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McRib Sandwich
Aug 4, 2006
I am a McRib Sandwich

Inspired by AstroZamboni's excellent shortwave radio thread and bobthenameless's (now-archived) ham radio thread! Some portions of this OP graciously borrowed from bobthenameless's thread.


Hey look, we have a ham radio IRC channel now! Come inside and be a huge nerd! irc.synirc.net, channel #hamradio


So a good number of people from AstroZamboni's SWL thread are now getting interested in amateur radio. Why receive when you can transmit!

Whoa whoa, slow down, champ. What the hell is amateur radio, and do I care?

Amateur radio (in the US, at least) is a part of the radio spectrum designated for use not by broadcasters or by companies, but just for ordinary people. Amateur radio operators (known as "hams") are licensed by the FCC to use this airspace for 2-way personal and emergency communications and experimentation.

Amateur radio is actually a lot more than that (if you're bored you can read this page to learn more), but here are some of the cool things you can do with an amateur radio license:


* Transmit at up to 1500 watts! For comparison, the average FRS 2-way radio has a power output of 0.5 watt. Handheld amateur radios (called HTs) are often capable of 5-6 watts, and mobile radios for your car easily put out 50-100 watts.

* Talk to people around the world! Amateurs with higher licenses gain privileges to use the HF radio bands, which are capable of worldwide communications, even at power as low as five watts. It's not uncommon for hams participating in HF contests to communicate with dozens of countries over the span of a few hours, if the conditions are right.

* Bounce radio signals off satellites, and even the moon! There are actually satellites in orbit right now that act as "space stations" that hams can use to send messages with, or talk to other hams in real-time. With the right equipment, hams can reach these sats even with a handheld radio. There are even groups of hams that use the moon (yes the loving MOON) as a satellite, bouncing radio signals across a 480,000 mile return path to talk to other hams on Earth.

* Make a real difference in an emergency! Believe it or not, even in the well-connected world today, when disaster strikes, there are almost no reliable forms of direct communication available. Cell towers get flooded, datacenters go down.. anything that requires a working infrastructure in a place where the infrastructure doesn't work is, well, useless. Ham radio, though, is simple -- battery-powered, autonomous wireless communication. Ham radio actually has organizations dedicated to organizing emergency communications for when disaster strikes. Most recently, hams participating in this service were activated to provide communications in the aftermath of Katrina, as well as during 9/11 (where the city's public safety communications system famously failed).

* Do some extremely cool poo poo with ham radio and other technologies! There are things you can do with a ham radio today that most people wouldn't have imagined in their wildest dreams even a few years ago. What happens when you pair up a ham radio, GPS unit, and one of these guys? You get a fully-automated global position reporting system! Seriously, how loving cool is that! APRS can quite literally be a lifesaver, too. With a 100-watt mobile transceiver in your car, you can get a position report out much, much farther than a cell tower can ever track your phone. Remember that story about CNet editor James Kim back in 2006? Part of the reason it took them so long to locate the family's car is because they had to sift through the cell tower logs, and then map the terrain to get an approximate location. If the car had been equipped as an APRS station, that story might've ended very differently.


If you want to hear what ham radio sounds like, instead of just hearing about it, you can get a sample of HF listening on the 20, 40 and 80 meter bands with this online software radio. Thanks to ValhallaSmith for the link!


Ok, I guess that sounds cool. If I were hypothetically interested in doing all that, where would I start?

Well, most people that are interested in ham radio will want to study for the entry-level exam so they can get a callsign and get on the air. If you're in the USA, you'll want to study for the Technician exam. If you're elsewhere, I don't know crap about your government's licensing process, but maybe these links to practice tests will help you out:

QRZ.com (USA)
Hamtests.co.uk (UK)
Canada

...and here are some user-contributed study guides from this thread:

http://kb6nu.com/tech-manual/
http://www.hamelmer.com/

Specific to the US exams, I can also recommend from personal experience that you look into buying / borrowing the ARRL Ham Radio License Manual. This book is written with the purpose of preparing you for the Technician exam, while helping you understand the concepts that the exam is quizzing you on. Most libraries should have this book available if you prefer not to buy it, though it is a good reference for beginners to have on hand. Amateur radio organizations for other countries should have similar materials available.


Do I still have to learn Morse code to do any of this?

No! All the Morse code requirements for ham radio were repealed a couple of years ago (the USA was the last holdout on that one). You will find later on that a lot of hams still enjoy operating Morse, but it's not a requirement to get any license class.


Fine. Where do I actually TAKE this test?

The ARRL has conveniently organized a searchable list of upcoming exam locations; just type in your zip code to find the nearest one. This database also appears to include session listings for Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Mexico, and Taiwan (sorry Canada, no idea why you're not on the list... but thanks to Snapshot's detective work, you can find a list of volunteer examiners right here). Keep in mind that the license is free, but the volunteer examiner organizations usually charge a nominal fee to recoup the material costs for giving the exam (the 2009 exam fee is $15). Don't worry, they're not pocketing the test fee money -- if they did, it would be illegal and the examiners could lose their licenses for doing so!


Is amateur radio actually full of old guys talking about their bad joints, and asking for Windows 95 tech support?

Yes, but they mostly hang out on 2-meter repeaters, so they're easily avoided. If you're in college (or in that age ballpark) and you want to find younger hams to meet, a good first resource is any of the local colleges' amateur radio clubs. Ham radio is often learned best through hands-on experience, so you might want to take a moment to try googling for amateur radio clubs in your area. And of course you should feel free to ask the hamgoons in this thread anything about radio.


So far, these lucky goons have been inspired by this thread (or something) to become hams!

grilldos, KA8ONG aka KE5ZYN
Macintosh HD, KD2GZH
SoundMonkey
NYIslander, KC2TFW - now General class!
sklnd, KE5UAF
backstage
Dolemite, KJ4EPP - from non-ham to General on the first try!
TetsuoTW, KC9NYK
Hartman, KJ4FMG
cvisors, ex-VK3FBSD & VK3LNX, now upgraded to VK3IVY Advanced!
wolrah, KD8JQS
Sniep, KI6UND, General class on the first try!
angrytaxman
Hummer Driving enjoyable human being
Goob, ex-KJ4LHZ General (first try!), now W8WEV
Drano, KD8KMI
Phuzion, KD8LCV, now General class!
thegreatcodfish, now General class!
MullardEL34, KD8LOM
AtomicMonsters, ex-AB9UJ, now NB9F
tonynaia, KC2VON
causticfluids, KD0IVC (and wife, KD0IVB!)
dethl, KF5DER
Peter Bosbon, KD0IZN General (first try!)
Scottw330, KB3TRZ
uapyro, KI4VVS
yummycheese
BigHustle, KC2WTL General (first try!), now fabulized to AC0TW
Prince of Dicks, KD0KLS
latency
No no serious, KB1TTV
xergm, KC9RZT Extra (first try!)
Xenpo, KJ4UHM
DocCynical, VE6XOR
bokchoi, VE6NDX
AstroZamboni, KF7JKA General (first try!)
slap me silly
TC the Giant, KB3UJR General (first try!)
kaizier, KD8NWI
Catastrophe
LtDan
Partycat

Here's a list of hams checking into our thread so far:

Larry Horse, KC9L
The Notorious PIC
FuzzyBuddha, WL7NT
hendersa
blugu64
Halah, W4WIS
nurall, KD5BUY
mwdan, KD0BTT, now Extra class!
Snapshot, VE3MWB
b c n u, KE5NRS
nmfree, ex-KC9GJC, now K9CUF General class!
thehustler, M3IIG
DarkCow, M3YSA
Jose Pointero, KE5SRZ
bladernr, W4KDH
mrbill, K5WCB
happy purring catfish, AF6BK
Wrongway, KE6FSO
NYIslander, KC2TFW
sklnd, KE5UAF
mas
IonClash, KC7JBV
Jedi425, KC7TZC
Paul MaudDib
Wicaeed, KF6DQQ
TetsuoTW, KC9NYK
Sindow, now Extra class!
backstage
Piuro
lostchicken, K9ZAL
Hu Fa Ted
Dolemite, KJ4EPP
corax, KC8WWS
Thunderbird_Wine, KB3PXY
ick pik, KC9FBI
CompHobbyist, W1KAS
PirateDentist
Hartman, KJ4FMG
Research Indicates, KG6LWI
Ephektz, KD5ZEN
devilmonk, KD8HSR
Radnor
cvisors, ex-VK3FBSD & VK3LNX, now VK3IVY Advanced!
Gnomad, KL5A
ReD_DaWn, KB3IOQ
Three-Phase
Non-Potable
Maide, VA3FOX
Beefington, KI4S**
Nerobro, KB9WSA
lord1234, N1VYF
wolrah, KD8JQS
TNLTRPB
Sniep, KI6UND
angrytaxman
HFX, KD5TFR
Hummer Driving enjoyable human being
mkosmo, KE5HHG
Sponge!, KB3GUF
Grilldos, KE5ZYN
Goob, ex-KJ4LHZ General (first try!), now W8WEV
Drano, KD8KMI
doctorfrog, KF6OIN
Junobug, KC0AJY
Phuzion, KD8LCV, now General class!
TheLovliestRedhead, KD5YSG
thegreatcodfish, now General class!
MullardEL34, KD8LOM
infrared35, N8W**
Kenderama, N8XHB
foghorn, KC2QCY
AtomicMonsters, ex-AB9UJ, now NB9F
Kyle0wnsyou, KI6BRY
Nullsmack
tonynaia, KC2VON
causticfluids, KD0IVC (and wife, KD0IVB!)
dethl, KF5DER
Peter Bosbon, KD0IZN General (first try!)
Scottw330, KB3TRZ
uapyro, KI4VVS
Canned Ham Radio, KJ4HTP
cydir
knuthgrush, KD5RYO
yummycheese
BigHustle, KC2WTL
Prince of Dicks, KD0KLS
latency
No no serious, KB1TTV
xergm, KC9RZT
Xenpo, KJ4UHM
DocCynical, VE6XOR
bokchoi, VE6NDX
AstroZamboni, KF7JKA
slap me silly
TC the Giant, KB3UJR
kaizier, KD8NWI
Catastrophe
LtDan
Partycat
starsoldier, KC2OWH
Bitchkrieg, K1LEA

That's ham radio in a nutshell, so now let's discuss it! If you do decide to get your license because of this thread (or if you upgrade), post about it and I'll add you to the OP!

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Wild M
Oct 19, 2007

Assignment Complete! REACTION ERROR: Collisions between atoms are not allowed in reaction programs. The reaction will now be stopped.


As a tip for the U.S. technician test, you can also find a question pool somewhere online. It includes all the possible questions (around 650) so I suppose you could read over that if you want to make sure you pass the exam.

Chromis
Feb 4, 2004

Logic is wreath of pretty flowers that smell bad.

Can you recommend any good equipment for beginners?

Haydez
Apr 8, 2003

EVIL LINK

Not only do they have the technician pool, but the general and extra pools are up on the ARRL website at http://www.arrl.org/arrlvec/pools.html

A good entry level portable they reccomend at my local ham radio outlet all the time is the Yaesu FT-60R @
http://www.yaesu.com/indexVS.cfm?cm...65&isArchived=0

sklnd
Nov 26, 2007

NOT A TRACTOR


Wild M posted:

As a tip for the U.S. technician test, you can also find a question pool somewhere online. It includes all the possible questions (around 650) so I suppose you could read over that if you want to make sure you pass the exam.
http://www.hamtestonline.com/study.jsp

It's a pay site, but they have free trial memberships that expire if you're not active for 30 days. They have all the question pools, and have practice exams that mimic the real exams in question frequency.

McRib Sandwich
Aug 4, 2006
I am a McRib Sandwich

Haydez posted:

Not only do they have the technician pool, but the general and extra pools are up on the ARRL website at http://www.arrl.org/arrlvec/pools.html

A good entry level portable they reccomend at my local ham radio outlet all the time is the Yaesu FT-60R @
http://www.yaesu.com/indexVS.cfm?cm...65&isArchived=0

i second this recommendation, the FT-60R is a solid radio in all senses of the word. It's a rugged-as-hell dual-band HT, and it competes very nicely on price.

Wild M posted:

As a tip for the U.S. technician test, you can also find a question pool somewhere online. It includes all the possible questions (around 650) so I suppose you could read over that if you want to make sure you pass the exam.

I'll admit that reading the question pools is certainly helpful, but only using the pool to pass the test isn't a good idea if you plan to really be on the air after you get your license. Most of the reason I recommend the ARRL book for beginners is because it very clearly lays out the most important rules that you need to know about the amateur radio service that you might not get just by reading the questions.

For example, if you passed the test, but your test didn't include the question about how frequently you have to identify yourself on the air, you could be in a good assload of trouble for transmitting without identifying the source of communications. The book really makes sure you have the fundamentals down before you get on the air.

(by the way, hams have to identify their station every ten minutes, and at the cessation of transmissions.)

Larry Horseplay
Oct 24, 2002



What's up folks, KC9L checking into the net.

As for good beginner HF equipment, there are usually a ton of Icom 706s around, and they're a decent all-around radio.

Beary Mancrush
Jun 9, 2002


Boring damned people. All over the earth. Propagating more boring damned people. What a horror show. The earth swarmed with them.

Oh cool. Now that the morse code requirement is gone, I should go and get my General Class license.

FuzzyBuddha
Dec 7, 2003

Damn moose spilled my mocha! RAAARRRRGGHH

WL7NT in Fairbanks, Alaska, checkin' in.

I'll second (or third...whatever...) Yaesu suggestions. I use the following:


It's built like a tank, and great for mobile. Throw in a battery pack and a cheap dipole, and chat around the world on 5 watts of power.

hendersa
Sep 17, 2006



I just got my technician license a few weeks ago, and I'm studying for the general license right now. While I'm not too crazy about yapping over the airwaves, I like the digital transfer modes that you can play around with. Slow-scan video looks kind of interesting, and packet radio looks like it could be handy in the event that net access gets spotting during the aftermath of an emergency.

Is there a good software package for tracking communication satellites? I've heard that you can actually see them (and the ISS, too) with the naked eye if you get a clear night and little light pollution.

While the online tests are OK, I much prefer to just go through the entire question pool. That way, you see every question and nothing should come as a surprise. I used the ARRL's study guides for that, since they teach you everything you need to know and refer you to the appropriate questions in the complete question pool that is included in the study guide.

Technician guide: ISBN 0872599639
General guide: ISBN 0872599965
Extra guide: ISBN 0872598659

Watch out for that Extra license guide, though. It's old, and the current question pool will expire around 1 July 2008, but the information itself is still valid.

Greetings from grid EM90ec.

McRib Sandwich
Aug 4, 2006
I am a McRib Sandwich

FuzzyBuddha posted:

WL7NT in Fairbanks, Alaska, checkin' in.

I'll second (or third...whatever...) Yaesu suggestions. I use the following:


It's built like a tank, and great for mobile. Throw in a battery pack and a cheap dipole, and chat around the world on 5 watts of power.

I really, really wanted to get the 897 as my HF rig, but the drat thing is too big to operate inside a vehicle, and it's counterpart (the 857) just seemed to small / hard to operate mobile... not enough controls directly accessible. I love how versatile the 897 is, though. Definitely feels like a rig that will take some abuse and still keep on ticking 25 years later.

FuzzyBuddha
Dec 7, 2003

Damn moose spilled my mocha! RAAARRRRGGHH

McRib Sandwich posted:

I really, really wanted to get the 897 as my HF rig, but the drat thing is too big to operate inside a vehicle, and it's counterpart (the 857) just seemed to small / hard to operate mobile... not enough controls directly accessible. I love how versatile the 897 is, though. Definitely feels like a rig that will take some abuse and still keep on ticking 25 years later.

Yeah, I don't have it mounted in my car, 'cause it is rather on the large side. I usually haul it into my tent and either run it off the battery, or hook it to my car's battery if my tent is close enough. 10 feet of PVC pipe and some rope gets the antenna off the ground.

blugu64
Jul 17, 2006

Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face?

Just thought I'd join the party, just upgraded to extra class last weekend. Also seconding the FT-897 love, looks like a great radio.

monoceros4
Sep 1, 2006

As good at chess as Alekhine's cat

I built one of those Radio Shack shortwave radio kits with the spring terminals and little pieces of pre-tinned wire when I was a kid. Does that qualify me?

Dolemite
Jun 30, 2005


McRib Sandwich posted:

[...]
(by the way, hams have to identify their station every ten minutes, and at the cessation of transmissions.)

Interesting! I used to be a DJ at our University-run FM radio station (V89 at Florida State University) and the FCC rule for us was that we had to ID our station every 30 minutes. We had some interesting rules since we were a non-profit.

I was curious what rules that apply to FM stations also apply to HAM radio.

Rules that applied to us:

-Couldn't make calls to action: "Go on down and vote!", "Buy this product!", etc.

-Couldn't make "quality" judgements: "Product A is the best", "Product B is crap". (In the case of our news broadcasts - that applied to political candidates, views, etc.)

-No cursing until 10PM - 6AM (The FCC called this the "Safe Zone" - but we never cursed period as a station policy)

-If advertising, we could not mention prices at all

-I know our actual radio engineer had to deal with this and not us DJs, but we could not transmit more than X amount of watts of power. We weren't allowed to bleed into other stations.

Hopefully knowing these rules would mean that many fewer questions to worry about.

As an aside, I'm curious what is "amateurish" about amateur radio? What is it called amateur?

And that begs the question: What is "professional" radio? Is that FM radio run by Clear Channel or something?

Dolemite fucked around with this message at 01:17 on Apr 17, 2008

sklnd
Nov 26, 2007

NOT A TRACTOR


Dolemite posted:

Interesting! I used to be a DJ at our University-run FM radio station (V89 at Florida State University) and the FCC rule for us was that we had to ID our station every 30 minutes. We had some interesting rules since we were a non-profit.

I was curious what rules that apply to FM stations also apply to HAM radio.

Rules that applied to us:

-Couldn't make calls to action: "Go on down and vote!", "Buy this product!", etc.

-Couldn't make "quality" judgements: "Product A is the best", "Product B is crap". (In the case of our news broadcasts - that applied to political candidates, views, etc.)

-No cursing until 10PM - 6AM (The FCC called this the "Safe Zone" - but we never cursed period as a station policy)

-If advertising, we could not mention prices at all

-I know our actual radio engineer had to deal with this and not us DJs, but we could not transmit more than X amount of watts of power. We weren't allowed to bleed into other stations.

Hopefully knowing these rules would mean that many fewer questions to worry about.

As an aside, I'm curious what is "amateurish" about amateur radio? What is it called amateur?

And that begs the question: What is "professional" radio? Is that FM radio run by Clear Channel or something?
Amateur radio operators cannot do business over the radio. They (we, now, since I passed the Tech exam recently) are forbidden from selling things except for on an occasional basis (like for selling ham equipment), and amateurs can't broadcast for the general public. Beyond that and some restrictions on profanity that I still don't quite understand despite studying a fair amount for the Tech exam, amateurs aren't really restricted on speech. It's highly suggested that you remain polite and follow good engineering practices, but we can discuss politics and religion and whatever. Amateurs are limited to using enough power to achieve communication, but in reality are limited to 1.5kW. We cannot intentionally interfere with other stations, etc.

Professional radio would be radio stations licensed for business use, like advertisement. Saying FM radio doesn't really cover it exactly, as that's just a modulation scheme. Transmissions in the 6m/2m/70cm bands are FM transmissions, but they're still amateur bands.

Anyway some awesome Extra will probably come along and clear things up, but that's what I've taken away from my studying for the Technician exam (which you should take, its really easy!).

McRib Sandwich
Aug 4, 2006
I am a McRib Sandwich

Dolemite posted:

Interesting! I used to be a DJ at our University-run FM radio station (V89 at Florida State University) and the FCC rule for us was that we had to ID our station every 30 minutes. We had some interesting rules since we were a non-profit.

I was curious what rules that apply to FM stations also apply to HAM radio.

Rules that applied to us:

-Couldn't make calls to action: "Go on down and vote!", "Buy this product!", etc.

-Couldn't make "quality" judgements: "Product A is the best", "Product B is crap". (In the case of our news broadcasts - that applied to political candidates, views, etc.)

-No cursing until 10PM - 6AM (The FCC called this the "Safe Zone" - but we never cursed period as a station policy)

-If advertising, we could not mention prices at all

-I know our actual radio engineer had to deal with this and not us DJs, but we could not transmit more than X amount of watts of power. We weren't allowed to bleed into other stations.

Hopefully knowing these rules would mean that many fewer questions to worry about.

As an aside, I'm curious what is "amateurish" about amateur radio? What is it called amateur?

And that begs the question: What is "professional" radio? Is that FM radio run by Clear Channel or something?

Funny you should mention it, since I was on the engineering staff at my college station too (it's actually how I got introduced to amateur radio... PROTIP: most broadcast engineers also hold ham licenses).

Anyway, most of the rules you listed apply to the non-commercial educational broadcast licensees, which means that your station was also more than likely below 92.1 MHz (that's where NCEs are allotted space). Technically speaking, FCC requirements for station ID (call letters + area of license) are only once every hour, but most stations will tell DJs that it's "required" more frequently, so people know who they're listening to.

As for the other differences, hams are never allowed to curse, even during the "safe harbor" hours that broadcast stations enjoy. Nor are they allowed to conduct any business activities over the radio, or engage in dealings in which they have a pecuniary interest. So they can talk about their piece of crap rig, so long as they are not being paid to give that opinion (basically). Ham radio is also a 2-way communications service -- broadcasting is illegal. As for power, broadcast stations are required to transmit at their licensed power, no more or less. In fact, they have to apply for permission to operate at reduced power (perhaps due to equipment failure, etc.) if the problem can't be resolved quickly enough. Hams (in the US) can transmit at any power up to 1500 watts peak envelope power (PEP).

"Amateur" radio is just the name given to the service; in fact a lot of hams are professionally involved in radio too, like the aforementioned broadcast engineers. Others are just hobbyists, etc. "Professional" radio, as most people think of, is just the terrestrial broadcast AM and FM service.


edit: I almost forgot one of the most important ones! Hams are also not allowed to transmit any music on the air, and have to take reasonable measures to prevent transmitting even incidental music. The one exception to this rule is hilarious, because it is for the space shuttle / ISS crew.

McRib Sandwich fucked around with this message at 02:09 on Apr 17, 2008

McRib Sandwich
Aug 4, 2006
I am a McRib Sandwich

sklnd posted:

Amateur radio operators cannot do business over the radio. They (we, now, since I passed the Tech exam recently) are forbidden from selling things except for on an occasional basis (like for selling ham equipment), and amateurs can't broadcast for the general public. Beyond that and some restrictions on profanity that I still don't quite understand despite studying a fair amount for the Tech exam, amateurs aren't really restricted on speech. It's highly suggested that you remain polite and follow good engineering practices, but we can discuss politics and religion and whatever. Amateurs are limited to using enough power to achieve communication, but in reality are limited to 1.5kW. We cannot intentionally interfere with other stations, etc.

Professional radio would be radio stations licensed for business use, like advertisement. Saying FM radio doesn't really cover it exactly, as that's just a modulation scheme. Transmissions in the 6m/2m/70cm bands are FM transmissions, but they're still amateur bands.

Anyway some awesome Extra will probably come along and clear things up, but that's what I've taken away from my studying for the Technician exam (which you should take, its really easy!).

You beat me to it while I was typing my reply! But anyway, your post is pretty much exactly why everyone should pick up the ARRL study book, cause everything you said was right on the money. I even forgot to mention the part where hams are required to use the minimum power necessary to achieve communication, so good on you for that one. This is all stuff that every ham should know before getting on the air, but you can't always learn it just from studying the multiple-choice questions.

ExcessBLarg!
Aug 31, 2001


Dolemite posted:

As an aside, I'm curious what is "amateurish" about amateur radio? What is it called amateur?
Because those who have amateur licenses are individuals who use radio for personal and volunteer purposes. It's been a while since I last went over the rules, but I think it's illegal to use amateur radio for any sort of monentary gain (using the autopatch to order pizza is a legal gray area). Or at least, if it's not outright illegal, it's very much frowned upon.

Furthermore, amateur radio is not a "broadcast" medium--it's stricly meant for point-to-point transmissions where you expect (or at least attempt) to communicate with someone. The fact that third parties can pick up these transmissions is an incidental fact of how radio transmissions work. The point is that you're not suppose to blab out advertisements or whatever "for the masses", that's what commercial radio is for.

Plus, the whole point of amateur radio is to provide an incentive for a reasonable proportion of the general population (i.e., those who are not radio professionals) to maintain knowlege of and access to radio equipment so that we may depend on them in emergencies and disaster scenarios. And as any ham who has participated in a safety, mock disaster, or even a real emergency net knows, amateurs are really good as running them.

Dolemite posted:

And that begs the question: What is "professional" radio? Is that FM radio run by Clear Channel or something?
Presumably any radio service that's meant to be used in a profession. That may be commercial/broadcast radio, or radios used in public service (police, firemen, paramedics) or private service (taco bell headsets).

There's a bunch of interesting points about amateur radio licensing, but the three I find particularly amusing are:

  • It is illegal to transmit music, except as part of an incidental retransmission of those from a space shuttle.
  • Amateur radio is the only (I think?) radio service that doesn't require the use of licensed equipment, or allows the use of modified licensed equipment. This is why you can build your own radio. However, as a ham, the onus is on you to make sure it is functioning within the license.
  • GMRS radio is the most similar licensing class that an individual can purchase for use of 5 W radios for personal use on a restricted number of freqencies. Most "walkie-talkies" you see in the stores these days are actually GMRS radios. Legally, you're required to pay for a license at the cost of $85 for five years. On the other hand, amateur radio allows for the use of a much broader class of equipment, for a much cheaper license cost ($14 last I checked) renewable every ten years for free.
I should point out that there are FRS radios which may be used without license. They use frequencies that lie in the GMRS band, but the radio themselves are limited to 500 mW output. Most of GMRS radios do FRS frequencies too--but I think finding FRS-only radios are rare. I'm not sure if it's legal to use GMRS radios without licnese on FRS frequencies within the 500 mW power output--I'd assume it's technically not, although nobody would know.

Edit: One more interesitng license fact, you're not allowed to obfuscate your transmission in any way that would prevent a third party from being able to interpret it. I imagine this was to avoid people using voice scramblers or the likes, but it has interesting implications for 802.11.

802.11 (WiFi) uses the ISM band. As it turns out, this portion of the 2.4 GHz space is primarilly licensed for amateur use. So it's totally kosher to take an 802.11 radio, put an amplifier on it and use it to increase transmission power (and thus, reception distance) so long as you're obliging all other amateur radio requirements (such as throwing your callsign in a ping packet every ten minutes). However, a strict interpretation of the license means you can't use encryption--so ssh and https are out, although it's not quite clear if this is actually the case.

ExcessBLarg! fucked around with this message at 02:10 on Apr 17, 2008

McRib Sandwich
Aug 4, 2006
I am a McRib Sandwich

ExcessBLarg! posted:

I should point out that there are FRS radios which may be used without license. They use frequencies that lie in the GMRS band, but the radio themselves are limited to 500 mW output. Most of GMRS radios do FRS frequencies too--but I think finding FRS-only radios are rare. I'm not sure if it's legal to use GMRS radios without licnese on FRS frequencies within the 500 mW power output--I'd assume it's technically not, although nobody would know.

It is in fact totally illegal to use the GMRS portions of those radios, and it is frustrating to no end for everyone that's paid for those GMRS licenses. But since all the FRS radio makers need to compete on features to sell their units, it's hard to find an FRS-only radio these days. Non-licensed interference is actually becoming a big problem for that band. Hell, it would probably turn into the next CB if there were more mobile gear for that service.

quote:

802.11 stuff

I'm so glad you posted that. I was considering putting it in the OP, but it's probably too long as it is to keep anyone's interest.

blugu64
Jul 17, 2006

Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face?

McRib Sandwich posted:

I'm so glad you posted that. I was considering putting it in the OP, but it's probably too long as it is to keep anyone's interest.

A seperate post, and I'm all ears. Sounds like alot of fun to me.

Sirotan
Oct 17, 2006

Sirotan is a seal.



Ham Wrangler

Ok this is somewhat unrelated but these two questions have been bugging me for a while (perhaps years). Why is it that, besides being blind or gay/bisexual, people with amateur radio licenses can nab a ridiculous amount of college scholarships? (When I first started applying to college, you wouldn't believe the number of scholarships for people in amateur radio I would find. I couldn't and still don't understand why.)

And another thing, for some reason in my state (Michigan) along with getting a special license plate to denote if you were a veteran of a past war or a POW, you can get a special plate that says amateur radio on it. (See a pic here: http://michigan.gov/documents/stand...ion_49871_7.pdf) I guess I'm just surprised that you can do this?

Maybe this "hobby" (sorry not sure what term to use here) is just a lot larger/more popular than I think it is?

Halah
Aug 31, 2003

Maybe just another light that shines

Have you guys heard of the 600 meter experimental group?

quote:

NEWINGTON, CT, Sep 15, 2006 -- (As of September 13, 2006) The FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology has granted a Part 5 experimental license to the ARRL on behalf of a group of radio amateurs interested in investigating spectrum in the vicinity of 500 kHz. Experimental license WD2XSH was issued September 13. The two-year authorization permits experimentation and research between 505 and 510 kHz (600 meters) using narrowband modes at power levels of up to 20 W effective radiated power (ERP). ARRL Member Fritz Raab, W1FR, of Vermont, will serve as experimental project manager for "The 500 KC Experimental Group for Amateur Radio."

Also, General class ham checkin' in

nurall
May 4, 2005


hey hows it going

KD5BUY checking in from deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep south texas.

a beginner should prolly start off with a mobile unit. (prolly a 2meter unit, not too expansive)


ive got all kenwood equipment.

Halah
Aug 31, 2003

Maybe just another light that shines

Sirotan posted:

And another thing, for some reason in my state (Michigan) along with getting a special license plate to denote if you were a veteran of a past war or a POW, you can get a special plate that says amateur radio on it. (See a pic here: http://michigan.gov/documents/stand...ion_49871_7.pdf)

Maybe this "hobby" (sorry not sure what term to use here) is just a lot larger/more popular than I think it is?
Given the studying and amount of work put into obtaining a license, many hams are proud of their 'ticket' and wish to show it off, if you will. But it also serves a more serious purpose. In times of disaster, having a ham license plate is an easy way to identify yourself to the authorities and emergency personnel as a legit responder should you show up to help.

nurall
May 4, 2005


hey hows it going

KD5BUY checking in from deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep south texas.

a beginner should prolly start off with a mobile unit. (prolly a 2meter unit, not too expansive)


ive got all kenwood equipment.

FuzzyBuddha
Dec 7, 2003

Damn moose spilled my mocha! RAAARRRRGGHH

Sirotan posted:

Why is it that, besides being blind or gay/bisexual, people with amateur radio licenses can nab a ridiculous amount of college scholarships?

And another thing, for some reason in my state (Michigan) along with getting a special license plate to denote if you were a veteran of a past war or a POW, you can get a special plate that says amateur radio on it.

In regards to scholarships, having attained an amateur radio license tends to show you have an understanding of electronics and the math related to it. A lot of the engineering students at our local campus tend to have ham radio licenses.

As for the ham radio callsign license plates, our state DMV allow them as special plates to signify vehicles equiped with amateur radios and thus available to assist in an emergency situation.

Sirotan
Oct 17, 2006

Sirotan is a seal.



Ham Wrangler

FuzzyBuddha posted:

In regards to scholarships, having attained an amateur radio license tends to show you have an understanding of electronics and the math related to it. A lot of the engineering students at our local campus tend to have ham radio licenses.

As for the ham radio callsign license plates, our state DMV allow them as special plates to signify vehicles equipped with amateur radios and thus available to assist in an emergency situation.

Ah, ok. That actually makes a lot of sense. Thanks.

mwdan
Feb 7, 2004

Webbed Blobs

KD0BTT checking in. I haven't seen anyone pimping EchoLink yet. Quite the fun little program. All you need is a microphone, speakers, and an internet connection to connect to hams around the world. https://www.echolink.org for those so interested.

It's pretty good for those of us without enough scratch to get an HF rig up, to talk to someone other than your buddies in the local ARC.

nurall
May 4, 2005


hey hows it going

FuzzyBuddha posted:

In regards to scholarships, having attained an amateur radio license tends to show you have an understanding of electronics and the math related to it. A lot of the engineering students at our local campus tend to have ham radio licenses.

As for the ham radio callsign license plates, our state DMV allow them as special plates to signify vehicles equiped with amateur radios and thus available to assist in an emergency situation.

good to know about the scholarships, i should help my brother get a license (college student). ive got 2 mobile units anyway, if it helps him get a scholarship he can have one of them.

ive got a callsign license plate, 1$/yr in texas.

Jonny 290
May 5, 2005

[A]sk me about OS/2 WARP


checking in. I'm not operating too too much these days, but I am getting back into it. Will probably try to hit Field Day.

I'm pretty big into the satellites, I was making daily contacts before I took the work-mandated break.

blugu64
Jul 17, 2006

Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face?

Jonny 290 posted:

checking in. I'm not operating too too much these days, but I am getting back into it. Will probably try to hit Field Day.

I'm pretty big into the satellites, I was making daily contacts before I took the work-mandated break.

AO-51? It's one of my goals this year to make a contact on it. Looking at picking up an Arrow II Antenna within a few months.

YouTuber
Jul 31, 2004

by FactsAreUseless


How exactly can anyone track whether or not you repeat your callsign every 10 minutes or so? If you don't what exactly are they going to do about it?

Lay-Z
Mar 5, 2003

Goin' down to Tickfaw, gonna have myself a time...

You can also make a real difference in the community for non emergency communications. I volunteered to relay communications for a bike marathon benefit for MS when I was in high school.

You can also get in with MARS and relay messages from troops down range to their families at home. My father does some of this stuff for Navy MARS.

I haven't been on the airwaves in a while nor do I have any equipment. I had a 2 meter handy-talkie but gave it to my dad when his 2 meter rig burned out. My old man has been trying to get me to upgrade since the morse code requirements have been repealed.

Funny thing about 802.11 and amatuer radio. One of the guys in the amatuer radio club my dad and I was a member of was a professer at a local university. I came up with the theory of being able to browse the web wirelessly. I used to be pretty active on packet radio on 2 meters and thought it would be cool to take it a step further from text. He told me it probably could never happen given bandwidth and this was in 1996. Only if I could have taken that thought and put it into something. Ah well, hindsight is always 20/20.

Lay-Z fucked around with this message at 06:19 on Apr 6, 2017

Snapshot
Oct 21, 2004

damnit Matt get in the boat

VE3MWB checking in, transmitting from Toronto, ON. We're able to get amateur radio license plates up here too. I have an old 2m/70cm mobile that I'm using as a base, and a 2m Yaesu VX-170 th that I use when I'm out and about.

McRib Sandwich posted:


Fine. Where do I actually TAKE this test?

(sorry Canada, no idea why you're not on the list).


No idea why we aren't on there either, however Industry Canada provides a list of volunteer amateur radio examiners to RAC, Canada's National Amateur Radio Society. It can be accessed in excel format on the RAC website.

Jonny 290
May 5, 2005

[A]sk me about OS/2 WARP


blugu64 posted:

AO-51? It's one of my goals this year to make a contact on it. Looking at picking up an Arrow II Antenna within a few months.

AO-51, SO-50 and AO-16, I think? are the ones that I've made contact on. It's tremendous fun but requires attention to detail when getting your gear set up. Loss and signal level is everything.

ExcessBLarg!
Aug 31, 2001


YouTuber posted:

How exactly can anyone track whether or not you repeat your callsign every 10 minutes or so? If you don't what exactly are they going to do about it?
Although the license requires you to do so, it's really just a courtesy thing more than anything else. The idea is that anyone who tunes in can figure out who's talking on the air after just listening for ten minutes.

Usually you have to grossly violate the rules, for a long period of time, for the FCC to actually hunt you down. Although, the FCC will do so if needed (like they tend to go after pirate radio stations). I imagine the only scenario in which the callsign rule would be actively enforced would be if a repeater (which squats on a frequency for a very long time--pretty much indefinitely) was failing to identify itself, then folks would make an active effort to contact the owner to have the repeater properly ID itself, involving the FCC if need be.

But the point of amateur radio is not to skirt around the rules, or to try to meet them to the letter but not in spirit. The rules are motivated by courtesy and safety, and failure to adhere to them is either outright dangerous, or an insult to the community. That's really the reason why people follow them--yeah, you could probably get away with not doing so and little would happen in the short term. But most license holders view it as a privilege, and are proud to be a member of the community, so the disingenuous mentality really just isn't prevalent.

b c n u
May 9, 2004

"We've got rectal bleeding." "What, all of you?"

KE5NRS checking in from grid square EN60nk, also howdy from W9YB the Purdue Amateur Radio Club. IRLP node 4315.

Enough shameless club plugging. My gear for now consists solely of an Icom IC-91AD which is a bitchin' little 2m/70cm HT. I bought a Diamond SRH77CA antenna for it and I can hit most anything on 5W. Can't recommend that rig enough.

nmfree
Aug 15, 2001

The Greater Goon: Breaking Hearts and Chains since 2006


KC9GJC here, ready to pontificate in TWO threads!

At the end of the last ham thread there was a little interest in setting up a weekly Echolink net for SA people, would there still be interest in that?

hendersa posted:

I just got my technician license a few weeks ago, and I'm studying for the general license right now. While I'm not too crazy about yapping over the airwaves, I like the digital transfer modes that you can play around with.
You know...

[soapbox]
If the FCC had thought through their decision to eliminate Morse testing, I would have been on the air on HF the day that all codeless Techs were granted all Tech HF privileges. It apparently didn't occur to them that by removing the code requirement it didn't make sense to limit Techs to only using code on HF below 10M. I'm not saying that Techs should have any larger frequency allocation, but that every N/T subband falls within the generally accepted digital subbands, so why not stimulate and encourage newcomers to the hobby by letting them use some of these state of the art modes? I am not (currently) interested in learning code, but I'd run the poo poo out of PSK31, RTTY, FSK63, etc. (especially FSK16, have you ever listened to that? It sounds like the Martians are landing!) because digital keyboard modes appeal to me.
[/soapbox]

hendersa posted:

Is there a good software package for tracking communication satellites?

A lot of people like Ham Radio Deluxe, there's a whole satellite tracking/rig interfacing software suite included.

McRib Sandwich posted:

Is amateur radio actually full of old guys talking about their bad joints, and asking for Windows 95 tech support?

Yes, but they mostly hang out on 2-meter repeaters, so you can avoid them.


McRib Sandwich posted:

I really, really wanted to get the 897 as my HF rig, but the drat thing is too big to operate inside a vehicle, and it's counterpart (the 857) just seemed to small / hard to operate mobile... not enough controls directly accessible.
Wow, I looked and the 897 doesn't come with a separation kit, that's surprising. Even my FT-100 can be remotely mounted.

monoceros4 posted:

I built one of those Radio Shack shortwave radio kits with the spring terminals and little pieces of pre-tinned wire when I was a kid. Does that qualify me?
Not for this thread (unless you're interested in ham radio), try the Shortwave Thread instead.

Chromis posted:

Can you recommend any good equipment for beginners?
Check page 45 of the Shortwave thread, there's a little discussion there about what beginners might want to get.

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nmfree
Aug 15, 2001

The Greater Goon: Breaking Hearts and Chains since 2006


Halah posted:

Have you guys heard of the 600 meter experimental group?
Yes, hopefully in the next 10 years or so the ITU will officially allocate that band as an amateur band.

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