6M and 10M which can be fun when we have a solar cycle because they are not line of sight and can skip the signal off the ionosphere like skipping a rock arcoss a glass smooth lake.  This is about where 60% of hams stop because it fulfills the need for local coms and most of them are using repeaters and vehicle to vehicle communication.

    General - This is intermediate and where I am.  The test builds on Technician and you get almost all of the rest of the Ham Frequencies from ELF (Extreme Low Frequency like they use for Submarines) all the way up to the Microwave spectrum of Radio.  Here you learn two things - a sheeat load of electrical theory in case you want to build a radio (I don't so I just suffered through it and surprisingly it has come in handy) and all about radio propigation around the world and how antennas work.  This was where I really geeked out.  I love antenna theory.

    Amateur Extra - This is the Blackbelt Ninja, SOCOM, Delta Force layer.  Guys in this level have passed an intense amount of knowledge about radio.  It can be done and I've seen some do it that were total idiots so it isn't out of reach for the common man.  I might give it a shot.  All Extra gets you is the ability to operate at higher power but we are talking the kind of power that an AM Broadcast Radio Station uses.  You would have to change your homes electrical wiring and bring 240 into a room to be able to use the priveleges in this class.  That's why I'm not sweating it.

    My advice is study Tech and General and see if you can pass BOTH in the same session.

    I'm open for phone calls if anyone wants to chat real time about it.  Just sitting at home with all of the COVID symptoms but not allowed to test because the state has a shortage and only people in "essential careers" like front line folks are getting the test.  I promise not to give you my cooties over the phone.  I think AT&T uses hand sanitizer on the wires.

    I'm spending my mornings literally sitting on my back patio napping and shooting the shit on the radio.
    The only thing that separates man from animal is our affinity for toilet paper.
    Once we, as a society, lose that affinity, we begin to descend back into the animal kingdom, and after three or more days you will find the food chain beginning to invert on itself.

    https://www.qrz.com/db/n5mkh

    PogoJack

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #4 on: April 02, 2020, 02:50:45 pm »
    Awesome advice, gents! Now I have something constructive to do during quarantine! GT, sorry about your down time, buddy,  wishing you a speedy recovery!! Take care and be well my friend!!

    Sent from my SM-G970U using Tapatalk


    GTGallop

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #5 on: April 02, 2020, 03:17:32 pm »
    This too shall pass.  Maybe like a Kidney Stone, but it will pass.  ;-)
    Thanks for the well wishes gents. 
    The only thing that separates man from animal is our affinity for toilet paper.
    Once we, as a society, lose that affinity, we begin to descend back into the animal kingdom, and after three or more days you will find the food chain beginning to invert on itself.

    https://www.qrz.com/db/n5mkh

    GTGallop

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #6 on: June 21, 2020, 08:04:01 pm »
    Checking in...
    Still working towards it?
    The only thing that separates man from animal is our affinity for toilet paper.
    Once we, as a society, lose that affinity, we begin to descend back into the animal kingdom, and after three or more days you will find the food chain beginning to invert on itself.

    https://www.qrz.com/db/n5mkh

    PogoJack

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #7 on: January 26, 2021, 03:21:17 am »
    Busy run towards end of year waylaid me.  I feel like a TP/Furearms panic buyer now.

    One of my kid's friends moved back east and the PJ household has rigorous restrictions on internet and cell phone use for the littles, so I've challenged my youngest to go for their technician so they can talk to their friend.  I'll come along too for the ride.

    Picked up a Kenwood TH-D74A for the future. Don't know how much better than a Baofeng it would be, but it seemed like it did more.

    I think within 3 months or so I'll be ready,  fingers crossed.

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    headbanger69

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #8 on: January 26, 2021, 07:31:42 am »
    Was thinking of grabbing a Baofeng last month, since I see it being recommended everywhere. Unfortunately, I see them sold for about double the price now and I don't know anyone in the area due to having moved here kinda recently and this China Virus BS :facepalm

    grayland

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #9 on: January 26, 2021, 10:10:12 am »
    Pretty basic question...What type of equipment and license is needed to talk over a  distance like Seattle, etc?


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    GTGallop

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #10 on: January 26, 2021, 08:38:23 pm »
    Pretty basic question...What type of equipment and license is needed to talk over a  distance like Seattle, etc?

    And most common question too.

    There are two ways
    1. Minimal from you but with a supporting network:  This is buying any 2 Meter / 70 Centimeter Amateur Radio - the kind most commonly found in a hand held format or a mobile installation.  They run from your $20 Baofeng (now upwards of $45 thanks Corona) to a $600 mobile radio.  Your choices in that price range are almost infinite.  All you need for a license is a Technicians License - the easiest one to get.  These radios are good to talk 30 to 60 miles.  That doesn't get you to Seattle, but it does get you to a local antenna that is hooked up to a computer.  That local antenna (repeater) and computer sends your voice as voice over IP (VoIP - like Vonage) through the internet.  Then it comes out on a computer and antenna in Seattle.  ==>  https://www.repeaterbook.com/repeaters/details.php?state_id=53&ID=641
    That computer system is called the Win System.  There are other linked systems too. That's just one example.  That's the route I took getting into Ham / Amateur radio about 7 years ago.  It cost me right at about $100 for the radio, upgraded antennas, car charger, extra battery, study book, software, and testing fee.

    2. No External Systems:  In the example above your radio carries a signal 30 miles to an antenna and there is an internet backbone that does 90% of the work from there to get it to Seattle or where ever.  But if you want to talk further than the US or you don't want to rely on someone else's network, then you have to step up.  That means upgrading your license from Technician to General or Extra.  It also means more expensive gear.  I've got an iCOM-718 and a Chameleon EmComm Antenna, power supply, and antenna tuner.  All in that runs about $1400 worth of radio gear.  And that is just entry level in this game.  Most radios here go for about $2000 to $4000 plus another $500 in extra kit that you need to make it work.  BUT!  I can key up the mic and talk all the way around the world - when the conditions are right.  Shorter Wavelength signals like 10 Meter through about 30 Meter are dependent on the sun ionizing the atmosphere to get the signals to bounce.  Then other longer wave lengths like 40 Meters through 160 Meters (yes I'm talking about a radio wave coming out of my house that is 160 meters tall or 525 feet) are less dependent on the sun.  All of that sounds intimidating and very abstract but once you crack the seal on Radio Theory when you start studying, it comes real easy.  Pictures really help.

    In both scenarios there are "nets" being hosted on specific frequencies.  People can hop in and chat.  It's like a Zoom Call on the radio (no video).  Nets are a great way to disseminate and receive information.  Another technology that's available on either path you take is E-Mail over radio.  Obviously that requires more gear and more $$$ than either mentioned above but it isn't cost prohibitive - about $300.
    The only thing that separates man from animal is our affinity for toilet paper.
    Once we, as a society, lose that affinity, we begin to descend back into the animal kingdom, and after three or more days you will find the food chain beginning to invert on itself.

    https://www.qrz.com/db/n5mkh

    GTGallop

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #11 on: January 26, 2021, 08:45:04 pm »
    Was thinking of grabbing a Baofeng last month, since I see it being recommended everywhere. Unfortunately, I see them sold for about double the price now and I don't know anyone in the area due to having moved here kinda recently and this China Virus BS :facepalm

    Don't sweat it.  If I was going that route again, I would avoid Baofeng (its the High Point of the group) and get a Wouxung (Pronounced Ocean).
    https://www.amazon.com/Multi-Band-Multi-Functional-Transmission-Reception-Including/dp/B07PGHWQP1/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=wouxun&qid=1611718816&sr=8-2

    Much higher quality and people aren't snapping them up as fast so the price isn't as inflated.

    Don't get me wrong - Baofeng has been a great little radio for me.  I have three of them and have given them as gifts to many people.  I also have a Yaesu FT60 and I prefer the operation of the Baofeng over the FT60.  So they do have some very good strengths.  But they are far from the end all, be all radio.
    The only thing that separates man from animal is our affinity for toilet paper.
    Once we, as a society, lose that affinity, we begin to descend back into the animal kingdom, and after three or more days you will find the food chain beginning to invert on itself.

    https://www.qrz.com/db/n5mkh

    grayland

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #12 on: January 27, 2021, 07:53:41 am »
     THANKS for the excellent reply regarding equipment and license. :thumbup :thumbup

    To follow up...IF the SHTF...we all know (assume)  that cell phone and/or internet calling will most likely be toast as far as getting through to check on folks or hold conversations.
    In the explanation above..does the technician license equipment rely on internet (VOIP) to act as repeater to increase the range of the shorter range equipment?

    I am probably not asking the question clearly.  I guess I am simply asking if the shorter range equipment would likely to be able to talk long range (eg. Seattle,etc) in time of serious emergency?

    « Last Edit: January 27, 2021, 08:17:02 am by grayland »
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    patkelly4370

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #13 on: January 27, 2021, 05:33:39 pm »
    I input the (I think) FRS & GMRS frequencies into my handheld.
    There was essentially nothing around my home in Golden Valley.
    I'm now in Tolleson and hearing a bit of chatter.
    No license so I'm listening only.
    Between the scamdemic and always working weekends, I won't be able to take the test until I retire.

    Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk


    GTGallop

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #14 on: January 27, 2021, 07:05:49 pm »
    THANKS for the excellent reply regarding equipment and license. :thumbup :thumbup

    To follow up...IF the SHTF...we all know (assume)  that cell phone and/or internet calling will most likely be toast as far as getting through to check on folks or hold conversations.
    In the explanation above..does the technician license equipment rely on internet (VOIP) to act as repeater to increase the range of the shorter range equipment?

    I am probably not asking the question clearly.  I guess I am simply asking if the shorter range equipment would likely to be able to talk long range (eg. Seattle,etc) in time of serious emergency?

    No no.  It's a great follow on.  If there is enough interest, next weekend (enough notice for all) I can set up a Zoom Call on Saturday at a time that may be workable for all.

    So to get to the question you asked:
    A technician license gives you access to bands that are referred to as VHF/UHF.  Much like the old TV's you used to have with two knobs Very High Frequency and Ultra High Frequency.  These radios emit a radio wave that travels straight out like a laserbeam.  Due to curvature of the earth, this limits their range.  Technically the signals travel almost infinitely out into space.  As a matter of fact, a licensed Ham can talk with astronauts on the International Space Station using a Baofeng.  That's 200+ miles.  But on earth because the planet bends away, eventually the horizon is as far as you can talk.  My record with a Baofeng hand held 4 watt radio is currently 115 miles.  I stood on a hill top near the Bartlett Ranger Station and hit Mt. Lemmon in Tucson.  So you can talk radio to radio (called simplex - just think "simple") with two radios and no infrastructure.

    But you need "just the right conditions" to get 115 miles.  To make these radios more practical, Hams build, own, operate "repeaters" all around the state.  I think we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 400+ repeaters.  A repeater is put on a mountain top - South Mountain in Phoenix is popular.  So is White Tanks and Shaw Butte (near Piestawa).  When you look up and see those muntains from 60 miles off, you know you can hit them with a hand held radio.  That repeater on that tower, on top of that mountain "repeats" your transmission from the mountain top.  And because the South Mountain Repeater can "see" the Shaw Butte Repeater and White Tanks, they can all have a radio link with each other, or be connected via internet VOIP.  Repeaters that do not have a line of sight to each other can not link via radio waves and must link via internet / VOIP.

    So to answer your question "it depends" but more directly there are roughly three levels of infrastructure for Technicians.
    1 - Simplex, my radio to your radio and no further than the horizon.  On Earth on the flat flat ocean, the horizon is about 2 or 3 miles away.  But from the top of a mountain you can talk to anything you can see and even things that are so far off they are too small to see.  It is not uncommon to talk to people 10 to 15 miles away.  From my second floor balcony at Tatum and Cave Creek in Phoenix I was able to reach Wickenburg with ease.
    2 - Repeaters that are radio linked with other repeaters.  One of the best systems in Phoenix is the ARS Metro Link system and then outside of Phoenix is the ARS Rim Link system.  a series of interconnected repeaters that can function when the grid is down.  They have backup power via batteries, propane generators, and solar.
    3 - Repeaters that are linked via VOIP across the internet.  These are by far the widest reaching repeaters.  They can not see each other because of the horizon so they rely on an internet connection.  And they are usually colocated with some backbone internet access at a Microwave tower, but can also be on some guys roof going through his spare computer to the internet.  These are the least robust systems because of that dependence on a twisted pair of wires, fiber optics, and other peoples microwave towers.  Cancel Culture could easily take this out if they ever realized what it is.
    The only thing that separates man from animal is our affinity for toilet paper.
    Once we, as a society, lose that affinity, we begin to descend back into the animal kingdom, and after three or more days you will find the food chain beginning to invert on itself.

    https://www.qrz.com/db/n5mkh

    patkelly4370

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #15 on: January 29, 2021, 11:03:49 am »
    Ham permit costs more than a CCW permit, and is easier to get

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    GTGallop

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #16 on: January 30, 2021, 09:22:36 am »
    Yeah they were free but now they are going up to $35.00.
    More than you'll probably pay for your first radio.  But even when you roll that in to what I initially spent to get in, I still got in to Ham for less than $150.  What do you spend in ammo for a day at the range?  Getting in to Ham is still cheaper than shooting.
    The only thing that separates man from animal is our affinity for toilet paper.
    Once we, as a society, lose that affinity, we begin to descend back into the animal kingdom, and after three or more days you will find the food chain beginning to invert on itself.

    https://www.qrz.com/db/n5mkh

    patkelly4370

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #17 on: January 30, 2021, 09:37:13 am »


    Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk


    GTGallop

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #18 on: February 27, 2021, 08:53:46 pm »
    Got a last minute call from a buddy in the area that teaches Ham Radio Classes.  He had 10 people that were testing today and they didn't have enough Certified Volunteer Examiners so I filled in ad helped him out.

    All but 1 person passed and a few upgraded their license from Technician to General.  Overall the group was pretty diverse - not the usual old, bald, fat, white dudes.  There was about a 40% female attendance and about 30% minority.  We also had about 40% under the age of 40.  I really like seeing that.

    He's got another class coming up and I'd love to give you the contact info but the class is already full and he has a waiting list for the next class.  It is good to see people embracing the idea of self reliance up here and really starting to build contingency plans and back up skills.  As soon as he sets the NEXT date, I'll post something up here if anyone is looking for a boost in learning.  Some find the "crash course / boot camp" format better and some are better off reading a book and studying for a few weeks.
    The only thing that separates man from animal is our affinity for toilet paper.
    Once we, as a society, lose that affinity, we begin to descend back into the animal kingdom, and after three or more days you will find the food chain beginning to invert on itself.

    https://www.qrz.com/db/n5mkh

    patkelly4370

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #19 on: February 27, 2021, 09:14:33 pm »
    Thanks for the update.
    Because of my work, I'll have to fund a date several months in advance and use vacation days.

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    PogoJack

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #20 on: March 28, 2021, 08:32:51 pm »
    Awesome!  Thanks for keeping this thread going and updating us!  Still haven't really gotten into it.  I may or may not have bought the radio, but it's a brick until I study.

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    GTGallop

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    Re: GT Gallop et al, what is the fastest way to become HAM operational?
    « Reply #21 on: March 28, 2021, 09:14:29 pm »
    Studying made no sense to me until I turned on the radio and started scanning around and listening and programming it.  Totally legal to do that.
    Made the very dry material feel more tangible.
    The only thing that separates man from animal is our affinity for toilet paper.
    Once we, as a society, lose that affinity, we begin to descend back into the animal kingdom, and after three or more days you will find the food chain beginning to invert on itself.

    https://www.qrz.com/db/n5mkh

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